There is a method to my madness, although I understand that some new subscribers may need some convincing.
Whenever I change my positions, the market makes a major move or reaches a key crossroads, I look to stress test my portfolio by inflicting various extreme scenarios upon it and analyzing the outcome.
This is second nature for most hedge fund managers. In fact, the larger ones will use top of the line mainframes powered by $100 million worth of in-house custom programming to produce a real-time snapshot of their thousands of positions in all imaginable scenarios at all times.
If you want to invest with these guys feel free to do so. They require a $10-$25 million initial slug of capital, a one year lock up, charge a fixed management fee of 2% and a performance bonus of 20% or more.
You have to show minimum liquid assets of $2 million and sign 50 pages of disclosure documents. If you have ever sued a previous manager, forget it. The door slams shut. And, oh yes, the best performing funds are closed and have a ten-year waiting list to get in. Unless you are a major pension fund, they don’t want to hear from you.
Individual investors are not so sophisticated, and it clearly shows in their performance, which usually mirrors the indexes less a large haircut. So, I am going to let you in on my own, vastly simplified, dumbed down, seat of the pants, down and dirty style of risk management, scenario analysis, and stress testing that replicates 95% of the results of my vastly more expensive competitors.
There is no management fee, performance bonus, disclosure document, lock up, or upfront cash requirement. There’s just my token $3,000 a year subscription fee and that’s it. And I’m not choosy. I’ll take anyone whose credit card doesn’t get declined.
To make this even easier, you can perform your own analysis in the excel spreadsheet I post every day in the paid-up members section of Global Trading Dispatch. You can just download it and play around with it whenever you want, constructing your own best case and worst-case scenarios. To make this easy, I have posted this spreadsheet on my website for you to download by clicking here.
Since this is a “for dummies” explanation, I’ll keep this as simple as possible. No offense, we all started out as dummies, even me.
I’ll take Mad Hedge Model Trading Portfolio at the close of October 29, the date that the stock market bottomed and when I ramped up to a very aggressive 75% long with no hedges. This was the day when the Dow Average saw a 1,000 point intraday range, margin clerks were running rampant, and brokers were jumping out of windows.
I projected my portfolio returns in three possible scenarios: (1) The market collapses an additional 5% by the November 16 option expiration, some 15 trading days away, falling from $260 to $247, (2) the S&P 500 (SPY) rises 5% from $260 to $273 by November 16, and (3) the S&P 500 trades in a narrow range and remains around the then current level of $260.
Scenario 1 – The S&P 500 Falls 5%
A 5% loss and an average of a 5% decline in all stocks would take the (SPY) down to $247, well below the February $250 low, and off an astonishing 15.70% in one month. Such a cataclysmic move would have taken our year to date down to +11.03%. The (SPY) $150-$160 and (AMZN) $1,550-$1,600 call spreads would be total losses but are partly offset by maximum gains on all remaining positions, including the S&P 500 (SPY), Salesforce (CRM), and the United States US Treasury Bond Fund (TLT). My Puts on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX) would become worthless.
However, with real interest rates at zero (3.1% ten-year US Treasury yield minis 3.1% inflation rate), the geopolitical front quiet, and my Mad Hedge Market Timing Index at a 30 year low of only 4, I thought there was less than a 1% chance of this happening.
Scenario 2 – S&P 500 rises 5%
The impact of a 5% rise in the market is easy to calculate. All positions expire at their maximum profit point, taking our model trading portfolio up 37.03% for 2018. It would be a monster home run. I would make back a little bit on the (VXX) but not much because of time decay.
Scenario 3 – S&P 500 Remains Unchanged
Again, we do OK, given the circumstances. The year-to-date stands at a still respectable 22.03%. Only the (AMZN) $1,550-$1,600 call spread is a total loss. The (VXX) puts would become nearly a total loss.
As it turned out, Scenario 2 played out and was the way to go. I stopped out of the losing (AMZN) $1,550-$1,600 call spread two days later for only a 1.73% loss, instead of -12.23% in the worst-case scenario. It was a case of $12.23 worth of risk control that only cost me $1.73. I’ll do that all day long, even though it cost me money. When running hedge funds, you are judged on how you manage your losses, not your gains, which are easy.
I took profit on the rest of my positions when they reached 88%-95% of their maximum potential profits and thus cut my risk to zero during these uncertain times. October finished with a gain of +1.24. By the time I liquidated my last position and went 95% cash, I was up 32.95% so far in 2018, against a Dow average that is up 2% on the year. It was a performance for the ages.
Keep in mind that these are only estimates, not guarantees, nor are they set in stone. Future levels of securities, like index ETFs, are easy to estimate. For other positions, it is more of an educated guess. This analysis is only as good as its assumptions. As we used to say in the computer world, garbage in equals garbage out.
Professionals who may want to take this out a few iterations can make further assumptions about market volatility, options implied volatility or the future course of interest rates. And let’s face it, politics was a major influence this year.
Keep the number of positions small to keep your workload under control. Imagine being Goldman Sachs and doing this for several thousand positions a day across all asset classes.
Once you get the hang of this, you can start projecting the effect on your portfolio of all kinds of outlying events. What if a major world leader is assassinated? Piece of cake. How about another 9/11? No problem. Oil at $150 a barrel? That’s a gimme.
