Pride Goeth Before the Fall? – A Performance Review of 2021

It’s been awhile since completing a review of market calls made here at Marginrich.com.  As my general knowledge of market inter-workings and crowd psychology has refined over the past several years increasing in nuance and depth, now’s as good a time as ever.

Let’s start with accuracy percentage and a list of the articles with basic details.  Then I’ll provide a quick, detailed breakdown of each call afterwards down below.  We’ll work backwards from the most current post, skipping 2 posts where I don’t make any directional calls or predictions.

Nine of the 11 asset forecasts between December 2020 and December 2021 were correct, for an accuracy rate of 82%.  Stellar by any definition, especially for a free blog written in spare time.  Each forecast was actionable via options, futures, the underlying asset, or simply raising cash.

Forecasts:

1. Trading Brazil – 12/12/2021:  The Brazilian Real would strengthen against the US Dollar and Brazilian stocks were about to be re-rated higher. (CORRECT)

2. Options Markets Muting Signals – 11/20/2021:  Trapdoor underneath stock markets and potential for a large selloff in the near future. (CORRECT)

3. Insiders, Metaverse, and Options – 11/16/2021:  Options usage too extreme; quick & shallow selloff felt very close. (CORRECT)

4. I Can’t Fight This Feeling – 10/24/2021:  Commodities sentiment extreme and due for a selloff led by oil with a rise in the US Dollar. (CORRECT)

5. If Everybody’s Thinking Alike, then… – 9/13/2021:  Technically, I stated the cannabis sector looked as if it might be basing for a potential up-move.  I didn’t actually make a directional call, but I’ll still own it. Same goes for EWZ, for which I actually did make a directional call 3 months later. (WRONG)

6. Volatility Interpretation – 9/1/2021:  Volatility was about to show its face in stock markets. (CORRECT)

7. I Don’t Know Why I Talk About Crypto in a Public Setting – 8/30/2021:  Ethereum on the verge of another run upwards. (CORRECT)

8. The Best Part of Waking Up – 7/22/2021:  A correction in coffee was imminent. (CORRECT)

9. Bitcoin – A Quick Technical Read – 7/16/2021:  I thought BTC had one more puke-dip into the $20k range, anywhere between $21k and $29k.  Major whiff.  My article actually bottom-ticked that particular correction before BTC went on to return over 100% within 4 months. (WRONG)

10. Oil Taking Its Breather…Finally – 7/7/2021:  Oil correction had begun (not obvious yet) and XLE would sell off accordingly. (CORRECT)

11.  Beware the Secular Trend’s Short-term Counter Move – 12/28/2020:  The Euro/USD pair had reached an extreme point and a USD rally looked primed, which would coincide with potential fear-events in the equity markets. (CORRECT)

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So that’s the quick and dirty.  Keep reading below for a bit more detail and to view the charts better illustrating each forecast.  Each chart will have a yellow circle denoting the date the article was published.

Trading Brazil:

EWZ Performance

Calls on EWZ were the chosen expression for this trade.  Pre-tax return was 100% in less than 2 months.  While everyone has been focused on energy, I focused on an EM component that looked ripe to provide a kickstart to 2022 trading.

Brazilian Real Strenghening Against the USD

Real strengthening vs the USD.  Any reader could’ve bet futures here on the currency pair for a tidy profit.

Options Markets Muting Signals:

NASDAQ Performance

This particular article actually top-ticked the NASDAQ Composite, but I didn’t go short here.  Hindsight being what it is, I should have, but instead I simply raised cash levels for the opportunities that are currently availing themselves.

S&P 500 Performance

My focus was on the NASDAQ in this article however one has to include the S&P 500 if one is going to comment on general equity markets.  No top-tick as there was a bit more demand for the S&P 500, but within a matter of weeks, the trapdoor opened for this index, too.

