Published December 17, 2012
Welcome back to Wall Street run by Capitol Hill. For traders and investors that are often frustrated by the intersection of Capitol Hill and Wall Street, the last two weeks of 2012 could offer up frustration in heaping doses.
Traditionally, this is a sluggish time of the year, but with the fiscal still far from being resolved, volatility could rise and quell any hopes for a Santa Claus rally in the process. President Obama and House Speaker Boehner have been diligently meeting, trying to find a solution for the fiscal cliff. Boehner has shown some willingness to support tax increases...if those increases apply to those earning more than $1 million year.
The White House wants taxes to rise for households with more than $250,000 in annual income. That is to say the two sides are still far apart and that it is hard to envision a cliff resolution being reached anytime in the next day or two. With all that in mind, here are some of the ETFs that will be in play this week.
PowerShares QQQ (QQQ) An obvious play to be sure, but even when the market is closed, Apple (AAPL) has a find way of making headlines. That is relevant because the iPad maker accounts for 16 percent of QQQ's weight. Over the weekend, Apple was the subject of some positive and negative headlines. Citigroup downgraded its rating on the stock to Neutral from Buy and lowered its price target to $575 from $675.
Then there was news that Apple sold more than 2 million iPhone 5 units this weekend in the smartphone's China debut. Which one of these headlines is more important will be decided today. This much is clear, Apple and by virtue, QQQ, need all the help they can get. The stock is down more than 26 percent in the past 90 days.
ProShares UltraShort Yen (YCS) Currency traders, at least those that are short the yen, got the result they were looking for out of Japan's elections. Shizno Abe will again become the country's prime minister and his Liberal Democratic Party took a large majority of the seats in Japan's lower house of parliament.
Abe's campaign rhetoric regarding a weaker yen puts the spotlight on YCS as a good short-term trade. Just remember that Japan's upper house of parliament holds elections in seven months so Abe must act fast to weaken the yen, meaning YCS is a trade, not an investment.
SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (JNK) It seems the chorus singing about a junk bond bubble is growing a bit louder with each passing week and there are some nascent signs that there could be trouble ahead of JNK and other junk bond ETFs.
Then there has been incessant talk about outflows from JNK and rival funds. That does not explain how JNK had $11.8 billion in assets under management in mid-November and now has over $12.6 billion.
Heading into 2013, there are competing outlooks on higher-yield bonds. On one hand, Citibank say high-yield bonds as a group could return seven percent next year. On the other hand, FridsonVision notes the average junk bond spread over Treasuries should measure 682 basis points, far above its actual current level of 527 basis points, Barron's reported.
What that says is investors are not being adequately compensated for the risk of investing in the likes of JNK in the first place. How long those investors are willing to deal with that scenario will determine for how much longer JNK remains durable.
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