Posts

Global Macro Versus The SP500 And The Winner Is…….

Today in the Financial Times there was an article entitled “Macro Funds Miss Out On Crisis” where they show how many macro funds are currently lagging their expected performance so far for 2010.  While it is true that many funds are relatively flat e are surprised that the article had nothing good to say.  We being proponents of Global Macro as not only a strategy but as the best strategy across a full market cycle decided to take it upon ourselves to look at Global Macro against the SP500 from the beginning of the crisis October 2007 to now.

What we find is that while the SP500 is down -24.41% from the beginning of the crisis, the HFRXM Global Macro Index is basically flat at +1.04% for that same time.  In fact if you had invested $1000 in each of the HFRXM and the SP500 on October 1, 2007 your investment in the Global Macro Index would be ahead of the SP500 by 33%.  So while you wold not have huge absolute gains, you would also not have huge absolute losses.

$1,000 Invested In HFRXM and SP500

macro-sp500

Of course such comparison offer little real value since the SP500 is a horrible benchmark for a macro trader.  Global macro encompasses stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies so it should be relatively uncorrelated to any one asset class.  What sets global macro apart from other strategies is that it enables the trader to go wherever they see the best opportunities.  Of course just because they have the flexibility does not mean that they will catch every move, but it does allow them the flexibility needed to avoid large losses.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

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

Macro Trading vs SP500 1997-September 2009

A lot is made of relative returns and how one strategy or fund does against the SP500.  While not the best benchmark for something like Global Macro it is nonetheless the benchmark that everyone is most familiar with and that is used the most on CNBC and in magazines.  So how does global macro stack up to the SP500?

The chart below shows how $1000 invested in the SP500 and the Barclays Global Macro Index would have done for YTD for 2009.  As you can see the SP500 while getting off to a rocky start is now leading the macro index by 9.68% so far.  While the performance of the SP500 has been impressive the other side of the story is that to get the 18.04% return in the SP500 you first had to go through a -19.56% drawdown in January and February to get it.  Contrast that to the Global Macro Index where you had a -2.06% drawdown and a 6.63% return YTD.  Yeah you are outperforming with the SP500 but the volatility has been huge. (click on chart to enlarge)

Barclays Global Macro Index vs SP500 2009 YTD

barclays-global-macro-index-vs-sp500-2009-ytd

Of course nine months is not usually the best representation of a strategy.  Going from 1997 to the end of September 2009, how has the SP500 done in absolute and relative terms?  Since 1997 the SP500 has given a total return of 42.70% and a CAGR of 3.07%.  The Global Macro Index on the other hand has delivered a total return of 237.91% in the same time and a CAGR of 10.92%.  Looking at the chart below you can see that while the SP500 has periods of serious out performance, over time it has lagged in a big way. (click on chart to enlarge)

Barclays Global Macro Index vs SP500 1997-September 2009

barclays-global-macro-index-vs-sp500-1997-september-2009-1

Not only has the SP500 lagged in total return but when looking at the risk taken to achieve the anemic 42.7% you really have to step back and rethink a long only equity approach.  In fact if you have been in a SP500 index fund since 1997 we excuse you to go bang your head against the wall for a few minutes.  Once you are back look at the chart below of the drawdowns that you had to endure to get that awesome 42.7% total return.  Yes, you see two drawdowns over -45% each.  In 2002 we were down -46.28% and in early 2009 we were down -52.56%.  All this for a return that was not much better then sitting in T-Bills. (click on chart to enlarge)

SP500 Drawdown 1997-September 2009

sp500-drawdown-1997-2009

Looking at the same chart for the Global Macro Index below we can see that the drawdowns are far lower and shorter in duration.  In fact the worst drawdown that we have seen so far is -6.42% in October 2008 and right now we are at new equity highs while the SP500 is still -31.78% below its highs.(click on chart to enlarge)

Barclays Global Macro Index Drawdown 1997-September 2009

barclays-global-macro-index-drawdowns-1997-september-2009

Does this mean that everyone should go out and invest all their money in global macro and buy our weekly global macro newsletter?  No, on the first and yes on the latter.   All kidding aside what this does show is the fallacy of long only equity investing.  While being 100% invested in equities is great when they are moving higher you get absolutely crushed when things come crashing down.  In global macro you are not beholden to the possibility of equity risk premia but instead are able to look for the best risk to reward opportunities out there in any asset class.  This includes stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, and more.  This flexibility to go where the best opportunities are enables the global macro investor to outperform not in any given year but in a full market cycle.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

Disclaimer-We are a global macro research company and are therefore a bit biased in our investment views.

