Tagged: Indexes

Relativity and Dollars

How do you prove relativity?

When Einstein proffered the preposterous suggestion that all motion is relative including time, people clearly had not yet seen Usain Bolt. Or what happens to stocks after options-expirations when the spread between the dollar and equity indexes is at a relative post-crisis zenith.

Let me rephrase that.

As you know if you get analytics from us, we warned more than a week ago that a reset loomed in equities. Forget the pillars on which we lean – Behavior and Sentiment. Yes, Sentiment was vastly neutral. Behavior showed weak investment and declining speculation –signs of dying demand – all the way back in mid-August.

Let’s talk about the dollar – as I’m wont to do.

There is a prevailing sense in markets that stocks are down because earnings are bad. No doubt that contributes. But it’s like saying your car stopped moving because the engine died, when a glance earlier at the fuel gauge on empty would have offered a transcendent and predictive indicator.

Stocks are down because money long ago looked a data abounding around us. From Europe clinging together through printed Euros, to steadily falling GDP indicators in the US and China, to the workforce-participation line in US employment data nose-down like it is when economies are contracting not recovering, there were signs, much the way a piercing shriek follows when you accidentally press the panic button on your car’s key fob, that stuff didn’t look great.

We know institutional money didn’t wake up yesterday, rub its eyes, and go, “Shazzam! Earnings are going to be bad!” (more…)

Eternal Motion

“What happened to our stock?”

It remains the question that haunts the dreams of IR professionals. Well, that and whether it’s better to use “via” or “through” in the call script.

Looking back through July Sentiment Indicators for clients, which reflect how passive and active investment, speculative trading, and technical signals affect price, it’s a startling picture. Only two – total! – for the entire month thus far were at any point “green across the board,” meaning each behavior tipped green, rather than yellow or red, signaling the best forward view.

Think about that. If our client base is a reasonable proxy for the market, why is 95% of it something less than “all good”? Surely more than a smattering sport solid fundamentals. In a random group of 100 public companies, are but one, two or five able to earn the best marks?

Say it’s true. Among the companies comprising the national market system (now only about 3,600), say a handful meet criteria every investor, every risk manager, wants. Apply that thinking to a market where index and ETF products number into the thousands – more than the stocks available from which to construct these exchange-traded-funds and the indexes they mimic.

Let’s zoom in our microscope. The Dow Jones US Consumer Services Index aims to track performance of the consumer services sector using 196 components with a mean market capitalization of $9.4 billion. All manner of ETFs are pegged to it, ranging from the ProShares Ultrashort Consumer Services ETF, to IYC, the iShares Dow Jones Consumer Services ETF. (more…)

The Emperor’s ETF Clothes

If somebody tells you he has a plan to improve your financial condition by borrowing your credit card and buying himself a bunch of stuff with it, be suspicious.

With that setup, we have a story to tell you. In a minute.

First, we said last week: “Overall sentiment is surprisingly good in money behind client shares. Stocks may recover quickly.”

Spot on. It shows how data-analytics help us understand market behavior. But remember our qualifier: “The DXY dollar index shows the same fissures it had last summer when the Euro nearly came undone. This currency crisis is coming back in weeks or months.”

We stand by that. The Infinite Elasticity Theorem posited by central banks is about to snap. It goes like this: “In times of crisis, expand the supply of money until the problem disappears under a pile of paper, because we can’t handle the truth, so we don’t want you to either.”

To our story. The Nasdaq has asked the SEC to approve its Market Quality Program, in which sponsors of thinly traded (under 2m shares daily) Exchange Traded Funds would pay market makers to trade the ETFs. The Nasdaq says these payments will stimulate trading in the ETFs, thus narrowing spreads, making markets efficient, enhancing market confidence and integrity, and boosting volumes in issuer components of the ETFs. (more…)

Facebook Friends Morgan Stanley

While Florida voted, Morgan Stanley won the Facebook primary.

A unit of Thomson Reuters broke word that the big bank will helm a team of other big banks for what in May could be the biggest IPO, raising perhaps $10 billion.

We don’t care who underwrites the deal. But thinking about Facebook and its banking soldiers of fortune, the giant and the mighty in massive conformity, we thought of the markets.

In the data we track, Morgan Stanley is king of index program-trading executions. For large clients of ours, its volumes surpass those of small exchanges. At the Nasdaq, Morgan Stanley is the top liquidity provider, trumping fraternal behemoths BofA Merrill and Barclays and high-frequency clearing maestro Wedbush. Last June, Global Custodian’s annual ranking of prime brokers – banks bundling securities services for the buyside – slotted Morgan Stanley a close second to Goldman Sachs.

We wrote in September how the same names show up everywhere. The ones running books of derivatives, making markets in Treasuries, trading bonds electronically and correlating seas of equity executions are the same.

Lost in the long shadows of the large was word that technology research boutique Kaufman Brothers closed its doors this week. Ticonderoga Securities shut down earlier is month. Formerly Reynders Gray & Co. on the floor of the NYSE, the firm offered differentiated research, direct-access trading and agency executions. WJB Capital, another boutique, shuttered around January 4 after failing to raise capital and seeing its financing costs rise as high as 25%. (more…)

Take the Pulse of Your Stock

Coming to NIRI National 2011 next week? Please visit us at Booth 304! We have no helicopter rides or trips to the Bahamas to give, but we do have a really cool microfiber for keeping those ubiquitous touchscreen pads and smartphones sharp.

June launched by kicking markets right in the rump. We blamed economic data. It’s true but not that simple. Behind the data at the behavioral level, institutions decided against equities roughly May 13. We don’t make this up, we just observe it in the way trades execute. When methodologies, purposes or time horizons change, it manifests in trade executions.

Money didn’t hedge with options expirations May 18-20 either. If you decide not to insure your house against loss, what might that mean? That you expect to sell it shortly, that risk is nonexistent, or that insurance is too darned expensive. As an analogy, two of those three are negatives and the middle one doesn’t exist on Wall Street.

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Don’t Roller-skate in Buffalo Herds

Karen and I caught the PBR rodeo at Denver’s National Western Stock Show. I grew up on a ranch and Karen likes four-footed creatures. So we support cowboys and their furry fellow athletes. Those bull riders are tough guys, but what got me thinking was the team-penning competition.

It reminds me of the challenge IR folks face. We’re in the middle of earnings, with options expiring Wednesday through Friday and capital moving like a herd loping from one corner of the corral to the other while riders try to cut one here and there.

In team-penning, that’s what you do. You’ve got three folks on smart horses and a herd of calves with numbers on them, and a clock. Tom Bailey, founder of Denver’s Janus Capital, is in the sport. The announcer might say, “Four, four, four,” and the team of riders tries to cut three calves with the number four on them from the herd and pen them at the other end of the arena in about 45 seconds. If one of the herd that shouldn’t be cut gets by, you’re disqualified.

The hardest part is getting the few away from the many. Calves don’t want to leave the herd. It’s like stocks (aptly named). There’s a great herd of equities. If investors are cowboys and cowgirls on horses trying to cut the few from the many, it’s a tall task. The herd sways the behavior of the ones they want to single out.

When the herd is rattled and scattered, it’s nearly impossible to get the three you want without mixing in others you don’t want and getting disqualified. One thing that can scatter and rattle the entire equity herd is options expirations. This week, these include the VIX and RVX volatility measures Jan 19, stock and index options with morning expirations (often favored by European and Asian structured products) Thursday Jan 20; and the whole kit and caboodle Friday from stock and index puts and calls, to treasury, bond, currency and interest-rate derivatives. (more…)