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Risk Falling

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Over the past week most of our core market health indicators improved a bit. Our core measures of risk made it into positive territory. As a result, long/cash allocations will now be 20% long and 80% cash. The hedged portfolio will be 60% long stocks we believe will out perform in an uptrend and 40% short the S&P 500 Index (SH). The volatility hedge is 100% long (since 10/24/14). Below is a chart that shows changes to our portfolio allocations. Green lines represent adding exposure and reducing the hedge. Yellow lines represent reducing exposure and adding a hedge. Red lines represent an aggressive hedge using a security that benefits from increasing volatility. This week marks the first week since July that all four components of our market risk indicator are positive. Our market risk indicator is completely independent of our core measures of risk mentioned above so we now have two sets of indicators confirming that market participants are comfortable. It feels more like complacency (and top ticking) to me, but my

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Risk Off

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The last dip in the market caused some damage to the psyche of market participants. So much so that they are exhibiting signs of reducing risk in a variety of ways. Here are three examples. First is high quality bonds (LQD) against junk bonds (JNK). The damage done to junk bonds in July and October isn’t being repaired. People are shying away from junk. Which means they’re starting to get worried about cash flow and the ability to repay debt by middling companies. I’d like to see JNK start to mirror LQD again to give an all clear signal. Next is high beta stocks (SPHB) against low volatility stocks (SPLV). The October sell off did a lot of damage to high beta stocks that was largely recovered, but low volatility stocks held up and have sped to higher highs. This indicates some rotation to safety during the last rally. A move to higher highs by SPHB will be the first step in repairing this relationship. Another indication of reduction of

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Softening Hedge

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Our Market Risk Indicator cleared its warning this week. However, our core measures of market health are still mired in negative territory. As a result, we’ll be softening the hedge in the hedged portfolio and staying 100% in cash in the long/cash portfolios. To soften the hedge we’re removing put options and/or volatility products. For the model portfolio we’re selling ETFs or ETNs like VXZ, VIXM, or XVZ and replacing it with at short of the S&P 500 Index (you can use the symbol SH). The end result is a portfolio that is roughly 50% long stocks we believe will outperform in an uptrend (high beta stocks are likely candidates for the hedged portfolio) and 50% short the S&P 500 Index. Below is a chart with the changes in our portfolio allocations over the past year. Green lines represent adding exposure, yellow lines are reducing exposure (and adding SH as a hedge), red lines are market risk signals where the hedged portfolio uses instruments that benefit from increasing volatility as

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Short Covering Rally

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In late September I showed a chart that I use for general clues about the market. It compares a short of the S&P 500 Index (SH), an actively managed short fund (HDGE), and mid-term volatility (VXZ). In that post I mentioned that even though SH wasn’t showing any concern, HDGE and VXZ were. HDGE was telling us that traders were shorting stocks and their shorts were working. VXZ was telling us that investors were getting concerned about performance of the market going into year end. That same chart is now telling me that this bounce is merely short covering by traders so far. HDGE is falling while SH is still rising. This indicates the worst stocks are being bought during this dip while big caps (S&P 500 Index – SPX) are still being sold. In addition, mid-term volatility (VXZ) is still holding up which tells us that investors are still worried about a decline going into year end. I’m seeing the same condition expressed by traders and investors on Twitter.

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Moving to Cash or Full Hedge

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The volatility in the market over the past week was accompanied by a deterioration in all of our core market health indicators. Every category is now negative. As a result, our long/cash portfolio allocations are now 100% cash. Our hedged portfolio allocation is 50% long stocks we believe will out perform the market in an uptrend and 50% short the S&P 500 Index (ticker symbol SH). Please note that this isn’t a prediction of a market decline. Instead it is simply acknowledgement that enough things are wrong with our underlying indicators that I feel it prudent to step aside until the indicators give clear positive signs. UPDATE 3:32 PM Eastern – OUR MARKET RISK INDICATOR SIGNALED AFTER THIS INITIAL POST. AS A RESULT, OUR HEDGED PORTFOLIO WILL USE AN AGGRESSIVE HEDGE. Our Market Risk Indicator is very close to a warning, but it hasn’t yet (2 PM Eastern). It will take a steep sell off in today’s remaining trading session to create a signal. If it signals before the close

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Raising Cash – Adding Hedge

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Over the past week all of our market health indicators fell. Our measures of trend fell into negative territory which causes us to change our portfolio allocations. The Long / Cash portfolios will now be 60% long and 40% cash. The hedged portfolio will be 80% long stocks we believe will out perform the market in an uptrend (high beta stocks) and 20% short the S&P 500 Index (SH). Our market risk indicator hasn’t signaled so our volatility hedge is still 100% long. Below is a chart with the core portfolio allocation changes over the past year. The green lines represent adding exposure to the market and the yellow lines represent raising cash or adding a hedge. Here is a chart of the current readings (normalized) of our market health categories. The thing I’m watching most carefully at the moment is breadth. The NYSE cumulative Advance / Decline line (NYAD) is getting close to painting a lower low. This would be a warning sign of the most significant top we’ve

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Another Heads Up

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Our measures of trend have been bouncing back and forth across the zero line this week and are currently negative. If they are still negative on Friday we’ll be raising more cash and/or adding a larger hedge before the week ends. Here are some of the things I’m watching at the moment. The actively managed short ETF HDGE is currently rising even though a simple short of the S&P 500 Index (SH) is trending lower. This indicates that shorting selected stocks is starting to work. This often happens before the general market falls. In addition, mid term volatility (VXZ) is rising as well. This indicates that investors are getting nervous going into the end of the year. Small cap stocks (IWM) broke below the triangle I’ve been watching with an associated break in momentum from traders on Twitter. The negative gap in breadth between small and large cap stocks continues to grow. While everyone is watching small cap stocks I’m seeing deterioration in large caps under the cover of new

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Raising Cash and Adding a Hedge

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This past week our measures of the economy dipped into negative territory. As a result, we’ll be changing our core portfolio allocations (details below). All of the rest of our core market health indicators dropped as well. They had held up fairly well earlier in the week, but Thursday’s market action did some damage to them.  As a side note, it is extremely unusual for one indicator to warn without others warning within a month so it is likely we’ll be raising more cash over the coming weeks. But as always, we’ll wait for a signal before making further moves. Our core measure of risk turned down after touching over bought readings the last few weeks. It is painting lower peaks which suggests investors are getting more concerned as the market moves higher. Our market risk indicator still has one component that is negative even though the market has moved to all time highs. All the other risk components peaked recently and have turned back down. Right now it is

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Market Health Indicators Diverge

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Over the past week our core market health indicators diverged from each other. Our measures of the economy and trend rose while our measures of quality and strength fell. None of them moved much, but measures of trend moved back above the zero line.  This changes our portfolio allocations as follows. The long/cash portfolios are now 60% long and 40% cash. The hedged portfolio is 80% long stocks we believe will outperform in an uptrend and 20% short the S&P 500 Index (long SH as an alternative to shorting SPY). Our core measures of risk moved further into overbought territory this week. As I noted over the weekend, when this occurs a dip of more than 10% often follows within a month or two. For now it’s not too concerning, but something to watch closely going forward. Below is a chart of our current market health category readings (normalized).   Here’s a chart of our portfolio allocation changes over the past year. The green lines represent adding long exposure and removing hedges.

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Shorts are Working But No One is Scared

Published on May 16, 2014 by in Market Comments
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The Active Bear ETF (HDGE) is rising, a short of the S&P 500 Index is falling (SPX), and mid term volatility (VXZ) is falling.  It tells a simple story. Shorts are working, but not affecting the market, nor causing any fear.

 
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