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Markets think the Federal Reserve (Fed) raises its benchmark rate by 25 basis points. Notwithstanding the less aggressive hike, strategists believe the Fed will stay tougher on inflation for far longer and, accordingly, crush traders’ optimism.
“I suspect the Fed messaging tomorrow will push back against the pivot narrative and thereby current bond market pricing,” DoubleLine Capital CIO Jeffrey Gundlach said. Former investment banker and trader, as well as the president of the Minneapolis Fed, Neel Kashkari warned the Fed is set on finishing the job and cutting inflation, even if it costs millions of Americans their jobs. “I’ve spent enough time around Wall Street to know that they are culturally, institutionally, optimistic,” he said.
Further, relief in markets (e.g., stocks, housing) is a boon for asset owners and may enable companies to raise cash, bid up equipment prices, and demand new hires.
With inflation still a problem, regardless of whether there are better solutions as we put forth in the January 31 letter, the Fed is looking to keep rates above 5% for the rest of 2023, though markets are pricing a pivot far earlier and at a lower rate.
Despite the expectation of toughness from the Fed, markets have not broken down. Rather, if we zoom out, they are trending sideways to higher and may continue to do so. That’s according to Kai Volatility’s Cem Karsan who says that implied volatility (IVOL) is heightened across options with very little time to expiry (1- to 3-days).
“Event vol, which is the pricing of one-, two-, and three-day options, is significantly higher than everything else behind it right now,” he said, noting that customers’ or traders’ demands for downside put protection is the culprit. That said, despite the committee’s recent hawkishness, “the market responded relatively well at those levels, and you’re seeing vol come back down.”
“I think that’s kind of likely what you’re going to see, regardless of what the Fed does,” Karsan added. That’s because, barring some unexpected development, traders will not be able to justify the pricing of ultra-short-dated options post-Fed; the supply and expiry of short-dated options will coincide with the dealers or market makers who are short-stock against the puts they supplied buying back their hedges.
“Vol structurally affects how markets move. Puts are the way people hedge in the market and dealers are short the puts. If you have an event vol that comes down, those vanna and charm effects will naturally lead to a buyback,” post-Fed.
For context, vanna is the change in an options delta with respect to changes in IVOL. Charm is the change in an options delta with respect to changes in time. These are second-order derivatives of an option’s value, once to time or IVOL, and once to delta.
As your letter writer explained in a SpotGamma analysis yesterday, we saw an interest to hedge heading into this week’s Fed announcement. This coincided with a slight rebound in measures like the Cboe VIX Volatility (INDEX: VVIX) (which, in general, reads low and suggests convexity is a good place to be), and put a damper on the rally, hence its climax on Friday.
Moreover, if “macroeconomic events do not disappoint, IVOL compression may provide markets a boost,” SpotGamma explained. “Notwithstanding, the marginal compression of heightened IVOL, because of its lower starting point, probably does less to encourage a longer-lasting rally,” hence the thought that, if there was to be relief post-Fed, it would likely last up until the mid-February monthly options expiration (OpEx). OpEx’s removal of traders’ options protection (as well as dealers’ supportive buyback to those options that were demanded), may leave the market at risk of bearish macro-type flows.
Compounding the risk is traders’ expected reaction in case of weakness. The desire to hedge during a drop would coincide with a re-pricing in IVOL dangerous to anyone who is short volatility, hence this letter’s recent focus on owning the S&P 500 (INDEX: SPX) via call butterflies and call ratio spreads, the sorts of trades that would benefit from an SPX and VIX up environment (the result of traders bidding up call options due to their fear of missing out, in the context of less liquidity to absorb those demands).
To summarize everything, we have the Fed rate decision coming up. After, markets will be volatile but more likely to trend higher into mid-February, bolstered by traders’ fears of missing out in the context of a lower liquidity environment, as well as stimulus (e.g., falling Treasury General Account played into an easing of financial conditions by making it easier for banks to lend and finance trading activities). After mid-February, the window for markets to weaken and accelerate to the downside may open, based on the information we have today.
As an aside, the last time the Nasdaq 100 (INDEX: NDX) was up more than 10% in January was in 2001, The Market Ear informed subscribers yesterday.
Should you wish to hedge, longer-dated SPX IVOL is cheap, relative to recent history.
Finally, if you’re interested in following further along the fundamental conversation in Tuesday’s letter, check out Dr. Pippa Malmgren’s post on “ancient empires springing back to life.”
As of 8:00 AM ET, Wednesday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM ET), in the S&P 500, is likely to open in the middle part of a negatively skewed overnight inventory, inside of the prior range, suggesting a limited potential for immediate directional opportunity.
The S&P 500 pivot for today is $4,087.00.
Key levels to the upside include $4,100.25, $4,122.50, and $4,136.75.
Key levels to the downside include $4,071.50, $4,055.00, and $4,028.75.
Disclaimer: Click here to load the updated key levels via the web-based TradingView platform. New links are produced daily. Quoted levels hold weight barring an exogenous development.
Volume Areas: Markets will build on areas of high-volume (HVNodes). Should the market trend for a period of time, this will be identified by a low-volume area (LVNodes). The LVNodes denote directional conviction and ought to offer support on any test.
If participants auction and find acceptance in an area of a prior LVNode, then future discovery ought to be volatile and quick as participants look to the nearest HVNodes for more favorable entry or exit.
POCs: 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.
In short, Renato Leonard Capelj is an economics graduate working in finance and journalism.
Capelj spends most of his time as the founder of Physik Invest through which he invests and publishes daily analyses to subscribers, some of whom represent well-known institutions.
Separately, Capelj is an equity options analyst at SpotGamma and an accredited journalist interviewing global leaders in business, government, and finance.
Past works include conversations with investor Kevin O’Leary, ARK Invest’s Catherine Wood, FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, Lithuania’s Minister of Economy and Innovation Aušrinė Armonaitė, former Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers, and persons at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Direct queries to email@example.com or Renato Capelj#8625 on Discord.
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