Insiders, Metaverse, and Options

SPX Performance Turkey Day

You could almost smell the move coming, like a turkey basting for hours.  Then, Black Friday delivered a little fear for the unprepared.  No trade here as raising cash was the strategy, and the ensuing rallies assisted with that process.  Going short up until the past few months was a dangerous endeavor and understanding option flows was and is critical.

I Can’t Fight This Feeling

DBC Performance

That little 11% jaunt downward in the underlying ETF over the next month resulted in a 135% pre-tax return on simple Put purchases.  Of course, energy as a sector is a different beast entirely now, and along with inflation, the Russia/Ukraine conflict has put commodities front and center of the financial space again.

USD Performance

The US Dollar followed it’s typical anti-correlation to commodities by rising.  Since that initial run upwards, it has chopped in this uncertain environment.  I suspect the ultimate, long-term path is downwards for the USD, but that’s a philosophical discussion for another time.

If Everybody’s Thinking Alike, Then…

MJ Performance

Ugh, what else needs to be said?  This one is ugly.  To reiterate, I did not actually make a directional call or bet here.  I simply thought that the bear market in cannabis may be reaching a nadir.  But investors and speculators had other ideas as the market pounded this ETF for an additional 50% loss subsequent to publishing the article.

Volatility Interpretation

VIX Performance

The article literally bottom-ticked the VIX.  Unfortunately, I didn’t directly trade Vol here.  I used the ensuing volatility to pyramid some positions in the long portfolios.

I Don’t Know Why I Talk About Crypto in a Public Setting

ETH Performance

Those percentages in the chart above were from the publishing date of the article (yellow circle).  The actual moves were,  20% as annotated for the first ascent, then a quick 50% downdraft followed by a 75% spike.  If you ignored ETH in 2021, or crypto period, then you missed some of the best trading opportunities of the year.

The Best Part of Waking Up

Coffee Performance

Coffee was the gift that kept on giving for about 4 weeks in late July through late August, before squeezing out of an old school pennant to what seems like non-stop upside.  The initial trade was simple Puts on the JO ETF for a 40% pre-tax return in a week.  Then I was able to scalp 20% in a week out of JO with some Calls before finally squeezing the last bit of Put juice for 10% in a week before THE breakout in coffee.

Subsequent to those trades, I did overestimate the extreme in buying-sentiment and underestimate the impact of the freeze in Brazilian crops.  Consequently, I gave back a bit of the profit with additional Puts and failed to capitalize on the ensuing multi-month rally as a result of my bias.  All additional lessons at a fair tuition price.

Bitcoin – A Quick Technical Read

BTC Performance

I darn near bottom-ticked BTC with this particular forecast.  So wrong!  As BTC goes, so goes the crypto markets so it wasn’t long before I was pursuing the other opportunity as noted above.  As has been said countless times by countless players, trading is all about managing risk (control losses & maximize gains).

Oil Taking Its Breather…Finally

WTIC Performance

Oil (West Texas Intermediate) was overdone.  I top-ticked the high in July on the day of publishing and was fortunate to estimate an unsurprising 20% sell off in the commodity.

XLE Performance

I favored Puts on the XLE as the expression for this trade and the market rewarded me with a 100% pre-tax return in under 8 weeks.

Beware the Secular Trend’s Potential Short-term Counter Move

USD Performance

I published this article in the midst of what felt like virtually everyone expecting the “obvious” demise of the USD.  The dollar’s imminent demise down into the $80’s has since proven to be fallacious logic.  Its haven status as the world’s reserve currency has kept it afloat and demand will probably keep it there for some time until internal and external geopolitical/economic events shift perceptions and capital flows.

Euro Performance

Once again, the anti-correlated pairing could’ve provided currency traders with an exceptional opportunity.  Admittedly, I failed to take advantage of this potential trade with a currency pair expression.

S&P 500 Performance

What I did do was expect more intense volatility.  As such, I purchased hedges which ended up costing me insurance premiums as the S&P 500 simply chopped for a month before continuing onward and upward.  Sure, I was correct about some volatility but wrong about the amplitude.  Still though, I contend that the price paid for peace of mind was worth it.

