Do We Really Need More Stimulus?

As we speak, Republicans and Democrats are still wrestling over another coronavirus stimulus package. Everyone wants one, we’re told, and the economy needs one.

Don’t start spending that stimulus check just yet.

Despite what they claim, Democrats don’t really want a deal, no matter how big, at least not until after the election. Do you really believe that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer want to allow President Trump to play Santa Claus and send out $1,200 checks to American voters right before the election? Needless to say, the president would just love to have his name on those checks.

So don’t count on another stimulus package until after the election, if then. It’s a valid question of whether the country really needs another one. But never fear, the Federal Reserve will step in where Congress fears to tread.

At its September 15-16 monetary policy meeting – the last one before Election Day – the Fed updated and revised its prognosis upward for the U.S. economy, finally catching up with many other analysts and some of its own regional banks who are forecasting a much brighter picture than Fed Chair Jerome Powell and many other Fed officials have been painting over the past couple of months.

The Fed now expects U.S. economic growth to be negative 3.7% for this year, a big upgrade from its negative 6.5% projection in June. It also expects positive growth of 4.0% next year (down from 5.0%), 3.0% in 2022 and 2.5% in 2023. Regarding unemployment, it expects the jobless rate to fall to 7.6% this year from its June projection of 9.3%, declining further to 5.5% next year, 4.6% in 2022, and 4.0% – i.e., full employment – in 2023. Continue reading "Do We Really Need More Stimulus?"

Seeing Beyond The Black Swan Event - Part 2

And just like that, the S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Dow Jones hit their all-time highs, and the COVID-19 market sell-off had been erased. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the markets, Ray Dalio was recklessly dismissive of cash positions, stating "cash is trash." Even Goldman Sachs proclaimed that the economy was recession-proof via "Great Moderation," characterized by low volatility, sustainable growth, and muted inflation. Not only were these assessments incorrect, but they were ill-advised in what was an already frothy market with stretched valuations prior to COVID-19. I'm sure Ray Dalio quickly realized that his "cash is trash" mentality, and public statements were imprudent. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a truly back swan event that no one saw coming. This health crisis has crushed stocks and decimated entire industries such as airlines, casinos, travel, leisure, and retail with others in the crosshairs.

The S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Dow Jones shed over a third of their market capitalization at the lows of March 2020. Some individual stocks lost over 70% of their market capitalization. Other stocks had been hit due to the market-wide meltdown, and many opportunities were presented as a result. Investors were presented with a unique opportunity to start buying stocks and take long positions in high-quality companies. Throughout this market sell-off, I started to take long positions in individual stocks, particularly in the technology sector and broad market ETFs that mirror the S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Dow Jones. It was important to put this black swan into perspective and see through this crisis on a long term basis while viewing COVID-19 as an opportunity that only comes along on the scale of decades.

Most Extreme and Rare Sell-Off Ever

The abrupt and drastic economic shutdown and velocity of the U.S. market's ~30% drop within a month bring parallels to the 1930s. This sell-off was extreme and rare in its breadth, nearly evaporating entire market capitalizations of specific companies. The pace at which stocks dropped from all-time highs was the fastest in history. The major averages posted their worst week since the financial crisis (Figures 1 and 2). The Dow had its worst month since 1931, and the S&P had its worst month since 1940. Continue reading "Seeing Beyond The Black Swan Event - Part 2"

Post COVID-19 -100% Options Win Rate

A total of 76 options trades were placed in May, June, and July as the market rebounded after the COVID-19 market lows. During this timeframe, all 76 trades were winning trades to lock-in a 100% option win rate with an average income per trade of $190 and an average return on investment (ROI) per trade of 7.6%. After the tumultuous market lows of March and into early April, leveraging a minimal amount of capital, mitigating risk and maximizing returns was paramount. The objective of an options-based portfolio can offer the optimal balance between risk and reward while providing a margin of downside protection with high probability win rates.

As the market continues to rebound, optimal risk management is essential when engaging in options trading as a means to drive portfolio performance. When engaging in options trading, risk mitigation needs to be built into each trade via risk-defining trades, staggering options expiration dates, trading across a wide array of uncorrelated tickers, maximizing the number of trades, appropriate position allocation and selling options to collect the premium income.

Getting creative and customizing your option trade structure is another element that can be layered into the overall strategy for long-term success in options trading. Maintaining disciple via continuing to risk-define trades, leveraging small amounts of capital while maximizing return on investment, is essential despite the impressive streak of 76 consecutive winning trades.

