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The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or The Year EVERYTHING Went Down

Last week saw the sharpest move up in stock prices in seven years. Why doesn’t it feel like it? Maybe it’s because we are all recovering losses instead of posting new profits. The mind has a funny way of working like that.

In fact, 2018 may go down as the year that EVERYTHING went down. Stocks (SPY), bonds (TLT), commodities (COPX), precious metals (GLD), foreign currencies (FXE), emerging markets (EEM), oil (USO), real estate (IYR), vintage cars, fine art, and even my neighbor’s beanie baby collection were all posting negative numbers as of a week ago.

In fact, Deutsche Bank tracks 100 global indexes and 88 of them were posting losses on the year. The normal average in any one year is 27. This is why hedge fund are having their worst year in history (except for this one). When your longs AND your shorts plunge in unison, there is nary a dime to be had. Even gold, the ultimate flight to safety asset has failed to perform.

Theoretically, this is supposed to be impossible. When stocks go down, bonds are supposed to go up and visa versa. So are emerging markets and all other hard assets.

This only happens in one set of circumstances and that is when global liquidity is shrinking. There is just not enough free cash around to support everything. So, the price of everything goes down.

The reason most of you don’t recognize this is that last time this happened was in 1980 when most of you were still a gleam in your father’s eye.

If you don’t believe me check, out the chart below from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It shows that after peaking in July 2014, the Adjusted Monetary Base has been going nowhere and recently started to decline precipitously.

This was exactly three months before the Federal Reserve ended the aggressive, expansionary monetary policy known as quantitative easing.

The rot started in commodities and spread to precious metals, agricultural prices, bonds, and real estate. In October, it spread to global equities as well. Beanie babies were the last to go.

Want some bad news? Shrinking global liquidity, which is now accelerating,  is a major reason why I have been calling for a recession and bear market in 2019 all year.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Perhaps that is why 2019 recession calls are lately multiplying like rabbits. Nothing like closing the barn door after the horses have bolted. I wish you told me this in September.

Disturbing economic data is everywhere if only people looked. The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index rate of price rise hit an 18-month low at 5.5%. With housing in free fall nationally further serious price declines are to come. With mortgage rates up a full point in a year and affordability at a decade low, who’s surprised?

General Motors (GM) closed 3 plants and laid off 15,000 workers, as trade wars wreak havoc on old-line industries. It looks like Millennials would rather ride their scooters than buy new cars.

Weekly Jobless Claims soared 10,000, to 234,000, a new five-month high. Not what stock owners want to hear. THE JOBS MIRACLE IS FADING!

October New Home Sales were a complete disaster, down a stunning 8.9% and off 12% YOY. These are the worst numbers since the 2009 housing crash. I told you not to buy homebuilders! They can’t give them away now!

Oil plunged again, off 20% in November alone. Is this punishment for Saudi Arabia chopping up a journalist or is the world headed into recession?

It seems we don’t have quiet weeks anymore. Normally, sedentary Jay Powell ripped it up with a few choice words at the New York Economic Club.

By saying that we are close to a neutral rate, the Fed Governor implied that there will be one more rate rise in December and then NO MORE. Happy president. But the historical neutral range is 3.5%-4.5%, meaning there is room for 2-6 X 25 basis point rate hikes to keep the bond vigilantes at pay. Such a card! Thread that needle!

Cyber Monday sales hit a new all-time high, up to $7.3 billion, with Amazon (AMZN) taking far and away the largest share. The stock is now up $300 from its November $1,400 low.

Salesforce, a Mad Hedge favorite, announced blockbuster earnings and was rewarded with a ballistic move upwards in the shorts. Fortunately, the Mad Hedge Technology Letter was long.

The Mad Hedge Alert Service managed to pull victory from the jaws of defeat in November with a last-minute comeback. Add October and November together and we limited out losses to 0.59% for the entire crash.

This was a period when NASDAQ fell a heart-stopping 17% and lead stocks fell as much as 60%. Most investors will take that all day long. I bet you will too. Down markets is when you define the quality of a trader, not up ones, when anyone can make a buck.

