Over the weekend a rescue was announced for Spanish banks. China also released data that was interpreted by the markets as broadly ambiguous (eg inflation data indicated that the economy may be cooling more than expected).
After the obligatory bounce reality set in. All key risk markets reversed eg the S&P (ES futures) moved from +1% to -1.5% on heavy volume with major US financials dropping 5-7% from open. Oil moved from +3% to -3%. EUR gave back all of its 180 pip rise and more. The S&P Volatility Index (VIX) closed at 23.56, +2.33 but not as high as a week ago.
Implications for Australian investors
Generally, the market has welcomed bailouts (with good reason – the punchbowl is being passed around so the party can continue). The extremely negative response to ‘good’ news is concerning. My opinion is that, ‘risk’ is going to underperform until there is some definitive progress made in Europe (read: massive coordinated intervention on a scale required to deal with the problems). It is also likely that the newsflow will be unsympathetic (eg I expect on other countries to demand assistance without austerity, which in the first instance is likely to be rejected).
I do believe that defensive, low beta equities (utilities, property trusts, and defensive industrials ) will continue to outperform as investors seek lower risk income and defensive characteristics in an environment of declining cash rates.
I also believe that gold priced in AUD is likely to outperform over the medium term (1-3 years). Currently markets are only holding together because of of a belief that the central banks will intervene if required (i.e. the Bernake Put). Action over this weekend strongly implies that words alone are not going to have the desired affect for too much longer and actions, on a significant scale, are required to stabilise markets. This is positive for gold.
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May was a bad month on the ASX, with the market down 7.3% (worst month since May 2010 … May strikes again!). I’m sure many investors are keen to turn the page into June!
Yesterday the market put in a decent showing with the XJO down a measly 12 points (-0.3% to 4064). Hardly significant or meaningful. However what got me thinking was some comments I received that the market “felt” a lot worse than it actually was. So I decided to examine the performance of the most liquid stocks (average value traded per day of over $5m). There are 111 such stocks. I then looked at the performance of the 20 “riskiest” stocks (measured by beta) vs the 20 most “defensive” stocks. The results summarise in the chart below:
Fairly remarkable. On a day when the market was essentially flat, risky stocks returned -2.9%, while defensives were unchanged. (Outperfomers included TLS and the banks).
Reasons I can suggest for this:
- The macro environment is obviously poor (negative headlines everywhere, Chinese data at 11am was also perceived negatively).
- The equity market is pricing in further interest rate cuts. In this environment defensive stocks will outperform handily.
I would suggest defensive stocks could be accumulated on weakness. On my watch list are property trusts and utilities that pay quarterly or semi-annual distributions in the last week of June (most of them but not for example WDC). I will also be looking at liquid industrial stocks that pay dividends in August and early September (eg TLS, CCL, WOW, AMC, ANN). Its important that the stock should be very defensive … this excludes mining, mining services, energy, consumer discretionary and media stocks for example.
I won’t be rushing though – last night the S&P 500 was -2.5%, the worst performance in 7 months. So there’s probably time to get set …
PS Investing and trading involves risk. Please read the site disclaimer.
Current market conditions give great opportunities for options traders. Recent volatility, as well as the fear prevailing in the market means that volatility (historical, forecast and implied) is high relative to recent levels.
Today I’m looking at a calendar spread on BHP. This is a bearish play (aligned with my view on the market and BHP) with limited risk.
I’m looking at buying 100 $28 puts expiring on 26 July 2012 (76.5c) and selling the same number of puts expiring on 28 June 2012 (52.5c). Each option contract is over 100 shares in BHP. Total cost is $2,400 plus commission. My risk is limited to my initial investment so there should be no margin requirements. My expectation for placing this trade is that BHP will decline and trade around $28 during June. I’ll look to close the trade on or before expiry of the June option.
Below is a graph showing the estimated profit on 28 June 2011 (when the short option expires) for a range of BHP prices. Ive assumed $60 brokerage (the cheapest discount brokerage available). Click on the graph below to open in a new window.
Maximum profit is c.$9,000 is BHP is exactly $28 at expiry. The spread is profitable for BHP prices between $25.25 and $31.50. More technically minded reader might note there is a potential edge from buying the July option on a volatility of 41.1% and selling the June option on a volatility of 44.6%.
Advantages of this trade
- Limited risk of $2,460 with potential profit of up to $9,000.
- The spread is profitable over a wide range ($25.25 to $31.50). So even if I’m wrong on my opinion of BHP I still might do OK.
- BHP options are amongst the most liquid so I’m more likely to get fair prices when entering and exiting the trades.
I’m going to treat this trade as a paper trade, and will conduct a post-trade analysis after it closes.
PS Please read the disclaimer before trading any action.
On Monday 21 May following this post the spread was trading at c.21c. This will form the entry price for the purpose of tracking the trade and undertaking post-trade analysis.
Since my last review in Feb, the S&P/ASX 200 (XJO) has slumped after attempting to break out to the upside though the 4400 level. For much of this period the market was in a slow grind, with little impulsive price action (positive or negative).
Since peaking at 4449 on 1 May, the XJO has sold off aggressively and is currently at 4047. In the week ending 18 May, the market was down 5.6% in broad-based selling. Only the utilities sector escaped the carnage (+2.12%), however this was aided by the takeover offer for Hastings Diversified (HDF), up 12.8% for the week. Biggest loser among the largecaps was Toll Holdings (TOL) down 23.2%.
Why the drop?
The market has caught the nerves due to uncertainties in Europe (again). In addition, admission of over $2bn in trading losses by JP Morgan has not assisted confidence.
It should be noted that May and June are historically weak months, as 3 of the big 4 banks have gone ex-dividend and underperformers are typically aggressively sold as investors realise tax losses.
Where to from here?
I see weakness with an approximate target of c.3800 by 30 June. A lot obviously depends on the resolution (or lack thereof) to the European problems.
I think rallies will be short lived and could be viewed as selling or shorting opportunities.
Below is a weekly chart of the XJO since the market peaked in 2007. We are still in a secular bear market with the rally from the March 2009 lows essentially stalled and the market remaining approximately 40% off its all time highs in November 2011. Click on the chart to open it in a new window.
PS Please read the disclaimer before taking any action.
Chart below shows the S&P/ASX 200 (black) relative to the S&P 500 (blue).
Clearly the Aussie market is underperforming significantly, a topic dealt with here: http://macro-man.blogspot.com.au/2012/02/2012-non-predictions-equities.html
I’m tipping this underperformance to continue … obviously credit conditions are relatively tight here vs everywhere else which is positively awash with liquidity (add Japan to this list). Our key sectors have little growth – financials sufffering from weak credit growth while resources facing the double whammy of a strong currency and cost pressures.
In addition I believe the high AUD makes the market a good relative short. And I suspect long only investors with global mandates do not see buying the market with the Aussie at 1.07 as attractive.
So fairly sangiune for now. Would like to be more enthusiastic!