Posts

September 5, 2019

Global Market Comments
September 5, 2019
Fiat Lux

SPECIAL VOLATILITY ISSUE

Featured Trade:

(SHOPPING FOR FIRE INSURANCE IN A HURRICANE),
(VIX), (VXX), (XIV),
(THE ABCs OF THE VIX),
(VIX), (VXX), (SVXY),

Shopping for Fire Insurance During a Hurricane

With the Volatility Index back at a lofty $21, I am getting deluged with emails from readers asking if it is time to start hedging portfolios one more time and buying the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX).

The answer is not yet, but soon, possibly very soon.

They are inquiring at absolutely the wrong time.

And here is the problem. When the (VIX) rises, it usually spikes straight up, and then right back down again. This time, it spiked but has since hung around the $20 level rather than collapse back down. That suggests that there is another leg up to go in volatility until it hits $30 or more before it takes a much-deserved break. That means the stock market has one more sharp selloff left before we hit bottom and bounce.

Markets can ignore trade wars, rising interest rates, zero interest rates, and international political instability (Britain and Hong Kong) for a while, but not forever. When the time DOES come to pay the piper, prices volatility will rocket.

So I am more than usually interested in hedging the downside risk for my trading book. A good rule of thumb is to let the (VIX) sit at a bottom for a week, and then go buy the (VXX). Two weeks is even better. That way you can ignore expensive and unnecessary time decay.

Which all brings me to the subject at hand.

If you are new to the service and have no longs, you probably should skip this trade and just watch it as a learning experience.

This can also be a great hedge for any long positions we may want to add in the coming weeks, such as in “trade peace,” or technology plays.

As I never tire of telling people, no one ever complains when they buy fire insurance and their house doesn’t burn down.

If you are new to this service, don’t freak out. My daily research newsletters are not always about exploring the esoterica of options, or volatility trading.

I’ll let you know when I’m ready to pull the trigger with a Trade Alert.

I am always trying to get better prices.

If you are new to the (VIX) game, please read the educational piece below.

 

 

 

The ABCs of the VIX

I am one of those cheapskates who buy Christmas ornaments by the bucketload from Costco in January for ten cents on the dollar because my 11-month theoretical return on capital comes close to 1,000%. 

I also like buying flood insurance in the middle of the summer drought when the forecast in California is for endless days of sunshine. That is what we had at the end of July when the (VIX) was plumbing the depths of $12.

Get this one right, and the profits you can realize are spectacular.

It gets better. 

If the bottom in volatility exactly coincides with the peak in the stock market that it measures, volatility could be headed back up to the 30% handle, and maybe more. 

I double dare you to look at the charts below and tell me this isn’t happening.

Watch carefully for other confirming trends to affirm this trade is unfolding. Those would include a strong dollar, and a weak Japanese yen, Euro, and rising fixed income instruments of any kind.

Notice that every one of these is happening this week!

Reversion to the mean, anyone?

You may know of this from the many clueless talking heads, beginners, and newbies who call (VIX) the “Fear Index”. 

For those of you who have a Ph.D. in higher mathematics from MIT, the (VIX) is simply a weighted blend of prices for a range of option contracts on the S&P 500 index (SPX).

The formula uses a kernel-smoothed estimator that takes as inputs the current market prices for all out-of-the-money calls and puts for the front-month and second-month expirations. 

The (VIX) is the square root of the par variance swap rate for a 30-day term initiated today. To get into the pricing of the individual options, please go look up your handy dandy and ever-useful Black-Scholes equation. 

You will recall that this is the equation that derives from the Brownian motion of heat transference in metals. Got all that?

For the rest of you who do not possess a Ph.D. in higher mathematics from MIT, and maybe scored a 450 on your math SAT test, or who don’t know what an SAT test is, this is what you need to know. 

When the market goes up, the (VIX) goes down. When the market goes down, the (VIX) goes up. Period. End of story. Class dismissed.

The (VIX) is expressed in terms of the annualized monthly movement in the S&P 500 (SPX) which, with the (VIX) today at $10, is at $72.54. 

So for example, a (VIX) of $10 means that the market expects the index to move 2.89%, or $72.54 S&P 500 points, over the next 30 days. 

You get this by calculating $10/3.46 = 2.89%, where the square root of 12 months is 3.46. 

The volatility index doesn’t really care which way the stock index moves. If the S&P 500 moves more than the projected 2.89% in ANY direction, you make a profit on your long (VIX) positions. 

