“The only safe ship in a storm is leadership.”
US markets are closed today, but rest of world is still open for risk to be managed. US Equity futures are down 8 as the US Dollar (+0.16%) continues on its strengthening path toward popping Bernanke’s Bubble (Commodities).
Like Sandy’s progression, the global growth and earnings slowdown is measurable. The closer it gets to you, the more obvious its risk management realities become. Try it at home. Buy a stock in front of a guide down.
Nate Silver does a great job simplifying this Bayesian process of managing risk through probability theory on page 243 of The Signal And The Noise: “we learn about it through approximation, getting closer and closer to the truth as we gather more evidence.”
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
Bayes’ Theorum is by no means a silver bullet. It won’t tell you how many trees Sandy will knock down in your yard inasmuch as it won’t tell you the precise day when China will “bottom.” It’s simply a framework that allows us to think flexibly.
This is the primary reason why our risk management style is so different than most that you read. Any buy-side fund worth their fees gets this. The sell-side and media at large does not. Like monitoring a hurricane, we probability-weight every decision based on what real-time price, volume, and volatility information we receive (every 90 minutes).
Ninety minutes? No, that doesn’t make me “short-term” – that just makes me less likely to make mistakes within the context of the intermediate to long-term cycles that we have already studied. Watch the storm. Risk Happens Fast.
Across our core risk management durations (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL), here’s what I saw last week:
- US Dollar Index = up +0.6% and up for the 4th week in the last 6 (bullish TRADE and TAIL)
- EUR/USD = down -0.76%, and down for the 4th week in the last 6 (bearish TRADE and TAIL)
- US Treasury Yield (10yr) = down 1 basis pt to 1.75% (bearish TAIL, which is long-term bullish for Bonds)
- CRB Commodities Index = down another -2.7% (down -7.8% since Bernanke’s Top, SEP 14, 2012)
- Oil (WTIC) = down another -4.4% to $86.28/barrel in a Bearish Formation (bearish TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)
- Gold = down another -0.7% (bearish TRADE and TAIL)
- Copper = down another -2.1% (Bearish Formation, down -10% from its #GrowthSlowing high Q112)
- SP500 = down -1.5% last wk closing below both TRADE (1441) and TREND (1419) resistance
- Russell2000 = down -1.0% last wk closing below both TRADE (831) and TREND (846) resistance
- US Equity Volatility (VIX) = +4.3% last wk closing above both TRADE (16.29) and TREND (15.54) support
- Russian Stocks (RTSI Index) = down -3.7% leading European Equity decliners last wk (-18.5% since March)
- Chinese Stocks (Shanghai Composite) = down -2.9% remain in a Bearish Formation (TRADE, TREND, and TAIL)
That last point (China) is a good one to qualify. Two weeks ago I heard plenty a pundit say “China has bottomed” without any process or conditional probability backing up their perma-bull proclamation of faith. Bottoms aren’t bottoms, until they bottom.
As a general rule, that’s why I like to teach the very basic risk management concept that tops and bottoms are processes, not points. To probability-weight them, you need to have a disciplined process to grind out evidence that risk is actually occurring.
Old Wall generally thinks about this bass ackwards. They call it “risk on” or “risk off”, after the risk occurs. As a practitioner, you can safely assume that risk is never “on” or “off” – instead, it’s always moving. So embrace its uncertainty.
Speaking of which, I need to cut this Early Look short to get gas all over my hands and prime my generator. I’d hate to have a risk “on” moment in front of my kids where I didn’t proactively prepare for what’s staring me in the face.
Our immediate-term risk ranges for Gold, Oil (Brent), US Dollar, EUR/USD, UST 10yr Yield, Shanghai Composite, and the SP500 are now $1, $106.08-110.66, $79.67-80.35, $1.28-1.30, 1.71-1.81%, 2048-2098, and 1, respectively.
Best of luck out there today – stay safe,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer