Buying Climax Signals a Top in the Stock Market

There was enough buying climaxes in stocks this week to signal a short term top in the stock market.

This week 596 stocks printed a buying climax, which is the most since Feb 2018.

A buying climax is when a stock trends up to a 52 week high, then closes the week with a loss, which is a sign of distribution shifting from strong to weak hands.

A buying (or selling) climax is the result of surge in supply and demand.

The key theory of a buying climax is the exhaustion of demand as the last buyers enter the market.

The final surge of buying typically leads to p

For example, PayPal printed a buying climax this week. Shares of PYPL trended up to a new 52 week high, then closed down on the week. It’s a sign of distribution, as shares of shifting from strong holders to weak. Stocks like PayPal have benefited from people staying at home and buying things online. It was a leading stock with strong relative strength, until now.

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Visa (V) is another example of a BUYING CLIMAX. Visa has been a leading stock with strong momentum and earnings growth, but it trended to a new high, then closed down.

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UPS is another example of a BUYING CLIMAX from a leading stock as it printed a new 52 week high, but closed down this week. Not as strong of an example as above, but a buying climax nonetheless.

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As stocks like UPS have benefited from the stay at home climate of rising deliveries, it’s obviously driven by companies like Amazon (AMZN), which happens to be another BUYING CLIMAX example.

Amazon trended to a new high, then closed down this week.

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Costco (COST) is another example of a big winning stock that printed a new high during the recent euphoria for stocks that closed down this weak to print a buying climax.

Nvidia has been one of the most explosive momentum stocks this year. NVDA printed a new high, then closed -12% off its high this week.

The list of 596 stocks that printed a Buying Climax includes most of the recent leading momentum technology stocks like Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, but also financials like asset manager BlackRock.

The bottom line is: we’ve seen a period of euphoria, as measured by investor sentiment indicators like the Citigroup Panic/Euphoria Model, and now we’re seeing some blow off tops shift to buying climaxes.

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I shared my observations of investor sentiment getting silly the week before in “The weight of evidence is becoming increasingly bearish for the US stock market.”

These quantitative indicators have a long history of signaling a shift in supply and demand, which suggests the risk level is elevated for the stock market.

We typically see a buying climax at the end of a bull market cycle.

Investors confidence the trend will continue results in complacency as to market risk. Their confidence the uptrend will continue drives them to ignore the risk of loss, so they don’t manage their risk or hedge exposure to loss.

Complacent investors believe the current trend isn’t going to reverse anytime soon, so they get caught off guard when it does.

Once they start taking on heavy losses, they may panic sell, adding to the selling pressure that pushes prices down even lower.

Risk averse investors should prepare themselves for an increasing probably of a downtrend in stocks.

This may be just a warning shot across the bow of what may be more selling pressure to come.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Observations of the Unemployment Trend

The US Unemployment Rate measures the percentage of total employees in the United States that are a part of the labor force, but are without a job. It’s one of the most widely followed indicators of the health of the US labor market and the US economy as a whole.

Historically, the US Unemployment Rate reached as high as 10.80% in 1982 and 9.9% in November of 2009, which were recessionary periods.

The US Unemployment Rate is at 8.40%, compared to 10.20% last month and 3.70% this time last year.

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US Unemployment Rate remains significantly higher than the long term average of 5.76%.

The US Labor Force Participation Rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is the sum of total number of employed persons and unemployed persons looking for work in the United States as a percentage of the working age population.

US Labor Force Participation Rate is at 61.70%, compared to 61.40% last month and 63.20% this time last year.

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Looking at the bigger picture over a longer time frame, there has been a negative trend from the 2000s of 67.10% participation to the 2010s 62.50% participation as the boomer generation has begun shifting out of the working age population.

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In bad economic conditions, the labor force participation rate may actually fall as people eventually give up looking for a job.

So, the employment situation seems to be improving, but we’re likely to see some of these job losses become permanent.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

The stock market tapped its prior high, then backed off

On Friday I suggested “If we’re going to see selling pressure become resistance, this is where it starts” and though this has been an incredibly resilience market, I’m seeing signs of weakness.

I shared some of the signs this afternoon in “Point & Figure Charting the NASDAQ Trend.”

As the trading day got to the close, the S&P 500 and other stock market indexes drifted down.

The S&P 500 tapped its prior high, then backed off.

The NASDAQ 100, which has been in the strongest uptrend, also reversed down the most at nearly -2% today.

I had pointed out the internal weakness in the NASDAQ stocks earlier today.

It seems to be a continuation.

So, “If we’re going to see selling pressure become resistance, this is where it starts” and we’ll soon see if the US stock market attracts some new selling pressure, or if it’s there is enough enthusiasm to buy to overpower any selling.

Even the longest of long term investors should be aware of the risk this could be a significant top in the US stock market. That is, no matter how passive or “buy and hold” you are, if this turns out to be the early stage of a prolonged bear market, you’ll wish you had put in a place a hedging and/or risk management program to protect your capital.

If you need investment advice on risk management, or are interested in our ASYMMETRY® Hedging program, an overlay we can add to any investment portfolio, get in touch here.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Point & Figure Charting the NASDAQ Trend

Point and Figure charting is one of the four primary forms of charting used to observe price trends.

I started studying Point & Figure charting myself in the late 1990s when I was interested in a more precise way to determine my exits. P&F charts make the exit based of a price trend more obvious. For example, without knowing anything about these charts you can probably see the area I highlighted in red was a price range this stock found buying interest (support) a few times in the past, but then it broke down. When it did, it fell a lot. On the bullish side, the stock has found selling pressure (resistance) at the price level I highlighted green until it finally broke out to the upside.

When I first started researching and trading high growth momentum stocks, I wanted a more precise way to define these price trends, so I became what they called a Point & Figure Craftsman. I later wanted to test these breakouts and patterns, so I ended up quantifying them into algorithms. But, I still look at all forms of charts from time to time to get a “feel” for the trends unfolding.

The last time I spoke at a non-client conference was in September 2008 for the National Association of Active Money Managers. I did a two-hour presentation on “exits” and used P&F charts as a great visual example to see trend changes.

The presentation, just days before what would become the start of the “Global Financial Crisis”, highlighted:

“When to sell a loser, laggard or winner is the heart of Mike Shell’s presentation on combining point and figure charting with relative strength to trade ETFs. “It’s the exit, not the entry, that determines your result at the position level. The exit determines whether or not you make or lose money, and how much you make or lose,” explains Mike.”

The topic of exits turned out to be very timely, as it was the beginning of the infamous waterfall decline that began in October 2008.

The history of Point & Figure charting is over 100 years old. “Hoyle” was the first to write about it and showed charts in his 1898 book, The Game in Wall Street. The first book/manual dedicated to Point and Figure was written by Victor Devilliers in 1933. Chartcraft Inc, in the USA, popularized the system in the 1940s. Cohen founded Chartcraft and wrote on point and figure charting in 1947. Chartcraft published further pioneering books on P&F charting, namely those by Burke, Aby and Zieg. Chartcraft Inc is still running today, providing daily point and figure services for the US market under the name of Investors Intelligence. Mike Burke still works for Chartcraft, having started back in 1962 under the guidance of Cohen. Burke went on to train other point and figure gurus, such as Thomas Dorsey who would go on to write authoritative texts on the subject.A detailed history can be found in Jeremy du Plessis’ ‘The Definitive Guide to Point and Figure’ where many references and examples are cited.

Point & Figure charts offer a well-defined methodology to identify current trends and emerging trends as they develop.

In fact, Point & Figure charts are all about price, not time.

Point & Figure charting doesn’t plot price against time as time-based charts do. Instead, P&F plots price against changes in direction by plotting a column of Xs as the price rises and a column of Os as the price falls.

So, Point and Figure charts are a way to visualize price trends in stock, bond, commodity, or currency, without regard to the amount of time that passes.

For example, here is the P&F chart of the NASDAQ.

When a column of Os declines below a prior column of Os, it’s a sell signal.

If there was one prior column of Os, it’s a “double bottom” sell signal.

We say supply is in control over demand for the shares.

P&F charts basically allows us to analyze supply and demand.

If enough buying enthusiasm pushes the price up into a column of Xs, the stock, commodity, or whatever market is being accumulated.

Demand exceeds supply.

If the desire to sell exceeds the desire to buy, the selling (supply) pushes the price down into a column of Os, which is what we’re seeing in the NASDAQ at the moment.

Up until now, the NASDAQ has been the dominant of the popular indexes investors follow. It’s heavily weighted in tech stocks, which have been where the momentum has been since the March crash.

But now we are seeing some trend changes.

Another example, again using P&F, is the Percent of NASDAQ 100 stocks in a bullish trend. A bullish trend, again, is a column of Xs above the prior peak, which is an uptrend. When a high percentage of the stocks in the index are trending up, the bullish percent is in a column of Xs and rising to mark the strength. Below, we see a macro indication that enough stocks in the index are falling to signal a bearish trend.

In fact, in P&F methodology terms, the above pattern is “Bear Confirmed” since July 29th. A Bear Confirmed signal is when chart is falling (a column Os) below the 70% level and has generated a P&F sell signal. I highlighted the sell signal on the chart.

The bullish percent charts are a measure of the internal breadth of the stock index. That is, when stocks inside the index start trending down enough to generate P&F sell signals, enough of them generates a sell signal in this breadth index.

So, we say the breath is weakening, which is a warning shot across the bow.

If we hadn’t already seen the emerging weakness develop in the individual stock charts, an indicator like this can alert us to the emerging weakness and prompt us to look inside.

Let’s do that.

Here’s a table of the stocks in the NASDAQ 100 from Investors Intelligence that have been trending down into bearish trends. For better understanding, I also include the breakout date it trended down to illustrate how an emerging trend unfolds.

As you glance over the dates, you can probably see how the price trends of these stocks begin to roll over from bullish to bearish directional trends, which shows up in the bullish percent composite.

The bullish percent composites usually point to internal weakness or strength earlier than the price trend of the index. For example, the NASDAQ ETF just generated a P&F sell signal yesterday, but the bullish percent signaled a Bearish Confirmed pattern on July 29th.

I consider it a warning shot across the bow.

For me, the trend of my individual positions is my focus. But, risk signals like this can draw my attention for a closer look at what is going on internally.

I consider charting and technical analysis to simply be market analysis, which isn’t the same thing as deciding what or when to buy or sell. Market analysis is the ongoing research I do to gain perspective of the underlying trends, momentum, sentiment, and volatility. None of it may drive my individual position buys and sells.

Another bearish development the P&F method alerts us to is the relative trend. The relative trend monitors the relative trend of stocks against their index. In this case, the NASDAQ 100 is compared to the S&P 500. The formal P&F pattern here is “Bull Correction” since July 23rd, as the column of Os show it lagging the SPX.

Point & Figure charting is just another form of trend following. It focuses completely on the price trend itself, not volume or even time. It just prints the price change, only when it’s enough to add another X or O. If there isn’t enough price change to add an X or O, it’s ignored as irrelevant.

You can’t probably see how this form of charting may be helpful to focus on the real trend.

There’s a lot more to Point & Figure charting, but I’ll stop there.

Let’s see how the NASDAQ unfolds from here.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Has the economy lost momentum?

I pay more attention to macroeconomic trends when we are in a recession.

Though my tactical investment decisions are driven by the direction of price trends, momentum, sentiment, and volatility, it’s useful to take a moment to see what in the world is going on.

Clearly, employment and payrolls seem to be one of the main macroeconomic risks right now.

The July ADP employment report showed private employment increased by 167,000, far less than the expectations of the street of 1.2 million. It’s a big disappointment.

Today, we see the US Continuing Claims for Unemployment Insurance is at a current level of 16.11 million, down from 16.95 million last week, which is a change of -4.98% from last week and -35% from the peak in May.

For a long term perspective, here is US Continuing Claims for Unemployment Insurance going back to 1967, the past 53 years. It averaged 2.8 million over the period, reached 10 times higher than average, and is still 5 times higher than the long term average.

Of course, the average over 53 years doesn’t mean much when such an outlier is present, but maybe it helps put the trend into perspective.

Prior to now, the highest continuing claims for unemployment insurance from the Department of Labor was 6.6 million. That’s 10 million less than now. So, for perspective, todays level is nearly three times what it was at the peak in 2009. Said another way, the worst claims for unemployment insurance in 2009 was only 1/3 of today.

But hey, today’s 16.1 million is better than the peak at 25 million just a few months ago.

By the way, that 25 million was more than four times the highest level it reached in 2009.

So yeah, employment is an issue that certainly has my attention as a macroeconomic trend guy.

Next up is US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance. US Initial Jobless Claims, as tracked and reported by the US Department of Labor, provides data on how many new people have filed for unemployment benefits in the previous week. It allows us to gauge economic conditions in regard to employment.

As more new people file for unemployment benefits, fewer people in the economy have jobs. Of course, initial jobless claims tended to peak at the end of recessionary periods such as the last cycle peak on March 21, 2009 when it reached 661,000 new filings.


US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance is at a current level of 1.186 million, which is nearly double the 2009 peak, but it’s -83% below the stunning March 2020 high of 6.8 million.

I know I just shared some of these numbers a few days ago, but these are updated data this morning.

The next big issue I think we’ll see comes tomorrow.

If tomorrows payroll numbers are similar to these ADP numbers, the job growth will be way below Wall Street expectations of 1.5 million.

We’ll see how it unfolds in the morning.

In the meantime, the resiliency of US stock market has been remarkable. Though anyone paying attention knows the driver is the US government intervention, the S&P 500 has now recovered from its -34% loss in March.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average remains about -5% from the February peak.

The equal weight S&P 500, which gives far more weighting to the smaller and mid size stocks, is about -6.4% from its prior high.

To the layman, it would seem the stock market has all but recovered.

If we didn’t know better, the bear market is over.

Do we know better? or is it over?

Will 2020 go down as the sharpest decline in modern history and the fastest recovery?

We’ll see.

But, over the long run, the stock market is driven by fundamentals. The challenge with fundaments like earnings growth, dividend yield, and the price-to-earnings multiple (optimism) they trade at.

Here is a chart of the rate of change of the S&P 500 price trend normalized with the Shiller S&P 500 CAPE Ratio, which is a measure of valuation. I’ve pointed out many times the valuation level was extremely high, though it has been since 2013. Look when it peaked in the relative chart compared to the SPX at the start of 2018.

What’s happened since then?

Swings.

Massive swings.

And sharp sudden drawdowns.

While the S&P 500 Shiller CAPE Ratio is now down to about 30, which is -10% below where it was at the start of 2018, the valuation level is still as high as it was before the Great Depression.

The markets are going to swing up and down and motivate a lot of mistakes along the way, but if history is a guide, we may be in for a much longer bear market and recession than is currently reflected.

You can probably see why my investment strategy is unconstrained, so I can go anywhere, including cash and treasuries, and apply different tactics for tactical decisions in pursuit of asymmetric risk/reward.

It’s never perfect, but I just keep doing what I do.

In hindsight, I’ve been underinvested in stocks the past few weeks, but we’ll see how it plays out from here.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

A lot of talk about the NASDAQ being 21% above its 200 day moving average

There’s a lot of talk about the NASDAQ being 21% above its 200 day moving average, so… here’s my 2 cents on the matter.

Yes indeed, the NASDAQ is over 21% above its 200 day moving average. So, if the 200 SMA is your exit, you’d endure a 21% drawdown waiting to sell. I’ve got a ratio chart for it, too. The 1.216 = 21.6% variation. Also note, it’s higher than it was in February.

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At a ratio of 1.20 it was high in February, since 1.20 = the level of the NASDAQ was 20% higher than its own 200 day SMA. How high is that?

It’s a decade high!

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So, yeah, the NASDAQ seems stretched…

Like the CBOE Put/Call Ratio I shared in Here’s what the equity options put call ratio is telling us, and what it isn’t, the % above a moving average is another indication of sentiment.

When it’s as high as it is now, the market very enthusiastic.

For example, the Fear & Greed Index calls it market momentum and uses the 125 on the S&P 500 as a measure of investor sentiment.

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Chatting with some friends on Twitter, someone asked about the relative comparison to the 2000 stock market bubble.

The current period is no comparison to 1999-2000 when the NASDAQ was 50% above its 200 day SMA.

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Here is the ratio between the NASDAQ and its own 200-day moving average back to 1985. The relative ratio level the NASDAQ got in 1999 was the highest ever seen.

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Interestingly, I first started observing to get trading signals from relative strength ratio charts in the late 90s, and by the time 1999-2000 rolled around, I was comparing not only stocks to other stocks and their sector index, but also a cross section of global markets. For example, stocks vs. bonds, etc.

The NASDAQ was all the craze around 1999, and I had a t-shirt that said “NASDAQ; the world puts its stock in us.”

With technology leading with momentum, the tech heavy nas is seeing some popularity again.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Global Macro Trends: Eurozone Economic Sentiment, US Home Sales, Texas Manufacturing Business Activity, and Retail Gas Price

Eurozone Economic Sentiment Indicator is reversing back up off its lowest level ever at a current level of 75.70, up 12.15% from last month and -26.43% from one year ago. It’s way below average, but at least a countertrend from the extreme low reached this year.

Eurozone Consumer Confidence Indicator is at a current level of -14.70, up from -18.80 last month as it has almost reverted back to its long term average.

US Pending Home Sales Month over Month is at -21.77%, compared to -20.83% last month and -1.14% last year, which is lower than the long term average of -0.03%. Pending home sales mounted a record comeback in May, seeing encouraging contract activity after two previous months of declines brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Every major region recorded an increase in month-over-month pending home sales transactions, while the South also experienced a year-over-year increase in pending transactions.

The Pending Home Sales Index (PHS), a leading indicator of housing activity, measures housing contract activity, and is based on signed real estate contracts for existing single-family homes, condos, and co-ops. Because a home goes under contract a month or two before it is sold, the Pending Home Sales Index generally leads Existing-Home Sales by a month or two.

Here is the Year over year relative to Month over Month.

Meanwhile, in Texas… the outlook has recovered after an epic decline.

The Dallas Fed conducts the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey monthly to obtain a timely assessment of the state’s factory activity. Firms are asked whether output, employment, orders, prices and other indicators increased, decreased or remained unchanged over the previous month. Responses are aggregated into balance indexes where positive values generally indicate growth while negative values generally indicate contraction.

Texas Manufacturing Business Activity Index is at a current level of -6.10, UP from -49.20 last month and even UP from -12.60 one year ago.

