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Commentary

Daily Brief For December 13, 2021

Daily commentary for U.S. broad market indices.

What Happened

Overnight, most equity, commodity, and bond futures were higher.

This comes ahead of the weighty December 17 options and futures expiration – “quad witching” – large portfolio rebalances, and an update to Federal Reserve (Fed) policy, December 15.

Ahead, today, there are no key economic releases scheduled.

Graphic updated 6:15 AM ET. Sentiment Risk-On if expected /ES open is above the prior day’s range. /ES levels are derived from the profile graphic at the bottom of the following section. Levels may have changed since initially quoted; click here for the latest levels. SqueezeMetrics Dark Pool Index (DIX) and Gamma (GEX) calculations are based on where the prior day’s reading falls with respect to the MAX and MIN of all occurrences available. A higher DIX is bullish. At the same time, the lower the GEX, the more (expected) volatility. Learn the implications of volatility, direction, and moneyness. SHIFT data used for S&P 500 (INDEX: SPX) options activity. Note that options flow is sorted by the call premium spent; if more positive then more was spent on call options. Breadth reflects a reading of the prior day’s NYSE Advance/Decline indicator. VIX reflects a current reading of the CBOE Volatility Index (INDEX: VIX) from 0-100.

What To Expect

On lackluster breadth and supportive market liquidity metrics, the best case outcome occurred, evidenced by an expansion of range, Friday, followed by a gap out of balance, Sunday.

Graphic: SpotGamma’s (beta) Hedging Impact of Real-Time Options (HIRO) indicator suggested participants were buying (or covering short) calls and selling put options, into the close. S&P 500 prices followed as dealers added to their long-delta hedges.

Context: As fears of a COVID-19 resurgence are assuaged, in the face of U.S. job growth that fell short of expectations, per Bloomberg, the Fed ought to move more quickly to “save itself from having to hike too far and make rates so expensive that they slow down the economy.”

The expectation is that the Fed scales asset purchases by $30 billion per month versus the expected $15 billion. In doubling the pace of the taper to bond-buying, the odds of a rate hike happening as early as next June increase markedly. 

“If the Fed does not address inflation soon, they risk long rates shooting much higher,” says Jim Bianco of Bianco Research.

“But if they follow the market’s lead in aggressively hiking rates, they risk hurting the economy. We understand the Fed’s paralysis given the massive uncertainty coming out of the pandemic. However, the longer they wait to address inflation, the worse this conundrum will become.”

Rising rates, among other factors, have the potential to decrease the present value of future earnings, thereby making stocks, especially those that are high growth, less attractive.

Despite today’s rates supporting validations better than in the ‘90s, an intent to reduce stimulus serves as a headwind.

That said, equity markets typically rally into the first hike; Moody’s Corporation’s (NYSE: MCO) “forecast is that the Dow Jones Industrial Average increases this quarter and peaks in early 2022, … [followed by] steady decline through 2022.”

Graphic: S&P 500 performance before and after rate hikes, via The Market Ear.

Prevailing monetary frameworks and max liquidity promoted a large divergence in price from fundamentals; the growth of passive investing – the effect of increased moneyness among nonmonetary assets – and derivatives trading imply a lot of left-tail risks.

Graphic: As U.S. stocks’ inflation-adjusted earnings yield turns negative, as seen near the peak of the tech bubble, via Bloomberg, “Investors in the Nasdaq increasingly seem to think that only a few companies have much of a chance. With a growing possibility of more aggressive attempts to prosecute antitrust issues, that’s a riskier position than it appears.”

Adding, the Fed, too, is seeing vulnerabilities in asset prices.

“The decline in stock prices is forecast to be orderly but it could turn into something worse,” Moody’s explains. 

“One potential catalyst would be an explosion in the value of margin accounts at brokers and dealers, which amounted to $595 billion in the second quarter, nearly double the pre-pandemic level. A drop in stock prices could trigger margin calls.”

Margin calls happen when customers owe money to their brokerage firm; “If there is no money, investors have to sell other assets.”

Putting it simply, participants are more exposed to leveraged products, among other things, which increases the speed with which volatility is realized.

So despite positioning metrics flashing a buy, and expectations of “the strongest quarterly nominal [economic] growth in more than three decades,” offsides positioning may prompt a cascading reaction that exacerbates underlying price movements.

Short-term, however, aside from the presence of “natural, passive buying support,” the market is in a positive-gamma environment wherein the counterparties to customer options trades add market liquidity and temper realized volatility.

Graphic: “[N]atural, passive buying support,” coupled with strong put flows results in positive return distribution. Data via SqueezeMetrics. Graph via Physik Invest.

If participants are further assuaged of their fears at this week’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, a collapse in event-related implied volatility ought to bring in positive flows as the long delta (from dealers’ exposure to short puts) decreases.

The decrease in dealer supply (short delta), via covering of short stock/futures hedges, would bolster any attempt higher.

Expectations: As of 6:15 AM ET, Monday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM ET), in the S&P 500, will likely open in the upper part of a positively skewed overnight inventory, outside of prior-range and -value, suggesting a potential for immediate directional opportunity.

Balance-Break + Gap Scenarios: A change in the market (i.e., the transition from two-time frame trade, or balance, to one-time frame trade, or trend) is occurring.

Monitor for acceptance (i.e., more than 1-hour of trade) outside of the balance area. 

Leaving value behind on a gap-fill or failing to fill a gap (i.e., remaining outside of the prior session’s range) is a go-with indicator. 

Rejection (i.e., return inside of balance) portends a move to the opposite end of the balance.

In the best case, the S&P 500 trades sideways or higher; activity above the $4,717.25 low volume area (LVNode) puts in play the $4,732.50 high volume area (HVNode). Initiative trade beyond the HVNode could reach as high as the $4,740.50 minimal excess and $4,767.00 extension, or higher.

In the worst case, the S&P 500 trades lower; activity below the $4,717.25 LVNode puts in play the $4,705.25 LVNode. Initiative trade beyond the LVNode could reach as low as the $4,690.25 MCPOC and $4,674.25 HVNode, or lower.

Click here to load today’s key levels into the web-based TradingView charting platform. Note that all levels are derived using the 65-minute timeframe. New links are produced, daily.
Graphic: 65-minute profile chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures. Learn about the profile.

What People Are Saying

Definitions

Volume Areas: A structurally sound market will build on areas of high volume (HVNodes). Should the market trend for long periods of time, it will lack sound structure, identified as low volume areas (LVNodes). LVNodes denote directional conviction and ought to offer support on any test. 

If participants were to auction and find acceptance into areas of prior low volume (LVNodes), then future discovery ought to be volatile and quick as participants look to HVNodes for favorable entry or exit.

POCs: POCs are valuable as they denote areas where two-sided trade was most prevalent in a prior day session. Participants will respond to future tests of value as they offer favorable entry and exit.

MCPOCs: POCs are valuable as they denote areas where two-sided trade was most prevalent over numerous day sessions. Participants will respond to future tests of value as they offer favorable entry and exit.

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.

About

After years of self-education, strategy development, and trial-and-error, Renato Leonard Capelj began trading full-time and founded Physik Invest to detail his methods, research, and performance in the markets.

Additionally, Capelj is a Benzinga finance and technology reporter interviewing the likes of Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary, JC2 Ventures’ John Chambers, and ARK Invest’s Catherine Wood, as well as a SpotGamma contributor, helping develop insights around impactful options market dynamics.

Disclaimer

At this time, Physik Invest does not carry the right to provide advice. 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.

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