Category Archives: ETFS

What to Watch in Energies

With crude oil hitting its highest level since November of 2014, the energy sector is suddenly drawing a lot of interest.  But there are few caveats that investors might want to keep in mind before getting too far ahead of themselves.

(BTW: If you enjoy reading JayOnTheMarkets.com – heck, even if you hate reading JayOnTheMarkets.com – please tell others and encourage them to stop by, “Like” an article, link an article, etc..  Thanks, The Management)

Energy Seasonality

Figure 1 (from www.Sentimentrader.com, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite sites) displays the annual seasonal calendar for ticker XLE – the SPDR Energy ETF. While it should be pointed out that it certainly is not like every year plays out like this chart, the primary point is that the “meat” part of year of from the end of January through the end of April is nearing the end of the line.0Figure 1 – XLE Seasonality (Courtesy: www.Sentimentrader.com)

XLE Overhead Resistance

XLE has had a terrific month of April, rallying over 14% since the low on 4/2.  And while it has been an impressive show of momentum, a look at the “bigger picture” points to some key levels of potential resistance just ahead.

Figure 2 is a monthly bar chart of XLE with two significant resistance levels drawn (at roughly $78.25 and $80.50). XLE has failed twice previously at roughly $78.40 – in December 2016 and again in January of 2018.1Figure 2 – XLE Monthly with overhead resistance (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

On the plus side, XLE is clearly trending higher at the moment and there is still another 6.4% and 9.4% of upside potential between the current price and the resistance levels drawn in Figure 2.  So short-term upside potential remains.

The only real “warning” I am raising is to pay attention to “what happens (if and) when we get there” (“there” being the $78.25-$80.50 range).

Jay’s Energy ETF Index

I created and follow an index of all manner of energy related ETFs (it combines traditional fossil fuel related ETFs with alternative energy source ETFs). A monthly chart with a significant resistance level drawn appears in Figure 3.2Figure 3 – Jay’s Energy ETF Index (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Figure 4 “zooms in” on Figure 3 using a daily bar chart of my Energy ETF Index.  As you can see, as nice as the latest rally has been, there is a “day of reckoning” looming out there somewhere if the energy sectors keeps going and retests this significant level.

2aFigure 4 – Jay’s Energy ETF Index; Daily (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

For the record this index is comprised of:

GEX – Alternative Energy

KOL – Coal

LIT – Lithium

NLR – Nuclear

OIH – Oil Service

TAN – Solar

UGA – Gasoline

UHN – Heating Oil

UNG – Natural Gas

URA – Uranium

USO – Crude Oil

XLE – Energy Sector

Summary

Some might interpret this piece as a bearish to neutral word of warning related to the energy sector.  In reality I am pretty agnostic when it comes to energy and (sadly) can’t offer you a “prediction” that would do you any good.

But I will be watching closely to see what happens to XLE and my own index if and when the key resistance levels are tested – especially if that test occurs after the end of the most favorable February through April period.

Commodity related assets – such as energy, especially fossil fuels – appear “due” for a favorable move relative to stocks.  If and when these key resistance levels are pierced we could see an “off to the races” situation unfold.

Until then, be careful about  “bumping your head.”

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Yes, the U.S. Dollar is at a Critical Juncture

If you have read any of my pieces lately you are already aware that as it relates to the financial markets a lot of things are presently at a critical juncture (including my sanity, but I digress).  Today let’s add the U.S. Dollar to that seemingly ever longer list of financial areas that appear to be at a crossroads.  And this one has some large implications simply because a lot of other markets are affected at least to some extent by what happens in the dollar.

Figure 1 displays the Spot U.S. Dollar on a monthly basis.

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Figure 1 – U.S. Dollar Monthly (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

The reality is that there is no one definitive price at which to draw a “definitive” line in the sand.  So I arbitrarily picked two.  There is nothing “magical” about these two lines and a move above or below either does not technically “prove” anything.  Still, as far as this range goes, a lot of previous price moves have “gone here to die” so to speak.

Now this is the point in the article where a skilled analyst would explain in painstaking detail why the dollar is absolutely, positively destined to move higher (or lower) from here.  Sorry, folks I honestly don’t know. But there are two things I do know which might still prove useful:

1) For every prognosticator out there pounding the table that the dollar is sure to move higher there is another (equally slightly crazed) prognosticator averring that the dollar is destined to decline.  And the key thing to note is that they both can make a pretty compelling case.

2) A lot rides on which way the dollar goes from here, because there is no shortage of markets that react – at least in part – to the movements of the U.S. dollar.  This means that alot of trading opportunities will be affected/created by the next big move from the dollar.