We’ll see if Texas can keep up the recovery with an uptrend in new COVID-19 cases, especially in Houston. The number currently hospitalized is at an all time high.

And the new uptrend in cases doesn’t seem to be driven by more testing in Texas. Although testing has trended up, it was above average about five weeks before cases were, and about eight weeks before the escalating uptrend.

To be sure, we can apply the same relative ratio we would to a stock vs. its index. For example, Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is a top technology stock, so if we want to determine when it’s outperforming the tech sector, we compare it to the sector index. Here we see the relative momentum between them as a ratio. When the line is trending up, Apple has relative strength over the tech sector.

Below I did the same with Texas cases relative to tests administered, which shows cases have momentum over tests. Up until now, the percent of positive cases was trending down.

The US Retail Gas Price is the average price that retail consumers pay per gallon. Retail gas prices is good to observe to see how the energy industry is performing. Retail gas prices can give a good observation of how much discretionary income consumers might have to spend.

US Retail Gas Price is at a current level of 2.216, up 1.42% from last week and down -19.68% from one year ago. Gas reached a peak in July 2008 and then trended back up to the $4 range the summer of 2011 to the summer of 2014 before trending down again.

Gas has now reverted to its long term average price, which has remained elevated since 2005.

If you wondered why electric cars are still popular, it’s because the average price of gas is elevated to a new higher level. Over the past decade, gas had oscillated between $4 and $2, for an average price around $3 a gallon.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Global Macro: Signs of bullish sentiment across the globe

In some cases, the recovery of economic and market trends are as impressive as the rate in which they fell.

The so-called “panic button” indicator, TED Spread, is back down to low levels. The chart tracks the daily TED Spread (3 Month LIBOR relative to the 3 Month Treasury Bill) as a measure of the perceived credit risk in the U.S. economy. It tends to widen during times of economic uncertainty. The TED Spread spiked up briefly in March, but has since settled back down.

The TED Spread spiked up briefly in March, but has since settled back down.

German economic sentiment snapped back fast.

The ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment is a leading indicator for the German economy. It reflects the expectations in six months of 300 financial experts on inflation rates, interest rates, stock markets, exchange rates, and oil prices for leading global economies. A value greater than 0 reflects more optimism than pessimism and a value less than 0 reflects more pessimism than optimism with respect to economic sentiment.

ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment for Germany is at a current level of 63.40, which is right at the high it reached in 2014.

ZEW Indicator of Economic Sentiment for Germany and the Eurozone updates will be released tomorrow, so we’ll see how they have trended through June.

US Consumer Sentiment has trended up off its low. We’ll see if it can continue this uptrend with the COVID cases trending up again.

The Sabrient Insider Sentiment Index is designed to identify companies with potentially superior risk-return profiles that also are;

(1) reflecting favorable corporate insider buying trends (determined via the public filings of such corporate insiders) and/or

(2) have recent earnings estimate increases published by Wall Street analysts.

The Sabrient Insider Sentiment Index declined with the stock indexes in March and has recovered in similar fashion. As with investor sentiment measures, it seems to follow price. Nothing drives sentiment like the price trend.

Speaking of sentiment, the Citigroup Panic/Euphoria model is a gauge of investor sentiment. It identifies “Panic” and “Euphoria” levels which are statistically driven buy and sell signals for the broader market.  Historically, a reading below panic supports a better than 95% likelihood that stock prices will be higher one year later, while euphoria levels generate a better than 80% probability of stock prices being lower one year later.

The current reading of the Citigroup Panic/Euphoria model at 0.41 indicates euphoria and anything at or below -0.17 indicates panic.

The S&P 500 EQUAL WEIGHT is probably the best measure of the U.S. stock market. Here, I charted both the standard capitalization weighted index along with its Equal Weight counterpart. The cap-weighted S&P 500 is heavily driven by its top holdings, whereas the equal-weighted index holds about .20% in the 500 or so stocks in the index.

The S&P 500 Equal Weight Index declined -40% in March, which is more than the -34% of the S&P 500 weighted based on company size. The equal-weighted index also remains in a -17% drawdown off its highs, which is more than the standard SPX index, which is more weighted to the largest stocks.

For example, below are the top 25 stocks in the cap weighted S&P 500 everyone follows. As these top stocks have as much weighting in the index as 5%, the equal weight only holds about 0.20% in these same stocks.

SymbolName% Weight
MSFTMicrosoft Corp5.94%
AAPLApple Inc5.81%
AMZNAmazon.com Inc4.51%
FBFacebook Inc A2.22%
GOOGLAlphabet Inc A1.69%
GOOGAlphabet Inc Class C1.65%
JNJJohnson & Johnson1.44%
BRK.BBerkshire Hathaway Inc Class B1.36%
VVisa Inc Class A1.28%
JPMJPMorgan Chase & Co1.17%
PGProcter & Gamble Co1.14%
UNHUnitedHealth Group Inc1.10%
HDThe Home Depot Inc1.03%
MAMastercard Inc A1.03%
INTCIntel Corp0.97%
NVDANVIDIA Corp0.91%
VZVerizon Communications Inc0.88%
TAT&T Inc0.83%
ADBEAdobe Inc0.82%
NFLXNetflix Inc0.80%
PYPLPayPal Holdings Inc0.79%
DISThe Walt Disney Co0.79%
MRKMerck & Co Inc0.76%
BACBank of America Corp0.75%
CSCOCisco Systems Inc0.75%
S&P 500 Holdings as of June 26, 2020

The price trend for Emerging Markets stocks has been dismal since the 2007 peak, which has had some negative impact on global macro. That is, considering the killer trend from 2003 to 2007 has a strong return driver for us, it hasn’t been the case since then. So, we’ve not had much exposure to EM, even though it’s now considered undervalued relative to the rest of the world, for me, it has to be trending up with some momentum. This tend is non-trending and volatile.

Zooming in to the year to date, at least the MSCI Emerging Markets Index only declined about the same as US stocks.

Looking inside the EM Index we see the top country exposures are China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, and Brazil, all of which we can gain portfolio exposure via ETFs.

Looking at these individual emerging countries, Brazil has been hammered the most, Taiwan, Korea, and China have been relatively resilient.

In fact, the trend in China is probably surprising to investors, especially considering it’s where the COVID-19 Coronavirus started. China only had a -18.4% drawdown priced in US Dollars.

Brazil has some of the worse COVID trends in the world right now, which isn’t helping their stock market trend either.

Here’s a view of the global stock market trends. Though they are down from their February 2020 highs, they are well above their March 2020 lows.

Gold has had one of the most asymmetric risk/reward profiles YTD. In 2020, Gold has only only down about -3% and a drawdown from its peak of -11%, but it has gained 16%. That’s relatively strong asymmetry.

Gold is no contest against the long term US Treasury Index in 2020. Long Term US Treasuries have the strongest momentum and asymmetric risk/reward year to date, which is why I have exposure. Gold has still been a good asymmetric risk/reward, though.

We remain on defense and invested in bonds for now as they seem to exhibit the most asymmetric risk reward.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Global Macro Trends: Extreme asymmetric observations and changes

Macroeconomics is a branch of economics dealing with the performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of an economy as a whole.

Macroeconomics is the part of economics focused on the big picture: analyzing economic phenomena such as interest rates, growth, unemployment, and inflation. Macro is in contrast with microeconomics, the study of the behavior of individual markets, workers, households, and firms. Macroeconomic phenomena are the product of all the microeconomic activity in an economy.

Global is related to, or involving, the whole world, not just one country or state.

Global Macroeconomics, or Global Macro, then, is looking at the whole world for trends and behavior of big picture trends.

US Total Vehicle Sales measures the total number of auto, light truck, and heavy truck sales in the US and helps gauge how consumers are spending their discretionary income. In the chart, we can visually see the trends in car and truck sales going back 43 years.

US Total Vehicle Sales bottomed at prior lows, and is now trending back up.

US Light Truck Sales is part of total sales and at a current level of 9.6 million, it’s up from 6.7 million last month and down from 12.57 million one year ago.

US Light Truck Sales has been in an overall uptrend the past four decades, and it reverted to the long term average, but is recovering. US Light Truck Sales is up 41.68% from last month, and -23.96% from one year ago.

Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE) is a measure of the prices that people living in the United States, or those buying on their behalf, pay for goods and services. The PCE price index is known for capturing inflation (or deflation) across a wide range of consumer expenses and reflecting changes in consumer behavior. The PCE price index, released each month in the Personal Income and Outlays report, reflects changes in the prices of goods and services purchased by consumers in the United States. Quarterly and annual data are included in the GDP release.

Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE) Year over Year is is at 0.55%, compared to and 1.38% last year (a decline of 60%) and is materially lower than the long term average of 3.25%.

US Personal Spending Month over Month is at 8.17%, compared to -12.62% last month and 0.44% last year. US Personal Spending is now higher than the long term average of 0.52%. The chart shows this data was historically more stable, but we’ve observe some extreme outlier trends this year never seen in the last 60 years.

The US Inflation Rate is the percentage in which a chosen basket of goods and services purchased in the US increases in price over a year. Inflation is one of the metrics used by the US Federal Reserve to gauge the health of the economy. Since 2012, the Federal Reserve has targeted a 2% inflation rate for the US economy and may make changes to monetary policy if inflation is not within that range. A notable time for inflation was the early 1980’s during the recession. Inflation rates went as high as 14.93%, causing the Federal Reserve led by Paul Volcker to take dramatic actions.

US Inflation Rate is at 0.12%, compared to 0.33% last month and 1.79% last year. This is disinflation, which is a decrease in the rate of inflation. Disinflation is a slowdown in the rate of increase of the general price level of goods and services in a nation’s gross domestic product over time. Inflation has mostly trended below the long term average of 3.23% for years, but is extremely low at 0.12%. We could be a risk of deflation, which occurs when the inflation rate falls below 0%.

Inflation reduces the value of a currency over time, but sudden deflation increases it. As inflation is declining, the US Dollar is trending up.

When we think of macroeconomics trends like inflation and the US Dollar, we also think of gold. Here is Gold, priced in US Dollars. The Gold Price in US Dollars measures the cost in US Dollars for a Troy Ounce of gold. Gold can be seen as a “safe haven” investment since it is a tangible investment. Gold is also believed to be a hedge against inflation, which is why it reached as high as $1,895 per troy ounce in 2011 when inflation trended higher.

Gold is in an uptrend.

Inflation and interest rates are the primary return driver of stocks and bonds as well as some commodities and currencies.

The 10 Year Treasury Rate is the yield earned by investing in a US government issued treasury security that has a maturity of 10 years. The 10 year treasury yield is the longer end of the yield curve. Many analysts use the 10 year yield as the “risk free” rate when valuing the markets or an individual security. Historically, the 10 Year treasury rate reached as high as 15.84% in 1981 as the Fed raised benchmark rates in an effort to contain inflation.

10 Year Treasury Rate is the lowest it has been the past 30 years, currently at 0.64%, compared to 2.01% last year, and is significantly lower than the long term average of 4.45%.

We all know that past performance is no guarantee of future results, and the bond market expected return is a fine example. One thing that is essential for investors to understand is the long term bond returns will not repeat their past performance over the long term.

The directional trend of interest rates like the 10 Year Treasury Rate are a driver of other rates, such as mortgage rates.

The 30 Year Mortgage Rate is the fixed interest rate that US home-buyers would pay for a 30 year mortgage. Historically, the 30-year mortgage rate has trended as high as 18.6% in 1981, and up until now has trended down as low as 3.3% in 2012.

The 30 Year Mortgage Rate is at 3.13%, the lowest in 48 years, compared to 3.82% last year, and less than half of its 7.97% long term average.

The 15 Year Mortgage Rate is trending down low enough to double tap its all time low at 2.59% reached in May 2013, which is significantly lower than the long term average of 5.36%.

That’s all for now.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Global Macro trends are all over the place

Macroeconomics is a branch of economics dealing with the performance, structure, behavior, and decision-making of an economy as a whole. Macroeconomics is the part of economics focused on the big picture: analyzing economic phenomena such as interest rates, growth, unemployment, and inflation. Macro is in contrast with microeconomics, the study of the behavior of individual markets, workers, households, and firms. Macroeconomic phenomena are the product of all the microeconomic activity in an economy.

Global is relating to, or involving, the whole world, not just one country or state.

Global Macroeconomics, or Global Macro, then, is looking at the whole world for trends and behavior of big picture trends.

US Existing Home Sales reflects the total unit sales of US homes that are already built. It is a lagging indicator tracking the US housing market, which is impacted by changes in mortgage rates. Historically, US Existing Home Sales declined to a trough of 3.77 million units sold in November 2008 as foreclosures increased and home values fell during the US Housing Crisis.

US Existing Home Sales is at a current level of 3.91M, down from 4.33M last month and down from 5.33M one year ago. This is a change of -9.70% from last month and -26.64% from one year ago.

The US Retail Gas Price is the average price that retail consumers pay per gallon, for all grades of gasoline. Retail gas prices are important to view in regards to how the energy industry is performing. Additionally, retail gas prices can give a good overview of how much discretionary income consumers might have to spend.

US Retail Gas Price is at a current level of 2.185, up from 2.123 last week and down from 2.821 one year ago. This is a change of 2.92% from last week and -22.55% from one year ago. US Retail Gas Price is trending up from its recent low, which was around the same level of support gas had at prior lows of the past decade.

China Imports YoY is down -16.69%, compared to -14.19% last month and -8.22% last year. This is lower than the long term average of -3.83%.

China Trade Balance is at a high of 62.93B, up from 45.33B last month and up from 41.20B one year ago. This is a change of 38.82% from last month and 52.73% from one year ago.

US Continuing Claims for Unemployment Insurance is at a current level of 20.54M, down from 20.61M last week and up from 1.70M one year ago. This is a change of -0.30% from last week and 1.11K% from one year ago.

US Initial Jobless Claims, provided by the US Department of Labor, provides underlying data on how many new people have filed for unemployment benefits in the previous week. We can gauge market conditions in the US economy with respect to employment; as more new individuals file for unemployment benefits, fewer individuals in the economy have jobs. Historically, initial jobless claims tended to reach peaks towards the end of recessionary periods such as on March 21, 2009 with a value of 661,000 new filings.

US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance is at a current level of 1.508M, down from 1.566M last week and up from 222,000 one year ago. This is a change of -3.70% from last week and still up 579.3% from one year ago.

Equity option demand continues to be focused on call buying relative to put options.

The CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio had reached a very low level, indicating options traders were mostly operating in speculative call options over put options for hedging.

I pointed out in “Volatility contractions are eventually followed by volatility expansions” on May 27th:

“CBOE Equity Put/Call Ratio is trending toward the low level was saw before the waterfall decline in March. A falling put-call ratio, or a ratio less than 1, means that traders are buying fewer puts than calls. It suggests that bullish sentiment is building in the market.”

Shortly after, we saw a -7% decline in the stock indexes.

However, I’m seeing evidence of hedging now. The CBOE Index Put/Call Ratio shows a relatively high degree of hedging with put options.

Implied volatility as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) remains very elevated, even though it declined nearly 10% today. In fact, it has mean reversed, as it does. The VIX is at its one year average.

Global Macro trends are all over the place.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

This is what the stock market will focus on next

As much as I wish it wasn’t so, some important trends are in the wrong direction.

New COVID – 19 cases here in Florida are trending to a material new high.

Contrary to what some seem to blindly say; it isn’t because of more testing.

In Florida, testing slowed down 3% while new cases grew 88% over the last week.

Image

Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis acknowledged that the rising number of new Covid-19 cases in Florida cannot be explained away by an increase in testing, and announced plans to step up enforcement of social distancing practices in bars and nightclubs in “DeSantis pivots on Covid-19 surge, says testing doesn’t account for spike.

“Even with the testing increasing or being flat, the number of people testing positive is accelerating faster than that,” DeSantis told reporters during a briefing at the state Capitol. “You know that’s evidence that there’s transmission within those communities.”

Of course, it isn’t just Florida.

As of today, US Coronavirus Tests Administered is at a current level of 26.57 million, up from 25.98 million yesterday. It’s a change of 2.25% from yesterday.

US Coronavirus Cases is at a current level of 2.255 million, up from 2.223 million yesterday, which is a change of 1.46% from yesterday.

Here are the absolute trends in comparison.

The good news is the spread between US Coronavirus Tests and Cases is in an uptrend, so negative tests overwhelm positive test results.

We can use a ratio chart to see the relative trend in cases and tests. I do the same with global market trends. For example, we can compare the US Energy sector to the S&P 500 to see the relative strength or weakness. When the trend is down as it is here, the sector is lagging.

Here is a simple analog chart comparison.

In contrast, the Technology sector has been relatively stronger than the S&P 500 stock index.

And the relative strength ratio between Technology and the broader stock market index shows the opposite trend than what we saw from Energy.

So, back to the COVID trend, taking this same ratio methodology applied to tests and cases, the relative trend is down, so cases are lagging tests by a material amount. We want to see this trend continue.

So far, states have reported 630 deaths and the trend is down, so we are seeing a national decline. Death reporting lags approximately 28 days from symptom onset, according to CDC models that consider lags in symptoms, time in hospital, and the death reporting process.

Image

So, that’s the good news.

What I believe people will increasingly focus on is the breakout in new cases per day. Many trackers are normalizing the trend with a 7 day moving average, but the data already has a natural lag between contraction, testing, a positive case, so I’m not adding one myself.

Instead, I want to see a new breakout as soon as it develops. If we wait for a 7 day moving average new high, the lag will delay noticing the breakout.

I pointed out over a week ago I’m seeing new breakouts to the upside.

I’m still seeing new breakouts in cases per day.

I pointed out Florida, Arizona, and Texas. Now add Georgia.

And it isn’t just more testing in Georgia.

California is still trending up, and although their testing is rising, it isn’t just an increase in tests.

Oklahoma cases have now broken out into an uptrend. Again, the new high in cases per day doesn’t correspond to a new high in testing.

We’re seeing breakouts in other countries, too, such as Brazil.

Others like Russia have peaked and are drifting down.

So, there’s the trends.

What about the momentum of the trend?

Just as I have proprietary momentum and relative strength algorithms to define the speed of a price trend in global markets, they also have a measure of the speed of the COVID – 19 trend.

The values for Rt is a key measure of how fast the virus is growing. It’s the average number of people who become infected by an infectious person. If Rt is above 1.0, the virus will spread quickly. When Rt is below 1.0, the virus will stop spreading. Projecting the reproduction number is essential to understand how explosive an uptrend in new cases may be.

