The CBOE’s Volatility Index is one of those things people don’t pay much attention to until they have to.
The VIX moves along at a rather constant tempo when greed is good, and then, suddenly, the VIX pops up as fear takes over the market. It usually goes up at crisis fever, from war, or rumors of war. Or plague, as the case may be.
By then, of course, it’s too late.
Or is it?
The market has already dipped.
Truly, the only fool-proof indicator of a good time to buy the market, in my opinion, is when the VIX blows upward, like it has the past few days.
It won’t predict the bottom of the market, but it doesn’t have to. It just has to provide a credible entry point, or points.
Take 2008 for example.
While top of the VIX on November 20, 2008 — 80.86 — didn’t call the exact bottom of the market — the bottom was formed four months later — it was close enough to be the same thing.
The printed low on the S&P 500 — November 20, 2008 — was 747.78.
That’s about 100 points away from the low put in March of 2009. While that seems like a lot, you would have been money good by May of 2009 if you had bought the S&P500 at the top of the VIX on November 20 2008.
But there are other reasons why I like the market right now.
In September 2001 the VIX made only the most modest of moves after 9/11 to around 35.
The big difference between then and now is the S&P 500 was trading at 26.5 times earnings back then, while today the S&P trades at about 21.7 times 2020 earnings estimates.
Ask yourself if the Wuhan flu panic is more or less significant geopolitically, economically or trade-wise as 9/11 was to the US and to the world.
While I think the Wuhan flu is a tipping point for relations between Beijing and the rest of the world, in the near-term and long term, I think it will have mild financial significance.
Politicians in the US — including unelected Federal Reserve bankers—are going to do everything they can in an election year to goose the economy: a payroll tax holiday, artificially low interest rates — gasp — QE; They’ll bring out everything we’ve grown accustomed to guild this lily.
And maybe some new things too.
That’s not a policy argument that they should do it, it’s just stating a fact that they will do it.
Structurally the economy is sound with some slack still in the labor force to provide growth even as the official unemployment rate remains low.
The odds of a trade war with China are low, as both sides want to minimize friction.
Agricultural products should be in demand in China even if they are miffed at the US.
China lost 40-60 percent of its hogs last year to swine flu, which, coincidentally or not, is also a type of corona virus. Bird flu is starting to hit China hard, but unevenly. However, chickens have been slaughtered because of lack of labor or feed contamination-- both a result of the Wuhan flu.
While previous concessions on the importation of chicken, beef and pork to China were hard-won, the Chinese can’t feed their own people without the help of the American farmer right now.
That may change by 2021.
But for this year, buy the dip.
John Ransom, founder of SanctionChina.com, is politics and economics writer/editor with offices in Washington DC, Singapore. You can find him on Facebook @ here and here.
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