MorningWord: 2/29/12: Doug Kass kind of nailed it on Fast Money a couple weeks back, “We are seeing a market that is far too focused on a few names – most importantly Apple – it’s an NBA market – nothing but Apple.“ The SPX was up 34 bps yesterday while AAPL was up 1.84% and I think it is safe to say without AAPL’s out-performance and signaling the all clear for other large cap tech names like MSFT up 1.66% on the day and GOOG up 1.49% on the day that there is a good chance the broad market would have been down. But the financial press loves round numbers and AAPL closing the day a billion shy of $500b in market cap and the Dow Jones closing above 13k for the first time since mid 2008 was like Christmas come early for those charged with telling us why the markets did what they did.
You guys know where I stand on this, I presume that you are not a frequent reader of this space because you are looking for the conventional consensus view, you won’t find that here. I keep getting questions from friends, colleagues, readers, oh and perfect strangers whether I am just swimming up stream?? Well of course I am for now and the truth is I would be an absolute monkey if I just threw in the towel and reversed course. Throughout my career I have never nailed a top (or a bottom for that matter) within 1% , it’s almost impossible and if one did it would likely have to do more with luck then skill. The point here is that I have always been early and always will, and as a rule I tend to be contrairian, so I won’t be part of the herd. Here is the thing, I don’t run a hedge fund or mutual fund, I don’t have a benchmark, like a lot of you, I just have my wife or husband looking over the monthly pnl reports! But the name of the game is capital preservation, and as I have said here for most of the year, when wrong on direction, you need to be even more mindful of sizing…..my positions have become smaller and smaller so no one wrong bet puts me on the sidelines for a bit……and when the time is right, when most of the inputs that you use to inform your trading/investing decisions signal to pounce, then you do, with defined risk…….this is what I am in business to do is look for the most cost/risk effective ways to make bets in the market, I am not here to sell some BS long only mutual fund that after fees will likely lag its benchmark, or try to sell some hedge fund that promises great riches in a good markets and “less bad” returns in bad markets. So if you want to hear the bull case pounded on an hourly basis, just turn the tv on, or read most financial press, and this wouldn’t be the site for u unless u want a little bit of skepticism to water down all the fluff out there.
So I think the important thing is to recognize the ideas that we speak about on the site are not meant to be an investment portfolio. I look for situations where the market under or over-appreciates a situation and look for a defined risk way to play, or look to reduce exiting risk. Think of RiskReversal as on add on to your existing reading that is not likely to follow the herd. There I got that off my chest. IN the next couple weeks we will be introducing a new full time writer to the site who will hopefully be able to balance a lot of my stubbornness, stay tuned.
As for the “NBA market” I think at the multi year highs AAPL now serves as a bigger impediment than a catalyst for higher highs. Next week (march 7th) the company will hold their iPad3 event, and if the product launch is disappointing I can only imagine this stock re-tests $500 quickly and possibly back the lows made in the mid $480s from that reversal mid month. This is the most crowded to trade the planet has ever seen, and trust me we have seen this movie before, I can’t tell you when it is going to end but I sure Know How It Will. Just remember people, when you start hearing daily that it is “different this time” it may be time to “Think Different”.
MorningWord: 2/28/12: Yesterday’s reversal was just downright nasty if you were short and looking to finally press a move that appeared to be coinciding with a “risk off” opening. Crude, Gold, Euro, equities the world over were all down, with bonds up and the VIX up 10%……… it appeared for the first time all year we would have a little sell off reminiscent of summer/fall 2011. The combination of a New Home Sales number that was better than expected and the German Parliaments vote in favor of funding the 2nd Greek Bailout after the European close and BAM, the lows were in……the SPX closed at new 52 week highs, while the DAX closed almost 1.5% off of it’s lows. Equities clearly have a bid to them as they approach levels not seen since the pre 2008 financial crisis, and it appears that it will take a bit more than some tough talk from the G-20 to get equities down and keep them down. This morning our futures and European equity markets have reversed on the one two punch of the worst Durable Goods Orders print in almost 3 yrs, coupled with weaker than expected housing data from Case Schiller. Our futures are down about 50 bps from earlier highs while the DAX is down about 1% from the morning highs.
Yesterday I posted on the IWM appearing at least on the open to be losing a bit of momentum relative to large cap stocks (read here) and breaking below its 20 day moving average. This was massive head fake and similar to that of Dec 19th, a date in which it made a similar move below the short term momentum indicator, and since then the index has been up a little more than 24% (not exactly proving the point). I am going to keep a close eye on momentum, breadth and volume as we approach multi year highs, with out a single pullback this year of more than 57 bps, something has to give and soon, the whole rally feels a bit bubbly to me.
