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
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.
With the plethora of mounting event risks, from the end of Operation Twist to numerous elections, the possibility of QE3, the US fiscal situation, the ECB/Bundesbank battle, and China's on-again-off-again economy, it seems finding a low cost long volatility 'bet' is the best way to gather some macro protection (aside from total liquidation that is). Earlier, we noted how expensive S&P 500 implied volatility had become relative to its realized vol - suggesting that being long S&P vol is not a low-cost option. However, as Barclays points out, GLD (and slightly less so SLV) is among the cheapest (defined based on percentiles of implied vol over realized vol) volatilities available. SPY vol is trading at a 60% premium to its realized vol while GLD is trading at a 20% discount. While the main risk to being long GLD volatility is a continued drift lower in realized vol, the current realized volatility is near the lower-end of its empirical range and there appear to be a number of catalysts, as we noted above, for gold (or hard assets in general) to break from its range-bound YTD performance in price and volatility (either up - more likely in our view - or down).
Equities suffered their largest single-day drop in 4 months as for once Apple was unable to single-handedly hold up the index letting it drop closer to its credit-oriented risk. A monster day for NYSE and ES (S&P 500 e-mini futures) volume saw Financials and Discretionary sectors underperforming and the Energy sector joining Utilities in the red for the year. The S&P closed at its lows as it broke its 50DMA for the first time since DEC11 as AAPL dropped 1.25% for the day (and -2.5% from the highs) but most notably equities and Treasuries are back in sync from early March as 10Y closed under 2% for the first time in a month. Gold and Silver surged around the European close, on little news, as we suspect safe-haven buying and an unwind of the gold-hedged bank-stress-test rally - with another relatively unusual divergence between Gold and stocks on the day. VIX broke above 21% closing just below it back near one-month peaks as the term structure bear-flattened (but notbaly pushing ahead of its credit-equity implied fair value). JPY strengthened all day (and AUD weakened) as carry trades were unwound in FX markets leaving the USD marginally higher on the day (and EUR marginally lower despite the turmoil in European markets). Oil fell back below $101.50 but it was Copper that has suffered the most - down almost 4% since Last Thursday. Credit markets were weak with HY marginally underperforming IG (beta adjusted) but still implying further weakness in equities as HYG closed just shy of its 200DMA.
Despite a grumpy open in the major cash equity indices - which opened pretty much in line with where S&P futures had closed on Friday morning - equity indices provided some BTFD reassurance for any and everyone who wanted to get on TV today. In sad reality, a lot of this equity index performance was due to Apple's 2% rally off pre-open lows, as it made new highs and vol continued to push higher. Financials, Industrials, and Materials all underperformed on the day (and Utes outperformed but still lost 0.5%). The majors were hurt most once again but remain notably expensive still to their credit-market perspective. On an admittedly quiet volume day (with Europe closed), the credit market (especially HYG) underperformed equity's resilience open to close but an after-hours reality check dragged ES down to VWAP once again on notably above average trade size and volume for the day. VIX managed top almost reach 19%, leaked back under 18 before pushing back up to near its highs of the day by the close - breaking back above its 50DMA (as the Dow broke below its 50DMA but the S&P remains above). Treasuries shrugged off the equity resilience and stayed in very narrow range near their low yields as stocks diverged once again (until after hours). FX markets were very quiet with JPY crosses getting some action as EUR and AUD managed to drag the USD down a little. Commodities were mixed off Thursday's close with Copper the major loser and Gold outperforming. Oil managed a decent intraday recovery today most notably back over $102. The weakness after-hours in ES (the S&P 500 e-mini future) is worrisome as its lost the support of AAPL and its options. At the cash market close, ES peaked for the day at 1382.75 and has since drifted back all the way to 1374.25 - just shy of the day's lows.
Pop quiz: What is the common theme among the following "best of breed" 2 and 20 (at least) hedge funds, whose YTD performance is presented below?
