Inflation and employment rates remain high. Additionally, consumers show resilience, and earnings are strong. As a consequence, markets are back to pricing higher rates for longer. This is a pressure on bonds and stocks which appear “overvalued relative to coming bad news on both economic growth and corporate earnings.”
Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) says stocks are at risk of a pullback, accordingly.
With the percentage of stocks outperforming the S&P 500 the lowest on record, MS added, a slump in technology is the big risk if yields continue to rise; the bear market is not yet over. “If there is one thing that can throw cold water on the large mega-cap rally, it’s higher yields due to a Fed that can’t stop hiking.”
Moody’s Corporation (NYSE: MCO) expects a “0.25-percentage point increase to the fed funds rate when the FOMC reconvenes in early May.” Following this hike, there is likely to be a pause at a 5.00-5.25% terminal rate for a few months.
From a positioning perspective, Kai Volatility’s Cem Karsan stated that in the past 6-9 months, there has been a significant increase in the volume of options with zero days to expiration (0 DTE), which now accounts for 44% of the total volume. This increase in short-dated options volume has been accompanied by a similarly sized decrease in longer-dated options volume.
Further, the majority of trading activity in these short-dated options is split between hedging and directional trading, as well as yield harvesting via out-of-the-money (OTM) options sales. Though the short-dated activity may prompt cascading events in market downturns, the main issue is the reduced use of longer-dated options; a supply and demand imbalance likely resolves itself with an implied volatility repricing of great size where longer-dated options outperform those that are shorter-dated.
Traders can look to position for a potential IVOL repricing, particularly in the back half of the year when dealer positioning is less clear, buybacks are to fall off of a cliff, and the boost from short-covering has played its course.
Traders can continue to play near-term strength via call spread structures and use those profits to reduce the costs of owning longer-dated bets on markets or rates falling and IVOL increasing. If not interested in directional exposure, traders may allocate funds to T-bills and SPX box spreads which allow traders to create a loan structure similar to a T-bill. If savvy, one could find some structures yielding ~5.5%. Traders can also consider blending T-bills and boxes with directional exposure. This way, they can cut portfolio volatility but still have a bit of leverage potential. Please check out our past letters for trade structure specifics. Have a great day!
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