Saturday, November 02, 2019

October 2019 Report

This month we "inverted" our mortgage, paying off the mortgage and then redrawing it for investment purposes. As a result the mortgage interest should now be tax deductible. I carried out quite a lot of trades and money shuffling to carry this out.

The Australian stockmarket fell a bit in October and the Australian Dollar rose, but overseas markets rose. The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6752 to USD 0.6894. The MSCI World Index rose 2.76% and the S&P 500 2.17%. The ASX 200 fell 0.35%. All these are total returns including dividends. We lost 0.20% in Australian Dollar terms but gained 1.90% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio lost 1.03% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to have gained 0.83% in US Dollar terms. So, we out-performed our target portfolio, the HFRI, and the ASX, while underperforming compared to the MSCI World Index and the S&P 500 (a bit). Updating the monthly AUD returns chart:

Hmmm... It is looking like my performance is an average of the MSCI and the target portfolio in recent months.

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):

Private equity, real estate, and gold did well while hedge funds and futures did poorly. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from private equity and greatest detractors were futures and hedge funds. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Pengana Private Equity and Bluesky Alternatives did very well, gaining AUD 8.7k and AUD 10k, respectively. Hearts and Minds gained AUD 5.3k.
  • Gold gained (AUD 7.3k).
What really didn't work:
  • Winton Global Alpha lost significantly, reversing recent gains.
  • Pershing Square, Cadence Capital, and Tribeca Natural Resources all lost money.
Trading: We started the month closing a winning trade in Bitcoin, but then there were six losing trades in a row before a winner. We also lost money trading palladium. Using a narrower definition including only futures and CFDs we lost 0.96% on capital used in trading. Including ETFs we gained 0.89%. Using the narrow definition, we are now behind where we were at this point last year. This graph shows cumulative trading gains using the broader definition year to date:

Using this definition we are still ahead of where we were at this time last year.

We moved further towards our new long-run asset allocation.

The table shows how leverage increased this month as we moved the mortgage into the investment portfolio. Cash and bonds fell and all other asset classes increased their shares.

On a regular basis, we invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Other moves this month:
  • USD 21K of Kraft-Heinz bonds were called early and we didn't buy any new bonds So, our direct bond holdings declined by USD 21k.
  • We traded at a small loss, as discussed above.
  • I sold 100k of Domacom (DCL.AX), 40k of Tribeca Global Natural Resources (TGF.AX), and 79k of Cadence Capital (CDM.AX) shares to harvest tax losses and obtain cash for the mortgage inversion. I subsequently bought back 40k of Tribeca and 80k of Cadence. I now have the funds which are marginable and/or are likely to pay large franking credits in my account and the non-marginable funds, which mostly also are likely to pay out fewer franking credits in Snork Maiden's account. As franking credits are applied to the tax bill it doesn't actually matter which account they are in, but I like to see my larger tax bill cut more :) I have a margin account with Commonwealth Securities, while Interactive Brokers don't offer margin loans to Australian customers.
  • I bought 20k shares of Hearts and Minds (HM1.AX) before the upcoming annual Sohn Conference. The fund is currently winding down the investments in the stocks recommended at the last conference and will invest in new recommendations following this year's conference. The share price is very close to NAV and I think following the conference there could be a boost in price. The fund has done very well since inception.
  • I went to Regal Fund's presentation here and was impressed and bought 20k more shares of RF1.AX.
  • I sold 50k of Pengana Private Equity (PE1.AX) shares because the price seemed unsustainably high but then bought back 50k at lower prices. This is not looking like a good move given the tax implications
  • We bought AUD 40k of Australian Dollars.
  • We moved around AUD 1/4 million to our offset account and paid off the mortgage. We then redrew AUD 1/2 million and sent it to my CommSec account and Moominmama's Interactive Brokers account. This reduced my margin loan a lot and increased the cash in her account a lot. The latter is deemed to be "futures" in the pie chart above. Cash in our offset account fell to AUD 40k.

Passed-in at Auction

There was an auction today for the house next door to us. It is almost identical though it is in better condition inside (our house will probably need AUD10-20k of refurbishment to put on the market I reckon). It doesn't have as good views/surroundings. The highest bid was AUD 690k from a bidder in another state on the phone and it passed in. Unless there was a post-auction negotiation, I guess we will see it on the market next week at a fixed price. Next week we should also hear from HSBC on how much their valuer values our house at.

P.S. 7 November 
This house is now for sale at $829,500. In the meantime, the bank's valuer valued our house at $850,000. I guess they want to sell fast.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Mortgage Refinancing: Reality Check

I met today with a "Premier Relationship Manager" at HSBC. We are going ahead with the mortgage refinancing. They will send a valuer to value our house tomorrow...

So, she first checked whether I could service the loan based on the data I submitted. Based on just my salary of AUD 176k per year and our spending and a AUD 500k loan the answer was no. Given my salary is supposedly in the top 5% or higher, our house value is only a bit above the median price for houses here, and lots of people drive luxury cars etc. and we don't, you'd think this wouldn't be a problem. She said our spending was "very high". Either government income data is too low (but the banks ask for tax returns), or people somehow hide spending from the banks (but the banks ask for bank statements), or what? It's hard to reconcile what I see with the data.

Our net worth is in the top 300,000 or so of households and my income in the top 400,000 of taxpayers according to this official data.

By the way, five plus years ago, when we were looking to buy a house, the banks were willing to lend us much more money. Lending standards really have tightened.

Monday, October 28, 2019


Capitalise is an automated trading platform that uses commands written in near natural English at a very high level. I heard about it when Interactive Brokers told us that we now have access to it. At the moment the service is free. You can put in commands where buy/sell levels and stops depend on functions of past prices and also various technical indicators. There is no need to learn a formal programming language like Python or understand any of the intricacies of actually executing strategies. They are based in Israel.

This would be great for me except at the moment it doesn't allow position sizing based on functions of prices. You have to give it a numerical position size. I chatted with Arica on their platform and she said that they might develop that functionality in the future. For now I can handle updating my orders each morning (Australian time) as I am only systematically trading in 3 markets (Bitcoin, palladium, and oil). Maybe they will have this functionality by the time I can't handle trading manually anymore and I won't need to learn Python etc or collaborate with someone who does know that stuff.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Mortgage Inversion Complete, What Next?

I completed the transfer of money into our brokerage accounts from the "mortgage inversion".  That completes a major step in our financial restructuring since the inheritance. We've completed the first two steps on this list. I am thinking of refinancing our mortgage to get a lower interest rate now I don't care about having an offset account with my main bank. But how to go about this? Should I go to a mortgage broker or just contact a bank, like HSBC, who are offering a low rate?

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Silver, Six Losing Bitcoin Trades in a Row...

I tested silver futures as a possible addition to the trading portfolio. When combined with Bitcoin, palladium, and crude oil its optimal portfolio weight was 2%. So, I'm not going to be trading that.

Overnight and in today action in Bitcoin has been insane. I was up around USD 5k on my last Bitcoin trade and then it became a USD 1k losing trade, the sixth in a row. We switched to long from short and subsequently bitcoin skyrocketed to over 10,000 from around 7,500. This long trade is only one contract though compared with two contracts on the previous short. It seems like this spike might have been generated by Xi Jinping's new enthusiasm for blockchain. He told party members to study blockchain. This is despite China banning cryptocurrency exchanges, though a lot of Bitcoin mining takes place in China.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Five Losing Bitcoin Trades in a Row

The bad news is that the worst historical losing run in Bitcoin is eleven losing trades in a row. The good news is that least we now have the losses more under control after adopting position sizing and a constant (more or less as we use rounding of contract numbers) maximum dollar risk. I am also now 100% disciplined in following the algorithms. That was a big struggle. We are now back to short again.

Without slippage the previous trade would have been a $120 win. We had a $30 loss. The last trade though was a $2,000 loss when rounded up to two contracts.

Mortgage Redrawn

Just enter the amount, press the button, and:

Now to transfer the money to investment. This is how I account for this re-structure:

Almost all our historical savings from wages etc ("current savings") have now been converted into housing equity and extra retirement contributions. Housing equity is now a few hundred dollars short of the value of the house as I left a small amount of the mortgage unpaid in order not to potentially trigger something undesirable by totally paying it off.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Trading and Mortgage Inversion Update

We switched from short one contract of Bitcoin to long two this morning, booking a USD 30 loss on the short trade. We are long two as the per contract risk is lower now. After four losing Bitcoin trades, hopefully this is a winning one...

I sold a lot of shares this morning and already was allowed to move some of the proceeds to our offset account. I also paid down AUD 100k of the mortgage and was surprised to see that I could redraw it immediately. I had thought I would need to wait to 4th November for the redraw balance to update. This means that I might be able to complete the inversion this week.


So I paid off another AUD 300k later in the day. Am still waiting on a transfer of AUD 100k from my margin loan. When I get it I should be able to complete the "inversion".

Monday, October 14, 2019

Optimizing Trading Portfolios and Shifting to Return on Risk Metric

I started exploring testing portfolios of trading strategies. For this, I decided that in looking at return on capital where capital is the face value of a futures contract doesn't make much sense. It seems to make more sense to look at the return on money at risk. It makes the most sense to measure that in dollars as a share of a total risk budget. This then leads me to making the primary measure of return also to be in dollars. Here is an optimized portfolio of Bitcoin, oil, and palladium:

The portfolio has a total risk budget of USD 5,000. This is then allocated across the three markets with the resulting profit curves. The analysis assumes that you can trade fractional futures contracts. Oil and palladium help diversify Bitcoin and increase the information ratio. Using a zero benchmark and daily returns on risk the portfolio IR is 2.96 rising from 2.17 for Bitcoin alone.

Oil hasn't gone anywhere in the last year, but did well in 2018 when Bitcoin struggled. Going forward, I will test whether each new market I look at improves the portfolio IR or not.

This approach then also leads to computing the prices for continuous futures contracts additively rather than multiplicatively – so that differences in dollars are preserved -– and to focusing on a constant risk budget in dollars. It also allowed me to simplify the back-testing program quite a bit. In the following chart the blue line is the daily profit curve for trading one contract of Bitcoin futures:

The red curve is based on completed trades only. The green curve has a constant dollar risk equal to the average of the single contract. To be more realistic I have rounded the number of contracts to the nearest whole number, which could be zero. This keeps the strategy out of the market in late 2017 and early 2018, when the single contract strategy had a big drawdown. The constant risk strategy has a higher return and a smaller maximum drawdown than trading a single contract. So, this is the strategy I am adopting for Bitcoin going forward. This morning, we switched from one contract long to one contract short...

Thursday, October 10, 2019

2018-19 Income and Spending Breakdown

After doing our tax returns I can now report the breakdown of income and spending for the 2018-19 financial year, following up on the breakdown for 2017-18:

On the right there is a breakdown of some of the larger categories into sub-categories. Unlike some bloggers I can't say what we spend on food, or clothes etc. I just know how much we spend at different sorts of retail outlets.

One of the biggest changes from last year is the reduction in cash spending from 13% to 3.5% as we started to use credit and debit cards more to track our spending better. Restaurants is up as former cash spending was converted to spending using cards. Other major changes are:
  • An increase in health spending from 7% to 16% due mainly to costs of pregnancy/childbirth. 
  • A major increase in housing spending from 16% to 26% as we undertook renovation work and paid more mortgage interest due to having less money in our offset account.
  • A major reduction in travel from 14% to 3% as we only went on a trip to Sydney this year instead of to Europe and Japan.
These trends all continued in the first quarter of this financial year, just completed.

