Michael Burry, Predictor of Mortgage Collapse, Bets on Farmland, Gold

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the big short
Michael Burry

Michael Burry, the former hedge-fund manager who predicted the housing market’s plunge, said he is investing in farmable land, small technology companies and gold as he hunts original ideas and braces for a weaker dollar.

“I believe that agriculture land — productive agricultural land with water on site — will be very valuable in the future,” Burry, 39, said in a Bloomberg Television interview scheduled for broadcast this morning in New York. “I’ve put a good amount of money into that.”

Burry, as head of Scion Capital LLC, prodded Wall Street banks in early 2005 to create credit-default swaps to bet against bonds backed by the riskiest home loans. The strategy paid off as borrowers defaulted, letting his investors more than quintuple their money from 2000 to 2008, according to Michael Lewis’s book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (which I will be reviewing shortly).

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Burry, who now manages his own money after shuttering the fund in 2008, said finding original investments is difficult because many trades are crowded and asset classes often move together.

“I’m interested in finding investments that aren’t just simply going to float up and down with the market,” he said. “The incredible correlation that we’re experiencing — we’ve been experiencing for a number of years — is problematic.”

Still, it’s possible to find opportunities among small companies because large investors and government officials focus on bigger ones, he said. He is particularly interested in small technology firms.

“Smaller companies in Asia, I think, are neglected,” he said. “There are some very cheap companies there.”

Investing in Gold

Gold is also a favored investment as central banks issue debt and devalue their currencies, he said. Governments haven’t adequately addressed the causes of the financial crisis and may be sowing the seeds for future problems by borrowing, he said. In the U.S., lawmakers showed they didn’t understand how to prevent another crisis when they gave the Federal Reserve and Chairman Ben S. Bernanke additional authority, he said.

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