June 19, 2019

Global Market Comments
June 19, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SH), (SDS), (PSQ), (DOG), (RWM), (SPXU), (AAPL),
 (VIX), (VXX), (IPO), (MTUM), (SPHB), (HDGE)

Short Selling School 101

With the markets recently incredibly volatile, and now that we are solidly into the high risk, low return time of the year, I thought it’s time to review how to make money when prices are falling.

There is nothing worse than closing the barn door after the horses have bolted.

No doubt, you will receive a wealth of short selling and hedging ideas from your other research sources and the media right at the next market bottom.

That is always how it seems to play out.

So I am going to get you out ahead of the curve, putting you through a refresher course on how to best trade falling markets now while stock prices are still rich.

Markets could be down 10% by the time this is all over.


There is nothing worse than fumbling around in the dark looking for the matches and candles after a storm has knocked the power out.

I’m not saying that you should sell short the market right here. But there will come a time when you will need to do so. Watch my Trade Alerts for the best market timing. So here are the best ways to profit from declining stock prices, broken down by security type:

Bear ETFs

Of course, the granddaddy of them all is the ProShares Short S&P 500 Fund (SH), a non-leveraged bear ETF that is supposed to match the fall in the S&P 500 point for point on the downside. Hence, a 10% decline in the (SPY) is supposed to generate a 10% gain in the (SH).

In actual practice, it doesn’t work out like that. The ITF has to pay management operating fees and expenses which can be substantial. After all, nobody works for free.

There is also the “cost of carry” whereby owners have to pay the price for borrowing and selling short shares. They are also liable for paying the quarterly dividends for the shares they have borrowed, around 2% a year. And then you have to pay the commissions and spread for buying the ETF.

Still, individuals can protect themselves from downside exposure in their core portfolios through buying the (SH) against it (click here for the prospectus). Short selling is not cheap. But it’s better than watching your gains of the past seven years go up in smoke.

Virtually, all equity indexes now have bear ETFs. Some of the favorites include the (PSQ), a short play on the NASDAQ (click here for the prospectus), and the (DOG) which profits from a plunging Dow Average (click here for the prospectus).

My favorite is the (RWM), a short play on the Russell 2000 which falls 1.5X faster than the big cap indexes in bear markets (click here for the prospectus).

Leveraged Bear ETFs

My favorite is the ProShares Ultra Short S&P 500 (SDS), a 2X leveraged ETF (click here for the prospectus). A 10% decline in the (SPY) generates a 20% profit, maybe.

Keep in mind that by shorting double the market, you are liable for double the cost of shorting which can total 5% a year or more. This shows up over time in the tracking error against the underlying index. Therefore, you should date, not marry this ETF, or you might be disappointed.



3X Leveraged Bear ETF

The 3X bear ETFs, like the UltraPro Short S&P 500 (SPXU), are to be avoided like the plague (click here for the prospectus).

First, you have to be pretty good to cover the 8% cost of carry embedded in this fund. They also reset the amount of index they are short at the end of each day, creating an enormous tracking error.

Eventually, they all go to zero and have to be periodically redenominated to keep from doing so. Dealing spreads can be very wide, further added to costs.

Yes, I know the charts can be tempting. Leave these for the professional hedge fund intraday traders for which they are meant.

Buying Put Options

For a small amount of capital, you can buy a ton of downside protection.  For example, some time ago, I bought (SPY) $182 puts for $4,872 allowed me to sell short $145,600 worth of large-cap stocks at $182 (8 X 100 X $6.09).

Go for distant maturities out several months to minimize time decay and damp down daily price volatility. Your market timing better be good with these because when the market goes against you, put options can go poof and disappear pretty quickly.

That’s why you read this newsletter.

Selling Call Options

One of the lowest risk ways to coin it in a market heading south is to engage in “buy writes.” This involves selling short call options against stocks you already own but may not want to sell for tax or other reasons.

If the market goes sideways, or falls, and the options expire worthless, then the average cost of your shares is effectively lowered. If the shares rise substantially, they get called away but at a higher price so you make more money. Then you just buy them back on the next dip. It is a win-win-win.



