This ETF Flaw Caused Subscribers a 30% Loss, But we Fought Back

I am about to share the worst trade of my carrier with you. It cost me a fair amount of sleep (and probably cost me a number of subscribers, who must have thought Simon is quite the moron).

Here is the sad tale of a good trade hijacked by an ETF flaw (fortunately there’s a happy ending).

The Setup

Earlier this year, in mid-January, we saw a number of VIX extremes, such as highly elevated SKEW readings (SKEW measures ‘black swan’ risk), near-record SKEW/VIX ratio readings and the highest ever long exposure of commercial VIX traders (smart money). The charts below, published by the Proift Radar Report in January, illustrate the extremes.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

Statistically, those conditions led to an average VIX spike of 22% over the next month every time (even a week later the VIX was higher 85% of the time).

The biggest problem (which we were well aware of) was the lack of a suitable trading vehicle for long VIX exposure. Yes, there is VXX, but it suffers from contango (we have often successfully shorted the VIX via XIV, which puts contango in our favor, more about XIV below).

What is Contango?

Below is a brief explanation of contango (taken from an August 2014 report):

The VIX quoted in-day-to-day life is the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) spot price (today’s VIX price). However, the futures used to create ETPs like the iPath S&P 500 Short-Term VIX Futures ETN (VXX) are based on the future VIX price, which is almost always more expensive than the spot price. Over time the more expensive VIX futures decline in value, eventually converging with the spot price at expiration.

The chart below compares the current spot price with various futures prices. The difference between the spot price (12.20) and the September futures (13.45) is 9.84%. In other words, it will take a 9.84% move in the VIX to neutralize the time decay between the spot and September futures price.

As time goes by, ETF providers are forced to continuously replace expiring futures with new (more expensive) futures (this process is called ‘rolling over’). The further away the futures expiration date, the bigger the time premium. This time premium and resulting value decay is called contango.

Contango vs the Setup

Despite contango, the VIX buy signal seemed strong enough to deliver a net gain (a 20% short-term VIX spike tends to translate into a 5-7% VXX gain). We were looking for a short-term VIX spike, before a multi-week S&P 500 rally.

On January 23, we pulled the trigger and bought a very small amount of VXX at 20.60. A week later, the VIX traded higher, and a month later, the VIX traded higher. The VIX even spiked 22% (as expected) a number of times, but VXX contango persistently eroded VXX.

VXX by-passed the short-term VIX spike, and then, as anticipated, the stock market continued higher (which kept the VIX depressed). Nevertheless, we expected a period of choppy trading (volatility) to start in February/March.

On March 1, the S&P 500 topped, and has basically been range bound since.

On March 23, it was obvious that the VIX would fall again before the next window for a S&P 500 correction arrived. We bought XIV to hedge VXX, which turned out to be a great move.

The Next Window

The window to unwind this unfortunate VIX trade finally arrived this week. The May 14 Profit Radar Report stated that: “We are still looking to sell XIV and double up on VXX at S&P 2,407. Aggressive traders may elect to short the S&P around 2,410.”

Unfortunately there was another blow. The S&P 500 missed our trigger level for XIV and VXX (2,407) by one point (on Tuesday, March 16). The S&P gapped lower the next morning (by 17 points), robbing us of the best opportunity to unwind this trade.

We took the second-best opportunity. The March 17 intraday Profit Radar Report recommended to sell XIV at 77.40, and double up on VXX at 14.45. We closed XIV for a profit of 12.17% and bought VXX at 14.45.

The next morning (Thursday, March 18) we closed our entire VXX trade at 15.97. The VXX portion bought on January 23 accrued a 22.47% loss, the VXX portion bought on May 17 ended with a 10.51% gain. The 11.96% loss was offset by the 12.17% XIV gain.

At the end, we closed this unfortunate trade combo with a tiny 0.21% gain.

Lessons Learned

Patience and impeccable timing (at the end) rescued this trade, but in hindsight, the best worst trade is one not taken.

Contango needs to be respected. In the past, we traded XIV six times (XIV benefits from contango). All six XIV trades were profitable (12.17%, 14.46%, 13.33%, 7.57%, 15.70%, 4.49%). It’s better to focus on XIV (falling VIX) than VXX (rising VIX), especially in a bull market.