What if there is an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities? That might take you all of two minutes to figure out. The Federal Reserve launches a surprise QE5 out of the blue? I think you already know the answer. Now that you know how to make money in the options market, thanks to my Trade Alert service, I am going to teach you how to hang on to it.
There is no point in being clever and executing profitable trades only to lose your profits through some simple, careless mistakes.
So I have posted a training video on Risk Management. Note: you have to be logged in to the www.madhedgefundtrader.com website to view it.
The first goal of risk control is to preserve whatever capital you have. I tell people that I am too old to lose all my money and start over again as a junior trader at Morgan Stanley. Therefore, I am pretty careful when it comes to risk control.
The other goal of risk control is the art of managing your portfolio to make sure it is profitable no matter what happens in the marketplace. Ideally, you want to be a winner whether the market moves up, down, or sideways. I do this on a regular basis.
Remember, we are not trying to beat an index here. Our goal is to make absolute returns, or real dollars, at all times, no matter what the market does. You can’t eat relative performance, nor can you use it to pay your bills.
So the second goal of every portfolio manager is to make it bomb proof. You never know when a flock of black swans is going to come out of nowhere, or another geopolitical shock occurs, causing the market crash.
I’ll also show you how to use my Trade Alert service to squeeze every dollar out of your trading.
So, let’s get on with it!
To watch the Introduction to Risk Management, please click here.
Mad Hedge Market Timing Index
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Profit-Predictor-chart.png397899DougDhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngDougD2019-01-29 01:06:162019-01-28 23:40:42Risk Control for Dummies
Featured Trade: (THE MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, OR IS THIS A 1999 REPLAY?), (AAPL), (FB), (NFLX), (AMZN), (GE), (WBT), (JOIN ME ON THE QUEEN MARY 2 FOR MY JULY 11, 2018 SEMINAR AT SEA), (JUNE 20 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A), (SQ), (PANW), (FEYE), (FB), (LRCX), (BABA), (MOMO), (IQ), (BIDU), (AMD), (MSFT), (EDIT), (NTLA), Bitcoin, (FXE), (SPY), (SPX)
The S&P 500 has just bounced off the 214 level for the second time this month.
Is it safe to come out of your cave? Is to time to take the hard hat back to the basement?
If you had taken Cunard?s round-the-world cruise three months ago, as I recommended, you would be landing in New York about now, wondering what the big deal was. Indexes are unchanged since you departed.
This truly has been the Teflon market. Nothing will stick to it. In June when Brexit hit, many predicted the end of the world. The market crashed. Then within days, it recovered the loss and moved on to new all time highs..
It makes you want to throw up your hands in despair and throw your empty beer can at the TV. All this work, and I?ve delivered the perfectly wrong conclusions?
Let me point out a few harsh lessons learned from this most recent melt down, and the rip your face off rally that followed.
Remember all those market gurus poo pooing the effectiveness of the ?Sell in May and go away? strategy? This year it worked better than ever.
This is why almost every Trade Alert I shot out for the past five months has been from the short side. It is also why I was so quick to cover my most recent shorts for a loss.
We are about to move from a ?Sell in May? to a ?Buy in November? posture.
The next six months are ones of historical seasonal market strength (click here for the misty origins of this trend at ?If You Sell in May, What To Do in April??).? You must be logged into your account to read this article.
The other lesson learned this summer was the utter uselessness of technical analysis. Usually these guys are right only 50% of the time. This year, they missed the boat entirely.
When the S&P 500 (SPY) was meandering in a narrow nine point range, and the Volatility Index ($VIX) hugged the 12-15 neighborhood, they said this would continue for the rest of the year.
When the market finally broke down in June, cutting through imaginary support levels like a hot knife through butter, they said the market would plunge to 175, and possibly as low as 158.
It didn?t do that either.
When the July rally started, pitiful technical analysts told you to sell into it.
If you did, you lost your shirt. The market just kept going, and going, and going like the Energizer Bunny.
This is why technical analysis is utterly useless as an investment strategy. How many hedge funds use a pure technical strategy?
Absolutely none, as it doesn?t make any money.
At best, it is just one of 100 tools you need to trade the market effectively. The shorter the time frame, the more accurate it becomes.
On an intraday basis, technical analysis is actually quite useful. But I doubt few of you engage in this hopeless pursuit.
This is why I advise portfolio managers and financial advisors to use technical analysis as a means of timing order executions and nothing more.
Most professionals agree with me.
Technical analysis derives from humans? preference for looking at pictures instead of engaging in abstract mental processes. A picture is worth 1,000 words and probably a lot more.
This is why technical analysis appeals to so many young people entering the market for the first time. Buy a book for $5 on Amazon, and you too can become a Master of the Universe.
Who can resist that?
The problem is that high frequency traders also bought that same book from Amazon a long time ago and have designed algorithms to frustrate every move the technical analyst makes.
Sorry to be a buzz kill, but that is my take on technical analysis.
Hope you enjoyed your cruise.
Correction? What Correction?
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/John-Thomas-breakfast.jpg364490Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2016-10-03 01:06:162016-10-03 01:06:16Why Technical Analysis Doesn?t Work
I have a feeling that you are going to really need to know how to trade a crash in the coming weeks.
Due to our recent blockbuster performance, up 39% last year alone, we have also taken in a large number of new subscribers. They should read this piece carefully and commit it to memory, and have the key points tattooed on their forearm.
There won?t be time to look for these words to the wise, once the market?s wheels really fall off.
In my half-century of trading stocks, I have been through quite a few crashes.
