Sunday, February 26, 2017

Brace for a volatility spike

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading component of the Trend Model to look for changes in the direction of the main Trend Model signal. A bullish Trend Model signal that gets less bullish is a trading "sell" signal. Conversely, a bearish Trend Model signal that gets less bearish is a trading "buy" signal. The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below. Past trading of the trading model has shown turnover rates of about 200% per month.

The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Risk-on*
  • Trading model: Bearish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers will also receive email notices of any changes in my trading portfolio.

Sell the news?
There has been much written lately about low level of stock market volatility, as measured by the VIX Index. It's interesting that these concerns have even surfaced in the latest FOMC minutes:
Financial asset prices were little changed since the December meeting. Market participants continued to report substantial uncertainty about potential changes in fiscal, regulatory, and other government policies. Nonetheless, measures of implied volatility of various asset prices remained low.
A little noticed change has occurred in the markets since mid-February. Even though stock prices were grinding upwards, VIX term structure began to steepen as 3-month VIX futures rose but 1-month VIX remained stable. As well, the bottom panel shows that SKEW, which measures the price of tail-risk protection, is rising. These readings indicate that the market is anticipating a near-term volatility event.

The most likely spark for a volatility event is Trump's address to Congress on Tuesday, when he is expected to outline his tax reform proposals. This speech has the potential to raise the "uncertainty about potential changes in fiscal, regulatory, and other government policies".

The stock market has rallied substantially in anticipation of Trump's proposal of tax cuts, tax holiday for offshore cash repatriation, and deregulation. As Trump's tax reform proposals become more clear, it is becoming evident that there are two likely outcomes. Either Wall Street will have to swallow the bitter pill of the protectionist measures of a Border Adjustment Tax (BAT), or they will get delayed and bogged down in Congress.

As the market has bought the rumor of tax cuts, it may now be time to sell the news.

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

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