Stocks in the US markets slipped on Friday, ending the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s (DJIA) longest winning streak since 1996, just after snapping a 10-day run. Data from Thomson Reuters’ Lipper service showed that investors in U.S.-based funds had poured $11.26 billion of new cash into stock funds this last week, the most since late January. The DJIA slipped 25.03 points, or 0.17 percent, to 14,514.11 at the close. Meanwhile, it was announced that the fewest workers on record were fired in January and job openings rebounded, showing employers were gaining confidence the U.S. expansion would be sustained.
According to some pundits, recent market activity is essentially driven by positive corporate earnings. The S&P500 Price/Earnings (PE) ratio is currently slightly high at 16.5, if we compare with past indicators. The median S&P500 Trailing Twelve Months (TTM) PE ratio has been about 14.5 over the last 100 years; average is around 16. It was during much of 2009 when the disconnect between price and TTM earnings was so extreme that the P/E ratio was in triple digits, as high as the 120s. Going back to the 1870’s, the average P/E ratio has been about 15; therefore, the US equity markets are not excessively valued, leaving some room for further growth.
Other pundits point to the Federal Reserve’s determination to continue stimulating the economy with increased liquidity. Mohammed Apabhai, head of Asia trading at Citigroup Global Markets, favors this train of thought. He has noted that there is a 70 percent correlation between stock market performance and liquidity, “whether it’s through the promise of lower rates, QE (Quantitative Easing) or promise of more QE.” The Federal Reserve has launched three rounds of Quantitative Easing since the financial crisis hit in 2008.
More likely, both factors are in play, very good corporate earnings and monetary policy that pushes investors to take risks in equities. So is the earnings momentum sustainable? Unfortunately, savings from the smaller share of the pie from labor, government spending and earnings coming from emerging markets (EM) outside the US are all factors that will be curtailed at some moment. Is the Fed eager to continue being the huge player in this equation? Some of its members are increasingly worried about the effectiveness of the continued QE; if the labor market recovers, as the January numbers showed, the Fed most probably might be ending its bond purchases soon.
As pointed out by James Saft, wages in the US have taken a smaller and smaller piece of the pie; now below 44pc of GDP and dropping, down several percentage points since 1999. That is in part the consequence of globalization and the offshoring of jobs. However, the labor which can be offshored largely has already been and the likely trend is for new manufacturing technologies to start pushing jobs back into the US. As has been of national knowledge as well, there is a real danger of declining government spending. A dollar spent by the government is a dollar that supports household income, and consumption, and of course corporate profits; there will be less dollars starting this month thank to the sequester, a series of spending cuts and tax increases aimed at reducing the budget deficit.
Emerging markets are looking overstretched heading into the second quarter, Barclays Capital said in a report dated March 15, pointing out that the cyclical recoveries in EM have slowed down. Consensus growth forecasts (according to Bloomberg) have been revised down by 0.75 percentage points on average since mid-2012. EM equities have been slow to react to these developments due partly to the continued inflows into the asset class from retail clients. The correction has started recently and the performance by country year to date has been mixed, but the most pronounced selloffs have been associated with the largest revisions to GDP growth forecasts. Adding to this dire situation, the economies of emerging markets grew at a slower pace in February than the month before, according to HSBC’s monthly purchasing managers’ index. The PMI recorded a level of 52.3, down from 53.8 in January, its lowest since August. The index covers 16 leading emerging markets, including India, Brazil and China, which all saw their rate of growth fall. Investors had been questioning whether emerging markets, whose growth depends in part on exports to mature markets, could continue to expand at fast rates of almost 10% in some cases.
