For all those curious why all real money managers (and not those who spend 18 hours a day on the modern day Yahoo Finance known as Twitter, "trading" with monopoly money while selling $29.95 newsletters) are furious at what Bernanke and company are doing as shown in the most recent Ira Sohn conference, we present the chart below from Goldman which confirms what most have already known: the Federal Reserve has made hedge funds a thing of the past, whose investors are sure to keep underperforming the S&P until the moment when it all goes tumbling down.
It may seem uncharitable to note that only 0.4% - that's 4/10th of 1% - of mutual fund managers outperform a plain-vanilla S&P 500 index fund over 10 years, but that is being generous: by other measures, it's an infinitesimal 1/10th of 1%. So what do we get for investing our capital in mutual funds and hedge funds? The warm and fuzzy feeling that we've contributed the liquidity needed to grease a monumental skimming operation. Ten out of 10,000 is simply signal noise; in effect, nobody beats an index fund. The entire financial management industry is a rentier arrangement: they skim immense profits and return no productive yield at all.
There is one problem with relentlessly ramping markets (whether due to four years of liquidity injections by the Fed, or due to four years of liquidity injections by the Fed) - they make all those who by definition have to be hedged, seem stupid by comparison. In this case, this means that for the fifth year in a row, the vast majority of brand name hedge funds are once again underperforming the S&P, even though most of them have shifted to the highest net long exposure in history, while charging their increasingly more angry investors 2 and 20 for the privilege of underperforming the most micromanaged asset of all - the S&P500, and its unpaid portfolio manager, Ben Bernanke. And while there are three certain things in life: death, taxes and Paulson being one of the worst performers in the world (perhaps he is moving to Puerto Rico not to avoid paying taxes but to escape furious LPs), as he indeed is for the third year running what is most surprising is that through the middle of March, according to HSBC, every single brand name hedge funds is once again underperforming the S&P.
We noted yesterday the growing disconnect between stocks and credit - today saw stocks start to play catch-down. High-yield credit (specifically HYG - the bond ETF) has fallen four days in a row - its biggest four day plunge in over 2 months (with today's drop the biggest single-day drop in almost 4 months) amid mega volume. VIX (another notable disconnect) continued to push higher (above 14% for the first time in 3 weeks). Treasuries had been leaking higher in yield on the week (30Y +8bps as FOMC hit) but slid lower as the post-FOMC day wore on. The USD weakness (led by significant strength in CHF and EUR) supported precious metals (and commodities broadly) but not stocks. Silver are up almost 3% on the week (and Gold outperforming USD's implied shift). Homebuilders faded from the open with all the QE-sensitive sectors (Materials, Energy, and Discretionary) all red on the week now. It would appear that bonds recoupling (higher in yield) with stocks was the end of the catalyst for this run higher for now as divergences are appearing everywhere. S&P futures end the day red on the week, on large average trade size and volume.
While the overnight session has been relatively quiet, the overarching theme has been a simple one: currency warfare, as more of the world wakes up to what the BOJ is doing and doesn't like it. The latest entrants in global warfare: Taiwan, whose central bank overnight said it would step in the FX market if needed, then Thailand, whose currency was weakened on market adjustment according to Prasarn, and of course South Korea, where the BOK said that global currency war spreads protectionism. Last but not least was China which brought out the big guns after the PBOC deputy governor Yi Gang "warned on currency wars." To wit: "Quantitative easing for developed economies is generating some uncertainties in financial markets in terms of capital flows,” Yi, who is also head of China’s foreign-exchange regulator, told reporters. “Competitive devaluation is one aspect of it. If everyone is doing super QE, which currency will depreciate?” “A currency war, a series of tit-for-tat competitive devaluations, would trigger trade protection measures that would damage global trade and therefore growth globally,” said Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Plc in Hong Kong, who previously worked for the World Bank. “That would not be good for any country with a stake in the global economy.” Which brings us to the fundamental question - if everyone eases, has anyone eased? And is there such a thing as a free lunch when central banks simply finance global deficits while eating their soaring stock market cake too? The answer, of course, is no, but we will cross that bridge soon enough.
We warned yesterday that European equity's surge was not supported by credit and that truism is massively obvious in today's market moves. European stocks soared (especially Italy and Spain) to new cycle highs as corporate and financial credit capped in its recent range - actually widening from its opening gap tights. European sovereigns also gapped tighter on the open and then proceeded to bleed wider all day long - most notably in Spain, Italy, and Portugal. Spanish 2Y jumped over 25bps from low to high yield today (and we suspect Spain bond yields have bottomed in teh short-term). EURUSD remains practically unch on the week - having dropped from over 1.30 earlier when Van Hollen let some truth out on the US fiscal cliff deal. Oil recovered from its spike lows yesterday (as did Silver). GGBs were very quiet and stable at around 35 but Weidmann's comments into the close on transfer unions and not rewarding failure did spook some weakness into risk-assets. Europe's VIX, meanwhile, closed at 16.49% - its lowest since June 2007!
