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Time for Year End Planning/Portfolio Review
December 10, 2007
As we enter the final weeks of trading in 2007, it is always worthwhile to put your portfolio in front of the mirror, so to speak - to review the good and bad decisions and investments of 2007, and to also start planning ahead for 2008.
Volatility makes a surprise visit
The first step to examining what was good and bad in your portfolio is to first take a step back and analyze what the overall market environment was like over the past 12 months.
As we look back on 2007 - we know one thing was much different than in years past - volatility. In US stock indices particularly, the slow times of the past five years were replaced with some wild swings we hadn't seen since the tech bubble had burst. Big down moves, and big bounces higher became more and more common, and as they did volatility rose from the historically low levels it seemed to gave been stuck in over the previous 3 years or so. Volatility, as measured by the VIX indicator, averaged just 12.73 over '05 and '06 - but saw spikes to 31 (four times) and 37 in 2007 while averaging 18.52 since March. That's an increase of 45% in volatility.
Beyond this volatility increase, we had some wild moves in traditional commodities like Crude Oil and Wheat which hadn't been seen in years also. Wheat was up over 91% for the year at its highs, and Crude was up 65% as it flirted with the $100 level just a few weeks ago.
Measuring against the Market Environment:
By taking a look at what the overall environment looked like - we can put ourselves in a better position to evaluate each of the components in our portfolio. Without that background information, we may unfairly judge a program's annual performance as poor, when in fact that performance is exactly what we could have expected from such a strategy given the type of market we had.
Investing in managed futures is an absolute return strategy, which means the programs should perform regardless of the environment over the long term - but a poor environment for a program can cause losses in the short term, and we saw that in the various option selling programs which suffered through a few rough spots in 07.
Should we ditch these managers just because they went through a poor market environment? I would say no. They are supposed to do poorly during volatility spikes - because they are supposed to do well during times when there are no volatility spikes. It's hard to have one without the other. And they can do better when volatility is higher, as they are selling bigger premiums. It is not high volatility they do poorly in, but spikes from low to high volatility which cause them problems.
But when reviewing our portfolio and what worked/didn't in 2007, even if we accept that the option sellers were destined to have a poor year with the volatility spikes we saw - we should still look at each in comparison with another, and see who did what given that poor environment. What were the better performers doing different than the others, and can they repeat that relative success moving forward? Did the poorer performers lose more than their counterparts for some specific reason, or are they just that - poorer performers? These are the type of questions we like to see asked.
The market environment works on the positive side too. With markets like Crude, Wheat, and the US Dollar having pretty obvious trends, we should expect managers or programs which are designed to catch such trends to have done just that and seen success in 2007.
Sure enough, we can look at programs like Attain Portfolio Advisors, Dighton, and the day trading system Compass and see that they did as they were supposed to and benefited from the move higher in global volatility.
But if a program is designed to capture volatility and volatility spikes, but didn't' do so in 2007 - it's probably time for a hard look at the program to see what the story is. What is the reason for the under performance?
Reviewing your Portfolio & Looking Ahead:
In reviewing your portfolio, and looking ahead to what you want your portfolio to look like for 2008, we believe the following elements should all be considered.
1. Investment Window - how much time have I given a certain program - how much more time am I willing to give it? Too often investors jump on a hot program, and then jump off of it at the first sign of trouble. This is a sure fire way to accumulate losses instead of gains, as you are continuously getting in at the top and out at the bottom. One way to combat that urge to get in/get out quickly is to set an investment window for each program you invest in. We recommend you give any program at least two years to show you what it can do. As touched on above, managed futures programs should perform regardless of the environment over the long term, but even the best can suffer over the short term due to a poor trading environment for their type of strategy.
2. Strategy Type - Is my portfolio filled with all option sellers? All day trading system? All trend followers? It's important to assign a strategy type to each program in your portfolio to insure you do not have more exposure than you bargained for in any one area. Many investors had way too much trend following exposure back in 2004/2005 - and then ditched it all and loaded up into option selling programs in 2006/2007 just as volatility spiked. These investors would have been better served to have had equal exposure between the two strategy types the whole time.
