Credit Rumbles But Juice Left to Squeeze

Rising Rate environment.  War in Europe.  Inflation printing at levels seen 50 years ago.

Known knowns so they’re priced in, right?  I suspect so.

Last week’s price action in equities is being widely viewed as a short-covering event.  And there is a plenty of evidence to support that notion, which I agree with.  But that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen a potential legitimate shift in animal spirits for risk assets, at least in the short term.

We’ve gone from 0.00% to 0.25% on the Fed Funds rate.  Threats of an additional 50 basis points if and when needed at any of the next FOMC meetings and potential initiation of balance sheet runoff by the start of Summer

With 6 remaining meetings in 2022, you at least have a printed schedule of interest rate risk-events.

2022 FOMC Remaining Meeting Schedule (b)

If the known knowns are essentially priced in, then how much volatility is left to sell and hedge?  Which brings me to junk or rather high yield (HY).  With the start of the year, the HY spread began to widen, but I suspect with current risks digested, people are still going to stretch for yield.

Over the past few years, each spread-widening event has been met with subsequent compression.  Observe.

HY Option Adjusted Spread

Why?  Because interest rates are so low and capital requires yield.  End of story.

Rates are still historically low and the Fed’s balance sheet liquidation process still awaits.  This means liquidity.  Recession risk is obviously rising as earnings will assuredly contract, but again, what’s priced-in in the short-term?  I’d wager more than speculators suspect.

HYG is sporting a meaty 4.25% yield and a slight discount to NAV to boot at the time of article composition.

Sentiment in HY has reached an extreme, as observed in the HY McClellan Summation (courtesy of SentimenTrader).  Observe an extreme not seen since the GFC.

HY McClellan Summation (3-21-2022)

Additionally, debt-volatility as measured by the MOVE (courtesy of TradingView) has begun to abate.  Is the worst over?  Not sure, but there’s enough signs to wager yes in the short-term at the very least.


Let’s take a look at HYG from a technical standpoint.  A couple of things jump out.  One, the buying thrust in volume last week (200M+ shares traded).  Over the past few years, this level of green volume has typically led to solid, multi-week or month rallies as noted by the yellow circles.  Couple failures (red circles) in 2020 as the world was being taught how to live with a pandemic.  Different environment now.

HYG (3-21-2022)

HYG has also bumped down into it’s 150-week EMA.  Nothing magical about that, but it did prove to be a stopping point at the end of 2018 when people were thinking the next GFC was upon us.

Huge risks are everywhere.  None can be marginalized but they do have to be appropriately discounted and I think the markets are doing that now.  If you’re looking for yield and maybe a bit of capital gain, HYG is worth a look at structuring a play.

Whipsaw, Whipsaw

MAN ALIVE! That action on Monday is enough to make a trader fold up operations and go back to counting beans or selling un-needed crap to folks. That was seriously some hair-raising action. Did you get your stops ran? Did any of you traders get whipsawed by Monday’s action? Rest assured, you probably weren’t alone.

If you’re attempting to go short here across any of the indices and had your stops ran on Monday then kudos to you for maintaining discipline. However, you just may be missing out on more of the fun of a potential downmove. Hard to say because my crystal ball is in the shop and for some unforeseen reason I’m not omniscient. It really makes me mad that I can’t call the exact turns of the market. Oh well. I still think a downward short-term bias is in effect and eventually the perceived risk indexes(Russell 2000 & NASDAQ) will finally pull down the “Great Proxy”, the S&P 500.

So far, so good for the S&P 500 as it set new highs this week…and has promptly come off those highs. Is that strong price momentum? Have a look at the daily action in the VIX. It gapped down to start the week and within 3 days that gap has filled, but still yet, the VIX is still down around all-time lows.


The MACD has been a pretty simple and fair indicator to clue traders in when the volatility is going to start spiking. Observe at the green lines that every time the MACD turned upwards, the VIX was usually in the early stage of an up-move. Are we at another up-move right now? It feels like it. If things get dicey, a quick move up to 20 on the VIX could easily occur.