Although we knew that the VIX would fall mid-term, we bet on a short-term rise. It’s not smart to bet against the larger trend.

With the VXX trade closed at a miniscule profit, we keep our streak of no losing trade (since June 2015) alive.

The Profit Radar Report provides about 20 specific trade setups per year.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

How Alarming is the 23-year VIX Low?

According to Barron’s, the VIX is flashing a stock market warning. Barron’s is not alone. If you threw a water balloon in a room filled with analysts, odds are you’ll hit someone who’s bearish stocks because of the VIX.

Facts Trump Opinions

VIX readings below 10 are rare. There’ve only been 9 other ones since the VIX’s inception in 1993. None of them led to stock market crashes (click here for detailed analysis).

Some claim that the 2000 and 2007 market tops were preceded by a low VIX, but that’s one of the biggest misconceptions on Wall Street.

This special report, published by the Profit Radar Report on June 16, 2014, showed why the VIX was TOO LOW for a major market top back then (and still is today).

VIX Seasonality

VIX seasonality supports overall lower readings until the major seasonal low in early July.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

VIX-based Indicators

The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the VIX, VIX/VXV ratio, CBOE equity put/call ratio, and contango.

The VIX/VXV ratio gauges fear of short-term volatility (30-day, VIX) compared to longer-term volatility (90-days, VXV). Readings above 1 happen when investors are more concerned about the short-term than longer-term.

This occurs near stock market lows and has been a very reliable buy signal. The April 16 Profit Radar Report noted the VIX-sell signal highlighted in green (VIX is down 39% since).

On Monday, the VIX/VXV ratio was 0.776. Readings below 0.76 happen when investors are more concerned about the longer-term than the short-term.

Although a potential warning sign, the VIX buy signal (<0.77) has not been as accurate as the VIX sell signal (>1.0).

The CBOE equity put/call ratio and contango are showing a measure of bearish (for stocks) potential, but have plenty room to become more extreme.

S&P 500 Outlook

The April 11 Profit Radar Report published the chart below along with the following forecast: “As long as trade remains above 2,330, we are still looking for higher prices. The chart below outlines two potential up side targets (2,365 – 2,375 and 2,380 – 2,410).” The upside target was revised to 2,405 – 2,410 on April 26 (more detailed outlook available here).

The S&P is now just below 2,410. It remains to be seen whether bears will take a stand, but if they do, it should be around 2,410 (which would result in a VIX spike).

Continued analysis for the S&P 500, VIX and other asset classes is available via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

S&P 500 Update – Churning for a Burning?

The S&P 500 reached our minimum down side target and rallied strongly. Is this rally for real or are stocks just ‘churning for another burning’?

Bullish Signals

This week’s rally is credited to the French election, but a series of solid buy signals triggered days before the news from France.

The CBOE equity put/call ratio signaled a S&P 500 rally.

Contango and the VIX/VXV ratio signal a VIX decline.

The chart below – which plots the S&P 500 against the VIX, VIX/VXV ratio, CBOE equity put/call ratio, and contango – was published in the April 16 PRR along with the following commentary:

The VIX/VXV ratio, equity put/call ratio and contango are at multi-month extremes.It appears like the amount of sellers left (needed to drive prices lower) is rather limited. The weight of evidence strongly suggests that we should focus on the upcoming buying opportunity, not on how much more down side may or may not be left.”

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

The same Profit Radar Report also highlighted positive seasonality (see below).

Bearish Caveat

This bounce is in sync with seasonality and various buy signals, but will it last?

The April 9 PRR featured the yellow projection shown below. According to this scenario (based on Elliott Wave Theory), the S&P would reverse above 2,390 and fall to new lows (2,320 or below).

The S&P 500 is above 2,390 and has entered a price zone where a relapse becomes possible.

We will be watching various breadth, money flow, sentiment and technical indicators to determine whether this rally will stop here or not.

Continuous updates are available via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

Is the Correction Already over or Just Re-loading?

The last free update (March 2: S&P 500 Reaches Up Side Target – Now What?) pointed out that the S&P 500 reached our up side target, and that risk of a pullback is increasing.

