Macro Tsimmis

intelligently hedged investment

Posts Tagged ‘psq’

BUY ProShares Short Russell 2000 (RWM)—Again

Posted by intelledgement on Fri, 26 Aug 11

We got the Bernanke bump we were expecting—the market is up today, although looks to be a more modest advance than we had expected. It would have been fine just to stay short here, but we will probably end up a bit ahead when we come back in at the close today (that is, the price we buy RWM at today will likely be a few cents less than what we got for the shares we sold on Tuesday).

We still expect that the most likely scenario is that The Powers That Be will manipulate the smoke and mirrors to mask the seriousness of our financial problems long enough to conduct an orderly U. S. election in 2012. However, the cracks in the wall—Eurozone sovereign debt issues, U.S. no jobs “recovery” and structural debt/demographic issues, BRICs growth slowdown, Middle East unrest, etcetera—are proliferating faster than the metaphorical wall paper can be applied and thus it is prudent to go short here (again) as a risk management tool to limit the potential damage if things fall apart sooner than we expect.

We are again utilizing the ProShares Short Russell 2000 ETF (RWM) as our vehicle of choice. Our logic is that a slow growth scenario is likely to negatively impact smaller companies more than large companies (although both will be hurt). This ETF is low on assets—$400 million where normally we prefer a minimum of $1 billion—but the robust average daily shares traded (up to 1.9 million) ensures adequate liquidity.

Previous index short-related posts:

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SELL ProShares Short Russell 2000 (RWM)

Posted by intelledgement on Tue, 23 Aug 11

We are cashing in our insurance here with a 4% one-week profit because with Europe essentially closed for business through the end of August, we believe the need for short protection here is outweighed by the risk of a temporary market surge in the face of the combination of no fresh bad news and (false) reassurances likely coming from Ben Bernanke at the Jackson Hole confab by the end of this week.

We expect to be back again by early September.

Previous index short-related posts:

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BUY ProShares Short Russell 2000 (RWM)

Posted by intelledgement on Tue, 16 Aug 11

We still expect that the most likely scenario is that The Powers That Be will manipulate the smoke and mirrors to mask the seriousness of our financial problems long enough to conduct an orderly U. S. election in 2012. However, the cracks in the wall—Eurozone sovereign debt issues, U.S. no jobs “recovery” and structural debt/demographic issues, BRICs growth slowdown, Middle East unrest, etcetera—are proliferating faster than the metaphorical wall paper can be applied and thus it is prudent to go short here as a risk management tool to limit the potential damage if things fall apart sooner than we expect.

This time we are using the ProShares Short Russell 2000 ETF (RWM) as our vehicle of choice. Our logic is that a slow growth scenario is likely to negatively impact smaller companies more than large companies (although both will be hurt). This ETF is low on assets—$400 million where normally we prefer a minimum of $1 billion—but the robust average daily shares traded (1.1 million) ensures adequate liquidity.

Previous index short-related posts:

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SELL ProShares Short S&P 500 (SH)

Posted by intelledgement on Fri, 12 Aug 11

We are cashing in our short “insurance” here at a profit. We still believe it prudent to be short, and we are planning to short the Russell 2000 instead of the S&P 500 because we feel the cyclical growth slowdown that is occurring is likely to hurt smaller companies more than larger ones. However, we may wait a few days to see how the latest European can-kicking effort goes; if the market believes there is a good chance it will “succeed,” then we may have an opportunity to get in at a significantly lower price.

Previous SH-related posts:

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BUY ProShares Short S&P 500 (SH)

Posted by intelledgement on Thu, 16 Jun 11

We expect the exigencies of the election cycle in the USA and the need to limit damage to the banks in Europe will drive another round of can-kicking-down-the-road—raising the debt limit and “rescuing” Greece, respectively—that will temporarily buoy up the markets. However, the options for wallpapering over the cracks in the structure of the system are fewer and weaker than ever, and it is inevitable that investors will eventually cotton on to the seriousness of our situation…and possible that that may happen sooner rather than later. Thus it is prudent to go short here as a risk management tool to limit the potential damage if things fall apart sooner than we expect.

We are going with the Proshares Short S&P 500 (SH) ETF, which seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to the inverse (opposite) of the daily performance of the S&P500® Index.”

