My market risk indicator is warning again this week. That means a mid term volatility hedge on all the portfolios or going to cash. Below are the current portfolio allocations. Long / Cash portfolio: 100% cash Long / Short Hedged portfolio: 50% long and 50% hedged with mid term volatility (an ETF/ETN like VXZ) Volatility Hedged portfolio: 50% long and 50% hedged with mid term volatility. My core market risk indicators are also dropping fairly quickly.
2015 was a year of intermediate term whipsaws. 2016 saw longer term indicators whipsawing. The longest term indicator I follow is Dow Theory. It looks for trends that last from one to three years (or longer). As a result, Dow Theory gives a lot of leeway to counter trend moves. It’s common to have a 10% or 15% correction during a long term bull market that doesn’t change Dow Theory’s long term trend. You can see some examples during the long term uptrend from mid 2009 to early 2016 in the chart below. Zooming in to the last few years, you can see what appeared to be a long term trend change according to Dow Theory. In August of 2015, both the industrials (DJIA) and the transports (DJTA) had large enough corrections to mark Dow Theory secondary lows. In December of that year, DJTA broke below its secondary low point and created a bearish non-confirmation in the indexes. In February 2016, DJTA broke its secondary low point. This created a
My market risk indicator cleared its warning this week. As a result, the volatility hedge will go 100% long. In addition, the core portfolios will remove their aggressive hedge and replace it with a short of the S&P 500 Index (SPX). My core market health indicators all improved with the exception of market quality. My measures of the economy improved enough to go positive which will change the core portfolio allocations a follows. Long / Cash portfolio: 20% long and 80% cash Long / Short portfolio: 60% long high beta stocks and 40% short the S&P 500 Index (or use the ETF SH) Volatility Hedged portfolio: 100% long Below is a chart of recent market risk indicator signals. As I noted in January, the market risk indicator signals near inflection points where the market either turns back up quickly or accelerates to the downside. This signal has the same appearance as the 2012 and 2015 signals, where the market traded slightly lower after the signal, but the warning didn’t clear
Wow. What a week. Like the market all of my core health indicators got hammered. They are now all deep in negative territory. I’ll let the chart speak for itself. One thing of note is that my market risk indicator is now signalling. This changes the volatility hedged portfolio to 50% long and 50% hedged with mid term volatility (an ETF/ETN like VXZ) or dynamic volatility (XVZ). For official tracking purposes I use XVZ, but the instrument is thinly traded so it introduces problems in actual portfolio management. First is that thin trading means it is difficult to fill large trades at a good “market” price. Second is that in a swiftly declining market the bid may as much as 20% below the market so you’ll have difficulty getting out of the position (or rebalancing) when pure panic has set in. As a result, I personally use mid term volatility like VXZ instead of dynamic volatility. But, since the back test has been done with XVZ I’ll continue to use
2015 was a year of whipsaws for the core portfolios. Take a look at the chart below and you’ll see the allocation changes throughout the year. Green lines represent adding exposure, yellow reducing exposure (or adding a hedge), and red represents a market risk warning. The core portfolios added exposure early in the year only to reduce it just before the August drop. It was nice to sleep at night during the turbulence, but it didn’t help the portfolios much because we then added exposure just before the market started to dip again. If you were holding small caps the changes were more painful than if your portfolio was closer to Nasdaq or the S&P 500 Index (SPX). Overall, the portfolios did as expected in a flat year for the market. Without a direction, whipsaws are expected. The important thing to notice on the chart is that the core portfolios were 100% in cash or 50% long and 50% short just before the decline in August. In contrast, my market
With the sell off this morning I’m taking the opportunity provided by a spike in volatility to take some profit from the hedge and soften it in the Long / Short Hedged portfolio. I’m taking all profit from the hedge and buying new long positions with it. In addition, I’m selling 1/3 of the aggressive hedge (mid term put options, VXZ, or XVZ) and buying a short of the S&P 500 Index (or using SH). Usually, the longs in the portfolio have dropped enough that the new allocations are fairly close to a 50% long and 50% hedged position after a rebalance. But due to the large increase in volatility without much price damage in the market since 8/21/15 (when my market risk indicator signaled) the new allocations have a slightly smaller hedge than is normal after a rebalance. The new allocations for the Long / Short portfolio are as follows. 53% Long stocks that I believe will outperform in an uptrend (high beta stocks) 15% Short the S&P 500
Many people have the mistaken idea that high volatility (VIX) means falling markets. They’ve been trained by financial news outlets to associate volatility with fear. This notion is only half right. Volatility is also connected to greed. In reality, volatility is a reflection of the size of a price movement regardless of the direction. Take a look at the chart below and you’ll see that during the late 1990s price was rising, but in wide daily ranges. This caused VIX to rise substantially while the market was going up. VIX went up from about 10 to 27 (170%) while the S&P 500 index (SPX) almost doubled from late 1995 to just before the Russian financial crisis of 1998. So without much “fear” in the market VIX nearly tripled. After the Russian financial crisis VIX stayed elevated in a range between roughly 19 and 30 as SPX climbed 38%. Large range days while the market was rising created an elevated VIX. SIDE NOTE: I’m using VIX to show the price move
Just a quick note about the portfolio allocations and the current market health indicator readings. All of my core health indicator categories rose this week, but they’re still mired in negative territory. In addition, my market risk indicator is still signaling. As a result, the core portfolios remain aggressively hedged with an instrument that benefits from higher volatility (mid term put options, mid term volatility — VXZ, dynamic volatility — XVZ, etc.). I’ll do an in depth post with my thoughts on the market later today that will highlight VXZ. Here’s a preview chart. Notice that the S&P 500 Index (SPX) has retraced it’s decline from last Friday’s close, but VXZ is still up 15% from Friday’s close. Volatility begets volatility…which is why mid term volatility makes a good hedge during fast moving markets.
My market risk indicator is warning today. That changes the portfolio allocations of the Long / Short portfolio and the Volatility Hedged portfolio to 50% long high beta stocks and 50% aggressively hedged. An aggressive hedge is a vehicle that benefits from higher volatility such as put options, or volatility ETF/ETNs like VXZ or XVZ. Please note that XVZ is thinly traded so limit orders (and likely several small purchases) would be prudent. Use your own discretion in which product you use…and as always never buy a product you don’t understand. If you’re using put options our portfolio allocations indicate that you should fully cover your portfolio at or near the money. Use your own discretion in term structure, but be aware that I look to mid term (4 to 7 months) puts first. If you’re uncomfortable with volatility or put options an actively managed bear fund like HDGE is a short option to use as a hedge. It will likely offer more protection than a simple short of the
Last week I mentioned that my intermediate term indicators strengthened while some short term indicators that I follow were showing weakness. This week I’m seeing the short term indicators right themselves and the intermediate term indicators continue to strengthen. This increases the odds that the market will finally break out of the current range to the upside. Of course, price is truth so 2120 on the S&P 500 index must be decisively broken to the upside (along with the current Dow Theory line breakouts) for confirmation that the next intermediate term trend is underway. One positive indicator comes from support and resistance levels generated from the Twitter stream. Traders are now tweeting higher price targets which indicates they’re putting on bullish trades. Another positive sign this week is NYSE new highs are rising and new lows are falling as the market gets close to new all time highs. We still want to see new highs break its recent down trend for confirmation that investors are willing to buy shares that