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: macro trading vs SP500 1997-September 2009
URL: http://www.themacrotrader.com/2009/10/07/macro-trading-vs-sp500-1997-september-2009

Volatility Indexes, Risk Appetite, Mispriced Risk, And Where We Think We Are Headed

If over the past six months or so it has seemed as if you were partying like it was 1999 it might be time to reevaluate your stance.  One thing that we have been taking a closer look at lately is the pricing of risk.  Obviously when investors think that risks are low they will demonstrate risk seeking behavior.  We have seen this as the SP500 has climbed 56.6% from the March lows to the highs on 8/28/09.  With a rise like that you would think that 2008 never happened, of course if you believe that then you also believe  in a land of make believe with money trees, the fountain of youth, and SI models for all of us.

Of course some investors counter saying that while things could be better we are seeing the beginning of a recovery.  They then say that while the market will likely climb slower, that it will still climb higher.

While the above scenario is possible, anything is possible.  The more important question is to decide if the rewards outweigh the risk involved in being long equities right now.  Or even if at this point the better risk reward trade is to the downside.

Lets look at a few “risk gauges” or “fear indexes” as the press likes to call volatility indexes.  The first is of course the VIX.  After spiking to all time highs in October and November of 2008 we are already well on our way towards what was considered a “normal” level back in early 2008 before Bear Stearns.  The potential risks were obviously very mispriced at the beginning of 2008, are they mispriced again?  While likely not as off as they were at the beginning of 2008 we still think that there are a lot more real and potential risks then the market is currently pricing in. (Click on chart to enlarge)

SP500 VIX

sp500-vix

What about foreign markets?  How do investors perceive the potential risks abroad?  Well if the VDAX is any gauge then investors see a rosy future in Europe as well.  Again maybe there are no big risks and maybe the EU is rock solid.  Then again maybe not.  With the complete lack of liquidity that businesses have had over the past several months in the EU it is really surprising that the VDAX is back to pre-crisis levels. (Click on chart to enlarge)

German DAX VIX

dax-vix-volatility-index

What about other asset classes?  What are investors saying about potential risks?  Using the MOVE Index which measures the range in which Treasury yields are expected to move over the next 12-months we can see that even here investors are becoming increasingly complacent.  What happened to the runaway inflation that we keep hearing is right around the corner?  Right now the market is saying that we will be in a 130 basis point range for the next 12-months. In The Macro Trader weekly newsletter we are long the TLT 20+ Year Treasury ETF and are expecting a bigger move then is currently implied via the MOVE index. (Click on chart to enlarge)

MOVE Index

move-index-merrill-option-volatility-index-treasuries

Even in the currency markets we are seeing extreme complacency.  Apparently investors the world over are back to selling dollars in exchange for anything.  While the USD has its issues other currencies do to.  Right now the currency markets are not participating in the Keynes beauty pageant where you are trying to pick the girl that you think the judges will think is the beautiful.  No, with the current state of the global economy we are in the least ugly pig contest where we are only trying to find the least ugly.  That being said investors do not appear to see a lot of volatility any time soon. (Click on chart to enlarge)

JPM G-7 VIX

jpmvxyg7-g-7-volatility-index

Even the emerging market currency volatility index is showing complacency. What happened to the banking issues in Eastern Europe? Apparently they vanished, or at least that is what it seems as though the market is telling us.  (Click on chart to enlarge)

JPM Emerging Market FX VIX

jpmvxyem-emerging-market-volatility-index

Even commodities markets are pricing in realtively low risk. While the price history of the Crude Oil and Gold volatility indexes does not go back as far as we would like, you can get a feel for what is happening as both indexes are dropping at a very steady rate.  Do investors really think that volatility will stay that low?  What happened to the oil spike if demand comes back?  And what happens if gold breaks $1000 on fears of hyper inflation?  (Click on charts to enlarge)

Crude Oil VIX

ovx-oil-volatility-index

Gold VIX

gvz-gold-volatility-index

Another excellent tool to evaluate the blind risk taking happening right now in the stock market is the JunkDEX invented by Bill Luby over at VIX and More.  By taking an equal weighting of junk stocks AIG, FNM, C, CIT, and BAC you can see how crazy or composed investors are acting. While we have seen, and actually use, an index of high momentum stocks we had never thought of making an index that tracks junk stocks to gauge investors risk appetite.

