VIX Below 9?

The weekly Market Update is posted and includes the following; The Barron’s Striking Price column made a sort of tail wagging the dog argument about VIX-related exchange traded products causing a distortion in the market. The concern is that a large single day spike in the VIX (more specifically the futures that the funds use) could cause a repositioning on the funds’ part that would cause an “acceleration event” that pushes prices down even more and volatility higher. We would never underestimate the market’s ability to panic and while the scenario is of course plausible, it is not obvious that something that has never happened before be so easily predicted by one random article. The next panic will likely be caused by something else. Please click through to read the entire update. Diablo Lake in North Cascades National Park The Seattle skyline from West Seattle Neat apartment building in...

There’s A Storm A Comin’

Bloomberg interviewed Alicia Munnell from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. She of course has come to be a thought leader for what ails the Social Security system. Shockingly it boils down to three things; cutting benefits, raising the cap one way or another or some combo of both. I’ve framed it numerous times by saying that something will have to give. Included in there is what I will bluntly call nonsense about replacement rates as in how much of someone’s income Social Security is intended to replace. There was talk in the interview about replacement rate dropping from 36% to 27% over some long period of time. It’s nonsense for a long list of reasons including people making well above the cap won’t get anywhere near that sort of replacement rate, replacing X% of your income focuses on the wrong thing, income versus spending. Many people plan to have their mortgage paid off by the time they retire, someone who is retired is less likely to save for retirement. Another point missed by replacement rates is people who live below their means. Social Security wants people to know how much their benefit will be, they send it to us every year. What’s your benefit (and what’s your partner’s benefit if applicable)? I’ve disclosed before that my FRA is $2800 (today’s dollars) starting in 2033 (I would note I hope to still be working past that age but it might be difficult to attract clients when I am 80). If my wife takes her spousal benefit at 65 in 2037 she would get $1200. That adds up to...

Markets Continue To Melt (higher!)

Macro   The Bank of Japan (the central bank) left rates on hold at -0.1% and also revised its timetable for achieving 2% inflation to 2020. There is a quote that goes something like “inflation is the easiest thing in the world to create, except when you need it.” Before the financial crisis, the only concern was that of inflation. The crisis was a deflationary event that fortunately did not create a deflationary debt spiral but global GDP has not really gotten going, for developed countries anyway, and countries are struggling to get inflation to levels that would go with healthy growth. The Great Depression from almost 90 years ago cast a pall over the country for decades and that appears to be a possibility with the Financial Crisis. One difference (there are many) is that developed countries have demographics working against them, moreso Japan and Europe. If there is always a bull market somewhere, and we believe in that saying, finding it may become a little harder to do. Domestic equity markets mostly moved higher last week except for the Dow Jones Industrial Average which fell 0.27%. The S&P 500 gained 0.53%, the NASDAQ added 1.16% and the Russell 2000 was up 0.48%. The yield curve flattened some last week as the Ten Year US Treasury Yield fell to 2.23% as the previous week’s dovish sentiment from Janet Yellen was echoed by ECB president Mario Draghi. If you’ve been following this report lately you know that we watch the impact that the slope of the curve has on style and sure enough as the curve flattened growth outperformed...

Is A Minsky-esque Moment Coming?

The weekly Market Update is posted and includes the following; In several previous weekly updates we have talked about volatility in political headlines increasing but not being matched by equity market volatility as measured by the CBOE Volatility Index. In addition to the above mentioned volatility in the slope of the yield curve, WTI has become more volatile as measured by the VIX for crude oil which can be tracked through symbol OVX. Since March 1st it has increased 19% while the VIX has declined 26%, closing last week at 9.51. Please click through to read the entire update. The rear of a Type 4 engine that I believe is from the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. Forest Service trucks usually are usually numbered with a state abbreviation like AZ or CA, then a three letter code for the forest like TNF in the picture and then the engine number. This one doesn’t have a state identifier. Type 6 engine from Lolo National Forest in Montana Panoramic of the staging area behind our fire house for the structure protection group assigned to Walker during the Goodwin...

Even The “Experts” Get It Wrong Occasionally

My latest post for Alpha Baskets is published and includes the following; The best example of why this is, comes from the tech wreck. For a while, the options market appeared to be giving money away, you could sell a semi-deep out of the money put on a $300 stock and easily bring in a couple of thousand dollars. This worked for a time and then the crash came and put sellers were paying $250 for stock trading at $80 on their way to much lower prices. That’s permanent impairment of capital, Holmes. Please click through to read the entire post. Mendocino National Forest parked along side Goodyear AZ Fire Department Private contractor type 4 engine Bureau of Land Management law...