When the Nifty Fifty collapsed in 1973, everyone thought it was the end of the world. The Dow Average fell to 650. President Nixon resigned shortly afterwards.
The 1987 crash certainly left its scars. My equity department at Morgan Stanley lost $75 million in one day, then a staggering amount. We had to pedal triple time to make it all back by the end of the month. I remember that George Soros puked right at the very low.
The 1998 emerging market debacle certainly put our wits to the test. That little affair ultimately led to the Russian debt default and the blow up of Long Term Capital Management, Nobel Prize winners and all.
The 2000 Dotcom Crash was one to remember. At least the parties leading up to the peak made it all worth it. But a lot of friends lost their careers and their homes over that one.
2008-09? That one sent us all back to our history books searching for comparisons with the Great Depression.
It turns out that we were only in for a Great Recession instead and a 52% market decline instead of a 90% one. Not a single person alive thought markets would triple over the next six years, as they have done.
The 2010 Flash Crash, the last time we were down 1,000 points in a single day? Seems like it was only yesterday, just water off your back.
So given my long history of surviving market melt downs, I have to tell you that the August swoon doesn?t even rank in the top ten.
But then again, it?s not over yet either.
So trading crashes is a skill set that every long-term investor is going to need. It is an ability that may save your wealth, if not your life.
I have listed below my twelve rules for trading crashes that I have compiled off the back of decades of hard earned experience.
TWELVE RULES FOR TRADING A CRASH
1) Shrink your trading book to a single position so it?s easier to watch.
2) Shrink your size so it?s small enough for you to sleep at night?even during a crash.
3) Watch the (VIX) as a leading indicator. This time, junk bonds (HYG) and the Russell 200 (IWM) are functioning as pathfinders as well.
4) Don?t be afraid to trade, since now is when risk is the lowest and the rewards the highest. Don?t give up, throw up your hands in despair, and go into hiding like everyone else is.
5) You wanted to buy on a dip? This is a dip. Be careful what you wish for. 6) Time is compressed during a crash. Share price movements that normally take months occur in minutes. Be prepared to do a lot of trading.
7) Liquidity disappears and spreads widen dramatically. Basically, the market wants you to go away. Some of the lesser ETF?s take the biggest hits, as no one wants to touch them.
8) Expect system breakdowns everywhere as they are hyper stressed. Trading platforms can seize up, computers freeze, and the Internet noticeably slows down.
9) If you have any kind of leverage, now is when your brokers will come after you. Margin requirements can double or quadruple overnight with no notice. If you can?t cough up the extra money they will execute a forced liquidation of your account at terrible prices.
10) When you buy single names, focus on quality. It is a rare chance to buy Cadillacs at a discount. Be careful, because fundamentals mean nothing during a crash. Cash is King.
11) Don?t even think about calling your broker. You?re on your own. They?ll just put you on perpetual hold or throw the handset down on the floor and burst into tears, as happened to me during the 1987 crash when I tried to buy.
12) Maintain discipline, exercise strict risk control, and let the other people panic. Now is when you define yourself as a trader. Anyone can trade a bull market. But only a few can handle the bear version.
HAVING SAID ALL THAT, GOOD LUCK AND GOOD TRADING!
How to Keep Your Head Above Water in a Crash
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/John-Thomas4-e1440624214232.jpg400317Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2016-01-21 01:07:372016-01-21 01:07:37How to Trade a Crash
I am once again writing this report from a first class sleeping cabin on Amtrak?s California Zephyr.
By day, I have two comfortable seats facing each other next to a panoramic window. At night, they fold into bunk beds, a single and a double. There is a shower, but only Houdini could get in and out of it.
I am not Houdini, so I go downstairs to use the larger public showers.
We are now pulling away from Chicago?s Union Station, leaving its hurried commuters, buskers, panhandlers, and majestic great halls behind. I love this building as a monument to American accomplishment.
I am headed for Emeryville, California, just across the bay from San Francisco. That gives me only 56 hours to complete this report.
I tip my porter, Raymond, $100 in advance to make sure everything goes well during the long adventure, and to keep me up to date with the onboard gossip.
The rolling and pitching of the car is causing my fingers to dance all over the keyboard. Spellchecker can catch most of the mistakes, but not all of them.
Thank goodness for small algorithms.
As both broadband and cell phone coverage are unavailable along most of the route, I have to rely on frenzied searches during stops at major stations along the way to chase down data points.
You know those cool maps in the Verizon stores that show the vast coverage of their cell phone networks? They are complete BS.
Who knew that 95% of America is off the grid? That explains a lot about our country today. I have posted many of my better photos from the trip below, although there is only so much you can do from a moving train and an iPhone 6.
After making the rounds with strategists, portfolio managers, and hedge fund traders, I can confirm that 2015 was one of the toughest to trade for careers lasting 30, 40, or 50 years. Even the stay-at-home index players had their heads handed to them.
With the Dow gaining 3.1% in 2015, and S&P 500 almost dead unchanged, this was a year of endless frustration. Volatility fell to the floor, staying at a monotonous 12% for eight boring consecutive months before spiking repeatedly many times to as high as 52%. Most hedge funds lagged the index by miles.
My Trade Alert Service, hauled in an astounding 38.8% profit, at the high was up 48.7%, and has become the talk of the hedge fund industry.
