Monday, July 2, 2012

Polo Financial Group: Book Review of The Option Trader’s Hedge Fund Rating: 4 of 5

Polo Financial Group:  Book Review of The Option Trader’s Hedge Fund
Rating: 4 of 5

Once in awhile an option book is published that can be tossed into the pile with Natenberg, Taleb and Hull.  This is one of them.  The Option reading material until very recently has been very divided

1. Very Technical to Option trading for dummies
2. Option Trading based on math, not market reality

The Option Trader’s Hedge Fund is the missing book that traders need.  The book links the math, trading ideas and option terminology from the perspective of the Wall Street trader.  

In just a few years, technology that was once only available to large wall street firms is now available to almost anyone.  However, the technology will never teach you a disciplined trading framework.  This book will.  

The authors have taken the time to explain a step-by-step method to trading - simple things as a trading diary to more complicated risk management.  We believe this book is the missing link for anyone coming out of school and interested in trading to Wall Street professionals looking to run money.  The Option Traders Hedge fund is just that - How to manage risk and trade as the hedge fund pro’s to do.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Yes, the decoupled argument was right. However, not the way it was planned to play out

Yes, the decoupled argument was right.  However, not the way it was planned to play out

Since 2008/2009, the world markets have taken so many twists and turns and heavy arguments have been made on an array of topics.  However, the one thing that is very clear, the world has decoupled.  However, not what was traditionally being presented by the presenters of the thesis.  The US has actually left all the other nations behind, and not vice-versa.  As we discuss US Growth, it is clear that is takes US Super growth and the US economy to be firing on all cylinders for the rest of the world to actually get caught in its cross currents.  This can come in in two ways, US consumer leverage growth or US government forced growth - i.e war, ZIRP or QE.  US Super Growth can only be a result of mixed organic growth resulting from government induced activity plus the consumer actually further leveraging household balance sheets and being comfortable with crash risk on its books.

1.  From the peaks

2.  In-spite of the European nations breakdown, money printing and future austerity, the EURUSD cross has not budged since the crisis.  US Bond/Equities also used to hold hands pre-crisis.  They have since broken up.

3. However, global implied volatility levels are not pricing out the same way.  Small gaps have opened up in within local Asian term structures, but for the most part, globally volatility is moving together, in spite of the large spot differences.  1 year variance swaps are all around 37% pct tile.  This would imply a continuation of range bound and stale markets we are now used to as part of the triple deleveraging - banks, consumer and governments.  This again backs up to our core thesis of LOWER LONG TERM VOLATILITY.

4. Among the global vol asset classes, the same story is being played out.

So why is this happening?  Clients responded

Has the US free-money only been recycled into US assets by the entire investment universe?   But globally all rates are low?

1. The US is the least worst.
2. The US has Warren Buffett and the FED!
3. The rest of the world is smarter and not expressing local growth which has to come from US Super growth and are therefore not thrilled to invest locally until the US situation has more clarity.
4. The US has primarily focused on inward growth, they are simply not creating the jobs or offshore liquidity pumping structures anymore.

5. The last time I checked, Apple was a US based company.

6. The yields globally simply are not high enough to warrant paying for EM risk beta.
7. Globally petrol price subsidization is lower than levels from 2000-2007, impacting growth directly.  Sovereigns cannot add this on onto balance sheets anymore, destroying local margins.

8. A China slowdown must happen to reset global commodity prices lower in a lower subsidization world for global growth to spread away from China and into other nations.  The world needs a China slowdown, not leadership!

9. The US has not entered any meaningful austerity as the rest of the world must as they cannot simply print.  While the US is pampering squatters in foreclosed houses, the rest of the world is seeing true economic and wealth cuts.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

YTD 2014 Short Vega Fund investor letter. Also a look around the world using our Volatility XXX software

YTD 2014 Short Vega investor letter.  Also a look around the world using our Volatility XXX software

We use our volatility software daily to watch the worlds concerns as expressed by vol, they are clearly moving East, however Spain and Italy to some degree are still on peoples radar.  Positioning for a slower China are being expressed in Brazil, Australia, Canada and Korea

Monday, March 19, 2012

Self Inflicted perpetual fear: How quickly things can change?

