Articles tagged by trend following
In many ways alpha seeking firms trading FX have endured something of a perfect storm of return reducing conditions over the past few years.
Interest rate differentials are still largely non-existent as central banks persist with low interest rate policies. Many banks have pulled back from both principal risk taking and credit provision in FX, making life harder for their buy side counterparts.
Regulations continue to take their toll on both buy and sell side firms, introducing new cost pressures and causing budgets to be increasingly diverted towards compliance functions.
Galen Stops looks at why CTA strategies struggled in 2016, examines why there is enthusiasm from these managers bubbling up for 2017 and looks at the trends that are shaping the managed futures industry.
2016 wasn’t exactly a vintage year for CTAs. The SocGen Prime Services SG CTA Index ended the year in negative territory for the first time since 2012, showing returns of -2.89%. Likewise, the BarclayHedge CTA Index was -1.14% for the year. One explanation for why these firms struggled was the continued low interest rate environment, which has kept bond prices low and helped drive up the stock market.
Data from Societe Generale shows that CTA performance was broadly flat in May, as it has been for most of 2017.
Although the SG Trend Indicator illustrated that there were return opportunities for trend followers, up +3.42%, with positive return contributions from four out of the five sectors included in the indictor, the Trend Index was down -0.35% for the month of May.
The Short Term Traders Index fared slightly better and posted a positive return +0.29%, but all SG managed futures indices remain down year-to-date.
CTAs have, generally, not been doing well in 2017, judging by the major indices that track their performance. Profit & Loss deputy editor, Galen Stops, relays a conversation that he had with a portfolio manager at one alternative investment firm (with AUM of over $10bn) to illustrate why some investors are very negative about the outlook for investing in these firms right now, even beyond the immediate problem of low returns.
For a more in-depth look at some of the challenges facing CTAs and the trends that are shaping this segment of the market, see Profit & Loss' previously published piece: CTA Performance: Decline or Dip?
Traders do like to moan – I know I did – maybe because it’s therapeutic, maybe because it is (occasionally) true that they are unlucky. More often than not though, it’s because they’re wrong. That said, looking at those indices that track global macro, and listening to traders around the world, it does genuinely appear to be a struggle to make money in FX and rates at the moment. But why is that? We have events - we even have a trend!
Earlier this year I wrote about my mystification over people bemoaning the lack of opportunity in FX markets, claiming there were indeed plenty of chances to make (and lose!) money, because the rather fragile geo-political situation and multi-speed economic performance around the world is providing opportunities.
In FX terms market conditions seem to have changed for the better, at least for some participants. We could be witnessing a revival for the trader, and if that is the case I, for one, will be very happy.
Jersey-based Insch Capital Management has launched its Insch Kintore strategy as a Jersey Private Fund.
Since inception, the form says the strategy has earned a total net return (net of 1.5% management and 15% performance fees) of +49.21%, gaining 12.52% in 2015, 33.39% in 2016 and 21.16% in 2017. Rolling 12 month returns (26 observations) have averaged +20.44%, the firm adds.
The strategy is entirely quantitative in nature and agnostic in terms of market direction and trades gold (as a currency) versus G7 currencies.
Following a marginal uptick in April, the SG CTA Index moved into negative territory in May, down 2.41% for the month, despite being up mid-month.
Trend followers were the main drivers of losses in the second half of the month, and were down, to -2.72%. Short-term CTA strategies handled the changing market conditions relatively well and ended May up, +0.39%.
The SG Trend Indicator had a difficult period and was down by 3.50%, leading to a reading of 13.30% for the first five months of this year.
Following a recovery in April, equity indices contributed to negative performance, and the commodities and currencies sectors took a dip as well. Meanwhile, the bond market provided some relief as it was the only sector to post a positive contribution, up 0.09%, just holding on to gains despite a mid-month reversal.
The flash estimate for the Barclay CTA Index, compiled by BarclayHedge, indicates a 0.24% loss in May, although currency traders gained 0.88% last month. Year-to-date, the Barclay CTA Index is down 1.76%.
“Large systematic traders were the hardest hit by trend reversals in fixed income, energy, sugar and cocoa prices,” says Sol Waksman, founder and president of BarclayHedge.
The new MPI Barclay Elite Systematic Traders Index (MBEST) lost 1.85% in May, diversified traders were down 0.64%, financials and metals traders lost 0.44%, and systematic traders gave up 0.44%.
The memories of last year's emotionally charged bull run in bitcoin are fading fast, almost as fast as the optimism earlier this year that the cryptocurrency would regain the highs of 2017. At less than half the value at which it entered the year I am hearing a few more "why the time to buy bitcoin is now" stories emerge, but this bothers me. Looking at a market I like to weigh up the rationale for buying and selling - and bitcoin at the moment seems heavily weighted one way.
