Results W6: predicting the sell-off
5/6 predicted in the right direction. Also, what happened with SVB?
New survey is up & running - click here.
Back to our best in terms of accuracy, with precision lowered due to a large sell-off
The Thursday and Friday SVB-related panic selling made a great return for the directional strategies (holding puts), even though the precision strategies were off
What happened with Silicon Valley Bank? A bank run, plus sensitivity to interest rate risk. Read it all below 👇
The CPI report came at 6% y-o-y inflation (+0.4% in Feb) today, in line with expectations. More economic data to follow this week.
The 2023 Q1 competition is now open for its seventh week. Three more weeks to go before the end of the quarter, and things are still heated in our leaderboard. The margins are still tight, even though the top 5 is stabilizing. Keep it up everyone and good luck!
As you know, the competition has changed a bit (read about all the new features here) to give you all a greater chance of getting rewarded, both quarterly and at the end of each year by participating in our annual profits.
The survey is here:
For all those new to the whole thing, watch this quick video guiding you through the survey, showing you all its features, and briefly explaining how the competition works:
Watch more on our YouTube channel. Thanks for participating, and keep having fun!
Last week’s performance
After a surprising mini-rally on the Friday of the previous week, last week could be characterized as one with an orderly sell-off. A higher Monday open was reversed by the end of day, followed by similar price action on Tuesday and Wednesday. And then on Thursday the sell-off began after news of a bank run on the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The bank failed on Friday and had to be taken over by FDIC to ensure protection of depositors (which they did, over the weekend).
What happened with SVB?
Usually, when a bank fails, it fails due to credit risk. They give out bad loans or make bad business/investment decisions (like filling up balance sheets with triple-AAA rated but in reality high risk and close to defaulting MBSs and CDOs prior to 2008). This time, however, it wasn’t the credit risk, it was interest rate risk.
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), like all banks, holds a large portion of low-risk US Treasury bonds in its portfolio. As it should, and as encouraged by the regulators. These are considered to be assets with zero risk of default (they default in case the US government defaults which never happens - or at least has an extremely low probability of happening), meaning that banks can maintain a good capital adequacy ratio when holding such assets, whilst maintaining at least some return. Keep in mind that over the past 10 years of low interest rates, bonds were the low performing asset, as yields were suppressed to an average 1-2% (depending on duration). So holding government bonds was basically a risk-mitigating strategy.
However, as you know, 2022 was a bad year for bonds. High inflation meant that investors were massively selling bonds, pushing their yields up to over 5% on the 2-Year T-Bill and over 4% on the 10-Year (remember, bond yields and prices are inverted, because you calculate current yield by dividing the coupon rate, which is fixed, with the current price of a bond, determined by supply and demand). No one wants to hold bonds yielding a few percent return with inflation closing in to double digits. Hence the sell-off of bonds. On average bond portfolios were down between 10% to 15% last year, and this rout continued into 2023.
Now, this isn’t a problem if you hold these bonds to maturity, as you then get paid back the full principal plus interest. But, if you are forced to sell them prior to maturity, you may sell them at a lower price. This is exactly what happened.
SVB experienced a classic run on the bank. Its depositors wanted to withdraw money en masse, which forced the bank to sell its bond portfolios at a loss. As more depositors were flocking in after the word quickly got out that the bank is experiencing liquidity issues, the bank was soon facing an insolvency issue, and the government had to step in and shut it down on Friday.
SVB is (was) a specific bank. Its niche customers were start-ups and VC funds backing these start-ups. And most of these start-ups aren’t really selling enough (or any) products to keep them operational. They need VC money to keep their runways (the amount of money needed to continue making payroll and covering opex). Most of this money was parked on SVB bank accounts (and accounts of similar banks supporting fintech and crypto start-ups like the bank Silvergate or Signature bank, another bank that went under this week). So in the wake of the 2022 tech rout - hurt most by rising interest rates - and continued layoffs in the tech space from even the biggest tech companies, it’s easy to see how many start-ups at once were desperate to pull out their cash and use it to fund their operations. As more and more piled in, the bank was running out of options. This spiral is now threatening to send the whole ecosystem down.
So that’s what was going on last week. The SPX chart above doesn’t fully capture the impact of these events. To see it more clearly, have a look at the VIX last week. It went from below 20 to over 30 in two days. Now that’s what a proper panic indicator looks like.
The market started to price in a recession quickly, as was exemplified by the rapid change in expectations of the Fed cutting interest rates already by the end of this year. At the start of last week, after Powell’s Congress testimony, markets were pricing in 5.6% rates by the end of 2023. On Monday, the expectation was 3.9% by the end of 2023. How’s that for a quick reaction?
How’d we do?
Excellent! Our predictions were almost all in the right direction:
This was a week where despite missing out on 2% precision, we were protected by a strong directional move down, making sure our put profits more than compensated the condor losses. Also the VIX was a huge underestimation, but being long VIX (i.e. its EFT, UVXY) meant that the underestimation was hardly the issue here.
Interestingly, notice the miss on the 10Y T-bill. It came as a consequence of investors buying more into bonds and depressing their yields. Why? This is the market pricing in an upcoming recession. As I’ve stated above, expectations of interest rates went down from 5.6% to 3.9% in a few days. The 2-year T-Bill typically closely follows the Fed funds rate, as it too went down from over 5% to 4% this week.
On top of all this, the CPI report came in today with monthly inflation for February up by 0.4%, and annual inflation now at 6% (as was the consensus prediction). There is more economic data coming up this week as all of this puts the Fed in a really tight spot: keep interest rates higher for longer to suppress inflation while adding to industry-wide interest rate risk, or start cutting interest rates to prevent banking contagion, but risk inflation resurfacing once again. A tough decision indeed. We will be watching closely!
…join the $20,000 competition!
Join our survey competition to get an opportunity to participate in our quarterly ($5000) and annual (3% of our profits) prize distributions:
DISCLAIMER: Neither the survey nor any of the contents of this website can act as investment advice of any kind. The results of the survey need not correspond to actual market preferences or trends, so they should be interpreted with caution. Oraclum Capital, LLC (Henceforth ORCA) is a management company responsible for running the ORCA BASON Fund, LP, and for organizing a survey competition each week, where it invites the subscribers to its newsletter (this website) to participate in an ongoing prediction competition. The information presented on this website and through the survey competition should under no circumstances be used to solicit any investment advice, nor is it allowed to be of commercial use to any of its readers. The survey and this website contain no information that a user may use as financial or investment advice. All rights reserved. Oraclum Capital LLC.
And, as always, don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter!