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Commentary

Market Commentary For 2/17/2021

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

What Happened: U.S. stock index futures auctioned lower as investors turned cautious ahead of economic releases.

What Does It Mean: After a v-pattern recovery and sideways trade in the weeks prior, stock index futures auctioned out of prior-balance and -range, via Friday’s end-of-day spike.

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).

The spike and shift from balance (i.e., the transition from two- to one-time frame trade) was accepted, despite Tuesday’s liquidation break.

More On Liquidation Breaks: The profile shape in the S&P 500 suggests participants were “too” long and had poor location.

Adding, for the entirety of Tuesday’s session, prices rotated lower in the face of increased buying interest, as observed by volume delta and option activity.

Given that the market is technically positioned for higher, it will be interesting to see whether on not Tuesday’s interest (as measured by volume delta) leads to upside resolve.

More On Volume Delta: Buying and selling power as calculated by the difference in volume traded at the bid and offer.

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

This comes alongside a resumption in trend, acceptance of higher prices (above a prominent high-volume area), and an overnight rally-high at $3,959.25.

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

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.

Thus, given the above dynamics, the following frameworks ought to be applied.

In the best case, the S&P 500 opens and remains above the $3,919.75 spike base, further confirming last week’s higher prices. In the worst case, the S&P 500 auctions below the $3,919.75 spike base.

Trade below the spike base would be the most negative outcome.

Why? Beneath the spike base is a high-volume concentration which offers favorable entry and exit for initiative buyers and responsive sellers. Should the market auction beneath the spike base (and aforementioned high-volume area), then participants may see a new wave of downside discovery.

Levels Of Interest: $3,919.75 spike base.

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Commentary

Market Commentary For 2/11/2021

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

What Happened: After a volatile Wednesday, U.S. stock index futures rose alongside fiscal stimulus and vaccine optimism, ahead of releases that would shine light on the labor market recovery.

What Does It Mean: After a gap open, participants sold stock indexes into prior value, yesterday.

This comes ahead of the large February monthly options expiration (OPEX), after which, the interest at the $3,900.00 S&P 500 option strike will roll-off. As a result, stickiness near the $3,900.00 high-volume area (HVNode) will likely cease in the absence of option hedging requirements.

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: Micro E-mini S&P 500 Future.

Further, we have numerous pieces of context to unpack prior to getting into today’s outlook on trade.

First, the v-pattern recovery after the recent de-risking event suggests room for higher. Second, the market is stuck in a long-gamma environment that favors less volatility (as witnessed during Wednesday’s muted intra-day sell-off and recovery). Third, the S&P 500 is trading just shy of $3,940.00, a primary upside target based on a multi-month balance-area projection.

More On The V-Pattern: A pattern that forms after a market establishes a high, retests some support, and then breaks above said high. In most cases, this pattern portends continuation. 

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 S&P 500 at or above “Long-Gamma” juncture.

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

Adding, given dynamics discussed in the prior section, the odds of substantial change are low, so long as broad market indices, like the S&P 500, remain range bound. Also, trading in a prominent area of high-volume ($3,900.00) will likely make for a volatile session as such areas denote the market’s most recent perception of value and offer favorable entry and exit, hence the two-sided trade.

Going forward, participants will look to the overnight rally-high at $3,928.25, and low-volume structure beneath the $3,880.00 HVNode, which offered responsive buyers favorable entry during Wednesday’s intraday liquidation break.

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

More On Liquidation Breaks: The profile shape in the S&P 500 suggests participants were “too” long and had poor location.

Knowing participants are doing a good job of defending their ~7% advance, a non-typical weekly trading range, after taking out the 127.20% price extension, a typical recovery target, and leaving minimal excess (i.e., a proper end to price discovery) at the high, odds point to the increased potential for higher trade or balance in the coming session(s).

That said, the following frameworks apply.