If you think I spend too much time absorbing conspiracy theories from the Internet, let me give you a list of the challenges I see financial markets facing in the coming year:
The Four Key Variables for 2016
1) Will the Fed raise interest rates more or not? 2) Will China?s emerging economy see a hard or soft landing? 3) Will Japanese and European quantitative easing increase, or remain the same? 4) Will oil bottom and stay low, or bounce hard?
Here are your answers to the above: no, soft, more later, bounce hard later.
There you go! That?s all the research you have to do for the coming year. Everything else is a piece of cake.
The Ten Highlights of 2015
1) Stocks will finish higher in 2016, almost certainly more than the previous year, somewhere in the 5% range and 7% with dividends. Cheap energy, a recovering global economy, and 2-3% GDP growth, will be the drivers. However, this year we have a headwind of rising interest rates and falling multiples.
2) Expect stocks to take a 15% dive. That gives us a -15% to +5% trading range for the year. Volatility will remain permanently higher, with several large spikes up. That means you are going to have to pedal harder to earn your crust of bread in 2016.
3) The Treasury bond market will modestly grind down, anticipating the next 25 basis point rate rise from the Federal Reserve, and then the next one after that.
4) The yen will lose another 5% against the dollar.
5) The Euro will fall another 5%, doing its best to hit parity with the greenback, with the assistance of beleaguered continental governments.
6) Oil stays in a $30-$60 range, showering the economy with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of de facto tax cuts.
7) Gold finally bottoms at $1,000 after one more final flush, then rallies $250. (My jeweler was right, again).
8) Commodities finally bottom out, thanks to new found strength in the global economy, and begin a modest recovery.
9) Residential real estate has made its big recovery, and will grind up slowly from here for years.
10) The 2016 presidential election will eat up immense amounts of media and research time, but will have absolutely no impact on financial markets. Give your money to charity instead.
The Thumbnail Portfolio
Equities - Long. A rising but high volatility year takes the S&P 500 up to 2,200. Technology, biotech, energy, solar, consumer discretionary, and financials lead. Energy should find its bottom, but later than sooner.
Bonds - Short. Down for the entire year, but not by much, with long periods of stagnation.
Foreign Currencies - Short. The US dollar maintains its bull trend, especially against the Yen and the Euro, but won't gain nearly as much as in 2015.
Commodities - Long. A China recovery takes them up eventually.
Precious Metals - Buy as close to $1,000 as you can. We are overdue for a trading rally.
Agriculture - Long. El Nino in the north and droughts in Latin American should add up to higher prices.
Real estate - Long. Multifamily up, commercial up, single family homes up small.
1) The Economy - Fortress America
I think real US economic growth will come in at the 2.5%-3% range.
With a generational demographic drag continuing for five more years, don?t expect more than that. Big spenders, those in the 46-50 age group, don?t return in larger numbers until 2022.
But this negative will be offset by a plethora of positives, like hyper-accelerating technology, global expansion, and the lingering effects of the Fed?s massive five year quantitative easing.
US corporate profits will keep pushing to new all time highs. But this year we won?t be held back by the collapsing economies of Europe, China, and Japan, which subtracted about 0.5% from American economic growth, nor weak energy.
US Corporate earnings will probably come in at $130 a share for the S&P 500, a gain of 10% over the previous year. During the last six years, we have seen the most dramatic increase in earnings in history, taking them to all-time highs.
Technology and dramatically lower energy costs are the principal sources of profit increases, which will continue their inexorable improvements. Think of more machines and software replacing people.
You know all of those hundreds of billions raised from technology IPO?s in 2015? Most of that is getting plowed right back into new start ups, increasing the rate of technology improvements even further, and the productivity gains that come with it.
We no longer have the free lunch of zero interest rates. But the cost of money will rise so slowly that it will barely impact profits. Deflation is here to stay. Watch the headline jobless rate fall below 5% to a full employment economy.
Keep close tabs on the weekly jobless claims that come out at 8:30 AM Eastern every Thursday for a good read as to whether the financial markets will head in a ?RISK ON? or ?RISK OFF? direction.
For the first time in seven years, earnings multiples are going to fall, but not by much. That is the only possible outcome in a world with rising interest rates, however modestly.
If multiples fall by 5%, from the current 18X to 17.1X, profits increase by 10%, and you throw in a 2% dividend, you should net out a 7% return by the end of the year.
S&P 500 earnings fell by 6% in 2015, but take out oil and they grew by 5.6%. In 2016, energy will be a lesser drag, or not at all. That makes my 10% target doable.
That is not much of a return with which to take on a lot of risk. But remember, in a near zero interest rate world, there is nothing else to buy.
This is not an outrageous expectation, given the 10-22 earnings multiple range that we have enjoyed during the last 30 years.
The market currently trades around fair value, and no market in history ever peaked out here. An overshoot to the upside, often a big one, is mandatory. Yet, that is years off.
After all, my friend, Janet Yellen, is paying you to buy stock with cheap money, so why not? Borrowing money at close to zero and investing in 2% dividend paying stocks has become the world?s largest carry trade.
Rising interest rates will have one additional worrying impact on stock prices. They will pare back mergers and acquisitions and corporate buy backs in 2016.
Together these were the sources of all new net buying of stocks in 2015, some $5.5 trillion worth. Call it financial engineering, but the market loves it.
Although energy looks terrible now, it could well be the top-performing sector by the end of the year, to be followed by commodities.
