Here at The Macro Trader we run five different model portfolios: US equities, fixed income, precious metals, foreign equities, and currencies. We use ETF’s and the occasional Closed End Fund as our trading vehicles.
The starting value of each portfolio was $100,000.00. We typically risk from .5% to 2% (usually 1%) on each position, with each position taking up no more than 25% of the model portfolio’s equity. So for example, with a $100,000.00 portfolio, we would risk no more than $1000.00 from entry to stop on one position, and that one position initially could not take up more than $25,000.00 in equity.
We track each model portfolio against two different benchmarks: The 0-line and the standard benchmarks in their asset class. We use two benchmarks for two reasons: First we believe in absolute returns. Our newsletter is patterned after a Global Macro Hedge Fund, so we pay strict heed to risk controls and positive returns. Who cares if you beat the SP500 because it lost 25% that year, and you “only” lost 20%? Sure, you may have won in Morningstar’s eyes, but you and your investors lost real money. In addition as long as you have positive returns, you could potentially lever up your portfolio to juice up your returns if your trading is sufficiently risk-adverse.
That said, we also track our relative benchmarks because people are used to them and doing so helps us gauge the effectiveness of some of our risk-taking. For instance, if we are taking on a lot of risk and are lagging our relative benchmark, then we need to scale back. If on the other hand we are beating the benchmark while taking far less risk, it may be appropriate to take on a bit more risk. As we will discuss later in this post, the latter situation has been our problem as of late.
When we started the letter we had been bearish on US equities for some time. That said, we remained in cash until our 2/1/08 issue when we went short the XLF-Financials ETF. So far we have had three closed out trades. Of the three trades, two were profitable and one was closed at a loss. Our return has thus far been 1.57%. In the same time the SP500 has returned -3.28%. So on an absolute basis we are positive with a 1.57% return and on a relative basis we are beating the SP500 by 4.85%.
In fixed income our first trade came in the 12/28/07 issue and was a buy of the TIP-TIP’s ETF. Since then we have had six closed out trades and currently have one open position. Of the seven trades all but one has been profitable. Our total return has been 1.9%. In the same time our primary benchmark the TLT-20 Year Treasuries has returned -4.1%. So on an absolute basis we are positive with a 1.9% return, and we are beating our benchmark by 6%. (By the way, as the universe of fixed income ETF’s expands we may change our
benchmark to the Lehman Aggregate Index AGG-ETF)
The first trade we had in precious metals came in the 12/7/07 issue. We went long GLD-Gold ETF. Since that time we have had three total trades in the metals portfolio and all of them have been profitable. Our performance has been good with a 5.23% return which beats the XAU Philly Gold/Silver index by 5.24% and the price of gold by .89%. We were able to achieve this while never being more than 54% invested.
Our first trade was a short in the EWW-Mexico ETF in the 12/1/07 issue. Since then we have had a total of six positions. Four of them have been closed out, and we currently have two open positions. Of our closed trades, three were losses and one was profitable. Currently our two open positions are profitable. Our P/L for this portfolio is -1.33%. That of course comes out to a -$1,326.48 loss. On an absolute basis we are obviously down. Depending on the benchmark used, we are either a bit ahead of a bit behind. Using the EFA-ETF which returned -6.64% we are ahead by 5.31%. Using the EEM-ETF which returned -.09% we are behind by 1.24%.
We didn’t have our first currency trade until the 2/22/08 issue. Since then we have had four trades: Three winners and one loser. We are up 3.12%. As of now we are using the DBV-Currency Harvest ETF as our benchmark. Since there is no real benchmark for currencies, we decided to use the carry trading DBV-ETF as a benchmark. The DBV is down -3.71%, so we have beat our benchmark by 6.83%.
Overall the model portfolios are up 2.1% as of today’s close (5/7/08). Of our 20 closed out trades 14 have been winners and six have been losers. Our winners have made $13,894.01 and our losers have lost $3,675.88 for a total gain of $10,218.13. We currently have three open positions, all three are profitable, adding an additional $278.70.
While evaluating our performance, we have realized that we need to take on more risk. With a 70% accuracy rate and a 3.78 profit factor we should probably either be bigger in our positions, have more open positions, or a combination of both. Going forward this will definitely be an area that we will be working on.
The Macro Trader