Markets I Trade: January 22, 2019

In my non-registered investment account I am developing my trend following strategy continuously. I don't pretend to have all the answers; I am always exploring and learning and I am sharing that journey with you on this blog.

All I know for sure is that I want every trade to end in three ways: a small loss, a small gain, or a large gain. I predetermine my risk on each trade and aim to make sure that risk is never exceeded.

A big focus of my trading is to expand my access to a broad range of markets while using my investment capital very efficiently. Instead of holding standard positions in ETFs or stocks, I am using LEAPS options and futures contracts.

Options and futures contracts allow me to bet on the upside or on the downside of trends with minimal penalties. They also require a small capital allocation to control a large position. Unlike with common stock or ETFs, options and futures do not require borrowing costs to short an asset.

I try to limit my investing process to liquid markets that have the highest potential for bigger price movements. This generally means using LEAPS options on the largest ETFs and using futures contracts for commodities and currencies.

Thanks to the wide range of choices in the ETF markets and the massive breadth of the futures markets, I can theoretically get easy exposure to hundreds of different assets across the planet.

To monitor each instrument I trade, I look at moving averages and volatility measurements. Although there is no holy grail indicator, looking at these tools can help paint a pretty solid picture of where the markets are going. This can improve the odds of success in trading.

Moving averages help identify the direction of trends and can help show turning points in direction. Using volatility measures makes it easy to size each position based on pre-determined exit points. High volatility markets translate to smaller positions while low volatility markets allow for larger positions.

I also look at breakouts, although I am not using them to enter or exit positions. Breakouts can be very helpful in confirming trends and seeing points of previous resistance.

MSCI Emerging Markets (EEM)

In today's post I will share my analysis on my recent long position in emerging markets. I used out-of-the-money LEAPS call options to execute this trade. I like using options were possible because the level of risk control is unparalleled.

Some time back, I made the comment that emerging markets have been incredibly weak this entire market cycle (since 2009) relative to U.S. stocks. While U.S. stocks raced to new highs and incredible valuations, the emerging markets wiggled around and could barely make a defined move.

Global markets (ex-U.S.) have become "bearish" since a top in January. This is particularly true when priced in the strong U.S. dollar. From the January 2018 peak to the last October 2018 low, an investor was off 25 percent!

In actual fact, emerging markets have gone nowhere since 2007 and are cheaper today than they have been at almost any point in history. When priced in U.S. dollars, emerging markets have a CAPE of 12.5 which is at the 13th percentile of measured CAPE ratios since 1987.

I believe the thesis surrounding a positive future return in emerging markets is sound. However, we know that prices can remain very low for a long time, just like they can be irrationally high for a long time.

Despite this, I have been watching EEM since early 2018 to look for an entry point to make an upside bet with the trend. Last week seemed to be a decent indication of an entry point, so I made this trade.

EEM (Weekly Bar)


Emerging markets is a trade where a lot of things are lining up reasonably well from a technical perspective.

At the end of October, EEM was technically oversold and made its last low. As expected, prices rebounded from that low but failed to jump over the last high point at around $43 in September.

Prices quickly turned down once again, but this time we saw the first higher low since February! Prices touched $38 in December, but did not break through.

Coming into the new year, prices have begun to move high strongly and this is where I took my position. I should point out that this is a contrarian bet against a downtrend, so I would not go "all-in" on a trade like this. It's almost like testing the waters at this stage.

Upside Optimism

  • EEM moved up from a technical oversold period which can indicate a longer term bottom due to seller exhaustion.
  • EEM re-tested lows in December and failed to fall below the October low: the first higher low in nearly a year.
  • The price jumped strongly over the 10-week SMA and is now testing the December interim high and 40-week SMA at $42.
  • Although the upside move has been relatively strong, EEM is far from being overbought.

Upside Caution

  • The price is below the 40-week SMA which is still declining at the moment, indicating a long-term downtrend.
  • Betting on a pivot point (change in direction against the long-term trend) always has more risk than buying into a confirmed uptrend.

EEM (Daily Bar)


This chart shows my entry point (blue) and my current stop level (red). Price volatility seems to be slowing, so my stop should move up slowly with the price if a sustained up-trend materializes.

I entered this trade using out-of-the-money LEAPS call options on the EEM exchange traded fund. EEM options are very liquid. The strike price is $45 on my options.

Comments & Questions

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2 Replies to “Markets I Trade: January 22, 2019”

  1. Interesting – I’ve had my eye on EEM as well.

    So to make sure I understand now – the purpose of your stop level is to, if it is hit, re-sell the option into the secondary market to take advantage of its remaining time value and recoup your spend on the option premium? And you use Keltner Channels to size the stop based on volatility?

    1. Daren (Editor) says:

      Yes, the stop is just to sell the options back into the market and recoup part of my initial purchase cost (the premium). I like using volatility, but it’s not a must. With options the volatility is actually baked into the premium value as well, so underlying positions are sized accordingly.

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