Income was up strongly on the previous year, mainly due to futures trading. As a result, taxes were also up strongly to over AUD 100k. OTOH total spending and saving also rose strongly. Note that "current saving" here is much higher than my usual definition of saving, which only includes saving from salaries and similar income. Here, total income includes investment income and so saving is correspondingly higher.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Planning the Mortgage Inversion

I first wrote about this four years ago. I realized today that I could actually pull this off next month. At this point, I have close to AUD 300k in our bank account (which is an offset account). The mortgage is AUD 490k. If I sell some shares, which are currently in the red, like Tribeca Global Resources, realizing capital losses and transfer some Australian dollars from Interactive Brokers I can reach half a million dollars in our bank account. The amount of cash that can be redrawn is only updated on the 4th of the month, so I will wait to a little later this month to sell the shares and transfer the cash and pay off almost all the mortgage. Then in early November I will redraw the cash and transfer it to our brokers. As the mortgage is in both our names, I will transfer the money 50/50 to accounts in each of our names. After that, almost all of our mortgage interest should be tax-deductible. Of course, I could just pay off the mortgage. But the interest rate for a home equity loan is higher than for an owner occupier mortgage and am happy to have debt at relatively low interest rates and invest it in stuff that hopefully will pay a higher return.

Monday, October 07, 2019

2018-19 Taxes

Here are my taxes for another year:

On the income side, Australian dividends, capital gains, and foreign source income are all up strongly. I finally ran out of past capital gains tax losses and so recorded a net capital gain for the first time in a decade. Foreign source income is mostly from futures trading and bond interest. My salary still dominates my income sources. As far as replacing salary with other income goes, you need to consider the joint picture with Moominmama's tax return below and the earnings of our superannuation accounts...

Increased deductions are mostly due to increased margin loan interest.

Franking credits (from Australian dividends), foreign tax paid, and the Early Stage Venture Capital (ESVCLP) offset are all deducted from gross tax to arrive at the tax assessment. Unlike in the past, I expect to pay a lot of extra tax.

Gross cash income deducts franking credits and adds the long-term capital gains discount to gross income. The former aren't paid out as cash and the latter are but aren't included in taxable income.
Net after tax cash income then deducts tax and deductions from gross cash income.

Moominmama's (formerly Snork Maiden) taxes follow:

Here there is more dramatic change. Salary was up further in the bounce back from maternity leave and in preparation for the second maternity leave now in progress. Foreign source income was up dramatically due to futures trading. We do more of our trading in this lower taxed account.

Work related travel expenses were down to almost nothing, as the tax year started during our last big trip to conferences etc. I haven't yet managed to do the mortgage inversion that should increase deductions and so deductions are down.

As a result, income and taxes were up dramatically and we will owe a lot of tax. I expect we will have to start making quarterly tax payments from now on.

Trading Progress

I've now tested Bitcoin, ASX200, palladium, and crude oil futures trading using Barchart data. So far, only ASX200 futures were not profitable. I'm now trading one contract long or short of Bitcoin futures, trading palladium with position sizing using CFDs, and have put in an order to short crude oil futures.

With palladium I am aiming to risk about 10% of the CFD account on each trade. My current position is long 10 ounces of palladium and I have an order to short 20 ounces of palladium. The typical risk for trading a 100 ounce palladium futures contract is too big at this stage. The contract face value is around USD 160k. So, even if the stop is 5% from the current price you are risking USD 8000.

On the other hand, a crude oil contract has a face value of around USD 50k (1000 barrels of oil). I am targeting 5% of the face value as the risk we can take on. To compute the number of contracts we can trade we calculate: 0.05*price/abs(price-stop) and round it up or down to the nearest integer. If that is zero then we don't put an order in. This is why I only have a short order at the moment and no order to go long.

Both oil and palladium have longer optimal periods for measuring breakouts against than Bitcoin does. My palladium strategy looks for breakouts from the last seven days of prices in either direction. My oil strategy uses breakouts from the last eleven days. However, it will exit a long (short) position if the price falls below (rises above) the previous day's low (high).

Palladium has about the same risk/return trade off as Bitcoin, but oil isn't as good a risk/return ratio. Here are the average maximum potential loss and the average trade profit for trading with a single contract:

Bitcoin: Risk =  USD 3,722, profit = USD 1,036, ratio = 0.28
Palladium: Risk = USD 4,910, profit = USD 1.462, ratio = 0.30
Crude oil: Risk = USD 2,030, profit =  USD 225, ratio = 0.11

Compared to face value of the contract, the average Bitcoin profit is a 2.7% return, while for palladium and oil it is 0.9% and 0.4%, respectively. Relative to required margin, though, Bitcoin is not so good compared to the others.

The reason for trading all three of them at this stage is for diversification. I want to have more consistent returns rather than boom and bust. That's why I am still allocating the largest amount of risk to Bitcoin. I also still have a treasuries futures trade on and am long more than 100 ounces of gold via the IAU ETF.

