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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

Santa Claus Rally: Do Stocks Always Run Up in December? (Statistics from the Past 20 Years Reveals Some Surprising Facts!)

Christmas in London; checkout these unorthodox white lights hanging across oxford street
Image Source: chadwicks.ie

Christmas has started early in many places around the world as retailers and malls deck out their retail space with Christmas music, deco, and the like. I especially like the decorations done in some of the major cities in the world, such as that in London. Of course, not only are stores enjoying the higher sales volume; the stock market and forex market tend to go into the same festive mood during this period.

However, is the mood really that buoyant during Christmas?

Christmas in the NYSE
Image Source: USA Today

“What about a Santa Claus Rally?”

Graphic shows average monthly change in Standard and Poor’sChart Source: Stock Trader’s Almanac 2010

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that the statistics for Nov to Feb rallies in past years is pretty positive. Starting from 1950 to 2009, the average November-January rally brings in 4.2% returns. It seems buying on any dip from now till about February next year would be a statistically sound trade.

So, being the statistics freak that I am, I decided to do some excel sheet magic and figure out what really goes on during the festive season.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE U.S STOCK MARKET IN THE PAST 5 YEARS?

This time, I decided to take a look at the statistics even more closely. For the past 5 years, this is what happened:

1Chart Source: The Amazing Microsoft Excel. And Yahoo finance for historical data. 🙂

Looks good, but if you bought on 1 Dec and sold on the first day of the next year, this would be what you get:

December Statistics:

2011: 4.64%

2012: 5.12%

2013: -3.52%

2014: -2.96%

2015: -4.98% — Total returns for 5 years = -1.71%!!!

For a grand total of… -1.71% returns over 5 years. Wonderful.  I decided to sum up the data in groups of 5 years, and see how the returns would be if we had this simple “buy in December, sell in January” strategy.

5-year “Buy in December, Sell in January” Statistics:

2011-2015: -1.71%

2006-2010: -14.06%

2001-2005: -1.30%

1996-2000: 10.46%

So it seems that the only time December was a profitable month was in 1996-2000. Let’s go into more stats and compare the number of winning Decembers versus the number of losing Decembers:

123

Using my trusty “countif” formula, I discovered this;

For the past 20 years of trading, 50% of Decembers were profitable for the S&P500 index, while 50% of Decembers were losing months.

10 out of 20 of the past 20 years were losing months.

Curiously enough, for crude oil, 9 of 10 of the past 10 Decembers ended in losses.

And of course, being the nerd/geek I am, I decided to test it out on other months. Suppose you bought in January, and closed in February:

January Statistics:

2011: 4.34%

2012: 1.28%

2013: 4.55%

2014: 5.62%

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

February Statistics:

2011: 2.77%

2012: 3.34%

2013: 0.39%

2014: -2.01%

2015: 6.18% — Total returns for 5 years = +10.66%!!!

March Statistics:

2011: -0.67%

2012: 1.92%

2013: 0.70%

2014: 0.98%

2015: 0.39% — Total returns for 5 years = +3.33%!!!

Now that we’ve seen that the “buy in January, sell in February” portfolio yielded the best results in the past 5 years, let’s check out the past twenty years.

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%

Uh oh. Looks like the buy-in January phenomenon is quite a recent thing. It surely didn’t happen in the preceding 15 years. However, I’ve heard of the Santa Claus rally, so let’s see what happens if we only buy when Santa is around. What happens if you buy 1 week before christmas, and sell 1 week after christmas?

After some simple calculations, here are the results:

“Buy 1 week Before Christmas, Sell 1 week After Christmas” Statistics:

2015: -6.69%

2014: -2.01%

2013: 0.16%

2012: 5.03%

2011: 2.66% – 5-year performance: -0.85%!!!

I understand that the Santa Claus rally graphic at the top showed that over a 30-year period, buying in December and waiting until February seems like a prudent strategy. But the truth is most people don’t have 30 years to wait! I would rather go for something far more consistent and which takes a shorter time to see results.

In summary, this is what I’ve discovered from spending 10 minutes getting data, plucking in the values into Excel, and doing some simple calculations:

“The Santa Claus rally brought -0.85% over the past 5 years, and no considerable advantage is found in the months around Christmas.”