Self Inflicted perpetual fear: How quickly things can change?

80% chance of QE3, now ~ 30%.  Interest Rates and Stocks are booming, correlation is rewarding stock pickers with multi year lows when just a few months ago, it was at multi year highs.  So what happened, how did we go from headline to headline, 30 handle swings to a parabolic SPX graph that resembles apple?

LTRO, Greece, PSI, EURUSD mentions in MSM have also collapsed.  The spotlight is on global growth, free money til 2014.  Now rate hikes are priced in 2013?  Are we running out of stocks to buy?  Financial stocks have in some cases doubled from the lows just set less then 9 months ago.  We could go on, but we will come back to our core thesis of de-levering and short long dated vol as what we usually do here at PFG.

Some claim the sunshine is to blame for the optimism or the lack of a winter, others point to the great data coming from the US.  Most are skeptical however and looking for the  “I knew it” moment when SPX will fall 15 handles and they won’t be short it or have any gamma on.  It probably will get bought by the dippers and the story will repeat till 2014.  Vol is going to party like it’s 2004.  Welcome.

But wait...Irans oil/bomb/war...Election Year, Greece still has..., where are all these new jobs...., Who will buy the MBS paper....I see line ups at open houses again....everything is over-extended for perfection.  The fact is that it’s been 4 years since Obama came into the Lehman mess and we are well on our way to finally building a foundation and corporates actually are fine and have cushioned themselves well for a possible attack.  Yes, they will still fail, a few might even succeed, but overall the market seems to comfortable with taking risk with a promised low interest till 2014.  Ben has given retail its own version of the LTRO, start reading the memo and use it.

1. The power of the FED is clear.

2. Hey wait a minute, why should I fund the ZIRP?

3.  What seems as optimism might actually be a “I have no choice to buy stocks and real estate”  Mr Black Swan

4. Long dated vols are collapsing 5. Vol traders are having fun playing the slide to take advantage of levered etf flows and perpetual fear in the market

6. But no one is allowed to be short.  This is tough one to take to management, we are approaching last years lows fast
7. The NEW NEW thing in Vol, sell the old problem, buy the new problem.  This trade will be big in the second half of this year.  Sell Euro, Buy Asia vol
8. The challenge the FED faces

Friday, February 24, 2012

Patience: Long Dated Vol will go down, the curve will flatten

Patience: Long Dated Vol will go down, the curve will flatten

In all asset classes, we see the same thing, short dated vols are crushed as the market can’t seem to break out of this low correlation upward drift.  It is the max pain path as everyone loaded up on short dated gamma as it “looks cheap”, except all it is doing is getting cheaper and causing option players to re-think continuously what delta they wish to hold against the cheap baby calls they are long.  This is no easy matter, the upward drift pnl loss is real, the OTM call option gain is a combination of marks.  Gamma and short dated vega is littered all over the street on dealer books.  As nothing happens, it is being puked out to avoid paying anymore theta and we should get a move when they finally decide to get short it.  

1. Interest Rate Vols

2. Recently steepness has picked up, giving long dated vol sellers a great entry point

3. Forward Vols Implied are also very high

4. Term Structure is also at extremes

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Could we be entering a 2004-2007 low volatility world? All the graphs say yes, but you have to look a little further back in history, otherwise they are all screaming BUY

Could we be entering a 2004-2007 low volatility world?  All the graphs say yes, but you have to look a little further back in history, otherwise they are all screaming BUY

While everyone is focused on what will happen with Greece, specifically the March 2011 bond, the risk on world seems to have looked passed the drachma drama.  Yes, we may have a few bumps along the way, but money is looking for a much riskier home these days

1. High Yield Spreads have come down really fast

2. Large disconnect between credit and Equity - this is more due to the fed then natural forces to keep cheap money around for a long time

3. Even PIMCO’s Bill Gross has leveraged PIMCO to hold bonds and MBS.  A full 180, but also viewed as short vol trade

4. Does anyone care about the Euro Danger?  Vol has dropped really fast, skew however has not, currently in about the 85th percentile.  Protection via tails is getting expensive again.