3. Sub Strategy Type - You may have three option selling programs, but they could each be doing a separate type of option trading. For example, a mixture of FCI (trading commodity options), Zenith (trading mainly Put options), and Ascendant (trading mainly Call options) may not be as bad as it seems on the surface with them all being option selling strategies.
4. Markets - Do I have exposure to Crude Oil, Wheat, etc.? Do I want exposure to those markets? What markets is my exposure in? Am I overexposed in any one sector? These are all great questions to ask of yourself, and the answers very well may surprise you. Investors are usually much more exposed to stock indices than they think.
5. Stop Trade Levels - Drawdowns can and will happen in the future. Do you have a plan, written down, on what you will do when the drawdown hits for one the components in your portfolio? It is important to set a stop trade level for each of the programs in your portfolio, so you don't make emotional based decisions during a stressful drawdown. It is much better to make the decisions right now, with a clear head, on what you will do when a certain program gets to a certain level.
As you can no doubt read between the lines above - diversification is key. Not just in markets, but also in strategy type. The old school method of diversification within managed futures was to diversify between markets - but we've seen over the past several years that diversifying between long and short volatility programs can go just as far, if not further in smoothing out your equity curve.
It is also important to remember that the best performing portfolio over the past 3,5, 10 years or whatever you're testing is in most likely hood not going to be the best performing one over the next 3 years. No one wanted to include long volatility programs such as trend followers in 05, and 06 - but those programs did a great job absorbing the sting of some short option programs in 07.
The markets are ever changing, and no one knows what 2008 will bring. But we should expect the unexpected, not fear it, and make sure we are spread out between as many market and strategy types as possible. So work with your Attain broker to review what has happened, and where you can go from here. A little bit of planning now could pay a lot of dividends in the future.
- Lisa Smith
Chart of the Week: November Performance Summary (top 10 CTAs/Systems)
(Past Performance is not necessarily indicative of future results)
(Hypothetical Model Accounts)
|CTA Program||Nov 2007 Return||Min Invest. (000s)||Trading System||Nov 2007 Return||Min Invest. (000s)|
|CKP Finance Associates - LOMAX Program||12.0%||100||Rayo Plus DAX (cg)||36.9%||30|
|Ascendant Strategic1||7.6%||100||RT-Viper YM||25.3%||10|
|Crescent Bay - PSI Program||5.0%||10||Tzar ES||25.1%||30|
|CCM Millennium Program||3.0%||2000||Signum TY||21.2%||30|
|Zenith Resources - Diversified Option Program||3.0%||35||BetaCon 4/1 ESX||14.1%||5|
|ACE Investment Strategists||2.8%||50||Waugh ERL||11.6%||10|
|Cervino Capital - Diversified Options||2.4%||50||Ultramini ES||11.1%||15|
|Raithel Investments - Target Volatility Program||2.0%||100||Signum EBL||9.4%||30|
|Zephyr Asset Management (Aggressive)||1.7%||100||Bounce Swing EMD||8.9%||10|
|Financial Commodity Investments Program||1.6%||100||BounceMOC EMD||8.9%||10|
Important Risk Disclosure
IMPORTANT RISK DISCLOSURE
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Past Performance is Not Necessarily Indicative of Future Results: The dollar amounts shown below represent the actual profits and losses achieved on a single contract basis in client accounts, and are inclusive of a $50 per R/T commission ($30 per emini). Except where noted, the gains/losses are for closed out trades. Percentage gains/losses are hypothetical and based on developer recommended initial balances as listed at www.attainaccess.com. Please carefully read the important risk disclaimers below.
US Stock futures bounced back last week ahead of tomorrow’s FOMC meeting as many investors are buying with the expectation the FED will cut interest rates by at least 25 basis points. SP futures gained +1.59% on the move, NASDAQ futures were up +1.79% and Dow Futures climbed +1.70%. In small cap trading both the Russell 2000 futures (+2.29%) and SP Midcap futures (+2.85%) enjoyed positive weeks as well.
Bonds were down ahead of the FOMC meeting as US 30 year bond futures were down -1.73% for the week, while US 10 year note futures lost -0.57%. Trading in currencies was light as the Dollar climbed slightly against the Euro and others. Dollar Index futures were up +0.22% for the week while the Euro was slightly negative. British Pound futures fell -1.21% after the Bank of England cut interest rates a quarter point to 5.5 percent last week.