A couple of weeks ago, SentimentTrader shared a chart depicting the VIX Put/Call Open Interest Ratio. It puts on full display what the current option action on the VIX is saying about volatility. Judge for yourself:


There are plenty of messages being communicated very loudly and clearly by the markets. These aren’t esoteric signals that only the true professionals can divine. Anybody with the ability to read and some dial-up internet internet service can see these messages…more power to you if don’t have to result to a screeching connection via Juno or NetZero or whoever the hell provides dial-up these days. Also, to any readers who currently utilize dial-up to access this blog, please excuse my insensitivity.

Things are happening in the markets such as defensive rotation. Utilities have performed fantastically so far the past few months while the rotation to staples vs discretionary appears to have begun. Less and less issues are hitting 52-week highs despite the DOW and S&P 500 sitting near their own highs. Treasury rates continue to drop. Wal-Mart missed fairly big on YoY Q1 income. High-flying tech and small caps have already come off pretty hard and these are where the risk is allocated. Social media sites trading at P/E’s in the multi-hundreds. Biotech stories being sold on a wing and prayer for ridiculous valuations.

High-flying tech and small caps are part of what I call the 3-legged risk stool that are sort of propping up the animal spirits of the entire, current stock market. Two of those legs have been kicked out, so to speak, and yet still the S&P 500 hasn’t really shaken out the bulls. The third leg of the shaky risk stool and thus potentially the ultimate catalyst for a correction in the broader markets is junk bonds, I suspect.

If junk bonds correct here within the next 14 to 60 days, with remaining weakness in the NDX and RUT, then things can get real hairy, real fast for people who are poorly positioned for the move. Have a look at what Kimble shared over at his site a few days ago,


So then what could be a catalyst besides stiff resistance? Oh I don’t know. Maybe the humongousest junk bond issuance in financial history. Anybody remember seeing this near the end of April?


The markets have a funny tendency to act a little wonky after the largest-ever of anything occurs.

The action this week has that sort of a backdraft feeling to it. In case you never saw the movie, a backdraft(as defined by the Collins English Dictionary) is “an explosion that occurs when air reaches a fire that has used up all the available oxygen, often occurring when a door is opened to the room containing the fire.” Buyers potentially get a final pull into risk assets before an explosion outwards for a fast and hard move down after the right catalysts make their presence known.

Despite the already well covered move down in the Russell 2000, it appears as if there is plenty of room for a continuation downward. If you’re trading IWM, then keep your stops at an appropriate level. Biotech’s IBB essentially bounced off it’s 38.2% retracement using the week of August 8th, 2011 as your starting point for a quick Fibonacci analysis. A cautious short in IBB with the potential for further selling down to between $200 and $205, may yield a nice return during this summer. In a previous post, I had stated that I thought coffee was setting up for a short but my favorite indicators were not providing a green light just yet. Well those indicators finally gave their green light. If you’re feeling brave you can follow me on a short of JO with approximate targets of $35 and $30, if the selling momentum really gets going.

The list of investing icons who are advising caution continues to build. We’ve had mutual fund heroes like Romick of FPA and Yactkman share their thoughts months ago on building cash levels. Klarman, Marks, and Grantham have given the thumbs down. Now we had David Tepper, Mr. Highest Paid 2013 Hedgie, providing his valued insight on these precarious markets. It may not pay to listen to or heed a blogger like myself. That’s for you to decide; but you can’t dispute that it pays to heed what these most esteemed gentlemen have to share.

Early to the Unattended Short Party Again

Just wanted to apologize for a lack of posting activity. For newer readers expecting a little more activity, it gets tough around the holidays with family demands and traveling. My goal going forward is to post at least twice a week, and at the very least, once a week. I know that’s not on par with your favorite daily reads, but I hope I can continue to potentially add value to your investment life.