Certainly, every hedge fund and activist investor out there is undergoing a crash course on oil fundamentals. After a 13-year expansion of leverage in the industry, it is ripe for a cleanout.
Solar stocks will continue on a tear, now that the 30% federal investment tax subsidy has been extended by five more years. Look at Solar City (SCTY), First Solar (FSLR), and the solar basket ETF (TAN). Revenues are rocketing and costs are falling.
After spending a year in the penalty box, look for small cap stocks to outperform. These are the biggest beneficiaries of cheap energy and low interest rates.
Share prices will deliver anything but a straight-line move. Expect a couple more 10% plus corrections in 2015, and for the Volatility Index (VIX) to revisit $30 multiple times. The higher prices rise, the more common these will become.
Amtrak needs to fill every seat in the dining car, so you never know who you will get paired with for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
There was the Vietnam vet Phantom jet pilot who now refused to fly because he was treated so badly at airports. A young couple desperate to get out of Omaha could only afford seats as far as Salt Lake City, sitting up all night. I paid for their breakfast.
A retired British couple was circumnavigating the entire US in a month on a ?See America Pass.? Mennonites returning home by train because their religion forbade airplanes.
I have to confess that I am leaning towards the ?one and done? school of thought with regards to the Fed?s interest rate policy. We may see a second 25 basis point rise in June, but only if the economy takes off like a rocket and international concerns disappear, an unlikely probability.
If you told me that US GDP growth was 2.5%, unemployment was at a ten year low at 5.0%, and energy prices had just plunged by 68%, I would have pegged the ten-year Treasury bond yield at 6.0%. Yet here we are at 2.25%.
We clearly are seeing a brave new world.
Global QE added to a US profit glut has created more money than the fixed income markets can absorb.
Virtually every hedge fund manager and institutional investor got bonds wrong last year, expecting rates to rise. I was among them, but that is no excuse.
Fixed income turned out to be a winner for me in 2015, as I sold short every bond price spike from the summer onward. It worked like a charm.
You might as well take your traditional economic books and throw them in the trash. Apologies to John Maynard Keynes, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Paul Samuelson.
The reasons for the debacle are myriad, but global deflation is the big one. With ten year German bunds yielding a paltry 62 basis points, and Japanese bonds paying a paltry 26 basis points, US Treasuries are looking like a steal.
To this, you can add the greater institutional bond holding requirements of Dodd-Frank, a balancing US budget deficit, a virile US dollar, the commodity price collapse, and an enormous embedded preference for investors to keep buying whatever worked yesterday.
For more depth on the perennial strength of bonds, please click here for ?Ten Reasons Why I?m Wrong on Bonds?.
Bond investors today get an unbelievable bad deal. If they hang on to the longer maturities, they will get back only 80 cents worth of purchasing power at maturity for every dollar they invest a decade down the road.
But institutions and individuals will grudgingly lock in these appalling returns because they believe that the potential losses in any other asset class will be worse.
The problem is that driving eighty miles per hour while only looking in the rear view mirror can be hazardous to your financial health.
While much of the current political debate centers around excessive government borrowing, the markets are telling us the exact opposite.
A 2% handle on the ten-year yield is proof to me that there is a Treasury bond shortage, and that the government is not borrowing too much money, but not enough.
There is another factor supporting bonds that no one is looking at. The concentration of wealth with the 1% has a side effect of pouring money into bonds and keeping it there. Their goal is asset protection and nothing else.
These people never sell for tax reasons, so the money stays there for generations. It is not recycled into the rest of the economy, as conservative economists insist. As this class controls the bulk of investable assets, this forestalls any real bond market crash, at lest for the near term.
So what will 2016 bring us? I think that the erroneous forecast of higher yields I made last year will finally occur this year, and we will start to chip away at the bond market bubble?s granite edifice.
I am not looking for a free fall in price and a spike up in rates, just a move to a new higher trading range.
We could ratchet back up to a 3% yield, but not much higher than that. This would enable the inverse Treasury bond bear ETF (TBT) to reverse its dismal 2015 performance, taking it from $46 back up to $60.
You might have to wait for your grandchildren to start trading before we see a return of 12% Treasuries, last seen in the early eighties. I probably won?t live that long.
Reaching for yield suddenly went out of fashion for many investors, which is typical at market tops. As a result, junk bonds (JNK) and (HYG), REITS (HCP), and master limited partnerships (AMLP) are showing their first value in five years.
There is also emerging market sovereign debt to consider (PCY). If oil and commodities finally bottom, these high yielding bonds should take off on a tear.
This asset class was hammered last year, so we are now facing a rare entry point.
There is a good case for sticking with munis. No matter what anyone says, taxes are going up, and when they do, this will increase tax-free muni values.
The collapse of the junk bond market suddenly made credit quality a big deal last year. What is better than lending to the government, unless you happen to live in Puerto Rico or Illinois.
So if you hate paying taxes, go ahead and buy this exempt paper, but only with the expectation of holding it to maturity. Liquidity could get pretty thin along the way, and mark to markets could be shocking.
Be sure to consult with a local financial advisor to max out the state, county, and city tax benefits.
One question I always get asked at lunches, conferences, and lectures is what is going to happen to the budget deficit?
The short answer is that it disappears in 2018 with no change in current law, thanks to steady growth in tax revenues and no big new wars.
And Social Security? It will be fully funded by 2030, thanks to a huge demographic tailwind provided by the addition of 86 million Millennials to the tax rolls.
