Category Archives: Rydex

Fidelity Takes on State Street

Reading List for Monday, Jan. 7:

Fidelity’s new push into ETFs means it’s getting into the ring with cross-town rival State Street Global Advisors. The Boston Herald says Fidelity “is getting less and less business from investment advisers because it used to be that an investment adviser would pick a basket of mutual funds and Fidelity would be 30 percent or 40 percent of them.”

Wall Street Sector Selector does some technical analysis on the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and concludes “U.S. stocks and ETFs now face a moment of truth after the recent powerful rally.  Technical resistance and fundamental headwinds persist along with ongoing political uncertainty. “

Ari Weinberg explains in WSJ.com how ETFs lend out their securities for some extra cash. International securities regulators are in a tizzy over how this could cause potential disruptions in the market. But ETFs in the U.S. are much more stable than the derivative-based ETFs in Europe, so it’s not much of a concern on this side of the pond.

It’s Not the Heat; It’s the Liquidity

It’s not the heat, it’s the liquidity, says Nouriel Roubini on why Italy’s days in the eurozone are numbered.

Even as stocks and Italian bonds posted a recovery after Wednesday’s surge in Italian yields, Roubini, better known as Dr. Doom, said in the Financial Times, the only way to avert “the upcoming disaster is “if the ECB became an unlimited lender of last resort and cut policy rates to zero”, combined with the euro’s value falling to even with the dollar, “fiscal stimulus in Germany” and the deflation in the eurozone’s. Since the ECB can’t do that without rewriting the eurozone treaties, it doesn’t really matter that the other four are basically impossible as well. More to the point, even if Italy isn’t insolvent, the lack of liquidity in its system could be just as fatal.

Meanwhile, an extremely cute economist named Megan Greene agrees with Roubini. Greene has been waiting for the eurozone to go “into full meltdown mode” for months. She says “the only possible way Italy could regain market confidence at this point is if it swiftly implemented a package of austerity and structural reforms under a government with cross-party consensus and a strong, respectable leader, and this package immediately yielded results. This is nearly impossible.” Of course, being cute has nothing to do with it. She writes a blog called Euro area debt crisis. I’m going to assume that if your blog title is that specific, you’ve got a pretty good read on the situation. My favorite tab on the blog is “Beyond the Pigs.” It lends itself to so many interpretations.

Roubini says Italy, and the next bailout in line, Spain, are “too-big-to-fail but also too-big-to-save,” and will need a restructuring of 1.9 trillion euros of public debt. However, the European financial stability facility has already committed half of its resources to Greece, Ireland and Portugal, leaving just 200 billion euros for Italy and Spain. Efforts to leverage that 200 billion euros to 2 trillion, “is a turkey that will not fly, because the original EFSF was already a giant collateralized debt obligation, where a bunch of dodgy, sub-triple-A sovereigns try to achieve, by miracle, a triple-A rating via bilateral guarantees.” He calls it another “a giant sub-prime CDO scam.”

Still Wall Street isn’t going down easy. After Italy passed an austerity measure, the S&P 500 jumped 2% to 1264 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 2.2% to 12158. The yield on Italy’s benchmark bonds fell to 5.69%.

The rebound was so strong that some of the ETFs that tumbled on Wednesday are now trading above Tuesday’s close. These include the PowerShares DB Italian Treasury Bond Futures ETN (ITLY) up 3% to $18.25 and the PowerShares DB 3x Italian Treasury Bond Futures ETN (ITLT) up 10% to $14.29. These ETNs measure the performance of a long position in Euro-BTP futures, whose underlying assets are Italian government debt with an original term of no longer than 16 years. The ITLT ETN provides leveraged exposure three times greater than the unleveraged bonds.

Meanwhile, while not above the Nov. 8, close, these still made a nice recovery. The iShares MSCI Italy Index Fund (EWI), which tracks about 85% of the Italian equity market, gained 4% to $13.24 and the CurrencyShares Euro Trust (FXE), which offers U.S. investors a way to bet on the euro without trading on the foreign exchange markets, climbed back to $137.

Stocks, ETFs Plunge as Italian Bonds Top 7%

If you had any hopes that Europe would get its act together and come up with a reasonable plan to deal with its debt crisis, I think it’s time to give the points to the cynics.

Italian bond yields spiked to 7.25% today on fears that Italy has replaced Greece as the next flash point in the European debt crisis. People were hoping Italy would be able to institute some austerity measures if Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped down. However, news that Berlusconi had pledged to resign, and his insistence on elections instead of an interim government, instead sent markets reeling.

With Italian bonds hitting an all-time high since the euro’s 1999 introduction, they reached the same level that forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek bailouts. This sent U.S. stocks plunging. The S&P 500 Index tumbled 47 points, or 3.7% to 1229.

The evaporation of investor confidence was clear by the movement of ETFs that track the Italian bond and equity markets. The PowerShares DB Italian Treasury Bond Futures ETN (ITLY) fell 3% to a new low of $17.38 and the PowerShares DB 3x Italian Treasury Bond Futures ETN (ITLT) sank 10.3% to $12.37. These ETNs measure the performance of a long position in Euro-BTP futures, whose underlying assets are Italian government debt with an original term of no longer than 16 years. The ITLT ETN provides leveraged exposure three times greater than the unleveraged bonds. They have expense ratios of 0.5% and 0.95% respectively. If you’re looking for a good way to short the Italian bond market, these offer a good proxy. Just be aware, the ETNs are unsecured debt notes subjected to Deutsche Bank’s credit risk.