It’s my sincerest hope that if you’ve read this full performance-review that my skills and experience are apparent.  I’m not some wannabe, greenhorn daytrader posing as a professional.  Although I mostly showcase my technical analysis skills here at the site, I’ve honed my fundamental analysis skills for all asset classes and sectors.   Over the last 20 years, I’ve poured my heart and soul into building an amalgamated skill set around a professional-level understanding of investing, finance, banking, currencies, economics, accounting, business operations, sales, geopolitics, crowd psychology of markets, leading/managing/coaching, and asset management.

Now I’d like to test those skills in the appropriate arena.  If you’re here just to have a read, I hope you’ve enjoyed.  I’ll continue to intermittently share actionable thoughts.  But if any readers from the professional, financial space are interested in how I can benefit their organization, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Email address is listed at the menu button in the upper-right of the screen.  My LinkedIn profile can be accessed at the About page by clicking the hamburger in the upper-left of the screen.

Here’s to a fruitful 2022 for any and all readers of Marginrich.com.

Volatility Interpretation

Volatility is a tricky asset class.  At least for me.  I’m sure quantitative methodologies utilizing various derivatives make it easier for the more mathematically inclined, but I do with what I got.  Chart interpretation is definitely more art than science, and I wanted to share what could be a set-up for a short-term burst in risk-off sentiment.

VIX Weekly (8-31-2021)

We’re only two weeks removed from that spike in fear that got everyone’s under-garments in a bunch.  Since April, the last 4 times the VIX spiked up resulted in intra-week advances but never closing a week above that top channel line.

Price action across all markets says to me that there is a lot of FOMO and confusion, as evidenced by declining or negative breadth and sentiment readings with new highs across various asset classes.

In order for a proper selloff across multiple asset classes, I’d like to see the VIX close out the week above 20.  Not a bear here.  Just positioned accordingly for some short-term profit should things soon get a little sparky for a minute.

Look For The Wick

I have come to utilize charting techniques less and less as their ability to help handicap asset price movements continues to wither away.

You’re either trading algorithmically in front of the market or you’re a trading loser.  Every single chart pattern and set of indicators in every conceivable combination has already been mathematically expressed by people smarter than technical analysts, and easy profits have been completely arbitraged out of the market from visual chart cues.

There will always be pockets of sheer luck.  There are always exceptions.  But earning consistent profits on price/indicator pictures…get real.

I have come to rely more and more on fundamental analysis, experience (see “gut”), and semi-quantitative tools to manage the risks of trading capital.  Like a degenerate heroine addict, I still chart.  I’ll never give it up, but it’s just another input.  Mostly noise.  Sometimes valued signal.

Despite all that, here’s one visual cue I think a lot of professionals are probably waiting for and that is a second long-stem on the S&P 500.  It could potentially indicate that risk appetites have returned.  If the HFTs see this then we could see a “schooling” move upward, like fish or a flock of birds, as the programs feed on each other’s momentum calls.

Take a look to better understand.  We are looking for a 2% to 3% wick below the weekly closing price.  That’s it.

Everybody's Waiting for a Stem - SPX (3-28-2018)

That might be all it takes to re-engage risk taking.  Not without increased volatility, of course, because liquidity is draining and conditions are tightening.

The Last Gasp

As you know by now, I think we are in the final stages of the topping process in major markets.  This is going to be a multi-month affair.  I suspect the top and crash begins later next year, but so do many other pundits, pros, and bloggers which makes me leery.  There’s nothing worse than contrarian consensus by large groups in the game of speculation.

Like its predecessors, the crash won’t look like one at first.  Sure, players will get scared and react but then we’ll see a bounce off the first initial move to the downside.  This will be an opportune time to liquidate positions to make a final cash raise to either capitalize during the crash or wait for the inevitable value opportunities that will arise.