The Rt for Florida is 1.39, so it’s likely to spread relatively fast and we’ll see cases trend up as the new cases are spreading it to others. Florida has been in the top five of all states since I’ve been monitoring it.

Hawaii has the highest reproduction number in the United States.

Tennessee hasn’t been spreading it as fast.

The Rt for New York was as high as 2 early on, so a person who contracted the virus spread it to about two more, but it has slowed.

The states with the lowest Rt levels are in the north right now and the highest are in the south, or the warmest climates.

So much for the theory that heat will smoother the Coronavirus. It doesn’t seem to be the case.

Here are all of the states ranked from lowest to highest R.

Here are the Southern states. Most are in the red zone.

Next is the Northeast, who has maintained the most aggressive shelter in place and such.

Does this mean it’s working? Well, yes, if you aren’t around people, the spread will slow. However, only time will tell if these more city like areas come back sharply once they are back to full production.

By the way, here are the states that never sheltered.

So, we should prepare for the media to increasingly make this a big story again. As I see it, the odds of catching it is relatively low if less than 1% of the population has it. The trouble is, without testing everyone, we don’t know the positive rate. Right now the positive rate in Florida is increasing at 12%.

We should also prepare for the likelihood the stock market will eventually respond to these rising trends in new cases and the possibility of fear driving the stock market down again.

Although, it isn’t just a reaction to the continuation of COVID, but also the high risk level of the stock market.

The stock market is at an elevated risk level based on both fundamental valuation and quantitative momentum measures.

The S&P 500 Shiller CAPE Ratio, also known as the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings ratio, is defined as the ratio the the S&P 500’s current price divided by the 10-year moving average of inflation-adjusted earnings. The metric was invented by American economist Robert Shiller and has become a popular way to understand long-term stock market valuations. It is used as a valuation metric to forecast future returns, where a higher CAPE ratio could reflect lower returns over the next couple of decades, whereas a lower CAPE ratio could reflect higher returns over the next couple of decades, as the ratio reverts back to the mean.

S&P 500 Shiller CAPE Ratio is at a current level of 27.64, up from 26.03 last month and down from 29.24 one year ago. This is a change of 6.18% from last month and -5.48% from one year ago. It remains well above average and it’s at the third highest level it has ever been. These trends in valuation get resolved eventually, even if the Fed is trying to support stable prices.

The short term relative strength reading the speed and magnitude of the moves isn’t as overbought as it was when I pointed it out two weeks ago, but it’s also far from oversold.

Let’s see how it all unfolds from here.

Let us know if we can help here.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

So far, 2020 has shown us some fine examples of risk, investor sentiment, divergence, and volatility

Implied volatility, as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) has trended up about 50% since the most recent low on June 5th. I’ll call it a moderate volatility expansion. Normally a volatility expansion from 23 to 40 would be considered a material event, but relative to the highest spike we’ve seen in March, it doesn’t seem huge for 2020.

The Bank of America Bull & Bear Indicator is at 0.90 vs. 0.40 last week. It is used as contrarian indicator to identify market extremes in investor sentiment. Currently, their measure of investor sentiment is very bearish, which is bullish for the stock market.

BofA Bull & Bear Indicator

Bank of America Private Client Sentiment shows bearishness, and here is a line chart showing its history.

BofA Private Client Sentiment

On the topic of investor sentiment, and the Bank of America Bull & Bear Indicator, here is a chart of its history going back to 2002. As marked on the chart, it was backtested pre-2013.

BofA Bull & Bear Indicator History

I share the CNN Fear & Greed Index a lot, because it’s easily assessable, so anyone can view it. The Fear & Greed Index is neutral right now.

Within the Fear & Greed Index are seven different investor sentiment indicators. Unlike the Bank of America Private Client Bull & Bear Indicator, which is a survey of their clients, the Fear & Greed Index is derived from quantitative technical indicators.

Stock price breadth, or how well stocks are participating in the uptrend, is the leading driver on the Greed side. They use the McClellan Volume Summation Index, which measures advancing and declining volume on the NYSE. It shows during the last month, approximately 8.08% more of each day’s volume has traded in advancing issues than in declining issues, pushing this indicator towards the upper end of its range for the last two years, which is extremely bullish.

The only other of the seven indicators showing bullish investor sentiment is safe haven demand. That is, the demand for bonds over stocks. They measure it by the difference between the past 20 day stock and bond returns. Stocks have outperformed bonds by 6.99% during the last 20 trading days. This is close to the strongest performance for stocks relative to bonds in the past two years and indicates investors are rotating into stocks from the relative safety of bonds. Of course, this bullish investor sentiment is a sign that greed is driving the market. Notwithstanding these two extremes, overall, the Fear & Greed Index remains neutral.

Value is a Value

The dispersion of stock valuation multiples between the lowest and highest valuations has narrowed. But, despite the recent relative strength in value, it is still wide relative to history. So, value stocks remain a relative value.

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Hot Momentum Stocks are Showing Relative Strength

According to Goldman Sachs, the most popular retail trading stocks have materially outperformed the S&P 500, so far.

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Cross-Asset Realized Volatility has been Extreme

Another sign of dispersion is the number of 3 standard deviation prices moves. We’ve already seen more extreme trends across asset classes in 22 years.

Volatility and Number of 3-Sigma Moves

Despite the impressive V shaped rally from what is so far the low on March 23rd, I continue to notice the mean reversion year to date and over the past year. Here is year to date, and I marked the high, low, and average percentage.

At the low, the S&P 500 was down about -31% YTD. With the help of a very aggressive Federal Reserve proving liquidity, it has recovered most of the decline in one of the fastest in history.

It ain’t over till it’s over, and this ain’t over.

Asymmetry is about the upside vs. the downside in terms of asymmetric risk/reward. No observation of the price trend is complete without also noting the downside drawdown it took to achieve it. The drawdown for the S&P 500 was an astonishing -34% in just 23 days. It’s a reminder of risk.

I believe risk must be measured, directed, and controlled if we are to compound capital positively.

It doesn’t matter how much the return is if the downside risk is so high you tap out before it’s achieved.

Clearly, in 2020, we’ve surely seen some of the finest examples of risk, divergence, and volatility.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Should we care the S&P 500 closed above its 200-day simple moving average?

As the U.S. unemployment rate in April 2020 was 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression, the U.S. stock market is trending up.

And May’s unemployment number may be higher when it’s announced on June 5. 

The stock market is said to be a discounting mechanism. The largest stock market investors who drive price trends don’t look back, they look forward.

It’s an auction market and operates on the proposition that investors and traders gaze into the future and discounts all known information about the present moment and expectations for what’s expected to happen next. So, when unexpected events happen, the market takes into account this new information very rapidly.

It certainly seems to be happening now.

Either the market is factoring in a quick recovery, or something else is driving it up.

The Efficient Markets Hypothesis (EMH) is based on the theory that the stock market is a very efficient discounting system, so it factors in expectations of the future. The Efficient Markets Hypothesis suggests the stock market generally moves in the same direction as the economy.

Yeah, I know. If there ever was a time that sounds silly it’s now. Well, and every other market crash and bubble. I’ve seen my fair share of those in the past two decades.

One of the most interesting paradoxes in investment management is the market discounts everything is also the first premise of Technical Analysis.

The three premises on which the technical approach is based:

  1. Market action discounts everything.
  2. Prices move in trends.
  3. History repeats itself.

That both the Efficient Markets Hypothesis and Technical Analysis is based on the belief the market discounts everything known and expected about the future is logically self-contradictory, because EMH doesn’t believe prices move in trends. EMH certainly doesn’t believe Technical Analysis, including trend identification systems for trend following and pattern recognition, is useful. Yet, trend systems and pattern recognition are some of the very strategies that I’ve seen to achieve asymmetric risk-reward.

I consider most trend identification systems to be pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the systematic recognition of patterns in data. For example, the first action in trading breakouts is to identify current price trend patterns along with potential support and resistance levels in order to signal entry and exit points.

So, here we are. The S&P 500 is now trading above its 200 day moving average again after trending below it on February 27th.

It has been shocking to most that the stock index is now only down about -10% from its February high after a -36% waterfall decline over just 23 trading sessions.

It the fastest waterfall we’ve seen of this magnitude, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised to see it swing back up to recover 2/3rds of the decline.

But no, it’s not a surprise. I tactically traded through the last two most radical bear markets since the Great Depression and they both included many swings up and down along the way.

The swings are the danger.

If you wait too long and enter after prices have already trended up sharply, you may get invested in stocks just in time for the next trend down.

The same goes for the downside. If you wait until your losses are so large they become intolerable and tap out at the lows, you risk missing out on the price trend recovery like we just saw.

At what point do you feel good about geting back in?

After prices have trended back up as they have now? The S&P 500 is above the 200 day moving average, so it’s a sign of an uptrend.

Is this the time to buy?

Or, do you feel better about investing in stocks after the price trend falls more?

What if it doesn’t?

These are tactical trading decisions. Most investors are not good at it, but some of us are better.

The market is people who trade and invest in the market. People are always looking forward, gazing into the future that doesn’t yet exist, so prices are always adjusting according to people’s beliefs about what’s going to happen next. This includes all signals. All signals are necessarily predictions of the future.

As the SPX is now trending above its 200-day average, trend followers who use the SMA will buy here. We may indeed see some buying interest come in because of it. Only time will tell if its enough buying pressure to drive prices up more. I’ve been operating trend systems for decision-making for over two decades and I don’t know of any money manager who actually trades off a 200-day moving average signal, except one. I’m going to save it for another observation, but until then, I’ll simply share this.

The S&P Trend Allocator Index is designed to track the performance of a systematic trend-following strategy allocating between the S&P 500 and cash, based on price trends. If the S&P 500 is observed to be in a positive trend, then the index is allocated to the S&P 500, otherwise, it is allocated to cash.

Here is the S&P Trend Allocator Index relative to the S&P 500 stock index which is fully invested, all the time.

 Oops.

Prior to the waterfall decline, the S&P 500 was trending 11% higher than its 200 day moving average. So, it was going to have at least a -11% drawdown with perfect execution. That’s a nice thing about it. It’s a predefined exit, so at the February high, you knew if the stock market falls, you’ll lose at least -11% before you exit. When we know our defined risk, we can decide to accept it, or not. If you were trading off the 200 SMA and believed a -11% drawdown was unacceptable, you could have raised your stop above it.

But then, if you sold earlier, how would you know when to get back in?

Ok, I just wanted to drive home the point: tactical trading decisions aren’t easy. No indicator works perfectly.

I don’t use the 200 SMA, but the S&P Trend Allocator index does. However, you may notice it didn’t sell at the price trend break below the 200 SMA. Instead, it sold later, and down much more. The S&P Trend Allocator Index sold later because it waits until five days after a crossover to sell. I marked on the chart the point on the price trend it actually sold.

S&P Trend Allocator Index Construction

“At the close of each business day, a trend signal is calculated based on the closing value of the S&P 500 Total Return Index (the “Allocation Indicator Index”) compared to its prior 200-day Simple Moving Average (SMA). The SMA is defined as the average of the last 200 closing values of the S&P 500 Total Return index. The trend signal is positive if the last five consecutive closing values of the S&P 500 Total Return index are equal to or greater than the SMA. The trend is negative if the last five consecutive closing index values are below the SMA. The trend signal does not change from its current status until there have been five consecutive days of index values indicating a signal change.”

I’m not going to get any deeper on this right now, but I will in a later observation, but the drawdown in the S&P Trend Allocator Index was about -27%.

Keep in mind; an index does not include any transaction cost or fees and may not be invested indirectly. If we were applying this trend following method with real money, there would have been transition costs, fund fees, advisory fees, and slippage to account for which would have negatively impacted the return profile. With that said…

Should we care that the S&P 500 is above its 200-day simple moving average?

Since the index was operated in real-time, above is the total return relative to its S&P 500 stock index which is fully invested in stocks all the time.

Here is the drawdowns for a complete picture of its risk-reward profile.

As you see, the S&P Trend Allocator applying the 200-day moving average to the S&P 500 had a drawdown of -27% vs. the -34% drawdown of the S&P 500.

So, the risk management method of the S&P Trend Allocator provided a drawdown control edge of about 7% relative to the fully invested stock index that is exposed to the risk and reward of the stocks all the time.

However, the total return is materially less at this point. Although the S&P Trend Allocator 200 day SMA exit signal exits with a lag and then reenters with a lag, it has participated in most of the stock market drawdowns and then misses out on the early part of its gains off the lows when the rate of change is highest.

It will take a larger downtrend for the 200 day SMA to show its value. The magnitude of the March decline was tremendous, but it happened so fast the lag was exposed as a risk to the strategy.

Now, just imagine how the risk/reward profile will be impacted if it enters the stock market right now, and then the market trends down again. This is one of the risks to be aware of with any trend-following or tactical trading system or method.

No investment strategy is ever perfect, but we gain an edge when we are aware of their weaknesses. I have spent more time trying to break my systems and methods to discover weaknesses than I did creating them.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

A new volatility expansion

And just like that, we have another volatility expansion.

Yesterday, in Global Macro: Volatility expands and divergence between sectors I suggested “It is likely we’ll see a volatility expansion from here.” Indeed, with the VIX and VVIX (volatility of volatility) both up 10% today, we are entering a volatility expansion.

Implied volatility had settled down gradually since it peaked in March, but it now looks like we may see prices spread out into a wider range.

As of this moment, the S&P 500 is down -2.34% and it is reversing down from the average of its price trend year to date, so I’ll call it “mean reversion.”

In fact, it’s mean reversion from the 1 year price trend, too.

It’s a negative sign that small and mid size stocks are trending down even more, down nearly -4%. They’ve been laggards in this rally from the March low. In the early stage of a new bullish trend, smaller companies should trend up faster. Smaller companies are more nimble than large companies, so we expect to see them recover quicker from declines. When they don’t, we consider it a bearish divergence.

I can’t say I’m surprised. This is likely the early stage of a deeper bear market as I’ve operated through 2000-03 and 2007-09.

But, nothing is ever a sure thing. It’s probabilistic and probably necessarily implies uncertainty.

Managing money though a big bear market isn’t as simple as an ON/OFF switch, whereby we get out near the peak and then reenter near the low. I’ve traded through a lot of nasty market conditions, the nastiest aside from the Great Depression, and that isn’t how it has worked for me. I didn’t just get out and then back in a year or two later. There are opportunities in between for skilled tactical traders who are able to direct and control risk and manage drawdowns.

There’s a good chance this becomes a prolonged bear market similar to what we’ve seen twice over the past two decades I’ve been a professional money manager.

I wrote yesterday;

“It’s probably a good time for individual investors who don’t have tight risk management systems to shift to defense to preserve capital, but it’s not a guarantee, and yes, we’ll see.”

I’ll just leave it at that, today.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

A tale of two risk managers; trend following vs. hedging with put options

Let’s get right to it.

Which do you prefer?

What you see in the chart is The S&P 500 stock index, which is an unmanaged index of 500 or so stocks, weighted by their capitalization (size of company) and it’s long-only, fully invested, and therefore fully exposed to the risk/reward of the stocks. The S&P 500 is often considered a proxy for “the stock market”, like the Dow Jones. The risk of the S&P 500 is unlimited, although all 500 stocks would have to fall to zero to lose all your money. It hasn’t done that before, but it has declined -56% just a decade ago. See the red arrow.

Before that period 2008-09, the S&P 500 declined -50% from 2000 to 2003. If something has declined this much before, it should be assumed it can and will again.

So, it’s risky.

And that’s the true risk. The worst historical drawdown is the real measure of risk. If some advisor is telling you risk is two or three standard deviations, run, don’t walk, out that door.

Since being fully invested in the stock market all the time is so risky, real investors with real money tend to want real risk management.

That is, not just “diversification”, which is often touted as “risk management.” Buying 500 stocks isn’t true diversification. Niether is buying 1,000 or 3,000 stocks.

To be sure, the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF holds 3,542 stocks. The next chart is the Vanguard Total Stock Market fund vs. the S&P 500 ETF. We don’t own either of them, so this doesn’t represent anything we’re doing at my investment company. It’s just an example, that yeah, the stock market is risky, not matter who you are, or how many you hold. Even with over 3,000 more stocks than the S&P 500, it falls the same.

But, to their credit, Vanguard does a good job saying their funds are risky. When I visited their website to see the number of holdings, it says:

Plain talk about risk

An investment in the fund could lose money over short or even long periods. You should expect the fund’s share price and total return to fluctuate within a wide range, like the fluctuations of the overall stock market. The fund’s performance could be hurt by:

  • Stock market risk: The chance that stock prices overall will decline. Stock markets tend to move in cycles, with periods of rising stock prices and periods of falling stock prices. The fund’s target index may, at times, become focused in stocks of a particular sector, category, or group of companies.
  • Index sampling risk: The chance that the securities selected for the fund, in the aggregate, will not provide investment performance matching that of the index. Index sampling risk for the fund should be low.

Risks associated with moderate to aggressive funds

Vanguard funds classified as moderate to aggressive are broadly diversified but are subject to wide fluctuations in share price because they hold virtually all of their assets in common stocks. In general, such funds are appropriate for investors who have a long-term investment horizon (ten years or longer), who are seeking growth in capital as a primary objective, and who are prepared to endure the sharp and sometimes prolonged declines in share prices that occur from time to time in the stock market. This price volatility is the trade-off for the potentially high returns that common stocks can provide. The level of current income produced by funds in this category ranges from moderate to very low.

Ok, so we’ve established that the stock market is risky and even a fund invested in thousands of stocks can decline over -50% and take years to recover.

So, we just answered: Why risk management?

It doesn’t matter how much the return is if downside drawdowns are so high you tap out before the gains are acheived.

It also doesn’t’ matter how big the gains are if you give it all up before selling and realizing a profit.

I digress.

I specialize in active dynamic management strategies. I’ve been developing and operating investment risk management systems for the past two decades. Since my focus is on managing the downside, within our risk tolerance, I’m left to let the horses run. If we can direct and control our drawdowns, within reason, it’s never a sure thing, then we are left to focus on the upside of profits.

To illustrate two different methods of risk management, I’m going to use the most simple examples possible. I’m also going to use indexes managed by others, instead of my own. It’s all about keeping it simple to make a point.

So, here we go. I explained the orange line is the S&P 500, fully invested in stocks, all the time, no risk management beyond the diversification of investing in 500 stocks across 10 sectors like financial, healthcare, and tech.