In commodity trading the grain markets were the big mover last week with Wheat futures climbing +4.07%, Corn up +3.92%, and Soybeans up +3.68% for the week. Metals were also on the move with Gold (+1.41%), Silver (+2.40%), and Platinum (+1.25%) moving higher while Copper (-1.84%) and Palladium (-1.61%) finished the week in the red.
Energies were choppy for most of the week with RBOB Gas climbing +1.72%. Crude Oil (-0.48%), Natural Gas (-2.01%), and Heating Oil (-0.41%) all moved lower. Elsewhere Cotton climbed +1.72%, Sugar was up +1.54%, and Coffee rallied +1.51%.
. ***Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs)***
In case you missed it in last week’s newsletter, you can still get an early look into November’s CTA returns before the official numbers are out, by viewing our early estimates for the majority of Attain’s recommended CTA’s. Click here
As for December, the month is starting out relatively quiet for most CTA’s despite the “pre-Fed / early Santa Claus Rally” in the stock indices. The biggest movers last week included Dighton USA which added +6.6% for the week and continued its rebound from the November intramonth drawdown and Ace Investment Strategist which gained +2.36% on the week.
Elsewhere, noting the short market bias to the Ascendant Strategic 1 strategy it is no surprise that they are down aprox 5% to start off the month after earning just over 7% in November. Further, foreign currency strategy Fit FX added aprox 1.75% last week after struggling over the past few months. The strategy has implemented the use of trading “shields” over the course of the past few months as a mechanical method of reducing the trading frequency and filtering for the highest probability trades = less time in the market = less market risk.
Finally, for those of you looking to compare our recommended mangers to the full spectrum of CTA’s (500+), stay tuned to our website and newsletters as we will be launching a new website over the next 30 – 45 days designed to improve your research and portfolio analysis capabilities. Please contact us with any questions.
***Day & Swing Trading***
Stocks continued to rebound last week ahead of the Fed decision this Tues where Bernanke is widely expected to cut the overnight lending rate by another ¼ of point. Bonds were hit particularly hard for a modest move higher in equities especially in the longer term treasuries. Most swing systems were able to catch the long equity/short treasury trend last week while day trading systems udner performed on the corresponding drop in stock index volatility.
Signum EBL took advantage of the sharp reversal in treasuries by exiting its long position in the Eurobund and entering short. The program made +$2,516.86 for the week in closed and open trade equity. Mesa Notes, on the other hand, lost -$1,323.43 on its short position only to watch the Ten-Year note tank the three days after being stopped out of the trade.
Swing systems trading equities that were profitable include Adaptive Euro +$1,756.36, Bounce eMD +$1,750.23, SeasonalST eRL +$1,640 and SeasonalST ES +$1,157.50. On the losing side, the Tzar suite of systems were all down with NQ -$135 and ES -$162.50 and continue to hold short in those two markets while flat the eRL. Ultramini YM lost -$645 for the week and PGA Powergrowth -$2,205 after being stopped out of a few short positions in the NQ.
Moving on the day traders, Waugh eRL was the top performer with profits of +$830. RT Viper YM was close behind +$620.64 while BounceMOC eMD made +$139.99 and BetaCon 4/1 ESX gained +$57.03.
Elsewhere, Compass SP lost -$662.50 on five trades and Rayo Plus Dax gave some of its recent gains back with losses of -$3,210.14.