Also keeping an eye on the rate of change of economic data such as this mornings mentioned above…..in the later part of Q4 and into Q1 the economic data in the US clearly became less bad…..as we head into the meat of 2012, as many economists are hoping for 3% plus GDP, things will need to pick up a bit and the data out of Europe and China’s will need to stabilize a bit to correctly signal that a full blown economic recovery is under way. Obviously I feel that the jury is still out on this, and I worry that a soft spot in economic data similar to what we saw last Spring could be the series of events that derails this market rally.
So I continue to build a list of shorts where I think a lot of good news is in the stocks, MSFT, AAPL, CAT, DELL, INTC and BAC and some potential longs that I would happy to buy on pullbacks JPM (36), GS (100ish) AAPL (450), NKE (95ish), BAC (6.50). We are going to start to formalize a “Hit List” and we are working on ways to better articulate our thinking on these levels and the catalysts we see ahead for individual names……stay tuned.
MorningWord: 2/27/12: World equity markets took a bit of a pause overnight as most of Asia was down modestly (Shanghai comp was the outlier up 30bps) and Europe is down across the board, with the DAX the weakest down ~1.2%. Europe back in focus as German Parliament votes today on Greek Bailout contribution and over the weekend the G-20 suggested to Euro leaders they were not at the moment willing to increase funding to the IMF’s bailout fund. I guess this is just more of the same rhetoric that we have become accustomed to as it relates to the financial crisis across the Atlantic, but the timing of any uncertainty heading into Greece’s expected debt payments next month could cause some volatility as U.S. and European equity markets teeter near 10 to 12 month highs, all but discounting positive outcomes in the near term.
$100 oil has been getting a lot of attention over the last couple weeks, specifically what it means for global growth at a time that Europe seems poised to enter a recessionary environment on the heals of austerity, and there is a raging debate over what China’s growth slowing from 8.9% in Q4 to possibly 8.3% in Q1 2012 at a time when the U.S. might be very challenged to see 3% gdp growth for sometime. [private]
New Home Sales will be reported today at 10am, at some point I think it will be safe to say that the XHB (S&P Home-builders etf) will have discounted the bottom in housing, up almost 61% from the intra-day Oct 4th, 2011 low. On a longer term basis when you back the chart out to the 2008 highs u see that $20 is a fairly significant resistance level and the near term enthusiasm could be setting up for a bit of a disappointment.[caption id="attachment_9078" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="4 YR XHB chart from Bloomberg LP"][/caption]
On a shorter term basis, I find it interesting that as the SPX continues to make new 7 month highs, the XHB topped out a couple weeks ago and has made a series of lower highs and lower lows…..This is worth keeping an eye on, sectors that showed relative strength early in the rally that now appear to be a bit tired.[caption id="attachment_9079" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="2 Month XHB vs SPX from Bloomberg lp"][/caption]
Obviously I remain cautious up here, and will continue to look for cheap vol to consider stock replacement strategies or protective structures. Out futures are only down 50 bps as I write and this will be a big test today to see if we do our usual rally after the European close, banks, large cap tech and material/commodity related names will be the tell today…….
MorningWord: 2/24/12: This market just won’t stay down, kind of reminds me of the end of ROCKY I where Apollo Creed is just battering a bloodied and defiant Italian Stallion and he just won’t stay down, even against Apollo’s urging and disbelief. The SPX started out yesterday’s session in the red on the heals of weakness in Europe, appearing that it would test the 1350 level only to reverse course and close near the highs of the day and just a few points from last week’s intra-day 7 month high.
There are definitively a handful of odd things going on as it relates to the macro picture, crude oil continues on it’s run away breakout making 10 month highs, as the VIX closed at a new 7 month low. Something has to give here, with the SPX around 1360, Oil at $108 and VIX sub 17 , this will likely cause some interesting action in the near future, but the gazillion dollar question is what does that mean for equities? If crude marches higher, equities are likely to pullback and the VIX will likely go higher…..yes I used a lot of “liklies”. But I think this is an interesting relationship to keep and eye on.[caption id="attachment_9052" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="1 YR SPX vs VIX vs Crude Oil from Bloomberg lp"][/caption]
On the trading front: I use the expression ” I am Fading” this move or that event to signify selling the strength, and taking the other side of the herd….in this market this is clearly not working…..I get it and while I will always continue to try to tweak my trading approach, I am not entirely sure that at this stage of the rally it would be appropriate to pull the plug on that strategy. What I can do in the meantime, and as I have been doing over the last few weeks is to adjust my sizing of positions and trade a bit less often in a attempt to shy away from the lower conviction ideas.
I think about it a little like this, while I am on a good trading run and have a healthy risk budget (risk budget = period to date profits) I will size my trades at 1-3% of my speculative portion of my trading book (the portion dedicated to options trading which i have routinely stated should not be a ton more than 10-15% of your entire book) than while in a bad trading period I will size my trades at about 1%. This in my opinion is the only way to stay in the game.