A few examples appear in Figure 2 below which displays the inverse nature of the correlation between the U.S. Dollar (using ticker UUP as a proxy) and the market in question (for the record, a figure of 1000 means the market moves exactly like the dollar and a figure of -1000 means the market moves exactly inversely to the dollar).

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Figure 2 – Correlations to U.S. Dollar (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Now the fact that foreign currencies (ticker FXE – which tracks the Euro) move inversely to the U.S. Dollar is fairly obvious.  But note that on this list are:

*Foreign Bonds and U.S. Bonds (BWX and TLT)

*Precious Metals (GLD and SLV)

*Commodities (like coffee, soybeans and crude oil)

*Broad Commodity Indexes (DBC and GSG)

This encompasses a pretty darn wide swath of the trading world.  And every single one of them will be influenced to some extent by which way the dollar goes from here.

As you can see in Figures 3 through 6 (click to enlarge any of the charts), what happens to the U.S. Dollar can matter a lot to what happens in these markets.

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Figure 3 – Dollar vs. Euro (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

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Figure 4 – Dollar vs. Bonds (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

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Figure 5 – Dollar vs. Metals (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

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Figure 6 – Dollar vs. Commodity Indexes (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

Summary

So the bottom line is that I do not know which way the dollar goes from here.  But I do know that whichever way it goes a lot of “things” will likely go “the other way.”  And everything listed in Figure 2 represents a lot of trading opportunities.

This represents a good time to invoke:

Jay’s Trading Maxim #17: (with credit given to George and Tom at Optionetics back in the day): Investing success involves two “simple” steps. #1) Spot opportunity.  #2) Exploit opportunity.  Everything you do as a trader or investor falls into one of these two categories.

A bunch of opportunities may soon be spotted (assuming the dollar actually ever does get around to deciding which way it wants to go…).

So focus here, people, focus…

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Biotech + Gold (Updated)

In this article I wrote about an index I follow that combines the biotech sector with the gold stock sector. I also wrote about “one way” to trade that index.  This article builds on that piece and adds a new “rule” to create more trading opportunities.
The BIOGOLD Index
Figure 1 displays the index that I created using AIQ TradingExpert.  It combines ticker FBIOX (Fidelity Select Biotech) with ticker FSAGX (Fidelity Select Gold).
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Figure 1 – Jay’s BIOGOLD Index (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Also included in the lower clip is an indicator referred to as RSI32, which is the 2-day average of the standard 3-day RSI.
The Old System
In the original article I tested an approach that works as follows using monthly data:
*When the RSI32 drops to 32 or below, buy BOTH FBIOX and FSAGX
*After a buy signal, sell both funds when RSI32 rises to 64 or higher
For results, please see the original article.
The New System
The “new rules” are as follows:
A “buy signal” occurs when either:
*The RSI32 drops to 32 or below
*The RSI32 drops below 50 (but not as low as 32) and then reverses to the upside for one month
After either of the buy signals above occurs, buy BOTH FBIOX and FSAGX
*After a buy signal, sell both funds when RSI32 rises to 64 or higher
Figure 2 displays the BIOGOLD Index with various buy and sell signals marked.
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Figure 2 – Jay’s BIOGOLD Index with RSI32 signals (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
To test results we will:
*Assume that after a buy signal both FBIOX and FSAGX are bought in equal amounts
*We will assume that both funds are held until RSI32 reaches 64 or higher (i.e., there is no stop-loss provision in this test)
For testing purposes we will not assume any interest earned while out of the market, in order to highlight only the performance during active buy signals. Figure 3 displays the hypothetical growth of $1,000 (using monthly total return data) using the “system”.
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Figure 3 – Hypothetical Growth of $1,000 using Jay’s BIOGOLD System (1986-present)
Summary
For the record, I am not “recommending” that anyone go out and initiate trading biotech and gold based on what I have written here.  Before trading using any approach it is essential for a trader to do their own homework and carefully consider all of the pro’s and con’s associated with any specific approach.  For example, while the trade-by-trade results for the above look reasonably good, it should be noted that there have been 4 separate drawdown’s in excess of -19% along the way, including a maximum drawdown of -37% in 2008.  In considering any approach to trading it is essential to first think long and hard about how well one would “weather the storms”, BEFORE focusing on potential profitability.
To put it more succinctly is the simple phrase “Don’t cross the river if you can’t swim the tide.”
Jay Kaeppel
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Trend Following in One Minute a Month

In the article linked below, investor and Forbes columnist Kenneth Fisher writes about what to look for at a market top (How to Tell a Bull Market from a Bear Market Blip). One piece of advice that I have heard him offer before is to wait at least 3 months after a top in price to worry about whether or not we are in a bear market.  That is good advice and provided the impetus for a simple trend-following model I follow based on that “wait 3 months” idea.