Action in the soft commodity sector was again a hot spot last week led by a strong foreign appetite for food products along with the alternative fuel aspirations in the grains/oilseeds. The grain sector, especially soybeans and wheat continued to find support from strong international demand which has been magnified by the fact that supply situations are very tight currently. Aberration is currently long Bean Oil with a gain of $3412.00 (open trade), and long Corn making +$1050.00 (open trade). Relativity is currently long Canola making 502.00CD (open trade), long TGE soybeans making 56,000JY (open trade), long Cocoa losing -$20.00 (open trade), short Live Cattle making +$500.00, and short Cotton making +$530.00
The U.S. Dollar continued to add to the corrective bounce that was started the previous week as ideas that growth in other economies might have farther to fall versus the U.S. which has been in an economic slowdown mode for awhile. The U.S. Dollar also found support from a slowdown in recent rallies or even the start of corrections in inflation sensitive instruments like energies, metals and soft commodities. Despite the rally in the dollar the sector will likely still have to deal with continued news of the sub-prime debacle which could again further push foreign investments out of the U.S. to either higher yielding or safer instruments elsewhere. Long term trend followers remain in a negative mode toward the U.S. Dollar as Aberration is currently short DXZ currently making +$2940.00 (open trade).
Rate futures lost some upside momentum last week as the market seemed to look past the idea of the upcoming FOMC rate cut. Long term trend followers continue to have an upside bias as Aberration is currently long TYZ with a current gain of +$4065.62. (open trade), and also long Bund with a loss of -E1610.00 (open trade).
Please Login to: http://www.attainaccess.com for the latest updated statistics.
Important Risk Disclosure
IMPORTANT RISK DISCLOSURE
Futures based investments are often complex and can carry the risk of substantial losses. They are intended for sophisticated investors and are not suitable for everyone. The ability to withstand losses and to adhere to a particular trading program in spite of trading losses are material points which can adversely affect investor returns.
Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. The performance data for the various Commodity Trading Advisor ("CTA") and Managed Forex programs listed above are compiled from various sources, including Barclay Hedge, Attain Capital Management, LLC's ("Attain") own estimates of performance based on account managed by advisors on its books, and reports directly from the advisors. These performance figures should not be relied on independent of the individual advisor's disclosure document, which has important information regarding the method of calculation used, whether or not the performance includes proprietary results, and other important footnotes on the advisor's track record.
The dollar based performance data for the various trading systems listed above represent the actual profits and losses achieved on a single contract basis in client accounts, and are inclusive of a $50 per round turn commission ($30 per e-mini contracts). Except where noted, the gains/losses are for closed out trades. The actual percentage gains/losses experienced by investors will vary depending on many factors, including, but not limited to: starting account balances, market behavior, the duration and extent of investor's participation (whether or not all signals are taken) in the specified system and money management techniques. Because of this, actual percentage gains/losses experienced by investors may be materially different than the percentage gains/losses as presented on this website.
Please read carefully the CFTC required disclaimer regarding hypothetical results below.
HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS HAVE MANY INHERENT LIMITATIONS, SOME OF WHICH ARE DESCRIBED BELOW. NO REPRESENTATION IS BEING MADE THAT ANY ACCOUNT WILL OR IS LIKELY TO ACHIEVE PROFITS OR LOSSES SIMILAR TO THOSE SHOWN; IN FACT, THERE ARE FREQUENTLY SHARP DIFFERENCES BETWEEN HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS AND THE ACTUAL RESULTS SUBSEQUENTLY ACHIEVED BY ANY PARTICULAR TRADING PROGRAM. ONE OF THE LIMITATIONS OF HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS IS THAT THEY ARE GENERALLY PREPARED WITH THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT. IN ADDITION, HYPOTHETICAL TRADING DOES NOT INVOLVE FINANCIAL RISK, AND NO HYPOTHETICAL TRADING RECORD CAN COMPLETELY ACCOUNT FOR THE IMPACT OF FINANCIAL RISK OF ACTUAL TRADING. FOR EXAMPLE, THE ABILITY TO WITHSTAND LOSSES OR TO ADHERE TO A PARTICULAR TRADING PROGRAM IN SPITE OF TRADING LOSSES ARE MATERIAL POINTS WHICH CAN ALSO ADVERSELY AFFECT ACTUAL TRADING RESULTS. THERE ARE NUMEROUS OTHER FACTORS RELATED TO THE MARKETS IN GENERAL OR TO THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ANY SPECIFIC TRADING PROGRAM WHICH CANNOT BE FULLY ACCOUNTED FOR IN THE PREPARATION OF HYPOTHETICAL PERFORMANCE RESULTS AND ALL WHICH CAN ADVERSELY AFFECT TRADING RESULTS.