Crypto: Is Relative Value Investing Time Finally Here?

For at least the past six months you have been kind enough to listen while the topic of relative value in cryptocurrencies has repeated more than once.  Could it finally be happening? Things are certainly in place. It seems to show every time the price of Bitcoin or any of the altcoins suddenly spikes for no apparent reason.

That is the time when investors buy crypto simply because there is no better value in things like stocks, bonds, real estate, gold or currencies.  So far this has not happened all that often, but things could finally be changing. The fact that crypto prices remain near 2018 lows, and with certain exceptions, the news has been pretty good, helps set the stage.

Until now investors in conventional assets have been simply too content.  And why not, the economy in the US is humming at a 4.2% annual rate. The S&P 500 has tacked on another 8.5% so far and seems to be cruising through the traditionally volatile month of September to reach new records.  

And here is the real tattle tale, the CBOE VIX is near 2018 lows around 11. Without going into all the details, the VIX is Wall Street’s traditional measure of investor fear.  During the 2008 financial crisis, the VIX hit 60. Back in February it was at 37. That was about the time the S&P 500 fell 10%. So get the idea: today, investors are too content.  That needs to change before crypto’s relative value shines through. Here is something to focus on.

The key to the above average S&P performance has been the contribution of the tech sector. When you take out the near 22% increase from the market cap weighted S&P, well, you cut well over half of that performance down to only about 3%.  That still not bad, but it indicates a far more narrow market than smart investors should be comfortable with. What would happen to the VIX if the tech sector suddenly took a dive of 10%?

Sound crazy? Hardly, a 10%+ correction in tech stocks has taken place three times just since 2016, so this isn’t a far fetched idea.  In fact Barbara Kollmeyer at MarketWatch just penned an article titled: Bad news is building for this once-hot tech sector.  If her views prove out, this could be the key to driving investors to some of the values offered by crypto.

It all starts with the social media companies that form the backbone of the FANG stocks. Here is a sample. She opens with the thoughts of Tony Greer who heads TG Macro and who has a sour message on Twitter (TWTR) and Facebook (FB). According to Tony: “It’s finally time to be short social media” pointing out a “massive topping pattern.”

While the stock market generally may not be experiencing traditional levels of volatility, lately tech stocks have charted a different course.  In referring to that change, Greer identifies September as a time of big change.

“That period of volatility put in a big top and a double top in the social media ETF. Now it has broken its steepest ascending trend line, it’s broken down below all the major moving averages and they’re starting to curl over on top of it, which to me is going to cause another leg of a waterfall.”

The final proof of technical weakness is shown in the Global X Social Media ETF that contains a handful of social media names from Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet. This little gauge is actually down around 3% this year.

In addition to his technical observations, he points the negativity surrounding the Cambridge Analytica scandal, subsequent upbeat earnings, then news that the platform was losing users.

Technology Is More Than Social Media

Lest we look for just any reason to be buying crypto it is only fair to mention the obvious. So far this year the tech sector has managed to add 22% even with the substantial underperformance of social media.  Any notion of painting the world coming to an end would be misleading.

However, technology has many interrelated links and sometimes when one sector is under pressure it can spread.  In the meantime the gap between overvalued stocks and depressed crypto prices is setting the stage for the search for value to have its day in the sun. So keep one eye on the VIX.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

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