The blue line in the chart is the S&P Trend Allocator Index. The S&P 500® Trend Allocator index is designed to track the performance of a systematic trend-following strategy allocating between the S&P 500 and cash, based on price trends. If the S&P 500 is observed to be in a positive trend, then the index is allocated to the S&P 500, otherwise, it is allocated to cash. It’s a very simple form of trend following applied to stocks. When the S&P 500 is above its 200 day simple moving average, it invests in stocks. When it trends below the 200 day for more than 5 days, it shifts to cash.

The purple trend line, which has achieved the highest return, is the CBOE S&P 500 5% Put Protection Index. The CBOE S&P 500 5% Put Protection Index is designed to track the performance of a hypothetical strategy that holds a long position indexed to the S&P 500® Index and buys a monthly 5% out-of-the-money S&P 500 Index (SPX) put option as a hedge. It’s a defined risk strategy, using put options for dynamic hedging.

Trend Following vs. Hedging with Options

Which worked better?

For a closer look, here is the year to date return streams.

Clearly, hedging with 5% out of the money put options has achieved the better asymmetric risk/reward this time. Applying the simple trend following strategy of selling after the stock index declines below its 200 day moving average exited before the low of the S&P 500, but it remains uninvested, missing out on the upside. The trend following streastgy is down -23% year to date, which is worse than the S&P 500. The hedged index is actually positive for 2020. The hedge paid off, according to this index.

Let’s take a closer look at the downside via a drawdown chart, the % off highs. As expected, the S&P 500 stock index had the worst drawdown, so far. It declined -34%.

The strategy of buying 5% out of the money put options had a drawdown of -20%, which is about half of the S&P 500. The systematic trend following strategy was able to cut the drawdown a little short at -27%. The trend following strategy is currently still in its drawdown.

It’s out of the stock market, so it has also missed out on the recent uptrend. Although, it the stock market enters another waterfall decline, that may turn out better. But, to catch up with the fully invested stock index, that’s what would have to occur. The stock market would have to fall a lot, then the strategy reenter at a better point. However, trend following never enters the lows, and never sells the highs, either. Instead, it enters and exits on a lag and the 200 day moving average is a significant lag. For example, I new this trend following strategy would have at least a -11% drawdown, because when the stock market was at its high in February, the 200 day moving average sell signal was -11% lower.

However, this simple system also requires the index to remain below the 200 day average for 5 days, which is intended to reduce whipsaws. That’s why it didn’t initially sell on the first leg down. Instead, it sold after the second leg down. Since the S&P 500 is still below its 200 day moving average, this trend following system hasn’t invested in the stock market yet. In fact, it would have to stay above the 200 day for 5 days. It’s a symmetric trading system. It applies the same signal for the entry and the exit. I know that price trends drift up and crash down, so my version of this is an asymmetric trading system. I apply a different exit than the entry to account for the unique behavior of price trends since they drift up, but crash down.

How has systematic trend following worked on stocks over a longer period?

It’s had some challenges. Volatile periods, when a market swings up and down over shorter time frames, are hostile conditions for trend following methods. This index has only gained 7% the past 5 years after this recent drawdown. While it does cut the losses short, which is what trend following is known for, it has struggled due to market conditions.

I marked up the next chart, where I include its trend relative to the S&P 500 index. I labeled when it sold, which was three times. The first two times, selling with the trend following sell signal of a 200 day SMA avoided a little of the downside. This time it hasn’t helped so much. Overall, the trend following applied to stocks had lower relative strength than the fully invested stock index with no risk management. But, it avoided some downside. Over this short time frame, the downside loss mitigation probably isn’t deemed enough to account for the difference in the outcomes.

With risk management systems, we never expect them to achieve the same or better return than a fully invested stock index that is always exposed to the risk/reward of stocks. The stock index also doesn’t include expenses and it may not be invested in directly. Investors demand risk management because they don’t want the -50% declines they would endure being invested in the stock market with no exit and no hedge.

Speaking of hedge.

Neither of these risk management indexes I’m using for this example have been around long. The CBOE CBOE S&P 500 5% Put Protection Index started in 2015.

The CBOE S&P 500 5% Put Protection Index is designed to track the performance of a hypothetical risk-management strategy that consists of a long position indexed to the S&P 500 Index (SPX Index) and a rolling long position in monthly 5% Out-of-the-Money (OTM) SPX Put options. This is a relatively simple example, though executing it well isn’t so simple. The protective put strategy has achieved better asymmetry, this time. I say this time, because it doesn’t always work as well as it did this time. But, here it is.

As you can see, it lagged the stock index in the uptrend, until now. Lagging in the uptrend is expected. Buying a put option gives us the right to sell our stock below a certain price. It’s similar to buying home or car insurance. When we buy a protective put option, we literally pay a “premium” for a time period to expiration, like insurance. Some call it portfolio insurance. If we pay an insurance premium for years, it reduces our personal profit and loss statement. The protection is an expense. We’re willing to pay it to avoid large drawdowns. A skilled options trader can potentially execute it better, if an edge can be gained with timing the relative value of the options.

Asymmetric hedging beat the simple following strategy this time. I call it asymmetric hedging, because when we buy a put option, we have limited downside risk (the premium paid) but we have a maximum gain of the Strike price – premium paid. To learn more about a Long Put option, here is a video from the OIC.

The protective put strategy has achieved better risk/reward. I say this time, because it doesn’t always work as well as it did this time. Also, I said the Long Put protection strategy is an “asymmetric hedge” because it has a larger potential profit than the cost for the exposure. There are much better examples of what I call an asymmetric hedge, for example, going long volatility can have a substantial asymmetric payoff. Just look at the VIX. It spiked up more than ever in history, so even a small option position to be long volatility would have a tremendous payoff. Imagine if we spent just 1% of a portfolio but the payoff was 10% at the portfolio level. Yeah, that’s asymmetry.

Back to the comparison of trend following to hedging with options, here is the return streams over the past five years. I consider both of these risk management methods to be basic asymmetric risk/reward payoffs. The trend following system didn’t do so well this time, at least so far, but it still has limited downside risk and unlimited upside gain potential. If the stock market keeps going up and never trends down below its 200 day average, it would keep gaining.

But, if we believed that was what it will do, we wouldn’t care about risk management. Some people actually do put their money in stocks and stock funds and don’t consider limiting their downside. To each their own. Before this bear market is over, they may be crying about their large losses, as they did last time. But I’m guessing this time, if they do it again, they may learn the lesson. The stock market is risky, all investing involves risks as do all strategies. No strategy is perfect. We have to be willing to accept the imperfections and settle with a C sometimes, if we want to A over the long run. This isn’t college. Money compounds.

This leads me to one more thought to share. I was watching this video from Ray Dalio, the founder of the largest hedge fund in the world. Dalio was speaking of this chart in his presentation. He calls it “The Holy Grail.”

In an ideal world, we could invest in 15-20 different assets that are uncorrelated and because one trends up with others are trending down, similar to the hedging strategy, we would achieve an edge from pure diversification. He says The Holy Grail is combining these unique returns streams, which has gains and losses at different times, but overall, the portfolio trends up to the upper right corner.

That’s in an idealized world.

You may know better. Shit happens in the real world. A joke going around is:

Started the year off January 1st: THIS IS MY YEAR!

By April, wiping my …. with coffee filters.

Now that’s funny right there! I don’t care who you are!

Yeah, I said it. It’s a sign of the times. We need to lighten up and laugh as much as we can, especially about the simple things in life, like running out of tp.

In bear markets, correlations go to one. That is, most everything falls. Why? Even if you have gains in some uncorrelated markets, if you have big losses in others, as a fund manger, you take the profits to help deal with the losses. It eventually pushes down the leaders, too. That’s just one of many examples. Here’s an old chart I’ve used for years to illustrate how diversification along can fail.

There is no free lunch, but Dalio is right, if we could combined 15 or so unique return streams, it could be an edge. The trouble is, what markets can you simply invest in that are truly disconnected from the others?

No many. Maybe long term US Treasuries along with stocks, but going forward, it’s not going to look like the past. US Treasuries will be tradable, but with the interest rate down to 1%, the upside in price is very limited, so is the interest income.

Uncorrelated Return Streams

I did both of this type of strategy, and more, in Asymmetry Global Tactical Fund, LP which was a private managed by another company I founded in 2012, Asymmetry Fund Management, LLC. What I believe is more of “The Holy Grail” isn’t making simple investment allocations into different funds or markets hoping for diversification from non-correlation, but instead, combining asymmetric trading systems that have unique return drivers and asymmetric risk/reward profiles. My different trading systems have different return drivers. Instead of market factors and conditions driving the return stream, the buy, sell, and risk management system extracts from the market a unique return stream. It’s a return stream we can’t get from just investing in some funds with different managers. They are mostly correlated, multiple asymmetric trading systems may be very uncorrelated from each other. For example, one system may trend follow longer term trends. Another may trend follow short term trends. Then, they are applied to difference markets, say stocks, bonds, currency, and commodities. Another complete different system may be volatility trading, aiming to gain from a volatility expansion. Add in some countertrend systems, that buys short term oversold and sell short term overbought, and it’s going to produce a unique return stream from everything else. What if the countertrend system is applied to different markets, then, each extracting a unique return stream.

That’s real diversification.

It can’t be achieved by just investing in different markets, or investing in a bunch of funds. But, someone like Dalio, or me, who has multiple trading systems and strategies, we may benefit from the edge of combining them, o even shifting between them.

But I have an edge, and a very big one, over Dalio. He’s got to move around billions. He can’t trade nimble as I can. My flexibility and nimbleness is an edge. I’m not ever going to manage 50 billion or 100 billion and would never want to. I already have what I want. I have enough. It allows me to focus, and be dynamic. I’m happier with little to no distraction.

Now, this is an overly simplified idealized example I’ve used here with the trend following and put buying hedging strategy, but just thing about how this would look if we combine them along with 15-20 others. The larger the money we manage, the more we need to just allocate capital into something rather than trading.

You can probably how these three trends are correlated in uptrends, then disconnect in downtrends. Some combination of them can smooth the ride. In this overly simple example, it would mean some exposer to long-only fully invested in stocks, all the time, no matter how far they fall. Another is always hedged, so it will lag on the upside, but limit the risk on the downside. Then, the trend following system absolutely exits in downtrends and waits for an uptrend. When the market is crashing, nothing looks better in our account that FDIC insured cash deposits.

But, I rotate, instead of allocate.

I would rather shift between markets to be exposed when I believe the risk/reward is asymmetric and avoid it when it isn’t.

Then, imagine if each of these have its own risk management to predefine risk in advance and a portfolio level drawdown control to limit overall drawdowns to less than the -30% of more than is common with the stock market.

So, there you go, a trend following system relative to a options hedging system, and a hint at how we see it. I’m an unconstrained tactical money manager. I don’t constrain myself to a box. I never liked being put in a box and I don’t fit well in any box. I’ll go were the money is treated best. Flexible, adaptable, nimble, unconstrained, and unbiased.

That’s just how I roll.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

The longest economic expansion in U.S. history is over, but…

As the US and and global economies are entering a recession, this is when I start actively monitoring global macro-economic trends.

My investment and tactical trading decisions are informed by directional price trends, momentum, volatility, and investor sentiment. So, this quantitative data is my primary focus as a global macro/tactical investment manager.

That is, until economic trends shift outside their range and reach extremes.

Then I start observing these global macro trends to observe what has changed. We monitor thousands and data streams and time series, daily, with quantitative alerts that signal when these trends change, or when their rate of change shifts. For example, we monitor 4,136 global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) indicators alone.

US GDP Growth released today indicates the longest U.S. economic expansion in history is over.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis releases quarterly figures for US Gross Domestic Product. In addition to the Real GDP, the report also includes data for income, sales, inventories, and corporate profits. It is one of the most important parts of the National Income and Product Accounts.

US Real GDP Growth is measured as the year over year change in the Gross Domestic Product in the US as adjusted for inflation. Gross Domestic Product is the total value of goods produced and services provided in a the US. Real GDP Growth is a vital indicator to analyze the health of the economy. Two quarters of consecutive negative real GDP growth officially signifies a recession. Additionally, GDP is used by the Fed (FOMC) as a gauge to make their interest rate decisions. In the post World War II boom years, US Real GDP grew as high as 12.8% in a year, but in the late 20th century 0-5% growth was more the norm.

US Real GDP Growth is now at -4.80%, compared to 2.10% last quarter and 3.10% last year, which is materially below the long term average of 3.18%. This GDP is sharpest drop since 2008 as governments and consumers responded to the new coronavirus.

I expect the second quarter will be worse.

I’ve been pointing out a few years now that this is the longest economic expansion in U.S. history as well as the longest bull market for stocks that was very aged.

But, after a -37% decline in the popular market proxy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the stock market is climbing a wall of worry.

Despite the negative GDP, the Dow Jones is up 2.7% today.

And the Dow Jones is now just -13.28% year to date, after starting 2020 up 3.55% and then crashing down -35% just a few weeks ago.

I have tactically operated through bear markets, so investors should be prepared for many significant swings along the way, but for now, it seems on March 24th stock prices reached a low enough point to attract buying enthusiasm that exceeds the desire to sell.

Of course, the buying enthusiasm may be mostly the Federal Reserve, but notwithstanding who is driving up prices, the trend is up for now.

The stock market is forward-looking, so what is, is.

For investors who have been afraid to invest with their long-only advisors strategy, I manage a hedged portfolio using options and volatility trading for asymmetric hedging. Our minimum is $1 million, but we may make an exception depending on the circumstances.

Giddy up.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Global Macro Trends in Uncharted Territory

I primarily focus on directional price trends, momentum, volatility, and investor sentiment. That is, until economic trends trend to extremes. Then I start observing these global macro trends.

We monitor thousands and data streams and time series with quantitative alerts that signal when these trends change. We are seeing many economic trends in uncharted territory.

US Retail Gas

The US Retail Gas Price is the average price that retail consumers pay per gallon, for all grades and formulations. Retail gas prices are important to view in regards to how the energy industry is performing. Additionally, retail gas prices can give a good overview of how much discretionary income consumers might have to spend. The current price is $1.87 which is below the average of $2.21 and near the prior lows in 2016 and 2009. In the late 1990s gas was around $1 and traded as high as $4 in 2007-08.

Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey

The Dallas Fed conducts the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey monthly to obtain a timely assessment of the state’s factory activity. Companies are asked whether output, employment, orders, prices and other indicators increased, decreased or remained unchanged over the previous month. Responses are aggregated into balance indexes where positive values generally indicate growth while negative values generally indicate contraction. It’s at a new low, so the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey is in uncharted territory.

Richmond Fed Survey of Manufacturing Activity

The Survey of Manufacturing Activity is sent electronically to manufacturing firms that are selected for participation according to their type of business, location, and firm size. About 200 contacts receive questionnaires and approximately 90 to 95 of those surveyed respond in a typical month. Respondents report on various aspects of their business, such as shipments, new orders, order backlogs, inventories, and expectations for business activity during the next six months. It fell to a new low, so another has reached uncharted territory.

US Index of Consumer Sentiment

US Index of Consumer Sentiment is at a current level of 71.80, a decrease of 17.30 or 19.42% from last month. This is a decrease of 25.40 or 26.13% from last year and is lower than the long term average of 86.69. The US Index of Consumer Sentiment (ICS), as provided by University of Michigan, tracks consumer sentiment in the US, based on surveys on random samples of US households. The index aids in measuring consumer sentiments in personal finances, business conditions, among other topics. Historically, the index displays pessimism in consumers’ confidence during recessionary periods, and increased consumer confidence in expansionary periods. Consumer sentiment is materially below its long term average.

Since the index shows pessimism in consumers’ confidence during recessionary periods, in the next chart I highlight historical recessions in gray to illustrate.

Hey Crude… WTI Crude Oil Spot Price trended negative. WTI Crude Oil Spot Price is at a current level of -36.98, down from 18.31 the previous market day and down from 64.02 one year ago. Clearly, WTI Crude has reached uncharted territory.

WTI Crude Oil Spot Price is the price for immediate delivery of West Texas Intermediate grade oil, also known as Texas light sweet. It, along with Brent Spot Price, is one of the major benchmarks used in pricing oil. WTI in particular is useful for pricing any oil produce in the Americas. One of the most notable times for the WTI Crude Oil Spot Price was in 2008 when prices for WTI Crude reached as high as $145.31/barrel because of large cuts in production. However, because of the financial crisis and an abrupt loss of demand for oil globally, the price of WTI Crude fell as much at 70% off highs in January of 2009.

US Inflation Rate

The US Inflation Rate is the percentage in which a chosen basket of goods and services purchased in the US increases in price over a year. Inflation is one of the metrics used by the US Federal Reserve to gauge the health of the economy. Since 2012, the Federal Reserve has targeted a 2% inflation rate for the US economy and may make changes to monetary policy if inflation is not within that range. A notable time for inflation was the early 1980’s during the recession. Inflation rates went as high as 14.93%, causing the Federal Reserve led by Paul Volcker to take dramatic actions.

With commodities like gasoline and crude falling, it should be no surprise to see inflation trend down. US Inflation Rate is at 1.54%, compared to 2.33% last month and 1.86% last year. This is lower than the long term average of 3.23%.

10 Year Treasury Rate

10 Year Treasury Rate is at 0.67%, compared to 2.51% last year. The 10 Year Treasury Rate is the yield received for investing in a US government issued treasury security that has a maturity of 10 year. The 10 year treasury yield is included on the longer end of the yield curve. Many analysts will use the 10 year yield as the “risk free” rate when valuing the markets or an individual security. Historically, the 10 Year treasury rate reached 15.84% in 1981 as the Fed raised benchmark rates in an effort to contain inflation. The 10 Year Treasury Rate is in uncharted territory.

US Initial Jobless Claims has trended up with such magnitude I almost hate to show it.

US Initial Jobless Claims is at a current level of 4.427 million last week, a decrease of 810,000 or 15.47% from last week. US Initial Jobless Claims, provided by the US Department of Labor, provides underlying data on how many new people have filed for unemployment benefits in the previous week. Given this, one can gauge market conditions in the US economy with respect to employment; as more new individuals file for unemployment benefits, fewer individuals in the economy have jobs. Historically, initial jobless claims tended to reach peaks towards the end of recessionary periods such as on March 21, 2009 with a value of 661,000 new filings.

