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Global Macro Trading

After being the largest hedge fund strategy in 1990 representing 71% of the overall hedge fund assets global macro has shrunk and now only represents about 15% of total assets.  While most people assume that this dropoff in assets was due to poor performance the numbers actually show a totally different story.  In fact according to the Credit Suisse/Tremont Hedge Fund Indexes, global macro has been the number one investment strategy with a total return of 502% from 1994 through June 2009.  Compare that with a total return of 335% from long short equity or 321% from event driven funds.

Of course most investors also have a misguided perception that every trade is like the trade that “broke the Bank of England.”  That trade in 1992 made Soros and his Quantum Fund over $1 Billion in a few days and garnered a lot of publicity.  The funny thing is that in a study done later by the IMF it was shown that if anything hedge funds shorting the Pound actually dampened the effects.  And in interviews since it is obvious that while the position size was huge the realistic downside was not.  Yes, Soros had a $10 Billion position on that week but thats not the right way to look at it.  Instead he and his portfolio manager Stanley Druckenmiller figured that if they were wrong they would lose a few hundred million at worst and that if they were right they would earn a billion or more.  Anyone who has traded for any period of time will tell you that a trade that has a risk to reward ratio of 5:1 is a fantastic trade.  As you can see, not only did Soros and Druckenmiller not break a bank, but they also did not take a huge outsized risk.

So while most investors think that global macro is made up of a bunch of drunk cowboys that are always swinging for the fences the real stories, and the numbers behind them do not bear this out.  In fact if you look at what global macro has actually done you will see that macro traders are some of the best risk managers in the world.  In the chart below we have the Barclays Group Global Macro Index and the SP500.  Starting with $1000 from 1997 to the end of July 2009 the Global Macro Index delivered 219.77% with a worst case drawdown of 6.24%.  Contrast that with the SP500 which from 1997 tot he end of July 2009 only delivered 33.30% with a worst case drawdown of -52.56%. (click on chart to enlarge)

Barclays Group Global Macro Index Vs. SP500 Jan 1997-July 2009

barclays-group-global-macro-index-versus-sp500

The above chart shows how well that global macro has done in absolute terms since 1997 but what about the risk that they took to achive these results?  Well as you an see in the chart the dips in the macro index look a lot shallower and shorter then the dips in the SP500.  Looking at the actual drawdowns shows that this is in fact the case.

In the chart below we have the drawdowns of the SP500 and then the drawdowns of the Barclays Group Global Macro Index.  As you can see the SP500 has had two massive drawdowns in the last 12 years.  The SP500 dropped over -46% in 2002 and then dropped over -52% in 2008.  In fact as of the end of July 2009 the SP500 is still down over -36%.  Contrast this with the Barclays Global macro Index which has had a worst case drawdown of -6.42% and is currently only -3.22% away from new equity highs. (click on chart to enlarge)

Barclays Group Global Macro Index and SP500 drawdowns Jan 1997-July 2009

sp500-and-barclays-group-global-macro-index-drawdowns

As you can see the perception of the global macro trader as a gunslinging cowboy is anything but the truth.  Instead they are some of the most consistent and risk adverse traders in the world.  In fact some of the hedge funds with the longest, and best, track records are global macro funds.  Three of the best and longest running global macro funds are Soros and his Quantum fund which have delivered north of 30% annually since 1967, Bruce Kovner and Caxton Associates have delivered over 25% annually since 1983, and Paul Tudor Jones and his BVI Global Fund has returned 23% annually since 1986.  Obviously these are some of the best of the best but can you name three other fund managers with returns like this, that also follow the same basic strategy?

So what enables global macro to do so well when everyone else is rapidly losing money?  Global macro does well because of the fact that it is entirely opportunistic.  Macro does not pigeonhole an investor into US equities or emerging market bonds, or European event arbitrage.  Instead macro enables investors to go wherever and whenever.  By trading all four major asset classes not only can macro traders generate uncorrelated returns but can also see dislocations that other investors miss, or in some cases are forced to miss.  For example if a long/short equity manager thinks that we are on the verge of hyperinflation and wants to be long gold he has two different options.  He can go long companies that should do well in the face of inflation and then go short stocks that should do poorly.  The macro trader on the other hand has far more flexibility and can go long commodities, go long and short currencies, go short regular bonds, long TIPS, and can still go long and short stocks.  The opportunity set is much larger for the global macro trader then it is for the long/short equity manager.