My year to date return recovered to +27.80%, boosting my trailing one-year return back up to 31.56%. November finished at a near-miraculous -1.83%. That second leg down in the NASDAQ really hurt and was a once in 18-year event. And this is against a Dow Average that is up a pitiful +2.9% so far in 2018.

My nine-year return recovered to +304.27. The average annualized return revived to +33.80. 

The upcoming week is all about jobs reports, and on Friday with the big one.

Monday, December 3 at 10:00 EST, the  November ISM Manufacturing Index is published. All hell will break loose at the opening as the market discounts the outcome of the Buenos Aires G-20 Summit.

On Tuesday, December 4, November Auto Vehicle Sales are released.

On Wednesday, December 5 at 8:15 AM EST, the November ADP Private Employment Report is out.
 
At 10:30 AM EST the Energy Information Administration announces oil inventory figures with its Petroleum Status Report. 

Thursday, December 6 at 8:30 AM EST, we get the usual Weekly Jobless Claims. At 10:00 AM we learned the November ISM Nonmanufacturing Index.

On Friday, December 7, at 8:30 AM EST, the November Nonfarm Payroll Report is printed.

The Baker-Hughes Rig Count follows at 1:00 PM. At some point, we will get an announcement from the G-20 Summit of advanced industrial nations.

As for me, I’ll be driving my brand new Tesla Model X P100D which I picked up from the factory yesterday. I’ll be zooming up and down the hills and dales of the mountains around San Francisco this weekend.

I’ll also be putting to test the “ludicrous mode” to see if it really can go from zero to 60 in 2.9 seconds and give passengers motion sickness. I will go well equipped with air sickness bags which I lifted off of my latest Virgin Atlantic flight.

Talley Ho!
Good luck and good trading.

John Thomas
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 26, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 26, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(THE MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or ARE WE IN OR OUT?)
(FB), (AAPL), (AMZN), (NFLX),
(GOOG), (SPY), (TLT), (USO), (UNG), (ROM)

November 23, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 23, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(SURVIVING THANKSGIVING)
(SPY), (TLT), (TBT), (GLD), (FXE), (FXY), (USO), (VIX), (VXX), (NVDA), (NFLX), (AMZN)

Surviving Thanksgiving

The Mad Hedge Fund Trader took a much-needed break this week to enjoy turkey with his vast extended family on the pristine shores of Incline Village, Nevada.

The weather was crystal clear, the temperature in the sixties throughout the day, and down into the teens at night. The kids took turns freezing bottles of water outside. To a fire-weary Californian, that’s cool.

During my nighttime snowshoeing on the Tahoe Rim Trail, I am overawed by a pale waning moon setting into the lake. I walked through a heard of elk in the darkness, the snow crunching under my boots. On the way back, I noticed that a mountain lion had been tracking me.

The Trade Alerts went out so fast and furious this year, bringing in my biggest outperformance of my competitors since my service started 11 years ago. As of today, we are up 26% on the year versus a Dow Average (INDU) that has gained exactly zero.

Great managers are not measured by how much they make in rising markets but by how little they lose in falling ones.

I made money during the two market meltdowns this year, at least until this week. That last 1,000-point dive really hurt and breaks all precedent with Thanksgiving weeks past.

I played tech hard from the long side during the first half, then avoided it like the plague in the third quarter.

Short positions in bonds (TLT) continued to be my “rich uncle” trade every month this year. I am currently running a double position there.

I avoided banks, energy, gold, and commodities which performed horribly despite many entreaties to get in.

I avoided the foreign exchange markets such as the Japanese yen (FXY) and the Euro (FXE) because they were largely moribund and there were better fish to dry elsewhere.

The Volatility Index (VIX), (VXX) was a push on the year with both longs and shorts.

My big miss of the year was in biotechnology and health care. I am well familiar with the great long-term bull case for these sectors. But I was afraid that the president would announce mandatory drug price controls the day after I took a position.