At this point, I think I got beyond the experimental stage of trading and am now in a more developmental period. My backtesting programs work pretty well, I have good quality data, am more used to trading in a disciplined way, and am now testing which markets and position sizes make most sense.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

September 2019 Report

In September the Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6729 to USD 0.6752. The MSCI World Index rose 2.15% and the S&P 500 1.87%. The ASX 200 rose 2.08%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 0.52% in Australian Dollar terms and 0.87% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio lost 0.28% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index lost 0.27% in US Dollar terms. So, though we under-performed all three stock indices we out-performed our target portfolio and the HFRI. Updating the monthly returns chart:

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):
Private equity and hedge funds did very well while gold and futures did poorly. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from hedge funds greatest detractor was gold, which was the exact reverse of the previous month. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Hedge funds shined as Platinum Capital, Regal, and Cadence gained significantly but Tribeca lost more money.
  • Pengana Private Equity gained.
What really didn't work:
  • Gold and Winton Global Alpha lost significantly, partly reversing recent gains.
  • Tribeca lost as noted above.
Trading: We gained modestly in Bitcoin and US treasuries futures and lost moderately in Palladium and big time in gold. Using a narrower definition including only futures and CFDs we gained 0.48% on capital used in trading. Including ETFs we lost 1.53%. Using both definitions we are a bit ahead of where we were at this point last year. This graph shows cumulative trading gains year to date:

The picture is better using the broader definition.

We moved a further towards our new long-run asset allocation.* Cash increased most and private equity and bonds decreased most as we received the proceeds from the IPE.AX delisting:

On a regular basis, we also invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds, dividends, and interest. Other moves this month:
  • We sold $50k of Tenet Health Care bonds when they were called and $50k of Discovery Bonds matured. We bought $50k of HSBC bonds So, our direct bond holdings declined by $50k.
  • We traded with moderate success, as discussed above.
  • I bought a small number of Platinum Capital shares as their price was a lot below net asset value.
  • We started buying Australian Dollars again, buying AUD 20k this month.
  • We received the proceeds from the delisting of Oceania Capital.
  • As a result of all this our cash holdings increased by around AUD 120k.
* Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged funds. We currently don't have any leveraged funds.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

ASX200 Futures

I put together a dataset for the ASX 200 futures for the past 5 years - Barchart have this data. Every possible "Turtle" strategy I tested lost money. So, we're definitely not going to trade this! I tested breakouts from 1 to 40 day periods and they all have similar poor performance. Position sizing to always trade the same percentage risk made things much worse.

Here is a 2,2 strategy without position sizing assuming no slippage – The best case scenario:

The blue line is the continuous futures contract price I constructed and black is the equity line of the strategy. This actually makes a slight gain over the 1200 trading days. But including reasonable slippage, it will turn into a loss. A 2,2 strategy means that you buy or sell breakouts from the previous two days highs or lows and exit those positions on breakouts from the same number of trading days in the opposite direction.

I have now put on a small (10 ounce) Palladium trade using CFDs. I'll probably test trading oil next.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Data Quality Matters

I did an analysis of the optimal trading strategy for Palladium futures using Barchart data. Previously, using free data, I had found that we should make trading decisions based on very short periods of past prices. For example we might go long (short) if prices broke out above (below) the previous day's high (low), or maybe the high or low of the previous two days. Now I find that the optimal strategies use periods of 7 to 18 days for breakouts. This shows that using good quality data really matters in trading, and not just a little bit. Using one day breakouts would actually lose money over the last five years of data that I tested. I lost money on all the Palladium trades I previously made... though four trades is not a large sample.

At the moment Palladium is in a winning long trade, but I am reluctant to go long at this point. So, I put in a short trade which will activate if the market reverses.

I also found out today that Barchart has past ASX 200 futures prices. I don't know if these are as high quality as their US futures data.  I will download them next.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Variable Position Size, Again

I signed up for the Barchart Premier subscription. Among other things, this gives access to daily open, high, low, close etc. data for all US based futures contracts back to 2000. The data seems to be much more accurate than the various free sources. To start with, I downloaded all Bitcoin futures contracts data. I constructed a continuous series of prices going back to the beginning of trading in Bitcoin futures. I use proportional splicing that preserves percentage changes rather than absolute dollar changes. I also saved the actual futures prices for computing trading costs.

When we include the very volatile period right after the all time high in Bitcoin, the optimal trading strategy changes:

This graph shows the drawdown for a simple strategy that always buys the same number of contracts (in red) with a strategy that always has the same initial risk in percentage terms (in green). The latter targets a constant maximum 5% potential loss of the face value of the Bitcoin contracts before stopping out. The simple strategy soon finds itself 40% down at the end of January 2018. On the other hand, it manages to claw back that loss by late March... The constant risk strategy only loses a maximum of 15% over this period. On the other hand it performed worse during the string of 11 losing trades in a row in late 2018. But the Sharpe ratio for the constant risk strategy (2.45) is quite a lot higher than for the constant position size strategy (2.21). So, I am going to start varying position size, targeting a maximum loss of USD 5,000.

I will also start to revisit other markets to see where there is potential.

Previously, I found that there was a positive relationship between the initial risk of a trade and its return. When volatility is low moves seem to be more noise than signal. Looking at the relationship between initial risk and return, there is now a negative correlation between them, though it isn't statistically significant:

On the other hand,  the "lowest risk" trades here mostly had negative outcomes.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Individual Investment Returns, August 2019

Following up on the monthly report for August, here are the returns of each individual investment or trade. As usual, I have aggregated all the individual bonds (23 of them) we have into one number. As discussed in the monthly report, gold and the Winton Global Alpha Fund did exceptionally well, some hedge funds (Tribeca and Platinum Capital, in particular) did badly, and diversified funds like CFS Conservative, CREF Social Choice, and PSS(AP) weathered the month well.  Real estate investments did OK. The CFS Developing Companies fund also bucked the trend for the month.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

August 2019 Report

Stock markets fell in August but we did OK in Australian Dollar terms and not so bad in US Dollar terms. The Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.6879 to USD 0.6729. The MSCI World Index fell 2.33% and the S&P 500 1.58%. The ASX 200 fell 2.05%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 0.93% in Australian Dollar terms and lost 1.27% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is expected to have gained 1.82% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to have lost  0.70% in US Dollar terms. So, we had a relatively strongly performing month, beating all three stock indices but under-performing our target portfolio and the HFRI. Updating the monthly returns chart:

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):
Gold, futures, bonds, and Australian small cap had positive returns while other asset classes lost money. The largest positive contribution to the rate of return came from gold and the greatest detractor was hedge funds. The returns reported here are in currency neutral terms.

