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Commentary

Weekly Brief For April 11, 2021

Weekly commentary for U.S. broad market indices.

Editor’s Note

Welcome to Market Intelligence, Physik Invest’s response to the many newsletters that seldom provide actionable market insights, free.

Through this newsletter you will get a glimpse into the following:

  • The implications of credit and positioning.
  • Impactful events in finance and technology.
  • Technical commentary for index products.
  • Media on emerging trends and hot topics.

Again, thanks for joining! Physik Invest looks forward to providing you an objective view into the who, what, when, where, why, and how in finance and technology.

Regards,

Renato Leonard Capelj


Market Commentary

Index futures are in price discovery mode.

  • Institutions bullish but risks add up.
  • Earnings season to start this week.
  • Balance-to-higher into April OPEX.

What Happened: U.S. stock index futures closed higher, last week.

What Does It Mean: The S&P 500 closed above $4,100 for the first time as investors looked to price in an economic “‘Goldilocks moment’—fast, sustained growth alongside inflation and interest rates that drift slowly upward.”

According to a letter by JPMorgan Chase & Co’s (NYSE: JPM) Jamie Dimon, strong consumer savings, an increased pace in COVID-19 coronavirus vaccinations, and unprecedented efforts to spur economic activity could mean that a boom lasts as long as 2023. 

This perspective differs from Dimon’s comments a year ago; he warned of a recession in which GDP could fall nearly 35%. Is Dimon one to fade? Likely not, given the fact that (1) he heads one of the biggest banks and (2) most forecasts by other institutions support Dimon’s perspectives.

Further, the CBOE Volatility Index (INDEX: VIX), a measure of the stock market’s expectation of volatility based on S&P 500 (INDEX: SPX) options, traded to its lowest level since February 2020.

At the same time, participants saw blocks of VIX call spreads — bets that serenity won’t last — hit the tape; the unknown participant(s) bought nearly 200,000 contracts.

Graphic 1: Risk graph of the 25/40 VIX call spread in question via MarketEar

“With VIX being priced in the low 17 area, I would imagine we would see more of these larger-sized bets going forward,” Kris Sidial, co-chief investment officer at Ambrus Group, told Bloomberg. “I think smart money understands that, although volatility has contracted a lot in these last two months, we are still seeing signs of excess market fragility appear from many different angles.”

Graphic 2: Volatility declines to its lowest level since February 2020.

As stated last week, the market is in a historically bullish period, ahead of the upcoming corporate earnings season, with structural flows supporting the ongoing narrative into the coming April monthly options expiration (OPEX).

Option Expiration (OPEX) Significance: Option expiries mark an end to pinning (i.e, the theory that market makers and institutions short options move stocks to the point where the greatest dollar value of contracts will expire worthless) and the reduction dealer gamma exposure.

Adding, most funds are committed to holding long positions. In the interest of lower volatility returns, these funds will collar off their positions, selling calls to finance the purchase of downside put protection.

As a result of this activity, options dealers are long upside and short downside protection.

This exposure must be hedged; dealers will sell into strength as their call (put) positions gain (lose) value and buy into weakness as their call (put) positions lose (gain) value.

Now, unlike theory suggests, dealers will hedge call losses (gains) quicker (slower). This leads to “long-gamma,” a dynamic that crushes volatility and promotes momentum, observed by lengthy sprints — like the one the market is currently in — followed by rapid de-risking events as the market transitions into “short-gamma.”

What To Expect: Balance-to-higher.

Important to note is that equity market inflows, over the past 5 months, exceeded inflows of the prior 12 years, total. Think about the supply and demand dynamics of the market; in case of an equity market sell-off, a lot of late buyers will have poor location which may leave a thick area of supply above the market, putting a dampener on future rallies. 

“You should definitely be worried about valuations and all the more so when people start justifying extremely high valuations. We are risk-on, but we haven’t put our foot down on the accelerator because of valuations in some parts of the market,” said Fahad Kamal, chief investment officer at Kleinwort Hambros.

Adding to the narrative, metrics, like DIX, confirm increased buying pressure while divergences in options activity suggest opportunistic hedging, especially with puts trading at their cheapest level, relative to calls the same delta.