Year-to-Date, the S&P 500 has just dropped back below Gold...Gold's performance year-to-date just surpassed that of the S&P 500 once again. If this remains the case into year-end, this will be the third year in a row that Gold has outperformed stocks. Looking forward, which 'asset' would you choose - Stocks with an implied volatility of 17% or Gold at 15.75% to the end of the year? Sharpe Ratio anyone? Perhaps asking your 'asset allocator' what his weighting is based on will be a worthwhile conversation - with the outperforming returns (past is not a predictor of the future - and noone knows) but lower forward risk expectations?
Hands down, the best way to trade stock market volatility day today is simply not to do it, cash out, and purchase hard assets, in particular, precious metals.
It seems that every commission-taking talking-head with a voice-box is espousing the 'truth' that equity portfolio managers will be forced to chase performance into year-end for fear of career-risk (we presume) in order to merely catch-up. In high-yield markets, however, where performance has been outstanding, things are quite different. As Barclays notes, performance among HY mutual funds is tightly clustered this year (especially relative to recent years). This leaves a HY credit market that is tightly call-constrained on capital appreciation (thanks to Bernanke's ZIRP), starting to see inflows fade post-QEternity (and shares outstanding drop in the ETFs), with managers anxious about their relative performance in a tightly correlated and crowded world of illiquidity away from ETFs. As is clear by recent performance, high-yield market participants are less sanguine on the future than their equity counterparts - just as they were in April.
BS At The BLS Leads To Profitable Short Opportunities As Hopium Smokers Get High Off Of Depreciated Dime Bags Of Manipulated EupSubmitted by Reggie Middleton on 08/06/2012 09:12 -0400
#333333; font-family: 'lucida grande', tahoma, verdana, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 17px;">Rosy econ data + low valuations in markets + cure to European debt crisis, Abercromie & Fitch, Aeropostale, etc. a screaming buy?
A highly correlated market - both across asset-classes and across individual stocks within the equity indices - is now well known. It's a stockpicker's market is the refrain. Well, as Goldman points out, a dramatically narrow leadership is running the show in S&P 500 performance this year. 20 companies (22% of market cap.) account for 55% of 2012 YTD return for the S&P 500. Pick away (and by the way CRAAPL accounted for 17% of the S&P 500's YTD performance until last night) as while correlation removes alpha so concentration removes liquidity.
Now that the market (and by market we mean AAPL of course) suddenly feels like it could have far less bid-side support, and hedge fundies, up until this point relishing that definitely certain year end bonus, are once again getting very nervous that the comp situtation could be a replay of 2011, we bring them some respite: because the only thing that can bring a smile to a PM with a red P&L is known that the guy down the street is redder. Below is that latest full breakdown of monthly and YTD performance courtesy of HSBC. And yes, as pointed out yesterday, it does seem that David Tepper, did Topper-tick the market...
BTFD/STFR Deja-Vu - check. Credit underperforming - check. USD higher - check. Treasury Yields lower - check. Ask an equity guy how today was and you'll likely get a shrug of the shoulders (unless he owns JPM or CHK); ask a credit guy (if you can pull him away from the bar) and you'll get a very different response. Investment grade credit markets were crushed today on the back of pressure on JPM's hedge and unwind expectations - this was across pretty much all the indices that are out there (with over 90 names in the IG9 index also in the on-the-run IG18 index - the numbers simply reflect the series or portfolio that is being referred to). This was the worst week in IG credit of the year and lifted spreads to 4-month wides and at the same time (until late in the day) high-yield and high-beta credit did not follow suit (very unusual and very indicative of the dramatic positioning in the IG indices that JPM has basically blown up). Treasury yields have now fallen for the 8th week in a row - the longest streak since 1998! Away from pure equity and credit, risk assets remained wildly unimpressed by the incredible 8 sigma rip-fest this morning in stocks as commodities all close lower from yesterday day-session closes - though bounced to end around their European open levels on the day (except for underperforming Copper). The USD leaked higher all day with a small interruption thanks to CAD strength on their jobs data this morning (AUD, EUR, and GBP all close at the week's lows). A horrible end to an ugly week as S&P 500 e-mini futures ended very close to their 50DMA on above average volume though low average trade size (which we suspect was dominated by algos in the rip this morning). The losses JPM faces from today's index shifts are already large and with risk managers everywhere asking their traders if they hold any of that 'trash', we suspect more selling and unwinds are to come; and while JPM got all the press, Morgan Stanley is now down year-to-date.
Months of hope that the economy could finally start a 'virtuous cycle' were once dashed in a puff of smoke, after the jobs report came and cemented that the economy is now rolling over and picking up speed to the downside. Only this time, in a very ominous development for the permabulls, the MORE QE IS COMING, BUY ON DIPS crowd was nowhere to be seen. Why? Because for QE to be unleashed everything has to tumble first. And in a harbinger of what is coming to the US, just look at Europe: the EuroSTOXX 50 just turned negative for the year.