Market analysis and insights on Forex & Commodities!

The 10 Financial Milestones that Every Singaporean Needs to Aim For

Many people want to attain financial freedom, but most have little to no idea what it takes to get there. In today’s post, I will be sharing the 10 key financial milestones that every Singaporean should be looking forward to, and it be a good chance for you to see how many you have achieved!

First things first…

Before one goes marching along the road of financial success, he has to get his house in order. Put it another way, he has to have a clean, honest audit of the current state of his financial health.

Also, the road to financial freedom is marked by progress. Overtime, as the person attains more and more milestones, he gets closer to his goal.

Some of these milestones are very critical; they can cause you to lose wealth in the future if they are not dealt with right now. Amassing wealth is great, but another key activity is preservation of wealth, which we are going to discuss in detail.

Here are 10 things that financial milestones that are often missed out in most people’s financial planning:

#1 HAVE A CLEAN CREDIT HISTORY

Paying personal bills on time is a great chore for many. However, the financially-free person has to attain mastery of this.

It’s quite simple really; don’t buy what is beyond you now. I’ve heard of startup founders who slept in basements to save on rent, bunking in with 4 other like-minded nerds who didn’t mind the initial shame for the future glory.

For many of us, truth be told, we are financially far-more secure. Even if we have debts, most middle-class families are able to get by and secure some savings each month.

Easier said than done; don’t spend what you don’t have.

Of course, business loans do not count, because they are much larger than personal loans.

Have you done a thorough audit of your personal debts? Getting a good credit rating is one big green tick on your financial health. Pay all your bills on time, avoid penalty fees, fines, and you can get a higher credit score on the CCRIS.

#2 LEARN THE SKILL OF BUDGETING

Before wealth is massed, one must learn how to manage small amounts of money. If he can be entrusted with little, he will be entrusted with much.

Budgeting is a simple skill, but truth be told, people don’t keep to their budgets. They adjust their budgets like their exercise schedule, their weight-loss plan, their study plan, and whatnot.

Budgeting without keeping to the budget makes budgeting useless.

The ability to keep to your budget is part of the skill of budgeting. No point having a great budgeting plan, but no resolve to get down to it. And you only have yourself to blame is you are unable to abide by your budget.

Parents have to instruct their children in this regard. If budgeting is taught to people when they are young, the attitude remains, and even when the amount of money gets bigger, the discipline keeps the person financially healthy over the long-run.

#3 BE A PROFESSIONAL TIME-INVESTOR

WRONG question to ask: “I have $10,000. What should I invest in?”

Anyone who asks this question is out of his mind. It’s not what you invest in; the correct question to ask should be “What skills should I acquire to become a proficient investor?”

Time is all you need to acquire skills. Many people complain about the lack of solid financially education in schools, but they remain at the complain stage. Being a professional investor of money requires you to first be a professional investor of your own time.

If you spend most of your time watching YouTube, great. If it makes you happy, great. But if that’s not what you want, do something about it.

Even after trading for many years, I make it a point to read good books, and stimulate my thoughts. They can be self-help books, trading-related books, or even fiction. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from good, beefy fiction books!

#4 BE FINANCIALLY-INDEPENDENT

If you are still living off your parents, it’s ok. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, for all of us start that way. But you have to have a plan to get financially independent, where your livelihood is no longer dependent on who gives you money.

Many young people are truthfully still holding on to the security that their parents will save them if they mess up. That can be true, and no parent would want their child to suffer financial catastrophes. However, we all need to come to a place where we take responsibility for our finances, and keep track of where we are.

#5 ADEQUATE INSURANCE COVERAGE

As a responsible adult, your job is to not just protect yourself financially, but also the lives of those you love. You cannot compromise on insurance, because your life does not revolve around you alone.

Having a solid financial backing when something tragic happens will show your financial responsibility. It demonstrates that you have a clear plan for emergencies and know how to respond.

Investment-linked policies, in my opinion, aren’t really investments. Like I said above, invest your time, not in insurance policies. Take up the necessary protection, and that’s all you need. It gives you a peace of mind. You’ll be surprised by how uninformed most people are about insurance, and this is one key milestone that will set you apart from many others.

#6 HAVE AN ACTIVE PLAN TO KEEP YOURSELF FIT

Many people don’t even consider physical fitness as a key financial milestone. For what use is it to gain all the wealth you want, yet be unable to enjoy it?