After months of failed plans, it’s become apparent that the European politicians are unable to make the hard choices to avert a disaster and that this has all been a huge shell game to push the problem forward without actually doing anything. I think it’s time for people to get out of U.S. stocks. We’re in for another hard landing.

Other ways to take advantage of the clustercuss that I fear will soon envelope Europe are the iShares MSCI Italy Index Fund (EWI), which tracks about 85% of the Italian equity market, and the CurrencyShares Euro Trust (FXE), which offers U.S. investors a way to bet on the euro without trading on the foreign exchange markets. The MSCI Italy fund, which charges 0.54%, plummeted 9.4% to $12.30, while the Euro Trust, which charges 0.4%, fell 2% to $135.03.

With Berlusconi demanding new elections, he effectively leaves Italy leaderless at the depths of the crisis, bringing the country close to a breaking point.

Meanwhile, late Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou did officially quit, without naming a successor.

It’s hard to see things getting better soon. The market’s recent bounce gave most people an opportunity to get out of the market with some profits. I think it’s a good time to go to cash.

Rydex to be Part of Guggenheim by Year End

Last night at the Seeking Alpha cocktail party in Tribeca, I spoke with some staff members at Guggenheim Funds. First reported on this blog in December, it appears that Guggenheim Partners, the parent company, is still involved in talks to combine the former Claymore Funds, renamed Guggenheim Funds, with Rydex, another ETF company it bought last year. The staffers say Rydex should be made part of Guggenheim funds by the end of the year.

RGI Gives an Industrial-Strength Performance

Rydex S&P 500 Equal Weight Industrials ETF (RGI) offers investors an uncommon, but potentially lucrative, way to diversify their exposure to the stocks of large and midsize industrial companies.

This exchange-traded fund tracks the industrial sector of Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index. But instead of weighting the stocks by their market capitalizations, the approach used in most indexes, the Rydex fund assigns each stock an equal weighting.

In traditional market-cap-weighted benchmarks, large companies are much more influential than small firms. For example, the five biggest S&P industrials account for 32% of the index, with General Electric alone representing 11%. In the Rydex ETF, each stock counts for about 1.8%. The effect is to give smaller companies, such as Cintas and Masco, as much weight as Goliaths such as GE.

So far, Rydex’s approach has paid off. From the ETF’s November 2006 launch through May 6, it gained 6.2% annualized. That compares with 3.9% annualized for the Dow Jones industrial average and 5.2% for the market-cap-weighted S&P industrials. (The fund charges 0.50% in annual expenses.) And with manufacturing output having jumped at an annual rate of 9.1% in the first quarter of 2011, industrial stocks look appealing.

Big moves in individual stocks can throw an equal-weighted index out of whack. Rydex seeks to keep positions close by rebalancing its holdings quarterly.

For the full story with chart go to Kiplinger.com.

Quake Shakes Japan, Nuclear ETFs

Fears over the impact Friday’s earthquake and tsunami will have on Japan’s economy sent the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average plunging 6.2% in its first day of trading since the 9.0-magnitude quake struck. This led U.S. investors to sell stocks. At Monday’s close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average recovered from its lows, to post a decline of 0.43% to 11993 and the S&P 500 slid 0.54% to 1296.

Here’s a brief look at how ETFs affected by the crisis reacted on Monday The iShares MSCI Japan Index Fund (EWJ) sank 7% to $10.05. The WisdomTree Japan Total Dividend ETF (DXJ) tumbled 7% to $35.620. The Rydex CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (FXY) advanced 0.26% to $120.92.

Meanwhile, the trouble at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex sent fears rippling through the U.S. nuclear industry. Officials said an explosion occured at the site’s Unit 3 reactor, while the fuel rods at the Unit 2 were fully exposed, causing fears of a nuclear meltdown at the reactor. PowerShares Global Nuclear Energy Portfolio (PKN) plunged 11% to $18.97 and the Market Vectors Uranium + Nuclear Energy ETF (NLR) plummeted 12% to $22.46.

UPDATE: Tuesday 12:09 am. The New York Times has reported the Nikkei index has plunged 13% on worries about the radiation fallout from a potential nuclear disaster. It looks like Tuesday will be a clustercuss.

Will Rydex Brand Disappear?

Rumors are floating around that Guggenheim Partners is in serious discussions about merging the Rydex ETF family with the Claymore ETF family under the brandname of Guggenheim Funds.

On December 23, I was scheduled to have a lunch meeting with Steve Baffico, who oversees the retail business including distribution, strategy, marketing, investment product development, and strategic initiatives for Guggenheim Funds, which is the new name for the ETF firm formerly known as Claymore Securities.

After cancelling a lunch in mid December, we had rescheduled for the day before the Christmas Eve. The PR guy confirmed the reservation the afternoon before. Around 11 am, the PR guy cancelled the lunch and said Baffico had been called into a last minute, emergency, all-day meeting.

Now really, what kind of company calls a last minute, all-day meeting the day before Christmas break? Pretty suspicious. I made a few calls and sources said Guggenheim Partners was holding a meeting to discuss merging the Rydex and Claymore families into one. Made a few more calls and found out Rydex had held a similar meeting earlier in the week.

No one is willing to go on the record to confirm the merger story, but expect to hear news of the merger in January.