ETF Update: How to Play Short by Going Long
The Obama honeymoon did not last as long as it took him and Chief Justice Roberts to stumble through the Oath of Office, requiring them to take a "mulligan." There is a lot of hope among average citizens and high approval ratings for the new President, but plenty of skepticism from the Wall Street pundits.
The market is waiting for specifics on TARP, housing, and the stimulus package. A large portion of the punditry is prepared to criticize any plan as one or more of the following:
- Too large or too small;
- Adding excessively to debt or crushing revenues;
- Laden with pork or not aimed at real projects;
- Emphasizing tax cuts (where people will not spend) or emphasizing government, where public spending crowds out private expenditures;
- Restoring normal lending versus doing more of "what got us here."
Viewed from this perspective, it is pretty clear that no policy choice would gain popular acclaim. As we noted in our 2009 preview, it will take some specific economic evidence before most are convinced.
We track market developments by evaluating a universe of 57 ETF's. For each fund, representing many different sectors, our model evaluates the Trend, Cyclical characteristics, and introduces a touch of Anticipation. (For new readers, there is a more complete description of our methods and ratings at the end of the article.)
With markets in decline there is widespread interest in making money when stocks move lower. Even retirement investors who have legal restrictions on short selling can profit from delining markets by investing in inverse ETF's. This is a "long" investment, since one owns the fund. The fund, however, purchases securities that profit in a market decline.
Since this strategy has been a big winner in recent months, it is attracting a lot of interest. We have included three of the inverse ETF's as part of our universe. These represent shorts in the Nasdadq 100 (PSQ), the S&P 500 (SH), and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOG).
There are many other short and ultra-short ETF's. Investors should study the characteristics and potential pitfalls carefully before adopting the more aggressive shorting strategies. My colleague Scott Rothbort has an excellent introduction to the topic. Eric Oberg, slso writing at TheStreet.com, explains how the leveraged inverse ETF's can provide extremely disappointing results in the long run, even when the investor has guessed right on the market.
These are mostly short-term trading vehicles. The one-month time frame for our TCA-ETF model works just fine for the regular inverse funds, but we avoid the leveraged choices.
As our current ratings show, there is little to like about the current market.
Weekly TCA-ETF Rankings
The ratings reflect prices and signals as of Thursday night, January 22nd. In our daily trading program (for accredited and institutional investors) we buy the top eight sectors. In our weekly program for individual investors (free report available upon request) we stick with the top six sectors. The market had another week of decline. During last weekend's three days we saw nearly all of our sector ETF's join our "penalty box." This means that the trading has violated specific technical criteria, our equivalent of a "sell stop." During Tuesday and Wednesday's volatile trading we shifted into the inverse ETF's.
This shift included our sector highlight from last week, the networking stocks (IGN). While we try to find the key themes from our ratings each week, we cannot predict how the model will shift. Sometimes, as was the case last week, we see rapid changes. There should be no expectation that we will make public updates of each change, in advance of the weekly series.
We provide the ratings as interesting news information. Readers may like to compare our rankings with other sources or their own analysis. The weekly report is always delayed by at least one day. As we note in our disclaimers, it is not intended as specific trading advice. We are happy to talk with investors interested in an actively managed program based upon the model.
Because of the current ratings, we moved to a bearish stance in the Ticker Sense Blogger Sentiment poll. Only four of our fifty-seven sectors are in the "buy" range, and three of these are inverse ETF's.
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.