Keeping fit is simple, but difficult to do.

Just like budgeting, many people know what to do, but don’t do it. Get yourself in shape if you want your financial health to be in shape.

#7 OWN THE ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD

Although there are stories of young people who’ve made it big, purchased a mansion with the $150 million they got from selling a company, most people don’t have that luxury. 

The majority of young people work their way to owning their first house, before getting anywhere major in life. When it comes to financial freedom, owning the roof over your head is the least you could do, because when an emergency strikes, you won’t be forced on the streets.

#8 MONITOR YOUR ACTIVE AND PASSIVE INCOME

Financial freedom involves having active and passive income. Monitoring them every 3 months or so is a good way to keep yourself up to date with your progress. It also gives a reality check every few months so that you won’t end up skiving.

A simple excel sheet will do the job. It’s just as easy as monitoring your expenses; most simple apps on the Apple Store of Android Store would do fine. It’s the discipline in keeping the routine that needs to be drilled in.

#9 KEEP 6 MONTHS OF EXPENSES IN CASH

Another defensive safety net; if you don’t even have a 6-month warchest, don’t even think about attaining financial freedom. It takes lots of effort and risk to achieve the goals that you want to set out, and the last thing you want to be worried about is whether there is bread on the table or milk in the fridge.

#10 MEET INVESTORS REGULARLY

If you are a pokemon card game fan, you probably spend most of your time around fellow pokemon addicts. That’s fine if you want to be Ash Ketchum, but if you want to be an investor, hang out around real investors.

Go to events, meet like-minded people, network like crazy, and find out what the scene is like. Know what is trending, what is out-dated, what people are interested in, and by spending time with these people, you will be in sync with the world of investments, and this expands your thinking greatly.

For example, when I first heard of options, it blew my mind; you can actually make money when prices do not move. You don’t have to bet on a rise or a fall; you simply collect premium. I won’t go into much detail, but this opened my mind when I was much younger, and kept me hungry to learn and explore.

Many people fall into a comfort zone once they reach their 30s-40s. It’s normal because the trials of life and the painfulness of toil takes a hit on people, but if you really want that fulfilling life you have, you got to step out and behave like you are going to live a fulfilling life.

Here’s a useful quote for those who are just starting out in the investment community:

If you’re 25, behave like you’re 35. Be mature, sensitive, patient, and be kind in your dealings with people.

On the other hand, if you are a seasoned veteran in your are of expertise, here’s a quote for you.

If you’re 55, behave like you’re 35. Be excited, passionate, willing to change, and accept young people for who they are.

In the past, I was criticized for spending too much time on my phone. Guess what? I now spend most of my time on the phone trading and analyzing charts, and I’m not confined to a desk in an office in Raffles Place. The things which society didn’t really accept, can actually become mainstream in a very short time.

stonesHave you got these 10 mile-stones laid out?
Image Source: Dimitri.co.uk

WHAT’S YOUR DECISION?

If you’re going to make any headway in the path to financial freedom, it had better start today. Make a plan. Go to your drawing board. Stop complaining about the past, and live a life of possibilities. Don’t know where to start? Look for help. Ask, learn, and seek.

But first, make sure you’ve got these 10 financial milestones set up. Of course, you could forgo a few initially, but to be really stable, you’ve got to build up your foundation very strong.

When the storm comes, would your financial house stand strong?

Here’s to a great month ahead, cheers! 😀

 

The January Barometer: An Accurate Predictor of Stocks for 2017?

There are many speculations about leading indicators in the market, and one of the most popular ones is the January Barometer. In this post, we will explore this phenomenon, and see if it holds up to the test, and whether it will provide any useful insights going forward.

WHAT IS THE JANUARY BAROMETER?

“As January goes, so will the market go for the year.” – Wall Street Folklore

The January barometer is a tool used to determine if the year will be bullish on the equity space. If January sees a winning month, the year would be a winning year.

January can be said to be an indicator to whether the year would be bullish or not.

This idea first emerged in the 1972 edition of Yale Hirsch’s Stock Trader’s Almanac. Here’s what was published:

“We doubt that any technique or indicator ever devised has been so remarkably accurate as the January Barometer. The barometer, which indicates that as January goes, so will the market go for the total year, has proven correct in 20 of the last 24 years…. Very few stock market indicators show such an 83.3 percent accuracy for even short spans of time.”