Things that worked well this month:
  • Gold gained 7.8%.
  • The Winton Global Alpha Fund also did very well gaining 5.6%...
  • I was impressed by the PSS(AP) balanced fund, which actually gained this month. But generally, diversified investments did well as bond performance outweighed the fall in stocks.
What really didn't work:
  • Trading. Not including gold we lost 2.48%. Including gold it was a 2.18% gain for the month. Near the beginning of the month we had a big winning trade in Bitcoin, gaining USD 16k. We then gave it back in losing trades as the cryptocurrency chopped around. I have now reduced my position size in case this chop continues. The treasuries steepening trade also lost as the yield curve inverted more.
  •  Tribeca Global Resources Fund (TGF.AX) did horribly in terms of its share price. It's trading at quite a large discount. Cadence Capital (CDM.AX) returned to its position of being my worst investment ever in dollar terms, down AUD 20.6k cumulatively (AUD 3.2k this month).
We moved a little more towards our new long-run asset allocation.* Gold and cash increased most and bonds decreased most:

On a regular basis, we also invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds and dividends. Other moves this month:
  • $25k of Scorpio Bulkers baby bonds matured slightly early, $25k of Hertz bonds were called, and $50k of Macquarie Bank bonds matured. I bought $50k of Energy Transfer bonds and $15k of Ford bonds. So, our direct bond holdings declined by $35k.
  • We traded unsuccessfully, as discussed above.
  • I opened a small position (10,000 shares) in URF, an Australian based REIT investing in US residential property, that was trading at a large discount to net asset value. 
  • I increased our holding of Domacom (DCL.AX) shares to 100k. It's still a very small position – 0.2% of net worth.
  • I bought 1,000 more shares of the IAU gold ETF. 
  • I invested the inheritance of baby moomin. This reduced our cash and debt by the same amount as I was holding cash for this purpose but recording a loan from him in our accounts. Reported net worth does not include the net worth of our children, just my wife and I.
* Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged funds. We currently don't have any leveraged funds.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Understanding Wills and Estate Planning

As we don't yet have a will, I have been reading this book, which is a simple guide to this topic with plenty of examples. I now see that there is more to estate planning in Australia than I thought. There are no inheritance taxes in Australia, so I thought that "estate planning" wasn't a big deal here. But after reading the book I now see that you might want to design things to prevent various scenarios occurring, and yes there are some tax issues, and then there are all the issues of making sure your wishes are carried out.

For example, in the case of my mother, after she lost the ability to make decisions, we ended up being dictated to by the government about how we managed her money etc. We had to sell all her financial assets and reinvest them in an approved way. We had a power of attorney to act on her behalf, but crazily this became invalid when she most needed us to act on her behalf! This was because prior to 2017 apparently you couldn't have an enduring power of attorney in her country. So, it is important to set up an enduring power of attorney.

I aspire that my children will inherit in real terms at least as much as I inherited from my parents. Of course, we can't guarantee this as who knows what might happen to the economy etc. But we can try to prevent some adverse events happening. An example is if one of us dies and the other gets a new partner. Then they die and the partner inherits everything and decides to give none of the money in their will to our children.  Maybe because they have existing children and rewrite their will to include only them.... This kind of case is mentioned in the book but the solution isn't provided. On p58 it says that the survivor should see a lawyer before remarrying...

I am thinking the solution is to set up a testamentary trust on the death of the first spouse incorporating their share of the total assets. The beneficiaries would be the surviving spouse and the children. The surviving spouse will earn income from the trust during the remainder of their life after which the children will be the sole beneficiaries of the trust. So, clearly, we are going to need to discuss with a lawyer all of this.

Currently, if our nuclear family all died, it would be my mother-in-law who would inherit everything according to Australian law. I can't imagine she would handle that very well and given the large inheritance component from my parents, that hardly seems fair. So, we also need to have contingent inheritors to result in a more reasonable distribution of assets in that extreme case.

We also will need to think about who would be a guardian for our children if we both died. I can't really think of someone here in Australia that we would want to do this and who would agree to it as neither of us have relatives here. But it is something we are going to have to determine.

There are probably lots of things I still haven't considered but I think we are going to need to have rough ideas about all of these before meeting a lawyer. By the way, if anyone can recommend a lawyer that they have used, that would be great!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Individual Investment Performance, July 2019

In July, generally alternative investments and small cap stocks did well and gold and our trading did poorly. Some things were just bouncing back from previous poor performance like Tribeca Global Natural Resources (TGF.AX) or Domacom (DCL.AX).

Monday, August 12, 2019

Trading Back on Track

After suffering some losses, it looks like I've got our trading back on track for the moment:

We were stopped out of Bitcoin this morning for a USD 16k gain at $11595 and $11600 in the August futures (3 contracts in total). As we are only doing long trades in Bitcoin, we don't have a Bitcoin position. This should be the impetus for subscribing to a data service and doing some backtesting of other markets...

