Today was a real head scratcher for long time market observers, including myself. Cross market correlations that have served me so well this year are breaking down, and their predictive power has suddenly gone blind. I blame this on the liquidity drought that has plagued the market since the beginning of the month that has confined markets to frustratingly narrow ranges.
There are many reasons for the sudden opacity. The usual seasonal flight to the sidelines seems more pronounced than in years past, as many managers attempt to put a dreadful year behind them. There is still $500 million in trading capital missing from traders who used MF Global as a prime broker. This is especially felt in the energy and metals markets where MF had such a large presence.
High frequency traders have also decamped for more fertile climes in the oil and foreign exchange markets. And we all know that the big hedge funds are getting redemptions, cutting them off at the knees until January.
I’ll give you a few examples. Falling stock markets almost always produce a rising volatility index. But today it fell as low as 23%, a five month low, and closed at only 25.4% even with the Dow off 66 points. The correlation between stocks and gold has been almost perfect since the summer. But the barbarous relic has been in free fall since yesterday with the S&P 500 essentially unchanged. Ditto with the Euro, which managed a two cent plunge today.
The larger question for traders is whether this is a onetime only breakdown in cross market linkages that will end in January, or is it the beginning of a more permanent continental drift. We will find out next month when the “A” Team managers return to the market and volume recovers.
Let me toss an alternative theory out there. It appears that the year to date returns for all asset classes are rapidly converging on zero. That’s why assets like gold and silver with the great 12 month returns are having the biggest falls this week. The S&P 500 is now down 2.2% on the year, and the Euro is up a miniscule 1.1%. Gold is still hanging on to a 17% gain, while silver is up only 12%, both rapidly headed towards single digits
Is this the inevitable result of a “no return” world? Sounds like I better stay out of the market in this performance sapping environment, lest my own profits go up in a puff of smoke.
The “A” Team Traders Are Gone Until January