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Let me know if there are any interesting phenomenon you would like me to research. The Santa Claus rally is a nice piece of information to know, but it clearly does not provide a trading edge. If it did, the entire market would trade it, and the edge would disappear.

I’ve shown you the statistical performance of this phenomenon, and I hope you’ve gained some useful knowledge. Some websites purport to ‘stock-pick’ over this holiday season, but I don’t see how the statistics could lie.

Cheers!

 

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

https://www.zacks.com/stock/news/240876/5-best-stocks-to-buy-on-santa-claus-rally
http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1211/is-the-santa-claus-rally-for-real.aspx
http://www.chartoasis.com/does-santa-claus-rally-occur.html
http://www.wikinvest.com/wiki/Santa_Claus_Rally
http://www.cnbc.com/2014/12/22/the-santa-claus-rally-vs-other-trader-lore.html
http://www.chadwicks.ie/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/London.jpg

Goldman Sach’s Top 6 Trading Ideas for 2017 + 3 Trade Ideas of My Own!

As I was preparing for the year ahead, I came across this interesting read in the news. Goldman Sachs had just released their top trade recommendations for the year 2017 as a response to a Trump win in the recent U.S elections, amid economic and political uncertainty. These trade ideas were birthed by recent developments in the major economies of the world, and I couldn’t help but recall what Goldman said in 2015, about 2016 being a year of economic gloom. Already, the S&P 500 is hovering at 2,200, up 9.4% for the year 2016.

goldmanImage Source: Bloomberg

“Goldman Sachs’ top strategists predict that stocks will once again disappoint next year. Goldman predicts the S&P 500 will go nowhere in the coming year, ending 2016 at 2,100.” – Fortune.com (November 2015)

Analysts can be wrong, and to be fair, very few expected the S&P to hit all-time highs. As traders know, we don’t expect to be right all the time. There were a number of great opportunities for bears to take profits even in the uptrend market we’ve seen this year. With information from 29 Nov 2016, the S&P 500 was about 100 points above what Goldman predicted for the year, and the graphic (a weekly chart of the S&P 500 index) below gives a clearer picture of this.

goldman-predictionImage Source: MetaTrader 4

I often read opinions of the market not because I need them, but because as a trader it is essential that I keep up to date with what the institutions are thinking. In the latest recommendation, Goldman recommended the following: (quoting the titles directly from Bloomberg’s report)

  1. “U.S. Dollar the Winner From Developed Market Populism”
  2. “Bet on Trump Getting More Upset About China’s currency”
  3. “Keep Calm and Carry the Right Emerging Market Currencies”
  4. “Long Emerging Market Stocks with ‘Insulated Exposure to Growth’ “
  5. “The Reflation Trade Has Legs”
  6. “Long European Dividend Growth”

What in the world do these ideas mean? Just in case it sounds too confusing, I have translated them into simpler bite-sized titbits below.

confusedImage Source: freepik.com

HERE ARE THE SIX TRADE IDEAS:

Trade Idea #1: Short the EUR/USD pair and GBP/USD pair

currencyImage Source: CleanFinancial.com

Goldman expects the US Dollar to rise. As such, shorting currency pairs with ‘USD’ at the back would express this adequately. Trump’s economic policies are expected to be growth-inducing. Stuff like great quantities of fiscal stimulus, protectionism (both in terms of foreign products and foreign people, haha) to boost local growth and employment, and not to forget, rising interest rates; all these increase demand for the US Dollar.

Uncertainty in Britain (because of the details of the Brexit process) and “populism in Europe” (another Donald Trump situation in Europe?) should “weigh on the pound and the euro”. Essentially, they mean the currency of Britain and Europe should be less in demand as compared to the US Dollar.

Trade Idea #2: Go long on the USD/CNY pair

globalImage Source: Globalriskinsights.com

China’s current currency regime is a fixed yuan with respect to a basket of other currencies, therefore a strong US Dollar should push the Yuan higher. Kind of the same logic as idea No.1.


