By Shawn Langlois, MarketWatch
It’s been a good year for Seth Golden. Not 2017 good, but still, the former Target /zigman2/quotes/207799045/composite TGT +0.22% manager, whose success story went viral a year ago, claims he’s up about 24% since the beginning of 2018. That’s a far cry from last year, when he nearly doubled his portfolio, and before that, when he reportedly turned $500,000 into $12 million over a stellar five-year stretch.
So, yes, 24%... just OK.
Meanwhile, the Dow is up about 3% this year, the S&P 500 5.5%.
And Golden’s 24% gain looks even better in light of the nosebleed spike in the “fear gauge” /zigman2/quotes/210598281/delayed VIX -4.60% back in February that completely blew up traders who’d grown complacent — and rich — by shorting vehicles like the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN /zigman2/quotes/202248173/composite VXX +0.70% .
Golden, now the chief market strategist for the Finom Group, was one of those guys. However, he seems to have weathered last winter’s volatility storm better than most, considering that, at the depths of the thrashing, his portfolio was only down about 32%. And that’s just on paper.
Bad, but survivable.
“I took a hit, though it could have been much worse,” he told MarketWatch. “At that time, I had limited my exposure down to about 12% or 13%, so I looked at it as more of an opportunity and started building positions into the spike.”
Here’s how he lays out his general strategy, which, aside from a few gut-checks, has clearly been a winner in this relentless bull market.
1. Allocate 20% of investable capital to short VIX-ETPS, namely UVXY <PHRASE TYPE="COMPANY" SIGNIFICANCE="PASSING-MENTION"> <SYMBOL COUNTRY="US" TICKER="UVXY"></SYMBOL> </PHRASE> , TVIX <PHRASE TYPE="COMPANY" SIGNIFICANCE="PASSING-MENTION"> <SYMBOL COUNTRY="US" TICKER="TVIX"></SYMBOL> </PHRASE> and VXX. This is an established core position built over time.
2. Maintain a high cash balance which provides roughly 200% liquidity daily
3. Trade around my core position daily/weekly, scalping short-VOL opportunities when presented in order to compound annual returns
4. Maintain core short-VOL positions until they reach a 90%+ profit profile if the market environment remains optimal to do so
5. Participate in a fashion that permits trading my positions during all trading hours available inclusive of pre-market and after hours trading
6. Scale larger core allocation into VIX events of consequence
Golden learned from a brutal 60% drawdown in 2015 not to get too carried away with going all in on a single outcome. But the occasional beatdown hasn’t changed his investment style, even in a climate that’s feels ready for a shake-up.
“If you believe in the longevity of the market, you have to believe in complacency,” Golden explained. “You have to believe that the optimal way to participate in the volatility trade is to be short.”
But there are certainly some “what ifs” to be mindful of in the coming months. Specifically, he’s talking about the impact of the potential tariffs, any indictments and fallout from the Robert Mueller probe, and the Federal Reserve rate hikes that could lead to inversion and fears of a recession.
Golden calls them “the three-headed horseman,” and any one of them — or, even worse, all three together — could spark another wrenching volatility event and derail his bullish outlook.
“That would portend quite badly for the market,” he said, adding that he still believes in his S&P /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.54% target of up to 2,950. “Anything can happen, so I leave extra liquidity in place.” He says his volatility exposure is at about 15%, below his norm and down from a high of 70% in September of 2015.
The VIX has been on a climb in recent session, hitting highs not seen in weeks. If history is any indication, there could be more of the same in August, when volume is thin and traders are on vacation. In fact, the coming month has been the most volatile over the past two decades, according to Bloomberg .
Regardless of whether the worst-case scenario unfolds and sets off a mass market exodus, Golden says he will stick to his “long against the box volatility.”
No worries in Tuesday’s session so far, the Dow /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.02% is up triple digits while the S&P and Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -1.40% are faring even better.