In the best case, the S&P 500 remains rotational, at or above the $3,900.00 HVNode. In the worst case, any break that finds increased involvement (i.e., supportive flows and delta) below the $3,880.00 HVNode, would favor continuation as low as the $3,830.75 HVNode.

Major change will be identified with trade above the $3,928.25 overnight rally-high, and below the $3,878.50 regular-trade low.

Levels Of Interest: $3,928.25 overnight rally-high, $3,900.00 HVNode, $3,878.50 regular-trade low.

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Commentary

Market Commentary For 2/4/2021

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

What Happened: U.S. stock index futures balanced in prior-range, as evidenced by a lack of directional resolve.

What Does It Mean: After a rapid de-grossing and v-pattern recovery, stock indexes are nearing an important hurdle.

In particular, the S&P 500 has to contend with a transition into long-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.

Adding: Here’s a good explanation I wrote regarding the derivative market’s impact on the equity market.

Graphic 1: SpotGamma suggests S&P 500 nearing “Long-Gamma” territory.

Further, given the aforementioned v-pattern recovery, a price sequence that ought to be followed by further price discovery, as high as the 100% price projection, which happens to be near $4,000.00 in the S&P 500, market participants ought to also pay attention to divergences popping up across different indices.

To be more specific, Wednesday’s regular trade in the Nasdaq-100 showed weakness relative to the S&P 500. In the end, participants established a neutral-center day on S&P 500 and neutral-extreme down day in the Nasdaq-100.

On a neutral-center day, participants test both extremes before closing an index in range, suggesting minimal confidence and balance. On a neutral-extreme day, participants test both extremes before closing at on extreme, suggesting increased confidence and imbalance.

The profile shape in the S&P 500 confirms balance while in the Nasdaq-100 it’s likely that participants were “too” long and had poor location.

What To Expect: Thursday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM ET) will likely open inside of prior-balance and -range, suggesting limited directional opportunity and high volatility.

Currently, the S&P 500 is rotating at the $3,842.00 high-volume area (HVNode).

As stated, HVNodes can be thought of as building blocks — they also denote areas of supply and demand. In this case, $3,842.00 can be thought of as an area of supply. The primary strategy is to respond to probes into these supply (i.e., selling responsively) and demand (i.e., buying responsively) areas as they offer favorable entry and exit.

In the coming session, participants will want to pay attention to Tuesday’s overnight high ($3,483.50) and Monday’s regular-trade low ($3,799.00). The reason being, between those two references is a developing balance area. 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).

Added Note: There is a low historical probability that overnight rally-highs end the upside discovery process.

From an order flow perspective, the absence of aggressive buying suggests more of the same — balance or downside to repair poor structures left in the wake of short-covering and initiative buying in the day’s prior.

In the simplest way, high-volume areas can be thought of as building blocks. 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. 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 value for favorable entry or exit.

For today, the following frameworks ought to be applied.

In the best case, the market will initiate above, or find acceptance at (in the form of rotational trade) the $3,842.00 HVNode. In the worst case, responsive sellers appear and restart the downside discovery process. Any break that finds increased involvement below the $3,799.00 regular-trade low, would favor continuation as low as the $3,727.75 HVNode.

The go/no-go for upside is the $3,843.50 overnight-trade high (ONH). The go/no-go for downside is $3,799.00 regular-trade low (RTH Low). Anything in-between portends responsive, non-directional trade.

A break above the ONH, participants may see discovery as high as $3,880.00, a balance-area projection (i.e., typical balance-break target). A break below the RTH Low, participants may see prices as low as $3,750.00, another balance-area projection.

Levels Of Interest: $3,843.50 ONH, $3,799.00 RTH Low.

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Commentary

Market Commentary For 1/26/2021

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

What Happened: After a brief liquidation during Monday’s session, U.S. index futures traded flat overnight, with the S&P 500 rotating within an 8-session balance-area.

What Does It Mean: During Monday’s regular trade in the S&P 500, market participants were unable to break through to new highs; profile structures denoted a market that wasn’t paying longs that were late to the party.

Further, the Monday morning liquidation cleared the inventory of those participants that bought too much, repairing some poor structures left in the wake of last week’s upside discovery.

Given that the $3,824.25 balance-area high (BAH) was rejected, upside conviction remains intact (graphics 1 and 2 confirm this).

As a result, attention is drawn to the $3,852.50 ledge which has attracted responsive sellers numerous times over the past 8-sessions.

Graphic 1: Order flow in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY), the largest ETF that tracks the S&P 500
Graphic 2: Speculative derivatives activity for Monday, January 25

What To Expect: Tuesday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM ET) will likely open inside of prior-balance and -range, suggesting higher volatility and limited directional opportunity.

As stated earlier, participants have to contend with the $3,852.50 ledge. In today’s session, (1) a lack of upside continuation increases confidence among responsive sellers to transact below the ledge or (2) the level cracks, and initiative buying surfaces. In the latter case, the best outcome would include a test of the $3,859.75 overnight all-time high (there is a low probability that overnight all-time highs end the upside discovery process) and $3,884.75 price projection, or double the width of the balance-area, the typical target on a balance-area breakout.

The go/no-go for upside is the $3,852.50 ledge. The go/no-go for downside is $3.821.50 overnight low.

Levels Of Interest: $3,852.50 ledge, $3.821.50 overnight low.

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Commentary

Market Commentary For The Week Ahead: ‘Follow The Flow’

Key Takeaways:

What Happened: After prices were advertised below balance in the week prior, responsive buyers in the S&P 500 began a rally that found acceptance back inside a larger balance-area, near the $3,800 high-open interest strike.

Thereafter, initiative buyers extended the S&P 500’s rally, breaking the index above its $3,824.25 balance-area high (BAH), before establishing acceptance near the $3,850.00 price extension, an upside target, and auctioning back into range, repairing poor structures left in the wake of discovery.

What Does It Mean: In light of a failed breakdown in the week prior, U.S. stock indexes were best positioned for further downside discovery. However, after what appears to be aggressive buying in response to prices below value, it was clear that was not the case.

This leads to the following question: why did selling stop on January 15? One answer, aside from a positive start to the earnings season and prospects for further stimulus, may be OPEX, the January 15 option expiry. On expiration days, delta and gamma exposures change — depending on how derivatives exposure is removed or rolled — which causes dealers to adjust hedges.

According to SpotGamma, the January 15 expiry “resulted in a ~50% reduction in single stock gamma … [which] creates volatility because, as large options positions expire[], are closed and/or rolled, dealers have large hedges they need to adjust. There is a trove of data to suggest that the bulk of single stock call activity is long calls, and based on that we believe dealers (who are short calls vs long stock) therefore have long stock positions to sell.”

Put more simply, the price action may have been attributable to the sale of long stock that hedged expiring short derivatives exposure above the market (i.e., call side).

Per the SpotGamma S&P 500 dealer hedging graphic for the January 15 expiry below, “The black line was the mark on Thursday evening, with the red line being the forecasted position on Tuesday. This red line being substantially lower than the black suggests that dealers had to reduce delta exposure as a result of expiration. Note there is a larger shift at overhead prices suggesting this was a ‘call heavy’ expiration.”

Graphic 1: SpotGamma S&P 500 dealer hedging graphic for the January 15 options expiry

After the VIX (i.e., CBOE’s Volatility Index) expiry on January 20, alongside the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the prospects for a rally improved as “event premium in IV dries up … [and] put values drop, which allows dealers (who are short puts) to buy back short hedges … [fueling] a quick rally up to the 3850SPX/385SPY level (green arrow).”

Graphic 2: SpotGamma S&P 500 Gamma Levels

Adding, the number of put options sold to open exceeded the number bought to open, per SpotGamma, suggesting increased confidence in higher prices as market participants look to options for income, and not insurance.

Historically, the returns after such developments are mixed — more often the appearance of strong initiative buying surfaces (e.g., August and January 2020) before a liquidation helps correct excess inventory, and bring sense back into the market.

