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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

ewy

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.