Seabreeze’s Kass favors U.S. stocks over Treasuries

Thursday December 4, 2008, 10:57 am EST

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Hedge-fund manager Doug Kass, who successfully shorted U.S. equities this year including shares of Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), is now buying U.S. stocks on the belief that they have hit bottom.

“What are deemed to be risky, that is equities, are becoming safer and I am gingerly buying,” Kass told Reuters on Thursday. Kass is the founder and president of Seabreeze Partners Management.

Also, Kass said U.S. Treasuries are expensive at current levels, particularly the longer end of the government curve, and is shorting the market. “There is huge price exposure in Treasuries and the longer you go out into the Treasury curve, the riskier you are getting,” he said.

A rally in U.S. Treasuries has pushed yields on the 10-year note to the lowest in more than 50 years this week.

Shorting is a bet that a security will fall in price.

Kass said he is specifically shorting the iShares Lehman 20+Year Treasury Index (TLT), whose buyers have been from non-traditional bond investors such as hedge funds and individuals. The exchange-traded fund is up more than 5 percent in December alone and nearly 13 percent the previous month.

U.S. stocks, which have fallen about 40 percent this year, are trading at attractive prices, but a rebound will take time, Kass said. He has been buying selectively, including real estate investment trusts such as Hatteras Financial and housing-related stocks including Ocwen Financial (OCN).

“The harder question is the slope of recovery in stocks which should be frustratingly modest at first,” he said. “I am not yet in a rush to buy aggressively, but I am increasingly confident that investments made in the next three to six months will look terrific two or three years from now.”

Seabreeze has been incubating a small long/short product for the last two years, which the company is now marketing and launching on January 1.

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