I am going into this detail because I always get a million questions whenever I raise this subject with volatility-deprived investors.

It gets better. 

Futures contracts began trading on the (VIX) in 2004 and options on the futures since 2006. 

Since then, these instruments have provided a vital means through which hedge funds control risk in their portfolios, thus providing the “hedge” in hedge fund.

 

August 19, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 19, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(MARKET OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK AHEAD, or WHAT A ROLLER COASTER RIDE!),
(SPY), (TLT), (VIX), (VXX), (M),
(WMT), (FB), (AMZN), (GOOGL), (IWM)

The Market Outlook for the Week Ahead, or What a Roller Coaster Ride!

I like roller coasters. The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk is tough to beat, the last operating wooden coaster in the United States. And I’ll always have fond memories of the Cyclone at Coney Island in New York.

I especially liked this week in the financial markets, which provided more profitable trading opportunities, both on the long and the short side, that any other week of the past decade.

Perhaps the highpoint was on Thursday when I was staring at my screens watching ten year US Treasury bond yields (TLT) bottom at a near historic 1.46%, and my own Mad Hedge Market Timing Index plunging to a lowly 19.

Impulsively, I covered the last of my short positions and started piling on longs in the FANGs. The next morning, the Dow Average opened up 300 points. But then, it’s easy to be bold and decisive when you’re up 30% on the year, compared to only 11% for the Dow Average.

And guess what? The best may be yet to come!

As long as the Volatility Index stays over $20, you will be able to print all the money you want with options spreads. I’m talking 10%-15% A MONTH!

All eyes are now on September 1 when the Chinese announce their own retaliation to our tariff increase. Will they target ag again? Or does the bond market (TLT) take the hit this time (the Chinese government owns $900 billion worth of our debt).

And now for the question that everyone is asking: How far will the stock market fall in this cycle. We have already plunged 10% from the highs on an intraday basis. Could we drop another 10% in this period of high anxiety? Certainly. However, I tend to think it will be less than that.

The initial market pop on Monday came when the new Chinese tariffs were delayed, from September 1 to December 15, on some items. Tell me who saw this one coming. The potential costs of the tariffs are hitting the US more than China. It was worth a 550-point rally in the Dow Average. In 50 years, I’ve never seen such blatant market manipulation.

Gold hit a new six-year high, with the collapse of the Argentine Peso a new factor. A poor election result drove the beleaguered currency down 15% in one day, a massive move.

Now you have to worry about what’s happening in China AND Argentina. For the first time in history, gold now has a positive yield versus the Europe and the Japanese Yen, which both offer negative interest rates.

Hong Kong is becoming a factor driving US markets down. If there is a repeat if the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre where thousands died, global markets could collapse. The hit to growth will be more than it currently can stand in its present weakened state.

Inflation is taking off, with Core Consumer Inflation for July coming in at a red hot 0.3%, delivering the strongest two-month price burst since 2006. If it keeps up, you can kiss those future interest rate cuts goodbye.

Germany is in recession. That is the only conclusion possible when you see Q2 at -0.1% growth and the economy still in free fall. The ZEW’s figures regarding Germany yesterday were nothing short of horrific as the Economic Sentiment Index fell to -44. When you damage China’s economy, it puts the rest of the world into recession. The global economy has become so interlinked, it can’t become undone without another great recession.

Bonds rates bottomed yesterday, at least for the short term, the intraday low for the ten-year US Treasury yield hitting 1.46%. Welcome to inversion land, where long term interest rates are below short-term ones. Confidence in the economy is melting like an Alaskan glacier. But with three more 25 basis point rate cuts to come, an eventual break below 1.0% is inevitable. Watch for stocks to remake half their recent losses.

Consumer Sentiment cratered in August from 97.0 estimated to 92.1. And that was before the stock market sold off. Consumer spending remains strong. The last time it was this strong was at the market top in 2008, the market top in 1999, and the market top in 1987.

July Housing Starts plunged 4.0%, to 1.191 million units as homebuilders move into recession mode. Not even record low-interest rates can get them to stick their necks out this time. Those that did last time got wiped out.

It’s been pedal to the metal all month with the Mad Hedge Trade Alert Service, with no less than 31 Trade Alerts going out so far. Some 18 or the last 19 round trips have been profitable, generating one of the biggest performance jumps in our 12-year history.

Since July 12, we have clocked a blistering 15.15% in profits or $15,150 for the model $100,000 trading portfolio.

