You don’t hear it much, but the S&P 500 has been a bit of a “One trick pony” in 2015. No, it isn’t the 4% weighting in Apple that makes it such; it is the combination of a 15% weighting in Health Care AND that sector’s 12.9% return year to date. When you compare the S&P 500’s price return year to date of 3.37%, you can see that the Health Care sector’s contribution is essentially just over half the market’s price return for 2015 (12.9 times 15% is 1.90 of that 3.37). Layer on the fact that 5 of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 are still down on the year: Materials (-2.7%), Industrials (-2.9%), Telecomm (-0.7%), Utilities (-8.6%) and Energy (-9.7%).
With VIX having collapsed earlier (and its term structure inverted) ahead of this week's OPEX, as risk started to increase, BATS &NYSE just declared self-help against the CBOE...
With a DoJ probe having predictably gone nowhere, a group of pensioners and retirement funds are suing Wall Street and Markit for colluding to monopolize the CDS market. Amusingly, Citadel has been subpoenaed to discuss how it was shut out of creating a CDS trading platform by the "oligopolistic" activities of TBTF banks, even as the firm looks set to dominate the market for IR swaps.
After the carnage of the 2008 crash, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker proposed a rule that would prevent banks from making short-term proprietary trades with financial instruments. In other words, no gambling allowed. This rule would become known as The Volcker Rule, and it went into partial effect on April 1, 2014. Full compliance is required by July 21, 2015. Of course, the bank lobbyists were hard at work, and numerous exceptions and loopholes were created.
With over $4 trillion invested in Russell index-linked products, this year’s rebalance combined with the “Will they/won’t they” Fed rate increase debate could make for an eventful start to summer.
"I'm not sure if it’s the biggest trade ever, but it's certainly one of them," noted Jamie Tyrrell, a VIX specialist on the CBOE floor, as Bloomberg reports almost $100 million worth of options pegged to the volatility of US equities were traded in a split second at 1216ET today. "Someone is interested in owning a lot of protection," Tyrrell added as just over 1 million contracts were traded, all told, about 54% of the total amount of index options that traded at the CBOE all day Friday. While for every buyer of VIX Calls there is a buyer, the notable push higher in volatility after this trade suggests the trades had characteristics of someone hedging stocks.
Investors are clearly in a bit of a no-man’s land of market narrative, with the dollar weakening and U.S. corporate earnings slipping. Market participants, like all pack animals, appreciate clear direction and leadership – and we don’t have much of either right now. When considering how they will react, we can compare the two competing frameworks for understanding market behavior: the "Random Walk hypothesis" and the "House money effect." The first states that markets move in random patterns, with prior activity having no bearing on future price action. The latter shows that individuals do actually consider prior gains and losses when making economic decisions. Let’s just hope investors hold to their belief that it’s the house’s money at work here, and that they don’t walk randomly out of the market.
Hence, if and when a genuine price for risk reappears, the effect may be greatly magnified as it was in the US housing market a few years back under not dissimilar circumstances. As Karl Popper noted, volatility can be suppressed in a capitalist system, but it must ultimately reappear. Sooner or later, we will face a good deal of fireworks.
What do retail investors do on volatile days like Friday’s jolt lower on the S&P 500? Thanks to one very large online broker’s publicly available order flow, we now know...
"When an HFT that is not a member of an association executes an off-exchange trade, the HFT’s identity is usually not reported to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or FINRA, which is the only association currently in existence. This frustrates FINRA’s surveillance efforts as it cannot quickly link trades to the HFTs responsible for them. This is a serious problem because, according to FINRA’s current Chairman, certain market participants disperse their trading activity across multiple markets in an attempt to hide various forms of market abuse, including layering, spoofing, algorithm gaming, and wash sales."
- SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar.
The current set of dominant market narratives are so well known as to be cliché. Invest where central banks are pumping liquidity, and short the currency of those countries or regions. Look for growth, and pay any valuation multiple that seems half way reasonable in today’s market. Expect any spike in volatility to wilt like cut flowers in the hot sun, and the Fed to care intensely about stock prices. And maybe that will continue to work in this last month of the first quarter… But it always pays to question the foundations of market assumptions...
The S&P 500 has given back all the gains from the US Open yesterday... when the CBOE "broke" and stocks went vertical... it seems it is time for the market to break again...
And sure enough - CBOE just broke again!
In November we exposed the market's ability to levitate magically when exchanges - most notably CBOE - break. Today we get another glimpse of the new paranormal. While the official CBOE site is not exposing it, numerous traders noted that CBOE options data was not being disseminated from around the open to shortly after 1030ET this morning. That 'coincidentally' occurred as NASDAQ ramped almopst unabated to 5000 (as VIX was clubbed from 13.9 to 13.1)...
Euro-denominated emerging market sovereign issuance will soar to its highest levels in 10 years on the back of the European Central Bank's quantitative easing programme, as issuers outside the eurozone seek to take advantage of falling euro yields, according to bank analysts.
- Central Banks With Negative Rates Spur Question of How Low to Go (BBG)
- DHS to keep running: Congress edges toward domestic security funding patch (Reuters)
- Setbacks for Tsipras Stir Discord in Greek Ruling Party (BBG)
- Greece’s Challenge: Appeasing Its Creditors and Its Population (WSJ)
- Buffett, a cheerleader for America, takes his checkbook abroad (Reuters)
- Oil’s Big Swings Are the New Normal: Market has rarely been more volatile (WSJ)
- Ukraine Left Behind as Russian Stock Gains Are Unmatched (BBG)
- Brent rises to $61, set for first monthly gain since July (Reuters)