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Market Risk Clears

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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

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It’s Ugly Out There

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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

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Year of Whipsaws

Portfolio Allocation Changes

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

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Softening Hedge and Rebalancing

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

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Market Risk Warning

150821MarketHealth

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

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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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Market Update

Published on July 31, 2014 by in Market Comments
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Today didn’t do much damage to our core indicators, however, two of the four components of our Market Risk Indicator are warning. A third component is very close to warning and it won’t take much to trigger it. The fourth component is further away and will take a sharp down day like today to make it warn. I just wanted to give you warning that there may be changes to the core portfolios tomorrow (Friday). I’ll update the site and post to Twitter and StockTwits by 3 PM Eastern what our allocations will be going into the close. IF the risk indicator signals the hedged portfolio will go 50% long and use the other 50% to hedge with a mid term or dynamic volatility instrument like (VXZ, XVZ, or VIXM). If you don’t like volatility ETFs then a managed short fund like HDGE is an alternative. For those of you who use put options the strategy would be to stay 100% long, but cover your complete portfolio with intermediate term

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More Thoughts on the Volatility Hedge

I got a few questions about the volatility hedge strategy that I mentioned yesterday that provoked a few thoughts  I thought might interest you.  The first thought is that there is no need to go all the way to 50% hedged with XVZ (and 50% long) when our market risk indicator signals.  I personally use a large hedge when it signals because the indicator is designed to warn of an acceleration to the downside.  As a result, I’m willing to give up some upside gains on whip saws for the chance of making money if the market falls rapidly…and volatility rises.  However, I recognize that you may have different goals than mine so here’s a performance chart that shows varying sizes of the hedge.  Notice that a hedge below 20% (80% long and 20% XVZ) would have resulted in the portfolio continuing to fall with the market during the 2008 financial crisis.  However, during a large swift draw down a 20% hedge with volatility was enough to protect the portfolio

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Volatility as a Hedge Update

Hedging With Volatility

Here’s an update of a post I did back in May where we showed how a volatility ETF (XVZ) can be used as an easy way to hedge when market risk is high.  I use our Market Risk Indicator to signal that there is a high risk that the market is going to accelerate to the downside and an appropriate time to hedge.  This creates a simple hedge strategy for long term investors.  The nice thing about this hedge is that our risk indicator doesn’t signal often so changes to the portfolio are few and far between.  For example, from July of 2004 (as far as my XVZ data goes back) until July of 2007 there were no signals. When perceptions of risk get high our market risk indicator tends to signal more.  From July of 2007 until September of 2008 there were several signals as the housing and banking crisis was coming to the attention of investors.  During 2013 the indicator didn’t signal which made for easy investment and

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