 

 

PREVIOUSLY… INVESTIGATING THE SANTA CLAUS RALLY

A couple of months back, I collected statistics for a simple ‘buy in January, sell in February’ portfolio. How it works is simple: I would purchase the stock index on 1 January, and sell it on 1 February and see the results.

Buy in January, Sell in February Statistics

2011: 4.34%

2012: 1.28%

2013: 4.55%

2014: 5.62%

2015: -0.08% — Total returns for 5 years = +15.71%!!!

Over the last 5 years, it has indeed been a great run for the ‘buy in January, sell in February’ portfolio.

This got me excited, but I decided to look further back in history…

Breaking up the time periods into 5-year chucks, here are the statistics:

5-year “Buy in January, Sell in February” Statistics

2011-2015: +15.71%

2006-2010: -8.7%

2001-2005: +0.88%

1996-2000: -6.38%

The santa claus rally didn’t really exist as claimed by most sensationalists.

This time, we want to look at whether January tells us if the year would be a winning year.

 

JANUARY BULL RUN = WHOLE YEAR BULL RUN?

Quantpedia has a good summary of this, and the strategy is simple: Invest in equity market in each January. Stay invested in equity markets (via ETF, fund or futures) only if January return is positive otherwise switch investments to T-Bills.

To put it more simply, there are two scenarios:

Scenario 1: January positive –> Stay invested in equities

Scenario 2: January negative –> Exit equities

The results are shocking. Quoting from a research paper titled: “What’s the Best Way to Trade Using the January Barometer?” (M. J. Cooper, J. J. McConnell, A. V. Ovtchinnikov, 2009)

“We investigated the power of the January market return to predict returns for the next 11 months using 147 years of U.S. stock market returns.

Using 147 years of U.S market data, this was the result:

We found that, on average, the 11-month holding period return following positive Januarys was significantly higher, by a wide margin, (-7.76%) than the 11-month holding period return following negative Januarys.”

This meant that on average, a year with a positive January outperformed a year with negative January by 7.76%. This is a very significant difference.

 

 

 

5 TRADING STRATEGIES THAT WERE RESEARCHED

In the research paper that I mentioned above (you can read the whole paper by downloading it in the link at the bottom of this article), here are 2 strategies that can be taken knowing that January is a good predictor of the market for the rest of the 11 months:

(1) LONG/T-BILL STRATEGY

Long in Jan, continue being long if Jan is positive, but exit and go long on bonds if Jan is negative.

(2) LONG/SHORT STRATEGY

Long in Jan, continue being long if January is positive, but go short if Jan is negative.

The results for 1857 – 2008 are highlighted below:

Strategy 1 ( completely outperformed strategy 2.
Source: Page 21 of “What’s the Best Way to Trade Using the January Barometer?” (M. J. Cooper, J. J. McConnell, A. V. Ovtchinnikov, 2009)

In the research paper, 5 strategies were outlined, but I only cover the 2 that are relevant to our discussion.

It seems that this would be a very profitable strategy:

Firstly, buy stocks in January.

If January is positive, remain long on stocks from February to December.

If January is negative, exit stocks and go long on bonds from February to December.

In addition, the research paper also published returns for the years 1940 – 2008:


Strategy 1 completely outperformed strategy 2, even in the recent 70 years.
Source: Page 23 of “What’s the Best Way to Trade Using the January Barometer?” (M. J. Cooper, J. J. McConnell, A. V. Ovtchinnikov, 2009)

 

WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?

The STI is up 5.5% for the month of January 2017. Going by the strategy outlined above, if you are a buy-and-hold investor, it would be wise to hold the STI until the end of 2017.

 

On the contrary, for the Dow, we’ve only seen a +0.4% increase in Jan 2017. At the time of writing this (2:00am Singapore Time, 1 Feb), it still makes sense to hold the U.S stock index until the end of 2017 (if you’re a buy-and-hold investor). That being said, it’s wise to employ price action strategies and focus on a precision entry/exit if you are already long.

While the January barometer is good information to know, it’s largely a super long-term strategy (10-20 years) and investors will position themselves well if they have strong price action fundamentals in a generally bullish market.

Going forward, I expect the stock market in both Singapore and U.S to be bullish. This is a probabilistic approach; I would still be making trades based on solid price action strategies, and make portfolio adjustments where necessary.