3 Months Post COVID-19 Results

After placing 76 trades throughout May, June, and July, a 100% win rate, 99% premium capture, and 7.6% ROI per trade was achieved. This was accomplished via leveraging a minimal amount of capital and maximizing return on investment with risk-defined trades. Deploying a combination of put spreads and custom put spreads was used to optimize the risk-reward profile for these 76 trades. Whether you have a small account or a large account, a defined risk (i.e., custom put spreads) strategy enables you to leverage a minimal amount of capital, which opens the door to trading virtually any stock on the market regardless of the share price. Risk-defined options can easily yield double-digit realized gains over the course of a typical one month contract (Figures 1, 2, and 3).

Options
Figure 1 – Average income per trade of $190, the average return per trade of 7.6% and 99% premium capture over 76 trades in May and June
Continue reading "Post COVID-19 -100% Options Win Rate"

Why It's Different This Time

The other day I completed a survey for my brokerage company, and one of the questions they asked was, "Is the current crisis worse than the 2008 financial crisis?" A couple of months ago, when our state and region were mostly in lockdown, I would have answered with a resounding and unhesitating, "Yes!"

Now I'm not so sure. Admittedly, I don't live in one of those states where the virus is now spiking, and things here are close to back to normal, so maybe my vantage point is too subjective. Nevertheless, I would have to say this crisis is far from as bad as the previous one, which may explain why the stock market has behaved the way it has, namely prices are off only a little from where they began the crisis, with only that short, sharp drop in February and March.

One reason, of course, is that the economy, as a whole, has rebounded strongly over the past couple of months as most of the country has reopened, at least to some degree, even as millions of people continue to work remotely. But the main reason is that that the lessons we learned from 2008 have been brought to bear in this crisis, namely that the government and the Federal Reserve have thrown much more money and resources at the problem than they did 12 years ago, which has mitigated the damage to a great degree.

As we've seen in the second-quarter earnings reports released so far by the big banks, the measures taken after 2008 to make sure they've built up enough capital to withstand another global crisis have paid off. Other than Wells Fargo (WFC) – which is still in the Fed penalty box, forbidden to grow assets – which reported a big loss, the other big banks reported flat Goldman Sachs (GS) or reduced JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), and Bank of America (BAC) earnings compared to a year ago. It could have been a lot worse. Who would have thought they'd be able to pull that off three or four months ago? Let's give the Dodd-Frank Act and Fed capital requirements the props they deserve. Continue reading "Why It's Different This Time"

The Financial Cohort and COVID-19 Dynamics

COVID-19 ushered in the real possibility of widespread loan defaults, liquidity issues, ballooning credit card debt (as banks hold the liability), and stressed mortgages. To exacerbate these COVID-19 impacts, a delicate balance between interest rates, Federal Reserve actions, potential yield curve inversion, and liquidity must be reached. The customer side of the business continues to be worrisome as the duration of this crisis continues to drag on with no signs of slowing. A segment of the consumer base is faced with lost wages and the real possibility of not being able to meet their financial obligations (i.e., car payments, mortgage payments, etc.), which will unquestionably have a negative impact on revenue and earnings for banks. The financial cohort is in a difficult space as the broader economic backdrop continues to dictate whether these stocks can appreciate higher. The initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the market capitalizations of many large banks to be cut by ~50%. Some of the largest banking institutions such as Citi (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan (JPM), and Bank of America (BAC) were sold off in the most aggressive manner since the Financial Crisis a decade earlier. As COVID-19 continues to drag in both spread and duration, share buybacks have now been halted, and dividend payouts arrested. The stability of dividend payouts is now in question as uncertainty continues to cloud this sector. Moving forward, how durable are the major financial names at these depressed levels, are the banks investable in light of the COVID-19 backdrop?

Recent Federal Reserve Stress Tests

The Federal Reserve put new restrictions on the banking sector after the results from the annual stress test found that several banks could get too close to minimum capital levels in potential scenarios tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest banking institutions will be required to suspend share buybacks and arrest dividend payments at their current level for Q3 of 2020. For the first time in the 10 year history of these stress tests, banks are now required to resubmit their payout plans again later this year. This move is indicative of the unique and unprecedented landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading "The Financial Cohort and COVID-19 Dynamics"