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Winter Contrarian Close-Out

This is the third contrarian trading portfolio we've done here at <I>TheStreet</I> and the third time's a charm.

This is the third time we have followed a contrarian trading portfolio here at TheStreet and the third time's a charm. This was by far the most successful of the three. The objective in publishing these was to show how short-term trading can be done within the following parameters:

  • Select exchange-traded funds that will profit if recent trends change. (Be contrarian.)
  • From that list of ETFs select those that show signs of trend change possibly being near at hand by using simple technical analysis methods.
  • Market and limit orders can be used to enter both long and short positions.
  • Limit risk by using stop loss orders on both short and long positions.
  • Manage risk using options.

All of the objectives have been met except for the last one. We didn't have an occasion to use options.

The closeout articles for the first two portfolios were published



December 2009


September 2009.

We started with eight portfolio positions for the winter portfolio, but one of them never hit the specified limit price for entry. Thus the portfolio actually only had seven positions. Because of market swings there were several trades in six positions.

Position 1 -- Buy Brazil

The vehicle used was

iShares MCSI Brazilian Index

(EWZ) - Get iShares MSCI Brazil ETF Report

. The position was stopped out with a small gain on Jan. 15 and the limit price for repurchase was never reached.

Position 2 -- Buy China

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The ETF that represents stocks traded on the Shanghai stock market is

iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index

(FXI) - Get iShares China Large-Cap ETF Report

. The strategy here was to buy

ProShares UltraShort FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index

(FXP) - Get ProShares UltraShort FTSE China 50 Report

if stopped out of FXI. If FXP was sold on a stop loss trigger we then switched back to FXI. In the three months we switched once to FXP (for three weeks) and then back to FXI. The three weeks in FXP actually produced almost as much gain as all the time in FXI.

Position 3 -- Buy Gold

The ETF used was

SPDR Gold Shares

(GLD) - Get SPDR Gold Shares ETF Report

. As with the China trade, we also reversed into

ProShares UltraShort Gold

(GLL) - Get ProShares UltraShort Gold Report

when stopped out of GLD. If GLL was stopped out we then went back to GLD. The gold trading position was the second poorest performer in the portfolio. After starting in GLD, reversing to GLL, and then back to GLD, the total gain was 5.5%.

Position 4 -- Buy Silver

The ETF here was

iShares Silver Trust

(SLV) - Get iShares Silver Trust Report

. When stopped out of SLV, the proceeds were put into GLL. When stopped out of GLL, we moved back to SLV. The three positions here did much better than the gold-only trades, with a return over 17%.

Position 5 -- Sell Oil

We used

Proshares UltraShort Oil and Gas

(DUG) - Get ProShares UltraShort Oil & Gas Report

for this trade with reversal into

ProShares Ultra Oil and Gas

(DIG) - Get ProShares Ultra Oil & Gas Report

when stopped out of DUG. As with previous positions, stopping out of DIG triggered a repurchase of DUG. This was the third-poorest position with a return less than 7%.

Position 6 -- Sell U.S. Treasuries

The limit price for purchase of

ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury

(TBT) - Get PowerShares UltraShort Lehman 20+ Year Treasury ProShares Report

was never reached so this position was never opened.

Position 7 -- Sell the S&P 500

We bought

ProShares UltraShort S&P 500

(SDS) - Get ProShares UltraShort S&P500 Report

to open this position but were stopped out in 2 ½ weeks with a 4.6% loss, switching to

ProShares Ultra S&P 500

(SSO) - Get ProShares Ultra S&P500 Report

. After two more trades, triggered by stop loss order executions, we spent the last six weeks in SSO for a 16.6% gain. For the four trades, the gain was more than 24%.

Position 8 -- Buy the Nasdaq-100

This was the big winner using

ProShares Ultra QQQ

(QLD) - Get ProShares Ultra QQQ Report

. The short companion ETF was

ProShares UltraShort QQQ

(QID) - Get ProShares UltraShort QQQ Report

. Less than three weeks was spent holding QID for a gain of almost 11%. The rest of the time in QLD produced a return over 27%. The total return for the position was over 40%.

The following table summarizes all the trades:

This portfolio was much more successful than the first two because market swings were larger. Risk management using stop loss orders can give poor results in markets with swings that are just large enough to trigger stop loss orders but not large enough to realize significant gains.

The term used for the lack of return, and the creation of losses, is "whipsaw." Traders can really get cut up in whipsaw action and that was the outcome in the first two portfolios, although both managed to produce small gains.

The following table summarizes the results for the three portfolios:

At the time of publication, Lounsbury was long ProShares Ultra S&P 500 and ProShares Ultra QQQ.

John B. Lounsbury is a financial planner and investment adviser, providing comprehensive financial planning and investment advisory services to a select group of families on a fee-only basis. He worked for 34 years with IBM, and spent 25 years in R&D management and corporate staff positions. He also was a Series 6, 7, 63 licensed representative with a major insurance company brokerage for nine years.

Specific interests include political and economic history and investment strategy analysis. He holds degrees from the University of Vermont, Columbia University and the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he studied chemistry, physics and mathematics. He is a contributor to Seeking Alpha and his own blog,