Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bottom spotting

Mid-week market update: Did you think that a market bottom was going to be this easy? I got worried on Monday when I received several congratulatory messages and high-fives for my weekend tactical bullish call (see Macro weakness: Just a flesh wound?). That rebound seemed a bit too easy. especially when I saw the latest research report from JPM derivatives analyst Marko Kolanovic.

Forget about the usual explanations about rising bond yields, uncertainty over Fed actions or the credibility of the ECB, BoJ, etc. Kolanovic advanced a positioning explanation the market turmoil (via Value Walk):
The stock market needs to move only 1% to 2% lower for volatility to dramatically increase to the downside, as highly leveraged strategies could engage in mechanical selling.

“Given the low levels of volatility, leverage in systematic strategies such as Volatility Targeting and Risk Parity is now near alltime highs,” Kolanovic wrote. “The same is true for CTA funds who run near-record levels of equity exposure.”

When markets are pushed to extremes, the snap-back to normalcy can be hard. Kolanovic notes that record leverage in these strategies could push the market lower and volatility higher. The market might not even need a catalyst to increase volatility, seasonality in September and October could do the trick. When the systematic strategies start to deleverage nearly $100 billion in assets could be pulled from the stock market, Kolanovic projected.
In other words, a number of algo driven strategies, such as CTAs and risk parity funds, got into a levered crowded trade during the period of low volatility. The sell-off on Friday was the trigger for an unwind of that trade. According to Kolanovic, it could be very ugly.

There is some good news and bad news for the bulls. The good news, according to this Dana Lyons historical study, suggests that downside risk is limited at current levels. The bad news is the market is likely to be choppy and volatile for the next few weeks.

With that trading environment in mind, I can offer traders a couple of near sure-fire ways of spotting market bottoms.

The full post can be found at our new site here.

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