US Continuing Jobless Claims

US Continuing Jobless Claims is at a current level of 15.98M, up from 11.91M last week and up from 1.654 million one year ago. This is a change of 34.12% from last week and 865.9% from one year ago. I marked historical recessions in gray to show continuing jobless claims trend up in recession.

US Federal Reserve is in uncharted territory

The US Federal Reserve is taking massive action in attempt to fend off a crisis. We had seen unprecedented quantitative easing the past decade, but it was wimpy compared to what we are seeing now.

US Total Assets Held by All Federal Reserve Banks is the total value of assets held by all the the Federal Reserve banks. This can include treasuries, mortgage-backed securities, federal agency debt and and so forth. During the Great Recession, having already lowered the target interest rate to 0%, the Federal Reserve further attempted to stimulate the US economy by buying and holding trillions of dollars worth of US treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, a process known as Quantitative Easing or QE. This time, they are doing anything necessary.

US Total Assets Held by All Federal Reserve Banks is at a current level of 6.573 TRILLION, up from 6.368 TRILLION last week and up from 3.932 TRILLION one year ago. This is a change of 3.22% from last week and 67.18% from one year ago.

Federal Reserve Easing: Traditional Security Holdings is at a current level of 1.118T, up from 1.074T last week and up from 724.75B one year ago. This is a change of 4.07% from last week and 54.25% from one year ago.

So, you want to know if things are going back to normal anytime soon?

Maybe not.

But, the Dow Jones Industrial average declined -37% in a month and has retraced about half of the loss this past month.

The market climbs a wall of worry and during extreme times like this, markets do what you least expect.

We’ve been invested in stocks again the past few weeks, but only time will tell if we see the stock market trend back down, or reaches a new high.

Big bear markets swing up and down along the way to lower lows, so that’s what I expect is likely here. I operated successfully through both of the last two bear markets and trade the swings. It’s not as simple as an ON/OFF switch of existing at the peak, as we did in February, and then reentering at “the” low. Instead, for me, it’s a lots of entries and exits as it all unfolds.

We’ll probably see a reversal back down at some point, but we may not. If there’s anything I’ve learned the hard way, it’s don’t fight the Fed. But, Fed interference isn’t a sure thing, either. It doesn’t matter, for me, my process doesn’t require me to figure out what’s going to happen next. Instead, I know how I’ll take risks and when the risk/reward is more likely asymmetric. If the risks don’t pan out, I’ll cut my loss short and try again.

I’ve done it over and over and over again, which discipline.

I’ve been here before, many times. This is when I do things very different from the crowd and it has historically made all the difference. There is never any guarantee of the future, but I’m as ready as I’ve ever been. With the past experiences, I’m more prepared than ever.

I’m looking forward to it.

Let’s roll.

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Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Panic selling drove a waterfall decline and washout for the stock market

Growing up in East Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains, I observed a lot of waterfalls.

Wiki says a fall of water is an area where water flows over a vertical drop or a series of steep declines in the course of a stream or river.

According to National Geographic, a waterfall is a river or other body of water’s steep fall over a rocky ledge into a plunge pool below. Waterfalls are also called cascades. The process of erosion, the wearing away of earth, plays an essential part in the formation of waterfalls.

waterfall decline in stocks stock market

What we have witnessed in the global equity markets is a waterfall decline, the question now is if the plunge pool has developed.

water fallAn overhang in a waterfall can sometimes protrude out enough to form a base, or even drive the water to flow upward for a while, but the waterfall isn’t over until the plunge pool develops.

waterfall overhang spring hill

Using the S&P 500 stock index as a proxy, it’s pretty clear there wasn’t much of an overhang along the way. For example, in the middle of this 3-year chart, we see how the decline in late 2018 played out. It had a lot of overhangs as the stock market was swinging up and down for several weeks.  Now, compare that to this time…

SPY SPX

What we have here is panic selling.

Investors tend to underreact and overreact to new information.

Underreaction: Trends begin to drift in a direction as people initially underreact to change, so the price trend unfolds gradually.

Overreaction: Sometimes, investors overreact to new information, so the price is driven too far, too fast. When the market overreacts, prices overshoot too high, or too low.

At the bottom of a waterfall is a plunge pool, where the water settles. What does the plunge pool look like as it develops? It’s a floor that has enough support the water stays were it is.

The trouble is, in the market, we don’t physically see the rock bottom. Unlike in physical science, an exchange market is a social science because it’s human behavior. Don’t think this is humans? Maybe it’s the computer algorithms? They are created and operated by humans.

I apply quantitative tools to get a read on how extreme investor sentiment is.

In analyzing market trends and price action, we can see what is going on with market internals, such as breadth. The NYSE Bullish Percent was developed by Abe Cohen was the first breadth indicator. Abe Cohen was an early pioneer of Point & Figure charting and created the NYSE BP in the mid-1950s. The NYSE Bullish Percent is a market risk barometer that measures the percent of stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange that have a Point & Figure buy signal, so they making higher highs, so they are in uptrends. The NYSE Bullish Percent is washed out. It hasn’t been this low since the waterfall decline in October 2008.

NYSE BULLISH PERCENT

The challenge with countertrends is they can also trend farther than you would ever believe is possible. It’s because markets don’t follow a normal distribution. Instead, market trends have fat tails, meaning some gains and losses exceed an otherwise normal distribution, as we see in physical science. As such, the overreactions can overshoot and just keep overshooting. We never know for sure when a trend has stopped. What we can do, however, is apply quantitative tools to gauge and guide. I use these as a guide and barometer for overall market risk.

The percent of the S&P 500 stocks above the 50-day moving average is washed out to 1%. In fact, only 7 of the 505 stocks in the S&P 500 are in a short term uptrend. While in a big bear market such as 2008-09, these conditions can continue for a long time, historically, this lower level of risk eventually offers the potential for asymmetric risk/reward. That is, the possibility for reward is greater than the risk it takes the achieve it. Or, the magnitude for a reward is greater than the downside risk, which can be predetermined with options or an exit (i.e., stop-loss.)

$SPXA50R breadth is washed out crash 2020

A material change that has occurred the past week is the percent of S&P 500 stocks above their 200 day moving average, or longer-term uptrends have washed out. Only 5% of the stocks are in uptrends now, so 95% of them are in long term downtrends. That doesn’t sound good, but when it reaches an extreme, it suggests to me the selling pressure is intense and could eventually dry up.

percent of stocks above 200 day

This is about as oversold the stock market gets, both internally looking at the individual stocks and the indexes. Sure, it can get more oversold and stay there for as long as sellers have the desire to sell, but it has reached the point the odds of a short term reversal is increasing the lower it goes.

Yesterday I asked: where do you think we are in the cycle of market emotions?

THE CYCLE OF MARKET EMOTIONS

Clearly, when stock indexes drop 8-10% in a single day after already well off their highs, it is driven by emotional panic.

The US Investor Sentiment poll from AAII is released on a few day’s time lag, but Bearish % of those polled is another measure up to 2008-09 levels.

AAII INVESTOR SENTIMENT MARKET CRASH 2020

 

To no surprise, the Fear & Greed Index was penned all the way back to 1 after yesterday’s close.

fear greed panic market crash 2020

What we have here is a washout. A washout is an event or period that is spoiled by constant or heavy rain. We may see more rain, but it’s a washout nonetheless. A washout in the stock market is when prices have been flooding down so hard, so broad, it seems like a washout of rain.

As you can imagine, with a waterfall, heavy rains increase the volume and speed of water flow. A washout pushes the river to its limits.

The desire to sell has been overwhelming any buying interest that remains for a few weeks now. This has been the fastest decline in US stock market history. I guess we shouldn’t be so surprised if we believe a trend stretched far in one direction is more prone to snap back harder and faster. That’s what we’ve seen here.

This is the end of the longest bear market in US history, and it has indeed ended with a bang. That also means this is the beginning of a bear market. What we don’t know in advance is how long it will last or how low it will go. If we knew it would be -50%, we could simply sell short and profit from the fall. If we knew this was “the bottom,” we could use leverage to maximize gains on the upside. But, none of us know the outcome in advance, not the biggest banks, not the largest asset managers, and neither you nor I. The edge I do have is accepting this reality and embracing it to the point I drove me to create risk management systems to limit the downside when I’m wrong and focus on the things I can control. I’ve operated tactically through periods like this many times before in the last two decades, so I’ll just do what I do, which means I’ll execute many entries and exits until we find the trend. In conditions like we’ve seen this year, they’ll be countertrends. Once trends do develop, they’ll be trend following.

What I’ve typically seen in past bear markets is many cycles up and down along the way. That isn’t what we’ve seen this time, so far. This reminds me more of September 11, 2001, after the World Trade Center was attacked. The difference is, the S&P 500 was already down about -17%, and since the planes hit the World Trade Center in New York, the NYSE was closed. The New York Stock Exchange remained closed until the following Monday. This was the third time in history that the NYSE experienced prolonged closure, the first time being in the early months of World War I[2][3] and the second being March 1933 during the Great Depression.

It may not play out this way this time, but countertrends should be expected. Here is what the stock market did after the exchange opened after September 11. The SPX dropped -12% quickly, but then investors become patriotic, and it recovered a few weeks later. Of course, this happened inside a bear market that started in 2000 and didn’t end until 2003.

stock market v recovery september 11 9:11

Is this so different than 9/11? Of course, it is. Every new moment is always different. But, we’ve experienced these things before. I was much more of a rookie 20 years ago when I walked into my investment firm office to see the planes hit. It was an incredibly emotional and panicked time in American history. At the time, it wasn’t just the one attack, we wondered what would be next. It was the Pentagon, and another plane was hijacked. We didn’t know what to expect, it was uncertain. When would we be attacked again? Where? Would it wipe us out?

We didn’t know.

Portfolio managers and tactical traders must be here, now, in the present moment, not dwelling on the recent past, there will be time for that later when things are calm and quiet. But even then, we can’t do anything in the past, we can only do it now.

I hope this helps.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. Shell Capital is focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. I observe the charts and graphs to visually see what is going on with price trends and volatility, it is not intended to be used in making any determination as to when to buy or sell any security, or which security to buy or sell. Instead, these are observations of the data as a visual representation of what is going on with the trend and its volatility for situational awareness. I do not necessarily make any buy or sell decisions based on it. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

 

 

Global Asset Allocation: Risk and reward isn’t a knob we turn to get what we want. 

I don’t believe I know anyone who invests all of their money in the stock market, all the time.

In order to invest all of your money in the stock market all the time, you’d have to be willing and able to accept a downside loss (drawdown) of -50% or worse. I say that because it’s the historical drawdown.

S&P 500 Stock Index Historical Drawdowns

In the S&P 500 Stock Index Historical Drawdowns chart below, we see -20% several times, -30% a few times, and -45% or more three times. It happens, it can happen, and it will happen again. It’s why I prefer to instead actively manage my risk for drawdown control.

Losses are exponential the deeper they get and too hard to overcome.

To truly understand the risk, I think we have to know if a market has fallen -50% in the past, it could certainly do it again in the future, or even worse. So, the risk isn’t some multiple times a volatility measure like Value at Risk, but instead, the possible loss is at least the worst historical drawdown. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future returns, so it could be worse next time, for all we know.

Since most people probably don’t have the risk tolerance, risk capacity, or financial ability to take that much risk, most investors invest in some fixed allocation of cash, bonds, and stocks. If they use an advisor, they most likely are further diversified into International markets to make it a diversified portfolio of Global Asset Allocation (GAA). To track Global Asset Allocation, I use the S&P Target Risk Indexes for Global Asset Allocation.

The short story is, S&P allocates between equities and fixed income.

TARGET RISK ALLOCATION

How has a Global Asset Allocation performed so far in 2020 through February?

To answer, I look at these S&P Target Risk Index. But, keep in mind, these indexes do not include fees such as advisory fees or trading costs. Clearly, more risk is not always compensated with more return. All of them are down, but the more aggressive allocation to stocks hasn’t resulted in more return, but less, so far.

Global Asset Allocation GAA performance 2020

In fact, the % off high shows the drawdown for each of the Target Risk Indexes. You can probably see why “growth” and “aggressive” isn’t always as it sounds.

Global Asset Allocation GAA Target Risk Drawdown

Risk and reward isn’t a knob we get to turn to get what we want.

I prefer to rotate, rather than allocation, and actively increase and decrease my exposure to the possibility of risk and reward. It’s the only way I know that has the potential for my objective of asymmetric risk-reward.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. Shell Capital is focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. I observe the charts and graphs to visually see what is going on with price trends and volatility, it is not intended to be used in making any determination as to when to buy or sell any security, or which security to buy or sell. Instead, these are observations of the data as a visual representation of what is going on with the trend and its volatility for situational awareness. I do not necessarily make any buy or sell decisions based on it. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

I’ve been here before; stocks are entering the zone

Based on breadth and short term momentum indicators, the U.S. stock market is entering what I consider to be the green zone. The green zone is the lower risk area, which is the opposite of the higher risk red zone. As I pursue asymmetric risk-reward by structuring trades with asymmetric payoffs, I’d rather lower my risk in the red zone and increase it in the green zone. Said another way, to structure trades with an asymmetric payoff, I believe the positive asymmetry comes from increasing exposure in the green zone and reducing exposure in the red zone. However, it isn’t a buy or sell signal for me, but instead a risk indicator. My buying and selling is an individual position decision, but my stock portfolio is probably going to be in synch with these overall market risk analysis at extremes.

S&P 500 Percent of Stocks Above 50 Day Moving Average is an indicator showing the percentage of stocks in the S&P 500 that closed at a higher price than the 50-day simple moving average. The chart below was updated after Friday’s close. Only 3% of the stocks in the S&P 500 Index are trading above their 50-day moving average, a short term trend line.

BREADTH PERCENT ABOVE 50 DAY MOVING AVERAGE SPX 500

If you want to see how I applied it in the last big stock market decline, read “An exhaustive analysis of the U.S. stock market” late December 2018 when I suggested the probability was in favor of reversal back up was high. The next day, on December 24, 2018, in “An exhaustive stock market analysis… continued,” I shared:

After prices have declined, I look for indications that selling pressure may be getting more exhausted and driving prices to a low enough point to attract buying demand. That’s what it takes to reverse the trend.

I’ve been here before.

I’m seeing similar signals now, as you can see in the above chart, the participation in the downtrend has now reached the same level as the price lows of 2018.

Now, make no mistake, trends downtrends can continue. Price trends can unfold unlike anything ever seen in the past as every new moment is unique, having never existed before – so past performance is no guarantee of future results. I have never actually been here before, no one has, but I’ve experienced this kind of condition many times before.

I’ve shared many times, my indicators measure buying and selling demand, so when most stocks are already participating in uptrends, it signals those who wanted to buy have already. I believe the same is true for downtrends; aftermost stocks are already in downtrends, those who wanted to sell may have already sold, their selling becomes exhausted, and when prices are pushed down low enough, it attracts buyers to buy. It’s all probabilistic, never a sure thing. It seems many investors were shocked by the speed and magnitude of his waterfall decline – I was not. If you’ve followed my observations, you’ve read enough to know anything is possible.

The S&P 500 Percent of Stocks Above 500 Day Moving Average is also entering what I considered the green zone.

spx trading advisor

As such, the stock market looks deeply oversold to me. Since I already reducted exposure before this decline, we view this period from a position of strength. It doesn’t always work out so well, it’s always imperfect, but I’m not sitting here down -13% from two weeks ago taking a beating hoping the losses stop.

stock loss 2020 drawdown

Managing risk when it’s at a high level for drawdown control offers the potential to be in a position of strength at times like this, and it’s my preference. Portfolio managers with cash or profits from hedging now can enter stocks and markets at lower-risk entry points with a more favorable asymmetric risk-reward profile than before.

Although, as John Galt shared with me this next chart this morning on Twitter and said, “These are the pros & they were blindsided,” not all professionals are in a position of strength. The chart shows the net exposure to stock index futures at a high level.

spx futures exposure

Everyone gets what we want from the market; as we decide what we get.

If we want to avoid drawdowns, we reduce the risk of drawdown.

If we want to avoid missing out on gains, we stay invested to avoid missing out on gains.

Regardless of choice, it’s never going to be perfect. Those who expect it to be are always disappointed and unable to execute as a tactical operator. This is a human performance that prefers the “C” students. If we weren’t included to get perfect “A,” we have an edge for this skill. I focus my perfection on execution, but not on the individual outcomes.

I accept losses, so I’m able to cut them short. I’ve never taken a loss that was a mistake.

For me, not taking the loss as I had predetermined would be the mistake.

I love taking losses.

It’s why I have smaller ones. I prefer to cut my losses short, rather than let them become big losses.

If I didn’t love taking losses, I would have large losses like others do. Most investors hold on to their losses, hoping to recover from them. Sometimes it works, but when the big one comes, it doesn’t. I prefer more control, so I make active decisions and manage accordingly. Never expecting it to be perfect, accepting the imperfections.

My energy goes into my focus and discipline. For me, it’s all about mindset. I’m a perfectionist on how I execute my tactical trading decisions, which is the activity within my control.

When I enter a position, I can’t control what it will do afterward, but my exit will determine the result every time.

When I exit a position, I can’t control what the security does afterward, but I can re-enter it again if I want, or be glad I got out. Or, I may imperfectly not re-enter and later notice it trended up more. I still didn’t miss out, I made my choice.

So, yeah, I’ve been here before, in this kind of situation. All new moments are always unique. This time has never existed yet, so it’s necessarily unknowable and uncertain. When we accept it and embrace it, we can make decisions and go with the flow. The good news is, this seems like a lower risk level, and though it may make an even lower low at some point and yet unfold into a major bear market, it’s an asymmetric trading opportunity for me.

I enter my positions with predetermined exits in case I’m wrong, and let it rip.

Oh, and I glance at headlines and make note of them at extremes.

bearish bloomberg news coronavirus

I’ll just leave this right here for later reference.

WSJ bearish coronavirus news

I hope this helps.

Have questions? Need help? Get in touch here.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. Shell Capital is focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. I observe the charts and graphs to visually see what is going on with price trends and volatility, it is not intended to be used in making any determination as to when to buy or sell any security, or which security to buy or sell. Instead, these are observations of the data as a visual representation of what is going on with the trend and its volatility for situational awareness. I do not necessarily make any buy or sell decisions based on it. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

The stock index falls below its long-term trend, but stocks are now getting oversold

The stock index falls below its long-term trend, but just as stocks are getting oversold. The 200-day moving average was about 11% below the high February 19th, just eight days ago.

spx spy 200 day moving average trend 11 percent Feb 2020

As you can see in the chart, this has been a sharp waterfall decline and one I’m glad we avoided so far. For those of us in a position of strength, we stalk the market actively looking for a lower-risk entry point that offers the potential for asymmetric risk-reward payoff. An asymmetric payoff is when we structure our positions so our potential for downside loss is limited to much less than the potential for capital gains.