Previous SH-related posts:

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4Q10 Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio Report

Posted by intelledgement on Fri, 14 Jan 11

Summary of Intelledgement’s model macro strategy model investment portfolio performance as of 31 December 2010:

Position Bought Shares Paid Cost Now Value Change YTD ROI CAGR
FXI 29 Dec-06 243 37.15 9,035.45 43.09 11,113.05 0.97% 3.29% 22.99% 5.30%
IFN 29-Dec-06 196 45.90 9,004.40 35.11 10,919.16 7.82% 21.11% 21.26% 4.93%
DBA 13-Mar-08 235 42.50 9,995.50 32.35 7,708.00 17.69% 24.05% -22.89% -8.86%
EWZ 3-Aug-09 165 60.39 9,972.35 77.40 13,614.94 3.75% 3.74% 36.53% 24.71%
GLD 21-May-10 95 115.22 10,953.90 138.72 13,183.34 8.45% 29.27% 20.35% 35.27%
SLV 21-May-10 636 17.29 11,004.44 30.18 19,227.55 41.52% 82.47% 74.73% 148.42%
UDN 21-Oct-10 399 27.54 10,996.46 27.10 10,812.90 n/a -1.60% -1.67% -8.30%
RSX 31-Dec-10 316 37.91 11,987.56 37.91 11,979.56 n/a 22.13% -0.07% n/a
cash 17,049.94 29,492.49
Overall 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 128,051.00 5.32% 3.96% 28.05% 6.38%
Macro HF 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 126,889.20 2.52% 8.10% 26.89% 6.13%
S&P 500 31-Dec-06 1,418.30 1,257.64 10.20% 12.78% -11.33% -2.96%

Position = security the portfolio owns
Bought = date position acquired
Shares = number of shares the portfolio owns
Paid = price per share when purchased
Cost = total paid (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus commission)
Now = price per share as of date of report
Value = what it is worth as of the date of report (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus value of dividends)
Change = on a percentage basis, change since last report (not applicable for positions new since last report)
YTD (Year-to-Date) = on a percentage basis, change since the previous year-end price
ROI (Return-on-Investment) = on a percentage basis, the performance of this security since purchase
CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) = annualized ROI for this position since purchase (to help compare apples to apples)

Notes: The benchmark for the virtual money Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio (IMSIP) is the Greenwich Alternative Investments Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, which historically (1988 to 2010 inclusively) provides a CAGR of around 13.8%. For comparison’s sake, we also show the S&P 500 index, which since January 1950 has produced a CAGR of around 7.4%. Note that for our portfolio’s positions, dividends are added back into the value of the pertinent security and not included in the “cash” total (this gives a more complete picture of the ROI for dividend-paying securities). Also, the “Cost” figures include a standard $8 commission and there is a 1% rate of interest on the listed cash balance. Finally, the “cash” line for the “Cost” column is reduced each quarter by a management fee (annual rate of 1% of the principal under management). More information about how the IMSIP is managed can be found here.

Transactions: OK, so much for the theory that less volatility invariably begets fewer transactions…when you are positioned for a potential apocalypse and instead everyone drinks the Fed’s Kool-Aid and starts singing kum-ba-ya, some significant maneuvers are called for.

Performance Review: Another modest gain which—for the second consecutive quarter—failed to keep pace with the market. We were up 5%, which normally is good, but we lost to the S&P 500 index (+10%) by five points. We did beat the macro hedge fund index (+3%) by two points.

Tactically, we ditched our index shorts for losses in November in the face of a second round of quantitative easing from the Fed. This $600 billion flood of money may not do much to heal the economy—in our view, it hurts us by propping up zombie too-big-to-fail financial institutions whose existence exacerbates structural problems and impedes recovery—but combined with continued low interest rates it is driving investment funds into the equities markets. Under those circumstances, being short the market may be philosophically appropriate but it sure generates a lot of red ink in a hurry. We also sold our high-grade corporate bond ETF (LQD, for a tiny loss) due to concern that QE2 will result in higher interest rates and took a short position on the dollar (UDN) due to concern QE2 will weaken the greenback.

As the year ended, we added the fourth BRIC component, Russia, to the portfolio for the first time via the Market Vectors Russia ETF (RSX). The other three BRIC ETFs overall were all up in the quarter, though all trailed the market: India (IFN, +8%), Brazil (EWZ, +4%), and China (FXI, +1%). The commodity ETFs outperformed on average, with SLV (silver) the star of the port at +42%, DBA (basket of agricultural commodities) +18%, and GLD (gold) +8%. The three index short ETFs had a tough quarter, of course: DOW (DOG) -11%, NASDAQ (PSQ) -14%, and S&P 500 (SH) -11%. Our newly acquired shot dollar fund (UDN) was down 2% in a month-and-a-half.

For 2010 overall, we trailed both both the macro hedge fund index and the S&P 500 index, +4% for us compared to +8% for the hedgies and +13% for the market. DBA was +24%, IFN +21%, EWZ +4%, and FXI +3% for the year. Although we only held them for part of the year, SLV was +75% for us and GLD was +20%.

We are now 39 points ahead of the market in terms of total return-on-investment: +28.1% for us and -11% for the S&P 500 in the four full years since the inception of the IMSIP at the end of 2006. This puts us just slightly ahead of our benchmark, the GAI Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, which is +26.9%. In terms of compounded annual growth rate, after four years IMSIP is +6.4%, the GAI hedgies are at +6.1%, and the S&P 500 is -3%.

