ETF Update: More Flexibility, More Strategies

The diversity of new ETF offerings offers many more choices for the investor.  Back in the old days, say a year or two ago (!), only professional traders engaged in short-selling.  Only the pros or those with major business interests did commodities trading, and currency speculation or hedging.

It is not your father’s market….

ETF Strategies

Going short the market has gotten a lot of attention in the last week.  Our regular readers know that we have also featured the deteriorating sector breadth and noted the rise in our strength ratings for “inverse” ETF’s  Tom Lydon’s excellent ETF Trends raises the bidding with this article about a “triple threat” to the market.  Tom cites three ETF’s that are not just short, but leveraged shorts:

It’s no wonder that some short ETFs have been popular with investors this year. Some of the strongest performers include:

  • ProShares UltraShort Financials (SKF) , up 41.1% year-to-date

  • ProShares UltraShort Health Care (RXD)  , up 30.8% year-to-date

  • Rydex Inverse 2x S&P 500 (RSW) , up 18.3% year-to-date.

These are, of course, the ETF’s that will decline the fastest in a market rebound.  We have been sticking to the single-weighted shorts, with a maximum positions size of 3 out of a possible 8 holdings.

Bottom fishing is a natural trading impulse to maximize return by guessing the bottom in a sector.  ETF trading makes this approach easier.  The idea is to look for a beaten-up sector that seems to have value.  Instead of detailed stock analysis, these moves often seem based upon “feel” or instinct.  We know several traders who have attempted to call the turn in financial stocks.  So far, every such move has been wrong.  Last week saw a number of additional downgrades for financial stocks.

One danger in a lazy approach is clear from this nice analysis by Saj Karsan.  He takes a look at the popular homebuilder “spider”,  XHB.  He posits that one might think the group was attractive on a book value basis.  After looking at the components, he points out that one is getting plenty of retail and mortgage stocks, not just the builders.  Also, the best stocks on book value are not included.

Our Take

Any beaten-down sector will have a bottom.  Whoever predicts it on the right day may seem like a genius.  Since there are plenty of predictions, someone is sure to be right.

We prefer to find some catalyst, whether fundamental or technical.  We miss the first part of a rebound, but participate in big moves.

Weekly TCA-ETF Rankings

Our weekly ratings (more information at the end of the article) go from Thursday to Thursday.  Last week we noted that inverse ETF’s were highly ranked and worth owning.  That position helped our performance last week.  The combination of oil, basic materials, and index shorts had a solid gain in a week where the market declined sharply.

The overall rankings remain similar, but some sectors are close to a “sell signal.”

Here is the chart for the most recent trades and current ratings as of Thursday’s close.  As one can see, financial stocks are firmly at the bottom of the list.


Note for New Readers

Our weekly ETF Update is designed to assist both investors and traders interested in ETF’s and Sector Rotation.  Before turning to the current rankings, let us undertake a review for readers new to this series.

Our Method.  In this past article, we described our basic methodology and why we believe the rankings are useful for fundamental traders and technical traders alike.  While we urge readers to check out the entire article, the key point is that ETF’s pose challenges and opportunities different from investment in individual stocks.  The fundamentals may be more difficult to assess.  Even with a good grasp on fundamental trends, there is a lot of technically-based trading in ETF’s.  This means that those trading with a fundamental approach (and we do this as well) want to monitor the “hot money” moves.  Here is an article on that point.

The system synopsis. We look at Trending sectors, Cyclical Sectors, and build in an element of Anticipation for both entry and exit — thus the name of the model, TCA-ETF.  While we do not reveal the exact methodology for spotting trends and cycles, the system is not a “black box.”  The basic elements are used by many, and widely reported.  We even discuss the need for human analysis as opposed to black box trading.

We report the rankings each week, now on the weekend with a one-day delay, using the Thursday output from the model.  We monitor and trade this daily, and offer a free report (request via the email address on the top left of the site) for those interested in our weekly trading program.

You may also like


  • blackvegetable June 30, 2008  

    Very pleased to welcome you into “the real world”…….Though I expect that we will see one or two upward ticks between now and September, the intermediate term will see precipitous declines in the indeces, reflecting the perilous state of the economy….

  • Jeff Miller June 30, 2008  

    Black — As usual, I welcome all comments including those that are critical. This one seems a bit uncharitable. Any regular reader knows that our model has tracked declining sentiment and technicals over the last several weeks.
    In my view, the real world means starting with data and then drawing conclusions. Those who begin with a viewpoint and then seek supporting evidence will be losers.
    I started this blog three years ago. Individual investors who have been in my program during that time have gained about 30%, despite the recent losses.
    We are firmly grounded in the real world, with a nod to sentiment. Regular readers have noted many articles where we have highlighted danger points in economic indicators.
    Briefly put, I reject your implication that we are not reality-based. We start with data, then draw conclusions. Your favorite site does the opposite.
    Having said this, I emphasize that I appreciate and welcome your comments. I repeat my invitation to you to call me regarding the Malpass take on economics, an invitation that you have (so far) chosen not to take up.

  • blackvegetable July 1, 2008  

    I did not mean for my comment to be taken personally…..I have been, and remain, a fan of oldprof because reading this blog is edifying. That said, I think you can agree that you are “a little late to the party”.
    “I repeat my invitation to you to call me regarding the Malpass take on economics, an invitation that you have (so far) chosen not to take up.”
    I did indeed respond to your e-mail re: Malpass, but because I use a gmail account, I may have been filtered out….I am resending it now.
    I will respond to your comments of today at greater length later today….