Some Benefits Of Trading Across Asset Classes-Or An Advertisement For Global Macro

With only a few weeks left in 2015 it would be a fair statement to say that there has been a lot of troubles in the asset management business. US Stocks are flat, bonds are flat, foreign stocks are down, commodities are down, junk bonds are down, and gold is down.  Here is a year to date performance chart of some of the major asset classes.  As you can see it has been less than ideal for the long only world.

Asset Classes

Some Major Asset Classes YTD

Years like this are why we are such big fans of being able to go long/short across asset classes.  In our model portfolio equities have been a drag in 2015 of a bit over -4.00%. We were short emerging market stocks for part of their fall but aside from that we mainly lost money on our equity trades.  Fixed income added slightly less than +1.00%. Being short commodities off and on, gold and copper, has added around +5%. This year currencies have been our big winner adding over +13.00%. As of last night our model portfolio is up 15.60%. Our worst drawdown on the year was -5.35% and we are currently down -1.83 from our equity highs.

TheMacroTrader.com Model Portfolio Equity Curve 2015

TheMacroTrader.com Model Portfolio Equity Curve 2015

If we had a fixed mandate of being only long equities, long fixed income. or long anything we would have been flat at best and probably negative for the year. Instead we had the flexibility to go where we found the best risk/reward opportunities.

 

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

http://TheMacroTrader.com

Take a $1 trial of The Macro Trader to receive unbiased actionable research

 

 

 

 

Global Macro-Generate Superior Returns With Less Risk

We at The Macro Trader are obviously fans of Global Macro as an investment strategy and even philosophy. Fortunately the data backs us up showing that global macro not only generates higher returns but does it with far lower risk than equities.

The chart below shows how you would have done if you had invested $1,000 into the Credit Suisse Macro Hedge Fund Index, SP500, and Barclays Aggregate Bond Index since 1994. As you can see the CS Macro Hedge Fund Index did drastically better than either stocks or bonds. To be more specific the CS Macro Index beat the SP500 by 2.11 times and the AGG Index by 2.75 times.  So that shows the returns but what about the risk taken to achieve these returns?

Global Macro vs SP500 vs Lehman AGG Bond Index

Global Macro vs SP500 vs Lehman AGG Bond Index

We have a few different charts to display the risks taken to generate the returns in each index. First we will show the historical drawdown charts. A drawdown is simply anytime you are not at new highs in your account. If you have $100 and lose $5 you are in a -5% drawdown. The deeper the drawdown the higher the return needed to get back to breakeven and the math, while simple, can be tricky. For instance if you lose -50% many think you need to make 50% to get to breakeven. The reality is that you need 100% to get to breakeven. In our case of being down -5% you only need a 5.26% return to get to breakeven but it gets harder the deeper you get.

Looking at a drawdown chart of the SP500 you can see that not only are stocks usually in a drawdown but over the past 20+ years we have had two massive drawdowns that took years to make up. We know them as the DotCom crash and the GFC-Global Financial Crisis. It took the SP500 57 months to recover from the DotCom crash and 50 months to recover from the GFC.

SP500-Drawdowns

SP500-Drawdowns

At the opposite end of the spectrum we have the drawdowns of the Barclays AGG Fixed Income Index. As you can see the AGG Index has frequent but small drawdowns with the worst one barely dropping below -5%. It only took nine months for the AGG index to fully recover from the worst drawdown and three months to recover from the second deepest drawdown.

Lehman/Barclays AGG Fixed Income Index Drawdowns

Lehman/Barclays AGG Fixed Income Index Drawdowns

Finally we have the CS Global Macro Index drawdowns. As you can see its worst drawdown was a -26.79% and its second worst was -14.94%. It took 19 months to recover from the -26% drawdown and 19 months to recover from the -14.94% drawdown.

Credit Suisse Global Macro Index Drawdowns

Credit Suisse Global Macro Index Drawdowns

Another way to show the depth and length of the drawdowns is to plot both the equity line as well as the new highs line. In each of the next three charts the green line equals the highest the equity line got, notice it never dips down, and the red line is the equity curve which goes both up and down.

