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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An expectedly low volume day saw equity futures wiggle around VWAP until the day-session open at which time Energy and Materials sectors surged to lift stocks 10 pts higher into the European close. Commodities all surged - led by Oil with its 'Hormuz'-premium pricing in - and while the USD weakened after the European close ( driven by EURUSD bouncing off the 50% retracement of the EU Summit spike), equities also lost ground and rapidly reverted back down to VWAP. The strength in gold and silver was interesting as they extend their gains from pre-Summit lows (gold up over $70) and most notable to us was the recoupling of risk assets broadly with equities. Gold and stocks are seemingly back in sync and so are (separately) the USD and 10Y Treasury yields. After stocks hit VWAP they rapidly resurged back up to the highs of the day and closed there dragged up by a push into the green by HYG (with both stocks and high-yield seeing some sizable blocks going through at the highs). VIX closed down very modestly at 16.6% but most notably was the rise in implied correlation (and implicitly index vol - VIX - from around 1045ET into the close, even as stocks rallied). It would seem that the rise in WTI back over $87.50 (and Brent over EUR80) has been the 'risk-driver' for much of this rally (with CONTEXT - broad risk proxy - playing squeeze catch up to equity's health). In summary, equities are up over 5% as oil is smashing higher due to pending Hormuz strait closing and WAR; Germany and Finland basically saying NEIN to EU Summit deal as it stands; JPM in an energy market probe and BARC told to lower rates by the government!! All is well in nominal, central-bank, asset-value land.
The NYSE volume today was abysmal. According to BBG data, this was the lowest volume day in over a decade and even compared to other July 1st (or holiday weeks) this was the lowest volume print. Average trade size for the S&P 500 e-mini futures was also very small - almost the lowest of the year as low volumes and the narrowest high-to-low range for ES in over two months still managed to hold on to small gains for the day. In the face of this relative exuberance, Treasury yields dumped down 5 to 6 bps across the board remaining the most cognitively dissonant of risk assets on the day. HYG underperformed (as HY and IG credit indices were very quiet and reracked along with ES for most of the day). HYG did end Friday notably rich to intrinsics so this makes some sense but is unusual for a positive close in ES (as we note that 16 of the 24 times in the last year that HYG has closed red and SPY closed green, SPY has gone on to lose more in the next few days). EURUSD lost quite a bit of ground (again seemingly ignored by US equities) as USD rise 0.35% from Friday's close (albeit with AUD rallying modestly along with JPY). Oil retraced almst 50% of its spike gains from Friday but then pushed back up over $83.50 into the close and while Silver and Gold flatlined ending practically unchanged, Copper also lost a little ground (2x beta of USD) on growth slowing from China's data we assume.As with pretty much any rally, financials, energy and tech were the higher-beta winners all gathered perfectly correlated around 0.6% gains on the day (but we note that JPM and Citi remain negative from Friday's opening print). VIX ended the day below 17% (down a measly 0.25 vols) - its lowest close in two months - and while implied correlation managed to make modest gains (to around 65%) risk assets in general were only moderately correlated as equities outshone CONTEXT on the day.
Another interestingly odd day. One of the lowest (non-holiday) volume days of the year but a big pick up in average trade size as the S&P 500 e-mini futures shrugged off Treasury strength, USD strength, and Gold's somnambulism seemingly led by an energy sector focused on only one thing - the bounce in WTI. Copper also drifted higher even as the USD leaked modestly higher (as assume the two got some hopium-infusion from China RRR cut rumors early on and sustained momentum as liquidity disappeared in many risk markets. Credit once again was a split-decision with the CDS markets underperforming (and notably thin from our discussions) while HYG (high-yield bonds) decided to lead the way (also on one of its lowest volume days of the year). Treasuries remain in a tight range over the last few days, as EURUSD limps lower, but VIX had a high vol day with its move higher in the face or rising stock prices (up to 20% vol at one point) providing some ammo for the late day surge in stocks as it was sold hard to close -0.25 vols only around 19.5% (as implied correlation broke 71% before plunging into the close).
