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January 24, 2019

Global Market Comments
January 25, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(JANUARY 9 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(TSLA), (EDIT), (NTLA), (CRSP), (SJB), (TLT), (FXB), (GLD),
(THE PRICE OF STARDOM AT DAVOS)

Take a Ride in the New Short Junk ETF

Bonds are about to drop like a rock.

Stocks will drop sharply in the coming year.

What could be better than an ETF that benefits from both falling bonds AND stocks?

It just so happens that there is such an animal.

When you look at the profusion of new ETFs being launched today, you find that they almost always correspond with market tops.

The higher the market, the greater the demand for the underlying, and the more leverage traders bay for it. The resulting returns for investors are usually disastrous.

But occasionally a blind squirrel finds an acorn, and if you fire buckshot long enough, you hit a barn.

That’s why I am getting interested in the new ProShares Short High Yield ETF (SJB). After riding the bull move in junk all the way up with (JNK), (HYG), I have recently turned negative on the sector.

Junk bonds have moved too far too fast. Current spreads for junk paper are now only 200 basis points over equivalent term Treasury bonds, and investors at these levels are in no way being compensated for their risk.

If the stock market starts to roll over in 2018, then the junk bond market will follow it in the elevator going to down to the ladies underwear department in the basement.

Keep in mind that when shorting the junk market, you run into the same problem you have with the (TBT), a leveraged short ETF for the Treasury bond market.

Buy the (SJB) and you are short a 4.70% coupon which, with the management fees, works out to a monthly cost of more than 50 basis points. That is a big nut to cover.

So timing for entry into this fund will be crucial.

 

 

Take a Ride in the Short Junk ETF

When you look at the profusion of new ETF?s being launched today, you find that they almost always correspond with market tops.

The higher the market, the greater the demand for the underlying, and the more leverage traders pay for it. The resulting returns for investors are disastrous.

But occasionally a blind squirrel finds an acorn, and if you fire buckshot long enough, you hit a barn.

That?s why I am getting interested in the ProShares Short High Yield ETF (SJB). After riding the bull move in junk all the way up with (JNK), (HYG), I have recently turned negative on the sector.

Junk bonds have moved too far too fast. Current spreads for junk paper are now only 200 basis points over equivalent term Treasury bonds, and investors at these levels are in no way being compensated for their risk.

If the stock market starts to roll over this summer, then the junk bond market will follow it in the elevator going down to the ladies underwear department in the basement.

Keep in mind that when shorting the junk market, you run into the same problem you have with the (TBT), a leveraged short ETF for the Treasury bond market.

Buy the (SJB) and you are short a 6.74% coupon, which works out to a monthly costs of more than 50 basis points. That is a big nut to cover. So timing for entry into this fund will be crucial.

SJB

HYG

 

Car-JunkIs Shorting Junk Bonds the Way to Go??

Take a Ride in the New Short Junk ETF

Probably the best Trade Alert of 2015 that I wrote up, but never sent out, was for the ProShares Short High Yield ETF (SJB). That is a bet that makes money when the prices for junk bonds fall.

Back in May, it was clear to me that junk bond prices had hit ?LALA land.? Yields were only 200 basis points above similar maturity Treasury bonds.

Risk was being wildly mispriced. Investors were taking on a whole lot of principal risk, but were barely compensated for it.

It was a classic reach for yield. This only ends in tears.

The reason I didn?t pull the trigger is that when you sell short any kind of bond or equity, you become liable for paying the interest or the dividend. In the high yield junk realm at the time, that meant forking out 5% per annum.

That?s a big nut to cover in order to make a profit. To end up in the green on a position like this, your timing has to be perfect. Paying that kind of carry, you pretty much want prices to stat falling immediately.

As it turned out, holding firm at the time was the right thing to do. While I nailed the high for the year, Junk bonds (HYG), (JNK) declined, but not by much. Then in August, they fell like a ton of bricks.