I still believe in the year-end rally, although we will be starting from much lower levels than I thought possible. The recent technology crash was really something to behold, with some of the best quality companies like NVIDIA (NVDA), Amazon (AMZN), and Netflix (NFLX) down 30%-60% in weeks. It all looked like a Dotcom Bust Part II.

These are all screaming buys for the long term here. Tech companies are now trading cheaper than toilet paper making ones.

As Wilber Wright, whose biography I am now reading, once said, “Eagles can’t soar to greatness in calm skies.” His picture now adorns every American commercial pilot’s license, including mine.

This is a week when my mother’s seven children, 22 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren suddenly remember that they have a wealthy uncle, cousin, or brother with a mansion at Lake Tahoe.

So, the house is packed, all the sofa beds put to use. We even had to put a toddler to sleep in a bathtub on pillows.

A 28-pound bird made the ultimate sacrifice and was accompanied with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, potato salad, and mince pie. Cooking a turkey here at 6,125 feet can be tricky where water boils only at 198 degrees Fahrenheit. You have to add 15% to the cooking time or you end up with medium-rare meat, not such a great idea with a turkey.

Topping it all was a fine Duckhorn Chardonnay which the White House served at state dinners during a former administration. I’m told the current president doesn’t drink.

I ate an entire pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream last night just to give my digestive system an early warning that some heavy lifting was on its way.

I am the oldest of seven of the most fractious and divided siblings on the planet, so attending these affairs is always a bit of an emotional and physical challenge.

I bet many of my readers are faced with the same dilemma, with mixed red state/blue state families, and they all have my sympathy. Hint: Don’t mention Bitcoin. Your Millennial guests will suddenly develop food poisoning, down 80% in a year.

My family ranges throughout the entire political spectrum, from far-right big oil to far-left pot legalization and transgender rights. For this first time in family history, we all voted for the same candidate in the last election in every one of three generations.

Hillary Clinton. Go figure!

Suffice it to say that we'll be talking a lot about the only two safe subjects there are, sports and the weather. Go Niners! Hurray Giants! Will it snow?

We are all giving thanks that we weren’t roasted alive in a wildfire and prayed for the 1,000 missing who won’t be sitting down for Thanksgiving dinners this year. Most will never be found.

I learned from my brother who runs a trading desk at Goldman Sachs that the industry expects a recession in 2019. (GS) stock has been hammered because the had to refund $600 million in fees that were stolen from the Malaysian government.

Dodd-Frank and Glass Steagall are history, and interest rates are steadily rising like clockwork. Trading volumes are shrinking as the algorithms take over everything. Some 80% of all trading is now thought to be machine-driven.

He finally traded in his Bentley Turbo R for a new black high-performance Tesla Model X with the “ludicrous” mode. I take delivery of mine at the Fremont, CA factory next week. After six decades, sibling rivalry still lives. I cautioned him to keep an ample supply of airline airsick bags in the car. Good thing he got it before the subsidies expired at yearend!

It looks like it’s OK to be rich again.

My born-again Christian sister was appalled at the way the government separated children from parents at the border earlier this year. There are still several hundred lost.

My gay rights activist sister has been marching to protest current government policy on the issue. She was quick to point out that Colorado elected its first gay governor, although I doubt anyone there will notice since they are all stoned in the aftermath of marijuana legalization.

A third sister married to a very pleasant fellow in Big Oil (USO) will be making the long trip from Borneo where he is involved in offshore exploration. This is the guy who escaped from Libya a few years ago by the skin of his teeth.

In the meantime, his industry has been beset by waves of cost-cutting and forced early retirements triggered by the recent oil price crash. He says the US will have to build energy infrastructure for a decade before it can export what it is producing now in oil and natural gas.

So far, the local headhunters haven’t taken a trophy yet. And I mean real headhunters, not the recruiting kind.

Sister no. 4, who made a killing in commodities in Australia and then got out at the top seven years, thanks to a certain newsletter she reads, graced us with a rare visit.