4Q10 Reprise: Here are some topical 4Q10 links, organized by subject:

BRICs

Deep Capture

The Dollar

Eurozone

QE2

Analysis: Well our portfolio looks a bit different now (36% emerging markets, 31% commodities, 8% short the dollar, and 25% cash) than it did a quarter ago (27% emerging markets, 26% commodities, 9% bonds, 26% short the market, and 12% cash). Three months ago we were 26% short and now we are only 8% short…but that doesn’t mean we think things are looking up.

There is no arguing the fact that one thing is looking up, however: the market. Volatility—how much the market moves up or down—is a good measure of perceived risk: as investors perceive the market as more risky and uncertain and tend to sell, prices fall and volatility generally rises. But volatility has been declining sharply since the 2008 crash—as market values have risen—and in 4Q10, volatility for the S&P 500 fell below the 50-year average for the first time in over three years. Evidently, investors collectively believe that the risk of something bad happening has been reduced.

We demur.

We see giant multi-national banks that are still stuffed with toxic assets and riding for a fall, a USA real estate market with property values that are still overvalued, developed economy consumers who are still underemployed and overleveraged (especially in the USA), fast-growing emerging market economies that are by their very nature vulnerable to bubbles, and material sovereign debt risk. And, unfortunately, regardless of whether we put Republicans or Democrats in control of the government, our political leaders seem invariably intent on treating the symptoms of our illness, avoiding challenges to any entrenched elites, and hoping and praying they can muddle through with no ultimate crisis on their watch…even at the cost of leaving us with fewer resources to deal with our structural problems when we finally run out of effective delaying tactics.

Be that as it may, central banks in general are working in concert to hold down interest rates and expand liquidity in order to “stimulate” the economy. The Fed in particular is dispensing out $600 billion of financial Kool-Aid with their latest quantitative easing scheme (“QE2”), and funds are flowing into equities, driving market prices higher. Between the value distortions foisted on the market by the manipulations of the central banks and the machinations of the high frequency traders constantly threatening us with a flash crash or worse, the investing waters that appear so calm on the surface are actually quite roiled.

Conclusion: We are in the eye of the storm, and most everyone is sipping the QE2 Kool-Aid and singing Kum-Ba-Ya. Accordingly, it is time to make love, not war…but we remain prepared for both.

We now hold all long emerging market ETFs for all four BRIC nations in the portfolio: Brasil (EWX), Russia (RSX), India (IFN), and China (FXI). We believe that in a deleveraging environment, the economies that are still growing will fare far better than those that are not and we expect that non-dollar-denominated assets to do better than those tied to the greenback. Thus these emerging market long positions will be the last we will surrender if and when things get really dicey.

In the face of QE2 and the continued runup in the price of equities, we dumped our index shorts and—out of concern for possibly rising interest rates—our corporate bond fund. So far, the combination of continued slack consumer demand and Eurozone sovereign debt risk has kept the dollar strong, but against the likelihood that its decline will resume and even speedup, we added the short dollar ETF (UDN). We also still have three long commodity plays: the agriculture ETF (DBA) and precious metals ETFs for gold (GLD) and silver (SLV).

Although we are mostly long now in congruence with the prevailing love fest, we remain vigilant as to a potential turning of the tide. In times of heightened uncertainty, valuations can fluctuate wildly and the preservation of capital takes precedence over meeting any target ROI. To that end, when the phantasmic prospect of sustained economic growth sans serious deleveraging fades—that is, when the Kool-Aid runs out—we are prepared to unload our long positions, possibly excepting the precious metal funds, and short the indices again.

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SELL ProShares Short QQQ (PSQ), Short Dow30 (DOG), & Short S&P 500 (SH)

Posted by intelledgement on Thu, 04 Nov 10

Well, either you’re closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a pool table in your community.
Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.

Thank you, Harold Hill. Yes, indeed, we got trouble, all right.

The economic toilet is still stopped up with unsalable toxic assets that our government in collusion with the banksters that created and peddled them refuse to reprice reasonably, principally derivatives but also mortgages on underwater properties. (They refuse because honestly marking these assets to market would cause several TBTF duckpins to fall into insolvency and make it really hard for them to pay out their bonuses, or deliver their political contributions, to say nothing of being able to offer cushy sinecures to “deserving” former regulators.) Meanwhile, the Fed continues to artificially dampen interest rates and attempt to flush more money into the toilet in order to encourage folks to buy—and thus maintain the fictional value of—overpriced assets. Of course because they refuse to fix the toilet, it is overflowing and the excess dollars are spilling out into China and India and Brazil and most everywhere else, roiling those countries’ economies.