Going forward we see no reason to believe that global macro will not continue to outperform.  When we are in a bubble and everyone is making money, macro will perform inline or slightly underperform, and when things go crazy and everyone else is losing money global macro will be generating positive returns.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

If you’re getting value out of our posts, you can do us a favor by linking to us and mentioning The Macro Trader to friends and co-workers. Here’s the link information for this article:
Title: Global Macro Trading
URL: http://www.themacrotrader.com/2009/08/05/global-macro-trading/

EWY South Korea ETF

One of our current positions is EWY the South Korean ETF. We went long a few weeks ago in our model portfolio based on the trend, valuation, and economic characteristics of South Korean stocks.

EWY-South Korea ETF

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Another factor that got us into EWY was the increasing number of Asian countries that have been coming up in our global stock model. Our global stock model looks at technical, economic, fundamental, and sentiment indicators to help find foreign stock indexes that meet our risk to reward criteria.

Apparently we are not the only ones to have found an opportunity in South Korea as the Oracle himself WarrenB apparently is getting long some South Korean stocks as well.

In order to catch our trades in foreign stocks as well as other asset classes like US stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities then sign up for a quarterly or annual subscription to The Macro Trader weekly newsletter with frequent intra-week updates.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

GLD Gold ETF and SLV Silver ETF

We were long precious metals coming into 2009 as gold, silver, and even platinum were climbing higher.  Eventually we got stopped out as the group consolidated for the next three months.  The last two weeks gold and silver have been able to breakout of the consolidation and is once again in an uptrend.  We went long in out model portfolio last week and are currently looking to add to our position if the trend continues.

GLD Gold ETF

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SLV Silver ETF

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In order to catch our trades in precious metals as well as other asset classes like stocks, bonds, currencies, and other commodities then sign up for a quarterly or annual subscription to The Macro Trader weekly newsletter with frequent intra-week updates.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

UNG Natural Gas ETF

In our newsletter this week we went long some UNG-Natural Gas and it is working out well. The long term supply and demand characteristics were very favorable around the recent lows and we had a good technical picture as well. As you can see in the chart below UNG has exploded to the upside on extremely high volume. To put where natural gas is in perspective we also included a longer term chart showing the past 14 months.


UNG-Natural Gas ETF

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UNG-Natural Gas Long Term Chart

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Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

P.S. If you don’t want to miss out on more trades then subscribe to our weekly newsletter where we provide research on Domestic Equities, Foreign Equities, Fixed Income, Commodities, and Currencies along with a model portfolio. If you are interested in going beyond US stocks to generate returns in any market, we at The Macro Trader can help.

A Simple SP500 Timing Model

We track hundreds of different economic, fundamental, technical, sentiment, and cycle indicators. Some are stand alone and only help us discern particular situations while others are full blown timing models that we use to get in and out of the market. Some are very complex with ten and even twenty inputs ranging from jobless claims, to put call ratios, to nickel, to the advance decline line. Essentially anything that we test that helps to give us an edge we use to some degree or other. As global macro traders we of course have several models for every market that we trade, as well as models that only point us to markets showing abnormal movement.

As of a few days ago we had one of our longer term SP500 timing models trigger a buy signal. This timing model is very simple and only uses the NYSE Advance Decline line and the SP500 closing price. This models esge is not huge but it is solid and historically you are risking about 1:1 meaning that the historical return is almost the same as the worst historical drawdown.

In our newsletter and in our own trading we rarely use a model as an automatic buy or sell signal but we do use them to tell us which dorection to trade. Right now this extremely simple model is showing that the advance delcine line has finally been able to have a sustained run and break above its long term trend, in this case the 150-day moving average. Again we don’t, and don’t recommend, trading directly off of these signals as almost every model we track can be improved upon by selecting better entry and exit points but they do helo us tremendously in our trading.

SP500-NYSE Advance Decline Line

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As you can guess we are becoming increasingly bullish after being bearish for the better part of two years. Who knows if this rally will continue as there are a ton, and maybe a trillion tons, of harsh economic realities and hardships, but for now the trend is up and we are starting to lean to the long side.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

P.S. If you are getting value out of our posts, you can do us a favor by linking to us with your site or blog and mentioning The Macro Trader to any of your friends that trade.