Many investors tend to focus on asset-class specific study to gain an edge. They attempt to obtain outperformance based on factors directly related to the asset class being studied. This is an appropriate practice and can provide valuable insight. But in this post, similar to last week’s article on the relationship between Copper and Latin American equities, we’re going to look at the relationship between Lumber and Gold. Specifically, we’re going to follow-up on previous research showing the relationship between Lumber and Gold contain insights into risk-seeking and risk-averse behavior in stocks. The Lumber/Gold relationship is not a novel idea. This important connection was brought to the fore by Charlie Bilello and Michael Gayed in their 2015 NAAIM Wagner Award Winning Paper, “Lumber: Worth Its Weight In Gold.” Charlie and Michael are extremely smart asset managers with strong thought leadership when it comes to actively managing funds. We can’t hold their intellectual jocks, but we can use their research and look into the current state of Lumber and Gold to find another piece of evidence for managing risk in today’s market. In their research, they find:
As Lumber outperforms Gold, equities tend to exhibit an upward bias and have lower volatility. These are conditions that are conducive towards maintaining higher exposure to risk assets. As Gold outperforms Lumber, the opposite tends to be true, whereby the inclusion of lower beta assets in a portfolio increases overall return and lowers volatility at the time it is needed most. The relationship between Lumber and Gold helps to answer the most critical question for active asset managers: when to take more risk (“play offense”) and when to take less risk (“play defense”) in an investment portfolio – before it’s too late.
The relationship between Gold and Lumber can give us valuable insight into U.S. stock market volatility and risk. As market participants, we can use this relationship to give us an edge. Simply put, their findings highlight when Lumber is outperforming Gold, it is a risk-on (offensive) characteristic for stocks. In this scenario, investors can be more aggressive with their equity exposure. Oppositely, when Gold is outperforming Lumber, this is risk-off (defensive) behavior and investors should take a more protective stance. Accordingly, it makes sense for us to dig into how Lumber and Gold are performing and conclude with a review of their relative strength to each other.
Here’s the weekly chart of Gold:
Gold remains in a downtrend from weekly perspective. Since 2011, everyone’s favorite precious metal has been making lower highs and lower lows, the very definition of a downtrend. That is, until recently. In early 2017, Gold locked in a higher lower. This was a productive step towards trend change. If it can break through the upper green trend line, we’ll have a break in trend momentum. A close above $1,375 would establish a higher high and a potential new uptrend underway. For now, it remains within compression (two converging trendlines). Out of this compression will come a move that most likely will determine Gold’s future in the weeks and months ahead.
As for Lumber, here’s its respective weekly chart:
Lumber broke out of a downtrend in early 2016. In fact, Lumber’s higher low in February 2016 coincided with a bottom in U.S. stocks. Never discount coincidence. Since then, Lumber has continued to establish higher highs and higher lows in price. Just last week, it broke from a month’s long consolidation to make an attempt at the early 2013 highs. A break above the $400 level would be extremely productive for Lumber overall.
Now, here’s what you’ve been waiting for. The weekly chart of Lumber : Gold. As a friendly reminder, when Lumber is outperforming Gold, the ratio rises. When Gold is outperforming Lumber, the ratio falls.
Even going back to 2011, we can see the ratio bottom in August of that same year. Do you know what also bottomed at the very same time? The S&P 500. The ratio broke out of a long-term downtrend in late 2012, which preceded the S&P 500 breaking to fresh all-time-highs in August 2013. Similarly, this important ratio broke down in late 2014, which preceded an S&P 500 breakdown in July 2015. More recently, we’ve seen Lumber outperform Gold and establish a higher low in February 2016 and breakout of an intermediate downtrend in November 2016. Since then, the ratio has been continuing its movement upwards signaling risk-on behavior in stocks and diminishing volatility overall. We’ve definitely seen stocks take off since then and volatility crushed with one of the calmest markets in history during this time frame. Just last week, as Lumber broke towards its 2013 highs, this ratio also broke out to a level not seen in eight years.
The next few weeks will be crucial for this relationship and the significance it carries for equities overall. Lumber needs to break through the $400 level in order to ratio to hold onto its recent breakout. If Lumber : Gold can hold onto these recent highs, it will likely mean further upside for equities (especially high beta equities) and suppression of volatility. On the flip side, if Lumber falters here while Gold continues to move upward, the ratio will roll over, signaling a need to take a defensive stance in your portfolio.
As always, you can get real-time updates and commentary about this development and many more opportunities here: @360Research
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Disclaimer: Nothing in this article should be construed as investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell a security. You invest based on your own decisions. Everything in this post is meant for educational and entertainment purposes only. I or my affiliates may hold positions in securities mentioned in this blog. Please see our Disclosure page for full disclaimer.