A bump up in US GDP growth from 2% to 4% during the 2020?s will also be a huge help, again, provided we don?t start any more wars.
It looks like I am going to be able to collect after all.
Without much movement in interest rates in 2016, you can expect the same for foreign currencies.
Last year, we saw never ending expectations of aggressive quantitative easing by foreign central banks, which never really showed. What we did get, was always disappointing.
The decade long bull market in the greenback continues, but not by much. You can forget about those dramatic double digit gains the dollar made against the Euro at the beginning of last year, which we absolutely nailed.
The fundamental play for the Japanese yen is still from the short side. But don?t expect movement until we see another new leg of quantitative easing from the Bank of Japan. It could be a long wait.
The problems in the Land of the Rising Sun are almost too numerous to count: the world?s highest debt to GDP ratio, a horrific demographic problem, flagging export competitiveness against neighboring China and South Korea, and the world?s lowest developed country economic growth rate.
The dramatic sell off we saw in the Japanese currency since December, 2012 is the beginning of what I believe will be a multi decade, move down. Look for ?130 to the dollar sometime in 2016, and ?150 further down the road.
I have many friends in Japan looking for an overshoot to ?200. Take every 3% pullback in the greenback as a gift to sell again.
With the US having the world?s strongest major economy, its central bank is, therefore, most likely to continue raising rates the fastest.
That translates into a strong dollar, as interest rate differentials are far and away the biggest decider of the direction in currencies. So the dollar will remain strong against the Australian and Canadian dollars as well.
For a sleeper, use the next plunge in emerging markets to buy the Chinese Yuan ETF (CYB) for your back book. Now that the Yuan is an IMF reserve currency, it has attained new respectability.
But don?t expect more than single digit returns. The Middle Kingdom will move heaven and earth in order to keep its appreciation modest to maintain their crucial export competitiveness.
There isn?t a strategist out there not giving thanks for not loading up on commodities in 2015, the preeminent investment disaster of the year. Those who did are now looking for jobs on Craig?s List.
It was another year of overwhelming supply meeting flagging demand, both in Europe and Asia. Blame China, the one big swing factor in the global commodity.
The Middle Kingdom is currently changing drivers of its economy, from foreign exports to domestic consumption. This will be a multi decade process, and they have $3.5 trillion in reserves to finance it.
It will still demand prodigious amounts of imported commodities, especially, oil, copper, iron ore, and coal, all of which we sell. But not as much as in the past. This trend ran head on into a decade long expansion of capacity by the industry.
The derivative equity plays here, Freeport McMoRan (FCX) and Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (VALE), have all taken an absolute pasting.
The food commodities were certainly the asset class to forget about in 2015, as perfect weather conditions and over planting produced record crops for the second year in a row, demolishing prices. The associated equity plays took the swan dive with them.
Not even the arrival of one of the biggest El Nino events in history could bail them out.
However, the ags are still a tremendous long term Malthusian play. The harsh reality here is that the world is making people faster than the food to feed them, the global population jumping from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050.
Half of that increase comes in countries unable to feed themselves today, largely in the Middle East. The idea here is to use any substantial weakness, as we are seeing now, to build long positions that will double again if global warming returns in the summer, or if the Chinese get hungry.
The easy entry points here are with the corn (CORN), wheat (WEAT), and soybean (SOYB) ETF?s. You can also play through (MOO) and (DBA), and the stocks Mosaic (MOS), Monsanto (MON), Potash (POT), and Agrium (AGU).
The grain ETF (JJG) is another handy fund. Though an unconventional commodity play, the impending shortage of water will make the energy crisis look like a cakewalk. You can participate in this most liquid of assets with the ETF?s (PHO) and (FIW).
You are now an oil trader, even if you didn?t realize it. Yikes!
The short-term direction of the price of Texas tea will be the principal driver for the prices of all asset classes, as it was for the 2015.
The smartest thing I did in 2015 was to ignore the professional traders, who called the bottom in oil monthly, based on key technical levels.
Instead, I hung on every word uttered by my old drilling buddies in the Barnett Shale, who only saw endless supply.
Guess whom I?ll be paying attention to this year?
I expect oil to bottom in 2016, and then launch a ferocious short covering rally. But when and where is anyone?s guess.
If energy legends John Hamm, John Arnold, and T. Boone Pickens have no idea where the absolute low will be, who am I to second-guess them?
When that happens, a trillion dollars will pour out of the sidelines into this troubled sector. Energy shares should be top-performers in 2016.
That makes energy Master Limited Partnerships, now yielding 10%-15%, especially interesting in this low yield world. Since no one in the industry knows which issuers are going bankrupt, you have to take a basket approach and buy all of them.
The Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP) does this for you in an ETF format (click here for details). At its low this fund was down by 41% this year. The last printed annualized yield I saw was 10%. That kind of return will cover up a lot of sins. Our train has moved over to a siding to permit a freight train to pass, as it has priority on the Amtrak system. Three Burlington Northern engines are heaving to pull over 100 black, brand new tank cars, each carrying 30,000 gallons of oil from the fracking fields in North Dakota.
There is another tank car train right behind it. No wonder Warren Buffet tap dances to work every day, as he owns the railroad.
Who knew that a new, younger Saudi king would ramp up production to once unimaginable levels and crush prices, turning the energy world upside down?
They aren?t targeting American frackers, who at 1 million barrels a day in a 92 million barrel a day demand world barely move the needle. Their goal is to destroy the economies of enemies Iran, Yemen, Russia, and of course ISIS, which need high prices to stay in business.
