VIX, 'Flash Crash' Assets Tell Us Bears Are Gaining Traction

By: Chris Ciovacco | Thu, Mar 10, 2011
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Traders, money managers, and individual investors have numerous concerns relative to the 'risk-on' or inflation trade:

In order to better understand the possible impact of the completion of QE2, we are in the process of studying the 'flash crash' period and the period following Ben Bernanke's August 2010 Jackson Hole speech. Our work to date may help us better understand the risks of a continuing correction in today's markets. As outlined on March 3, the longer-term outlook for stocks remains favorable, but the short-term outlook is cloudy.

There were very few places to hide during the flash crash correction which kicked off on April 23, 2010. The pain for investors did not end until the S&P 500 had given back 13.20% before finding some footing on August 27, 2010. The table below shows a select list of ETFs that provided defensive cover during the dark days of 2010.

Defensive ETFs Defensive Investments

In the minds of market participants, the assets listed above were the safe havens of choice when the dial on the risk trade moved from "on" to "off". On Valentine's Day 2011, defensive assets began to show improving relative strength vs. the S&P 500. The flash crash winners highlighted in blue above have continued to draw increasing interest from buyers over the past four weeks (see relative strength charts below). The investments listed in the table above serve as a de facto shopping list should the current pullback morph into a full blown correction.

The relative strength lines of the VIX or the 'fear index' and utilities have moved higher in recent weeks, indicating increasing concerns about further downside in risk assets.

Relative Strength Defensive ETFs Defensive Investments

While relative strength is a term from technical analysis, the concept of buyers becoming more interested in defensive assets falls under the common sense category when it comes to risk management. Based on other concerns, we already hold the highest percentage of cash since late November 2010 as a way to reduce risk until the threat of continued downside subsides somewhat. In terms of current strategy, the increasing relative strength of defensive assets tells us:

Increasing interest in bonds is not good news for stock and commodity investors.

Relative Strength Defensive ETFs Defensive Investments

For those not familiar with technical analysis, the green lines in the relative strength charts all have positive slopes, which highlight an increasing interest in defensive assets relative to the stock market in general.

Gold's safe haven status appears to be intact.

Relative Strength Defensive ETFs Defensive Investments

It is not time to panic relative to the possible continuation of the current correction, but we are happy we have taken some profits off the table in recent weeks. The defensive assets shown above will continue to help us monitor the risk tolerance of market participants, who ultimately determine the value of our portfolios.

Corporate bonds and stocks in Malaysia held up well during the 2010 flash crash correction. Buyers are again showing interest over the last few weeks.

Relative Strength Defensive ETFs Defensive Investments

 


 

Chris Ciovacco

Author: Chris Ciovacco

Chris Ciovacco
Ciovacco Capital Management

Chris Ciovacco

Chris Ciovacco is the Chief Investment Officer for Ciovacco Capital Management, LLC. More on the web at www.ciovaccocapital.com.

All material presented herein is believed to be reliable but we cannot attest to its accuracy. Investment recommendations may change and readers are urged to check with their investment counselors and tax advisors before making any investment decisions. Opinions expressed in these reports may change without prior notice. This memorandum is based on information available to the public. No representation is made that it is accurate or complete. This memorandum is not an offer to buy or sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell the securities mentioned. The investments discussed or recommended in this report may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial position. Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. The price or value of the investments to which this report relates, either directly or indirectly, may fall or rise against the interest of investors. All prices and yields contained in this report are subject to change without notice. This information is based on hypothetical assumptions and is intended for illustrative purposes only. THERE ARE NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, AS TO ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, OR RESULTS OBTAINED FROM ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE.

Ciovacco Capital Management, LLC is an independent money management firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. CCM helps individual investors and businesses, large & small; achieve improved investment results via research and globally diversified investment portfolios. Since we are a fee-based firm, our only objective is to help you protect and grow your assets. Our long-term, theme-oriented, buy-and-hold approach allows for portfolio rebalancing from time to time to adjust to new opportunities or changing market conditions.

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