Monday, January 25, 2016

Portfolio Performance & Market Overview

Market remains in a bear market. Sharp rally of last weak as the feel of a bear market rally. Today's decline might be the start of next leg down. However, this leg might not be as long as what we saw in early January. In fact, once this phase is over, we could see a sharper rally, lasting for 2-3 weeks.

Although the above analysis is based on Elliott Wave theory, overall trend remains down. And till the time this trend turns up, we should remain cautious. Our portfolio allocation model exited long positions in August. And shorted the market at the start of 2016.

So far the portfolio is up ~5% (YTD) in comparison with ~8% (YTD) decline in the SP500. Another interesting aspect of this portfolio is that its "Beta - measure of risk when compared to SP500" is -0.56. 

Therefore, it is not correlated to the market. In a bear market, this portfolio mix not only allows us to gain from the market decline, but also enables us to protect ourselves in case of a sharp rally (like the one we saw last week).

This portfolio is an auto-allocation portfolio with diversity considerations to ensure protection against systematic risks. Asset class risk is managed by employing proprietary Bull/Bear identification mechanisms. We will keep tracking this portfolio on an on-going basis to see how it performs over the long-term. This portfolio can also be considered as the next step in our effort since March 2015 to automate portfolio management through advanced analytical and statistical tools.

As for the overall market, their is no change in the outlook. Stocks remain in a bear, while bonds remain in Bull market. There are some asset classes which have just entered a Bull market or are trying to carve not a base before entering the next phase (Oil is not one of them).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Stock Market Trend and Russell 2000

We have been discussing market and its down trend for quite some time at Understand, Survive and Thrive. It seems like this relentless downtrend doesn't want to end any time soon. Oil keeps on falling and keeps dragging the stock market with it. At some point market will rally but in a downtrend one cannot trust the rallies. In fact, hoping for a rally in a bear market is akin to hoping for a correction in a bull market.

Rallies will come but will be short and sweet. By the time people embrace them, they will be over and the primary trend will resume. One of the biggest red flag in current market is the significant under performance of Russell 2000. Russell 2000 is a small caps index and small caps are most impacted by changes in economic conditions because they are most sensitive to credit availability.

These business depend on economic growth and easy credit for their survival. Therefore, whenever you see small caps declining, its a major red flag.

In December, we highlighted that Russell 2000 ($IWM) was forming a head and shoulders topping pattern (link). The pattern looked like:

Now a completed pattern looks like following. This pattern still has another 7% decline left before it reaches its measured target level.

Small caps are already in official bear market, another 7% decline will bring the Russell 2K index in low 900s.

This analysis shows the importance of objectivity in investing and why trend following is critical. An up-trending market will find excuses to go up and a down-trending market will find fundamental and technical excuses to go down.

At this time, long-term trend in stocks is down. So every rally attempt should be treated with caution. Downtrends implication are very severe on the economy. We might be headed for a recession. Junk bonds and oil related bonds are doing poorly. This could be another area of serious concern. We will continue to evaluate the situation. But the bottom line is the best portfolio right now will be a portfolio who beta is lower than the SP500. Lower beta would reduce your risk in a down market and will allow you to preserve capital.

In the next few blog posts, I will share our portfolio which is a -0.56 beta and is beating the market since the start of the year.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bonds Bull is Roaring

We have been discussing stock market's #Bear and Bond market's #Bull for a while. Now it seems like Bond market is really taking-off. This is evident from a sharp rally in the bonds over the last 2 weeks. Some might attribute it to the declining stock market but a bull market keeps on rising and people find reasons for the rise.

As a confirmation of the trend, bond prices have just completed an inverted Head and Shoulders pattern (shown below):

We have been discussing this pattern since December, as following charts was published here on December 21.

As bonds rally and stocks decline, we are short stocks and long bonds. Being long bonds gives us cash flow in form of dividends and being short stocks allows us to take advantage of the downside.

Like any market, this bond rally will come across obstacles but the constant cash flow and the diversification provided by this investment is invaluable, along with the potential for capital gains. At the same time, it will provide a very good opportunity and probably the last opportunity for people to buy homes at very low interest rates.

As market gets more volatile, it will even make more sense to invest in bonds. But the good time to invest in any asset class or stock is before the major move happens and the news becomes public. Let's see when the stock market bounce happens, which might provide added insight into the long-term (6 months to 1 year) market trajectory.