The stock market is now getting more oversold on a short term basis.

Only 21% of S&P 500 stocks are above their 50 day moving average. That’s a lot of broken uptrend lines shifting into downtrends.

stock market oversold

In the chart, I colored the “buy zone” in green. As you can see, it’s now down to a level I consider an indication that selling pressure may become exhausted as long as prices have been sold down to a low enough level to attract buying demand.

The stock market, and stock prices, are driven by supply and demand. It’s that simple. Measuring supply and demand isn’t so simple for most investors.

In the bigger picture, the longer-term trend lines are still at the 50-yard line, which is where all but one of the past five declines stopped. Of course, the one time stocks really got sold down was late 2018. Only time will tell if this becomes another period like that, but right now, those of us who had reduced or removed exposure to the market losses are probably looking to buy.

stock market breadth

The longer-term trend lines are holding better, which is no surprise because stocks had trended up well above their longer trend lines. For example, the S&P 500 index was trading about 11% above its own 200 day moving average and it just now crossed below it. When many stocks are trending that far above their trend line, it takes more of a price decline to trigger the percent of stocks to fall.

february 2020 stock market loss decline

Stocks market declines to tend to be asymmetric. Prices trend down faster than they trend up. After prices trend down, contagion sets in the lower prices fall. Prices then get driven down even more simply because investors are selling to avoid further loss. But, someone has to be on the other side of their panic selling. It’s those who had the cash to buy.

If you sell higher, you can buy lower.

Need help? Contact us here.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. I observe the charts and graphs to visually see what is going on with price trends and volatility, it is not intended to be used in making any determination as to when to buy or sell any security, or which security to buy or sell. Instead, these are observations of the data as a visual representation of what is going on with the trend and its volatility for situational awareness. I do not necessarily make any buy or sell decisions based on it. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Stock market recoveries are a process, not an event

After yesterday’s close, the popular stock market indexes, including the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, and NASDAQ were down around -3% for the day.

stock market

Adding volatility bands around the price trend and its 20 day moving average illustrates a volatility expansion as prices have spread out to a wider trading range. The S&P 500 stock index traded below its lower volatility band, which expands as the price action becomes volatile. Volatility bands and channels help to answer: Are prices high or low on a short term relative basis? The recent price action is relatively high at the upper band and low at the lower band. By the way, I observe the charts and graphs to visually see what is going on with price trends and volatility, it is not intended to be used in making any determination as to when to buy or sell any security, or which security to buy or sell. Instead, these are observations of the data as a visual representation of what is going on with the trend and its volatility for situational awareness. I do not necessarily make any buy or sell decisions based on it. 

volatility expansion bollinger band

At this point, the stock index has traded below its band, demonstrating panic level selling pressure outside what I consider a normal range of price action. 

Volatility channels are even more useful when combined with other indicators for confirmation. Next, I add a momentum measure for confirmation the index is oversold on a short-term basis. It can get more oversold, but a short term reversal now becomes likely if the desire to sell has become exhausted. 

spx spy countertrend trend following asymmetric risk reward

The potential good news for those with exposure to loss, in the short term, we may see a countertrend move back up to retrace some of the stock market losses. However, this will be the test to see if selling pressure has been exhausted or if prices have been driven down low enough to attract sufficient buying interest to push the price trends back up.

Another observation I’ll share is after the close, we recalculated the percent of S&P 500 stocks above their 200 day moving average using the end of day prices. The percent of stocks above their 200 day moving average is now at the 50-yard line, whit bout half of the SPX stocks in a longer-term uptrend and a half in a downtrend. Obviously, that’s more stocks now below the trend line than when I shared it yesterday.

percent of spx stocks above below 200 day moving average

A more significant decline is seen in the percent of stocks above their 50-day moving averages, which fell 38% to only 23% of S&P 500 stocks trading above their shorter-term moving average trend line.

percent of stocks above below 50 day moving average breadth

So, at least on a short term basis, selling pressure has pushed stocks down to the point more are in downtrends than uptrends.

Next, we’ll see if sellers have pushed prices low enough to attract significant buying demand. I expect to see at least a short term countertrend back up, as investors overreacted to the downside, but only time will tell if any countertrend up is sustainable long term. My longer-term indicators are neutral at this point, so there could be more selling if investors and traders anchor to prior highs wishing they’d sold previously and sell into an uptrend.

My objective is asymmetric returns, so I focus on asymmetric risk-reward. After prices seem to trend up too far, too fast, by my quantitative mathematical calculations, the asymmetric returns from future prices are limited, and the asymmetric risk is increased. After prices seem to fall too far, too fast, by my quantitative mathematical calculations, the asymmetric risk-reward profile becomes more positive. And, all of it is probabilistic, none of it is ever a sure thing.

It’s a process, not an event.

As I shared yesterday; Stock prices may not be finished falling, but some opportunities for asymmetric risk-reward may be present for those willing to take risks.  

Need help? Contact us here

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. I observe the charts and graphs to visually see what is going on with price trends and volatility, it is not intended to be used in making any determination as to when to buy or sell any security, or which security to buy or sell. Instead, these are observations of the data as a visual representation of what is going on with the trend and its volatility for situational awareness. I do not necessarily make any buy or sell decisions based on it. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

Employment, Coronavirus, it’s just the market, doing what it does…

It seems most people probably believe the news drives the stock market.

I can see why, since the news headlines want to tell a story.

We like a great story. We want to hear the narrative. We definitely want to believe we know the causation of things going on around us.

Do you believe the news drives stock price trends?

Coronavirus Live Updates: Trump Praises China’s Response to Outbreak as Death Toll Passes 600 – New York Times 

The Coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan China has grown exponentially as asymmetric uncertainties usually do. According to Worldometer, there are now 31,535 of which 4,826 (15%) in critical condition 638 deaths and 1,778 have recovered. 
number of Coronavirus Cases
The Coronavirus outbreak only started less than a month ago, but its rate is exponential.
coronavirus total cases deaths
This is not the kind of asymmetry we want to observe. I hope a cure is found soon to save these human lives.
How has the stock market reacted?

The S&P 500 gained over 3% the past 5 days anyway… 

spy spx trend following etf

It’s just the market… doing what it does…

This morning, in the U.S. we get great news on employment data.

The US Unemployment Rate measures the percentage of total employees in the United States that are a part of the labor force but are without a job. It’s one of the most widely followed indicators of the health of the US labor market and the US economy as a whole. Historically, the US Unemployment Rate reached as high as 10.80% in 1982 during a notable recessionary period.

The low Unemployment Rate has been a bright spot for the U.S. economy since unemployment trended up sharply in 2008 and peaked at 10.10% in November 2009, the highest level since ’82. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here the trend. from January 2007 to November 2009 as Unemployment Rate increased sharply from 4.4% to 10.10% in about two years.

us unemployment peak 2008 2009

Looking at the US Unemployment Rate in the bigger picture, below are the trends and cycles going back over sixty years. US Unemployment Rate is at 3.60%, compared to 3.50% last month and 4.00% last year. This is lower than the long term average of 5.73%. The last recession was the second-highest unemployment and it has recovered even smoother than before.

US UNEMPLOYMENT RATE

The headlines today:

January adds a much stronger-than-expected 225,000 jobs, with a boost from warm weather” – CNBC

The stock indexes are down over -0.50% anyway…

I say: It’s just the market, doing what it does… 

I believe investors underreact and overreact to new information “news.”

An overreaction is when price trends become overbought or oversold driven by psychological and investor sentiment reasons rather than fundamentals. It’s why we see crashes and bubbles, over short term and long term periods.

An underreaction is when investors initially underreact to new information such as earnings announcements, which leads to a predictable price drift. In other words, underreaction drives price trends!

Prices drift up or down over time when investors underreact to information.

Prices overshoot, trade up or down too far, too fast, when investors overreact to information.

This why my focus is on the direction of price trends, along with volatility, investor sentiment, and multiple time frame momentum.

My directional trend following systems are designed to catch the trends that drift from underreaction.

My countertrend systems signaled by momentum, extreme investor sentiment, and volatility analysis, are engineered to capitalize on overreactions.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

 

Global Macro: is the coronavirus outbreak crushing the China ETF and causing the volatility expansion?

The past five days have been a little choppy in price action.

SPX january 2020

If you’ve been following my observations, it should be a surprise as a volatility expansion was expected.

The VIX CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index has gained 34% the past five days, so it’s a volatility expansion indeed. At the 17 level, the VIX now implies a 17% volatility in prices over the next 30 days. So, the options market traders expect more vol.

VIX asymmetric risk reward return

I’m no day trader, but I monitor global macro trends daily both systematically through my programs as well as manually and visually. For me, the global macro trend includes other countries and over 100 markets including volatility.

Speaking of other countries…

Below is the US equity index drawdown so far relative to the Emerging Markets Index and EAFE which is developed international countries. Emerging Markets EM is the laggard.

SPY EFA EEM

Looking deeper, here are the country holdings for EEM. China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India are the main exposures in the EM index.

emering markets countires eem holdings

Here are the price trends of China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India that are the principal exposures in the EM index.

global macro trends coronavirus

The drawdowns of these emerging markets countries have been notably greater than the US so far. China and Brazil have fallen the most. As we have been positioned in short tern U.S. Treasuries recently, We have no exposure to these markets.

global macro trend following

I’m sure many investors believe it’s caused by the Coronavirus spreading across China and now the world. At this point, it may be driving some selling for some, but it’s really the market, doing what it does. To be clear, I’m saying the market would respond similarly regardless of the news headlines, because of the math. For some, that may sound provocative and I hope it is at least thought-provoking because I mean it.

To be sure… my assumption is testable.

The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan city, Central China, in December 2019. It is believed to have originated from wild animals, passing to humans due to the wildlife trade and wet markets. However, Google Trends doesn’t show any activity until January 17th and then it jumped on January 24th.

when did coronavirus outbreak first make headlines

Next, I chart the price trend of the MSCI China stock index ETF along with the CBOE China ETF Volatility Index. Cboe Options Exchange (Cboe) now applies its proprietary Cboe Volatility Index® (VIX®methodology to create indexes that reflect expected volatility for options on select exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Cboe calculates and disseminates the Cboe China ETF Volatility Index (ticker VXFXI), which reflects the implied volatility of the FXI ETF.

Here we see the price trend up to January 17th was up over the past year and the implied volatility was near its low.

china stock trend coronavirus impact on market volatility

And to be sure, here is the chart going back a decade and I marked the lowest point of the China ETF VIX index to show implied volatility had reached an extreme low this month prior to the coronavirus outbreak.

china stock etf vix coronavirus

So, here is the price trend of the China ETF and its volatility index over the past 30 days. The low implied volatility was January 17th, so I was expecting a volatility expansion regardless of any news headlines that would suggest the blame for it. Indeed that’s what we’ve seen.

china etf stocks market vix volatility coronavirus

I believe the markets do what they do and some news gets the headline and the blame. Trends trend and then reverse because mathematically, they reach extreme lows and highs in their momentum making them more likely to reverse direction.

We have no way of knowing exactly why there has been enough selling pressure from investors and traders drive down China stocks, but I expected a volaltity expansion anyway, so if I had exposure to the China ETF  I would have responded accordingly. I didn’t and still don’t, so this is simply for informational purposes, as always.

I believe my systems and methods are robust because I focus on the actual direction of the price trend and its volatility, and the price trend is the final arbiter.  I’ve been doing what I do, over and over, for over two decades now. I’ve just gotten better at it with experience.

I don’t care so much about what news may be driving the trend, I focus on the market overreaction and underreaction and that’s observed in the price and volatility.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

 

 

 

Now, THIS is what a stock market top looks like!

Stock Market Risk is Elevated

I walked out the front door this morning with a cup of coffee to take the pup out and pick up my weekly Barron’s in the driveway.

When I got inside, I opened it up and BEHOLD! 

Barrons cover signal indicator

Gracing the cover of Barron’s is:

“Dow 30,000 THE MARKET’S BIG RUN: Why stocks could vault past the milestone”

I haven’t read the article, as the cover is signal enough for me.

The Magazine cover indicator says that the cover story on the major business magazines is often a contrary indicator.

I’m sure they made a great case for higher stock prices.

The trend is your friend until it ends.

Markets can remain irrational longer than you expect, but there are times when markets overreact and the probability of a trend reversal becomes more and more likely.

This looks like one of those times.

I searched for other headlines:

Dow 30,000 Barron's

I found a few.

barron's dow 30,000 melt up won't stop

And as a friend on Twitter pointed out, it’s way ahead of schedule. In 2017 Barron’s said :

“Next Stop Dow 30,000” and followed with “the Dow could surpass 30,000 by the year 2025.”

dow 30,000 2017 barron's call

So far, Barron’s was right on that prediction. Below is the Dow price trend since the cover in 2017. But, consider the Dow is near 30,000 five years earlier than expected. 

dow performance barron's 2017 30,000 call to 2020

Notwithstanding the Dow is only about 2% from 30,000, the articles are calling for more uptrend. Sure, it’s possible this calm uptrend will continue to drift up without a volatility expansion, but it’s become much less likely as I see it.

I love me some good quiet uptrends, but all good things eventually come to an end.

In the case of equity market trends, these calm uptrends usually end when the majority least expect it.

That seems to be the case now.

Right now, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is signaling the higher likelihood of a volatility expansion. I say this because the Dow price trend has drifted above its average true range volatility channel and the Bollinger Band® lines plotted two standard deviations away from a 20-day simple moving average. These volatility measures visually illustrate volatility expansions and contractions and signal when a price trend moves outside it’s “normal” range. I call it “the normal noise of the market.” Periods of low volatility are often followed by volatility expansions.

dow 30,000 trend

My observations this week seem especially important because risk levels have become more elevated, yet individual investor sentiment is extremely optimistic.

As I’ve had very high exposure to stocks, I have now taken profits in our managed portfolios.

It’s a good time to evaluate portfolio risk levels for exposure to the possibility of loss and determine if you are comfortable with it. 

For more information on my observations that risk is becoming elevated, read:

You probably want to invest in stocks

Investor sentiment is dialed up with stock trends

Is gold a good buy right now?

What’s the stock market going to do next?

Questions, comments, need help? email me here.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor in Florida, Tennessee, and Texas focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

What’s the stock market going to do next?

Last week, I ended “You probably want to invest in stocks” with: Is it a good time to buy stocks? That’s my next observation as I’ll share the big picture.

As promised, here is my observation and insight on the big picture as well as the short term possibilities.

THE BIG PICTURE 

First, I start with the big picture.

The S&P 500 is trading at 31.8 x earnings per share according to the Shiller PE Ratio which is the second-highest valuation level it has been in 150 years. Only in 1999 did the stock index trade at a higher multiple times earnings.

Shiller PE ratio for the S&P 500

This price-earnings ratio is based on average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years, known as the Cyclically Adjusted PE Ratio (CAPE Ratio), Shiller PE Ratio, or PE 10.

What is the P/E 10 and how is it calculated?

  1. Look at the yearly earning of the S&P 500 for each of the past ten years.
  2. Adjust these earnings for inflation, using the CPI (ie: quote each earnings figure in 2020 dollars)
  3. Average these values (ie: add them up and divide by ten), giving us e10.
  4. Then take the current Price of the S&P 500 and divide by e10.

The bottom line is, the stock market valuation has been expensive for a while now. The only time I factor in the price-earnings ratio is in the big picture. Although it isn’t a good timing indicator, it is considered a measure of the margin of safety for many investors and at this elevated level, there is no margin of safety by this measure.

As such, risk seems high in the big picture, which suggests investors should access their exposure to the possibility of loss in stocks and stock funds to be prepared for a trend reversal.

WHY MANAGE THE POSSIBILITY OF LOSS? WHY NOW?

That’s about as far as I go with “fundamental valuation” as quantitatively, I know to focus more on the direction of trends, momentum, and volatility.

So, let’s take a look.

STOCK MARKET MOMENTUM SEEMS STRETCHED.

I love me some up trends and momentum, but… sometimes all the gains come in a short period… and that’s what we’ve seen the past three months.

SPX SPY TREND AVERAGE LEVEL PAST YEAR

Just for fun, I included the average level of the S&P 500 (SPX) in the chart to show what level would be “mean reversion” if it happened. I don’t expect it to drop the low, but it’s interesting to see, nevertheless.

Next, I include the relative strength of SPX which measures the velocity of the price trend recently.

S&P relative strength momentum asymmetic returns

I highlighted the upper area red because when relative strength is really high, it often results in a price decline. Think of it as a “too far, too fast” indicator, but like all signals, it’s imperfect.

I highlighted the lower level as green because when prices fall so far, so fast that its relative strength is this low, the trend eventually reverses back up. It’s a measure of selling exhaustion.

Looking at the same data, but from a different angle, here you can see the correlation between the higher and lower relative strength levels and what happened next with the price trend.

SPX SPY RSI RELATIVE STRENGTH

In observing relative strength daily for over two decades now, in my observations, this level of relative strength suggests this is in the high-risk zone.

But, quantitative analysis of price trends is best observed through different confirming indicators.

THE WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE 

For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip too much of a detailed definition, but the percent of S&P 500 stocks trading above their 200 day moving average is a measure of market breadth. Market breadth shows us what percent of stocks are participating in the trend. Right now, 87% of the S&P 500 stocks are trading in longer-term uptrends as defined by the 200-day moving average.

percent of stocks above 200 day moving average SPX SPY

The high participation in the trend is a good thing until it reaches higher levels and extremes, then I start wondering where the next buying enthusiasm is going to come from. I start looking for the buying pressure to dry up. The red line I drew marks the three peak levels over the past year for reference.

In case you are wondering, here is how high the current level is relative to the past fifteen years.

investment trading offense and defense risk management

It’s up there.

I analyze markets as to the direction of the trends, momentum, volaltity and investor sentiment.

VOLATILITY LEVEL AND DIRECTION 

When it comes to volatility, I look at both the direction and rate of change in volatility, but also the level. I also split volatility into two completely different parts: implied (expected) volatility and realized (historical) volatility.

Starting with implied volatility, the VIX is extremely low again at 12.19. As we see in this long term chart, volatility cycles up and down over time, but it doesn’t really “revert to the mean.” To illustrate it, I included the long term average of 19.

