Optimistic Bias

This note was originally published at 8am on May 11, 2012. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“The optimistic bias may well be the most significant of the cognitive biases.”

-Daniel Kahneman

 

If I had to pick three books that have been the most influential in my learning process in the last few years, they would be: 1. This Time Is Different (Reinhart & Rogoff) 2. The Road To Serfdom (Hayek), and 3. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Kahneman).

 

The only way out of getting caught off-sides by the groupthink of our profession is to get into books. I think it’s critical to remove your mind from the daily dose of hope and get real with what’s not only happened across generations of economic history, but what’s developing in terms of what we’re learning about ourselves.

 

I call this being Duration Agnostic in my risk management approach. Long-term mean reversions in big Global Macro data and immediate-term behavioral factors in our heads matter, all at the same time. Embrace Uncertainty.

 

Back to the Global Macro Grind

 

If you loved the US stock market 7 trading days ago, you’re going to get married to it this morning. Or are you? Do you have to keep buying on the way down? When the facts change, do you? I don’t marry markets.

 

I can’t imagine anyone telling me with a straight face that they thought that JPM reporting a $2B loss on the eve of Durbin taking the Volcker Rule implementation to the Senate floor was either expected or reason to be optimistic. With both JPM and the Financials (XLF) having already broken my intermediate-term TREND lines of $41.14 and $14.99 support, respectively, timing here matters.

 

I’m not dog-piling bad news. In fact, from a leadership perspective, Dimon showed his stripes as being the real deal in terms of transparency and accountability last night. That doesn’t make this a ‘buy the Financials’ day though (see Chart of The Day).

 

On the margin, the fundamental news for the US Financials has been worsening for at least 2 months. As one of our top performing Risk Manager clients asked last night – “So, what do you think is already priced in?”

 

The short answer is I don’t know. We let the market tell us what to do next.

 

The more well rounded research and risk managed answer is something that our Managing Director of everything Financials, Josh Steiner, and I will host a conference call on at 830AM EST (email sales@hedgeye.com if you’d like to join).

 

What else do we know?

  1. The concept of the US “de-coupling” is as loose as Keynesian economic forecasting
  2. Globally Interconnected risk, across currencies, countries, and commodities, continues to flag bearish
  3. Whatever your bottom-up view is on the Financials, it has to be considered within the context of the top-down

We do Top-Down in 2-ways:

  1. Global Macro Top Down
  2. Industry Top Down

On the Global Macro front, here’s what I see across currencies, countries, and commodities right now:

  1. US Dollar Index up for the 8thconsecutive day to $80.20; EUR/USD moves back into a Bearish Formation
  2. US Dollar Index immediate-term correlations: SP500 = -0.91, EuroStoxx600 = -0.95, CRB Commodities Index = -0.95
  3. US Dollar Index  immediate-term correlation to the US Financials Sector ETF (XLF) = -0.92

In other words, the Correlation Risk is moving towards -1.0, again – and if you don’t remember how this movie tends to climax, you are definitely hostage to a serious Optimistic Bias. This is not a time to be recklessly long on a gross or net basis.

 

The Correlation Risk to the world’s reserve currency doesn’t always matter. But when you are in the soup like this, it’s basically all that matters. That’s the lesson of the 2008, 2010, 2011 Q1 peaks to the ultimate draw-down lows established sometime in Q3.

 

Valuation is not a catalyst right now. Events are. From a Top Down Industry perspective for the Financials, here’s what’s next:

  1. Morgan Stanley’s pending multiple notch ratings downgrade (May)
  2. Volcker Rule implementation (July)
  3. Europe (ongoing)

Notwithstanding that the US Money-Center banks are going to have to also report earnings in July – and that one of the main drivers of those cash earnings, Net Interest Margin (NIM), has seen the Yield Spread (10yr minus 2yr yield) compress by 21% since it topped in mid-March, there’s a lot to think about here.

 

If every single major Global Equity market hadn’t already put in a lower long-term high in late-Feb to early April, I would answer my client’s question with a maybe (in whether or not I think this is all priced in). But they have. So my answer is not maybe. You don’t pay me to be optimistic – you pay me to be realistic about real-time risk.

 

My immediate-term support and resistance ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar Index, Financials (XLF), JP Morgan (JPM), and the SP500 are now $1577-1637, $109.71-113.87, $79.42-80.39, $13.87-14.99, $36.83-41.14, and 1341-1367, respectively.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Optimistic Bias - Chart of the Day

 

Optimistic Bias - Virtual Portfolio


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