All the best for 2017, and happy trading! I hope that this article has shed some light for those who hate reading research papers 🙂

 

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

investopedia.com/terms/j/januarybarometer.asp
cnbc.com/2014/01/30/uld-totally-ignore-the-january-barometer.html
quantpedia.com/screener/Details/113
papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1436516
fullertreacymoney.com/content/2010-03-02/Januaryeffrct.pdf
Cover Image: wallpapercave.com

Why Are More & More Singaporeans Switching from Stocks to Forex?

asd

LOW VOLUME MAKES IT CHALLENGING

The volume of stocks traded on the SGX has been falling over the years.

The SGX has been plagued by weak volumes; well-known brands like Tiger Airways, OSIM, and Eu Yan Sang have left the exchange. In one article I read, a stock broker told The Straits Times that “stockbroking is looking like a sunset profession now”.

As for the number of IPOs?

Nov 2016: 1

Aug 2016: 2

Jul 2016: 6

Jun 2016: 1

May 2016: 1

Apr 2016: 1

sgxSince the start of 2016, trading volumes have been lacklustre.
Source: ChannelNewsAsia

Not only has volume been lacklustre; the Singapore Straits Times Index has been hovering sideways for most of 2016. Intra-day trading is an impossibility for many because of the huge amount of funds needed to trade stocks in and out.

SAVE MONEY 7 TIMES BY MOVING TO FOREX TRADING

$ – Save Initial ‘Tuition’ Fees

Trade small, make mistakes with small sums of money.

$$ – Save on commissions

Zero commissions, period.

$$$ – Track your stats and make changes

Use myfxbook to track your statistics, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

$$$$ – Charts are free

Pay nothing for charts, forever.

$$$$$ – Trade only when you are not working

24/7 market allows you to choose to trade only when you are free; won’t have to sacrifice your job.

$$$$$$ – Market volatility known ahead of time

Use the forex calendar to know when your forex pair will encounter volatility; no more rude news shocks.

$$$$$$$ – Accumulate expertise cheaply

No need to wait years or pay market strategists to test if your strategy works; try it out on past charts, execute it ‘live’, and see how it goes.

IT’S CRAZY; I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE HATE FOREX

Some people quip that the forex market is more difficult to trade than the stock market. I beg to differ, because it is your circle of competence that determines your success, not the actual characteristics of the market.

You get to start with as little as $500.

In the Forex market, you are entitled to ‘get a feel of the game’ by risking a few dollars per trade. Most brokers allow you to trade 0.01 lots, which is $0.10 per pip on average!

The quickest way to rack up trading experience is to make many trades and check out the statistics behind your trades. After all, it’s a numbers’ game: with a properly developed trading edge, your account should have a positive expectation and profits should be the norm over the long-run.

You trade ‘live’ and get skin in the game.

There’s this huge debate about ‘live’ accounts versus demo accounts. Here’s the solution: start with a ‘live’ account right from the beginning. Get yourself into the reality of trading, risking money on a daily basis. Sooner or later you will get used to the risk that is inherent to the game.

By learning to make many decisions and experiencing all the different conditions of the market, you would become seasoned enough to trade a bigger size, and fine-tune your own trading strategy. I like what Tom Sosnoff said about learning to trade: “Trade small, trade often.”

No commission charges!

Forex has no commission charges. This may come as a shocker to the stock trader, but for forex traders it is a constant reality. This reduces the ‘tuition fees’ you need to pay to the market as a result of making trades.

Many new traders make any of the following mistakes:

  • Trading the wrong lot size (1.00 instead of 0.10, causing too big a trade size)
  • Going short instead of long
  • Entering a trade only to realize the market is closed

Yes! These mistakes may sound silly, but every trader who has had skin in the game would understand what I just said.

24/7 market; choose when you want to trade.

The great thing about Forex is that you can decide when to trade based on your schedule. That helps people who have punishing schedules: trading in the middle of the night, or during lunch, on a daily basis, works out to a trading schedule that accommodates your lifestyle needs.

 

THE SIMPLE 3 STEPS TO MITIGATE FOREX TRADING RISKS

Here are three simple steps to mitigate Forex trading risks:

  • Think in Percentages – takes the emotion out of the dollars
  • Find an Edge – only an edge gives you a profit in the long-run
  • Stick to One Style – don’t try to be everything at the start

asdToo many forex traders try to do everything at once. Focus on first becoming profitable; diversifying across trading styles can come later.