Here is the SP500. As you can see while it hit a new high in 2007 it then went back down. In essence it took about 12 years before investors were really making new money. While this is a worse than “normal” period it is also not the first or the second time that the stock market has had a rough decade.

SP500 DD and NH

SP500 DD and NH

Looking at the AGG Fixed Income Index we see that the drawdowns are both shallow and short. If you were in the AGG Index you would not make the most money but you also took very little risk.

Lehman-Barclays AGG Fixed Income Index DD and NH

Lehman-Barclays AGG Fixed Income Index DD and NH

Finally we have the CS Global Macro Index. As you can see the drawdowns while larger than that of the AGG index are far smaller than the SP500 index. It kind of takes the middle route in regards to risk but it drastically outperforms both in regards to return.

Credit Suisse Global Macro Index DD and NH

Credit Suisse Global Macro Index DD and NH

Another way to look at the risk and return is to look at the 12-Month Rolling Returns. At any point in the chart you are looking at the returns you would have gotten if you had invested 12-Months ago.  As you can see the SP500-red line has the highest 12-Month returns but also the lowest 12-Month returns. The AGG Index-green line almost always shows positive returns but it never has a really big year. Finally the CS Macro Index-blue line again comes somewhere in the middle. It is positive almost as often as the bond index but the 12-Month period to 12-Month period returns are less than stocks.

Global Macro-SP500-AGG 12-Month Rolling Returns

Global Macro-SP500-AGG 12-Month Rolling Returns

Basically global macro has lower volatility and more consistent returns than the stock market and almost as consistent returns and far more gains than the bond market.  The main reason that this is possible is that as opposed to either the stock or bond index a global macro fund can go long and short anything and trade derivatives on anything. Most macro managers stick to liquid instruments but that still means you have hundreds if not thousands of tradeable instruments. The flexibility inherent in global macro allows you to always find a bull market somewhere whether that is being long stocks, short stocks, long the Australian Dollar, or short the Australian Dollar. You can bet on US Treasuries against German Bunds or across almost any other market relationship you can think of. Not only is global macro flexible but macro managers are famous for stringent risk management practices. It is almost cliche but in the end risk management is one of the keys to success in any trading approach and one of the most important things that separate macro from long only buy and hold.

What about claims in the press that “hedge funds have under-performed the SP500 since the GFC?” Well that is true but if you are picking only half a cycle than it is probably not a fair comparison. In the chart below you can see what happened to the CS Macro Index and the SP500 from the end of 2008 until the end of August 2015. As you can see the stock market is ahead.

2009-Now

2009-Now

Of course that was just in a bull move when everything was headed up. If instead of the end of 2008 or the end of February 2009 we use 2007 as our starting point we get a drastically different result. In this case the flexibility and risk reduction inherent in the global macro approach shines as the CS Macro Index outperforms the SP500 with both higher returns and far lower risk.

2007-Now

2007-Now

As far back as we have data global macro has outperformed both stocks and bonds across full market cycle. On the other hand long only equities has been profitable but has had some very long and deep periods of negative returns.  We are obviously biased towards global macro. We have a site and run a research service dedicated to it. You could say we drank the kool-aid and live and breathe this stuff. At the same time however many of the most successful money managers in history have been macro managers and the data shows that when done right it can lead to both higher absolute and risk adjusted returns.  So while we are indeed biased we think that the case is fairly strong in our favor.

 

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

http://TheMacroTrader.com

Take a $1 trial of The Macro Trader to receive unbiased actionable research

Does This Feel Like Mid-2007?

We track volatility across asset classes and throughout this year, especially the second half, have been amazed and the consistent volatility compression across assets. Here is our Average VIX where we take a simple average of several different volatility indices. Right now we are sitting at levels last seen in mid-2007 and we are struck with the complacency in the marketplace.(Click on chart to enlarge)