First, a few key points:

*Trend-following is NOT about picking tops and bottoms or timing the market with “uncanny accuracy”.  So don’t expect any trend-following system to do so.

*The primary edge in any trend-following method is simply missing as much of the major soul – and capital – crushing bear markets as possible, with the understanding that you will miss some of the upside during bull markets.

The Good News:

*Starting in November 1970 this system has beaten a buy and hold strategy

*This system requires no math. There are no moving averages, etc.  Anyone can look at a monthly S&P 500 bar chart and generate the signals.  And it literally takes less than 1 minute per month to update.

The Bad News:

*Every trend-following method known to man experiences whipsaws, i.e., a sell signal followed by a buy signal at a higher price.  This system is no exception.

*Due to said whipsaws this system has significantly underperformed the S&P 500 buy-and-hold since the low in early 2009.

For what it’s worth, my educated guess is that following the next prolonged bear market, that will change.  But there are no guarantees.

OK, all the caveats in place, here goes.

Jay’s Monthly SPX Bar Chart Trend-Following System

*This system uses a monthly price bar chart for the S&P 500 (SPX) to generate trading signals.

*For the purposes of this method, no action is taken until the end of the month, even if a trend change is signaled earlier in the month.

*A buy signal occurs when during the current month, SPX exceeds its highest price for the previous 6 calendar months.

A sell signal occurs as follows:

a) SPX registers a month where the high for the month if above the high of the previous month. We will call this the “swing high”.

b) SPX then goes 3 consecutive monthly bars without exceeding the “swing high.” When this happens, note the lowest low price registered during those 3 months. We will call this price the “sell trigger price.”

c) An actual sell trigger occurs at the end of a month when SPX register a low that is below the “sell trigger price”, HOWEVER,

d) If SPX makes a new monthly high above the previous “swing high” BEFORE it registers a low below the “sell trigger price” the sell signal alert is aborted

Sounds complicated right?  It’s not.  Let’s illustrate on some charts.

In the charts that follow:

*An Up green arrow marks a buy signal

*A Down red arrow marks a sell signal

*A horizontal red line marks a “sell trigger price”.

Sometimes a sell trigger price is hit and is marked by a down red arrow as a sell signal.  Other times a sell trigger price is aborted by SPX making a new high and negating the potential sell signal.

spx trendf 1

Figure 1 – SPX signals 1970-1979 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 2

Figure 2 – SPX signals 1980-1989 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 3

Figure 3 – SPX signals 1990-1999 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 4

Figure 4 – SPX signals 2000-2009 (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

SPX trendf 5

Figure 5 – SPX signals 2010-present (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

To demonstrate results we will use monthly close price data for SPX.  If the system is bullish then the system will hold SPX for that month.  If the system is bearish we will assume interest is earned at an annual rate of 1% per year.

Figure 6 displays the results of the System versus Buy and Hold starting with $1,000 starting November 1970 through 1994 (roughly 24 years).

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Figure 6 – Growth of $1,000 invested using System versus Buy-and-Hold; Nov-1970 through Dec-1994

Figure 7 displays the results of the System versus Buy and Hold starting with $1,000 starting at the end of 1994 through the most recent close.

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Figure 7 – Growth of $1,000 invested using System versus Buy-and-Hold; Dec-1994 through Feb-2018

Figure 8 displays the growth of $1,000 generated by holding the S&P 500 Index ONLY when the trend-following system is bearish.  In Figure 8 you will see exactly what I mentioned at the outset – that the key is simply to miss some of the more severe effects of bear markets along the way.

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Figure 8 – Growth of $1,000 invested ONLY when trend-following model is Bearish; 1970-2018

Finally, Figure 9 displays trade-by-trade results (using month-end price data).

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Figure 9 – Trade-by-trade results; Month end price data

Summary

So is this “The World Beater, Best Thing Since Sliced Bread” system?  Not at all.  If you had started using this system in real time in March of 2009 chances are by now you would have abandoned it and moved on to something else, as the whip saw signals in 2011-2012 and 2016 has the System performing worse than buy and hold over a 9 year period.

But here is the thing to remember.  Chances are prolonged bear markets have not been eradicated, never to occur again.  100+ years of market history demonstrates that bear markets of 12 to 36 months in duration are simply “part of the game”.  And it is riding these bear markets to the depths that try investors souls – and wipe out a lot of their net worth in the process.

Chances are when the next 12 to 36 month bear market rolls around – and it will – a trend-following method similar to the one detailed here may help you to “save your sorry assets” (so to speak).