There is a set of indicators that go along with this move downward and bounce that has proven efficacy as a guide.  It’s the 5 month and 10 month Exponential Moving Average (“EMA”).  Observe.

SPX - 5 & 10 Crossover (10-10-2016)

These aren’t magic indicators.  I’m not saying they are guaranteed to work.  I’m only saying they’ve proven themselves as guides when a real bear move has begun.  There are a multitude of economic and financial indicators that I also like to use along with anecdotal evidence, too.  Keeping an eye on this particular set of EMAs however can potentially keep your losses to between 10% and 15%, assuming you act.

In a bear market where there’s the potential for a halving of portfolios, I’d say 15% in losses is solid.

Volatility in the biggest asset classes will be unimaginable.  The algorithmic, high frequency trading operations in combination with central banks have broken all markets.  There will be no liquidity for the big timers when the bear begins.

HFTs are the true market makers and all algorithms are written to pull away and sell when bottoms fall out of markets.  Look at the S&P 500 in May of 2010.  That was really the first indication that markets would never liquidate in a typical fashion ever again, until HFTs are properly regulated, taxed, or removed from existence in markets.

There are plenty of examples between May of 2010 and now, but the move in the pound sterling at the start of October provides such a fine illustration.  What’s more liquid than the currency markets of the most developed and powerful Western nations?

Nothing.  And yet still we see the destructive power of HFT on any market.  Does this look normal in a power currency?

Sterling Madness (10-16-2016)

In earlier Asian trading, the intraday damage was even worse.  Observe this bit of madness.

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These moves are a product of liquidity being immediately vacuumed from the asset classes where all the largest players play.  This will happen again and again when the markets make their final turn.

You can liken it to a hull breach for an astronaut in space without a suit on.  One second astronaut HYG is floating around the lab in a jump suit, happily conducting experiments with OPM.  But OPM in high-yield instruments in a low-yield environment can be a volatile material if not handled appropriately in a proper setting and an explosion occurs breaching the hull, sucking HYG out into the liquidity-free vacuum immediately to death.

Did I say liquidity?  I meant oxygen.

You get the point.

Coming back to what a last gasp means; it means there will be a final run in risk assets to squeeze out the final profits of this bull.  Many, including myself, have called it a melt-up, but I grow weary of the term.

Please don’t be fooled by some of the ignorance being freely proffered out there that we are in the early years of a cyclical bull, similar to 1982.  We are not.  The evidence is broad, clear, deep, and obvious.  One needn’t a fancy finance degree or years managing wealth in order to see this.

The end game is here, but not before that last gasp for profits that I keep describing.  I suspect that many of the sectors that powered this bull market prior to 2016 may reassert themselves to take us home.  Why is that?

Interest rates.  Plain and simple.

Those with access to leverage at these historically low rates will borrow capital to fund buyouts and takeovers which will drive asset prices upward.  The upward move will then draw in speculators looking to hop on the trend or front-run it.  This quest for yield whether in debt, equity, or private equity i.e. IRR, will be the fuel for the last gasp up in asset prices.

Despite what I think may happen in semiconductors or social or biotech or emerging markets as risk-on gains speed, keep your eyes on the one asset class that has taken out all comers in 2016.  The Rocky Balboa asset class for the year.  You know what I’m referring to and this is even with the recent sell-off.

2016 Performance Chart (10-16-2016)

Precious metals.  You don’t have to love them or hate them.  Opinions don’t have to be binary.  Be agnostic when speculating.  Follow the trends.  Follow the money.  More importantly, follow central banking and political lunacy.

Let’s look at one more chart that potentially validates that this bull market is long in the tooth.  It depicts the times over the last 50 years when payouts to equity investors have exceeded  profits.

Total Payouts via ZH (10-11-2016)

You can ignore what is glaringly obvious or you can prepare.

Speaking of obvious, let’s begin to wrap this post up with another pithy little ditty of a quote, this time from one of the world’s great speculators.  It’s been reprinted time and again, but it’s simple yet brilliant message is timeless.