If you want to get started on forex trading, what’s stopping you? I’ve shown you 7 ways it can save you money in your trading career.

If not today, then when?

Cheers!

REFERENCES & RESEARCH SOURCES

straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/sgx-turnover-plunges-27-to-206b-in-august
theindependent.sg/business/the-hollowing-of-the-singapore-stock-exchange-sgx/
channelnewsasia.com/news/business/singapore/sgx-reports-on-year/2406994.html
shareinvestor.com/ipo/index.html

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Start Investing in 2017

copy-of-copy-of-not-allthose-who-wanderare-lost

Brexit, Trump, Italy, asset bubbles all over the world… you name it, there’s probably some financial market jitters that keeps most people out of the world of investments.

On the flipside, the financial world often quips about some investment that has made xx% over a certain period of time, trying to entice visitors with a glimpse of the profits possible for anyone. In the world of investing, it is easy to find spectacular returns on hindsight, and salesmen go through great lengths to market what has already happened.

As traders, we live in a constant state of uncertainty. Every trade we make has the possibility of going wrong, and this is taken into account when a decision is made. It is the knowledge of this that gives power to a trader; if he can understand the math behind his investment decision, he can have a positive expectation and a positive traders’ equation.

There are three main reasons why trading is even more attractive these days. Indeed, with advanced technology, there has never been a better time to step into the world of finance, and grab a golden egg while you still can.

GOLDEN EGG 1: TRADING GIVES A HIGHER INTEREST RATE THAN BANKS

fdThe best you can get on a fixed deposit is 0.35% a year in Singapore, as at December 2016.
Source: moneysmart.sg

While inflation is a constant enemy for our savings accounts, most people do not know what to do to combat inflation. The most common quick-fix is to work harder and earn more money. While that does feed us and our families for some time, the need to build a war chest for emergencies becomes more and more real.

 

How much can you make from trading? Institutional traders bring in a success rate anywhere from 30%-70%. Why is this so?

The greatest insight into the markets that can make you profitable is this: 90% of the time, the odds are 50-50, while 10% of the time, the odds swing 60-40 (slightly in your favor).

That’s right. While most of the time, markets are 50-50, it is those brief moments when the market gives some opportunity, and prices quickly move to take advantage of this opportunity. That means that if you were to buy or sell randomly, you already have a 50% chance of success!

Another insight to know is that a high success rate (hit-rate) brings a lower profit target, while a low success rate brings a higher profit target.

What do I mean by this? Institutions trade using a combination of low-probability and high-probability trades.

Example: 40% (low) success rate, win = +2%, lose = -1%.”

low

In this case, if you were to make 100 of such low-probability trades, you would make +80% on winning trades and -60% on losing trades, bringing a 20% return on capital.

Example 2: 75% (high) success rate, win = +0.5%, lose = -1%

high

In this case, if you made 100 high-probability trades, you made 37.5% on winning trades and -25% on losing trades, bringing +12.5% return on capital.

It is impossible for the market to give high-probability trades with a high profit potential. This would be quickly detected by institutional traders, who have mathematicians, PhD staff, and computer science experts who can quickly make adjustments and profit from it. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, these people would do all they can to bring profits for their firm.

 

That is why if anyone quips that they have a 80-90% success rate, they are probably having many small wins but a few gigantic losses. If you don’t believe me, try trading forex and planting random trades with low profit potential and high loss potential. The numbers indeed prove to be true!

That is also why it is important to understand the traders’ equation. With a reasonable success rate and an appropriate win-loss ratio (or risk-reward ratio, RRR), you would be profitable over the long-run.

I have had days where I ran 7-8 trading losses in a row, but because I trusted in the probabilities, the next 3-4 trades ended up profitable, as long as I stuck to my trade setups and didn’t let the emotions get the better of me.

GOLDEN EGG 2: TRADING DOES NOT REQUIRE LOTS OF CAPITAL

If you have $500 to invest: trade forex.

In the Forex market, you are entitled to ‘get a feel of the game’ by risking a few dollars per trade. By trading the smallest lot size (0.01 lots), you can learn to make a few dollars here, lose a few dollars there, and rack up trading experience and learn to trade ‘live’ without incurring hefty losses.