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

World Met Resistance

In this article titled “World, Meet Resistance” – dated 12/21/2017 – I noted the fact that many single country ETFs and regional indexes were closing in on a serious level of potential resistance.  I also laid out three potential scenarios.  So what happened?  A fourth scenario not among the three I wrote about (Which really pisses me off.  But never mind about that right now).

As we will see in a moment what happened was:

*(Pretty much) Everything broke out above significant resistance

*Everything then reversed back below significant resistance.

World Markets in Motion

Figure 1 displays the index I follow which includes 33 single-country ETFs. As you can see, in January it broke out sharply above multi-year resistance. Just when it looked like the index was going to challenge the all-time high the markets reversed and then plunged back below the recently pierced resistance level.

(click to enlarge)1

Figure 1 – Jay’s World Index broke out in January, fell back  below resistance in February (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)

The same scenario holds true for the four regional indexes I follow – The Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific and the Middle East – as seen in Figure 2.

(click to enlarge)2

Figure 2 – Jay’s Regional Index all broke above resistance, then failed (Courtesy  AIQ TradingExpert)

So where to from here?  Well I could lay out a list of potential scenarios. Of course if history is a guide what will follow will be a scenario I did not include (Which really pisses me off.  But never mind about that right now).

So I will simply make a subjective observation based on many years of observation.  The world markets may turn the tide again and propel themselves back to the upside.  But historically, when a stock, commodity or index tries to pierce a significant resistance level and then fails to follow through, it typically takes some time to rebuild a base before another retest of that resistance level unfolds.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

Is a Reprieve for Bonds in the Offing?

The question on many investors’ minds is “are we in a bond bear market?”  Given that long-term treasuries have lost roughly 17% since July of 2016 it is a fair question.
The main model that I use is still bearish on bonds (more on this topic below).  Still, there are a few potential “lights at the end of the bond tunnel” – at least potentially in the near-term.
Long-Term Rates
My mega long-term “fail-safe” bond trend indicator appears in Figure 1.  It is the yield on 30 year treasuries (ticker TYX – which is multiplied by 10 for some unknown reason) with a 120-month exponential moving average.
0Figure 1 – 30-Yr. Treasury yields (Ticker TYX) with 120-month average (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
When the day comes that TYX breaks out above the 120-month moving average I for one will officially designate the great bond bull market as “over.”  And that day is coming.  But for what it’s worth – it’s not quite here yet.
Metals Positive for Bonds
In this article I wrote about a bond timing model that uses the relationship between gold and copper.  Like a lot of timing models of all stripes it does a good job of differentiating good times for bonds from bad times for bonds, but is very far from perfect.
It goes like this:
A = Gold / Copper
B = 30-day moving average of A
C = 80-day moving average of A
D = B – C
If D > 0 = Bullish for bonds*
If D < 0 = Bearish for bonds*
*- with a 1-day lag
This indicator flipped to bullish at the close on 2/7/18 after being bearish since 7/10/2017.
Figure 2 displays the action of ticker TLT since the last “sell” signal in July 2017.  As you can see, in the end it ended up being “correct” as TLT was lower on 2/7/18 than it was on 7/10/17.  But that was not the case until the last week or so.  So for most of the time during this bearish period TLT traded higher.
1Figure 2 – Ticker TLT with recent Jay’s Metal Model signals (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
What is most important however is to focus on the long-term results. In Figure 2 the blue line depicts the growth of equity achieved by holding long 1 t-bond futures contract ONLY when the model is bullish while the red line depicts the growth of equity achieved by holding long 1 t-bonds futures contract ONLY when the model is bearish (red line).
2aFigure 2 – T-bond futures $ gain/loss when Jay’s Metal Model is bullish (blue line) versus when model is bearish (red line)
The long-term difference in performance is fairly obvious.  That being said it should also be noted that the blue line is by no means a series of straight line advances, i.e., there is no guarantee that this latest bullish signal will prove fortuitous, especially given that we may be transitioning from a long-term bond bull market to a long-term bond near market.
One More Possible Piece of Good News
In this article I applied an indicator I originally learned from Tom McClellan at http://www.mcoscillator.com to weekly TLT.  This indicator looks at the number of times TLT has been up minus the number of times down over the past 20 weeks. Very often a drop to -2 or below followed by an upside reversal of 2 points (i.e., it drops to -2 then subsequently rises to 0, or drops to -3 then rises to -1 and so on) has presaged a favorable up move in bonds. This indicator applied to TLT recently fell to -2 and may flash a favorable signal soon (please note that it HAS NOT given a buy signal yet and that it  could take several weeks before it does).
3Figure 3 – Weekly TLT with UpDays20 Indicator (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
One Piece of “Still Bad News”
In this article I wrote about one of the main bond models I use that uses the trend in Japanese stocks to trade bonds inversely, i.e., if Japanese stocks are bearish it is bullish for bonds and vice versa. I use a 5-week and 30-week moving average to quantify Japanese stocks as “bullish” or “bearish”.
In Figure 4 when the blue line in the top clip is above the red line this is considered bearish for bonds and when the blue line is below the red line it is considered bullish for bonds. For now the blue 5-week average line is still well above the red 30-week average, so this indicator still  designates the trend for bonds as “bearish”.
4aFigure 4 – Ticker TLT tends to trade inversely to ticker EWJ (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Summary
So are bonds due to rally?  Well, it seems like at least a short-term bounce could be in the offing.  That being said, with bonds breaking down sharply at the moment, 1) this “idea” is geared for “traders” who are not afraid of (and are unacquainted with) taking risks, 2) it might make sense to wait for the UpDays20 indicator discussed above to tick higher by two points – which could take up to several weeks to play out – before “taking the plunge.”
As always I am not “recommending” anything, just highlighting what I see.  For longer-term investors the “Boring Bond Index” bond strategy I wrote about here remains a viable  long-term approach to bond investing.
Jay Kaeppel
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