My Global Trading Dispatch has hit a new all-time high of 330.65% and my year-to-date shot up to +30.51%. My ten-year average annualized profit bobbed up to +34.20%. 

I have coined a blockbuster 12.18% so far in August. All of you people who just subscribed in June and July are looking like geniuses. My staff and I have been working to the point of exhaustion, but it’s worth it if I can print these kinds of numbers.

The coming week will be a snore on the data front. Believe it or not, it could be quiet.

On Monday, August 19, nothing of note is released.

On Tuesday, August 20 at 10:30 AM, we get API Crude Oil Stocks.

On Wednesday, August 21, at 10:00 the Existing Home Sales are published for July.

On Thursday, August 22 at 8:30 AM, the Weekly Jobless Claims are printed. The Jackson Hole conference of global central bankers and economists begins.

On Friday, August 23 at 8:30 AM the July New Home Sales are announced.

The Baker Hughes Rig Count follows at 2:00 PM.

As for me, I will be attending the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance vintage car show where I will be exhibiting my 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom I, the best car ever made.

I don’t mind the wooden brakes, but it’s too bad they didn’t make adjustable seats in those days to fit my 6’4” frame. However, its price appreciation has been better than Apple’s (AAPL) which I bought as a fixer upper in England during the 1980s for $20,000. My average cost on Apple is a split adjusted 25 cents.

My Rolls will be shown alongside James Bond’s 1964 Aston Martin which sold for $6.3 million, a 1939 Volkswagen Type 64 priced at more than $20 million, and a $13 million 1958 Ferrari 250 GT BBT.

And what am I doing next weekend? Taking the Boy Scouts to the Six Flags roller coaster farm in Vallejo.

Good luck and good trading.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Phantom I

 

1939 Volkswagen

 

1954 Ferrari

August 9, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 9, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(AUGUST 7 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(SPY), (XLK), (GLD), (DIS), (TLT),
 (FXA), (FXY), (VIX), (VXX), (UNG), (USO)

August 7 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A

Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader August 7 Global Strategy Webinar with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!

Q: Are we headed for a worldwide depression with today’s crash and interest rates?

A: No, I think the interest rates are more of an anomaly unique to the bond market. There is a global cash glut all around the world and all that money is pouring into bonds—not for any kind of return, but as a parking place to avoid the next recession. The economic data is actually stronger than usual for pre-recession indicators. US interest rates going to zero is just a matter of coming in line with the rest of the world. Three to six months from now we may get our final bear market and recession indicators.

Q: Do you think the market has more downside?

A: Yes; if the 200-day moving average for the (SPY) doesn’t hold, then you’re really looking at a potential 20% correction, not the 8% correction we have seen so far.

Q: Which sector would you focus on for any dips?

A: Technology (XLK). If they lead the downturn, they’re going to lead the upturn too. It’s the only place where you have consistent earnings growth going out many years. You’re really all looking for an opportunity to go back into Tech, but the answer is a firm not yet.

Q: Would you buy gold (GLD), even up here?

A: Only if you can take some pain. We’re way overdue for a correction on essentially everything—stocks, bonds, gold, commodities—and when we get it, you can get a real snapback on all these prices. The time to enter gold trade was really a month ago before we took off, and I’ve been bullish on gold all year. So, I think you kind of missed the entry point for gold just like you missed the entry point for shorts on the stock market last week. You only want to be selling decent rallies now. You don’t want to be selling into a hole that makes the risk/reward no good.

Q: What can you say about the (FXA) (the Australian dollar)?

A: It’s holding up surprisingly well given the carnage seen in the rest of the financial markets. I want to stand aside until we get some stability, at which point I think (FXA) will pop up back to the $71 level. New Zealand cutting their rates by 50 basis points really came out of the blue and could eventually feed into a weaker Aussie.

Q: Do you think China (FXI) has no reason to make a trade deal until the US elections?

A: Absolutely not; and this puts a spotlight on the administration’s total inexperience in dealing with China. I could have told you on day one: there’s no way they’re going to settle. Pride is a major factor in China. They have long memories of the opium wars and all the abuses they received at the hands of the western powers and are highly sensitive to any kind of foreign abuse. If you want to get the opposite of a settlement, do exactly what Trump is doing. The administration’s policy has no chance of accomplishing anything. He’s willing to take a lot more pain in the stock market until he gets a deal and that’s bad for all of us.