Meantime, our government, amid the first detonations of the baby boomer demographic time bomb, has spent two years pondering the looming entitlements funding chasm and has ultimately decided to increase our commitments via Obamacare. Meanwhile, we are still bleeding money in Iraq and Afghanistan, still running a huge trade deficit, and with unrelenting salvos of anti-small-business bombardments (Obamacare regulations and levies, financial reform regulations, reinstitution of the estate tax, increase of the income tax), have helped to stymie private sector job growth, and real unemployment is stuck around 17%.

And many state governments such as California and Illinois—not to mention national governments such as the PIIGS—face immediate sovereign debt issues more acute than the Feds.

Whoa! Are we going short here, or covering our shorts?

We are covering them. And the reason we are covering them is not because we think things are looking up. We have been short the US equity indices as insurance against a black swan event, and we do not think that the risks there have appreciably narrowed. But the dogged initiatives of the Federal Reserve to maintain higher asset prices have created a new, overriding risk: the risk that the oversupply of dollars will drive the value of the greenback down so effectively that asset prices, while they may not actually increase in absolute value, will increase significantly in nominal dollar value. In other words, the risks of being short equities here in dollar terms now exceeds the upside, because even in the event of a black swan event that depresses asset valuations in real terms, the relative value of those assets as measured in dollars could still increase.

So, while we still believe the efforts of the U.S. government to maintain these overvalued asset prices in the face of market pressure to reprice them at their real value are doomed fail, the risk that the dollar will suffer collateral damage in this inglorious attempt to alter reality has become acute, and accordingly, we are closing these short positions.

Previous DOG/PSQ/SH-related posts:

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3Q10 Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio Report

Posted by intelledgement on Wed, 13 Oct 10

Summary of Intelledgement’s model macro strategy model investment portfolio performance as of 30 September 2010:

Position   Bought   Shares Paid Cost Now Value   Change       YTD         ROI       CAGR  
FXI 03-Jan-07 243 37.15 9,035.45 42.82 11,006.30 8.87% 2.30% 21.81% 5.40%
IFN 03-Jan-07 196 45.90 9,004.40 36.37 10,127.32 13.44% 12.33% 12.47% 3.18%
DBA 13-Mar-08 235 42.50 9,995.50 27.87 6,549.45 16.17% 5.41% -34.48% -15.28%
EWZ 3-Aug-09 165 60.39 9,972.35 76,95 13,122.68 23.47% 3.13% 31.59% 26.75%
GLD 21-May-10 95 115.22 10,953.90 127.91 12,156.39 5.12% 19.20% 10.98% 33.40%
SLV 21-May-10 636 17.29 11,004.44 21.31 13,586.23 16.98% 28.84% 23.46% 79.17%
DOG 25-May-10 204 54.01 11,026.04 48.16 9,824.64 -10.83% -7.97% -10.90% -28.05%
PSQ 25-May-10 246 44.74 11,014.04 38.85 9,556.88 -14.16% -11.04% -13.23% -33.30%
SH 25-May-10 201 9.41 10,978.58 48.90 9,828.90 -11.11% 6.96% -10.47% -27.07%
LQD 11-Aug-10 99 110.60 10,957.40 113.09 11,237.89 n/a 11.83% 2.56% 20.28%
cash -3,942.10 19,027.59
Overall 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 126,024.27 4.23% -0.52% 26.02% 6.37%
Macro HF 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 121,336.09 0.95% 3.37% 21.34% 5.30%
S&P 500 31-Dec-06 1,418.30 1,141.20 10.72% 2.34% -19.54% -5.63%

Position = security the portfolio owns
Bought = date position acquired
Shares = number of shares the portfolio owns
Paid = price per share when purchased
Cost = total paid (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus commission)
Now = price per share as of date of report
Value = what it is worth as of the date of report (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus value of dividends)
Change = on a percentage basis, change since last report (not applicable for positions new since last report)
YTD (Year-to-Date) = on a percentage basis, change since the previous year-end price
ROI (Return-on-Investment) = on a percentage basis, the performance of this security since purchase
CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) = annualized ROI for this position since purchase (to help compare apples to apples)

Notes: The benchmark for the Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio (IMSIP) is the Greenwich Alternative Investments Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, which historically (1988 to 2009 inclusively) provides a CAGR of around 14.0%. For comparison’s sake, we also show the S&P 500 index, which since January 1950 has produced a CAGR of around 7.2%. Note that for our portfolio’s positions, dividends are added back into the value of the pertinent security and not included in the “cash” total (this gives a more complete picture of the ROI for dividend-paying securities). Also, the “Cost” figures include a standard $8 commission and there is a 1% rate of interest on the listed cash balance. Finally, The “cash” line for the “Cost” column is negative because the total cost of the positions the IMSIP presently hold exceeds the total cash we started with—which is, of course, a good thing—and profits from earlier sales have been reinvested into more recently acquired positions.

