Here is one we can work for a long time, I think.

TBT, which is a blend of Treasuries that produce a 20 year maturity, moves higher with interest rates. It is the “ultra short” version of the bond price, but seems to be a good proxy for 10 times the interest rate. Today it is at 48.50, which is almost exactly 10 times the 4.8% interest rate of a 20 year bond. It was 70 in early 2008 (when it was created) which was similar to 10x the interest rate for a 20 year note at that time. It is not really pegged to that rate, but should move proportionately.

I think we can all agree that interest rates move higher from here. So, I suggest buying the 38 June call and selling the 58 June call. This gives a 20% upside between now and June on a $9.70 investment, which means a better than 100% return if interest rates move over 5% by that time. I just got done discussing using a put to protect the downside, creating a collar, but there is no point in this case. The price never got below 38 in the crisis and it is hard to see lower interest rates than what we just had….forever.

We usually have one. Even last year the Dow went from 8,149 on Dec 1st to finish at 8,776 on Dec 31st. This year, we’re lower than we were on Thanksgiving and challenging the 10,200 line, the lowest we’ve been since Nov 9th. Why has Santa Clause forsaken us? Most likely, it’s because we already got our Christmas present in November, when the Dow ran from 9,712 on the 2nd to 10,406 on the 16th. That was when we threw in our bullish towel as it was way over our 2009 target (9,850), which is based on fundamental market valuations, rather than Christmas wishes.

We still face serious headwinds in the economy and, as I’ve said many times this year, the current market valuations are ignoring the risk factors of owning equities – an amazing thing considering how recently those risk factors showed up and bit people’s faces off both last fall and this spring. For example, according to the NYTimes this morning, American International Group, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and GMAC, are not only unable to repay the government, they are in need of continuing infusions that make them look increasingly like long-term wards of the state. The total risk they pose to the taxpayer far exceeds that of the big banks. Fannie and Freddie, in the final days of the year, are even said to be negotiating with the Treasury about greatly expanding the money available to them.

I like using options for any of the “Ultra” or amplified short ETFs because they all use Swaps and the futures market to build their positions. Trading costs and other futures market ineffiiciencies cause the price of such ETFs to deteriorate over time. Using options forces a repricing of the underlying as the traded options expire. This manages (does not eliminate) the problem with short ETFs.

Here are the tickers:

Buy June 38 TBTFL Call for 11.00
Sell June 58 TVTFF Call for 1.30

Net Cost = $9.70 / contract

I think we will be able to keep this trade on, rolling forward and upward, for the next 2-3 years as interest rates climb back into “normal” territory with the 20 year maturity average getting back to 7%. If inflation explodes because the Fed screws up, this is an even better trade and those levels, and beyond, come much faster.

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