It has been a while since we had an update from JPM's "quant guru" Marko Kolanovic on key market support and resistance levels from the perspective of option gamma and key systematic strategies including CTAs, risk parity and volatility targeting, so we were looking forward to reading his latest report which came out earlier today. In it he reviews the latest flows and concludes that the suppressed realized vol regime we have enjoyed for the past two months may be about to shift, perhaps as soon as this Friday's option expiration.
In the same way that FDR had an existential political interest in generating inflation and preventing volatility in the US labor market, so does the US Executive branch today (regardless of what party holds the office) have an existential political interest in generating inflation and preventing volatility in the US capital markets. Transforming Wall Street into a political utility was an afterthought for FDR; today the relative importance of the labor markets and capital markets have completely switched positions. Today, the quote would be "markets are too important to be left to investors."
"... the average Joe isn’t as gullible as he once was and the personal savings rate remains high and is rising. Get out and buy something you don’t need, your kids can pay for their own education. If you really want to see people spend and invest there has to be some belief this won’t all end in tears."
Unfortunately, we remain stuck in the cleanup phase so long as economists and their ability to direct policy continue to suggest the Great Recession was anything other than systemic revelation along these lines; a permanent rift between what was and what can be. It is and was never about oil; only now that oil projects volatility into the dying days of eurodollar leverage.
There is a Category 5 deflationary hurricane forming off the Chinese coast as Beijing accelerates the devaluation of the yuan against the dollar under the guise of “reform”. I say forming … the truth is that this deflationary storm has already laid waste to the global commodity complex, doing trillions of dollars in damage. I say forming … the truth is that this deflationary storm has driven inflation expectations down to levels last seen when the world was coming to an end in the Lehman aftermath. And now the Fed is going to tighten? Are you kidding me?
Over the past 3 months, the name Marko Kolanovic, head of JPM's Quant Team, has become one of the most loved, or feared (depending on which way he is leaning) and respected on all of Wall Street for one simple reason: think Dennis Gartman, only correct every time. Well, the man Bloomberg calls "Gandalf" just did it again - "nailing" the top in stocks last week.
JPM Head Quant Is Back: The Rally Drivers Are Gone With "Downside Risk" Ahead, But No Flash Crash Unless...Submitted by Tyler Durden on 11/05/2015 16:40 -0400
"Summarizing technical flows from option hedges, volatility targeting, CTA and Risk Parity funds, we believe that these strategies largely re-levered to pre August crash levels. This was a significant driver of the S&P 500 performance in October and hence poses some downside risk.... The risk of this increasingly one dimensional positioning across CTAs, Macro and some of Equity Long-Short managers is that these trends don’t materialize and trades become too crowded. The result could be a sharp reversion as positions are exited."
There is a tiresome debate as to whether or not volatility is an asset class. Let us end that debate... Volatility is the ONLY asset class. We are all volatility traders and the only question is whether we realize it or not. If you disagree do me a favor and imagine you are an alien that just landed on earth and you know nothing about investing.
Following the latest hedge fund underperformance, it is no longer possible to ignore the obvious:in the year in which central banks will unleash the greatest amount of liquidity in the "markets" in history, and where we have seen at least 77 easing steps taken by global central banks, hedge funds are poised to record their worst performance since 2011, according to JPM.
The mainstream view that central banks have suppressed tail risk is absurd and runs counter to common sense. Policy makers have done the opposite. Central banks have taken asset returns from the future and brought them to the present… they have taken tail risk from the present and shifted it into the future… that have turned private risk into public risk. The risk is not gone... do not fool yourself.
Global Capitalism is trapped in its own Prisoner’s Dilemma; fourty four years after the end of the Bretton Woods System global central banks have manipulated the cost of risk in a competition of devaluation leading to a dangerous build up in debt and leverage, lower risk premiums, income disparity, and greater probability of tail events on both sides of the return distribution. Truth is being suppressed by the tools of money. Market behavior has now fully adapted to the expectation of pre-emptive central bank action to crisis creating a dangerous self-reflexivity and moral hazard. Volatility markets are warped in this new reality routinely exhibiting schizophrenic behavior. The tremendous growth of the short volatility complex across all assets, combined with self-reflexive investment strategies, are creating a dangerous ‘shadow convexity’ that will fuel the next hyper-crash.
The recent bi-polar behavior in spot-VIX empirically supports the theory that a structural weakness now exists in this market by crowding of short volatility players. Short volatility sellers ridicule the fact that the prospectus for the iPath Long Volatility ST Index (VXX) clearly states that the ETF has an expected long-term return of zero. They should ask themselves, is it better to know with certainty you are going to go bankrupt slowly, or be completely ignorant of the fact you will go bankrupt suddenly.
The entire global financial system is leveraged to the 'Modern Portfolio Theory' concept that stocks and bonds are always anti-correlated. It is impossible to estimate how many trillions of dollars are managed according to the simple 60/40 mantras but let us just assume something north of $1.4 trillion and something south of "more money than God." However, the truth about the long-term (132-year) historical relationship between stocks and bonds is scary. The last three decades of extraordinary anti-correlation has been an era of falling rates, globalization, accommodative monetary policy, and very low volatility of CPI. With the global economy now at the zero bound, those days are over.
The 2007-2008 financial crash was not a black swan. That is a collective lie propagated by policy makers so they don’t cry themselves to sleep at night. Many different people predicted and profited from the 2008 crisis. It was about the fear of failing banks and crashing markets... but the true horror was the impending collapse of the entire fiat money system that never came to be. That was the true black swan.
Central banks are fearful and unwilling to normalize but artificially high valuations across asset classes cannot be sustained indefinitely absent fundamental global growth. Central banks are in a prison of their own design and we are trapped with them. The next great crash will occur when we collectively realize that the institutions that we trusted to remove risk are actually the source of it. The truth is that global central banks cannot remove extraordinary monetary accommodation without risking a complete collapse of the system, but the longer they wait the more they risk their own credibility, and the worse that inevitable collapse will be. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, global central banks have set up the greatest volatility trade in history.