Missing Something

This note was originally published at 8am on August 12, 2013 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“The market is smarter than you will ever be, with its combined knowledge of all participants. Pay attention to the signs. Be quick to admit that you’re wrong. Don’t be afraid to miss something.”

-Yra Harris, Praxis Trading

That quote comes from my “other” favorite book on markets, Inside the House of Money, which is a series of candid interviews with a number of highly-regarded Global Macro Risk Managers (Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow forms the other half of my 1A/1B compromise). Harris – a veteran of the trading floor pits at the CME for over three decades – had that to say about the merits of gleaning critical information from market prices.

I make it a point to pay as little attention as humanly possible to the #OldWall’s financial media outlets, so I don’t know much about Mr. Harris’ current views and biases on the markets. I do, however, know that we @Hedgeye subscribe to the same philosophy of recognizing that we’re not smarter than the market. Indeed, having been football or hockey jocks at an institution like Yale has taught us all we needed to learn about not being the “smartest guy in the room”.

Whether you’ve watched us compete in this game for the past five years or you’ve been trialing our research for five days, you’ll quickly arrive at the conclusion that last price tends to dictate our interpretation of the fundamentals. But, obviously, markets oscillate on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, so we employ a three factor (i.e. price, volume and volatility) quant model to contextualize market trends across three distinct investment durations:

  1. TRADE: 3 weeks or less
  2. TREND: 3 months or more
  3. TAIL: 3 years or less

If a particular security or asset class is Bullish TRADE (i.e. last price is above the TRADE line), we’d argue that the market is in agreement with the positive fundamental view(s) emanating from the bull camp with respect to the most immediate-term of durations. The same can be said of Bullish TREND setups vis-à-vis the intermediate-term duration and Bullish TAIL setups vis-à-vis the long-term duration. The inverse of this interpretation (i.e. Bearish TRADE/TREND/TAIL) holds true as well.

We believe that it is our job as macro analysts to collect and piece together any relevant economic data with the intent of forming a fundamental view on a particular market or asset class. Often times, however, our biases don’t agree with said market’s risk management setup – i.e. the research is bullish when the market setup is bearish, or vice versa.

Prior to putting any risk on, investors generally have the option of dismissing the aforementioned setup as “being early” – at least until they get tapped on the shoulder! When, however, the position is already on the tape and has positive P&L and it starts to trend counter to one’s preexisting and subsequently reconfirmed fundamental view, we’d argue that said investor is late – i.e. he or she is #MissingSomething with respect to the fundamental story.

To better illustrate this lesson in Global Macro Risk Management, let us turn to a discussion of our preexisting bullish bias on the dollar-yen cross with respect to the intermediate-term TREND and long-term TAIL durations and on the Japanese equity market with respect to the intermediate-term TREND duration.

We’ve been out front of consensus making these calls – very loudly in the yen’s case – since SEP and NOV of last year, respectively, but, for those of you who may be new to the thesis, our subsequently reconfirmed fundamental view is as follows:

  1. While enthusiasm for the Abenomics agenda may come and go in the immediate-term, we believe investors are broadly underestimating the structural impact of imposing a +2% inflation target and +3% nominal growth target in Japan. To put that in context, the trailing 10Y averages for these metrics are -0.1% and -0.5%, respectively. Japanese policymakers have a lot of hay to bale on the monetary easing front if they are to even sniff their lofty targets within the proposed 2Y time frame.
  2. Assuming Japanese policy stays the course and our view that the US economy has finally turned the corner from a growth perspective is ultimately proven prescient, a compressing real interest rate differential will also put pressure on Japan’s currency from a capital flows perspective. Consensus expects real 2Y JGB rates to hit -2.5% by EOY 2014 (down meaningfully from -0.4% by EOY 2013); this compares to a forecast of -1.3% for real UST 2Y rates by EOY 2014 (down slightly from -1.1% by EOY 2013). More importantly, this inflection is also being confirmed in the swaps market: 2Y swap rates in Japan are now trading at -1.57% on a real basis (subtracting the 2Y breakeven rate from the swap rate); that compares to -0.88% for the US. As recently as mid-MAR, those metrics were meaningfully inverted at -0.10% and -1.98%, respectively!
  3. In the context of intermittent spikes in volatility in the bond and forex markets, we have maintained that the risk-adjusted outlook for Japanese stocks is decidedly less sanguine than consensus assumes given the reflationary tailwind of currency debasement. The caveat here is that this headwind can be offset via absolute returns that are now likely to be increasingly predicated on economic and fiscal reforms (corporate tax cuts, labor market deregulation, fiscal consolidation, etc.), as well as large-scale portfolio rebalancing by Japanese households. To that tune, only 6.8% of Japanese household financial assets are held in equities vs. 14.4% for the Eurozone and 32.8% for the US.

In spite of what we’ve outlined as arguably the most credible and well-articulated bull case for both the USD/JPY cross and Japanese equities, both are broken from an immediate-term TRADE perspective and flirting with breakdowns on our intermediate-term TREND duration as well. The risk management levels to watch on that front are as follows:

  • USD/JPY (last price = 96.77): Bearish TRADE = 97.72 and Bearish TREND = 97.13 (a few days young; needs to hold below TREND for a few weeks to confirm the move… if confirmed, we would certainly alter our fundamental bias)
  • Nikkei 225 (last price = 13,519): Bearish TRADE = 14,091 and Bullish TREND = 13,336

Profit taking, generally disappointing 2Q earnings and waning international investor sentiment for Abenomics are all credible theses that support a Bearish TRADE setup in both markets. We haven’t come across anything credible that would fundamentally support a confirmed Bearish TREND setup in the USD/JPY cross, which we believe will continue to determine the direction of the Nikkei until it eventually becomes obvious to Japanese equity investors that inflation is not growth (the trailing 1Y and 3Y correlation coefficients between these two markets are +0.96 and +0.97, respectively).

But, as highlighted above, just because we haven’t formed a coherent fundamental story that supports the quantitative risk management setup in both markets does not mean the underlying fundamentals themselves cease to exist.  So either we’re #MissingSomething or this is all just one big head-fake as weak hands are shaken out of the trade.

Let us know what you think.

Our immediate-term Risk Ranges are now as follows:

UST 10yr Yield 2.57-2.73%

SPX 1679-1714

DAX 8226-8449

VIX 11.72-13.94

Yen 95.91-98.38

Copper 3.17-3.32

Keep your head on a swivel,


Darius Dale

Senior Analyst

Missing Something - Chart of the Day

Missing Something - Virtual Portfolio