By learning to make many decisions and experiencing all the different conditions of the market, you would become seasoned enough to trade a bigger size, and fine-tune your own trading strategy.

Many traders discover they have certain characteristics about themselves that hinder success. In trading a ‘live’ account with a small sum of money, they are putting in some skin in the game, and getting used to the ups and downs of their account.

The best part about forex is that there are no commission charges. The broker makes money from the bid-ask spread, which is the difference between the buy/sell price, and most brokers charge reasonable spreads, allowing you to trade with almost negligible transaction cost.

If you have $3000 to invest: explore stock CFDs.

Stock CFDs have low commissions and can be bought in small quantities – a few thousand dollars can allow you to have a portfolio of 5-10 stock positions.

For people with less time and more money, stock CFDs can be a great way to learn to deal with commissions, spreads, fee structures, and the whims and fancies of the stock market.

The stock market is only open during working hours, unlike the forex market. Someone who is interested to take longer-term positions may be open to trading stock CFDs, risking small amounts of money, and yet racking up trading experience.

Some people quip that the forex market is more difficult to trade than the stock market. I beg to differ, because it is your circle of competence that determines your success, not the actual characteristics of the market.

If I were to ask you to drive a Formula 1 race car, you probably would kill yourself within the next few hours or so. However, if you were progressively taught how to drive the race car, it doesn’t become dangerous, and because of the progressive nature of your learning, the high speeds don’t come as a shock to you.

f1Driving this car is dangerous, only if you are not trained.
Source: wallscorner.com

Many people get shocked at the speed by which forex markets move during the Non-Farm Payroll Announcements and FOMC Interest Rate Announcements; prices can move 10-50 times faster than normal during those crazy periods! However, with practice, these sessions can become a profitable time for traders with experience and proper risk management.

If you have $10,000 to invest: trade everything.

People with more money have the luxury of trading a combination of stocks, forex, commodity, bonds, and index trades. These can be accessed through any decent forex broker, and you’ll be surprised to find that most forex brokers let you trade forex, oil, gold, the Dow Jones Index, the S&P, the bond markets, wheat, corn, natural gas, and more. These of course come with higher margin requirements, but exploring all the asset classes makes you a seasoned, well-rounded investor that can take any market condition.

Sideways in the forex market? Maybe there is a trending opportunity in the oil market. There’s always something to trade if you have the experience and know where to look.

However, in my opinion, the greatest investment is Golden Egg 3.

GOLDEN EGG 3: TRADING BOOKS ARE CHEAP AND EASY TO FIND

John Murphy: Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets. One of the great trading classics that builds a strong foundation.

John Murphy’s book on technical analysis reveals the fundamental nature of financial markets. Prices move in patterns and cycles, and understanding history helps you to cope with what is to come.

In my trading journey, I’ve read more than 200 books, and found only about 11 of them that are useful in my trading career. These books were either borrowed from the library, or bought only for $30-$50 a book, which is a very good price (since stock commissions can be $15-$25 already!).

Buying a few good trading books can completely change your destiny.

If you are starting out, why not invest in 3-5 good trading books, before getting your hands wet in the financial markets? These books would build a strong foundation, and you would start off with a better understanding of why things happen.

bookSome of the more famous online bookstores.
Source: Company websites

Amazon.com and bookdepository.com provide great options and they ship almost anywhere in the world. Personally, I found that bookdepository has the more exotic books, but it is a little pricey (yet still worth it since you can’t find the books easily!)

Second-hand books: Carousell if you live in Singapore! If you’re lucky you can find good books at a discounted price. Even though the books may be a little dusty and yellowed, it’s the content that you want to really absorb. You can always find what you want if you search hard enough!

TRADING & INVESTING EDUCATION IS WITHIN OUR GRASP

If you are still thinking about it, here’s why you should pick up investing education:

  • Historical chart data is free (we used to need to pay in the 1990s and 2000s)
  • Free resources are available
  • Books are cheap and easy to find
  • Starting cost is as low as $500
  • Cost of failure is low
  • Experience can be racked up with very little capital
  • There is a market for every type of investor

And most of all, it can bring higher returns in the long-run than placing your capital in the bank account. Sure, you might risk losing a couple of dollars at the start, but the cost of ignorance is a lot higher when compounded over the next 5, 10, or 20 years!

