Let’s say you saw the credit crisis coming, and wanted to short the financials.
You see two different securities that you are interested, XLF and SKF. XLF is an index that covers many of the financial companies, and SKF is an index designed to give twice the inverse return of XLF. You think about shorting XLF, but you want more return for your future predicting powers, so you buy SKF instead expecting to get double the performance. Over three months, which return is better?
The chart above shows XLF vs. SKF over a three month period ending Nov 14, 2008.
This is the problem with the new world of leveraged ETFs. The profile states “The investment seeks daily investment results, before fees and expenses, which correspond to twice the inverse of the daily performance of the Dow Jones U.S. Financials index.” But what it does not say is that it is only accurate at certain times. Looking at the chart, it seems that huge moves short for XLF were accurately captured by SKF (Oct 4 – Oct 10), but long moves by XLF proved to be overcompensated to the downside by SKF (i.e. Oct 10 – Oct 15 and Oct 23 – Nov 3).
Moreover, over time, for reasons not explicit to the end user, the SKF index does not continue to hold the NAV over time. Thus instead of getting the inverse result, the investor only gets the inverse result “for a short duration of time” before the index falls apart again on a bear (XLF bull move) move and waits for the next XLF short surge.
For a retail investor like myself, this is disheartening. I am not sure that I have ever seen the disclaimer for this poor correlation in the index. At least their should be some standard of correlation or grading system that should be applied to all indexes that use leveraging techniques.
On the other hand, better to just keep playing than crying about the rules of the game. In any case, I plan to use this information to my advantage. As of Nov 22, SKF is now trading at $280 after one of the biggest drops in NYSE history. Will it continue? Well, even if this is the onset of the Greater Depression, the XLF index can only go to zero folks. And the market NEVER goes straight down. Thus a purchase of SKF puts based on the observations mentioned here will most definitely yield a large return as the index swap agreements are rolled over and the bounce commenses.
Transparency: The author bought JAN 09 $80 SKF PUTS at $2.4 / contract and similar positions at similar strikes and prices and closed the JAN 09 $80 SKF puts at an average of $2.85 yielding a 19% gain.