Trade Idea #3:
Go long on emerging market currencies, like MXN, NOK and others

Following the U.S. election, a number of the higher-yielding currencies experienced a mini-meltdown. Nothing new; they’re just recommending taking a reversal trade on oversold currencies.

mxnnokHuge run-ups in USDMXN and USDNOK show major selling in emerging market currencies.
Image Source: MetaTrader 4


Trade Idea #4:
 Buy emerging market equities that don’t benefit much from U.S and China’s growth

Quite a straight-forward idea; countries like Brazil and India will probably continue to grow despite America and China’s antics, and they should be seen as safer places to park money.


Trade Idea #5:
 Bet on rising inflation by buying 10-year U.S. TIPS

Growth in the U.S should lead to re-introduction of inflationary pressures. Along with bullish expectations for energy prices, Goldman expects 2017 to be a year of inflation.


Trade Idea #6: 
Bet on rising dividends by buying Euro Stoxx 50 2018 dividend futures

Yes, you can not only bet on inflation, but on dividends rising. The Eurex actually offers futures contracts for people who want to bet on dividends rising. I’ve heard of other strange futures contracts like cheese, freight, gold volatility index futures, crack spread futures, but this is interesting.

In 2011, Goldman Sachs expressed their prediction for 2012 as “Overall, though, a volatile market, with little overall change, what we describe as ‘fat and flat,’ would be our central view for the year as a whole, but with things getting worse before they get better…”

In 2012, Goldman Sachs predicted the end of the gold bull market and an improved economy (as well as a bullish stock market), and accurately so. Well done for them. (check out the bullish move in 2013 in the chart below)

spAnd so Goldman Sachs predicted the bull market of 2013.
Image Source: MetaTrader 4

From an outsider’s point of view, it seems that Goldman could just be very, very good at predicting things. However, a quick google search will reveal that they are also incorrect in their calls at times, and this should humble any aspiring trader.

In my opinion, the end of the gold market of 2013 was a result of simple price action analysis. Statistically speaking, or using probabilistic reasoning, a sideways market was a reasonable prediction.

In the image below of the gold weekly chart, we can clearly see the multiple trend line breaks that 2012 was characterized by, and the subsequent sideways-bearish move in 2013. We are still in a sideways market on a multi-year basis.

bullGold experienced a bearish move after multiple trendline breaks in 2012.
Chart Source: MetaTrader 4

With all this in mind, what then should we be looking out for in 2017? Although trading themes are being churned out by analysts year after year, using simple price action strategies, the average investor can identify a few potential trade strategies to take for the upcoming year.

THREE SIMPLE IDEAS OF MY OWN:

1. U.S. STOCKS – CONTINUE BUYING ON DIPS

As most traders know, when the market is trending strongly, ride the trend until it proves itself otherwise. This simple strategy is what I applied on the USDJPY right after the recent U.S election results. In the chart below, we see 12 distinct buying opportunities spread out over 14 days. By simply riding on a strong uptrend, it is actually not too hard to watch your profits snowball – provided you have the patience to hold your trades.

usdjpy12 buying opportunities spotted on the USDJPY 1-hour chart
Chart Source: MetaTrader 4

On the S&P500, a strong trending bull market means buying on any dips is a profitable strategy. It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to realize that this is a high probability trade. Of course, as with any other trade, stop losses will take me out of the market immediately if the trend quickly reverses.

“What about a Santa Claus Rally?”

Graphic shows average monthly change in Standard and Poor’sChart Source: Stock Trader’s Almanac 2010

The statistics for Nov to Feb rallies in past years is pretty positive. Starting from 1950 to 2009, the average November-January rally brings in 4.2% returns. It seems buying on any dip from now till about February next year would be a statistically sound trade.

 

2. FADING OVERLY DEVALUED CURRENCIES

For those who aren’t aware, fading simply means taking the trade in the opposite direction of the trend. This seems like a contradiction to my previous trade idea, but it isn’t; in the context of clearly trending markets, going with the trend is the reasonable thing to do, and the trend sometimes lasts for much longer than one would expect. However, when the move is very, very quick, huge, and climactic, it has to end quickly as well.