Wishing you all the best in your trading journey, and I do hope this article serves as a pump to start you on your quest for investment expertise!

Cheers!

 

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

http://www.moneysmart.sg/fixed-deposit
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/15-best-online-bookstores-for-cheap-new-and-used-books.html

Will Higher Interest Rates Eventually Lead to a Stock Market Crash?

asJanet Yellen’s actions come into the spotlight once again.
Source: slate.com

 

After a slew of unprecedented events (Trump, Brexit), what has been troubling the world financial markets in recent days? As the FOMC announcement approaches, market participants have all eyes fixed on the almost-certain rate-hike that is coming up on Thursday. You probably have started to see Yellen’s photograph in news articles across all major financial newspapers.

Traditional economics theory teaches us that when interest rates rise, they are deflationary; businesses find it harder to borrow and affects interest-sensitive investment, while home owners find it harder to pay their mortgages. It all seems reasonable on the surface, but what actually goes on behind it?

In an economic climate such as ours today, traditional predictions have fallen very flat. There are Fed officials and scholars (not lay-people) who still insist that QE has no impact on the real economy whatsoever. The average wage-labourer probably doesn’t feel much when interest rates change, nor will he care even if rates drop or rise significantly.

However, as traders, our portfolios are at stake and it will bode us well to study this properly. Several macroeconomic indicators have to be understood and analysed to understand what is likely to happen. I’ve broken it down into 4 components for easy reading. Let’s get going:
 

INDICATOR #1: Falling GDP?

The body of scholastic material addressing the link between interest rates and GDP is rather depressing. Stephen D. Williamson summarizes this rather aptly:

“There is no work, to my knowledge, that establishes a link from QE to the ultimate goals of the Fed—inflation and real economic activity”-Stephen D. Williamson, St. Louis Fed Vice President

When the cost of borrowing rises, economic activity slows. That has been what the Fed was trying to do when it goes ahead and raises interest rates. They were used as a deflationary tool to keep the economy from expanding too rapidly. What have we seen? I came across this table while researching on this topic:

bank

What we see is that the average rate hike cycle takes 22 months, while a recession normally happens 41 months later. However, it has been 87 months since the last rate hike, eclipsing even the 85 months lag time since the 1994-1995 rate hike.
These are definitely unusual circumstances. While the economy has been chugging along for 7 years despite near-zero interest rates, I don’t see how a rate hike would dramatically change this, especially in the short-term (1-2 years from now). While the economy has been a big topic on Trump’s agenda during the election, the reality is that the economy is still reeling from the damage caused in 2008, and it could take far more than more investments to bring the world back to economic health.

 

INDICATOR #2: Lower Stock Prices?

The US stock market has been breaking new highs and with every new high, another analysts comes out and purports that ‘this is the top’.

 

econDire predictions by an economist.
Source: CNBC

However, before we all go into doom and gloom, let us remember that the bear markets of the last 50 years have had different causes, to be fair, there had to be some sort of trigger. It could be a political issue, such as the 1973-74 oil crisis, and the 1990 bear market caused by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Furthermore, the Fed could be behind a market crash; in 1982, after raising interest rates relentlessly, the U.S market saw some severe bear moves in that period of time.

Sometimes bear markets happen because of bubbles; such as when the 2001 dot-com bubble and 911 terrorist attacks came about. In 2008, we saw a market crash as a result of a tanking housing market spurred by widespread institutional dishonesty.

Let us not be quick to jump to conclusions about a market crash coming. I’ll be watching the S&P and other indices closely over the next few months.

Interestingly, some quip that the “three steps and a stumble” rule would become a reality. It last happened in 2004, but we didn’t see a stock market crash until 4 years later.

“The ‘three steps and a stumble’ rule states that after three consecutive rate hikes (three steps), the stock market would begin to fall rapidly (stumble).”

I don’t quite buy into this idea. Over the past 30 years, there were only nine occasions where we saw 3 rate hikes in a row. Thrice in the 1970s, four times in the 1980s, and twice in the 1990s, and on average, only the 1970s saw a significant decline (approximately 10%) of the stock market in the next year or so.

chartChart of DJIA price changes after 3 rate hikes
Source: MarketWatch.com

More interestingly, the S&P500 looks like it’s ‘toppish’; the bull run seems rather unsustainable, but something seems to be sustaining this euphoria. On a technical basis, it has simply broken out of an expanding wedge on the daily chart.

sp
The S&P500 has broken out of an expanding wedge pattern. It looks rather unsustainable, but it is happening before our eyes.
Source: MetaTrader 4

We’ll have to watch closely how the S&P behaves near the resistance before deciding if it would continue the rally (which is very possible!).