Transactions: Less volatility this quarter, and fewer transactions…could this be causal relationship? 🙂

Performance Review: Wow, a mirror image quarter! We were up 4%, which normally is good, but we lost to the market (+11%) by seven  points. This is an almost perfect reversal of the prior quarter, in which we lost 4% but beat the market (-12%) by eight points. The IMSIP is just a rock of stability, relatively speaking. We did beat the macro hedge fund index (+1%) by three points. Heck, those guys are even more stable than we are—they gained 1% in 2Q10, too.

Tactically, we ended the quarter still pretty neutral, with three BRIC country long ETFs balanced by three index  short ETFs, plus three commodity plays including two flight-to-safety/inflation insurance precious metal funds and our agriculture ETF plus our new high grade corporate bonds ETF, which is a bet on the Fed keeping interest rates low. Our BRIC ETFs overall were up—as one would expect in a +11% market: Brazil (EWZ, +23%), India (IFN, +13%), and China (FXI, +9%). The commodity ETFs also did well, with SLV +17%, DBA +16, and GLD +5%. The three index short ETFs had a tough quarter, of course: DOW (DOG) -11%, NASDAQ (PSQ) -14%, and S&P 500 (SH) -11%. Our newly acquired corporate bond fund (LQD) was up 3% in a month-and-a-half. We also made a profit on our sale of the high tech ETF (IYW), and took a loss unloading the treasuries short fund (TBT).

Overall, we are now 46 points ahead of the market in terms of total return-on-investment: +26% for us and -20% for the S&P 500 in the 45 months since the inception of the IMSIP at the end of 2006. We are five points ahead of our benchmark, the GAI Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, +26% to +21%. In terms of compounded annual growth rate, after three years IMSIP is +6%, the GAI hedgies are at +5%, and the S&P 500 is -6%.

Analysis: The fix is in.

We can argue about why this is happening. Some see dark bankster conspiracies aimed purposefully at destroying confidence in national governments and creating chaos in order to facilitate a world-wide takeover by the powerful elite. Some see an inherent flaw in the democratic process that makes it impossible for leaders to engage in long-term thinking, making the system vulnerable to situations where short-term pain is needed to avert long-term catastrophe…because the very design of the system ensures that short-term pain is always avoided at all costs. Some see nothing more remarkable than the inexorable rise and fall of empires at work here.

Leaving aside the theoretical explanations, as a practical matter, it is more and more clear that the central banks in the developed world are hell-bent on fending off the collapse of any “too big to fail” (TBTF) institutions at all costs. All the Sturm und Drang about the financial reform legislation that was supposed to end TBTF, all the jawboning about greedy bankers and unconscionable bonuses, all the expressions of piety with respect to the need for a strong dollar…all fade to insubstantial misdirection beside the solid reality of never-ending bailouts and so-called “quantitative easing.”

It was bad in the 50s and 60s when the USA financed both wars and increasingly expensive social programs via debt and the dollar began to weaken. It was worse in the 70s and 80s when we divorced the dollar from gold entirely, continued to run up debts, and accelerated the process of eschewing production and manufacturing in favor of financial “services” and ever-more arcane ways to manipulate money. In the 90s and the first decade of the 21st century, we engineered asset bubbles in real estate and stocks to inveigle folks to keep accumulating individual debt and eschew savings, even as a combination of irresponsible new entitlements obligations and an aging population worsened the debt situation of the government.

2008 was a watershed. Or, to borrow an analogy from South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan, a waterpipe—a broken one. Not a pipe we could see, because it was behind the wall, but we could hear the water dripping and see the stains on the wall. It was obvious to everyone that the proximate cause of the crash was the debt-funded asset bubbles. We could have chosen to own up to the errors of our ways, punished the guilty, sorted out the mess of the bursting bubbles, and applied our considerable energies to moving forward building a stabler, healthier financial system with safeguards against the abuses that brought us to this pass.

But instead, we chose to reinflate the bubbles! Rather than allowing housing prices to fall to sustainable levels, we bailed out homeowners who owed more than their properties were worth. Rather than allowing banks who had written bad loans to fail, we bailed them out, by artificially lowering interest rates and firing up the printing presses so they could borrow cheaply and reinvest the funds to make a profit and earn their way out of insolvency. Never mind that [a] it won’t work and [b] in trying to make it work we risk igniting a ruinous currency war. In effect, we threw good public money after bad private money, directly increasing the debt and indirectly—by weakening the dollar—reducing the wealth of all citizens (and their children).

Instead of fixing the broken pipe, we replastered the wall and painted over the water stains. The fix is in, not in the sense of repairing the damage, but in the sense that unscrupulous insiders have rigged it—while we are meant to believe that things are getting better, in fact what is happening is that those in the know have bet on the room being flooded, sooner or later.  The flood, of course, will not be water. It will be wheelbarrels full of worthless U.S. dollars.