We have discussed the use of correlation (cross-asset-class and intra-asset-class) a number of times in the last few years, most recently here, as a better way to track 'fear' or greed than the traditional (and much misunderstood) VIX. As Nic Colas writes this evening, a review of asset price correlations shows that the convergence typical of 'risk-off' periods in the market is solidly underway. While we prefer to monitor the 'finer' average pairwise realized correlations for the S&P 100 - which have been rising significantly recently, Nic points out that the more coarse S&P 500 industry correlations relative to the index as a whole are up to 88% from a low of 75% back in February. In terms of assessing market health, a decline in correlation is a positive for markets since it shows investors are focused on individual sector and stock fundamentals instead of a macro “Do or die” concerns. By that measure, we’re moving in the wrong direction, and not just because of recent decline in risk assets. Moreover, other asset classes such as U.S. High Yield corporate bonds, foreign stocks (both emerging market and develop economies), and even some currencies are increasingly moving in lock step. Lastly, we would highlight that average sector correlations have done a better job in 2012 of warning investors about upcoming turbulence than the closely-watched CBOE VIX Index. Those investors looking for reliable “Buy at a bottom” indicators should add these metrics to their investment toolbox as a better 'mousetrap' than the now ubiquitous VIX.
US equities dumped out of the gate from the day-session open - after drifting lower with Europe all night/morning. Regimes shifted as Europe closed with Gold and Silver spurting higher (with the latter outperforming to play catch-up from last week) which led to the start of a correlated risk-on move in stocks (egged on in a 'ignorant' way but Oil strength from its increasing war-premium given the middle-east turbulence.) The levitation on low average trade size and low volume was mind-blowingly algorithmic as ES came to rest for the last hour almost perfectly at VWAP (and EURUSD seemed pegged at 1.25). Just like on Friday though, with a few minutes to go, ES dropped rapidly on heavy volume and average trade size as it would appear institutional sell orders plagued the market. The close took us back into the down-trend channel and back to 10-day lows for stocks. Modest USD strength (and JPY strength on carry-unwinds) left Oil lower from Friday but well off its lows as the rest of the commodity complex surged. Treasuries gained back all of Friday's losses ending at Thursday's low yields with 30Y outperforming. Financials and Energy sectors were worst with the major financials ending down 5-7% from the pre-downgrade close now. HYG (and HY) outperformed in the short-term but as we noted earlier remains a convergence trade than an indication of rotation or strength. The late-day dump in stocks lifted VIX back over 20% ending up 2.3 vols as implied correlation lifted back above the 70 'crisis' levels once again.
Today wasn't the worst plunge in the stock market so far this year... It was the second-worst by a whisper. And just like that we are one third of the way down to Goldman's target. But everything is priced in? It seems that between the realization that global growth may actually be slowing (between China PMI and this morning's Philly Fed) and the recognition that there is no-QE-without-a-crash, markets began to lose steam early on this morning (led by energy names crushed by the biggest two-day drop in oil in over 9 months). Then Goldman's timely note to short the market if you want Bernanke to act (and the rumors of pending global bank downgrades) sent us over the edge as the S&P lost its upchannel and plunged (down over 40pts from its highs of Tuesday). The Dow is following a very worrisome pattern (echoing last year far too well) as it lost the second most points in the year. Gold (and the rest of the commodity complex - led by WTI -7% this week) fell notably as the USD surged to up almost 1% on the week. Gold's and USD's moves suggested further pain for the S&P as Treasuries stabilized at notably better levels and did not plunge on the day (though much of this is equities playing catch up to a longer-term dislocation). VIX jumped over 3 vols back over 20% (as perhaps the jump in implied correlation we highlighted was on to something). AUD (as we suggested) was crushed as risk-on trades drive carry-off and the China trade dumped it by the most in a day since November (almost back to parity). Heavy volume and a big pick up in average trade size suggest this has more to run as broke back under the 50DMA and back inside the down-channel for the S&P.