The markets just keep running, even with this past week’s slight consolidation. Hell, Friday’s pop was enough to put the S&P 500 at basically even for the week, the Russell 2000 a touch off the highs for the year, the NASDAQ at post-2000 highs, and the DOW in the same position as the Russell at a touch off the highs. Some consolidation, huh? Previously, I reasoned that a correction was on the horizon and illustrated with some charts why I thought that a correction was imminent. The results…

WRONG! The markets have been looking like a small blow-off would occur since the summer. Those signals were all false though and chartists who have been attempting to short the market keep coming up just that…short. The lesson that you should not fight the Fed keeps getting firmly taught in 2013, as noted by the under-performance of hedge funds, shorts artists, and tape readers. None the less, have a look at the following set of charts from several weeks ago. In a normal world that’s not flooded with liquidity chasing up financial assets around the world, these charts would generally portend of a change in trend. However, this ain’t a normal world to be speculating in.

These charts depict several factors of risk taking and risk abating, which one would think would normally affect the greater markets. Divergences abound and yet the rising continues. Observe:

1. SentimentTrader displayed the Rydex family of funds’ 12 year low in assets allocated to their money market funds


2. The stock to bond ratio – one of SentimentTrader’s daily charts showing periods of over/under value in equities


3. S&P 500 to JNK (junk bond ETF) – notice the previous downturns in the S&P 500 earlier this year when JNK turned down


4. ZeroHedge provides a Bloomberg terminal snapshot of a nosedive in IWM shares outstanding while price remains stable


5. Here’s another junkbond relative performance chart. Apologies to the author. I forgot from which blog I nicked it.


6. Courtesy of DecisionPoint, going back to to 1999 one can see what a divergence from the PBI for the SPX generally means for the SPX


Alright, enough with the slide show. There are so many more squiggle pictures that chartists could call upon to attempt to prove that a downturn is imminent but why bother? Liquidity is not going to dry up. Interest rates aren’t going to spike up past 6% and send the planet into recession tomorrow. Based on the performance of equity markets and despite a ton of divergent indicators, I’m beginning to get the feeling that the markets may just consolidate in a semi-volatile sideways range. There’s a real possibility that the markets just bounce along up and down plus or minus 1% – 3% into the new year before resuming an advance.

We keep coming back to this now overly used quote from 2007 by Chuck Prince, former head of CitiBank: “As long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.” This little gem has popped up almost everywhere in the financial blogosphere recently, so I figured I’d find a gratuitous reason to post it too as it is quite apropos. Good old Chucky “Cheese” Prince made this statement at the peak of the markets back in 2007 because he knew how unstable things were and yet he continued to allow the SIFI(systemically important financial institution) he ran to trade and underwrite garbage.

And while I’m at it, in case you don’t know what the co-crown prince of golden parachutes looks like; here’s his picture. Truly a face you can trust with managing hundreds of billions.

clip_image012(picture courtesy of:  Yamaguchi/ Bloomberg/BLOOMBERG NEWS)

For those ill-informed about Mr. Prince, he walked away from Citi with a cool $100M for overseeing the destruction of the bank. The reason he’s a co-crown prince of the golden parachute set is because he shares the crown with Stanley O’Neal, but I digress. We’re talking about the potential for a sideways consolidation in the market and not rehashing sour grapes on a who’s who behind the SIFI’s that have changed our world as we know it. As for speculative advice, well I have exited my short positions. I hedged my last move against the SPY and simply broke even. I’m currently taking a step back and allowing for the picture to clear up a little for a trader such as myself.

In my next post, I intend to touch on what matters and what doesn’t matter anymore in finance, investing, and economics. And there just may be a hint of informed sarcasm. As for speculating, if you are positioned long, stay long. Enjoy your paper profit ride, but don’t forget to mind your stops and make those profits real if needed. If you’re trading and miss the lack of real volatility, then now may be a good time to catch up on some insightful reads. Seriously, look at that picture up above one more time. Tell me that’s not exactly who my last post was describing. Cheers!