What to Worry About – and When – in the Bond Market

There is a lot of hand-wringing going on these days regarding the bond market.  And rightly so given that interest rates have been (were?) in a downtrend for 35+ years.  Given that, given the long-term cyclical nature of interest rates and given that rates are at a generational low level, “concern” is understandable.
However, needless hand-wringing over events that have yet to occur is not.
rates long-term
Figure 1 – Long-term treasury yields through the years (Courtesy: ObservationsanNotes.blogspot.com)
(The chart in Figure 1 is updated only through about 2012.  Nevertheless, it effectively highlight the long-term cyclical nature of interest rates.)
The problem is the “well, interest rates are destined to rise therefore I should immediately [fill in your defensive action here].”
Many analysts and investors are following and attempting to interpret every tick in bond yields.  In fact, some very well known bond “people” have proclaimed a “bond bear market”.  And they may be right.  But still…
What I Follow in the Bond Market
What follows are a few random thoughts on some of the things I look at when tracking the bond market.
#1. 30-Year Yield versus 120-month Exponential Moving Average
Figure 2 displays ticker TYX, an index which tracks the yields on 30-year bonds (for some reason it multiplies by 10 – so a yield of 3% appears on the chart as 30.00).
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Figure 2 – 30-year treasury yields versus 120-month exponential moving average (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Using the data from Figure 1 I have found that a 120-month (i.e., 10-year) average does a pretty good job of riding the major trends in interest rates.  As you can clearly see in Figure 2, TYX is still noticeably below its 120-month EMA.  This could obviously change quickly but  for the moment by this objective measure the long-term trend in interest rates right at this very moment is still “down.”
Please note that I am not saying that interest rates will not rise and move above this MA.  I am saying two things:
1. Until the crossover occurs try not to focus too much attention on dire predictions.
2. Once the crossover does occur the bond market environment that most of us have known throughout all or most of our investment lives will change dramatically (more on this topic when the time is right).
#2.  The Yield Curve(s)
Figure 3 displays the yield curves for 30-year yields minus 10-year yields and 10-year yields minus 2-year yields. The narrowing trend is obvious. This is causing great consternation because historically when the yield curve “inverts” (i.e., when shorter-term rates are higher than longer-term rates) it is a very bad sign for the economy and the financial markets.
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Figure 3 – 10-yr yield minus 2-year yield (blue) and 30-year yield minus 10-year yield (orange); (Courtesy: YCharts)
The problem here is that there is still an important difference between “narrowing” and actual “inverting”.  Many people seems to look at Figure 3 and assume that an inverted yield curve (i.e., if and when these lines go into negative territory) is “inevitable” and that things are therefore doomed to get worse for the economy and the markets.
Repeating now: There is still an important difference between a “narrowing” yield curve and an actual “inverted” yield curve.  Until the yield curve actually does invert try not to focus too much attention on dire predictions.
#3. The Current Trend in Bonds
One trend following indicator that I follow (and have written about in the past) is the inverse relationship between long-term t-bonds and Japanese stocks.  Figure 4 display ticker EWJ (an ETF that tracks an index of Japanese stocks) versus ticker TLT (an ETF that tracks the long-term treasury bond).
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Figure 4 – Ticker EWJ versus Ticker TLT (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Figure 5 displays two equity curves.  The blue line represents the $ gain achieved by holding long 1 treasury bond futures contract ONLY when the EWJ 5-week moving average is below the EWJ 30-wek moving average and the red line represents the $ loss achieved by holding long 1 treasury bond futures contract ONLY when the EWJ 5-week moving average is above the EWJ 30-week moving average.
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Figure 5 – Holding long t-bond futures when EWJ is in a downtrend (blue line) versus holding long t-bond futures when EWJ is in an uptrend (red line); December 2003-present
Notice anything different about  the blue line versus the red line?  With EWJ trending strongly higher, caution remains in order or the long-term treasury bond. If the trend in EWJ reverses things may look better for long-term bonds.
#4. Short and Intermediate Term Bonds remain a Viable Alternative
As I wrote about here an index of short and intermediate treasury and high grade corporate remains a viable long-term approach for income investors. Figure 6 displays the growth of $1,000 invested using the “Boring Bond Index” I wrote about in the aforementioned article.  This index has gained in 38 of the past 42 years.6
Figure 6 – Growth of $1,000 invested using “Boring Bond Index” Method; 12/31/1975-11/30/2017
Summary
There are good reasons to be wary of interest rates and bonds. At the same time overreacting to dire headlines also remains a very poor approach to investing.
So in sum:
*The very long-term trend in interest rate is still technically “down”
*The yield curve is narrowing but still has a ways to go before it inverts
*The current trend in long-term bonds is bearish
*Short and intermediate term bonds experience much less volatility than long-term bonds (and reinvest more frequently, which may come in handy if rates do begin to  rise in earnest).
*If and when TYX pierces its long-term average and/or when the yield curve inverts, the time will arrive for investors to make some wholesale changes in how they approach their bond market investments.
*If and when EWJ starts to fall, things may improve for the current plight of the long-term treasury.
*And through it all, a boring approach to bonds may still prove very useful.
Jay Kaeppel
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

