As if the question actually needs to be asked, we thought the following 3 charts would provide at least some defense against the constant barrage of "healthy rotation" bullshit currently being used to maintain assets-under-management as professionals unwind their levered longs into a newly-willing retail public. As Gavekal notes, the following chart show that the median stock is trading at valuation levels only seen at the previous stock market highs of 2007 and 2000.
Confirming and continuing a trend we first described a year ago, overnight RealtyTrac reported, as part of its Q1 institutional investor and cash sales report, that the percentage of all-cash buyers has soared in the past year with "42.7% of all U.S. residential property sales in the first quarter were all-cash purchases, up from 37.8% in the previous quarter and up from 19.1% in the first quarter of 2013 to the highest level since RealtyTrac began tracking all-cash purchases in the first quarter of 2011."
From 110 slides of Ackman-inspired Fannie Mae bullishness to Tudor-Jones "Central Bank Viagra", and from Jim Grant's "Buy Gazprom because it's the worst-managed company in the world" to Jeff Gundlach's housing recovery bearishness and "never seeing 1.5 million home starts ever again"... there was a little here for every bull, dick, and harry at the Ira Sohn conference. Perhaps noted behavioral psychologist said its best though: "be careful about the quality of advice you get."
Large speculators reduced ther S&P 500 positioning to net short this week and their NASDAQ longs to a one-year low as BofAML reports on CFTC data. Macros funds decreased their long exposure to S&P500 and NASDAQ to now hold short exposure. They also decreased their long exposure to US Dollar (raising their AUD longs to a record high) and maintained their long exposure to 10-year Treasuries. They decreased their long exposure to commodities and increased their long exposure to EM. Across all asset classes, positioning is at extremes.
Based on Bloomberg's Smart Money Flow indicator, there is a very significant amount of distribution going on... the question is just who is soaking up the smart money selling? Company buybacks, Johnny 5, or a greater-fool retail investor?
We have bad news for hedge funds who, like Hugh Hendry in December of last year, threw fundamentals and caution to the wind and, with great reservations, jumped into this momo bandwagon in which mere buying beget more buying until nobody knew why anyone bought in the first place... and then everything crashed, leading to the worst day for hedge funds in a decade: according to Goldman's David Kostin, whose job is to be a cheerleader for the intangible "wealth effect" leading to all too tangible Goldman bonuses: "The stock market will likely recover during the next few months... but not momentum stocks."
I am sure those who were buying the "Kool-aid" at the market highs feel that way, but the numbers tell a different story.
It’s perplexing that analysts are perplexed by the rout.
The market has had a rough start of the year flipping between positive and negative year-to-date returns. However, despite all of the recent turmoil from an emerging markets scare, concerns over how soon the Fed will start to hike interest rates and signs of deterioration in the underlying technical foundations of the market, investors remain extremely optimistic about their investments. It is, of course, at these times that investors should start to become more cautious about the risk they undertake. Unfortunately, the "greed factor," combined with the ever bullish Wall Street "buy and hold so I can charge you a fee" advice, often deafens the voice of common sense. "Not surprisingly, lessons learned in 2008 were only learned temporarily. These are the inevitable cycles of greed and fear, of peaks and troughs."
Update: As CNBC just reported moments ago, tech fund Coatue is returning $2 billion of $7 billion to investors, citing "difficult market conditions." Just wait until the "difficult market" drops more than just 3% from all time highs...
As a reminder, for those with Bloomberg (and the proper permissions) the easiest way to track the performance of the most popular hedge fund names is using the BBG ticker GSTHHVIP, and especially its performance against the S&P. But for those who don't have access, or are too lazy or depressed to type anything into their terminal today, here it is, straight from Goldman's sales and trading mouth, summarizing yesterday's market poundage:
Our HF VIP basket underperforms the SPX by over 100bps, 3 standard dev move and the worst since June 2012.
Early hope faded into middle-of-the-day-despair which was rescued (briefly) on a sea of JPY carry (which dragged the S&P all the way to VWAP) then crashed and burned on the shores of dismal reality into the close. USDJPY was in charge and 103 was the magic number that kept the S&P 500 from breaking its 50DMA (for now). The Nasdaq and Russell were ugly as Biotechs' early ripfest gave way. This is the biggest 2-day swing lower in the Nasdaq since Oct2011. Treasuries rallied modestly on the day (-2bps) as the USD weakened 0.25% led by EUR strength. Copper rallied from an overnight dump low but gold (~$1300), silver (~$20), and oil (~$100) all clustered around -0.5%. VIX tested up to 16 intraday but was rammed lower as the 330 ramp too early to hold and merely enabled VWAP sellers out... and we closed near the lows...
The hedge fund slaughter continued for a second week in a row, and now we know at least one of the parties that was liquidating - curious which hedge fund is unwinding (the first of many)? Here is the answer: "On an investor call Thursday, Mr. Citrone said Discovery had reduced the amount of risk it was taking and that he remained confident that U.S. growth was accelerating." More importantly, for those curious where the pain will continue to be focused as the HF unwind accelerates, here are the most held long hedge fund positions which if indeed the unwind has begun, will be slaughtered in the coming days.
Last week in the markets was all about what was happening below the calm surface waters, which saw the DJIA post a tiny increase and the S&P dip just a fraction. If one was going off merely by the two main indices, one would certainly have missed the drubbing that tech and specifically biotech stocks suffered. However, nowhere was it worse than in the "hedge fund hotel" basket of names most near and dear to the hearts of hedge funds, and respectively those most hated, one which Goldman defines as the long Very Important Positions <GSTHHVIP> vs. short Very Important Shorts <GSTHVISP>. It was here that P&Ls saw one of the worst weekly losses for hedge fund positions since 2001.
Howard Marks once wrote that being a "contrarian" is a lonely profession. However, as investors, it is the downside that is far more damaging to our financial health than potentially missing out on a short term opportunity. Opportunities come and go, but replacing lost capital is a difficult and time consuming proposition. So, the question that we will "ponder" this weekend is whether the current consolidation is another in a long series of "buy the dip" opportunities, or does "something wicked this way come?" Here are some "words of caution" worth considering in trying to answer that question.
The Central Bank of Iraq said it bought 36 tons of gold this month to help stabilise the Iraqi dinar against foreign currencies, according to a statement from the bank that was emailed this morning. It is very large in tonnage terms and Iraq’s purchases this month alone surpasses the entire demand of many large industrial nations in all of 2013. It surpasses the entire demand of large countries such as France, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Italy, Japan, the UK, Brazil and Mexico. Indeed, it is just below the entire gold demand of voracious Hong Kong for all of 2013 according to GFMS data (see chart). Iraq had 27 tonnes of gold reserves at the end of 2013 according to the IMF data and thus Iraq has more than doubled their reserves with their allocations to gold this month. Gold remains less than 5% of their overall foreign exchange reserves showing that there is the possibility of further diversification into gold in the coming months. The governor of the Iraqi Central Bank, Abdel Basset Turki, told a news conference that, "the bank bought 36 tonnes of gold to boost reserves and this move is to strengthen the financial capacity of the country and increase the elements of security and insurance reserves of the Central Bank of Iraq." He added that "the central bank seeks through the purchase of large quantities of gold to stabilize the Iraqi dinar against foreign currencies.” Iraq quadrupled its gold holdings to 31.07 tonnes over the course of three months between August and October 2012, data from the International Monetary Fund shows.