Here we are seven months later in a completely different world.

All of the trades that prospered mightily from quantitative easing are being unwound in a hurry.

It seems like investors are only just waking up to the implications of the demise of an aggressive monetary policy that met its demise 14 months ago. It?s a bit like closing the barn door after the horses have bolted.

However, it took this week?s imminent interest rate rise from the Federal Reserve to really bring matters to a head.

Junk bonds are now yielding 9.0%, while energy related paper is well into double digits. The talk is that as many as 25% of energy junk bonds will default (click here for ?Here Comes the Final Bottom in Oil? ).

Two junk bond funds have gone under, refusing to honor redemption requests from owners. Prices are in free fall. It all has the flavor of a final capitulation.

Which means that I am finally stating to get interested in junk bonds.

This is the problem with this market. Junk bonds are the last holdout of old fashioned traders. No two issues look alike, so they can?t be commoditized. That means they can?t be subject to automated online trading. High frequency traders never touch them.

If you want to trade in junk bonds, you have to call around to other traders and investors and ask if they have any interest. You keep calling until you find someone willing to take the other side of your trade.

Needless to say, this is a tedious and time-consuming process. It is a lot like the trading world I first joined in the 1970?s.

Another problem is that Dodd Frank has banned the big banks and brokers from taking positions in this paper like they used to. That means there is no final supplier of liquidity, so it is worse than it has ever been.

It is a good rule of thumb that the junk bond yield roughly reflects the market?s default expectations. So the present 9% yield means investors expect approximately 9% of the paper to default.

And here is where you make the money.

Markets tend to wildly overshoot with their expectations. In 2009 junk bonds carried a 25% yield. The actual default rate that followed was only 2%.

Markets then spent five year repricing this reality into these securities. As a result, junk bonds were one of the best investments you could have made back then.

They were the subject of regular strong ?BUY? recommendations by the Mad Hedge Fund Trader. They eventually more than doubled in value. That?s a lot for a bond.

While today?s 9% is nowhere near 25%, we are also in nothing like a 2009 financial collapse. Call the current volatility a correction, a bout of nervousness, a setback, or even a frisson. End of the world stuff it isn?t.

Which leads me to believe that at 9%, you are being fairly compensated for your risk.

You wanted to reach for yield? Now there is some yield to reach for.

9% covers a multitude of sins.

SJB 12-15-15

HYG 12-15-15

JNK 12-15-15

Car-JunkIs It Time to Put Junk Bonds on You Shopping List?

Take a Ride in the New Short Junk ETF

When you look at the profusion of new ETF?s being launched today, you find that they almost always correspond with market tops. The higher the market, the greater the demand for the underlying, and the more leverage traders bay for it. The resulting returns for investors are disastrous.

But occasionally a blind squirrel finds an acorn, and if you fire buckshot long enough, you hit a barn. That was the case a year ago when the corn ETF was launched (CORN), after five months of stagnant performance by the grain. I smelled a bargain for my readers, piled them into the ETF the day it launched, and caught a quick double in six weeks, just as the Russian fires were igniting.

That?s why I am getting interested in the new ProShares Short High Yield ETF (SJB). After riding the bull move in junk all the way up with (JNK), I have recently turned negative on the sector. Junk bonds have moved too far too fast. Current spreads for junk paper are now only 300 basis points over equivalent term Treasury bonds, and investors at these levels are in no way being compensated for their risk.

If the stock market starts to roll over this summer, as I expect, then the junk bond market will follow it in the elevator going to down to the ladies underwear department in the basement. Keep in mind that when shorting the junk market, you run into the same problem you have with the (TBT), a leveraged short ETF for the Treasury bond market. Buy the (SJB) and you are short a 6% coupon, which works out to a monthly costs of 50 basis points. That is a big nut to cover. So timing for entry into this fund will be crucial.

SJB 5-7-13

JNK 5-7-13

Car-Junk