We are only 2 weeks in to 2021 and we have already witnessed a full year’s worth of events. While I am sure those events will be analyzed in history classes for decades to come, I will focus here on markets.
Turning to investments, I think the subject of the day needs to be what is happening in Bitcoin, Tesla, and the ARK ETFs. To say that these have had a bit of a rally is putting it mildly. Let’s think for a moment. If I put money into ARK I am buying TESLA. In fact, I am buying a lot of Tesla! ARK funds have received billions over the last 12 months and in turn bought large amounts of Tesla. So of course, Tesla keeps going higher. The more money these funds attract, the more Tesla they must buy. Those old enough to have enjoyed the dotcom era will remember the Janus 20 fund that made its name during the first tech bubble. They attracted large sums of money, like ARK is today, through performance during that bull market and invested those funds in 20 high conviction stocks. Unfortunately, we all remember when the tide turned so did Janus’s and investors’ fortunes. I am not saying this is the top, this can continue for a lot longer. As Chuck Prince alluded to before the GFC, you want to be on the dance floor as long as the music is playing, just make sure you aren’t the last to leave when it stops. With Bitcoin, I think it will be interesting to see how it behaves in a market pullback. If it holds its own, I will become more of a believer, if it stays correlated to Tesla, well….
On Thursday Jim Simons of Renaissance stepped down. He had a truly remarkable run and it is just amazing what he and Renaissance have accomplished. I think it is interesting he is stepping down during one of the worse quant performances in a very long time. There are questions about whether all the quant models are just plain breaking down, that they need to be rewritten. I view myself as a bit of a quant and I think models are fantastic things. At the end of the day, they are models. Financial markets are not a particle in space like we studied in physics class. Math might provide the solution most of the time, but math does not solve for emotions and liquidity. Math also does not solve for an event like March, and a response to that event like we saw in April. Nobody can model that kind of jump in unemployment or the fact that oil went negative! Portfolios need to adapt and improvise in situations like what happened last March. That adaptation comes from a human with experience, battle scars, and a deep understanding of markets. The second problem with big quants is… they are simply too big.
That leads me to ask some more questions. Is a lot of what’s going on driven by new funds gaining assets in a way we haven’t seen since dotcom? Are quants being forced to liquidate? How is that impacting markets right now? Well, Tesla we see, so the first question is an easy ‘yes’. The second answer is a likely ‘yes’ as well. Morgan Stanley’s short basket is up 12.6% as of Friday morning! Look at Gamestop (GME) and Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY) as two examples. This is one example of where quants live. It is impacting markets right now in a way we haven’t seen before. As people add positions (ARK) or reduce positions (quants) the cost of doing business, access to liquidity, is high. This cost could be distorting markets and the performance of funds, both on the way up and on the way down. Think of it as liquidity/momentum driven performance. Outsized outperformance on the way in and outsized underperformance on the way out.
What are options telling me? VIX remains above 20 not because of downside protection buying, but because of call buying. NOBODY wants to be short calls in any of these names and as a result, momentum wins the race. Put/call ratio is the lowest it has been since 1999! In other words, all open interest vs put open interest is very one way towards the calls. Again, is this a market top? A lot of evidence in flows and derivative positioning is saying that very thing. We haven’t even talked about SPACs or ‘how VCs dump garbage they can’t sell by bundling it’! Financial engineering is alive and well, in the same manner we saw portfolios of residential mortgages! The problem with being a bear is fundamentals. ISM numbers keep improving. The government is literally pulling an Oprah with “you get $2000, you get $2000”. The government, in my opinion, has also socialized the listed bond market. They have come in and bailed this group out repeatedly, best union in the world, those credit traders! Not to mention when lock down ends, people are going to go nuts like the 1920s! There are not enough tickets at Disney World to keep up with that pent-up demand.
Overall, I am cautiously optimistic. I do think markets and market structure have changed. I think how we invested in the past doesn’t necessarily predict future performance. I think people should be thinking about diversification differently. It could be that the torque wrench your father-in-law bought you isn’t going to help you fix your Tesla.
Partner, Portfolio Manager
Disclaimer and Other Important Information:
Not an offer and confidential: This site and the information in it is provided for your internal use only. The information contained herein is proprietary and confidential to Harvest Volatility Management LLC (the “Adviser”) and may not be disclosed to third parties or duplicated or used for any purpose other than the purpose for which it has been provided. The information presented herein may contain expressions of opinion, which are subjective, may be difficult to prove, and are subject to change without notice. Additionally, although the information provided herein has been obtained from sources which the Adviser believes to be reliable, we do not guarantee its accuracy, and such information may be incomplete or condensed. The information is subject to change without notice. This communication is for information purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation with respect to the purchase or sale of any security or of any fund or account (a “Fund”) the Adviser manages or offers. Since we furnish all information as part of a general information service and without regard to your particular circumstances, the Adviser shall not be liable for any damages arising out of any inaccuracy in the information.