Selling Futures

This is what the pros do as futures contracts trade on countless exchanges around the world for every conceivable stock index or commodity. It is easy to hedge out all of the risk for an entire portfolio of shares by simply selling short futures contracts for a stock index.

For example, let’s say you have a portfolio of predominantly large-cap stocks worth $100,000. If you sell short 1 June 2019 contract for the S&P 500 against it, you will eliminate most of the potential losses for your portfolio in a falling market.

The margin requirement for one contract is only $5,000. However, if you are short the futures and the market rises, then you have a big problem and the losses can prove ruinous.

But most individuals are not set up to trade futures. The educational, financial, and disclosure requirements are beyond mom-and-pop investing for their retirement fund.

Most 401Ks and IRAs don’t permit the inclusion of futures contracts. Only 25% of the readers of this letter trade the futures market. Regulators do whatever they can to keep the uninitiated and untrained away from this instrument.

That said, get the futures markets right, and it is the quickest way to make a fortune, if your market direction is correct.

Buying Volatility

Volatility (VIX) is a mathematical construct derived from how much the S&P 500 moves over the next 30 days. You can gain exposure to it through buying the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) or buying call and put options on the (VIX) itself.

If markets fall, volatility rises, and if markets rise, then volatility falls. You can therefore protect a stock portfolio from losses through buying the (VIX).

I have written endlessly about the (VIX) and its implications over the years. For my latest in-depth piece with all the bells and whistles, please read “Buy Flood Insurance With the (VIX)” by clicking here.




Selling Short IPOs

Another way to make money in a down market is to sell short recent initial public offerings. These tend to go down much faster than the main market. That’s because many are held by hot hands known as “flippers” and don’t have a broad institutional shareholder base.

Many of the recent ones don’t make money and are based on an, as yet, unproven business model. These are the ones that take the biggest hits.

Individual IPO stocks can be tough to follow to sell short. But one ETF has done the heavy lifting for you. This is the Renaissance IPO ETF (click here for the prospectus). As you can tell from the chart below, (IPO) was warning that trouble was headed our way since the beginning of March. So far, a 6% drop in the main indexes has generated a 20% fall in (IPO).



Buying Momentum

This is another mathematical creation based on the number of rising days over falling days. Rising markets bring increasing momentum while falling markets produce falling momentum.

So, selling short momentum produces additional protection during the early stages of a bear market. Blackrock has issued a tailor-made ETF to capture just this kind of move through its iShares MSCI Momentum Factor ETF (MTUM). To learn more, please read the prospectus by clicking here.

Buying Beta

Beta, or the magnitude of share price movements, also declines in down markets. So, selling short beta provides yet another form of indirect insurance. The PowerShares S&P 500 High Beta Portfolio ETF (SPHB) is another niche product that captures this relationship.

The Index is compiled, maintained and calculated by Standard & Poor’s and consists of the 100 stocks from the (SPX) with the highest sensitivity to market movements, or beta, over the past 12 months.

The Fund and the Index are rebalanced and reconstituted quarterly in February, May, August, and November. To learn more, read the prospectus by clicking here.


Buying Bearish Hedge Funds

Another subsector that does well in plunging markets is publicly listed bearish hedge funds. There are a couple of these that are publicly listed and have already started to move.

One is the Advisor Shares Active Bear ETF (HDGE) (click here for the prospectus). Keep in mind that this is an actively managed fund, not an index or mathematical relationship, so the volatility could be large.


Oops, Forgot to Hedge

March 8, 2019

Global Market Comments
March 8, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SPY), (SDS), (TLT), (TBT), (GE), (IYM),
 (MSFT), (IWM), (AAPL), (ITB), (FCX), (FXE)

March 6 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A

Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader March 3 Global Strategy Webinar with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!

Q: Are you sticking to your market top (SPY), (SDS) by mid-May?