After all is said and done, there will be a very good opportunity to buy stocks down the road.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Nasdaq Head and Shoulders Completed

Market is declining and Head and Shoulders have played out exactly in Nasdaq. We are in a #bear and we have been discussing this scenario since August 2015. 
Following chart was presented on January 4, 2016 (link).


Market so far has played out Head and Shoulders pattern to the target, as shown below.

Head and Shoulders patterns are forming in many other asset classes. We will review these in the next few blog posts.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Long Term View of Dow Jones Industrial - $DJIA

Markets continued their decline and are again poised for a down day with China closing early due to circuit breakers being activated for the day.

We have been talking about the stock market trend change since September 2015 in the following blog posts:
  1. New Year and the Stock Market
  2. Bonds Rally Analysis and Stocks
  3. Importance of objectivity in trend following
  4. Current Market - Bear Case Evaluation
  5. Investment Optimization Model (IOM) Performance - August 2015

At the same time we have been discussing markets via twitter on a more frequent basis. In this post, I would like to analyze the market from a long-term perspective. Chart below shows the performance of Dow Jones Industrial Average over the past 2 decades. 

Following are the key highlights evident from the above chart:

  1. US stock market remained in a sideways phase for over a decade
  2. US stock market broke above the resistance level in 2012. This break was more pronounced in SP500
  3. Rounding top/Head and Shoulders top formations took place at the two prior tops. And currently, it seems like a similar pattern is being formed
  4. There is a longer-term trend line which the market failed to break to the upside, and might have capped this bull-market
  5. Since the economy lags the stock market by ~6 months, we can start seeing the impact of lower oil prices through energy sector decline in the economy, starting in Q3'16
  6. If the market has really topped, we can expect ~7+ months of decline to correct last ~7 years of rally (if we are not in a secular bear market)
  7. Decline in earnings will result in higher P/E ratio. As a result, stock prices might come down to bring the P/E ratio to normal or lower valuations
  8. Many of the individuals components of $DJIA are tracing out individual Head and Shoulder patterns, which could mean that the market's components are broken
  9. Best case scenario for this correction would be to end before breaching below 2011 lows
  10. Worst case scenario would be a break below 2009 lows and formation of an expanded traingle pattern, similar to 1970s bear market but a larger scale
In short, current market decline should be looked at with caution. Until and unless the model confirms a bull market, we will not enter long. Algorithm has been long bonds for a while and went short on stocks on Jan 1st. Aggressive portfolio is long other assets based on proprietary asset allocation mechanism.

At UST we have now dealt with short-term trading based on IPM trading model and longer-term investment based on Investment Optimization Model. We will continue to share our insights with readers. For now be careful. We will go long, as soon as the model goes long.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year and the Stock Market

Happy New Year. Although today is the first trading day of the year, markets opened at negative 300. From a such a negative opening its very hard to make a come back and close in the positive territory. And market declines on the first day of the year, odds of a losing year are at 50% based on historical data (link).  

At Understand, Survive and Thrive, we suggested that the market has undergone a trend change back in September (link).  However, we suggested that shorting opportunity is not here, and we should wait for a market rally. Experience shows that markets rally after a sharp decline for two reasons:

  1. To entice weak hands into the market as buying opportunity
  2. To shake shorts who were early to the game
Once the mood changes, markets start their decline phase, which is persistent. At this point, the possibility of a prolonged decline has increased sharply. In fact, several of the high fliers like MSFT, NetFlix and others are down big today, which shows that the leadership is now leaving the market.

This is also evident from the structural integrity of the market. Stock market patterns can provide very valuable insights into the performance of a particular stock or the over all market. We discussed in December (link) that the market is tracing out a Head and Shoulders pattern, which symbolizes potential trend changes. That pattern is still in plan. But now another Head and Shoulders pattern is visible in Nasdaq (shown below).

Once this pattern is completed, which is almost complete, we can see a sharp sell-off to the downside. This could take the prices down to prior base level i.e. potential 6%+ decline from current levels.

One might ask what can cause such a decline. Although there are many reasons that we will read in the news for today's decline, earnings will be the primary driver, which start in 2 weeks. As economy weakens, earnings will dwindle and stock market will follow. So in the situation what an investor must do?

Following are some of the strategies that we are applying to navigate through this situations:
  1. Invest in assets that are in bull markets (Bonds)
  2. Exit longs from stocks
  3. Short indexed ETFs with predefined mix of diversified assets and risk mitigation startegies
  4. Keep powder dry for upcoming bull markets in other asset classes