5. No demand for term structure for the front months.  Record spreads over the last year.  So why does no one “need” vol for anything imminent?  Is the market simply trying to move vol demand forward and into lower strikes with Euro Bailouts?

6. The risk EM/DM/VIX world also screaming to buy vol?  But wait, look to your right and you can see that before all the Euro Drama, the 2004-2007 vol world, post Dot-Com and World Com, the vol markets did nothing for 3 years! and risk on was “ok”

7.  Everything is saying buy vol if we just focus on the last 12 months?  Is the risk on rally finally sending a message to the vol world that things are going to be fine?  
8. According to UBS, global asset class vol viewed in a distribution format shows just have far vols have dropped.  So this is not just a VIX story, in fact risk on this YTD is everywhere, except USTs, as the fed is keeping ZIRP 2014 and keeping the back -end kink in check to get people back into the housing trade (twist) - Remember this includes the risk-on in EUROPE, yields have fallen, buyers have shown up to buy bonds and European Banks stocks have boomed.

9. If we widen the horizon, look at post 2003, is post 2011 going to be the same?.  Most people are looking at these graphs post 2008 and come up with “vol is cheap”

10. Interest Rate world sending same message - Long dated vol is to high and the story is the same, short dated vol smashed, long term vol has very little supply or courage to push it down.

We continue to believe that long term volatility is very overpriced, probably has a few suppliers and holding term-structure trades are the best way to position for the current environment.  No one has any edge over the Euro headlines, as they flip-flop and shake people out of positions.  However, we cannot ignore the massive flow into risky assets and markets making large bets that long term vol will go lower.  Everyone is waiting for a “whale event” to feel better about selling vol, we are not sure they are going to get it or long vol holders will get the expected outcome.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Technically Speaking

We typically don't look at charts for our vega book, but this is interesting as we are showing a 2 for 1 payoff at current spot.  The market is fully priced for perfection.

With the current boom in spot with a boom in vol, we believe a serious payoff is in store for short vol, short delta.  We understand at the recent lows in vol, the marginal buyer will set the price as supply will simply vanish.  However, it seems both cash and vol have over-extended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why am I not long Apple? Take risk, it’s ok. Buy upside calls and dump your longs.

Why am I not long Apple?  Take risk, it’s ok.  Buy upside calls and dump your longs.

You are probably reading this because you are not long apple, short the market or pulled your money out - our recent market survey confirms to us the continuation of equity outflow data.  Everyone is bearish, neutral and upset.  Small volume rallies continue to move the marginal price higher.  What feel’s like an amazing rally, is in-fact only taking the vapour out of recent fear that was priced in.  The equity markets maybe a touch ahead of themselves, but as we will see from the charts below, still plenty of upside is left.

People simply don’t trust the market and have piled into bonds.  PIMCO’s Bill Gross has even leveraged PIMCO to hold bonds and MBS.  A full 180.

It’s hard to take risk when see pictures like this below, markets seem to be over-extended and risk premia to low.  This is why we feel it’s better to hold upside calls
Still plenty of upside left.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Taking ⅓ off the table: Party Continues, we are sneaking out early.

Taking ⅓ off the table: Party Continues, we are sneaking out early. Also a look at the PFG VIX Model vs VIX Futures

We are going to unwind our second ⅓ of our gamma fund and keep our vega fund the same, currently with average short vega of duration of 2.5y.

Fund Changes by 1/3YTD Performance

Our thesis continues to be the same, we still believe in the positions, however still want to keep bullets in our pocket.  A couple of points
  • The rally is so narrow and only paying the beat up stocks of 2011.
  • Correlation has collapsed, Long/Short funds are finally getting paid
  • Bad to mild news continues to fuel a income targeting rally
  • No one is bullish

We are now ⅔ cash, ⅓ is still invested in our gamma fund and our vega fund is unchanged with a thematic short vega position.  Both funds are in positions of strength, taking out healthy gains in January and well funded to add good risk/reward trades. If correlation is a guide and we are moving towards any sort of normality, we expect our PFG VIX Model to be a good guide for us.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taking ⅓ off the table: YTD Performance and Visual Recap of Global Volatility Levels

Taking ⅓ off the table:  YTD Performance and Visual Recap of Global Volatility Levels

We are going to unwind ⅓ of our gamma fund (gamma will also expire tomorrow) and keeping our vega fund the same, currently with average short vega of 2.5y.

