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 15:40 -0500
"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.
The single most important “unknown unknown” today is any random event that may unexpectedly cause global central banks to withdraw their stated support of markets. Moral hazard has contributed to a significant build up in short and leveraged volatility creating a shadow ‘volatility gamma’ that reinforces the current trend in volatility direction. Rising volatility is followed by more rising volatility and vice versa. The pattern is creating a pro-cyclical monster of short volatility that, if left unchecked will contribute to a repeat of the May 2010 Flash Crash or 1987 Black Monday Crash. August 2015 was just an appetizer.
Global central banks have made a Faustian bargain with our economic soul selling our future for a false stability today. At this stage, absent continuous intervention, a large deflationary crash in the global economy is inevitable. The next Lehman brothers will be a country. The real ‘shadow convexity’ will not come from markets but political unrest or war. Peace is not the absence of conflict. Global Central Banks have set up the greatest long volatility trade in history. Buy the fear and you will be protected from the horror.
Bank Of England Tells British Banks To Reveal Their Full Exposure To Glencore And Other Commodity TradersSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 10/09/2015 08:49 -0500
Overnight we got confirmation that Glencore has indeed become a systemic risk from a regulatory standpoint after the FT reported that the Bank of England has asked British financial institutions to reveal their full exposure to commodity traders and falling prices of raw materials amid concerns over the impact of the oil and metals slump. Or, in other words, their exposure to Glencore, Trafigura, Vitol, Gunvor and Mecuria.
And now the real shocker: there is over US$100bn in gross financial exposure to Glencore. From BofA: "We estimate the financial system's exposure to Glencore at over US$100bn, and believe a significant majority is unsecured. The group's strong reputation meant that the buildup of these exposures went largely without comment. However, the recent widening in GLEN debt spreads indicates the exposure is now coming into investor focus."
After punishing the bulls like clockwork, many were wondering when will JPM head quant Kolanovic flip bullish and dole out some overdue pain for the bears. The answer: moments ago, when in a note providing an "Update on Technical Buying/Selling" he concludes that the technical selling is now officially over and the same technical sellers, among which the much maligned risk parity funds that pushed stocks in late August and early September, are now "expected to buy Equities."