Are the potential risks really so small that no one finds it worthwhile to buy protection? A short list of potential risks would be the sovereign debt issues, fiscal cliff, Europe, Japan, China, Italy, Middle East, etc.,we can almost literally go on forever. Our current list of risks is as high as it has ever been and yet volatility is getting lower and lower from already low levels. While the Bernanke put has some power we question whether it is really the holy grail of safety nets. Just something to think about as we watch European stocks breaking out and US equities moving higher while at the same time Treasuries continue to catch a bid.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

http://TheMacroTrader.com

Take a $1 trial of The Macro Trader to receive unbiased actionable research

Junk Spreads Are Talking

One group of indicators that we follow quite closely are yield spreads. They work as great risk indicators as well as economic indicators. In the case of junk spreads they tend to lead rather than coincide or lag the overall economy. One area where they really shine is at the darker end of the economy. As you can see in the chart below junk spreads tend to lead the initial unemployment claims by anywhere from two-five months. For the past four months junk spreads have been inching higher and higher as the economy has noticeably weakened. What does this mean? Well if the correlation holds up then we would expect initial claims to move higher. This would go along well with most of the indicators that we are seeing such as the various manufacturing indexes pointing lower, with the exception of the Chicago PMI, as most indicators whether economic or market are pointing to a weaker economy. (Click on chart to enlarge)

Junk Spreads and Initial Unemployment Claims

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

http://TheMacroTrader.com

Disclaimer-We are long US Treasuries and Gold.

Take a $1 trial of The Macro Trader to receive unbiased actionable research

Gold Is A Currency Trade

So hopefully it is fairly obvious that we are in deflation or at least disinflation.  If that isn’t obvious enough then read our previous posts.  If nothing else you will see that it has been our view since at least June of 2009 is that we are in deflation.  That being said we are currently long gold.  Some of you might be thinking that we must be smoking crack, after all how can we be long gold if we dont see inflation anytime soon.  Because of the general perception that gold is an inflation trade we thought it would be useful to look at the current situation.

Currently the situation in Europe is pretty bad.  The EU is essentially in complete disarray as new problems seem to surface every couple of weeks.  Everyone but the EU knew that the PIIGS had problems but now Hungary, Belgium, and even France are coming up in the news as problem areas.   We are seeing currency issues, debt issues, liquidity issues, structural issues, etc.  The EU right now is like the Lindsay Lohan of regimes with all of its issues.  All of this adds up to what is the largest fear, a sovereign default.  If this were to happen, or when it happens we will see some major turmoil across all markets.

So what are investors doing right now?  The have been fleeing the Euro and Euro denominated assets.  No one wants EU based stocks, bonds, or the Euro.  As they leave the Euro they have been going into the US Dollar, US Treasuries, and into gold.  Yes, they are leaving the Euro to buy gold.  While investors across the world have been buying gold the trend has been especially obvious in the EU and its neighbors.  We can see this in the following charts.

Here is GLD the gold ETF.  As you can see it has been steadily moving higher but only recently started hitting new highs as it sold off back in December and took a long time to consolidate.

GLD-Gold

gld

For real evidence that gold is going up on worries of a sovereign default we need to look at gold priced in Euros.  As you can see in the chart below gold in Euros consolidated but has barely even pulled back during the past year and has really accelerated to the upside over the last few months.

Gold in Euros

euro-gold

Being very tied to the mainland Europe, and having a weak economy as well many UK investors have also been buying gold to get out of Pounds.  While not quite the move of the Gold/EUR this has been a strong and steady move.

Gold in Pounds

pound-gold

Finally lets look at gold in Swiss Francs.  As you an see the trend has been pretty much the same with a steady move higher and very tight consolidation.  One thing worth noting with the Swiss Franc is that in a normal crisis investors would be taking their money out of their regular bank and putting it in Swiss banks.  This time around Switzerland gave up their role as the ultimate bank by giving away their client list to the I.R.S.  We think that Swiss Banks will be looking back and shaking their heads at that move.  This is not the only reason (the Swiss want a weak currency for example) for the relatively poor performance of the Swissy but it does not help, especially in the long term.

Gold in Swiss Francs

swiss-franc-gold

Comparing gold in US Dollars to gold in European currencies it is obvious that people want out of the Euro and see gold as a reasonable substitute.  Hopefully this helps answer why gold can be a good investment even if we are in a deflationary environment.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

Disclaimer-We are long GLD

Take a $1 trial of The Macro Trader to receive unbiased actionable research