We are also net positive in trading since 1996. However, the month is still not half-way over, so anything could happen by the end of the month.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Designing a Portfolio for Baby Moomin

I decided that the best provider of investment bonds is Generation Life. This is mainly because they seem to be scandal free, not about to be sold off to an overseas manager, and have lower fees than other providers. Next I needed to pick an investment portfolio from their investment options. I decided on the following rules and criteria:
  1. 50/50 equities/fixed income and alternatives
  2. 50/50 passive and active management
  3. 50/50 Australian and international assests
  4. Pick the best fund from alternatives in each of these niches - focusing on long-term "alpha" and in particular their performance during the Global Financial Crisis and the recent December 2018 mini-crash.
This is the resulting portfolio:

50% Dimensional World Allocation 50/50 Trust. Here I compared a Vanguard balanced fund with this fund. In the long run, DFA have done much better than Vanguard:
Here, Portfolio 1 is a DFA stock fund and Portfolio 3 the Vanguard equivalent. The equity curves are for someone withdrawing 5% per year in retirement. Portfolio 2 is a DFA 60/40 stock/bond portfolio. The difference is stunning. Recently, DFA hasn't done as well as value stocks are out of favor. I am betting on them coming back. If there is a major market correction we might shift this core holding to a more aggressively equity focused fund.

10% Ellerston Australian Market Neutral Fund. Ellerston has done horribly in the past year, but prior to that it did very well for a market neutral fund. It now seems to be rebounding. This fund manager originally managed James Packer's money and then branched out.

10% Magellan Global Fund. This has been one of the best Australia based international equity funds. It did particularly well during the GFC.

10% Magellan Infrastructure Fund. This fund seems better than the other real estate options. It didn't do very well during the GFC, but all the others were worse.

10% Generation Life Tax Effective Australian Share Fund. This fund is managed by Redpoint Investments. The idea is to tilt a bit towards tax effective Australian shares given the high taxes on this investment bond overall. The manager is pretty much an index hugger, but the other options for actively managed Australian shares seem worse.

5% PIMCO Global Bond Fund. PIMCO is the gold standard for actively managed bonds. I decided to split my allocation to PIMCO between international bonds and

5% PIMCO Australian Bond Fund, as Australian bonds have actually done very well recently.

Friday, August 02, 2019

July 2019 Report

July was another positive month for long term investments, but we lost money trading. In July the Australian Dollar fell from USD 0.7012 to USD 0.6879. The MSCI World Index rose 0.33% and the S&P 500 1.44%. The ASX 200 rose 2.94%. All these are total returns including dividends. We gained 2.25% in Australian Dollar terms and 0.31% in US Dollar terms. The target portfolio is expected to have gained 2.38% in Australian Dollar terms and the HFRI hedge fund index is expected to have gained only 0.10% in US Dollar terms. So, we had a relatively strongly performing month, almost a bit below the ASX200 and more or less matching our target portfolio and the MSCI and beating HFRI. Updating the monthly returns chart I posted last month :

Here is a report on the performance of investments by asset class (futures includes managed futures and futures trading):

Australian Small Cap Stocks was the best performing asset class and Futures Trading the worst, losing 3.34%. The largest contributions to the rate of return came from hedge funds followed by private equity. The Australian Dollar return is higher than the 1.48% reported here because of foreign currency gains due to the fall in the Australian Dollar over the month.

Things that worked very well this month:

  • Hedge funds, private equity, and Australian small cap all did well. I think this could be because many of these investments were not doing well and were probably sold to crystallize tax losses last month before the end of the Australian financial year and then rebought this month. The CFS Developing Companies Fund gained 5.86%. 
  • I marked Oceania Capital to $2.30 at the end of the month, which was the record date for the buyback associated with the delisting that was approved at the extra-ordinary meeting.  The buyback price is $2.30 a share. This translated to a 7% gain for the month.
  • The Winton Global Alpha Fund also did well gaining 2.46%. A big contrast to my own trading...
What really didn't work:

  • We had major losses trading Bitcoin, though, so far, it is just a "correction". I closed short positions early which would have been winners. The Bitcoin "model" also suffered its worst percentage loss to date on a long trade. As I have been trading double the size long as short this just compounded the loss. Going forward I will only take long Bitcoin trades for the moment.
Including long-term trading in gold trading we lost AUD $17.2k for the month in trading. I prefer this measure now as it covers all the ways we are trading and is compatible with the long-term trading returns chart I recently posted. The rate of return on capital allocated to trading was -4.18%.

We moved a little more towards our new long-run asset allocation.* Gold and cash increased most and bonds decreased most:

On a regular basis, we also invest AUD 2k monthly in a set of managed funds, and there are also retirement contributions. Then there are distributions from funds and dividends. Other moves this month:

  • We tendered USD 40k of Avon Products bonds into an early redemption and sold USD 21k of Deutsche Bank bonds. Also, USD 50k of Citibank bonds matured. I bought USD 10k of Lexmark bonds, USD 25k of Kraft-Heinz bonds, and USD 25k of Dish bonds. So, our direct bond allocation fell by USD 51k.
  • We traded unsuccessfully, as discussed above.
  • I bought 1,000 more shares of the IAU gold ETF. 
  • I bought another 450 shares of Oceania Capital.
* Total leverage includes borrowing inside leveraged (geared) mutual (managed) funds. The allocation is according to total assets including the true exposure in leveraged funds. We currently don't have any leveraged funds.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Australian Investment/Insurance Bonds

Investment/insurance bonds are an Australian investment vehicle, which is a bit like a superannuation fund but actually is formally a type of life insurance. You make an investment like in a super fund, but instead of earnings being taxed at 15% they are taxed at the corporate income tax rate, which is 30% currently. If you withdraw the money after 10 years, no additional tax is payable. This can be a good idea in two cases:

1. If you are in a high tax bracket so that additional investments are taxed at up to a 47% marginal tax rate and you either have maximized your superannuation contributions or want the flexibility to get the money out before you retire.*

2. You want to invest in your children's name. Investments for children in their name are subject to very high penalty rates of tax in Australia to prevent income-splitting tax dodges. You can invest in a "trust account" in the child's name and avoid these penalty rates but you are liable to pay tax on the earnings.** You can specify a vesting age when the investment bond will be transferred to the child.