S&P 500 e-mini futures managed to get back above their 50DMA, fill the gap back to the 5/4 ugly-NFP print levels, and retrace 61.8% of the recent swing high-to-low ahead of tomorrow's hope-laden FOMC-print-fest. As we noted here, credit markets do not agree that QE is coming anytime soon and today's Gold deterioration suggests expectations for anything more than a twist extension are overblown (which we suspect would be a huge disappointment to a market only 4% off its highs and a VIX with a 17 handle earlier in the day. As the afternoon wore on and the incredible reporting falsehoods were denied, equity markets (and EUR) reverted lower (led by financials) pulling back to VWAP (and VIX pushed back rapidly to 18.5 - ending the day higher in vol (despite a 10pt jump in the S&P). Low volume and falling average trade size suggests this was far from the start of a new trend in stocks and the push higher (and steeper) in TSY yields to Monday's opening highs seems more like QE hope fading than growth hope. Silver just underperformed Gold on the day (both leaking lower) as Oil and Copper rallied (leaving WTI in the green for the week) as USD weakened and round-tripped to Monday's opening lows (with AUD now 1.3% stronger on the week). Investment grade credit remains a considerable underperformer relative to the high beta equity and high yield markets but 'agrees' with Gold and Treasuries in its view of no LSAP tomorrow- and the surge in implied correlation into the close suggests macro overlays as opposed to a market with any conviction.
After opening over 1% higher, S&P 500 e-mini futures plunged to close at their lows of the day (down 1.5%) amid the widest range day in six months. Volume was heavy after ES touched up to its 200DMA at the Sunday night open slide along with Europe's weakness, stabilized at Thursday's closing VWAP around the European close, only to dump in the afternoon (as financials, materials, and AAPL led the plunge). The major US financials lost 5-7% from their opening ticks of the day with Citi, BofA, and MS the worst performers (as AAPL ended -1.5% after being up over 1%). Gold back at $1600 (and Silver) rallied 0.4% (diverging from recent sync with stocks) even as USD strength kicked in - ending the day +0.17% (from a -0.85% low in early European trading). Oil meanwhile ended down over 3% (ending below $81.50) from up 3% in early trading on OPEC chatter and global growth concerns (and we assume correlated risk liquidation). Credit underperformed - leading stocks once again - with IG back to last Wednesday's wides (as cheap macro overlays were laid out). Stocks and HYG (the high-yield bond ETF) plunged into the close to catch up to HY credit. Treasury yields dropped, along with stocks, down 2-5bps from Friday's close, as the 7Y segment outperformed (but were down 11-13bps from their opening high yields). VIX saw a huge range day of around 3.6 vols as we closed back above 23.5% and implied correlation soared almost 6pts to 74.5 (biggest pop in 7.5 months). Realized cross-asset class correlation rose significantly and remained extremely high into the close implying very systemic market movement - which given the weakness after-hours seems worrisome.
The S&P 500 gained over 3.5% this week (with a dip-and-rip today on dismal volume). This is the best week of the year amid the lowest volume of the year (ex-holiday weeks). Gold, Stocks, Treasury yields, and the USD all recoupled from last Friday's decoupling and limped higher, ending at the top of the day's range today. Financials and Tech outperformed - up over 1.1% - with the majors best as financials won on the week +4.8%. Treasuries close to close were dull but intraday saw rather notable vol as 30Y yields dropped over 10bps before round-tripping back to its high yields of the day. All-in-all, broad risk assets did leak higher today but nothing like as exuberantly as stocks which was somewhat surprising into a weekend likely full of equity dilution for Spanish banks (and more burden for Spain) - or none at all. The USD rallied into the European close and sold off after for the fifth day in a row. HYG outran stocks on the day and maintained the bid (ES closed at overnight highs) but IG and HY credit lagged on the day - though are al better on the week. Cross asset-class correlations dropped notably into the close, as implied correlation dropped and VIX was very stable given the rally into the close, holding above 21% - even as S&P 500 e-mini futures ended the day more than 2 sigma above VWAP (as we suspect futures roll effects kept some out into the weekend). Lastly, this push higher today in stocks saw a major drop in average trade size - certainly not offering the kind of follow through to yesterday's (or the week's) gains that one would expect on a new bull leg.