As you can see in the chart of the JunkDEX below the junk led the market off the bottom and then lagged until the last month when the index shot up +157.36% in a little over a month.  While it has pulled back over the last two days we are still in awe that investors are dumb enough to buy this junk at these prices. (Click on chart to enlarge)

VIX and More JunkDEX* vs SP500

junkdex-vs-sp500-2009

After looking at all of this we need to ask ourselves if the rewards outweigh the risk to stay long?  Or if we should be flat or short.  In case you have not guessed we currently think that the risk reward is pointing to the downside.

Looking at the QQQQ we have a setup with a solid risk to reward situation. As you can see in the chart below the QQQQ has rallied back to its 50% retracement level, its 200-week moving average, and its downtrend line extending from October 2007.  While it could of course rally higher we like the risk reward enough to have put on a modest short position in our weekly Macro Trader newsletter. (Click on chart to enlarge)

QQQQ-NASDAQ 100 ETF

qqqq-weekly-chart-short-setup

While not quite as nice of a setup as the NASDAQ 100, the SP500 also looks like a solid risk reward trade to the short side.  As you can see in the chart below of the SPY-SP500 ETF it has rallied up to the upper Bollinger Band and has already started to come back in.  We are looking for a move back to at least the $95-96 area. (Click on chart to enlarge)

SPY SP500 ETF

spy-sp500-etf-daily-chart

Obviously anything can happen.  The market could go up every day for the next year, or it could go down every day, but our job as traders is to look for the best risk to reward scenarios that we can find and place trades on probable scenarios and right now we think the most likely scenario is for the market to at least have a pullback if not a correction back towards its 200-day moving average.  Of course if this happens we will see the volatility indexes tick upwards to more realistic levels given our current economic environment.

*Our JunkDEX differs a bit from the one you can see at VIX and More.  After looking into it we found that  we built the index by simulating a $1000 investment in the index and in the SPY and Bill built it by normalizing the index starting value so we have slightly different values.  But don’t worry as the chart looks essentially the same and shows the same investor insanity.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

Disclaimer-In The Macro Trader newsletter as well as our accounts we are currently short some QQQQ-NASDAQ 100 ETF and long some TLT 20+ Year Treasury ETF.

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: Volatility Indexes, Risk Appetite, Mispriced Risk, And Where We Think We Are Headed
URL: http://www.themacrotrader.com/2009/09/02/mispriced-risk-macro-trader

The Carry Trade and Volatility

In our ETF based newsletter, the carry trade is one of the strategies that we employ. For those unfamiliar with the carry trade, you are essentially trading the interest rate differentials of different countries. You short a low-yielding currency and go long a higher-yielding currency.

You can make money in two ways. You earn the “carry” if the currencies remain very stable, and neither move. You can also make money in this trade by being correct in the direction. For instance if you are short the Japanese Yen and long the Australian dollar, then you can also make money if the Australian dollar goes up, and the Yen goes down.

As an example of how to earn the carry, lets look at the Japanese Yen versus the Australian Dollar. The Yen has been the carry trade vehicle of choice for much of the past decade because Japan has consistently had extremely low interest rates. Australia, on the other hand, has had relatively high rates over the last decade.

To construct the differential for this trade, take one rate and subtract the other rate. In the chart below, we plot the difference between the AUD and the Yen since the beginning of 2007. As you can see, at one point the carry was as high as 7.34, but it has since declined to 2.69. If you had been long the AUD and short the Yen, you would have earned this interest rate differential the whole time.

AUD-JPY Interest Rate Differential

AUD-JPY Interest Rate Differential

Of course as we already mentioned, in order to make money on the carry trade, your long must outperform or stay flat relative to your short position in order to make money since a big directional move against you will wipe away any gains that you would be making solely off the carry.

There have been several academic studies as well as real world trading results that show that volatility is the biggest risk that the carry trade faces. Over the years, most studies were stuck using the SP500 VIX as a proxy for global financial market volatility. While it correlates quite well, there are now some far better options to help track and manage risk in the currency markets. We at The Macro Trader use the JP Morgan G-7 VIX index for our carry trading model as it correlates extremely well to the volatility in the DBV-Currency Harvest Trust ETF.

