The S&P 500 gained about 6% between the last update (Dec 20, 2012) and the Feb 19 highs of 1530.94. The index gave back half of the gains over the subsequent week, then retraced 88.6% of those losses over the next two sessions for a total move through Feb 28 of about 11%. Our calls accomplished approximately 19% over the same period.
December 2012 wrapped at +9.20%, leaving us with a total return for 2012 (since inception on Mar 22) of 97.99%.1 The S&P 500 was up 2.36% over the same period (excluding dividends) and the average hedge fund earned 7.32%.2
I had anticipated a significant reversal in mid-December at SPX 1346, and the market accommodated with a 3.3% decline into the year’s end based on an analog that served us very well since April, 2012.
Even though Congress failed (as expected) to really resolve the fiscal cliff dilemma, the market saw the resolution as “good enough” and pushed higher during the low-volume New Year’s holiday week.
The next two weeks were spent in harmonic pattern limbo, deliberating whether a double-top or a new high was in the works. Finally the question was settled by a push past the Sep 2012 highs — right into the next harmonic target range. With only 9 sessions left in the month, there was little time left in which to accomplish much.
At +4.46%, January was the first month in which our numbers lagged the S&P 500. I realize that 4.46% is nothing to sneeze at; but, in retrospect, I should have exercised more caution around big news days, used tighter stops and perhaps traded a bit more frequently.
At +11.43%, February was a much more rewarding month — but, not without its challenges. Prices fluctuated by 10 or more points in a full two-thirds of the trading sessions. But, volatility creates trading opportunities, so I took full advantage.
It seemed at the time that I traded too frequently (33 times, including 14 intra-day trades that added 5.50%.)3 Looking back, however, SPX gained only one point between the Feb 1 close and the Feb 28 close. In other words, it was the kind of month where day traders are rewarded, and buy-and-hold types should have gone skiing.
If nothing else, February convinced me that a managed fund could deliver added value for pebblewriter subscribers who have neither the time nor the inclination to sit by their computers waiting for the next trade signal.
Even for those who do, there is the problem of time lag. Under the best of circumstances, it can take several minutes to transmit a newly hatched idea — more if charting or explanation are involved.
By the time a member receives, reads and acts on the information, prices can move appreciably — potentially reducing returns and/or increasing risk. A fund should, at the very least, eliminate the lag. I am currently working with advisors and will announce details as soon as possible.
As of Feb 28, we’re up 113.08% since inception for an average monthly return of about 10.05% — on track with our Dec 20 report. I’ll continue to work on finding the right balance between trade frequency and risk-adjusted returns.
The road ahead looks no less bumpy. Will QEn sustain uninterrupted new highs, or will this market — like every one before it — soon reveal its Achilles heel? Interest rates are on the rise, while a whole host of economic indicators and corporate earnings are flagging.
Personal income is slumping, employment isn’t much better, the euro zone is officially back in a recession, China is faltering and central banks the world over are racing to devalue their currencies as debt continues to skyrocket. Where’s the upside in that scenario?
The day will come when money printing and accounting gimmicks alone won’t be enough to levitate the stock market. At the end of the day, real profits require that someone, somewhere, buys something. A bull market that rallies to new highs while ignoring that basic premise is, in my opinion, not long for this world.
1 According to this Barron’s article, only one of the hedge funds tracked by HSBC earned over 40% in 2012; another 7 earned 30% or more. The average fund earned 7.32% and about one third lost money.
2 Remember, our “performance” is based on a theoretical unleveraged portfolio utilizing only long and short positions in SPX based on the tops and bottoms identified on pebblewriter.com. Trading expenses are not included. Your mileage will vary.
3 Late last year, I began experimenting with leaving a core long or short position in place while placing short-term or intra-day trades. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of this strategy.