A: Yes, at the rate that economic data is deteriorating, and earnings are falling, there’s no prospect of more economic stimulation here, my May top in the market is looking better than ever. Europe going into recession will be the gasoline on the fire.

Q: Where do you see interest rates (TLT) in 1-2 years?

A: Interest rates in 2 years could be at zero. If interest rates peaked at 3.25% last year, then the next move could be to zero, or negative numbers. The world is awash in cash, and without any economic growth to support that, you could have massive cuts in interest rates.

Q: Will (TLT) be going higher when a market panic sets in?

A: It will, which is why I’m being cautious on my short positions and why I’m only using tops to sell. You can be wrong in this market but still make money on every put spread, as long as you’re going far enough in the money. That said, when the stock market starts to roll over big time, you want to go long bonds, not short, and we may do that someday.

Q: Do you see a selloff to stocks similar to last December?

A: As long as the Fed does not raise interest rates, I don’t expect to get a selloff of more than 5% or 6% initially. If we do get a dramatic worsening of economic data and it looks like we’re headed in that direction, the Fed will start cutting interest rates, the recession signal will be on and only then will we drop to the December lows—and possibly as low as 18,000 in the Dow.

Q: General Electric has gone from $6 to $10; what would you do now?

A: Short term, sell with a 66% gain in a stock. Long term, you probably want to hold on. However, their problems are massive and will take years to sort out, probably not until the other side of the next recession.

Q: Microsoft (MSFT): long term hold or sell?

A: Absolutely long-term hold; look for another double in this company over the next 3 years. This is the gold standard in technology stocks today. Short term, you’re looking at no more than $15 of downside to the December low.

Q: Would you short banks (IYF) here since interest rates have failed to push them higher?

A: I would not; they’ve been one of the worst performing sectors of the market and they’re all very low, historically. You want to short highs like I’m doing now in the (SPY), the (IWM), and Apple (AAPL), not lows.

Q: Is the China trade deal (FXI) a ‘sell the news’ event?

A: Absolutely; there’s not a hedge fund out there that isn’t waiting to go short on a China trade deal. The weakness this week is them front-running that news.

Q: Do you see emerging markets (EEM) pushing higher from the 42 level, or will a global recession bring it back to earth?

A: First of all, (EEM) will go higher as long as interest rates in the U.S. are flatlining, so I expect a rally to last until the spring; however, when a real recession does become apparent, that sector will roll over along with everything else.

Q: Would you buy homebuilders (ITB) if this lower interest rate environment persists?

A: I wouldn’t. First of all, they’ve already had a big 28% run since the beginning of the year— like everything else—and second, low-interest rates don’t help if you can’t afford the house in the first place.

Q: Would you short corporate bonds if you think there’s going to be a recession next year?

A: I’m glad you asked. Absolutely not, not even on pain of death. I would buy bonds because interest rates going to zero takes bond prices up hugely.

Q: Should you buy stocks in front of a blackout period on corporate buybacks?

A: Absolutely not. Corporate buybacks are the number one buyers of shares this year, possibly exceeding $1 trillion. Companies are not allowed to buy their own stocks anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month ahead of their earnings release. By removing the principal buyer of a share, you want to sell, not buy.

Q: What are the chances the China trade deal (FXI) breaks down this month and no signing takes place?

A: I have a feeling Trump is desperate to sign anything these days, and I think the Chinese know that as well, especially in the wake of the North Korean diplomatic disaster. He has to sign the deal or we’ll go to recession, and that would be tough to run on for reelection.

Q: Which stock or ETF would you short on real estate?

A: If you short the iShares US Home Construction ETF (ITB), you short the basket. Shorting individual stocks is always risky—you really have to know what’s going on there.

Q: What’s the best commodity play out there?

A: Copper. If China is the only country that’s stimulating its economy right now, and China is the largest consumer of copper, then you want to buy copper. The electric car boom feeds into copper because every new vehicle needs 20 pounds of copper for wiring and rotors. Copper is also cheap as it is coming off of a seven-year bear market. What do you buy at market tops? Only cheap stuff.

