Market Commentary For 3/4/2021

Daily commentary for U.S. broad market indices.

Notice: To view this week’s big picture outlook, click here.

What Happened: After Tuesday’s end-of-day spike liquidation, U.S. stock index futures were further sold, during Wednesday’s sessions.

What Does It Mean: Broad market indices are mixed.

On a relative basis, the Nasdaq-100 is weaker, while the S&P 500 and Russell 2000 are stronger. This push-pull dynamic is making it hard for participants to resolve directionally, evidenced by recent volatility.

Based on Wednesday’s action, the S&P 500 and Russell 2000 are in balance, while the Nasdaq-100 is in price-discovery mode, evidenced by a successful break from balance. In other words, the outlook is mixed; one may argue that lower prices in the S&P 500 are likely, given the relative weakness of the Nasdaq.

Adding, there’s one guarantee over the next few sessions: volatility.

Given that the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 are in short-gamma territory (Graphic 1), option dealers are required to hedge their exposure in a manner that exacerbates volatility. This hedging activity will worsen with the purchase of put options by market participants looking to hedge their downside, which is happening, as evidenced by Graphic 2.

More On Gamma: Gamma is the sensitivity of an option to changes in underlying price. Dealers that take the other side of option trades hedge their exposure to risk by buying and selling the underlying. When dealers are short-gamma, they hedge by buying into strength and selling into weakness. When dealers are long-gamma, they hedge by selling into strength and buying into weakness. The former exacerbates volatility. The latter calms volatility.
Graphic 1: SpotGamma data suggests Nasdaq-100 at or below “Short-Gamma” juncture.
Graphic 2: Option activity for the largest ETFs that track the S&P 500, Nasdaq-100, and Russell 2000.

Important to note is market liquidity, which suggests (1) buying pressure is increasing or (2) sellers are absorbing resting liquidity (which could be opportunistic buying or short covering into weakness).

What To Expect: Thursday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM ET) will likely open just inside of prior-value and -range, suggesting a limited potential for immediate directional opportunity.

During Wednesday’s trade, the worst case outcome occurred: participants auctioned past Tuesday’s regular trade low, emboldening sellers and starting a new auction, to the downside. The session ended on a spike lower, away from value, with the Nasdaq-100 breaking its week-long balance area, to the downside.

More On Spikes: Spike’s mark the beginning of a break from value. Spikes higher (lower) are validated by trade at or above (below) the spike base (i.e., the origin of the spike).

More On Balance (Two-Timeframe Or Bracket): Rotational trade that denotes current prices offer favorable entry and exit. Balance-areas make it easy to spot change in the market (i.e., the transition from two-time frame trade, or balance, to one-time frame trade, or trend).

Important to mention is overnight discovery, which established clear excess on the composite profile.

More On Excess: A proper end to price discovery; the market travels too far while advertising prices. Responsive, other-timeframe (OTF) participants aggressively enter the market, leaving tails or gaps which denote unfair prices.

Given the aforementioned dynamics, participants can trade from the following frameworks.

In the best case, the S&P 500 either (1) remains rotational, trading responsively between the $3,785.00 gap boundary and $3,837.75 high-volume area (HVNode), or (2) auctions past the $3,837.75 HVNode.

Thereafter, if higher, attention shifts to whether the S&P 500 can get past the $3,861.25 low-volume area (LVNode). Doing so suggests the most recent downside probe was an auction failure (i.e, participants rejected lower prices, sparking a rapid recovery).

In the worst case, participants auction past the $3,777.75 regular trade low (RTH Low). In such a case participants may target the $3,727.75 and $3,689.50 HVNodes.

More On Volume Areas: A structurally sound market will build on past areas of high-volume. Should the market trend for long periods of time, it will lack sound structure (identified as a low-volume area which denotes directional conviction and ought to offer support on any test). 

If participants were to auction and find acceptance into areas of prior low-volume, then future discovery ought to be volatile and quick as participants look to areas of high-volume for favorable entry or exit.
Pictured: Profile overlays on a 4-hour chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures.

Levels Of Interest: $3,837.75 HVNode, $3,777.75 RTH Low, and $3,727.75 HVNode.

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