My mother's will specifies that each of her grandchildren will get £25k when they are 23 y.o. My brother and I are interpreting that as investing £25k now. We set up trust accounts for his children below 23 and my son in Falafeland where he lives and my mother lived. But then on 26 June this year our second child was born. It seems I haven't mentioned this on this blog before! My brother and I agreed to also invest £25k for him.

I began to explore setting up an Australian trust for him. An Australian will can set up a "testamentary trust" in the name of a child or grandchild etc. The income on that inherited money won't be subject to the penalty rates. The twist is that the money for our newborn son is my hands now. If I just set up a trust for him I will have a battle with the ATO to claim that the penalty rates don't apply. I talked to a lawyer on the phone and she said she needs to do research on whether we can set up a testamentary trust now. This would be a lot of upfront expense and then there is the hassle of running the trust and investing on its behalf and submitting annual tax returns etc. So, I am skeptical that this is going to work and if it does it would be a lot of hassle, I think. Also a trust must pay out all its earnings every year. So our son will need a bank account to receive them and this will be an income stream that his brother won't be getting.

An investment bond seems like a simpler option and is very similar to our first child's trust account In Falafeland, which doesn't pay distributions and is taxed at 25%. The 30% tax rate seems high, but there is a trick. If you make an additional investment that is greater than 125% of the previous year's investment then the bond resets to year 1 of the 10 year period. As the previous year's additional investment could be zero this is not hard. When that happens if the child withdraws money from the bond the money is taxable at their tax rate but they get a 30% non-refundable tax offset somewhat like a franking credit. But this will only reduce your tax if currently you earned less than AUD37k per year, which is below the full time minimum wage.*** But a 23 year old might earn that little if they were doing graduate study, for example.

There are six providers according to Macquarie:
The first three have all been very controversial and the first two are in the process of selling their life insurance businesses to offshore firms. AMP has the lowest management fees and Australian Unity the highest of the first 4. Centuria's PDS is really not transparent. Generation Life has index fund options which would be cheaper than any of the other providers' options. Generation Life is a specialist investment bond provider. So, I am going to look at this one in more detail. I am also following up with Unisuper, whose website mentions investment bonds.

* Investment bonds don't get a long-term capital gains tax discount. So, they aren't as effective if your not in the top bracket.

** Income children earn from labor/their own entrepreneurship isn't subject to the penalty rates and neither is inherited money in a testamentary trust. Trust accounts don't work for us as the children must get the money from them at age 18.

*** It's crazy that the minimum wage is already taxed at a marginal 32.5% + Medicare Levy.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Stopping Daytrading

Well, that didn't last long. I think it is definitely possible to make money using this daytrading method, but it is definitely not for me. The problem is that though entry to positions is "automated" the exit is discretionary. If you say it is the end of the session, then you can't do it exactly at the end  -say at 4:30pm for the ASX200 futures. So, do you do it at 4:00 pm? 4:10pm? 4:30pm?, 5:10pm? or what? There is a temptation to hang on for the price to improve. And I seem to have a strong self-destructive tendency, which I need to control with rules based trading.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Long Only Bitcoin Trading

I continue to struggle psychologically with shorting Bitcoin futures and as a result make mistakes and lose money. So, I investigated how taking only the long trades would perform. If the "model" says to short Bitcoin, we close the long and stay out of the market. This is equivalent to being always long 1 unit of Bitcoin and going long or short one unit in addition.

Statistics since March 2018 for long trades only are very similar to the statistics for all trades. But because you are in the market only half the time, total returns will be lower. Since the beginning of 2019 total returns have been the same - short trades have added nothing to returns. Winning long trades outnumber losing long trades 10 to 6. Losing short trades outnumbered winning short trades 10 to 5.

So, I think that in the interim I will only take long trades in Bitcoin.

Note that in the last 10 months of 2018, long only trades gained a total of 18% while Bitcoin lost 65%. So, taking long only trades doesn't mean losing if Bitcoin returns to a bear market.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trading Account Equity Curves

Thought I'd just post the "equity curves" from our three trading accounts. Moominpapa:

There is trading in the first half of last year and then in this year. In between, I didn't trade in this account for tax reasons and then because I wasn't trading over the Australian summer.

Here is Moominmama's account (which I trade too):

There is trading in the second half of last year instead. Most of the recent moves in this account and Bitcoin long trades. The short trades are in Moominpapa's account.

Plus 500 CFD account:

This is mostly long Bitcoin trades. As it is expensive to trade in this account I use it for hedging Bitcoin positions over the weekend and for experimental trades at a smaller scale than I can do with futures contracts.

Generally, the curves show a two steps forward one step back pattern. Hopefully, we can recover from the recent drawdown soon.

Trading the SPI

The graph compares idealized trading of the ASX200 futures contract, known as the "SPI" (share price index) vs. buy and hold. The trading uses my new day-trading approach. I actually transcribed by hand all the opening, high, low, and close values off a chart of the past month with 8 hour bars to get the data. The ticks are each of the five daily 8 hour bars. Yes, they're not all actually 8 hours long. 9:50-10:00am is one of them! Each index point is worth AUD 25 per contract and this tracks trading one contract.

The good news is that trading would have made money over the past month. On the other hand, buy and hold would have done just as well. But trading is less volatile. Hopefully, trading also does better in down markets. As I started near the end of this chart, so far I have lost money. But I have been making money in daytrading the Australian Dollar and the S&P 500 index in the last week. I also did a rough backtest on the NASDAQ 100 Index. But as I don't have access to bulk hourly data I can't do very extensive backtesting. Either I need to get that data or I need to just trade at a small scale until the results are statistically significant.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Worst Loss on Bitcoin

Just got stopped out for a 7.06% loss on Bitcoin trading. That is the worst loss that the Bitcoin model has suffered so far. So, most losses won't be as bad as that. Back to short...