A Bottom-Picking Portfolio

In a recent article I highlighted some stocks that appeared to have a chance of “putting in a low”.  In another article, I highlighted the potential usefulness of “horizontal lines” on a chart.  The phrase “putting in a low” is essentially a kindler, gentler version of the phrase “Hey, let’s pick a bottom”.
The reality is that the ability to “pick tops and/or bottoms” on any kind of a consistent basis is a skill that roughly 99.2% of all investors and traders do not possess.  That being said, there is such a thing as a legitimate “bottom formation” (at least in my market addled opinion).  A security that bounces several or more times off a particular price is sending information that the sellers may be running out of ammunition.  These levels can be observed by drawing horizontal trend lines across a price chart – connecting recent highs and/or lows at roughly similar prices.
“Loading up” in this situation is not recommended. But committing an acceptable percentage of one’s portfolio (a level which each investor must decide on their own) to such opportunities is a perfectly acceptable form of speculation.
So for arguments sake, below is a “Bottom Pickers Portfolio”.  As always, I am not recommending this as an investment, simply highlighting an alternative idea for your further consideration.
The Tickers
The tickers included in this portfolio are mostly all commodity related.  That is not a purposeful choice; they simply “fit the model”.
First is ticker BAL – an ETF that tracks the price of cotton futures.  The critical level for BAL is roughly the $43.50 area.
1Figure 1 – Ticker BAL (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Ticker GDX tracks a gold stock index and has been consolidating in a relatively tight range after last year’s sharp rally and subsequent pullback.
2Figure 2 – Ticker GDX (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Ticker JO tracks the price of coffee futures.  This is one of the weakest charts on the list and is dangerously close to failing to the downside.  However, if the low holds this will strengthen the outlook a great deal.
3Figure 3 – Ticker JO (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Ticker SGG tracks the price of sugar futures. SGG has been consolidating in a narrow range for about four months.  Key price levels on the downside are $26.50 and the August 2015 low of $24.79.
4Figure 4 – Ticker SGG (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Ticker SWN is Southwestern Energy Co.  After a long, devastating decline the stock is attempting to form a low in the $5 a share range.
5Figure 5 – Ticker SWN (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Ticker UNG tracks natural gas futures.  Thanks to the advent of fracking – which is made natural gas abundantly available – the price of natural gas has collapsed in recent years.  In the past week it retested its 2016 low and then ticked higher.  Like JO, this one is precariously close to “failing”.  But for now…
6Figure 6 – Ticker UNG (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
The Bottom Pickers Portfolio                      
I use AIQ TradingExpert software to create my own “Groups”.  So I created one called “Lows” to include the six tickers above.  The group consists of an equal dollar investment in each ticker.  The chart for this combination of tickers appears in Figure 7.EDITORS NOTE: Creating your own groups is accomplished in the TradingExpert Data Manager information can be found in this article ‘Adding groups and sectors to your Group/Sector List’

