Implied Correlation

Equity Derivatives Flash Brexit-Like "Panic Signal"

Equity market implied correlation is flashing a 'panic' warning according to BMO quant Mark Steele as the little-known derivative indicator suggests traders fear a major 'high correlation' event and are aggressively hedging systemic risk.

"Dust Off The Tail-Risk Hedges" MKM Warns US Equities Are Entering A "High Volatility Regime"

"Dust off the systematic hedging strategies, and get re-acquainted with the concept of tail-risk," is the ominous conclusion from MKM Partners' Jim Strugger's latest report. Despite every effort from central banks to maintain a low-volatility environment, the magnitude of the August 2015 'shock' not just for U.S. equities but across asset classes, was great enough for Strugger to conclude that a transition into a high-volatility regime had begun. Given the length of the economic cycle, bull market, and the rise in financial stress globally, Strugger warns a transition to a high-vol regime leaves ultimate damage in the &P 500 averaging 53%.

S&P 500 Spikes To Record Highs As Oil Plunges & Macro Hedgers Fold

The S&P 500 is now up 12.5% from the Bullard lows in mid-October and has broken to new record highs over 2048 - within 2 points of Goldman Sachs year-end target. Since Bullard's comments, the S&P 500 has been up 19 days and down only 5 (and today will be the 23rd day in a row of closing above its 5-day moving-average - a record!) WTI crude oil prices are collapsing back to cycle lows below $75 but perhaps most notable is the plunge in 'implied correlation' - which measures the relative demand for individual stock protection over index macro protection. Implied correlation is at a record low - which suggests capitulation among those with macro overlays (like Carl Icahn)...

Stocks Close Down Despite Last Hour Buying Panic

Early weakness and volatility was entirely suppressed once European markets closed and stocks traded in a shockingly low range amid dreadfully low volume. All the major indices closed red with the Russell underperforming (and Nasdaq outperforming) as stocks tracked (more loosely than normal) with AUDJPY once again. Treasuries ended the day very modestly lower in yield (30Y unch, rest -1bps). The USD traded modestly higher all day led by weakness in GBP and AUD (as JPY ended unch). Gold closed unchanged as copper (China), oil, and silver slipped. Credit markets remain skeptical and VIX closed higher on the day, despite the late-day ramp efforts to get the S&P 500 green - which failed.

 

Has The Selling Of VIX Come To An End?

VIX futures positioning hit another all-time record short just two weeks ago after collapsing to 12-month high levels as "Taper" concerns increased. From the start of July to the 3rd week of August VIX futures were sold in epic proportions providing the fuel to lift a plateaued stock market from taper-anxiety to new all-time highs (as nothing changed). Over 100 million contracts were sold in the 7-week period - a totally unprecedented amount of complacency. However, in the past 3 weeks, there has been an inflection; is this the end of selling, or are we about to pull VIX even lower with a concerted reflexive selling of even more shorts? As SocGen warns, this historic level of non-commercial short positions (read speculative) implies any market correction - or VIX-related spike - would increase short-covering and exaggerate the fall dramatically. With today's exuberant spurt lower in VIX, vol has caught back with stocks once again.

 

The Fruit Shall Lead The Way

As Monty Python might have said, apart from AAPL; what has the market done for you today? S&P 500 cash managed (somehow) to cling to a green close while the Dow and Nasdaq ended red. Critically - markets went only one way all day - from upper left to lower right as we go out at the lows of the day - back again at the Draghi cliff edge and just below pre-QE levels. AAPL was a disaster - on heavy volume - as it pushed back down towards it 100DMA (over 3% from its opening highs today!) ending at its lowest in two months with its biggest slide in 5 months (last 14 days). Risk-assets in general tracked closely as while AAPL slide from the open, equity indices manage to hold opening gap gains until Europe closed and then it went pear-shaped. The USD slid all day but didn't 'help' stocks as JPY weakened more (carry offsetting). Treasury yields plunged - 30Y now down 12bps on the week. Commodities all gained on the day - led by Oil (with gold/silver lagging). Meanwhile VIX ignored the debacle, gapping lower at the open and holding down 0.7vols at 15.6% as HYG handily outperformed on low volume.