Since March 1, the S&P lost as much as 79 points, the largest drop since last October (followed by a 50-point snap-back rally). Is the correction already over, or are stocks ‘re-loading’ for the next leg down?

The February 20 Profit Radar Report published the chart below with the following ‘worst-case scenario’ assessment:

Based on Elliott Wave Theory, we anticipate that the S&P is near the end of its wave 3 rally (which started on June 27, 2016 at 1,991.68). Micro-managing the end of wave 3 is probably a fool’s errand, but in attempt to assess the following wave 4 correction potential, lets assume wave 3 ends at 2,405 (red trend line). The common wave 4 retracement is 38.2% (of wave 3), which would present a down side target of 2,247.”

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

As it turns out, the S&P ran out of fuel at 2,401, not 2,405. Based on the market’s strength, and momentum leading up to the 2,401 high, a drop into the mid 2,200s would be deeper than expected (but a good buying opportunity if it happens).

Are there other down side targets?

The ‘Peace of Mind’ Trade

The March 26 Profit Radar Report pointed out that the S&P 500 is about to reach the minimum down side target around 2,326 (this was based on Sunday’s overnight selloff), and recommended to buy Monday’s gap down open (which ended up being at 2,329).

Why?

Because the S&P 500 reached the minimum down side target, was oversold and showed bullish divergences at Monday’s intraday low (Sunday night’s new low in S&P futures also showed a bullish divergence). A bounce was highly likely.

We just didn’t know how big of a bounce it will be.

Although another low sometime in April would fit best, it is not necessary. The chart below plots the summer 2016 correction against what we’ve seen this far for a potential template.

The recommendation to at 2,329 on Monday was given to provide peace of mind in case stocks continue higher (like they’ve done most of the past eight years).

If the S&P 500 does not fall to new lows in April, we are already long.

If the S&P 500 does drop to new lows, we will be able to buy at lower prices (and ideally sell our long position for a profit or stop out at breakeven to avoid any losses).

We will monitor various breadth and sentiment measures along with technical resistance levels to help determine if/when stocks will relapse.

Buying at lows – although they may prove temporary – eliminates FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and the perceived associated need to chase after price.

The next few months will likely increase the need for FOMO trades, as we expect some big moves and hope not to be left behind.

The Profit Radar Report’s 2017 S&P 500 Forecast and twice-a-week regular updates provide short, mid-and long-term forecasts based on various key indicators.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

Will the Dow’s Record Streak End with a Bang?

On Monday, February 27, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) recorded its 12th consecutive up day. This is the second longest such streak since 1930 (the longest run was 13 days in January 1987).

The S&P 500 hasn’t dropped more than 1% a day for 104 trading days.

The record gains haven’t gone unnoticed. Many sentiment indicators are in uber-bullish (bearish for stocks territory).

The investment advisors and newsletter-writing colleagues polled by Investors Intelligence are more bullish (63.10%) now than at any other time since 1987. This tumultuous span includes the 2000 tech bubble and the 2007 leverage bubble tops.

The Relative Strength Index (RSI-14) finished February above 70 on the daily, weekly and monthly chart.

However, trading volume has been suspiciously low. Despite solid gains, less than 40% of NYSE volume has been flowing into advancing stocks.

History’s Most Important Lesson

Record optimism and strong gains on low volume … anyone with a bearish disposition could (ab)use those facts to paint a pretty bearish picture.

However, history cautions against that.

Several times throughout the post-2009 bull market – and most recently on December 14, 2016 – the Profit Radar Report pointed out that historically stocks rarely ever top on peak momentum.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

The February all-time highs occurred on peak momentum.

The green vertical lines (chart below) mark previous peak momentum (based on RSI-35) highs. None of them market major tops.

The blue lines mark strong rallies to new all-time highs on low volume (less than 40% of NYSE volume flowing into advancing stocks).

Most of those instances were followed by corrective pullbacks, but nothing worse.

Expect the Abnormal

Sometimes stocks simply push the envelope and plow higher than anyone thought possible (the S&P 500 already surpassed the 2017 year-end targets analysts set in December).

The August 28, 2016 Profit Radar Report outlined why to expect such ‘abnormal’ gains.