I just wait until there is money lying in the corner, and all I have to do is go over there and pick it up.  I do nothing in the meantime.

– Jim Rogers

I haven’t touched on trading since the summer and I just wanted to share some set-ups that appear to potentially be building little piles of money in a corner waiting to be picked up.

Keep an eye on these sectors, either short or long:

Short:  sugar, energy(big 3), US dollar, and technology

Long:  grains, bouncing precious metals, and the pound sterling

Despite your opinions, never forget about counter-trend rallies, even in the face of what appears to be an unstoppable trend.

When Last We Was Trading…

…I’d shared some thoughts on trading volatility and the action of the S&P 500. I was right about the down-move in the S&P 500. I thought a small move was possible of no more than 5% and a 3% percent move down is what we got, then a continuance of the sideways consolidation. However, I was very wrong about volatility. I suspect the reason is because the trade was simply too crowded. Volatility became a trade du jour as the intense bounce that had started in February had obviously grown long in the tooth.

But crowded trades are a trading fool’s errand and my thesis was wrong. And so ended one of the greatest 6-month runs I’ve ever had in reading the tape, but now I’ll just have to start fresh on a new run of prognostications. The crowded trade of long volatility and short the S&P 500 was skewered by the “market making” bot shops. Even Mr. Bonds himself, Gundlach, came out and stated during a Reuters interview that from the 20th of May and on the action in the stock markets felt like a short squeeze. JPM backed that assessment as one of the largest broker dealers out there. Observe a chart they released verifying the quick spike at the end of May in short covering.

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As this short-covering burst has squeezed a chunk of the volatility hedging, too, we still very well may get a correction of 5%ish down to just below 2,000 on the S&P 500. Volatility is still worth watching for a quick scalp if enough weak hands have been washed out and the robots let some negative momentum push the S&P 500 down and volatility up.

Let’s return to the soft commodities market as sugar has just been on a silly tear. Observe:

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Just look at the last week, specifically. Talk about momentum ignition. The Commercial Hedgers have gone supremely short but this softy keeps ripping higher, moving 16% in the last week. Crazy. But the last two trading days look suspiciously like blow-offs. Have a look at what’s happened during the last two blow-offs in sugar over the past 9 months.

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You can see that prior to each of the blow-offs there were frenzied gains in very short time periods, but then astute traders could have made a nice rip quickly shorting sugar for 2 to 4 weeks. Has another opportunity presented itself for one of those rips? It sure looks like it. Go elsewhere for your farm reports, international weather patterns, crop output, regional flood potential, yada, yada, yada. This is straight up tape reading.

Using the futures proxy ETF of SGG, it is clear to see that $36 is an important number for sugar. Magnetic almost.

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Using Fibonacci from the August 2015 low to the current June high, $36 also happens to be the 38.2% retracement point on the weekly chart. Tread lightly, if you’re inclined, as the action in sugar has been fast and furious. Just look at that whipsawing action since the start of 2015. Hedge. Trade with discipline. Manage the position.

One final note from a macroeconomic standpoint, have a look at this chart of negative yield curves in Germany and Japan.

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If this doesn’t scream insanity to you then nothing can phase you. Maybe all the developed world’s central bankers have been secretly, partially lobotomized. A little frontal lobe here, a little hippocampus there, and you have a compliant banker with the inability to remember what negative rates actually mean and the lack of cognition to act effectively. Germany and Japan combined equal approximately two-thirds of the US economy. Which means their economies matter. A lot. Germany has negative yields out to a decade and Japan out to 14 years, just screaming recession is near if not already present in those two countries. You think the US is in better shape economically because we don’t have negative yields? These are different and unique times, folks. The kind of times that are remembered with head shaking and derisive snorts by future students of the economic past. Trade smart. Build cash. Stay disciplined. New highs are coming, but new lows are closer than you think.