Tuesday, April 4, 2017

BlackRock on the Momentum-Volatility Seesaw

From the BlackRock blog, March 30:

The seesaw relationship of volatility and momentum stocks
Volatility is creeping back into the markets. Russ discusses why that holds some peril for momentum stocks.

After flirting with multiyear lows for most of the first quarter, equity market volatility is starting to stir from its slumber. For most of the first three months the VIX Index, a common measure of equity volatility, traded somewhere between 11 and 13, well below its historical average of 20. At one point in February, the VIX briefly dipped below 10, an extremely rare occurrence.

However, in recent days volatility has been rising as investors become more skeptical on the “Trump reflation” trade. The VIX hit 15 last week, the highest level of the year and a 40% increase from the March bottom. Of course, the VIX is still well below its historical average. But should investors continue to recalibrate the likelihood of fiscal stimulus, one of the main drivers of markets since November is likely to ebb.

Should volatility continue to rise, some segments of the market are more vulnerable than others. While so-called “safe haven” bonds and gold are beneficiaries, particularly if growth expectations continue to moderate, there will also be relative winners and losers within equity markets. One of the more vulnerable segments: momentum stocks.
One up, the other downMomentum stocks, along with the broader equity market, have historically had a negative relationship with volatility. From 1990 to the end of the financial crisis, monthly changes in volatility explained approximately 30% of the monthly variation in momentum returns, with momentum more likely to post negative returns when volatility is rising....MORE