Peter Misek Heart AAPL

The reason the market is up today? Jefferies' Peter Misek hikes his price target on Apple from $800 tio $900 (the same AAPL which is now supposed to grow almost exclusively in China, and where as Apple Insider just reported "China's second-largest carrier may end contract sales of Apple's iPhone"). Yes, middle market, $100-$200MM high yield bond issuer Jefferies has an equity research group. And yes, after working at JPmorgan, Scotia, Orion, Alpcap, and Canaccord in the past decade, Misek finally has found a place he can call home (for more than 2 years), or at least until the next bonus renegotiation-cum-upgrade option time. And yes, Jefferies actually is moving the volumeless market for the first and only time ever courtesy of 1.000 implied correlation between the NASDAPPLEURUSD. Which is great. Maybe Misek will be right here.,, Unlike his calls on DragonWave for example, where he was buying all the way from $7 until $2, in the interim moving his Price Target from $9.00 to $3.50 to $10.00 to $3.00. Peter likes even numbers. He keeps it simple, except for his $699 PT on AAPL back in March- why $699? "It's one iPad." Sometimes he likes it complicated.

VIX, Credit, And Treasuries Warn As Stocks Yawn

Equities traded in a very narrow range (aside from an early day-session stop-run) amid extremely low volume in equity cash and futures markets and ended the day modestly lower (holding the post-Draghi gains). However, a funny thing happened on the way to the equity bull market; HY and IG credit have underperformed since mid-day Friday, VIX (+1.3vols to 18.03%) has risen notably since the open on Friday - completely shrugging off equity's strength, and while Treasuries saw a great deal of ugliness at the end of last week - and a pull back would be expected - they notably outperformed (relatively speaking) their equity cousins today. The USD gained 0.25% today as the EUR dropped a notable 0.5% but only WTI reacted to that (by dropping 0.67% today) while Copper and Gold trod water and Silver spurted to a high-beta 1.7% gain (crossing back above its 50DMA for the first time since mid-March). As Unilever and Texas Industries issue debt at record-low coupons we also note that IG/HY advance-declines lines are extremely high and along with implied-skewness in SPY options suggests a very high level of complacency.

Faith, Hope, And Draghi

What can we say? From the better than expected GDP this morning Gold and the USD (and Treasury yields) diverged from the QE hope trade - but stocks didn't. Then came the statement of the entirely sublime obvious from someone somewhere about Draghi's normal pre-meeting meetings and we were off to the races to test recent highs. Treasuries exploded higher in yield, Gold popped, USD weakened (as EUR popped), and stocks ripped. But...Treasuries reverted back to pre-Draghi-levels, EUR tumbled and the USD ended near the highs of the day, Gold gave back most of its spike gains and closed in the middle of its day's range as stocks just wouldn't give up the dream. For a 2% rally in S&P 500 e-mini futures, VIX fell only modestly by 0.9 vos to 16.7% - which is above last week's close (while stocks end almost 2% above last week's close). Amid the heaviest volume in over a month and the largest average trade size in over a week, ES closed at almost 3-month highs. It appears to us that unless Draghi and Bernanke - who now seem engrossed deep in the inter-continental thermonuclear currency war - both do their bit next week (which the market has now more than fully priced in given the dismal fundamentals) then this is becoming farcical but as Maria B said "a rally is a rally, right?" Ask the ZNGA and FB buyers of the rally on IPO day. Stocks ended the day notably decoupled from risk-assets amid Treasuries worst day in 9 months.

Equities Smash Back To Risk-Asset Reality

After surging away from risk-assets into Friday's close (only to revert yesterday) and once again surging into yesterday's close, broad derisking among most risk-assets finally saw US equities catching-down to that reality in the short-term today - as they broke the EU-Summit/Spain-Bailout/Greek-Election shoulder and ended comfortably below the 50DMA. Short-end Treasury yields made new record lows as belly to long-end all fell notably close to those record lows (with 10Y back under 1.50% and 30Y under 2.60%). The USD rallied back from a 0.3% loss on the week to a 0.1% gain - thanks mostly to EUR's new 2Y low at 1.2235 intraday and AUD weakness (as JPY remains better on the week - more carry unwinds). Commodities plunged - far exceeding the USD-implied moves - with WTI down over 3% from yesterday's highs and Gold and Silver in sync down around 1% on the week. Staples and Utilities were the only sectors holding green today (marginally) as Industrials, Materials, and Energy (all the high beta QE-sensitive sectors) took a dive. It seems the message that no NEW QE without a market plunge is getting through and the reality of a global slowdown looms large. Credit outperformed (though was very quiet flow-wise) but HYG underperformed  - cracking into the close - as it just seems like the most yield-chasing 'technicals-driven' market there is currently. Slightly below average volume and above average trade size offers little insight here but a pop back above 19% in VIX (and a 2-month flat in term structure), a rise in implied correlation, a rise in systemic cross-asset class correlation, and the leaking negatives of broad risk assets suggest there is more to come here (especially given the BUBA's comments this morning and a lack of real progress in Europe). The ubiquitous late-day ramp saw aggressive trade size and volume (with a delta bias to selling) as it remained far below VWAP.