Graphic 3: 1-month 25 delta risk-reversal, via SpotGamma, suggests puts are trading cheap.
More On DIX: For every buyer is a seller (usually a market maker). Using DIX — which is derived from short sales (i.e., liquidity provision on the market-making side) — we can measure buying pressure.
Graphic 4: Physik Invest maps out the purchase of call and put options in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY), for the week ending April 9, 2021. Activity in the options market was primarily concentrated in short- and long-dated tenors, in put strikes as low as $340, which corresponds with $3,400 in the cash-settled S&P 500 Index (INDEX: SPX).

What To Do: In the coming sessions, participants will want to pay attention to where the S&P 500 trades in relation to Friday’s end-of-day spike higher.

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).

In the best case, the S&P 500 remains above the $4,104.00 spike base. Doing so means that the participants are validating the prices caused by the late-day knee-jerk rally. 

In the case of higher prices, given that the 161.80% and 127.20% Fibonacci price extensions were achieved, and after-market trade established an overnight high at $4,121.50, participants can target prices as high as the $4,197.25 price extension.

More On Overnight Rally Highs (Lows): Typically, there is a low historical probability associated with overnight rally-highs (lows) ending the upside (downside) discovery process.

Any activity below the $4,104.00 spike base puts the rally on hold and calls for balance or an attempt to digest higher prices.

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

In the case of lower prices, participants can look to whether a test of the $4,069.00 high-volume area (HVNode) solicits a response. If not, initiative trade could take prices as low as $3,943.00, the next most valuable price area in the chain.

More On Volume Areas: A structurally sound market will build on past areas of high-volume (HVNode). Should the market trend for long periods of time, it will lack sound structure (identified as a low-volume area (LVNode) 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.
Graphic 5: 4-hour profile chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures.

News And Analysis

Economy | No elevated default risk expected until 2023. (Moody’s)

Economy | China looks to curtail loan growth amid bubble fears. (BBG)

Markets | Pre-IPO, Coinbase releases blowout Q1 2021 results. (BW)

Markets | Growing signs that equity bull market overheating. (Axios)

Economy | CFPB warns lenders of a wave of distressed mortgages. (MP)

Markets | Cboe extends global trading for VIX and SPX options. (Cboe)

Markets | Unpacking the feedback loop that is distorting markets. (RV)

Trade | Global trade disruptions after the Suez Canal incident. (S&P)

Economy | U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rates to plateau in April. (Surgo)

Markets | Treasuries rally signaling bets on Fed hikes pared back. (BBG)

Markets | Bitcoin fills a demand for alternatives to fiat currencies. (BBG)

Economy | Powell says the economy poised for stronger growth. (BBG)

Markets | Earnings season starts with banks reporting this week. (WSJ)

Markets | Citadel Securities feels the heat of the political spotlight. (BBG)

Markets | Oil sideways. Gold, DXY higher. Copper, aluminum lower. (REU)

What People Are Saying

Innovation And Emerging Trends

Strategy | Strategies one VC believes made Stripe so successful. (BI)

FinTech | Fidelity, Square, and others, form crypto trade group. (WSJ)

FinTech | WealthCharts expands offer, tackles emerging trends. (BZ)

FinTech | SoftBank invests $500M in mortgage lender Better. (CNBC)

FinTech | Rarible co-founder says NFTs to stay, growth robust. (BZ)

FinTech | JPMorgan’s Dimon acknowledges fintech’s big threat. (BZ)

FinTech | Vesica launches a search engine for the options market. (BZ)

About

Renato founded Physik Invest after going through years of self-education, strategy development, and trial-and-error. His work reporting in the finance and technology space, interviewing leaders such as John Chambers, founder, and CEO, JC2 Ventures, Kevin O’Leary, Canadian businessman and Shark Tank host, Catherine Wood, CEO and CIO, ARK Invest, among others, afforded him the perspective and know-how very few come by.

Having worked in engineering and majored in economics, Renato is very detailed and analytical. His approach to the markets isn’t built on hope or guessing. Instead, he leverages the unique dynamics of time and volatility to efficiently act on opportunity.

Disclaimer

At this time, Physik Invest does not manage outside capital and is not licensed. In no way should the materials herein be construed as advice. Derivatives carry a substantial risk of loss. All content is for informational purposes only.

Cover photo by Kammeran Gonzalez-Keola from Pexels.

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