Q: Why did you go so far in the money in the Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) call spread with only a 10% profit on the trade in five weeks?

A: In this kind of market, I’ll take 10% in 5 weeks all day long. But additionally, when prices are this high, I want to be as conservative as possible. Going deep in the money on that is a very low-risk trade. It’s a bet that copper doesn’t go back to the December lows in five weeks, and that’s a bet I’m willing to make.

Q: Will a new round of QE in Europe affect our stock market?

A: Yes, it’s terrible news. It will weaken the Euro (FXE), strengthen the dollar (UUP), and force US companies to lower earnings guidance even further. That is bad for the market and is a reason why I have been selling short.






Sending You Trade Alerts from Africa

February 21, 2019

Global Market Comments
February 21, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SH), (SDS), (PSQ), (DOG), (RWM), (SPXU), (AAPL),
 (VIX), (VXX), (IPO), (MTUM), (SPHB), (HDGE),

January 15, 2019

Global Market Comments
January 15, 2019
Fiat Lux


Featured Trade:
($INDU), (SPY), (SDS), (TLT), (TBT), (FXE), (FXY),
(UUP), (DDP), (USO), (SCO), (GLD), (DGZ), (ITB)

Here’s the Worst-Case Scenario

Yesterday, I listed my Five Surprises of 2019 which will play out during the first half of the year prompting stocks to take another run at the highs, and then fail.

What if I’m wrong? I’ve always been a glass half full kind of guy. What if instead, we get the opposite of my five surprises? This is what they would look like. And better yet, this is how financial markets would perform.

*The government shutdown goes on indefinitely throwing the US economy into recession.

*The Chinese trade war escalates, deepening the recession both here and in the Middle Kingdom.

*The House moves to impeach the president, ignoring domestic issues, driven by the younger winners of the last election.

*A hard Brexit goes through completely cutting Britain off from Europe.

*The Mueller investigation concludes that Trump is a Russian agent and is guilty of 20 felonies including capital treason.

*All of the above are HUGELY risk negative and will trigger a MONSTER STOCK SELLOFF.

It’s really difficult to quantify how badly markets will behave given that this scenario amounts to five black swans landing simultaneously. However, we do have a recent benchmark with which to make comparisons, the 2008-2009 stock market crash and great recession. I’ll list off the damage report by asset class. I also include the exchange-traded fund you need to hedge yourself against Armageddon in each asset class.

*Stocks – Depending on how fast the above rolls out, you will see a stock market (SPY) collapse of Biblical proportions. You’ll easily unwind the Trump rally that started at a Dow Average of 18,000, down 25% from the current level, and off a gut-churning 9,000 points or 33% from the September top. The next support below is the 2015 low at 15,500, down 11,500 points, or 43% from the top. By comparison, during the 2008-2009 crash, we fell 52%. Everything falls and there is no safe place to hide. Buy the ProShares UltraShort S&P 500 bear ETF (SDS).


*Bonds – With the ten-year US Treasury yield peaking at 3.25% last summer, a buying panic would spill into the bond market. Inflation is nonexistent, we are running at only a 2.2% YOY rate now, so widespread deflation would rapidly swallow up the entire economy. In that case, all interest rates go to zero very quickly. The Fed cuts rates as fast as it can. Eventually, the ten-year yield drops to -0.40%, the bottom seen in Japanese and German debt three years ago. Buy the 2X short bond ETF (TBT) which will rocket to from $35 to $200.



*Foreign Exchange – With US interest rates going to zero, the US Dollar (UUP) gets the stuffing knocked out of it. The Euro soars from $1.10 to $1.60 last seen in 2010, and the Japanese yen (FXY) revisits Y80. Strong currencies then crush the economies of our largest trading partners. Their governments take their interest rates back to negative numbers to cool their own currencies. Cash becomes trash….globally.



Here’s the really ugly part about commodities. They are only just starting to crawl OUT of a seven-year bear market. To hit them with another price collapse now would devastate the industry. Producer bankruptcies would be widespread. The ags would get especially hard hit as they have already been pummeled by the trade war with China. Midwestern regional banks would get wiped out. Buy the DB Commodity Short ETN (DDP).