So far, so good.
Cheaper energy will bestow new found competitiveness on US companies that will enable them to claw back millions of jobs from China in dozens of industries.
At current prices, the energy savings works out to an eye popping $550 per American driver per year!
This will end our structural unemployment faster than demographic realities would otherwise permit.
We have a major new factor this year in considering the price of energy. The nuclear deal with Iran promises to add 500,000 to 1 million barrels a day to an already glutted global market. Iraq is ramping up production as well.
We are also seeing relentless improvements on the energy conservation front with more electric vehicles, high mileage conventional cars, and newly efficient building. Anyone of these inputs is miniscule on its own. But add them all together and you have a game changer.
Enjoy cheap oil while it lasts because it won?t last forever. American rig counts are already falling off a cliff and will eventually engineer a price recovery.
As is always the case, the cure for low prices is low prices. But we may never see $100/barrel crude again.
Add to your long term portfolio (DIG), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Cheniere Energy (LNG), the energy sector ETF (XLE), Conoco Phillips (COP), and Occidental Petroleum (OXY).
Skip natural gas (UNG) price plays and only go after volume plays, because the discovery of a new 100-year supply from ?fracking? and horizontal drilling in shale formations is going to overhang this subsector for a very long time.
It is a basic law of economics that cheaper prices bring greater demand and growing volumes, which have to be transported. However, major reforms are required in Washington before use of this molecule goes mainstream.
These could be your big trades of 2016, but expect to endure some pain first, nor to get much sleep at night.
The train has added extra engines at Denver, so now we may begin the long laboring climb up the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains.
On a steep curve, we pass along an antiquated freight train of hopper cars filled with large boulders. The porter tells me this train is welded to the tracks to create a windbreak. Once, a gust howled out of the pass so swiftly that it blew a train over on to its side.
In the snow filled canyons we sight a family of three moose, a huge herd of elk, and another group of wild mustangs. The engineer informs us that a rare bald eagle is flying along the left side of the train. It?s a good omen for the coming year.
We also see countless abandoned 19th century gold mines and the broken down wooden trestles leading to them, relics of previous precious metals busts. So it is timely here to speak about precious metals.
As long as the world is clamoring for paper assets like stocks and bonds, gold is just another shiny rock. After all, who needs an insurance policy if you are going to live forever?
We have already broken $1,040 once, and a test of $1,000 seems in the cards before a turnaround ensues. There are more hedge fund redemptions and stop losses to go. The bear case has the barbarous relic plunging all the way down to $700.
But the long-term bull case is still there. Gold is not dead; it is just resting.
If you forgot to buy gold at $35, $300, or $800, another entry point is setting up for those who, so far, have missed the gravy train. The precious metals have to work off a severely, decade old overbought condition before we make substantial new highs.
Remember, this is the asset class that takes the escalator up and the elevator down, and sometimes the window.
If the institutional world devotes just 5% of their assets to a weighting in gold, and an emerging market central bank bidding war for gold reserves continues, it has to fly to at least $2,300, the inflation adjusted all-time high, or more.
This is why emerging market central banks step in as large buyers every time we probe lower prices. China and India emerged as major buyers of gold in the final quarter of 2015.
They were joined by Russia, which was looking for non-dollar investments to dodge US economic and banking sanctions.
For me, that pegs the range for 2016 at $1,000-$1,250. ETF players can look at the 1X (GLD) or the 2X leveraged gold (DGP).
I would also be using the next bout of weakness to pick up the high beta, more volatile precious metal, silver (SLV), which I think could hit $50 once more, and eventually $100.
What will be the metals to own in 2015? Palladium (PALL) and platinum (PPLT), which have their own auto related long term fundamentals working on their behalf, would be something to consider on a dip.
With US auto production at 18 million units a year and climbing, up from a 9 million low in 2009, any inventory problems will easily get sorted out.
Would You Believe This is a Blue State?
8) Real Estate (ITB)
The majestic snow covered Rocky Mountains are behind me. There is now a paucity of scenery, with the endless ocean of sagebrush and salt flats of Northern Nevada outside my window, so there is nothing else to do but write.
My apologies to readers in Wells, Elko, Battle Mountain, and Winnemucca, Nevada.
It is a route long traversed by roving banks of Indians, itinerant fur traders, the Pony Express, my own immigrant forebears in wagon trains, the transcontinental railroad, the Lincoln Highway, and finally US Interstate 80.
There is no doubt that there is a long-term recovery in real estate underway. We are probably 5 years into a 17-year run at the next peak in 2028.
But the big money has been made here over the past two years, with some red hot markets, like San Francisco, soaring. If you live within commuting distance of Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), or Facebook (FB) headquarters in California, you are looking at multiple offers, bidding wars, and prices at all time highs.
While the sales figures have recently been weak, it is a shortage of supply that is the cause. You can?t sell what you don?t have, at least in the real estate business.
From here on, I expect a slow grind up well into the 2020?s. If you live in the rest of the country, we are talking about small, single digit gains. The consequence of pernicious deflation is that home prices appreciate at a glacial pace.
At least, it has stopped going down, which has been great news for the financial industry.
There are only three numbers you need to know in the housing market for the next 20 years: there are 80 million baby boomers, 65 million Generation Xer?s who follow them, and 86 million in the generation after that, the Millennials.