This site and the information contained in it should not be the basis of an investment decision. An Investment decision should be based on your customary and thorough due diligence procedures, which should include, but not be limited to, a thorough review of all relevant term sheets and other offering documents as well as consolation with legal, tax and regulatory experts. Any person subscribing for an investment must be able to bear the risks involved and must meet the particular Fund’s suitability requirements. Some or all alternative investment programs may not be suitable for certain investors. No assurance can be given that any Fund will meet its investment objectives or avoid losses. A discussion of some, but not all, of the risks associated with investing in the Fund can be found in the Fund’s investment advisory agreement, private placement memoranda, subscription agreement, limited partnership agreement, articles of association or other offering documents as applicable (collectively the “Offering Documents”), among those risks, which we wish to call to your attention, are the following:
Future looking statements, Performance Data and strategy level performance reporting: The information in this site is NOT intended to contain or express exposure recommendations, guidelines or limits applicable to a Fund. The information in this report does not disclose or contemplate the hedging or exit strategies of the Fund. While investors should understand and consider risks associated with position concentrations when making an investment decision, this report is not intended to aid an investor in evaluating such risk. The terms set forth in the Offering Documents are controlling in all respects should they conflict with any other term set forth in other marketing materials, and therefore, the Offering Documents must be reviewed carefully before making an investment and periodically while an investment is maintained. Statements made herein include forward-looking statements. These statements, including those relating to future financial expectations, involve certain risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements. Unless otherwise indicated, Performance Data is presented unaudited, “net” of management fees and other expenses, and net of performance allocations. Returns presented may reflect the reinvestment of dividends and other earnings. Due to the format of data available for the time periods indicated, both gross and net returns are difficult to calculate precisely. Accordingly, the calculations have been made based on in some cases limited available data and a number of assumptions. Because of these limitations, the performance information should not be relied upon as a precise reporting of gross or net performance, but rather merely a general indication of past performance.
The performance information presented herein may have been generated during a period of extraordinary market volatility or relative stability in a particular sector. Accordingly, the performance is not necessarily indicative of results that the Fund may achieve in the future. In addition, the foregoing results may be based or shown on an annual basis, but results for individual months or quarters within each year may have been more favorable or less favorable than the results for the entire period, as the case may be. If index information is included, it is merely to show the general trend in the markets in the periods indicated and is not intended to imply that the portfolio was similar to the indices in either composition or element of risk. This report may indicate that it contains hypothetical or actual performance of specific strategies employed by the Adviser, such strategies may comprise only a portion of any specific Fund’s portfolio, and, therefore, the reported strategy level performance may not correspond to the performance of any Fund for the reported time period. Please note that the Adviser calculates its assets under management with respect to its overlay strategies based on notional valuations and mandate sizes rather than market valuations.
Investment Risks: Investing in a Fund is speculative and involves varying degrees of risk, including substantial degrees of risk in some cases. A Fund may be leveraged and may engage in other speculative investment practices that may increase the risk of investment loss. Past results are not necessarily indicative of future performance, and a Fund’s performance may be volatile. The use of a single advisor could mean lack of diversification and, consequently, higher risk. A Fund may have varying liquidity provisions and limitations. There is no secondary market for investors’ interests in a Fund and none is expected to develop.
Not Legal, Accounting or Regulatory Advice: This material is not intended to represent the rendering of accounting, tax, legal or regulatory advice. A change in the facts or circumstances of any transaction could materially affect the accounting, tax, legal or regulatory treatment for that transaction. The ultimate responsibility for the decision on the appropriate application of accounting, tax, legal and regulatory treatment rests with the investor and his or her accountants, tax and regulatory counsel. Potential investors should consult, and must rely on their own professional tax, legal and investment advisors as to matters concerning a Fund and their investments in a Fund. Prospective investors should inform themselves as to: (1) the legal requirements within their own jurisdictions for the purchase, holding or disposal of investments; (2) and applicable foreign exchange restrictions; and (3) any income and other taxes which may apply to their purchase, holding and disposal of investments or payments in respect of the investments of the Fund.
This is not a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell interest in our funds, such offers will be made only by distribution of a private placement memorandum and only in compliance with applicable law.
1Please note that the Adviser calculates its assets under management with respect to its overlay strategies based on notional valuations and mandate sizes rather than market valuations. AUM is as of 12/31/2021.