Fortunately, she took my advice and converted all her winnings to greenbacks, thus avoiding the 30% hit the Aussie (FXA) has taken in recent years.

She’s now investing in cash flow positive Reno condos, again, thanks to the same newsletter.

My poor youngest sister, no. 5, took it on the nose in the subprime derivatives market during the 2008 crash. Fortunately, she followed my counsel to hang on to the securities instead of dumping everything at the bottom for pennies.

She is the only member of the family I was not able to convince to sell her house in 2005 to duck the coming real estate collapse because she thought the nirvana would last forever. At least that is what her broker told her.

Thanks to the seven-year-old real estate boom, she is now well above her cost, while serial refi’s have taken her cost of carry down by more than half.

My Arabic speaking nephew in Army Intelligence cashed out of the service and is now attending college on the newly revamped GI Bill.

He is majoring in math and computer science on my recommendation. My dad immensely benefited from the program after WWII, a poor, battle-scarred kid from Brooklyn attending USC. For the first time in 45 years, not a single family member is fighting in a foreign war. No gold stars here, only blue ones. If it can only last!

My oldest son is now in his 10th year as an English language professor at a government university in China. He spends his free time polishing up his Japanese, Russian, Korean, and Kazak, whatever that is.

At night, he trades the markets for his own account. Where do these kids get their interest in foreign languages anyway? Beats me. I was happy with seven.

He is planning on coming home soon. Things have recently gotten very uncomfortable for American residents of the Middle Kingdom.

It’s true that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My second son is now the head of SEO (search engine optimization) at a major Bay Area online company. Hint: you use their services every day. His tales of excess remind me of the most feverish days of the Dotcom boom. He says that technology is moving forward so fast that he can barely keep up.

His big score this year was winning a lottery to get a rent-controlled apartment in a prime San Francisco neighborhood. It’s all of 400 square feet but has a great view and allows dogs, a rarity indeed.

My oldest daughter took time out from her PhD program at the University of California to bear me my first grandchild, a boy. It seems all my kids are late bloomers. We are all looking forward to the first Dr. Thomas someday (we have an oversupply of Captains).

I am looking forward to my annual Scrabble tournament with all, paging my way through old family photo albums between turns. And yes, “Jo” is a word (a 19th century term for a young girl). So is “Qi.” The pinball machine is still broken from last Thanksgiving, or maybe it just has too many quarters stuffed in it.

Before dinner, we engaged in an old family tradition of chopping down some Christmas trees in the nearby Toiyabe National Forest on the Eastern shore of Lake Tahoe.

To keep it all legal I obtained the proper permits from the US Forest Service at $10 a pop.

There are only three more trading weeks left this year before we shut down for the Christmas holidays.

That is if I survive my relatives.

Good luck and good trading!
Captain John Thomas
CEO & Publisher
The Diary of a Mad Hedge Fund Trader

 

November 19, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 19, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(THE MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or MASS EVACUATION)
(SPY), (WMT), (NVDA), (EEM), (FCX), (AMZN), (AAPL), (FCX), (USO), (TLT), (TSLA), (CRM), (SQ)

November 16, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 16, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(RISK CONTROL FOR DUMMIES),
(SPY), (AMZN), (TLT), (CRM), (VXX)

Risk Control for Dummies

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

 

November 12, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 12, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:


(THE MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or IT’S FINALLY OVER),
(SPY), (TLT), (AAPL), (ROKU), (USO)

November 9, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 9, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:
(PLAYING THE SHORT SIDE WITH VERTICAL BEAR PUT SPREADS), (TLT)
(WHY TECHNICAL ANALYSIS DOESN’T WORK)
(FB), (AAPL), (AMZN), (GOOG), (MSFT), (VIX)

November 2, 2018

Global Market Comments
November 2, 2018
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(OCTOBER 31 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(EDIT), (TMO), (OVAS), (GE), (GLD), (AMZN), (SQ), (VIX), (VXX), (GS), (MSFT), (PIN), (UUP), (XRT), (AMD), (TLT)