The boomers have been unloading dwellings to the Gen Xer?s since prices peaked in 2007. But there are not enough of the latter, and three decades of falling real incomes mean that they only earn a fraction of what their parents made. That's what caused the financial crisis.
If they have prospered, banks won?t lend to them. Brokers used to say that their market was all about ?location, location, location?. Now it is ?financing, financing, financing?.
Banks have gone back to the old standard of only lending money to people who don?t need it. But expect to put up your first-born child as collateral, and bring in your entire extended family in as cosigners if you want to get a bank loan.?
There is a happy ending to this story. Millennials, now aged 21-37 are already starting to kick in as the dominant buyers in the market. They are just starting to transition from 30% to 70% of all new buyers in this market. The Great Millennial Migration to the suburbs has begun.
As a result, the price of single family homes should rocket tenfold during the 2020?s, as they did during the 1970?s and the 1990?s, when similar demographic influences were at play.
This will happen in the context of a coming labor shortfall and rising standards of living. Inflation returns.
Rising rents are accelerating this trend. Renters now pay 35% of the gross income, compared to only 18% for owners, and less when multiple deductions and tax subsidies are taken into account.
Remember too, that by then, the US will not have built any new houses in large numbers in 10 years. We are still operating at only a quarter of the peak rate. Thanks to the Great Recession, the construction of five million new homes has gone missing in action.
That makes a home purchase now particularly attractive for the long term, to live in, and not to speculate with.
You will boast to your grandchildren how little you paid for your house, as my grandparents once did to me ($18,000 for a four bedroom brownstone in Brooklyn in 1922).
Quite honestly, of all the asset classes mentioned in this report, purchasing your abode is probably the single best investment you can make now.
If you borrow at a 3% 5/1 ARM rate, and the long-term inflation rate is 3%, then over time you will get your house for free.
How hard is that to figure out?
Crossing the Bridge to Home Sweet Home
We have pulled into the station at Truckee in the midst of a howling blizzard.
My loyal staff have made the 20 mile trek from my beachfront estate at Incline Village to welcome me to California with a couple of hot breakfast burritos and a chilled bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne, which has been resting in a nearby snowbank. I am thankfully spared from taking my last meal with Amtrak.
After that, it was over legendary Donner Pass, and then all downhill from the Sierras, across the Central Valley, and into the Sacramento River Delta.
Well, that?s all for now. We?ve just passed the Pacific mothball fleet moored in the Sacramento River Delta and we?re crossing the Benicia Bridge. The pressure increase caused by an 8,200 foot descent from Donner Pass has crushed my water bottle.
The Golden Gate Bridge and the soaring spire of the Transamerica Building are just around the next bend across San Francisco Bay.
A storm has blown through, leaving the air crystal clear and the bay as flat as glass. It is time for me to unplug my Macbook Pro and iPhone 6, pick up my various adapters, and pack up.
We arrive in Emeryville 45 minutes early. With any luck, I can squeeze in a ten mile night hike up Grizzly Peak and still get home in time to watch the opener for Downton Abbey's final season.
I reach the ridge just in time to catch a spectacular pastel sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The omens are there. It is going to be another good year.
I?ll shoot you a Trade Alert whenever I see a window open on any of the trades above.
Good trading in 2016!
John Thomas The Mad Hedge Fund Trader
The Omens Are Good for 2016!
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/JT-at-work.jpg478635Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2016-01-05 01:05:382016-01-05 01:05:382016 Annual Asset Class Review
A few years ago, I went to a charity fund raiser at San Francisco?s priciest jewelry store, Shreve & Co., where the well-heeled men bid for dates with the local high society beauties, dripping in diamonds and Channel No. 5.
Well fueled with champagne, I jumped into a spirited bidding war over one of the Bay Area?s premier hotties, whom shall remain nameless. Suffice to say, she is now married to a tech titan and has a sports stadium named after her.
Obviously, I didn?t work hard enough.
The bids soared to $15,000, $16,000, $17,000.
After all, it was for a good cause. But when it hit $17,750, I suddenly developed lockjaw. Later, the sheepish winner with a severe case of buyer?s remorse came to me and offered his date back to me for $17,000.? I said ?no thanks.? $16,500, $16,000, $16,250?
The altitude of the stock market right now reminds me of that evening.
If you rode the S&P 500 (SPX) from 700 to 2,100 and the Dow Average (INDU) from 7,000 to 17,750, why sweat trying to eke out a few more basis points, especially when the risk/reward ratio sucks so badly, as it did then?
I realize that many of you are not hedge fund managers, and that running a prop desk, mutual fund, 401k, pension fund, or day trading account has its own demands.
But let me quote what my favorite Chinese general, Deng Xiaoping, once told me: ?There is a time to fish, and a time to hang your nets out to dry.? If you followed my Trade Alerts this year and are up now 38%, you don?t have to chase every trade.
At least then I?ll have plenty of dry powder for when the window of opportunity reopens for business. So while I?m mending my nets, I?ll be building new lists of trades for you to strap on when the sun, moon, and stars align once again.
Time to Mend the Nets
https://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Fishing-Nets.jpg155223Mad Hedge Fund Traderhttps://www.madhedgefundtrader.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-mad-hedge-logo-transparent-192x192_f9578834168ba24df3eb53916a12c882.pngMad Hedge Fund Trader2015-11-02 01:07:372015-11-02 01:07:37Bidding for the Stars