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Jim Chanos: Stay Away From U.S. Tech Firms

Daily Ticker

While the American economy may continue to be sending investors mixed signals about a potential recovery, famed short-seller Jim Chanos still believes the U.S. is "the best house in a bad neighborhood." He's been bullish on U.S. markets for three years.

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"Boy the U.S. market has gone up quite a bit since then," says Chanos of his prediction. "A lot of what we thought might happen three years ago has sort of now been reflected in prices."

To his point, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) and S&P 500 (^GSPC) are trading near all-time highs. As a result, he is finding "fewer attractive long hedges in the U.S."

As of the fourth quarter of last year, his largest long positions included United States Natural Gas (UNG), SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), SPDR S&P MidCap 400 ETF (MDY), SanDisk (SNDK) and Deere & Co (DE).

The Daily Ticker’s Lauren Lyster sat down with Chanos, also president and managing partner of Kynikos Associates, at the 2013 Wine Country Conference in support of Les Turner ALS Foundation last week. Of course we asked him: "What are your biggest shorts?"

His response? U.S. technology.

“I’ve been a big bear for the last year and a half, two years, in the P.C. space," Chanos says. “I think that we are seeing a secular headwind in that business as more and more people go to mobility and tablets and the cloud. The P.C.-centric space is going to increasingly see negative surprises.”

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Chanos cites Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL) for problems with their accounting practices.

"They spend very little on R&D and yet the companies that everyone wants to compare them to spend dramatically more on R&D thus, hurting their profitability," he notes.

Related: Microsoft Could Be Obsolete By 2017: Gartner Report

Even though Dell and HP have been starting to make huge acquisitions to gain a competitive advantage, they're doing a "very bad job" at it, Chanos argues.

“I am completely mystified as to what the buyout groups at Dell are seeing here because the business from a cash flow point of view, from an accounting point of view, is deteriorating right before your eyes and yet there seems to be a number of players who think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread," Chanos says.

Related: Are Michael Dell’s Days as Dell CEO Numbered?

Chanos offers a few pointers for the average retail investor including: don't try to trade like a hedge fund.

"The deck is stacked against retail investors selling short on their own. I don't think it is generally a good policy," he says. "Just sell down your stocks to sleep at night."

Additionally, he warns investors not to follow his words too closely.

"It is very misleading for investors to follow hedge fund investors particularly if they have a big short book," he says.

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