Q: How does the extra 10% tariff affect the market?

A: Think of everything you’re buying for Christmas; the price goes up 10%. That’s the effect, and it completely wipes out any earnings the retail industry might have had. It’s only bad. We are suffering less harm than China in the trade war, but we are suffering, nonetheless.

Q: Do you think volatility will spike soon?

A: It may very well have already spiked. I don’t think we’ll get a spike as high as in past selloffs because there’s a big short volatility industry that has come back. Any moves more than $30, you have short sellers come in there very quickly to hammer things back down. Also (VIX) isn’t necessarily something you want to be buying after the stock market has already dropped 8%. That train has left the station.

Q: Would a weaker dollar benefit the US economy?

A: Yes; it makes our exports cheaper on the global market. However, if the rest of the world is weakening their currencies as well, it will have no effect. Also, the last time this kind of currency war was attempted was in the early 1930s, and the outcome was the Great Depression.

Q: Defensive stocks—the China story is getting uglier?

A: In this kind of market, I’ve never been a big fan of defensive stocks like utilities or healthcare because defensive stocks go down in bear markets, just at a slower rate than growth stocks because they never went up in the first place. The best defensive stock is cash.

Q: If US interest rates are going to zero, how about buying leaps on (TLT)?

A: Multi-year highs is just not leap buying territory. Multiyear lows are where you buy LEAPS, which are Long Term Equity Participation Certificates. They are basically long-dated 1-2-year call options on stocks that are rising over the long term. The better trade—when we get to zero interest rates and it becomes impossible for rates to go any lower—would be to do a reverse leap. If (TLT) goes up to $200, I would do something like a $150-$160 on the put side betting that sometime over the next 2 years, interest rates go back up again and bonds go down. Too late for LEAPS on bonds, too early for LEAPS on equities.

Q: Do you buy out of the money LEAPS?

A: Yes; that is where you get the triple-digit returns. For example, you can buy the Walt Disney (DIS) June 2021 $150-$160 vertical bull call spread today for $3.30. If we close over $160 by then the spread will be worth $10, up 203% from your cost. And you only need a rise of 25% from here to get that return. This is why I love LEAPS, but only at medium term market bottoms.

Q: Is crude oil (USO) going to $25 on a barrel global slowdown fears?

A: I think you need an actual recession to go down to $25; in the current environment, $42 is a nice target. The basic problem is global structural oversupply and falling demand, which is a classically unfortunate combination for prices. 

Q: When will interest rates go to zero?

A: Sooner than later, I would say. My original guess was sometime next year but at the rate we’re going, we could be there by the end of the year.

Q: Would you get involved in natural gas (UNG)?

A: Absolutely not; this is the high season for natural gas right now when summer air conditioner use creates peak demand. It certainly has been hot this summer, especially on a global basis, and if you can’t rally natural gas in this environment you never will. There is also a huge contango in (UNG) which most people can’t beat.

 

 

 

 

July 26, 2019

Global Market Comments
July 26, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(JULY 24 BIWEEKLY STRATEGY WEBINAR Q&A),
(FCX), (VIX), (VXX), (UUP), (TLT), (EEM), (ELD), (CEW), (GLD),
(FXA), (FXE), (FXC), (FXY), (FXB), (AMZN),
(TESTING TESLA’S SELF DRIVING TECHNOLOGY),
(TSLA)

July 24 Biweekly Strategy Webinar Q&A

Below please find subscribers’ Q&A for the Mad Hedge Fund Trader July 24 Global Strategy Webinar broadcast from Zermatt, Switzerland with my guest and co-host Bill Davis of the Mad Day Trader. Keep those questions coming!

Q: What are your thoughts on the Freeport McMoRan (FCX) long position here?

A: We could take a profit here. We probably have about 50% of the maximum potential profit, but I want to hang on and go to the max on this because we’re so far in the money. Cash always has a premium ahead on any Fed interest rate decision. But long term, I think the stock could double, and with the earnings report now out of the way, we have room to run.

Q: What can you say about semiconductor stocks?

A: Long term we love them, short term they are too high to chase here. I would wait for any kind of pullback and, better yet, pull back from the other side of the next recession. We’re not seeing an improvement in prices or orders so this is strictly a technical/momentum-driven trade right now.

Q: How do you play the Volatility Index (VIX)?

A: There are numerous ways you can do it; you can buy call options on the (VIX), you can buy futures on the (VIX), or you can buy the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX). We are probably a week away from a nice entry point on the long side here.