This position was never in the money. The position was entered on a spike in price, which just triggered the stop. But I exactly followed my approach. 

This is our equity curve (USD) so far in trading Bitcoin futures:

We also had some profits trading Bitcoin CFDs.

Monday, July 22, 2019

New Macro Trade

I've started another long-term macro trade by buying a treasury note futures spread. The spread is short one ten year treasury note futures contract and long two two year treasury futures contracts. You can execute this with one trade using the TUT ticker. The face value of a two year contract is $200,000 and for a ten year contract, $100,000, so actually the trade is long four times as many two year notes as it is short ten year notes. The idea is that this spread will gain value as the yield curve steepens, which following a yield curve inversion, it already seems to be doing. The curve would steepen mainly because the Federal Reserve would cut short term interest rates. So, if they don't cut much the trade will lose. The more they cut the more likely it is to make money.

My other macro trade is gold. Though that is also a bit more like an investment as we plan to allocate to gold in the long term and I am using the IAU ETF for tax and psychological reasons. I've increased my position at this point to 4.89% of assets. The net treasuries position is nominally $302k, which is much bigger than that.

I've also been thinking about how to improve my new day-trading strategy. I think that I will add exit stops to each order I place. This means, for example, if we go long initially in a "headfake"and then the market falls and the sell stop order is triggered, rather than getting out of the market it will initiate a short position. That would have been a profitable trade in the S&P 500 futures on 16th and 19th of July. The resulting short gained more than the stopped out long lost. Also, I am thinking to keep half of the position as a turtle style trend following position rather than an actual daytrade. The difference to the medium term turtle trading is that the stop is moved each day based on action in the first part of the day rather than action over the last few days.

So I now have three time frames of trades. I am hoping that this diversification, while requiring entering more orders, actually results in me being less anxious about the trades and so actually spending less time looking at the market. We will see.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Systematic Day Trading

I figured out a way to adapt the turtle trading method to systematic day-trading. I plan to apply it to markets which tend to move strongly after the release of US economic news at 8:30am Eastern Time on many days and which have elevated volume when US cash markets are open. The idea is to put buy and sell orders in for these markets at around 8:00am (currently 10pm here in Australia) based on the movement of the futures markets over the day up to that point. If there is a breakout of that range you go long or short automatically. Then you close the positions at the end of the trading day. This is a day trading method where you don't look at the market all day.

I don't have access to historic hourly data at the moment but I have backtested the idea for a couple of months by looking at charts for the NASDAQ 100 futures. It seems that the approach wins more times than it loses, though average wins and losses are about equal in size. Once the market starts moving in a given direction intraday it tends to keep moving in that direction. It looks like it would work well for stocks, bonds, gold, Australian Dollars... It doesn't look like it would work for oil, soybeans etc. These commodities typically expand their trading range in both directions when the market gets more active. As a result trades would tend to get stopped out.

I'll start trading it using the new micro-futures that are a 10th of the size of the e-mini NASDAQ and S&P contracts as well as with CFDs for gold (trading 10 ounces say) and Australian Dollars (starting with AUD 10k) and see how we go.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Trading Bitcoin Futures over the Weekend or Not

Because recently Bitcoin rallied strongly over weekends, I decided to close any Bitcoin futures short position at the end of trading on Friday. That means that this weekend I closed my short on Friday at the worst possible point and missed a more than 1000 points decline over the weekend. However, I've resolved not to get into this trade now and just wait for the next long trade.

Not including this weekend's action the average return over the weekend in the last 15 months when my model was short was -0.2%, i.e. a loss. But this is a small loss and is statistically insignificant. The t-statistic to test that this mean is different to zero is -0.31 (p = 0.74). On the other hand, the average return over the weekend when long was 1.5%. And this return is highly statistically significant. The t-statistic is 2.33 (p = 0.026).

This explains why I was reluctant to be short over the weekend but not to be long over the weekend. On the other hand, the expected loss isn't much, so avoiding trading over the weekend when short is due to risk aversion. Especially as I can place an effective stop in our Plus 500 CFD account. If we go long there and are short futures we are effectively out of the market. But it's expensive to do so due to their spread and overnight financing charges, and they only allow me to trade a maximum of 6 Bitcoin. On the other hand, I am only shorting one futures contract (5 Bitcoin) at a time at the moment.

So, how did this weekend affect these results? The gain to being short over the weekend was 9.5%. The mean weekend short return is now 0.07% with a t-statistic of 0.11 (p = 0.91). So, that is even closer to zero. Someone who is risk averse would still stay out of the market as the expected return is insignificantly different to zero.

To deal with the frustration, I am just telling myself that there will be a better opportunity to go long the further the price falls :) In the longer term, I think I would be less concerned about this if I diversify trading to multiple markets.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Individual Investment Returns for June 2019

I finally got around to doing this analysis for June:

It's not as straightforward as my other reporting and probably takes 20 minutes or so to prepare. International stocks, gold, and Australian real estate did really well. Australian small cap did really badly. The Unisuper superannuation fund also performed very well. Bitcoin trading was the real star though. It's not looking good this month so far... USD corporate bond performance continues to improve as the portfolio matures.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Distribution of Income and Wealth in Australia in 2017-18

The latest survey results have been released by ABS. To be in the top 1% in Australia you need to have a household net worth of about AUD 7.5 million (USD 5.25 million). We're in the top 4% according to the data. The mean household has a net worth of AUD 1.022 million and the median AUD 559k.

We're also in roughly the top 4% by household income if we'd earned 2018-19 income in 2017-18... Median household earns AUD 1,700 per week (AUD 88k per year) and mean 2,242 (AUD 117k). Of course, households with children average a lot more than this as the data include pensioners, students, singles etc. These data don't let you compute the income of the top 1% directly.