7Figure 7 – The “Lows” Group (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Summary
Let me be blunt.  There is every chance that the majority of the tickers highlighted above will continue their long-term bearish trends and break down to the downside causing further losses for those holding these shares.
The primary thing to highlight in this piece is a personal preference.  I prefer “horizontal” lines on a chart – i.e., straight across, left to right – to the more typical slanted trend lines that most traders use.  The reason is simply – upward or downward slanting trend lines require a trader to decide which two (or more) highs (or lows) to connect in order to draw the trend line.  At the end of the day this is often a subjective decision.
Horizontal trend lines – which connect to (at least roughly equal) highs or lows – are generated by the market itself and as such, are more objective in nature.  In other words, investor buying and selling determines these levels.
Will my “Bottom Pickers Portfolio” move to the upside or fail to the downside?  We’ll just have to wait to find out.
Jay Kaeppel Chief Market Analyst at JayOnTheMarkets.com and AIQ TradingExpert Pro client.
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

An Unusual 4 ETF Portfolio…That Seems to Work

I know I repeat it a lot but the purpose of this blog is not to offer recommendations but rather to share ideas.  So here is one that I am not quite sure about but am keeping an eye on.
The FourNonCorr Portfolio
Somewhere awhile back I started looking at trying to pair non correlated – or even inversely correlated – securities in a portfolio that had the potential to outperform the overall market. What follows is what I refer to as the FourNonCorr Portfolio.  For the record I do not trade this portfolio with real money.  I am still trying to figure out if there is something to it or not.  But given that it has outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of 3-to-1 (granted, using hypothetical results) since December of 2007, I figure it might be worth monitoring for awhile.
The portfolio consists of four ETFs:
Ticker FXE – Guggenheim CurrencyShares Euro Trust
Ticker UUP – PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish
Ticker TLT – iShares Barclays 20+ Yr Treas. Bond
Ticker XIV – VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX ST ETN
The monthly charts for each appear in Figure 1.
1Figure 1 –The Four ETFs in The Four NonCorr Portfolio (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
As you can see there is a lot of “zigging” by one accompanied by “zagging” for another.  No surprise that when the Euro rises the dollar falls and vice versa. Also, TLT often seems to move opposite XIV. That is essentially the purpose of these pairings.
Figure 2 displays the correlations between the four ETFs in the portfolio (using AIQ TradingExpert Matchmaker function from 8/31/2012 through 8/31/2017 using weekly data).  A reading of 1000 indicates a perfect correlation, a reading of -1000 indicates a perfectly inverse correlation.
FXE UUP TLT XIV
FXE (913) 77 (13)
UUP (913) (117) 43
TLT 77 (117) (234)
XIV (13) 43 (234)
Figure 2 – Correlations for the FourNonCorr Portfolio ETFs (Source: AIQ TradingExpert)
Clearly there is a whole lot of “not correlating much” going on.
Results
For testing purposes I used monthly total return data for each ETF from the PEP Database from Callan Associates.  The one exception is ticker XIV which did not start actual trading until December 2010.  For January 2008 through November 2010 I used index data for the index that ticker XIV tracks inversely (S&P 500 VIX SHORT-TERM FUTURES INDEX). Actual XIV ETF data is used starting in December 2010.
As a benchmark, I also tracked the cumulative total return for ticker SPY (that tracks the S&P 500 Index).
Figure 3 displays the cumulative percent gain or loss for both the FourNonCorr Portfolio and ticker SPY.3Figure 3 – Cumulative % gain/loss for The FourNonCorr Portfolio (blue) versus SPY (red); 12/31/2007-9/30/2017
Year-by-year results appear in Figure 4
4 NonCorr SPY Diff
2008 (6.0) (37.0) 31.0
2009 26.1 26.4 (0.3)
2010 45.2 14.9 30.3
2011 (1.3) 2.1 (3.4)
2012 34.3 15.8 18.5
2013 19.3 32.2 (12.9)
2014 5.3 13.5 (8.2)
2015 0.6 1.3 (0.8)
2016 21.0 11.8 9.2
2017* 24.4 14.1 10.2
Figure 4 – Year-by-Year Results
The results by the numbers appear in Figure 5.
4NonCorr SPY
Average 12mo % +/- 17.8 11.2
Median 12mo % +/- 14.9 15.0
Std. Deviation 17.1 16.8
Ave/Std. Dev. 1.04 0.67
Worst 12mo % (11.9) (43.2)
Max. Drawdown % (17.8) (48.4)
Figure 5 – By the numbers
All told The FourNonCorr Portfolio:
*Gained +334% versus +110% for SPY since 12/31/2007
*Experienced a maximum drawdown of -17.8% versus-48.4% for SPY
Thoughts
On paper, The FourNonCorr Portfolio looks pretty decent, particularly compared to the S&P 500 Index.  But you will recall that I stated earlier that I don’t actually trade this portfolio with real money.  Why not?  A few concerns:
*Interest rates tend to move in long-term waves up and down.  How beneficial will it be to have TLT in the portfolio if and when interest rates embark on a long-term wave up?
*I don’t entirely trust ticker XIV.  Because of the way it is built it seems to have the benefit of upward bias due to contango in the VIX futures market (the opposite of ticker VXX – please Google “VXX” and/or “contango” for an actual explanation) it also holds the potential to sell off in shocking fashion.  Using the index data as I did in order to replicate hypothetical performance from Jan 2008 through Nov 2010, XIV declined a stunning -72% between the end of May 2008 and the end of November 2008. It also experienced a -60% decline in 2015-2016. Need to give some thought to adding a security that is even capable of that to a permanent portfolio.
*On the flip side, XIV has been the driving force for gains in recent years and shows a cumulative gain of +416% since 12/31/2007.  If (and when?) we ever do see a bear market and/or a significant pickup in volatility will XIV have a large negative influence on performance?  That seems to be the $64,000 question.
Summary
As a thought experiment, The FourNonCorr Portfolio shows a pretty decent track record and seems to hold some interesting promise.  As a real money, real world experience – questions remain.
Stay tuned, tinker and experiment if you wish,and don’t be too quick to “dive in.”
Jay Kaeppel Chief Market Analyst at JayOnTheMarkets.com and AIQ TradingExpert Pro client.
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  Whilne I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