Fund Changes by 1/3YTD Performance

We learned last year, moving in thirds was the best way to enter and exit into positions.  Our vega fund has performed well YTD (approx 2.3 vega points) and we continue to believe in lower long term volatility.

Our gamma positions that expire tomorrow were the worst performers (-2%) as it would have been cheaper and easier to simply buy dips and not pay 13 vol, what proved to end up realizing ~ 8 vol close to close.

1. VIX drifted downwards and is now below 20, we see some value in owning short dated gamma from a risk reward basis, however best left to single stock pickers, rather then SPY.  From this 5 year graph below (right to left) if we are entering the ever feared 2004-2007 vol world, things on the vix can get a lot worse.

Globally, from the Sept highs, long dated vol has collapsed on average 10 points

2.  We are removing ⅓ as we believe we still have plenty of performance left in our trades, but we want to keep a bullet to add more.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Back of the Napkin: Why are stocks being chased? US Stagnation is forcing risk into portfolios. The market will sell-off on good news

Back of the Napkin:  Why are stocks being chased?   US Stagnation is forcing risk into portfolios.  The market will sell-off on good news

Most folks are now in mild agreement that the US is looking a touch better internally and the best of crowd externally.  The demand for USD$ assets has continued and the money has poured right into risk assets, with financials benefiting the most.

So the large question remains in the face of 100$ earnings this year, why is the market expanding the multiple it’s ready to pay in a bad macro picture?  Last year, it was happy paying 12.5X and now paying 13X?  Answer - you have nowhere else to go.  Money earning interest in the bank will not cover a single expense with a society being forced to take on income targeting.  This manipulation is gearing portfolios into riskier assets.  Whatever the chase, dividends, corporate bonds or beaten up names, you have three choices depending on your cash pile. Keep in mind, people are going into the "blue chip multinational dividend stocks" while the other names are suffering a lack of selling. Just 20 stocks accounting for 40% of the SP500 index rise

1)Large Pile of Cash
Pick your spot on the UST curve

2)Medium Pile of Cash
½ in UST, ½ in Blue Chip Dividends

3)Small Pile of Cash
Stocks + Continuing Claims

Because most folks are in situation 2) or 3), stocks will continue to benefit from US economic stagnation.  Gold and Financials are up about 9% YTD, EM Risk Out-performance 2.3% and risky duration is still flat over UST -which confirms investor 1) and 2)

This is not the first time we have seen the risk of losing money < risk of missing making money takeover, but this is now being superceded by individuals being forced to adapt the following equation

Savings + risk = income targeting

So how does income targeting get replaced?  Job growth.  This will remove the pressure for additional risk into the equation and the markets should have a healthy sell-off.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is the EUR.USD vs SPX telling us something? A long lost kiss never seems to fail

Here is a look at the EURUSD cross vs SPY over different time periods.  In a major crisis, as we had with Lehman, this spread was almost 50% wide, but flat if you held till today.  Since then each Euro mini crisis blip has had an extreme of 25% wide and equities eventually got to an extreme and tumbled to kiss the EUR levels.  The last 3 month time period is sitting at 15% wide (equities over).  Historically, you should buy when equities are under and sell when 25% over

5 years with Divs, you are flat - but in a crisis, it can easily be 50% wide (SPX Under)
2 years with Divs, 20% wide (SPX Over) , and it never got wider until now (26%) , in fact Equities tumbled to kiss it in November/October 2011

1 year, you are flat, they found each to kiss, ~25% wide max (SPX Under)

3m, 15% wide, this is widest observation (SPX Over), a kiss would mean equities could seriously fall, but we could easily rally another 10% before we hit a recent extreme

5 days ago, 3% wide, continuation of widening

But why is this happening now, we described it in our earlier post, but it has become clear now why auctions are bringing these EUR.USD gaps on.  Here are the details. In addition, we can also see that concerns in EUR are much higher then SPX from the Var Swap spreads - de coupling?