In order to see the speed of the collapse, you can obtain intra-day charts of the USDCHF on that fateful day.

chfThe famous Swiss Franc crash and rebound of 2015.
Chart Source: MetaTrader 4

Returning to the devalued emerging market currencies, it is reasonable to assume that huge moves will come to an end, and a reversal trade (with a clear signal!) would make for a profitable bet.

 

3. PRUDENT ENTRIES IN OIL AND GOLD (WAIT!)

On the commodities front, the markets seem more sideways than trending. In such a case, it is prudent to look to trade near the extremes for a reasonable risk-reward ratio. Here’s the crude oil daily chart, and I’ve drawn two simple lines to aid in visual analysis:

crudeIn the case of crude oil, buying near the channel line makes sense.
Chart Source: MetaTrader 4

It’s hard to say where the crude oil could go. Although Goldman predicts it would pick up modestly, I’d rather wait for a strong bullish setup before making an entry. It’s perfectly fine if you are not comfortable entering the market; wait for clarity. It always comes.

For Gold, I had to zoom out a lot more on the charts to make sense of what was happening. Sure, it’s seen a huge dip recently (as a result of the U.S election), but I’ll wait for more confirmation before deciding what to do.

goldGold price chart from Sep 2013 to Nov 2016
Chart Source: MetaTrader 4

By the time the news reports a huge move in commodities, it’s too late. It’s much more logical to look at the charts yourself, and decide on an entry before the move happens; that’s the only way you can profit from the market.

WHAT ABOUT THE SINGAPORE STOCK MARKET?

The STI has been sideways for a couple of months now. This makes for very difficult trading, as the market changes direction many times within the month. I recommend staying clear of trading it until a clear trend develops.

stiChart Source: Tradingeconomics.com

For dollar-cost-averaging investors, this year would have been a very frustrating one indeed.

Using a simple excel sheet, I calculated what returns the investor would obtain if he had bought in any of the first six months this year, and held it to the current price (in November): (all prices used are closing prices for each month)

returnsBuyers of the Straits Times Index from March 2016 onwards would have seen measly returns.
Source: Yahoo finance (calculations done by author)

If you had bought the STI at the end of January, good for you; you would be up 11% on your investment. If you had bought at end February, you would be up 8.6% on your investment. However, the market situation isn’t good news for those who bought in the subsequent months, as shown in the diagram above. For those of you who need candlestick charts, here you go:

stiThe STI has been in a tight sideways market since July 2016; others may say it started in April 2016.
Chart Source: ChartNexus

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I’ve shown that the Singapore market has been a tough one to trade in recent months, while opportunities were plentiful in the forex markets. Also, commodities have not asserted themselves in either direction yet, and the effect of a Trump presidency is still weighing heavily investors’ minds.

With that said, as I’ve always asserted, trading decisions are made using simple price action principles and must make logical sense. Goldman Sachs could be correct or wrong, and I could be right or wrong; what matters in the end is that the winning trades make more than the losing trades.

As Soros famously quips:

“It’s not whether you’re right or wrong that’s important, but how much money you make when you’re right and how much you lose when you’re wrong.” – George Soros

 

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-18/here-are-goldman-sachs-top-trade-ideas-for-2017
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-17/goldman-reveals-its-top-trade-recommendations-2017
fortune.com/2015/11/25/goldman-sachs-stock-market-predictions-2016/
http://www.cleanfinancial.com/financial_images/trading/eur_usd_spread_betting_250x250.png
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2011/dec/22/goldman-sachs-forecast-for-2012
http://www.businessinsider.com/goldmans-2013-forecast-2012-12?IR=T&r=US&IR=T
http://www.investopedia.com/news/goldman-sachs-how-trade-first-year-trump-gs/

All You Need to Know About the Upcoming US Election: Past Trends, Possible Outcomes & Market Impact

us-electionsSource: IBTimes UK

The U.S Presidential election results will be announced On 8 November, where 66.82% of the 218,959,000 have registered to vote. This is much higher than in 2012, where 57.61% of eligible Americans decided to vote. The increased interest in the presidential candidates is unsurprising, but what does it mean for our portfolios? There’s so much buzz around this being a ‘historic’ event that we have to see how the markets are reacting to it.