Conclusion: We know that the foolhardy efforts of the central banks to save the corrupt and insolvent financial system are doomed. What we don’t know is how and when that doom will play out. For the past several months, we have been betting that things may fall apart sooner rather than later; hence our commodities and short positions. There are so many potential black swans flitting about—bad real estate loans, bad banks, insolvent local and state governments, sovereign debt, hyperinflation, potential social unrest in China, Iran and their nukes, North Korea and their nukes, Pakistan and their nukes, the threat of a major terrorist attack, a plague, global warming—that one or more could land at any moment.

In our best effort to avoid black swan excrement, as of 1 October, we continue to hold three long emerging market ETFs in the portfolio: China (FXI), India (IFN), and Brasil (EWX). We believe that in a deleveraging environment, the economies that are still growing will fare far better than those that are not; thus these long positions will be the last we will surrender if and when things get really dicey. Already, things are somewhat dicey…enough so that we hold three inverse index ETFs (that go up when whatever they are tied to goes down) to serve as insurance against a sudden worsening of the sovereign debt crisis: the short DOW index ETF (DOG), the short NASDAQ index ETF (PSQ), the short S&P 500 index ETF (SH). We are considering unloading some or all of these shorts because [a] the cost of holding them has risen along with the strong 3Q10 rally in the stock market and [b] our concern about hyperinflation in the face of a likely second round of quantitative easing by the Fed after election day is daunting. As it is, the overall performance of macro funds has been constrained by the prevalence of significant short positions,  in concert with the way the macros are pointing but—thanks at least in part to profligate quantitative easing and related shenanigans by the central banks—contrary to the way the markets are behaving.

We also still have three long commodity plays: the agriculture ETF (DBA) and precious metals ETFs for gold (GLD) and silver (SLV). The dollar is weakening again and the waxing of that hyperinflationary scenario has us considering a short play there.

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2Q10 Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio Report

Posted by intelledgement on Wed, 14 Jul 10

Summary of Intelledgement’s model macro strategy model investment portfolio performance as of 30 June 2010:

Position   Bought   Shares Paid Cost Now Value   Change       YTD         ROI       CAGR  
FXI 03-Jan-07 243 37.15 9,035.45 39.13 10,109.63 -5.69% -6.03% 11.89% 3.26%
IFN 03-Jan-07 196 45.90 9,004.40 30.25 8927.80 -2.75% -0.98% -0.85% -0.24%
DBA 13-Mar-08 235 42.50 9,995.50 23.99 5,637.65 -0.95% -9.27% -43.60% -22.07%
TBT 21-Jan-09 233 42.84 9,989.72 35.48 8,266.84 -27.13% -28.87% -17.25% -12.34%
EWZ 3-Aug-09 165 60.39 9,972.35 61.83 10,628.21 -15.19% -17.13% 6.58% 7.28%
IYW 29-Sep-09 208 51.86 10,794.88 51.60 10,771.70 -11.48% -10.32% -0.21% -0.29%
GLD 21-May-10 95 115.22 10,953.90 121.68 11,564.54 n/a 13.39% 5.57% 64.11%
SLV 21-May-10 636 17.29 11,004.44 18.21 11,614.63 n/a 10.10% 5.54% 63.69%
DOG 25-May-10 204 54.01 11,026.04 54.01 11,018.04 n/a 3.21% -0.07% -0.73%
PSQ 25-May-10 246 44.74 11,014.04 45.26 11,133.96 n/a 3.64% 1.09% 11.61%
SH 25-May-10 201 9.41 10,978.58 55.01 11,057.01 n/a 4.66% 0.71% 7.49%
cash -13,769.30 10,174.48
Overall 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 120,904.29 -4.01% -4.56% 20.90% 5.58%
Macro HF 31-Dec-06 100,000.00 120,194.43 0.70% 2.39% 20.19% 5.40%
S&P 500 31-Dec-06 1,418.30 1,030.71 -11.86% -7.57% -27.33% -10.09%

Position = security the portfolio owns
Bought = date position acquired
Shares = number of shares the portfolio owns
Paid = price per share when purchased
Cost = total paid (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus commission)
Now = price per share as of date of report
Value = what it is worth as of the date of report (price per share multiplied by # shrs plus value of dividends)
Change = on a percentage basis, change since last report (not applicable for positions new since last report)
YTD (Year-to-Date) = on a percentage basis, change since the previous year-end price
ROI (Return-on-Investment) = on a percentage basis, the performance of this security since purchase
CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) = annualized ROI for this position since purchase (to help compare apples to apples)

Notes: The benchmark for the Intelledgement Macro Strategy Investment Portfolio (IMSIP) is the Greenwich Alternative Investments Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, which historically (1988 to 2009 inclusively) provides a CAGR of around 14.0%. For comparison’s sake, we also show the S&P 500 index, which since January 1950 has produced a CAGR of around 7.3%. Note that for our portfolio’s positions, dividends are added back into the value of the pertinent security and not included in the “cash” total (this gives a more complete picture of the ROI for dividend-paying securities). Also, the “Cost” figures include a standard $8 commission and there is a 1% rate of interest on the listed cash balance.