The price of oil (USO) is also just crawling back from a correction for the ages, down from $77 to $42 a barrel in only three months. Hit the sector with a recession now in the face of global overproduction and the 2009 low of $25 becomes a chip shot, and possibly much lower. Those who chased for yield with energy master limited partnerships will get flushed. Several smaller exploration and production companies will get destroyed. And gasoline drops to $1 a gallon. The Middle East collapses into a geopolitical nightmare and much of Texas files chapter 11. Buy the ProShares UltraShort Bloomberg Crude Oil ETF (SCO).

*Precious metals

Gold (GLD) initially rallies on the flight to safety bid that we have seen since September. However, if things get really bad, EVERYTHING gets sold, even the barbarous relic, as margin clerks are in the driver’s seat. You sell what you can, not what you want to, as liquidity becomes paramount. This is what took the yellow metal down to $900 an ounce in 2009. Buy the DB Gold Short ETN (DGZ).

*Real Estate

Believe it or not, real estate doesn’t do all that bad in a worst-case scenario. It is perhaps the safest asset class around if a new crisis financial unfolds. For a start, interest rates at zero would provide a huge cushion. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill successfully prevented lenders returning to even a fraction of the leverage they used in the run-up to the last recession. We are about to enter a major demographic tailwind in housing as the Millennial generation become the predominant home buyers. I’ve never seen a housing slump in the face of a structural shortage. And homebuilder stocks (ITB) have already been discounting the next recession for the past year. A lot is already baked in the price.



Of course, it is highly unlikely that any of the above happens. Think of it all as what Albert Einstein called a “thought experiment.” But it is better to do the thinking now so you can do the trading later. There may not be time to do otherwise.

Be Careful, They Bite!

June 12, 2018

Global Market Comments
June 12, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(SH), (SDS), (PSQ), (DOG), (RWM), (SPXU), (AAPL),
(VIX), (VXX), (IPO), (MTUM), (SPHB), (HDGE),

June 8, 2018

Global Market Comments
June 8, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(TLT), (TTT), (TBT), (AMLP), (IBB),
(SPY), (SDS), (SH), (GS), (BAC)

Welcome to Nosebleed Territory

When climbing peaks in the Alps, the High Sierras, or the Himalayas, you know you?re getting close to the top when the air becomes thin, it is difficult to breathe, and your nose suddenly starts to bleed. I remember trying to smoke a cigarette at 20,000 feet on Mount Everest. If you didn?t keep puffing it went out immediately because of the lack of oxygen.

I am starting to suffer from a similar woozy feeling from the US stock markets. I have long since quit smoking, but the higher the indexes go, the more light headed I feel.

Take a look at the chart below produced last Friday by my friends at It shows the NYSE advance-decline ratio smoothed by a five day moving average. We have since blasted through to a new high for the year. The last time we were this high in July, the S&P 500 commenced a 23% swan dive down to 1068.

If you failed to protect yourself from this gut churning plunge, there is a good chance your clients fired you at the end of last year and you are now trolling through Craigslist looking for new employment opportunities. If you did follow the advice of this letter at the time, you sold short the S&P 500, the Russell 2000, gold, the Euro, and the Swiss franc. That enabled you to make a bundle, and your clients are now showering new money upon you.

I was hoping a sweet spot would set up that would allow me to pick up some meaty short positions, like the leveraged short (SDS) and put options, once a squeeze took us up to 1,350 in the S&P 500. Looking at the slow, low volume grind we are getting, I may not get my wish. Instead, we may get a choppy, rolling type top at a lower level that frustrates the hell out of everyone. We could top out as low as 1,312 instead. Every hedge fund trader I know is just sitting on his hands waiting for a decent entry point to present itself.

Aggressive traders may start scaling in short positions from here in small pieces. Until then, discretion is the better part of valor. Only buy here if your clients have a long term view, a very long term view.

Mount Everest 1976

Is It Time to Sell Yet?