Before we dive headlong into it, I thought it’ll be good to tickle our brains with a little general knowledge. So instead of simply knowing that Trump has a questionable moral compass or that Hillary has a private email account, let’s fill our minds with some cool stuff.

WHY IS THE ELECTION HELD ON 8TH NOVEMBER THIS YEAR?

possible-dates
Some say that America was an agricultural society and November (the quietest month) was most suited for the rural people. It could have been on Tuesday because people needed time to travel to towns and cities to vote, and some could not have done so in just one or two days. Sounds credible enough to me.

Election Day has always been the Tuesday after the first Monday of November. Based on this rule, it could only fall between November 2 to November 8.

The last time it was held on November 8 was in 1960, and 1988.

1960 Election Results
Candidate Party Electoral Votes Popular Votes
 John F. Kennedy Democratic 303 34,227,096
 Richard M. Nixon Republican 219 34,107,646
 Harry F. Byrd Democratic 15 116,248

1960 saw one of the closest margins in the election, with a mere 120,000 out of 68 million votes swinging the election in Kennedy’s favor. Sadly, he was assassinated in 1963 in the most high-profile murder of the 20th century.

1988 Election Results
Candidate Party Electoral Votes Popular Votes
 George Bush Republican 426 47,946,000
 Michael S. Dukakis Democratic 111 41,016,000

The 1988 elections were more one-sided, with George Bush (Senior) emerging a clear victor.

 

WHAT OUTCOME WILL GENERATE MORE UNCERTAINTY?

With Trump being the tough businessman and Clinton being the seasoned politician, the opinion of voters is very much predictable. You won’t even need to be a news analyst to understand how the general public views them. In the image below, it seems that Hillary has garnered more support in terms of her ability to handle the pressures of the Presidential office.

voteropinionSource: Huffington Post

 

In Europe, it seems that the consensus is that Trump would reap economic havoc, while Hillary would bring great relief. I can just imagine the great fear and trembling that people would feel if Donald Trump were the commander-in-chief, holding the codes for nuclear warheads being released around the world.

yougob

Source: YouGov

POSSIBILITY 1: BULLISH VIEW (MARKETS WILL RISE)

Well, that depends on which markets you are looking at. From a purely fundamental point of view, the market hates uncertainty and it seems logical to believe that markets will rise (by default) if Hillary was president. It agrees with the opinion that Hillary is unlikely to bring a lot of change to the White House, and that things will just continue chugging along.

I stumbled upon an article where an analyst seemingly guarantees that Gold would rise. Although I am bullish on Gold (in the long run) as well, I think that this election is not the key driver.

gold
Source: MarketWatch

As a trader, I always operate in a fog; one moment the market could be bullish, and the next moment the entire sentiment gets reversed. Of course, one can be of the view that Hillary will bring great relief to America and the rest of the world, but what would you do to your portfolio if markets behave otherwise?

 

sp

A cursory glance at the S&P 500 and Gold chart might lead you to conclude otherwise. In the short-term, Gold is not necessarily a safe haven, and it does not have a clear inverse relationship with the S&P 500 in recent years. In both charts above, we see that both seem to be topping out, and the S&P has even broken out of a recent wedge pattern. Gold is struggling to recover from a large breakout from its own wedge pattern as well.

POSSIBILITY 2: BEARISH VIEW (MARKETS WILL CRASH)

Among the many doomsayers out there, I do think there will be a reaction to the market but financial mayhem is quite a stretch. These people’s comments range from something as mild as “a sharp correction”, to “total financial destitution”. At the start of Obama’s term in 2008, he inherited a 34% dip in the Dow Jones Index upon being elected the President.

How much attribution will a “bad” president actually have on financial destruction? The crash of 2008 was the result of systemic banking failure. The crash of the Chinese stock market index in June 2015 was the result of an unprecedented increase in the number of stock pundits (customer brokerage account openings actually double and tripled in the years preceding the crash).

Using statistics of presidential elections since 1945, when the U.S stock market (S&P500) was increasing quickly, the incumbent candidate (Hillary) won 82% of the time; now that’s some pretty decent odds. But when the stock market was falling, the challenger (Trump) won in every election since 1984. While the S&P500 has been steadily rising since 2009, it is starting to look a bit toppish and had a slight correction in the last 1-2 months.