Transactions: The sudden return of volatility in 2Q10 had us jumping through hoops with not only more transactions than usual but some hard zigging and zagging…but in the end, all profitable (at least the closed trades):

Performance Review: Normally you’d have no difficulty characterizing a 4% loss as a bad quarter, but when you still beat the market (-12%) by eight points, the waters get a bit muddy. We did lose to the hedgies (±0%) by five points. Tactically, reflecting the schizoid market we are close to neutral here, with our three BRIC country funds plus our high tech fund bullish, our four short funds bearish, plus three commodity plays including two flight-to-safety/inflation insurance precious metal funds. Our BRIC ETFs overall were down—as one would expect in a -12% market: India (IFN, -3%), China (FXI, -6%), and Brazil (EWZ, -15%); plus the emerging markets-oriented US Technology ETF (IWY) tracked the market (-11%, which BTW did edge out the NASDAQ for the quarter by one point, for those keeping score at home). Our repurchase of the precious metal EFTs looks good so far with GLD +13% and SLV +10%; the agriculture commodities ETF (DBA) held its own (-1%). Our UltraShort Lehman 20+Year Treasury ETF (TBT), which goes up when the value of long-term treasuries decline, as they tend to do when long-term interest rates rise, had a disastrous quarter (-27%), as the European sovereign debt crisis sparked a flight-to-safety run on US government bonds, and interest rates consequently plummeted. Some of those losses were offset by profits on the purchase and sale of the three index short ETFs for the DOW (DOG), NASDAQ (PSQ), and S&P 500 (SH) during the quarter; we purchased them again towards the end of the quarter and were slightly ahead. We also made a profit on our sale of the Malaysia ETF (EWM), although the sale price was a tad lower than the close at the end of last quarter.

Overall, we are now 48 points ahead of the market in terms of total return-on-investment: +21% for us and -27% for the S&P 500 in the three-and-a-half years since the inception of the IMSIP at the end of 2006. We are one point ahead of our benchmark, the GAI Global Macro Hedge Fund Index, +21% to +20%. In terms of compounded annual growth rate, after three years IMSIP is +6%, the GAI hedgies are at +5%, and the S&P 500 is -10%.

Analysis: After five straight quarters of declining volatility, things got interesting—as in, “may you live in interesting times”—in 2Q10. A combination of continued slower-than-expected economic growth and the specter of sovereign debt defaults among European countries combined to spook the markets big time. The potential threat of defaults by any of the PIIGS (Portugual-Ireland-Italy-Greece-Spain) is considered to be extremely serious because it could engender a cascade of bank collapses—all over Europe and beyond—similar to the danger in 2008 attendant to a collapse of AIG, Bear Stearns, Citibank, Freddie, Fannie, Merrill Lynch, and/or Wachovia (all of whom were eventually bailed out by the US government). The powers-that-be most definitely consider that this would be a catastrophic eventuality, to be avoided at all costs. Thus the likelihood that central banks will once again deploy taxpayer dollars to bailout the moneyed elites, this time for their fecklessness in loaning money to over-extended governments instead of for their foolishness being lured into ludicrous spectulative bets by Goldman Sachs and their ilk.

Our perspective is that this is yet another swerve in the extended oscillating skid which we have written of before. The combination of intrinsically short-sighted democratically elected—and, more to the point, re-elected—politicians and a culture that increasingly craves instant gratification has done us in. We got into this situation by overspending, borrowing beyond our means, and speculating on bubble-valued assets. The U. S. government’s attempts to address our problems have generally been short on addressing systemic issues and long on creating the temporary illusion that things are getting better.

The proper way to defeat an oscillating skid is to turn into it, thus affording your tires traction and enabling you to regain control. In our case, we could do this by allowing the insolvent financial institutions to go out of business, as they so richly deserve to. We could require more stringent capital requirements for both lenders and borrowers doing business in the USA. We could clean house at the regulatory agencies so they will actually enforce the rules already on the books (e.g., not allowing naked short selling). We could make it illegal for ratings agencies to accept payment from any company they rate. We could create an exchange for the trading of derivatives. We could encourage good corporate governance practices (e.g., favoring for government contracts companies that reward management with long-term stock options rather than instant cash bonuses so that corporate leaders’ interests were better aligned with the long-term interest of shareholders). We could reduce social welfare spending commitments to sustainable levels going forward.