1) Bullish breadth thrust off the February and June 2016 lows

2) Bullish Elliot Wave Theory patterns

Although the risk of a temporary pullback is increasing, the body of evidence points towards further gains in the months to come.

The historic Dow Jones winning streak is unlikely to be followed by a “thud”.  Any correction should be viewed as a buying opportunity.

Visual forward projections (published back in August, but still valid today) and up side targets are available here: S&P 500 Update – Expect the Abnormal. In fact, the up side targets given in August have been reached. Now what? Here is the latest update: S&P 500 Reaches Up Side Target – Now What?

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

S&P 500 Reaches Up Side Target – Now What?

The S&P 500 has reached the up side target zone highlighted in February and August/September 2016. Now what?

The August 28, 2016 PRR published the chart below and stated: “Elliott Wave Theory and the June breadth thrust suggest that any weakness will be bought (perhaps even furiously). We consider the longer-term up side potential to be significantly larger than the down side risk.”

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

Since the wave 2 pullback was on the shallow side, the dark green Elliott Wave Theory count (with wave 3 target around 2,390) became operative.

The September 5, 2016 Profit Radar Report said the following: “The chart below shows the long-term up side target purely based on projected symmetry. Based on the 1997 – 2013 trading range, the measured up side target is S&P 2,330 – 2,485, which is in the general vicinity of the 2,290 – 2,342 Fibonacci levels mentioned in the 2016 S&P 500 Forecast. Higher targets are possible, but we’ll reassess once we get there.”

As the updated symmetry chart shows, “we are here!” Now what?

Stocks are at peak momentum (35-day RSI is at the highest level in 20+ years). As the Profit Radar Report highlighted many times in the past (most recently on December 14), stocks rarely ever top at peak momentum.

This means, we are not at a major market top. But the risk of a pullback is increasing. The latest Profit Radar Report shows the most likely spot for a pullback, along with the scope of any pullback.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

Short-term S&P 500 Outlook

Tunnel vision is almost always a risky approach to investing, however, this is one of those rare times where tunnel vision is actually the best way to go.

With tunnel vision I mean focusing on the (only) indicator that’s been working, and tuning out all other indicators.

Elliott Wave Theory (EWT) has been the indicator deserving of investors’ focus. EWT (interpreted correctly) has persistently pointed to higher prices.

Months before the Trump rally, EWT strongly suggested a S&P 500 rally into the mid 2,300s and higher (original price projection was published here: S&P 500 Update – Expect the Abnormal).

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

Short-term Outlook

The December 14, 2016 Profit Radar Report expected a prolonged period of sideways trading, and after over a month of ‘go nowhere’ action, the January 29 Profit Radar Report stated that:

The sideways trading since Wednesday looks to be wave 4 with a possible down side target of 2,280 – 2,290 (open gap at 2,284.63). Based on the bearish divergences the S&P may peel lower, but based on EWT there’s a good chance the S&P will find support in the 2,280 – 2,290 range and rally into the low-mid 2,300s.”

We now know that EWT prevailed over bearish divergences and rallied into the EWT-based up side target mentioned in February 5 Profit Radar Report:

The S&P 500 moved above 2,290 on Friday. Measured EWT-based up side targets are in the 2,320 – 2,370 zone. Various bearish divergences (RSI-35, stocks above 50-day SMA) and near oversold condition still suggest some caution.”

No Can Do Tunnel Vision

To maintain a diversified research and forecasting approach, the Profit Radar Report looks at the most potent indicators and never relies solely on any one indicator.

Today’s push to new all-time highs erased (almost) all larger bearish divergences, and synchronizes EWT more with many other indicators (only cycles are short-term bearish).

The weight of evidence points to more strength ahead (2 steps forward, 1 step back, as outlined by the January 4 Profit Radar Report). Any pauses caused by overbought conditions or investors sentiment should be short-term in nature.

Next resistance (and chance for a pullback/pause) is around 2,342. Support is at 2,320, 2,300 and 2,285 (see chart).

At some point in 2017 however, we should see either a major market top or a 15% correction. More detail is available in the multiple-indicator based 2017 S&P 500 Forecast.

Popular S&P 500 ETFs include:

  • SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY)
  • iShares S&P 500 ETF (IVV)
  • Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.