Silver remains the best performer YTD and the Long Bond the worst performer but what is most notable is the quiet serenity of the equity rally continued through March as Commodities, Precious Metals, Treasuries, and Corporate Bonds all lost notable ground post LTRO2. Is equity keeping the dream alive as the liquidity spigot has slowed to a drop (for now)? AAPL had it largest 2-day drop for almost 4 months into quarter-end - ending under $600 - and the broad S&P 500 pulled away once again from credit yesterday and today as IG, HY, and HYG close practically unchanged from last Friday's low but the ES up 15-20pts. Of the S&P sectors, Energy was the only one to fall appreciably post LTRO2 with Utilities the only sector in the red YTD -2.6% as Financials +21.5% and Tech +18.5% dominate.
Risk off. On one of the highest volume days in months (for equity cash and futures), ES (the S&P e-mini futures contract) fell over 20pts from high to low following Bernanke's lack of expansionary comment. Right at the close we accelerated very fast losing around 6pts almost instantly as the market had a very jittery feel. The major financials were off 2.5-3% from the 10amET Bernanke speech release (and XLF was down 1.4% from that peak) but it was the precious metals that shocked. Gold had it largest percentage drop (over 5%) since early December 2008 (around $100) and Silver plunged over 7% at its worst, managing to come back a little to close down around 6%. Oil did not follow the Central-Plan (to talk down the print-fest) as WTI pushed back up to $107 and Brent over $123 as the USD rallied aggressively - now up over 0.5% on the week. Treasuries early dislike for the removal of the punchbowl was quickly dismissed as equities sold off this afternoon and we drifted back 1-2bps from high yields of the day (though still higher yields close to close). As we noted two days ago on Twitter, the market seems only capable of reacting to addition or removal of central bank liquidity and what was perhaps odd today was the delayed reaction - one of incredulity maybe at the gall of these printers to stop/pause.
Too bad not every hedge fund can be long Apple (even if as Goldman points out, they sure are trying - "One out of five hedge funds has AAPL among its ten largest long positions" - a truly stunning observation and one which means that if Apple, which is priced to absolute perfection, has even one hiccup, we would see an absolutely epic bloodbath in the market). Because if 2011 was a horrible year for hedge funds which closed the year well below, or -10%, their respective benchmark - the S&P (unch for the year), the last thing hedge fund LPs can afford is another year in which they pay 2 and 20 to generate a return lower than the S&P. Yet to their horror, this is precisely what is happening. According to Goldman's latest Hedge Fund Tracker, "The typical hedge fund generated a 2012 YTD return of 3% through February 10th compared with 7% gains for both the S&P 500 and the average large-cap core mutual fund." Yes, there are outliers, but far and wide this means that even more redemptions are about to hit the hedge funds space, where jittery investors will no longer show any restraint before sending in that redemption letter. It gets worse: "The 60-fund Dow Jones Credit Suisse Blue Chip Hedge Fund IndexSM has returned 3% YTD, in line with our sample average.... The distribution of YTD performance indicates that 50% of hedge funds have generated returns between -2% and +2%." And the absolute kicker: "Only 10% have returned more than 7%, outperforming the S&P 500." Another way of saying that is that 90% of hedge funds are generating negative alpha! If that is not the signed, sealed and delivered notice of death of the hedge fund industry courtesy of not ubiquitous central planning, we don't know what is.
The mainstream media seem willing to sound the all-clear and bring us back from Defcon-3 on the back of what can generously be described by realists willing to look at the actual data as a 'murky' NFP print. The market's reaction seems modestly QE-off (with rates up decently) but the only modest drop in Gold appears to fit with a lack of conviction in the data (especially given the EUR sell-off on Papademos chatter). It seems, as Bloomberg reports, Kyle Bass is right to take the longer-view when he notes today "I'm against selling any of the gold" in UTIMCO's portfolio, pointing out the mounting risks from government deficits in US and Europe, "as every day goes by, I see deflation in the things you own and inflation in the things you need." Summing up the reality of our global situation, one of Bass's colleagues adds "This is a grand experiment and they typically never end well."