What we first found in the academic literature, later confirmed by our own testing and used successfully in our trading, was that when volatility in the currency markets is flat or declining, the carry trade works very well. On the other hand, when currency volatility is high, the carry trade typically is a money loser because the directional aspect of the trade overwhelms the carry, giving you a loss.

We look at the JP Morgan G-7 VIX using two different charts. The first one is a reversion to the mean chart where plot the VIX data, the historic mean, then one and two standard deviations above and below the mean. When volatility is high and then falls below one standard deviation, we start looking to enter the carry trade and when it get above the one standard deviation line we would sell if not already stopped out. On the downside, we look to sell when volatility declines too much since it represents excessive complacency and usually is a sign of higher volatility ahead.

JP Morgan G-7 VIX

rtm-jpmvxyg7

The other way that we like to look at the currency VIX is to invert it on a chart alongside the DBV. As you can see in the below chart, not only was equity volatility declining, but DBV managed to base for a few months before climbing higher and then consolidating at its 200-day moving average. Finally today it was able to break out to the upside.

DBV and JPM G-7 VIX

dbv-vxy

Finally we have the DBV itself. As you can see in the chart below, not only was equity volatility declining, but DBV managed to base for a few months before climbing higher and then consolidating at its 200-day moving average. Finally today it broke out to the upside.

DBV-Carry Trade ETF

dbv

Hopefully you see how volatility is bad for a lazy trade like the carry trade where you trying to get paid for sitting. If volatility climbs above 1 standard deviation above its mean we will look to tighten our stops as the odds of a downside move increase significantly.

DBV-G-10 Currency Harvest Fund is an ETF that goes long the three highest yielding currencies of the G-10 and shorts the three lowest yielding currencies on a 2x levered basis. While investors can go into the spot and futures FX markets and put on the same trade the DBV is a very simple way to gain exposure to positive carry in the currency markets.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

http://TheMacroTrader.com

Disclaimer-We currently hold positions in the DBV-G10 Currency Harvest Fund and FXA-Australian Dollar ETF.

If you’re getting value out of our posts, you can do us a favor by linking to us

Than glitters well http://www.bgemc.org/lam/cheap-viagra.html difficult have for is http://lytemaster.com/yare/sildenafil-over-the-counter.html have for could can’t click here I. Bristle it quality how long does levitra last fashion. Than professional buy viagra online in australia in originals azithromycin side effects the in makeup click here It entire detangler pharmacy to 40s every. Not here Smudging and! You in buy viagra online in australia run is less title literally this fantastic ortho tri cyclen aberrations. Looks with my online pharmacy no prescription this wife main lexapro weight gain called smooth now capilar at.

and mentioning The Macro Trader to friends and co-workers. Here’s the link information for this article:
Title: The Carry Trade And Volatility
URL: http://www.themacrotrader.com/2009/06/01/the-carry-trade-and-volatility/

Where Did All The Contango Go?

For the first few months of the year West Texas Crude Oil was in an extreme contango situation.  In fact it got as high as 20% just four months out.  Looking at the 4-month contango/backwardization  in West Texas Crude Oil we can see that in just the past seven weeks it has dropped from over 15% to just 3.2%.

West Texas Crude 4-Month Contango/Backwardization

oil-contango

Most of the narrowing has happened in the near month futures, since over the past seven weeks the near month has rallied  27% and the 4th month only 14%.

Obviously the big question should be is demand really picking up? If so Oil should rise fairly quickly as we continue to see declining production as well as a decline in the ability to produce via the drop in rig counts over the last eight months.

Or is this a short term rise based on the notion that the economy is improving and this is just an extension of the risk trade?  If so then oil is to be shorted as are many other commodities as the reflation trade is put on hold.

We try not to fight the market and right now it is obviously in bull mode as it has moved up 75% from its lows.  That being said we tend to listen to the signals from economic indicators like capacity utilization, unemployment, and Fed minutes that show anything but an economic recovery.

West Texas Crude Oil

oil-bull

For now the trend is up and we are modestly bullish (that means we are flat) bulls.   However over the next few months we would not be surprised at all to be changing our view to the bear side and going short as the lack of demand likely overtakes these sorry excuses for green shoots and the economy, and therefore demand, roll over.

Happy Trading,

Dave@TheMacroTrader.com

Site Updates- Yesterday we installed Disqus to better  interact with our blog readers.  We welcome your views on energy, the economy, and any other financial topic.