VIX $VIX LONG TERM AVERAGE OF THE VIX

The bottom line is, implied volatility, which is the expected volatility as implied by options prices shows a very low expected range of prices over the next 30 days. That’s positive until it isn’t.

At such low levels in implied volatility, we should expect to see another volatility expansion.

Next is the historical volatility on the S&P 500 index, which is the 30 Day Rolling Volatility. Here we calculate 30 Day Rolling Volatility as Standard Deviation of the last 30 percentage changes in Total Return Price * Square-root of 252 then multiplying the standard deviation by the square root of 252 to return an annualized measure. 252 is the number of trading days in a year.

I’m sure you needed to hear that. I won’t do it again.

S&P 500 spx spy historical realized volatility expansion

I drew a red line over its history to highlight the current level. Historically, it’s on the low end. Volatility is commonly used as a measure of a security’s riskiness. Typically investors view a high volatility as high risk.

However, the opposite is true.

Volatility decreases over time as price trends up and by the time the price peaks, investors so confident the trend will continue they become very complacent. When volatility is extremely low as it is now, it’s when the risk of a price decline increases.

The opposite is also true. When volatile expands to a high level, it does so because prices have fallen and investors are indecisive, causing the range of stock prices to spread out. Prices spreading out is volatility and we see it spike at stock market lows.

What’s going to happen next?

The trend is up, it’s a quiet uptrend as volatility is contracting, and most stocks are trending up.

Everything is good until it isn’t.

KNOW YOUR RISK LEVEL AND RISK TOLERANCE. 

Everything is impermanent, nothing lasts forever, so this too shall pass and by my measures, it’s getting closer.

So, I implemented my drawdown control and took profits on stocks today.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global TacticalMike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Is gold a good buy right now?

Individual investors seem to get sucked in after prices trend up.

I’ve had two friends ask this week if it’s a good time to buy gold.

Of course, they as after gold at a new high over the past year.

^SPX_IGPUSD_chart

 Although looking at the gold price since 1980, it hasn’t reached the high it did about seven years ago.

is gold a good buy right now

The fact the price is still below the peak price it reached late 2011 is an observation of the downside risk of investing in gold. Since the 2011 gold rush, the gold price gradually trended down over -40%.

gold asymmetric risk reward asymmetry ratio

Part my ASYMMETRY® investment strategy is to consider what I call the ASYMMETRY® Ratio, which is the total return over a period vs. the downside risk it took to achieve the return. My objective is asymmetric risk-reward, so we want asymmetric risk-reward profiles whereby the total return is multiples greater than the drawdown we have to experience to achieve it. The Asymmetry® Ratio is a ratio between profit and loss, upside vs. downside, or drawdown vs. total return. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how much the potential return is if the possibility of loss is so high you tap out before its achieved. So, we necessarily have to understand the asymmetric risk reward.

Is gold a good buy right now?

It depends on many factors, such as the personal objectives and portfolio management system.

If it’s someone just thinking of buying it arbitrarily as one said “because the stock market looks risky”, gold doesn’t necessarily look any less risky when I compare the trends.

gold vs stocks safe haven

If buying gold is part of a trend following trading system with risk management, then maybe the system enters it and uses the prior price low as an exit. In that case, the “risk” is defined by the difference between the current price and the prior low, which is 7% lower, rather than risking it all.

is gold a buy

The exit, not the entry, always determines the outcome.

What I mean is, it doesn’t so much matter when we buy something because we never know for sure in advance if it will go up or trend down. So, it’s what we do after we buy something that determines the outcome. And, if you just buy and hold without a predefined exit, then you’re risking it all.

You can probably see why I predetermine my loss in advance, should a price trend down. I want to cut it short, rather than risk it all. So, my risk is determined by my exit point, not what I’ve invested in.

Beyond that, gold has strong momentum as evidenced in the chart, but looks overbought in the short term, so it may pull back some. If I wanted to buy it (I don’t at this time nor do we own it) I would decide my exit based on the risk I’m willing to accept and let it rip.

We never know the outcome in advance, so I don’t focus on trying to be right all the time. I instead focus on how much money I’m willing to put on the table to see how it unfolds.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

 

How will the conflict with Iran impact global equity markets?

On December 30th someone tweeted the headline:

IRAN WARNS U.S. ITS MIDDLE EAST DOMINANCE IS OVER AFTER NAVAL DRILLS WITH RUSSIA, CHINA

I replied and shared the link to the Newsweek article about the threat from Iran:

According to the NPR timeline of Iran events, it started a few days sooner.

Friday, Dec. 27: Attack near Kirkuk

Militia group Kataib Hezbollah attacks the K1 military base near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk with rockets, killing an American contractor and wounding several American and Iraqi personnel. Kataib Hezbollah has ties to Iran. It has denied orchestrating the attack.

In response:

Sunday, Dec. 29: Trump orders some airstrikes

Tuesday, Dec. 31: Embassy compound stormed

On Tuesday morning, Iraqi supporters of Kataib Hezbollah begin storming the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The violence escalates, with militia members attempting to enter the embassy, starting fires and damaging the outside and a reception area of the embassy.

The conflict in Iran escalates:

Thursday, Jan. 2: Esper’s warning; Soleimani killed

Esper gives a statement emphasizing that the U.S. “will not accept continued attacks against our personnel & forces in the region.” He also sends a message to U.S. allies to “stand together” against Iran.

U.S. Marines are deployed:

Thousands of Marines Head to Middle East on Navy Ship as Iran Pledges Retaliation

A Navy amphibious assault ship with thousands of Marines on board will skip a planned training exercise in Africa to instead head toward the Middle East as tensions there spike.

Now, infantry from the U.S. Army:

750 soldiers with 82nd Airborne headed for CENTCOM, additional 4,000 troops expected to deploy as Iran tensions mount“At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the U.S. Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Tuesday evening in a written statement.

Just like that, we go from a relatively peaceful time to what may become another war in the middle east if Iran doesn’t stand down.For some of us, these things hit closer to home when we know those being deployed. But, you don’t sign up to be a U.S. Marine or Army Ranger expecting to get through your tour without deployment and the possibility of combat. As Americans, we are fortunate for our Sheepdogs yearning for a righteous battle: On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs.

How will the conflict with Iran impact U.S. and global equity markets?

I don’t know.

Neither does anyone else.

But I do have an idea, and it’s pretty obvious it isn’t positive news, though we never know for sure how the world markets will react to any news.

Although I am regarded as a “global macro” investment manager, I don’t focus so much on the “macro” as in “macroeconomics” as I do the direction of price trends and their volatility.

Economic indicators, as well as fundamental evaluations, have the potential to be very wrong and stay wrong. If you believe ABC stock is cheap at $50, you really believe it cheap as it falls -50% to $25 and then what if it drops to $5? Not my cup of tea.

That dog don’t hunt.

I focus instead on directional price trends.

The concept is very simple:

  • If I’m long an asset that is trending up, it’s good.
  • If I’m out of assets that are trending down, it’s good.
  • Or, if I’m short assets that are trending down with the potential to earn a profit from the downtrend, it’s good.

It’s easier said than done, so it isn’t so simple to operate. For example, what time frame is a trend? Why one time frame over another? It all has to be quantified to determine what is most robust.

And you know what? that changes, too.

It’s not as simple as running a backtest to determine the best signals, parameters, and time frame to apply them to and then expecting the future will be just like the past. Past performance doesn’t always indicate future results. So, this requires work. It also requires me to keep it real.

I’ve been pointing out for a few weeks that a volatility expansion seems imminent. Since I first observed it, the S&P 500 index had a minor decline of 2-4% before continuing its uptrend. The U.S. equity market has been bullish. But, here we are again. The price trend has drifted above its average true range channel. A price trending above its average true range is positive, but when it stays above it, it can also result in mean reversion. That is, the price may drift back toward the middle of the volatility channel like it did early December.

spx spy ATR volatilty expansion asymmetric

So, on a short term basis, the stock indexes have had a nice uptrend since October with low volatility, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see it reverse to a short term downtrend and a volatility expansion.

For those who were looking for a “catalyst” to drive a volatility expansion, now they have it.

We don’t know what’s going to happen next in Iran, but what I do know is exactly how I’ll respond to changing price trends.

I predetermine my exits in advance to cut losses short.

I predefined my risk and know how much risk exposure I have at any time.

Since I do this for all of my positions, I know how much risk I have accepted in each individual position, but I also know how much portfolio risk I have for drawdown control.

As a simple example, if I had 15 positions across global markets and each of them has their own individual exit points where I would sell to reduce exposure, then I can use the summation of that risk at the portfolio level to predetermine a drawdown limit. Of course, any hedging positions such as a short S&P position, reduce the portfolio risk of the longs, too. And, not all of these global positions are necessarily driven by the same return drivers, so they may not all be correlated. So, they may not all trend up or down together. For example, when the S&P 500 stock index has had a down day of -1% or more the past fifteen years, the Long Term U.S. Treasury has gained an average of 0.80% on the same day. An even more asymmetric example is on the same day the stock index fell -1% or more, the long volatility index-based ETFs may have gained 5% to 15% on the same day.

It’s times like this when my process and systems become more obviously necessary.

For everyone else, there’s buy and hold with no limit to their downside loss.

That dog don’t hunt, for me. 

Let’s hope for peace in the middle east, but if they don’t want peace, Godspeed to our Troops as they enter and embrace the unknowable. 

Semper Fidelis.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Why invest globally?

Why invest in international markets? someone asked.

Go back to 2007 and it was more obvious. I remember just the opposite questioned posed then; why not invest it all in Emerging Markets? Of course, that was after this:

emerging markets eem $eem trend following asymmetric

Emerging markets were the dominant trend from 2003 to 2007. As the chart shows, it wasn’t even close: 358% for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index vs. 76% for the S&P 500 U.S. stock index.

emerging markets outperform

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index represents securities that are headquartered in emerging markets countries. An emerging market is considered a country that has not yet become developed because of economic characteristics. These countries tend to present a unique investment opportunity because of the nature of their growth potentials.

However, emerging countries aren’t without risk. MSCI Emerging Markets Index has had three notable drawdowns greater than 50% in 1998, 2001, and 2008.

emerging markets eem drawdowns

Back in 2007, when someone asked me “why not invest it all in Emerging Markets” I guessed it was likely the end. Even though the person was born in a foreign country and did business globally, the enthusiasm was a sign. Doing business around the world doesn’t make someone a global investment expert. As this investor did indeed invest their money in Emerging Markets as he confirmed when I saw him a few years later, the timing was terrible. In fact, based on the MSCI Emerging Markets Index chart since 2007 it sill is.

emerging markets since 2007

As we see the full history below, although international stock markets like Emerging Markets can have periods of drawdowns and otherwise non-trending times, there are still potentially profitable price trends that may be captured with a robust tactical method. I’ve avoided EM for a while now for obvious reasons.

msci emerging markets index history

Then, there are developed international markets. The MSCI EAFE Index tracks large-cap and mid-cap companies in developed countries around the world. The index primarily covers the Europe, Australasia, and the Far East regions. This index is used as an important international benchmark. The index has had large drawdowns in 2003 and 2009, which were largely due to recessionary periods. As you can see in the chart, the performance was similar to Emerging Markets. However, the gains on the upside weren’t as much.

msci eafe international markets

You can probably see why investors aren’t talking about these international stocks the last several years. We won’t hear about it until after they trend up a lot and make headlines and magazine covers. I’m a global tactical manager, but I’ve avoided EM and DM for many years now for obvious reasons, unlike global asset allocation which invests in it all the time.

I’m unconstrained and tactical, so I shift between markets based on trends and countertrends, rather than allocating to them for constant exposure to the risk-reward.

The chart above doesn’t exhibit asymmetric risk-reward by itself, but my special weapons and tactics aim to extract it from what is there.

More recently, I’ve mostly focused in high dividend yield global stocks. But, there will come a time when this market are the place to be and when they do, I have 30 other countries outside the United States in my universe.

Have a question or comment? shoot me an email below:

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Global Asset Allocation had a strong year in 2019, but…

People don’t usually invest all their money in equities, even though the stock market is mostly what we talk about. Large institutional investors like pensions and endowments don’t invest all their capital in the stock market, either. Instead, they invest in allocation to stocks and bonds globally diversified across world markets.

One of my favorite examples of the stock and bond part of this global asset allocation is the S&P Dow Jones Indices’ Target Risk index series.

S&P Dow Jones Indices’ Target Risk series comprises multi-asset class indices that correspond to a particular risk level. Each index is fully investable, with varying levels of exposure to equities and fixed income and are intended to represent stock and bond allocations across a risk spectrum from conservative to aggressive.

global asset allocation ETF ETFs ishares S&P target risk

For example, after a positive year for stocks and bonds, most investors will pay more attention to the one that gained the most. After stocks outperform bonds, the best gains are naturally going to be the global allocation that held the most stock exposure.

The S&P Target Risk Aggressive® Index is one of four multi-asset class indices that compose the S&P Target Risk Series. The S&P Target Risk Aggressive Index emphasizes exposure to equities, maximizing opportunities for long-term capital accumulation. It may include small allocations to fixed income to enhance portfolio efficiency. In a positive year like 2019, it was the clear winner on the upside. The aggressive allocation gained 19% so far in 2019. On the other end of the spectrum, even the conservative allocation gained 10%.

But, risk isn’t a knob.

Asset allocators don’t get to dial it up or down, and it always work out the way they want.

The reward isn’t a knob, either.

Just because a portfolio is dialed up with risk to “aggressive” doesn’t mean you get the reward from it.

That’s especially true in the short term. Had you believed risk and reward is a knob you turn to get what you want in January a year ago, you could have experienced the aggressive allocation resulted in the more aggressive loss.

The conservative model lost the least, but that isn’t a sure thing, either. In global asset allocation, conservative means more allocation to bonds for fixed income. If bonds fall and stocks rise, the conservative model could lose money and the more stock weighted aggressive could gain.

Diversification is often presented by advisors as a risk management strategy that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio. But, diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss. The outcome of asset allocation is driven by the exposure to stocks vs. bonds and their gain and loss.

That’s not what I do.

A global asset allocation of exposures that otherwise remain static is very different from dynamic exposures that change based on asymmetric risk-reward driving tactical decisions.

My outcome is decided by my tactical increase and decreases in exposure to risk-reward as I focus on asymmetric risk-reward. I believe there is a time for offense and a  time for  defense.

But, for everyone else, there’s global asset allocation. It’s what most people do. They allocate capital, I rotate capital. I rotate, rather than allocate.

If I were going to invest in static, long-only, fully invested all the time global asset allocation, it would look like these S&P Target Risk indexes. When it comes to a simple allocation of capital, who’s going to do it better than S&P? Many advisors are charging their clients 0.50% to 1% for a simple asset allocation like this. I personally believe the risk of a disaster is so high it makes the unmanaged risk imprudent, so we don’t offer fixed, long-only, fully invested all the time global asset allocation at Shell Capital. If we did, we’d probably manage billions because investors want “market returns” until they are big losses. We could also spend our time selling instead of analyzing. But we would constantly be apologizing for market behavior instead of embracing up and downtrends. In my opinion, it’s a difficult business model, but it’s still the easiest for financial advisors. They allocate to the funds, rebalance routinely, maybe do some tax-loss harvesting, and write a commentary about what the market did that lead to their results. Admittedly, it’s a lot easier than tactical portfolio management. When the market doesn’t do what they wanted, it’s the market’s fault. In 2008, they said let’s  “hunker down.”

From my perspective, the investment advisory firms with the largest assets under management tend to be asset allocation firms. They advise clients to invest in global asset allocation models similar to these. Since they aren’t doing constant research and making tactical trading decisions, their time is freed up for the golf course, where they meet more and more clients.

Why do I think it’s a challenging advisory business model?

Global asset allocation doesn’t give me what I want, nor does it give our clients what they want. We want active risk management. We want a point in which we’ll reduce our exposure to loss and maybe even reverse it so as prices fall we profit from it. Sure, like global asset allocation, tactical portfolio management does not assure a profit or guarantee protection against a loss, either. But, like any other action in life vs. inaction, it’s an attempt, which to me, is better than no attempt at all.

What I know is this: global markets can and do all fall together in times of crisis when investors who held their losses too long keep tapping out as prices fall.

global asset allocation diversification failed 2008

Even the most respected global allocation funds participated in the waterfall decline enough to tap out most investors I know if they had invested in them – we didn’t.

I know some advisors and media have been criticizing the “hedge fund” side of the investment industry for years now because total returns haven’t been as high as the past. I don’t think passive indexing advisors have all that much to speak about themselves. Even the most aggressive index allocation that assumes no fees is a 26% gain in the past three years. That’s not an average gain, it’s a gain in capital.

More importantly, those numbers haven’t changed over the past 5 years. So, the past 5 years haven’t been so outstanding for anyone, especially factoring in the volatility.

In fact, it’s caused by volaltity. Volatility eats away at compounding capital positively.

Speaking of volatility, it’s the downside volatility we don’t like. Here are the historical drawdowns of these indexes since they launched in 2011.

If you look close, to get the return of global asset allocation, you’d have to hold through declines of -10% to -20% routinely. In a big bear market will be worse, which hasn’t happened since these indexes weRE made available.

That’s why I believe even a passive global asset allocation is a risky business and not an investment model I’m willing to offer. If people we know want global asset allocation, we show them a way to get it without us. We only offer what we believe is of value.

I can’t imagine what it would be like in 2011 when these global allocations were falling and all we can say is “Hopefully it stops falling?”

But, what if it doesn’t?

What if it keeps falling?

I believe everyone has a tap-out point. We can either determine it in advance or find out the hard way. The tap-out point will be tested over and over with global asset allocation.

But, 2019 wasn’t one of those years, so everyone has something to celebrate this year.

When the wind is blowing, we can let out the sail and enjoy the ride.

When the wind stops blowing, we have to row, not sail, or risk sinking.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Is Santa Claus coming to town?

A Santa Claus Rally refers to the tendency for the stock market to trend up in the last week of December into the New Year. Several theories exist for its existence, including holiday shopping, enthusiasm fueled by the holiday spirit, and professional investment managers adjusting portfolios before going on vacation.

From the look of today’s price action, Santa came early. For me, it’s all about math and the status of the trend. U.S. stocks continue their uptrend with a volatility expansion.

volatlity expansion

How much more momentum the uptrend will have may be near exhaustion.