With Europe teetering on the edge of a recession, Trump’s policies could cause Europe to fall into a full-blown economic depression. That’s a real possibility. With his protectionist stance and nationalistic agenda, Trump could very well be the untimely catalyst.

 

POSSIBILITY 3: NEUTRAL VIEW (SIDEWAYS & MORE VOLATILITY)

There seems to be a consensus that volatility in markets will increase leading up to the election (before the mayhem happens, on the actual day, and also in the weeks to come). This makes the Pound interest rate announcement (on Thursday 8pm), and the Non-Farm Payroll announcement (Friday 8:30pm) pale in comparison. My take is that the election has generated far greater anticipation in the financial markets, and these two news events would be a tremor compared to the earthquake that might come.

vix

In the chart above, the VIX has risen steadily for the past week.This is the first time we’ve seen a steady increase in volatility over 7 days; a steady increase like this has not happened for the whole of this year.

POSSIBILITY 4: NEGLIGIBLE MARKET IMPACT (UNLIKELY)

hillarytrumpmemeSource: Kappit.com

With Trump’s tough stance on immigration and trade, his intention to renegotiate the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and scrap the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the mere mention of such a stance would likely send jitters into emerging markets.

Of course, there are those of the camp that America couldn’t care less about a president, because the world is in a state of low-growth and inflation. Experts have said this is a global Japan-style stagflation and that these conditions mirror those in the 1970s.

HOW DID THE MARKETS FARE IN PREVIOUS ELECTIONS?

A Princeton Research Paper found that GDP growth under a Democrat President (Hillary is a Democrat Candidate) is 1.80% higher, on average, than a Republican President (Trump is a Republican Candidate). This suggests that a Hillary win would be more bullish for markets.

Another famous theory by Yale Hirsch states that U.S. stocks see the smallest gains in the year after an election. The market more often improves after the first year following the election year. Ned Davis Research claims that “since 1900, stocks have gained just 3.4% on average in the post-election year, compared with gains of 4.0% in the midterm year, 11.3% in the pre-election year and 9.5% in an election year.” (This is summarized in the graphic below)

yearsSource: Ned Davis Research

 

With Trump consistently trailing behind Hillary just marginally, markets are going to be in a jittery state in the days to come. The last I checked (on 31 oct), the gap has closed to just 2.1% in the polls:

31octresult

 

STRATEGY & COMMENTS

In the most recent FOMC meeting (3rd November 2am SG time), the interest rate remained unchanged, which was expected since they are unlikely to want to rock the markets further just prior to the elections. The next major piece of news is the NFP on Friday, and for traders who have decided to hold any major medium/long-term positions over the election, this could be a good opportunity to take positions at better prices. This is because the NFP is likely to cause price spikes, but markets are likely to stabilise and flat out rather than trend strongly before the US elections next week.

Based on my personal views (this is not any recommendation to follow), I would prefer to take a bearish position (short) on the S&P 500 going into the election, as I feel that there is more downside potential in general, and the market is more “priced in” for a Hillary win, meaning a Trump win would have more spectacular returns. My plan is to make use of the NFP to enter my positions, for example if the NFP causes an intraday bullish spike in prices, I will use the opportunity to accumulate shorts at more favourable prices. This will enable me to reduce my risk and increase my upside.

Good luck, and may the odds be in your favour! 😀

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RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

http://www.270towin.com/1960_Election/
http://www.270towin.com/1988_Election/
https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/election-day
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/when-is-us-election-2016-what-is-the-timetable-for-the-night-and/
http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/nbc-wsj-poll-clinton-jumps-nine-point-lead-over-trump-n623131
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/31/a-trump-win-could-put-emerging-markets-in-a-tailspin.html
http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=6185252&page=1
http://www.kiplinger.com/article/investing/T043-C008-S003-how-presidential-elections-affect-the-stock-market.html
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/presidentialelectioncycle.asp
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/us-election-donald-trump-victory-stock-markets-sp-republican-party-senate-a7392756.html

Synapse HFT Weekly Market Updates (25/01/15) – Gold & Silver the Next Big Thing?

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