What the equity markets want indeed is stable and/or predictably increasing US profits and the Fed to stay in the bond markets. Saft ironically suggested that markets’ best hope might be a cut in government spending deep enough to kill job growth and indefinitely extend QE, something that nobody else would agree with. Instead, markets would be happy with a bit of positive news today followed by another bit of negative news tomorrow. Unfortunately for the markets, profits will start showing stagnation starting with first quarter results. Federal Reserve said in September 2012, when QE3 was announced, that it would start pumping $40 billion a month to purchase agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) until the labor market improves substantially. When will the Fed determine that the job market has made enough progress to reduce stimulus? The numbers for February will prove paramount in this regard. As these two important factors converge in a nightmarish scenario, equities markets should beware of the ensuing correction, coming as early as in the second quarter.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
For John Netto, one of the leading high-frequency traders featured in Edgar Perez’s The Speed Traders: An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World, high-frequency trading is going to get bigger, stronger and more prevalent. “There are potential regulatory changes that might impact the growth of high-frequency trading; that is always a possibility. They have talked about co-location and proximity legislation but who knows how it all shakes and if the desired results from this legislation are accomplished.”
Netto is the Founder and President of M3 Capital. Mr. Netto has worked with buy-side firms, sell-side firms, and technology providers on more efficiently combining structure, strategy, and personnel to increase trading profits. Mr. Netto has presented on behalf of Eurex, CME Group, The ICE, ISE, Interactive Brokers, Thomson Reuters, Profit-Loss Forex Conferences and Golden Networking as well as appearing regularly on Forex TV, Fox Business Channel, The Money Show Video Network, and many other media outlets.
Mr. Netto sees more traditional investment managers expanding into high-frequency trading; more managers are using technology as in means of investing. Similarly, he sees more institutional investors allocating part of their asset base to quantitative trading strategies. He adds: “I think at this moment the future is more than just technology, as it is already very robust; it would be more about the adoption of the technology which will determine how fast things go. Not every exchange has the same technology or robust infrastructure; I think what we will see is that more and more firms, more and more exchanges around the world get caught up and then it will be about the interchangeability of the technology. And not just from a hardware standpoint but also from a software standpoint. Issues such as ‘what exchange trade data can we give up to another exchange trade data’, and ‘how that data gets aggregated’. Considering the current environment, the future will be more about data aggregation and data processing, and getting that data in the hands of the right people than who will build the fastest server.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It took a while for Adam Afshar, one of the leading high-frequency traders featured in Edgar Perez’s The Speed Traders: An Insider’s Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World, to believe that the markets were more or less efficient under normal circumstances and to realize that the analysts at most firms provided no value and sometimes a negative value. He says, “My first attempt at using the computer was to build a system to help traders have better information faster to enable them or their portfolio managers to make better decisions, a sort of hybrid system where the computers are helping the humans. But, in less than a year, I realized that discretionary human participation in selection, portfolio management , or trading was so deleterious that no amount of computer power or intellectual algorithms could mitigate it.”
He adds: “It’s very important to stress this point because if the system allows human discretion at any level (idea generation, portfolio management, or trading) and your machine does not have the human discretionary elements modeled correctly in its learning algorithm (which we claim is not possible at this time), what you are left with is simply a quantitative trader that uses certain calculations to assist his or her trading. It becomes difficult or even impossible to assess whether the success or failure was due to the calculations, formula, or algorithms . Although we can argue on the pros and cons of humans as traders, we have to agree that this method is not and cannot be scientific. It is not scientific because it is not possible to backtest a model that allows any discretionary human intervention. For example, if you have computers that are generating trades, but the execution is done by humans, then we would argue that you cannot determine whether the success or failure of the system was due to its robust artificial intelligence or to a very good trader, and there is no way of testing and duplicating the results. Therefore, we would argue that any backtesting becomes essentially void.”
Hyde Park Global Investments, Afshar’s firm, is an investment and trading firm that has developed an artificial intelligence system built primarily on genetic algorithms and other evolutionary models to identify mispricings, arbitrage, and patterns for many electronic financial markets and the robotic platform to monetize the opportunities. The firm, which trades its own capital so far, potentially will accept investments from outside sources.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )