Trading activity was muted to start the final session of the month and the first quarter. March’s recovery rally helped stocks recoup some of this year’s declines — the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are poised to wrap up the month about 5% higher, while the Dow has added 4%. However, monthly gains were not enough to offset earlier losses, leading to the first negative quarter since Q1 of 2020, when the pandemic began. The Nasdaq is down 7% for the first quarter, while the S&P and the Dow are both off by 3%.
“There’s been a nice relief rally, partly on beginning to look past the invasion, some clarity around central bank actions, and some technical buying, as there was a lot of money on the sidelines,” said Erick Knutzen, the chief investment officer for multi-asset strategies at Neuberger Berman. “But we think from here investors are going to, at some point, realize, wait a second, growth is slowing, and interest rates are rising, and inflation is still high. This is still a challenging set-up for equities.”
After a wild first quarter, many wonder if the worst is yet to come. Today we’ll discuss a short-term play that allows shareholders to benefit from backslides in the market. This valuable tactic can be used as a hedge and also to generate quick profit when things take a turn.
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Traders who are looking to benefit from sliding stocks often turn to short-selling. The main risk of traditional short-selling is that while profit is capped (a stock can only fall to zero), the risk is theoretically unlimited. Of course, other tactics can be used to cover a position at any time, but with a short-selling position, inventors are at risk of receiving margin calls on their trading account if their short position moves against them.
Inverse or “short” ETFs are another option that allows you to profit when a certain investment class declines in value. Some investors use inverse ETFs to profit from market declines, while others use them to hedge their portfolios against falling prices.
Over short periods, you can expect that the inverse ETF will perform “the opposite” of the index, but over more extended periods of time, a disconnect may develop. Inverse ETFs will decline as an asset appreciates over time. For that reason, inverse ETFs typically are not seen as good long-term investments. Furthermore, frequent trading often leads to an increase in fund expenses, and some inverse ETFs have expense ratios of 1% or more.
When approached correctly, inverse ETFs can be excellent day-trading candidates and highly effective short-term hedging tools. There are several inverse ETFs that can be used to profit from declines in broad market indexes, such as the Russell 2000 or the Nasdaq 100. Also, there are inverse ETFs that focus on specific sectors, such as financials, energy, or consumer staples.
With $4 billion in assets, the ProShares Short S&P 500 (SH) is the largest inverse fund by value. Commonly used by investors as a hedging vehicle, the fund strives to deliver the inverse performance of the S&P 500 (SPX). If you’re concerned about the stock market falling, then this fund that moves in the opposite direction of the largest 500 U.S. corporations is the simplest way to protect yourself.
It’s important to note that SH is designed to deliver inverse results over a single trading session, with exposure resetting monthly. Investors considering this ETF should understand how that nuance impacts the risk/return profile and realize the potential for “return erosion” in volatile markets. SH should definitely not be found in a long-term, buy-and-hold portfolio. The fund comes along with an expense ratio of 0.9%.
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