Have you ever thought to yourself “I would love if they could put the downside protection of structured products into an ETF”? Probably not, but someone did, as there is a new category of ETFs, called Buffer ETFs, which are seeing big capital inflows. The ETFs work by guaranteeing only a certain level of losses in exchange for limiting potential gains. The ETFs have a year-long term, and their details change constantly. But a good example would be one with a 9% “buffer”. This means that if the ETF loses 12% in the year, the holder would only see a 3% loss and the product provider would absorb the rest. The first and only provider of these ETFs is called Innovator and has partnered with MSCI, Nasdaq and more to create a handful of exchange traded funds. Check out KOCT, NOCT, EJUL, and IJUL.
FINSUM: These are very tricky ETFs, just like the structured products from which they drew their inspiration. That said, they seem like they have some utility if they are executed properly.
The market has been very up and down lately. 50 bp losses or gains in a day feel pretty standard by now. But all of that may be wreaking havoc on investors’ nerves and portfolios. So what is the best way to hedge against the volatility? Most low volatility funds invest in stocks with a low beta, or those that change little compared to market movements. However, there may be an even better way to go about hedging. AGF has an ETF call BTAL, which not only buys low beta names, but also shorts high beta ones, all in equal weight with equal sector balance. In bouts of volatility, those shorts tend to really help gains in a way that holding long-only positions does not.
FINSUM: This seems like a smart approach that gives a sophisticated level of protection to investors. Worth a look.
Everyone is trying to figure out how to protect their own and clients’ portfolios from a trade war. “Which sectors will be the hardest hit”, “and by how much” are common questions. Well, a small Virginia based ETF provider has just come to the market with a new fund that is designed to protect investors from that very issue. The new ETF, TWAR, is designed to track 120 companies who are likely to outperform the market during a trade war because of “government patronage”, or special contracts or subsidies which insulate them.
FINSUM: There is some skepticism in the market about this approach, but it does stand to reason that companies who are less exposed to global trade will suffer less than the market.
Whenever serious volatility strikes, investors get very nervous and don’t know how to react. One of the big questions is should I stay in the market? The other is which assets should I buy? Surprisingly, there is a fairly simple solution to handle volatility: every time the market moves wildly, hedge your portfolio with cash and/or options. When the markets calm down, unwind the hedge. Returns on stocks have actually been historically strongest during periods of low volatility (not the opposite).
FINSUM: The most interesting aspect here is that studies show that market returns have been highest in low volatility periods. Many people think that you have to stay in the market during volatile periods to make great returns, but that is simply not the case.
The end of the bull market could be near, and with that in mind (and really any time), it is a good idea to have a preparation plan in mind. Markets have risen sharply this year, and are back near their peak from 2018, explaining why hedging activity is growing. So how to hedge? Defensive sectors and bond markets are popular, but what about things like options and the VIX? Well, that latter has been diminishing in popularity recently, as the CBOE’s VIX did not respond to Q4’s volatility the way many expected. This has led to claims the market is fixed, and in any case, it has not performed well as an S&P 500 hedge. That leaves S&P 500 hedges themselves, such as 30-day SPX put options.
FINSUM: If you understand and are comfortable with options, use them. If you don’t, stay away and stick to sector and asset class-based hedging.