There have been many naysayers & dooms -day-prophets in the markets lately. It’s always easy to call for a 10-20% correction in stocks & general markets & saying ‘Sell in May & go away!”. The key is when precisely? And also after all the selling in protecting your downside if you cannot take the temporary marked-to-market pain; when & how are you going to get back onto the financial market bus before it speeds off again without you is key!
Sometimes when everybody call for a market correction or move in either direction up or down, usually, it just ain’t gonna happen that way. Just like the past week when calls of 1815 or 1780 in S&P500, a 5% correction to the downside seems imminent … we end up at almost 1900 by the end of the week.
Asianmacro likes to look at relative performance of EEM vs SPY (the Emerging Market ETF vs S&P500 ETF) as an indicator of flow of funds between developed & emerging markets whenever the direction of the general market is uncertain. From the chart above, we see that SPY has outperformed EEM since 2010 till January 2014 when it reversed. The biggest components of EEM are the likes of Samsung Electronics (3.93%), Taiwan Semiconductor (2.50%), Tencent (1.88%), China Mobile (1.55%), China Construction Bank (1.31%); where the top 5 names account for about 11% weighting & all are from North Asia.
From the chart below, new units creation in EEM have been driving the rally outperformance of EEM evidently. The question now is will we see this continue or we might have plateaued & reverse instead?
It was a full moon last night on 14 May 2014 & usually more often than not, it signals a short term market top or reversal especially in equities. We did see an intraday high where S&P500 pushed above 1900 before reversing lower. It does not mean that we do not get a potential summer rally squeeze in risky assets https://asianmacro.com/2014/05/13/the-summer-carry-melt-up-in-risk-assets/ as we are not into summer yet but just knocking the door around the corner.
However, it does bring to mind the uncertainty & sense of not knowing what to do on certain days with conviction especially by the humble Asianmacro here who is only a small minion in the big scheme of things in the financial markets. The only thing that made sense is the video clip produced by Samsung assembling some of the best footballers on Earth to save us from an Alien invasion where the outcome is determined by a football match .. what else is new!
From the chart above, if you look at the spread between the 1st & 2nd VIX futures contract, we are back again to 155 b.p. difference. Usually a big & growing difference where the 2nd contract value is greater than the 1st contract value implies an upward sloping volatility curve (for VIX) & represent a normalisation of sentiment (or complacency). A small or narrowing difference and in the extreme when it goes to negative value implies an inverted volatility curve (for VIX) where heightened fear of imminent risk of crash in markets resulted in buying of volatility (or VIX) in near contract over that of far contracts.
The above is just a generalisation so as not to bore most of you who might not be equity derivatives & volatility traders. However, as you can see above, whenever we reach 155-175 b.p. spread in VIX 1st & 2nd futures, we do see a correction lower in S&P500 subsequently for a short period of time. Anyway, there are just so many mixed signals in the markets at the moment. Sometimes it’s best to just sit back on the sidelines & wait …
“The desire for constant action irrespective of underlying conditions is responsible for many losses on Wall Street even among the professionals, who feel that they must take home some money every day, as though they were working for regular wages.” – Jesse Livermore
The hardest trade to put on mentally & physically in execution more often than not ends up being the right profitable trade. This was learnt the hard way by Asianmacro over the years like when overnight & tomorrow/next Thai-baht (THB) rate was at 10% at mid-day at the onset on the Asian crisis in May 1997, when it was only 3% in the morning, it still made sense to pay up to secure any funding if you really need them. It ended up at 1,000% by late afternoon & everything keeled over.
There is a sense of deja-vu at the moment except that this time instead of the markets keeling over, there seems to be a slow motion melt-up in risk assets led by U.S. stock markets with S&P500 leading the way while Nasdaq100 & Russell2000 recovered from their respective corrections over the recent weeks.
From the chart above, where both the EUR/AUD FX cross & VIX bear high correlation & R-square with each other. Everything seems to suggest with declining VIX and a continued search for FX carry best represented by EUR/AUD shorts (to earn the interest rate differential between EUR & AUD) … the pain trade is to see risky assets melt up even more into summer!
It is the recognition of such ‘dampened’ volatility and lack of trend breakouts or mis-pricings in the markets that saw Asianmacro laying low for a number of months. From the chart above, where the upper panel white line is the JPM G7 FX vols minus VIX; has gone back close to zero since H2 2013 till present. Typically VIX as a simple measure of S&P500 implied vols is usually much higher than FX vols especially during periods of financial market stress where equities tend to plunge faster & a lot more than FX directionality. The bottom panel in the above chart is the normalised vol price of VIX & JPM G7 vols from 2006 before the pre-2008 crisis period till present. FX vols is in fact going back to almost the lows in 2007 just before the onset of the financial crisis.
Are we facing once again the calm before the storm? We could well be when the last crowded positions capitulate & it seems like the consensus strong USD & short US Treasuries trades of 2013 going into 2014 are being forced to unwound at great loss by banks & hedge funds …. we are getting close to the last inning.