Susan Roberts, product specialist and director of investor relations at Campbell & Company, talks to Galen Stops about how the CTA industry has matured, what purpose these funds are really supposed to fulfill within a portfolio and why performance might be set for an uptick.
Galen Stops: In the research paper, Prospects for CTAs in a Rising Rate Environment: A Refresh, your analysis finds that CTA performance has not historically been interest rate regime dependent. Is this pretty much what you expected the data to tell you when you began working on the paper?
Has trend following had its day as a trading strategy? The Profit & Loss editors go head-to-head on this debate, with managing editor, Colin Lambert arguing that trend following is dead and editor, Galen Stops, arguing the opposite. Which side do you find more persuasive?
Why Trend Following is Dead
The changing nature of markets tells Colin Lambert that trend following as a strategy has had its day…and then there’s the data.
When Galen and I decided to argue our cases over the relative merits of trend following, I immediately thought of amassing mountains of data around moving averages and breakout points. I then reminded myself this is not the way I do things and as such, decided to go the bluster route.
Following a challenging period in July, CTA performance improved in August as all the indices posted positive performance.
The strong month was led by the uptick in the performance of trend followers, as the Societe Generale (SG) Trend Index was up +3.92%, but all CTA strategies benefitted.
The SG CTA Index was up 2.64% and the SG Short Term Traders Index was up 1.07%.
The SG Trend Indicator was up 4.14% and the key sectors which contributed were commodities, currencies, and equities.
It's a bumper edition of In the FICC of it this week as Colin Lambert and Galen Stops prepare to head off to Forex Network Chicago 2018, with both giving previews of the main issues that they plan to tackle on the panel sessions that they are moderating.
The pair also discuss a report by the New York state Attorney General, which highlighted some major concerns about some of the crypto trading venues operating today. But the most interesting aspect of this story is the response of one exchange that decided to hit back at the AG in rather spectacular fashion - Lambert and Stops highlight some of the shots fired on (where else?) Twitter.
This week’s podcast sees Colin Lambert and Galen Stops discuss the latest lawsuit facing banks over their actions in FX markets, during which Lambert invokes the spirit of a film that he can’t remember the name of, by asking, “Could you ask me that question again Galen?”
Stops also has a series of questions relating to the Virtu-ITG tie up reported this week as our two podcasters discuss the evolution of the non-bank trading firm business model. Where do these firms expand? Lambert is fairly confident (is he ever not?) that it is not by buying other trading firms, but both men see opportunities away from trading.
They also discuss volatility in crypto markets and ask – at what stage does the institutional enthusiasm for crypto start to weaken?
This week’s podcast also highlights how Lambert giveth…and taketh away…as it is bookended by praise and ridicule for his colleague! Find out why by listening in to this week’s edition.
This is a pretty horrible time for CTAs, not only because of the sector's very visible performance issues, but because it's even worse than the numbers suggest. After all, the big selling point for CTAs has always been they are a good hedge in falling equity markets - but they clearly have not been this year. It may not be all doom and gloom, however, for using new technologies and techniques they have the opportunity to re-engineer their models to meet the challenges of the modern market structure.
Following a difficult October, CTAs continued to face challenges in November as the SG CTA Index was down 1.09% and the SG Trend Index was down 1.75%. Year-to-date, the SG CTA Index is down 7.18%.
However, the SG Trend Indicator outperformed the Trend Index as it was up 2.51%. This was driven by gains in commodity markets especially from short positions in the energy sector.
Apart from the uplift in commodities, trend following strategies struggled in other sectors with losses in currencies and equities. There were strong reversals against established trends in particular in Australian and New Zealand dollar. Furthermore, trends in bond markets continued to be mixed, as the new upward momentum brought the recent downward trend to an end.
It's the end of year It’s the end of year special podcast and Colin Lambert and Galen Stops are in jovial mood as they bring the curtain down on another busy year in the FICC industry. Listen in as they each identify a key theme from the past year and look to re-assess them with the benefit of hindsight, before moving into less certain territory by providing a price prediction for everyones favourite out-of-control child, Bitcoin.
They also – this being the season of making a wish, share their one hope for 2019, although one of them (Lambert of course) appears to have forgotten it’s the season of goodwill!
In a sensational end to the year’s podcasts, Lambert also reveals that yes, he did indeed quote from the film Love Actually in a podcast earlier this year, but he tries (and fails) to make amends by setting listeners another teaser by paraphrasing from a much more acceptable movie…in his mind at least!