The Market Has Just Gone Nuts

Presented with little comment, aside to ask: "where are the liquidity-providers?"

Extremely heavy volume... and wild swings

 

Zoomed in the moves actually occurred over a 5 minute span... (via @NanexLLC )

 

And it appears all about algos playing The VIX ETFs... (though we already know that VIX manipulation runs the entire market)

 

420 Point roundtrip in The Dow in under 9 minutes...

 

As HYG hit Friday's lows...

 

And all of this is happening right on cue following JPMorgan's Marko Kolanovic warnings of "massive stop losses" ahead..

Not surprisingly, the biggest potential selloff catalyst is the Fed itself and specifically the Dec. 16 FOMC announcement, which the Fed is desperate to guide as being "priced in" by the market, but considering the Fed's track record with getting any forecast right, concerns are starting to grow. "As for near-term risks—we believe the most imminent market catalyst will be the December Fed meeting in which we are likely to see the first rate hike of the cycle."

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So far so good, but to a market which has traded mostly on technicals and program buying (and selling) in recent months, there is something far more troubling than just what the Fed will announce:

This important event falls at a peculiar time—less than 48 hours before the largest option expiry in many years. There are $1.1 trillion of S&P 500 options expiring on Friday morning. $670Bn of these are puts, of which $215Bn are struck relatively close below the market level, between 1900 and 2050. Clients are net long these puts and will likely hold onto them through the event and until expiry. At the time of the Fed announcement, these put options will essentially look like a massive stop loss order under the market.

What does this mean? Considering that the bulk of the puts have been layered by the program traders themselves, including CTA trend-followers, and since the vol surface of the market will be well-known to everyone in advance, there is a very high probability the implied "stop loss" level will be triggered, and the market could trade to a level equivalent to the strike price, somewhere in the 1,800 area, or nearly 200 points below current levels.

Which would be a tragedy for the Fed: after all, nothing is more important to Yellen, Draghi et al, than affirmative market signaling - pointing to the (surging) market's reaction and saying "look, we did the right thing", just as Draghi did on Friday when he explicitly talked the market higher in the aftermath of the ECB's disastrous announcement.

The irony will be if, regardless of what the Fed does, the subsequent move is driven not by the market's read through of monetary policy but by the "pin" in this massive $1.1 trillion option expiry, the biggest in many years, one which if recent market action is an indicator, suggests the stop loss strike level will be taken out in the process setting the "psychological" stage for market participants who will look at the drop in the market, and equate it with a vote of no confidence in what the Fed is doing, potentially forcing the Fed to backtrack in less than 2 days!

Whether this happens remains to be seen, and we are confident the Fed's "arm's length" market-moving JV partner, Citadel, is currently scrambling to prevent any imminent selloff. However, considering Kolanovic' track record of hinting at key risk inflection risk, it is quite likely that whatever the ultimate closing price on December 16 and, more importantly, December 18, volatility may very soon have an "August 24" type event.

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Something has broken.

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