A Focus on the Trends in Stocks, Bonds and Gold

In the end it is not so much about “predicting” what will happen next in the financial markets, but rather recognizing – and being prepared for – the potential risks, that makes the most difference in the long run.  So let’s start by looking at current trends.
Stocks
Let’s start with a most simple trend-following model that works like this:
-A sell signal occurs when the S&P 500 Index (SPX) registers two consecutive monthly closes below its 21-month moving average
-After a sell signal, a buy signal occurs when SPX register a single monthly close above its 10-month moving average.
Figure 1 displays recent activity.
1
Figure 1 – SPX Trend-Following signals (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
The good news is that this model does a good job of being out of stocks during long bear markets (1973-74, 2000-2002, 2008-2009).  The bad news is that – like any trend-following model – it gets “whipsawed” from time to time.  In fact the two most recent signals resulted in missing out on the October 2015 and March 2016 rallies.
But note the use of the phrase “simple trend-following model” and the lack of phrases such as “precision market timing” and “you can’t lose trading the stock market”, etc.
For now the trend is up.  A few things to keep an eye on appear in Figures 2 and 3.  Figure 2 displays four major averages.  Keep an eye to see if these averages break out to the upside (see here) or if they move sideways to lower.
2Figure 2 – Four Major Market Averages (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
In addition, I suggest following the 4 tickers in Figure 3 for potential “early warnings” – i.e., if the major averages hit new highs that are not confirmed by the majority of the tickers in Figure 3.3
Figure 3 – Four potential “Early Warning” tickers  (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Bonds
My main “simple bond trend-following model” remains bearish.  As you can see in Figure 4, a buy signal for bonds occurs when the 5-week moving average for ticker EWJ (Japanese stocks) drops below its 30-week moving average and vice versa.
4
Figure 4 – Ticker EWJ 5-week and 30-week moving average versus ticker TLT (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
A 2nd model using metals to trade bonds has been bullish of late but is close to dropping back into bearish territory.  Figure 5 displays the P/L from holding a long position of 1 t-bond futures contract ONLY when both the EWJ AND Metals models are bearish (red line) versus when EITHER model is bullish (blue line)
5
Figure 5 – T-bond futures $ gain/loss when EWJ OR Metals Models are Bullish (blue line) versus when EWJ AND Metals Models are both Bearish (red line); August 1990-present
Gold
My most basic gold trend-following model is still bearish.  This model uses my “Anti-Gold Index” (comprised of tickers GLL, SPX, UUP and YCS).  It is bullish for gold when a Front-Weighted Moving Average (detailed here) is below the 55-week exponential moving average and vice versa.
6
Figure 6 – Jay’s “Anti-Gold Index” versus ticker GLD (Courtesy AIQ TradingExpert)
Summary
So at the moment the stock model is bullish and the bond and gold models are bearish.  Are these trends certain to persist ad infinitum into the future?  Definitely not.  Will the models detailed here provide timely signals regarding when to get in or out the next time around?  Sorry, but it doesn’t always work that way with trend-following.
But as for me I prefer “riding the trend” to “predicting the future.”
Some painful lessons just stick with you I guess.
Jay Kaeppel  Chief Market Analyst at JayOnTheMarkets.com and AIQ TradingExpert Pro (http://www.aiqsystems.com) client. 
Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.