If you’ve been a professional trader for ‘more than 15 minutes’ (i.e. years, if not decades), you know the equities markets will move lower when (a) complacency prevails, a sense of calm is seemingly endless and equity market indices quietly creep higher and higher or (b), business news front page stories profile ‘amateur day traders’ who are minting millions of dollars by betting against volatility, and ‘selling short’ the risk of increased volatility by using VIX-centric products to capitalize on the complacent nature of markets. If this were a high school history class (or an advanced math lesson titled “revert to the mean”), the correct answer to above would be both (a) and (b). That said, professional traders who have ‘seen it all’ and are programmed to take a contrarian stand –in this case, by betting against complacency- have been suffering for months, both intellectually and P&L wise.
But when the front page of the NYT business section profiles home grown trading wizards, including a twenty-something former store manager at Target Corp who quit his day job to become a day trader, and has since made as much as 20x his prior annual income (and accumulated an eight-figure nest egg) “simply” by selling short new-fangled “VIX-flavored” financial instruments-those that measure market volatility, its no surprise that a shoe will drop and hit those folks in the head quickly and decisively. Not to suggest that MarketsMuse curators were shocked this morning when, after finishing their read of the aforementioned NYT story, US equity markets sold off by nearly 1% in early Tuesday trading. The question becomes, why is today different than other day within the context of the past 9 months, when equity market sell-offs have had a shorter shelf life than a freshly made souffle?
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US Equities, along with a discrete universe of non-US equity markets have been in a north bound trajectory for multiple months, despite ever-increasing geopolitical concerns and crises that have not merely seemingly right-minded global macro investment strategies, but have confounded highly-trained portfolio managers focused on equities markets and nearly every other asset class. Existential threats to the equities markets are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, and include but are not limited to North Korean missile launches, catastrophic environmental events (e.g Hurricane Harvey), terror-wreaking incidents advanced by a faction of fools who have hijacked the Islamic faith and actually believe that after blowing themselves up, they will spend eternity with 7000 virgins as a reward, and of course, the chaos-inducing cackle that comes straight out of the mouth of the current US President–aka He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named further as it will only enhance his ‘ratings’.
Who do you call to distill whether equities markets are actually poised to ‘revert to the mean’ after achieving 20% gains in less than 12 months? MarketsMuse curators who connect with top gun traders and investment managers (and have collectively spent multiple decades working in/around trading desks on both sides of the aisle) have a default go-to investing guru. Will our favorite top gun, who advances a uniquely RareView have all of the right answers all of the time? Most likely not, but its better to be right more often than wrong, and better still to achieve solid performance on a consistent basis vs. flying blindly with the notion ‘keep calm and carry on’ , especially when that approach inevitably leads to undesirable outcomes..
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