Q: Does a languishing U.S. dollar mean emerging market opportunities?

A: It absolutely does. If we really start to get a serious drop in the U.S. dollar (UUP)—like 5-10%—it will be off to the races for commodities, bonds (TLT), emerging stock markets (EEM), emerging bond markets (ELD), emerging currencies (CEW), and gold (GLD). All of your weak dollar plays will be off to the races—that’s why I went straight into bonds, the Aussie (FXA), and copper through Freeport McMoRan (FCX). All of these trades have been profitable.

Q: When should we sell the U.S. dollar?

A: How about now? For any kind of strength in a dollar against the (FXA), (FXE), (FXC) and (FXY), I would be buying any dips on those foreign exchange ETFs. We’re about to enter a six-month – one-year period weakness on the dollar. It could be the easiest trade out there. The only one I would avoid is the British pound (FXB) because of its own special problems with Brexit. You never want to go long the currency of a country that is destroying itself, which is exactly what’s happening with the pound.

Q: Should I start selling pounds?

A: It’s pretty late in the pound game now. We went into Brexit with the pound at $1.65 and got all the way down to $1.20. We’re a little bit above that now at $1.21. If for some reason, you get a surprise pop in the pound, say to $1.25, that’s where I would sell it, but down here, no.

Q: I missed the (FCX) trade—would you get in on the next dip?

A: Yes, we may not get many dips from here because the earnings were out. Today, they were not as bad as expected, and that was keeping a lot of buyers out of the market on (FCX), so any dips you can get, go a dollar out on your strikes and then take it because this thing could double over the medium term. If the trade war with China ends, this thing could make it to the old high of $50.

Q: Is now a good time to refi my home?

A: Yes, because by the time you get the paperwork and approvals and everything else done (that’ll take about 2 months), rates will likely be lower; and in any case you’re looking to refi either a 7/1 ARM or a 15-year fixed, and the rates on those have already dropped quite substantially. I was offered 3.0% for a 15-year fixed loan on my home just the other day.

Q: On trades like (FCX), why not sell short the put spread?

A: It’s really six of one, half dozen of the other. The profit on either one should be about the same. If it isn’t, an options market maker will step in and arbitrage out the difference. That’s something only an algorithm can do these days. I recommend in-the-money call spreads versus shorting sell short vertical bear put credit spreads because for beginners, in-the-money call spreads are much easier to understand.

Q: The Mueller hearings in Congress are today. Is there any potential impact on the market?

A: The market has completely detached itself from Washington—it couldn’t care less about what’s happening there. I don’t think politics have the capacity to affect stock prices. The only possible impact was the prospect of the government shutdown in September. That seems to have been averted in the latest deal between the House and the White House.  

Q: What about Amazon (AMZN)?

A: Like the rest of technology, long term I love it, but short term it’s overdue for a small correction. I’m looking for Amazon to go to $3,000 a share—it’s essentially taking over the world. The antitrust threats will go absolutely nowhere; Congress doesn’t even understand what these companies do, let alone know how to break them up. I wouldn’t worry about it.

Q: I just received an email inviting me to buy a new Bitcoin auto trading system that is guaranteed to make me a millionaire in four months. It is being promoted by Nicole Kidman. Do you think I should try it?

A: I wouldn’t touch this with a ten-foot pole. No, wait. I wouldn’t touch this with a 100-foot pole! Whenever a new type of security comes out, these types of “get rich quick” investment scams come out of the woodwork. Cryptocurrency is no different. Nicole Kidman was probably paid $500,000 to make the pitch by a promotor. Or more likely, Nicole Kidman has nothing to do with these people and they just swiped her picture off the Internet. I hear about these things daily. Follow their plan and you are more likely to get completely wiped out than become a millionaire. There are NO get rich quick schemes. There are only get rich slowly strategies, such as following this newsletter. Click here to see the above-mentioned scam which you should avoid at all cost. Gee, do you think Nicole Kidman would be interested in promoting the Mad Hedge Fund Trader?

 

June 19, 2019

Global Market Comments
June 19, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(TUESDAY, JULY 2 NEW DELHI, INDIA STRATEGY LUNCHEON)
(SHORT SELLING SCHOOL 101),
(SH), (SDS), (PSQ), (DOG), (RWM), (SPXU), (AAPL),
 (VIX), (VXX), (IPO), (MTUM), (SPHB), (HDGE)