Barron's picks up "Selloff Reawakens Market Volatility"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 | 01:29 PM
in Media



After last week's RR&A Market Letter on Volatility, I noticed that Barron's Up and Down Wall Street Daily asked the precise question we addressed: Was That the Big One, or Just a Prelude?

So I emailed Randall Forsyth about our analysis ("Selloff Reawakens Market Volatility"), and Up and Down Wall Street picked up the piece. Here's the excerpt they ran (along with some exceedingly kind words about TBP):

"WAS THAT THE BIG ONE, or just a prelude? To that question -- posed here following last Tuesday's 400-point hit to the Dow -- the answer is the latter, if historical trading patterns hold.

So says Barry Ritholtz, chief market strategist of the eponymously named Ritholtz Research & Analytics. (In his spare time, he also pens The Big Picture, a must-read blog at, and is a regular guest on financial television, where he tries to provide a counterweight of rationality to the typical ravings heard there.)

"When we see these -3% days, especially after a long stretch of low volatility, it typically means volatility has returned with a vengeance. We should expect to see both higher AND lower prices," he writes in an e-mail.

"Consider 1997: From Oct. 16 to Oct. 24, the market suffered three single days where prices were down between 2.5% to 3%. The next trading day (Oct. 27), the Nasdaq dropped about 100 points (-6.2%). The day after saw a gap down of another 75 points, but then the market rallied, closing up over 9%! Some more upward progress was followed by an 11% setback. The washed-out markets set up a 30% rally by April 1998.

"A similar pattern occurred in 1998. April 6 and 7 saw 1.7% and 2% drops, respectively, followed by oversold conditions, leading to a 10-day rally of about 7%. That set up some wild market swings over the next six months: a 10.7% selloff, an 18.2% rally, a 27.2% selloff. From there, we saw a near 20% snapback, leading to a 23.6% correction, and by Oct. 8, 1998, the markets had erased the gains for the entire year and then some. The deeply oversold conditions led to a rally that was up about 60% by the end of 1998, and tagged an 86.7% gain on by Feb. 1, 1999.

"December 1999 and January 2000 saw several 3% down days. The market peaked on March 10, and two days later suffered a 6% (peak-to-trough intraday) whack. The next day was another hit of near 4%. These moves set 2000 up for what would turn out to be one of the wildest years in market history. From that March peak to the beginning of April, the Nasdaq dropped 29%. A 22% bounce by April 10 was followed by a 27% drop, a 23% gain and a 23% selloff. And that was all before May was over!

"From the lows in May, the Nasdaq subsequently rallied 41% by mid-July. Between then and Sept. 1, the 'Nazz' dropped 17.9% and rallied 21.0%. From September to December, the Nasdaq markets then dropped over 40%, to just about 2,300.

"Here we are nearly seven years later, and the Nasdaq is less than 100 points above the levels of December 2000 -- but that's another story entirely...."

So, what's ahead? More volatility, as in those previous episodes, which usually follows a drop after a period of subdued volatility, says Ritholtz. The markets also typically attempt to revisit their old highs as psychology is "balanced between complacency and denial," but fail to do so.

Ultimately, deeply oversold conditions create great entry points as markets get oversold, Ritholtz says. But that means breaking below 200-day moving averages, which for the Nasdaq Composite is about 100 points under Monday's close of 2340.68. In other words, considerably lower."

Forsyth looks at various ways to "cushion those bumps ahead." Given how tightly correlated "nearly every major asset class" has become, its increasingly difficult to find assets that are negatively correlated. The lockstep exists in Foreign stocks (the MSCI EAFE), small-caps (the Russell 2000), even real estate, even gold and commodities. Given the difficulty in finding higher returns with less risk, its no wonder that hedge fund returns have been disappointing.

Amongst the few asset classes negatively correlated with stocks are bonds, T-bills, and cash. Citing research from Merrill Lynch chief strategist Richard Bernstein (and associate Kari Pinkernell), for the short-term, "cash remains the cheapest asset class around with a 5%-plus yield. And the safest."


Fasten Your Seatbelts, It's Going to Be a Bumpy Ride
Barron's, March 6, 2007 7:04 a.m.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 | 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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How do Munis match up on risk? They seem to be weathering the volatility as well as T-bills and their after-tax yields are very respectable.

Am I deluding myself as to their safety?

(I own NMZ and MIY)

Posted by: Grodge | Mar 6, 2007 2:18:30 PM

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