But instead, we are fighting the skid at every turn. We are throwing good taxpayer money after bad propping up the “too big to fail” banks. We are debasing our currency in futile attempts to reinflate the housing and credit bubbles that got us into this latest fix in the first place. Instead of addressing the systemic problem of overcommitted government largesse, we are expanding the role of government and increasing our commitments.

Conclusion: There is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone always pays, sooner or later. For decades, we—through our elected leadership—have relentlessly whipped out our national credit card to, in effect, pass the debt on to future suckers. Well, if you have a mirror handy, you can meet one of those future suckers right now. The government is still flashing plastic, but now it is a debit card, and the account being charged is the one that’s comprised of your life savings.

In our best effort to avoid those charges, as of 1 July, we continue to hold four long emerging market ETFs in the portfolio: China (FXI), India (IFN), Brasil (EWX), and US high tech (IYW which we consider an emerging market play as some two-thirds of the revenue of the companies comprising the ETF are ex-USA derived). We believe that in a deleveraging environment, the economies that are still growing will fare far better than those that are not; thus these long positions will be the last we will surrender if and when things get really dicey. Already, things are somewhat dicey…enough so that we now have four inverse ETFs (that go up when whatever they are tied to goes down) to serve as insurance against a sudden worsening of the sovereign debt crisis (which could be either European- or domestic state/local government-based): the short DOW index ETF (DOG), the short NASDAQ index ETF (PSQ), the short S&P 500 index ETF (SH), and the inverse long-term Treasury bonds ETF (TBT). We are considering unloading this last because the (up-to-now) European sovereign debt crisis has engendered a perverse flight-to-safety that is driving U.S. bond rates down (and the values of the bonds up), even though in the long run the USA is no more solvent than Greece. We believe the value of those bonds will eventually plummet but we have held TBT for over a year now with no joy and it could be we can do better with the funds between now and a more opportune time to be short treasuries.

We also still have three long commodity plays: the agriculture ETF (DBA) and precious metals ETFs for gold (GLD) and silver (SLV). The dollar actually stronger again last quarter, the flight-to-safety reaction to the European sovereign debt crisis resulted in increased gold and silver prices anyway. In the longer run, we expect another massive round of central bank quantitative easing in response to the next crisis—or the one after that—and in the deluge of dollars that results, the commodities positions should provide some dry shelter for our assets.

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BUY ProShares Short QQQ (PSQ), Short Dow30 (DOG), & Short S&P 500 (SH)

Posted by intelledgement on Tue, 25 May 10

One expectation that exists with a macro-strategy fund is that as material economic, political, and social forces drive the investment strategy, it is more like conning an oil tanker than a destroyer. For the captain of an oil tanker, setting the course should be fairly straightforward, being derived from an analysis of the various routes available to get from point A to point B, taking into consideration major ocean currents, weather conditions, and any relevant particulars (e.g., avoiding shallows, pirate infestations, and difficult waters)—always keeping safety paramount. Thus one would expect relatively few changes in course, and those that are made should generally be anticipated well in advance.

This contrasts with the captain of a destroyer, whose mission may require him to expose his warship to danger, and whose course is highly likely to vary greatly from one moment to the next depending on the tactical situation (e.g., tracking or engaging a hostile sub that is undertaking evasive maneuvers).

However, when icebergs suddenly appear where they normally don’t, then all bets are off for the oil tanker, and while it may not be designed for bobbing and weaving, if that is what is required to optimally protect the cargo, that is what the captain has to do.

Folks, we are in iceberg territory. The market’s perception of reality vîs a vîs the European sovereign debt crisis—which morphing into a liquidity crises akin to 2008-09—is coming into closer congruence with our own analysis faster than we had heretofore anticipated, and as a consequence, we are reinstating our index short positions.

While we never anticipated that the “solution” of the Eurozone politicos—fighting too much bad debt with more debt—would be a viable solution, we are surprized the market so readily agrees with us. Default disguised as “restructuring” remains the only viable alternative for Greece (at least). The powers-that-be have avoided it for the same reason that the Fed and US government bailed out AIG, Citibank, Freddie, Fannie and their ilk—too many lenders to Greece are at risk. Unfortunately (although not surprizingly), delaying the inevitable has not, as was hoped, gotten us to a more convenient time for taking the medicine.

It will be interesting to see what happens but to improve our chances of enjoying the view, we need to move back to the “short” section of the stadium.

We are going with the Proshares Short QQQ (PSQ) ETF, whose managers “seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to the inverse (opposite) of the daily performance of the NASDAQ-100 Index,” their Short DOW 30 (DOG) ETF, aimed at achieving “daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to the inverse (opposite) of the daily performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average Index,” and their Short S&P 500 (SH) ETF, which seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, that correspond to the inverse (opposite) of the daily performance of the S&P500® Index.”

Previous DOG/PSQ/SH-related posts:

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