 

INDICATOR #3: Volatile Bond Prices?

There are signs that the market has already adjusted to an interest rate hike. Check out what happened to the 30-yr Treasury Bonds over the past year or so:

30yr

The 30-yr Treasury Bonds have fallen 15% since its last high in July 2016.
Source: MetaTrader 4

The rude correction has shocked many bulls out of the market, and it seems we have entered bearish territory in the bond market. My opinion is that the rate hike has definitely contributed to this, but it seems that the rate hike is a mere response to the macroeconomic conditions of the world. On the technical side, we see a head and shoulders pattern that has broken down (as a result of election fever), and the downtrend has continued somewhat.

yieldsShort-term yields have risen almost as much as long-term yields.
Source: Bloomberg

If you’ve studied finance in university you would immediately recognize that the yield curve has flattened. Check out the table above; 3-month rates have risen as much as 30-year rates! This means 3-month yields have risen more than 100%, while 30-year yields rose about 10% or so. This is a typical response when the Fed tightens monetary policy.  A famous interpretation of the yield curve states that when yield curves get inverted (when short-term bonds yield more than long-term bonds), that’s when the stock market crashes like nobody’s business.

We are still very far off from an inverted yield curve, so a market crash is still some distance away. My guess is that the bond market, as a measure of fear, will be in a state of confusion as there are valid reasons for economic strength as well as economic panic. Volatility in yields is likely to be the norm in the year ahead.

INDICATOR #4: Commodity Prices

Although some pundits claim to be able to predict how interest rates will move commodities, I beg to differ. Oil, for example, is very much output driven (think OPEC), and recently we’ve been having output cuts among producers. As you can see in the image below, when I checked the newsmap yesterday, ‘Oil Surges as More Producers Join Output Cuts’ was the most-read news of the day.


A casual glance at the NewsMap reveals a heightened focus on oil production.
Source: Newsmap.jp

Generally speaking, if you look at the relationship between oil and real interest rates, we see very little correlation even over the very-long-term.

irIt’s hard to come to conclusions about how interest rates have affected commodity prices globally.
Source: cobank.com

More recently, we’ve seen commodity prices tank over the past 5 years despite interest rates remaining almost constant. I just did a simple google search on the price of DBC (the global commodity price ETF) and this is what happened in the past 5 years.

commm
A quick glance shows that commodity prices have fallen for 5 years.
Source: Google finance

To make an investment decision on commodities solely on interest rates isn’t wise. On a technical basis, commodities look like a good buy and I’ll be watching them closely to spot trading opportunities.

UP NEXT: THURSDAY’S RATE DECISION

If you aren’t already riding the bull market in stocks, it doesn’t make sense to enter now. Heroic bulls would want to enter now with a small profit target, and the world will be watching closely how the new year starts. Moreover, you won’t want to have too much exposure during the final FOMC meeting of 2016. Volatility on all other asset classes are expected, and I’ll be trading currencies, perhaps more regularly on an intra-day basis if I can’t find any good longer-term trends to ride on. All eyes will be on Thursday’s Rate Decision and the price action in the aftermath will be worth watching.

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/15/when-the-fed-raises-rates-heres-what-happens.html
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/18/st-louis-fed-official-no-evidence-qe-boosted-economy.html
https://www.thestreet.com/story/13279476/1/what-happens-when-the-fed-hikes-interest-rates.html
http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/moneybox/2015/11/23/janet_yellen_responds_to_ralph_nader_s_sexist_letter/495620136-federal-reserve-chair-janet-yellen-testifies-before-the.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2.jpg
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/24/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-bear-markets.html
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/10/economist-harry-dent-says-dow-could-plunge-17000-points.html
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/edson-goulds-three-steps-and-a-tumble-rule
https://www.thebalance.com/inverted-yield-curve-3305856
http://www.cobank.com/Newsroom-Financials/~/media/Files/Searchable%20PDF%20Files/Newsroom%20Financials/Outlook/Outlook%202012/Outlook_10122.pdf