Considering the price trend of the stock index is already trended above the top end of the range, it will take a strong thrust of buying enthusiasm to drive it more than 1-2% higher from here.

So, this may be about it for 2019 gains for this broad index.

Only time will tell…

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The views and opinions expressed in ASYMMETRY® Observations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect a position of  Shell Capital Management, LLC. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Is the volatility expansion over?

Using the S&P 500 stock index as a proxy for the stock market, today we saw a modest uptick. It’s now back within a normal range. Realized volatility as measured by the average true range of the past 14 days has trended up. Volatility isn’t directional, so a volatility expansion involves but down and up days.

spx trading

Implied volatility of the S&P 500 stocks had a sharp move up and settled back down some today. Applying the same realized volatility measures to the VIX is a view of the realized vol of implied vol. Yesterday may turn out to have been a good time to exit long volatility positions, or maybe it explodes from here.

ViX #VIX $VIX volatility trading asymmetric

The VIX futures term structure closed 10% contango. The December VIX futures are 10% lower priced than January. The curve is flatter beyond February.

vix-futures-term-structu

This contango creates a headwind for VIX ETFs that roll each day as they sell the January futures at a lower price and buy the February at a 10% higher price. It’s why the VIX exchange-traded funds and notes trend dow long term. So, they aren’t suitable for anyone to hold for long.

VIX may stay within the range and the stock market trend back up.

We’ll see.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

An interview with yours truly: Investors are ignoring two major risks to stocks, warns fund manager

I don’t always do interviews with the media, but when I do, it’s with authors I enjoy reading.

In fact, I haven’t granted a major media interview since Forbes with Kata Stalter in 2012 “Using Price Trends to Maximize Profits.” Hard to believe that was seven years ago!

Yesterday I was interviewed by Barbara Kollmeyer, who is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid and we follow each other on Twitter. She picked out what I think is the most important thing to share with individual investors right now: this is a late-stage economic expansion and an aged bull market in stocks, so people should be prepared. Readers of ASYMMETRY® Observations will find it familiar, although I’ve lately been writing more about the short term trend.

The interview:

Investors are ignoring two major risks to stocks, warns fund manager

 

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Alerian MLP Index is diverging from crude and reaching new lows

The Alerian MLP Index is an interesting trend. It’s down -61% since inception. The Alerian MLP Index is a gauge of energy infrastructure Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) whose constituents earn the majority of their cash flow from midstream activities involving energy commodities. We’ve been noticing recently it has trended down to a lower low that 2016 while WTI Crude Oil Spot Price is much higher than it was then.

It’s an interesting divergence and may be an example of an asymmetric risk-reward if it reverses back up from this relatively low level. In theory, after such a downtrend further downside could be limited and the potential for upside greater. Of course, The Alerian MLP Index is an index, so it cannot be invested indirectly. I’m using it only as an example. The index could keep trending down much lower than anyone believes it can.

It is always essential to predetermine risk in advance. There are many things that could drive MLP prices lower, including trade deals, or lack thereof.

It will be fascinating to see how this trend unfolds and what it may be signaling about the global macro environment.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

 

Periods of low volatility are often followed by volatility expansions

I like uptrends, until the end when they bend.

This uptrend in U.S. stocks hasn’t seemed ready to bend, but we are observing signs a reversal down could be soon. I’m not necessarily talking about a market crash of -50%, but instead a decline of around -5% or so that we typically see a few times a year as we’ve seen twice this year.

The “long term” investors may wonder why it matters?

All big waterfall declines begin with smaller downtrends. Few stay “long term” investors after large declines. After -30% declines or more, most anyone’s financial plans become negatively impacted. It’s especially true since we don’t know how long it will take to recover and there is no guarantee it will.

So, as a tactical risk manager, I necessarily prepare and apply situational awareness. If we want to manage our drawdowns, we want to do it sooner than later. Everyone is always giddy at all-time highs, then regretful if they don’t derisk or hedge after a downtrend.

Below is an example of a measure of realized volatility charted with the stock index. The top line is the 20-day average true range of the S&P 500 (SPX) and the lower is its price trend. I marked it up to show the average true range indicates a volaltity contraction like we’ve seen twice this year. The point is it preceded a volatility expansion and price declines.  I also added the blue bands around the price trend that reflect two times the average true range of the price trend. When the price trend moves outside this volatility band, I consider it simply outside its recently normal range. As you can see, it can stay outside its range for a while, but the price trend mostly oscillates inside this range. When it swings outside the range, it means reverts or swings the other way.

Average True Range ATR use in portfolio management trading volatlity

We can say the same for expected volatility, as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index, which measures implied volatility on the S&P 500 stocks. The VIX has declined to the 12 level, the low level of its historical range.

VIX $VIX #VIX IMPLIED VOLATLITY

Periods of low volatility are often followed by volatility expansions.

The SPX trend can trend higher, and volaltity can drift lower, but in the short run, it’s a good time to check thy risk.

Investment management is all about probabilities and possibilities, so you can probably see the direction is most probable, though anything is possible.

Why does any of this matter? read Why we row, not sail.

For an update, see A volatility expansion seems imminent

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

Active management and tactical allocation isn’t the only method with “strategy risk” as global asset allocation can get off track, too

Most investors, individual and institutional, apply some kind of asset allocation method to a portfolio mix of cash, bonds, and stocks. The most diversified also invest internationally,  so their portfolio is global. The most common method is strategic asset allocation, which allocates capital to funds that represent different parts of the stock and bond markets based on some prediction of future exected returns or historical returns along with variance. There isn’t much skill to it unless you can predict the future better than others.

That’s Global Asset Allocation and it’s especially what large institutional investors like pensions and endowments do.

Since around 2002, most financial advisors have adopted it as well. I say 2002 because that was when I remember even the large Wall Street brokers like J.P. Morgan and Merrill Lynch starting to teach their financial advisors to use Modern Portfolio Theory to create Global Asset Allocation portfolios. Although in many cases, these investment brokers and banks don’t necessarily allow their brokerage salespeople to create their own models, instead, they sell models the firm creates. After all, financial advisors at a brokerage firm or investment bank aren’t analysts or portfolio managers, their job is to sell the firms’ products and services. So, most individual investors who have a financial advisor at a large brokerage firm probably find themselves in some kind of Global Asset Allocation.

In The stock market has made little progress in the past two years which is a hostile condition for trend following I pointed out the U.S. equity market has made little progress in the past two years. I also showed a simple example of how and why it’s a hostile condition for trend following methods.

The past two years haven’t been any better for allocation to global stocks and bonds, no matter how you sliced it.

To illustrate this observation, we use the S&P Target Risk Index Series. Below is the chart of all four “target risk” allocations between global stocks, bonds, and cash.

An index isn’t a physical basket of securities, but a mathematical construct that describes the market. So, we can’t invest directly in an index. But we can invest in securities like ETFs that track indexes and which provide exposure to the markets they reflect. In the case of S&P Target Risk, BlackRock iShares has ETFs that aim to track each of the four indexes.

The S&P Target Risk series of indices comprises multi asset class indices that correspond to a particular risk level. They measure risk level based on exposure to cash and bonds (for lower expected risk) to stocks for higher risk and expected return. So, the four indices each measure the performance of specific allocations to equities and fixed income. Each index has varying levels of exposure to equities and fixed income and are intended to represent stock and bond allocations across a risk spectrum from conservative to aggressive.

Something unique about these indices is each index is composed of exchange traded funds (ETFs), rather than an index allocation to other mathematical indices.

Again, the indices represent stock-bond allocations across a risk spectrum from conservative to aggressive. The assigned risk level of the index (conservative, moderate, growth, and aggressive) depends on the allocation to fixed income.

S&P Target Risk Conservative Index. The index seeks to emphasize exposure to fixed income, in order to produce a current income stream and avoid excessive volatility of returns. Equities are included to protect long-term purchasing power.

S&P Target Risk Moderate Index. The index seeks to provide significant exposure to fixed income, while also providing increased opportunity for capital growth through equities.

S&P Target Risk Growth Index. The index seeks to provide increased exposure to equities, while also using some fixed income exposure to dampen risk.

S&P Target Risk Aggressive Index. The index seeks to emphasize exposure to equities, maximizing opportunities for long-term capital accumulation.

We can refer to Index Construction for details on each index’s allocation to equity and fixed income.

Index Construction Target Risk S&P global asset allocation index

The short version is there is a 10% to 20% difference between the allocation between bonds and stocks.

So, how has Global Asset Allocation performed in this very volatile two years that’s had a hard time gaining enough momentum to stay at new highs?

The Aggressive allocation participated in the downside but not the upside.

Active management or tactical allocation isn’t the only method with “strategy risk” as sometimes asset allocation can get off track. 

I don’t offer this kind of asset allocation that allocates capital to fixed buckets of stocks and bonds and then rebalances them periodically. As a tactical portfolio manager, instead of allocating to markets, I rotate between them based on asymmetric risk-reward. We don’t want to have too much exposure to falling markets and we prefer to focus on up trending markets. So, I prefer to limit my downside by predefining my risk and the upside takes care of itself as we let profits run. For me and our clients, our portfolio a replacement to this kind of asset allocation. Frankly, if I didn’t think I could achieve a better asymmetric risk-reward profile over full market cycles including drawdown control that we are better willing and able to tolerate, I wouldn’t bother doing what I do. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. But, from what I’ve seen so far, many investors in global asset allocation tapped out in the last bear market as both stocks and bonds experienced waterfall declines. Do you know what didn’t? cash and shorts.

To me, that’s tactical.

The bottom line is, all investments and investment strategies involve risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Which one is right anyone is a function of their personal preferences toward someone actively making decisions or passively holding exposure to market risk, their risk tolerance for drawdowns, and their desire to pursue asymmetric risk-reward. None of it is a sure thing.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

The stock market has made little progress in the past two years which is a hostile condition for trend following

Until the recent breakout to new highs, the stock and bond markets have made little progress in the past two years. Below are the price trend and total return chart of the S&P 500 stock index (SPX). The price trend of SPX has trended in a range of 20% to 30% since the first of 2018, but until this month, it had made very little progress.

The price return through today is 7.45%, and the total return, including dividends, is 11.38%. At the end of October, it was only 5.73% and 9.5%.

So, this has been a long non-trending volatile period similar to 2015 and 2016. From January 2015 to November 2016, the percent change of the SPX was near zero. Finally, in December, it trended up and broke out to a new uptrend. Still, over two years, the price trend change was only 8.74%.

I define market trends as volatile and non-volatile, trending, and non-trending. When we understand the current condition, it helps with tactical decisions of which type of system to focus on.

When markets are trending, and quiet, directional trend following systems enjoy the ride.

When a market gets choppy and volatile, the trend following systems have difficulty as they may exit the lows only to miss out on the price trend reversal back up. Then, by the time they reenter, the trend reverses back own again. A straightforward observation is the 200-day moving average, which got whipsawed several times in the 2015 to 2016 period.

I don’t trade moving averages. But, if we did over this period by entering the signal above the moving average and entered/exited at the close the day it was crossed, we’d have experienced these whipsaws. Of course, just thinking back to the past isn’t nearly as exciting as experiencing market action in real-time.

But, applying the moving average would have resulted in approximately -2.2% in 2015 vs. a small gain of 1.25% in the SPX.

In 2016 executing the signals resulted in a gain of 8% vs. 12 for the SPX.

Only looking at the upside leaves out the downside we have to experience to achieve it. Below are the drawdowns of this method applied to the stock index (blue line) vs. the stock index itself (red line.) This simplified example using a moving average for trend following missed most of the first decline with a drawdown of only -3% when the SPX dropped -8%, but then it participated in the next decline. Also notice it took a while to regain exposure, so it “missed out” of the sharp uptrend reversal April 2016 to July.

moving average drawdown whipsaw risk

When it’s one sharp declined after an uptrend, trend following methods usually exit and avoid some loss. It’s when the price swings up and down over a period we see the whipsaws of non-profitable entries and exits.

Over the past two decades, I’ve spent a lot more time and resources studying what causes entry and exit systems to fail than data mining for those that were historically successful. My heavy emphasis on what doesn’t work helped me to discover what does. Of course, this isn’t an example of a method that doesn’t work just because it didn’t achieve a perfect result of a hostile period. The other side of its results over this period was the smaller drawdown. To many investors, it’s worth missing some upside if the downside is limited.

If we want to manage the downside loss, we must be willing to miss some upside gain as there is no free lunch in active risk management.

These periods that are hostile for some methods signaled for me to have other weapons in the arsenal. For example, while trend following methods can do well in trending, non-volatile markets by catching the trend and riding it to the end, my countertrend systems are shorter-term and aim to enter and exit the swings. So, my countertrend systems actually consider the swings a friendly condition as they want to enter the shorter term countertrends down and exit to take a profit after it trends up.

Applying both of these systems is a bit of a shell game. But hey, that’s my name, so it may as well be my game. I say it’s a shell game because trend following and countertrend systems are in direct conflict with each other, so we necessarily need to decide which to use, when. It’s another tactical decision. It requires me to determine which market condition we’re observing and then apply the method that seems to best fit the situation. Nothing is ever perfect, and it’s far from easy, but when executed well, we have the potential to take advantage of different conditions. Or, more importantly, to avoid the hostile conditions of the single strategy.

It’s all easier said than done.

I have spent much effort in developing systems and skills for the execution of them. I am well aware of the challenges I face. But, I embrace the challenges, accept them, and deal with them.

By the way, the same 200-day moving average trend following method once again had its share of whipsaws since the beginning of 2018.

So, anyone applying trend following like this is happy to see the new breakout and hoping it will continue. If it doesn’t, the moving average exit signal is about -6% below the current price, so it would result in a -6% drawdown if the price falls from this point.

My countertrend systems, on the other hand, are signaling a short-term exit for this same stock index and entries on sectors like Utilities and Real Estate. You can see why in the chart.

They are in an overall uptrend, but their prices have dropped recently, offering a potentially asymmetric risk/reward if the uptrend resumes back up. That is, the downside is limited by predefining an exit if they continue to fall, but it’s more probable they may reverse back up and continue their uptrends. If they do, it becomes a trend-following trade. Of course, the indexes cannot be invested in directly, and this isn’t advice, but an example of how a countertrend system may look.

So, the bottom line is this has been a non-trending, very volatile two years for U.S. stocks and it’s a state that is hostile for simple directional trend following methods. If the recent breakout to the upside continues, the market state shifts to trending and maybe less volatile, but as I pointed out in Quantitative trend and technical analysis indicators signal strong U.S. equity participation in the uptrend but it may be nearing exhaustion it seems more likely we’ll see some countertrend or at least a stall even though this is a historically seasonably strong period.

The trick is to be prepared for whatever may happen next, and I am.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides investment advice and portfolio management only to clients with a signed and executed investment management agreement. The observations shared on this website are for general information only and should not be construed as advice to buy or sell any security. Securities reflected are not intended to represent any client holdings or any recommendations made by the firm. Any opinions expressed may change as subsequent conditions change.  Do not make any investment decisions based on such information as it is subject to change. Investing involves risk, including the potential loss of principal an investor must be willing to bear. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All information and data are deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. The presence of this website on the Internet shall in no direct or indirect way raise an implication that Shell Capital Management, LLC is offering to sell or soliciting to sell advisory services to residents of any state in which the firm is not registered as an investment advisor. The use of this website is subject to its terms and conditions.

 

 

 

 

Global Macro Observations of Stock and Bond Market Trends and Volatility

The U.S. stock market indices are finally reaching new highs, but momentum indicators show them getting overbought at the same time. Nevertheless, the trend is up and volatility is declining as the trend of the S&P 500, for example, has tightened up with the range of prices not as spread out as it was.

Speaking of volatility, the next chart is an observation of the stock index price trend with the 30 Day Rolling Volatility to see how it interacts. The formula for the 30 Day Rolling Volatility is Standard Deviation of the last 30 percentage changes in Total Return Price x Square-root of 252. YCharts multiplies the standard deviation by the square root of 252 to return an annualized measure. 252 is the number of trading days in a year.

I consider it an observation of realized volatility since it’s a measure of the last 30 percentage changes of price. Here we observe the 30 Day Rolling Volatility has declined recently, though it still isn’t as low as it was a few months ago.

Realized historical volatility is in a contraction, so after it declines we shouldn’t be surprised to see volatility expand again since volaltity is mean-reverting.

It’s an observation that volatility was dynamic, not static, so it’s constantly trending and cycling up and down. Volatility contractions are often followed by volaltity expansions as investors oscillate between the fear of missing out and the fear of losing money.

The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) on the other hand, is a measure of implied volatility based on options prices of the stocks in the S&P 500.  The VIX measures expected volatility. As we see below, the VIX is close to its low around 12 it reached twice this year.

Once again, an indication that we could see a volatility contraction anytime from this starting point. Or, the uptrend in stocks and downtrend in their volatility could continue.

We could look a lot deeper into more measures, such as the VVIX Index, which is an indicator of the expected volatility of the 30-day forward price of the VIX. This volatility drives nearby VIX option prices. CBOE also calculates a term structure of VVIX for different VIX expirations. It’s the vol of implied vol.

At this point, the trend for U.S. stocks is up, and the volaltity is quiet.

At the same time, U.S. stock short term momentum is reaching overbought, long term U.S. treasury bonds are oversold. An example observation is the ICE US Treasury 20+ Year Index. Overall, these bonds are in an uptrend over the past year but have corrected recently. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the long term treasuries find some buying demand here and resume the uptrend. If they don’t, there are prior levels of support for a predefined exit to cut a loss if it doesn’t work out.

Within the U.S. high yielding dividend stocks have shown relative strength and good momentum this year. The trend is seen in the index below.

As seen in the trend of the S&P Global Dividend Opportunities Index, the same is true for global high dividend stocks. 

Looking beyond stocks and bonds, the trend of gold has finally turned up after being flat for over five years.

Gold over the past 10 years shows a strong trend post-2010, a downtrend, then a generally non-trending period for years until recently.

You can probably see why a robust trend following system and risk management is useful for markets including gold. If the 10-year chart didn’t make the point, this chart going back to the 1970s probably will.

There is a time for everything under the sun.

There is a time for offense and time for a defense.

The recent trend in gold is more clear over the one-year time frame.

That’s all for now.

Mike Shell is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Shell Capital Management, LLC, and the portfolio manager of ASYMMETRY® Global Tactical.

Mike Shell and Shell Capital Management, LLC is a registered investment advisor focused on asymmetric risk-reward and absolute return strategies and provides inve