Graphic 3: SpotGamma plots opening option positions.

What To Expect: During Friday’s session in the S&P 500, responsive buying surfaced after a test of the $3,818.25 High-Volume Node (HVNode), above the $3,813.50 ledge (below which is a pocket of low-volume).

In the simplest way, high-volume areas can be thought of as building blocks. 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 value for favorable entry or exit.

After the S&P 500 found acceptance above the $3,813.50 ledge and $3,824.25 BAH, it encountered responsive selling near the $3,840.75 HVNode, the site of a downtrend line. Since the selling transpired at a visual level, market participants know that technically-driven, short-term traders in control. In other words, institutions (e.g, funds) tend not to transact at exact technical levels.

Given the aforementioned dynamics, participants will come into Monday’s session knowing the following:

  1. The S&P 500’s higher-time frame breakout remains intact, per graphics 7, 8, and 9.
  2. Late last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) strategist Marko Kolanovic suggested equities would rally with the S&P 500 auctioning as high as $4,000 on the basis of low rates, improved fundamentals, buybacks, as well as systematic and hedge fund strategies. Since then, Kolanovic downgraded growth and expressed the limited potential for further upside.
  3. The earnings of heavily weighted index constituents suggests participants discount improved speculative flows and delta (e.g., presence of committed buying or selling as measured by volume delta). Please see graphics 4, 5, and 6.
Graphic 4: Supportive order flow in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY), the largest ETF that tracks the S&P 500, on January 20 trend day.
Graphic 5: Supportive order flow in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY), the largest ETF that tracks the S&P 500, on January 22.
Graphic 6: Speculative derivatives activity for the week ending January 23, 2021.
Graphic 7: Daily candlestick chart of the cash S&P 500 Index

Given the above dynamics, the following frameworks apply for next week’s trade.

In the best case, the S&P 500 takes back Friday’s liquidation and auctions above the $3,840.75 HVNode. Expectations thereafter include continued balance or initiative buying to take out the $3,859.75 overnight all-time high (there is a low probability that overnight all-time highs end the upside discovery process). Thereafter buying continues as high as the $3,884.75 price projection, or double the width of the balance-area, the typical target on a balance-area breakout.

In the worst case, any break that finds increased involvement (i.e., supportive flows and delta) below $3,824.25 BAH, would favor continuation as low as the $3,763.75 BAL.

Graphic 8: Profile overlays on a 15-minute candlestick chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures

Conclusions: Despite broad-market indices being in a longer-term uptrend, the odds of substantial upside resolve are low. Participants ought to look for favorable areas to transact, such as those high-volume areas in the S&P 500 featured in graphic 8.

All in all, the risk and reward dynamics, at these price levels, are poor.

Graphic 9: 4-hour profile chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures

Levels Of Interest: $3,884.75, $3,859.75, $3,840.75 HVNode, $3,824.25 BAH, $3,763.75 BAL.

Cover photo by Jayant Kulkarni from Pexels.

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Commentary

‘To Infinity And Beyond’: Market Commentary For The Week Ahead

Key Takeaways:

What Happened: During last week’s trade, U.S. index futures auctioned to new all-time highs, before moving back into balance.

What Does It Mean: After participants established an all-time rally high during Wednesday’s overnight session, the S&P 500 liquidated in regular trading, down to the micro-composite high-volume node near $3,667.75, a price level where participants spent a large amount of time in the past. The session ended in prior balance and range with poor profile structure denoting the presence of directional conviction.

For the remainder of the week, participants accepted lower prices until Friday’s session established minimal excess lows, broke into prior poor structure, and ended the technical downtrend. 

Given the mechanical trade (i.e., minimal excess at Friday’s lows) and poor structure (e.g., low-volume areas), it’s very likely that the selling range extension was the result of weak-handed, short-term momentum buyers liquidating positions in panic.

Pictured: Profile overlays on a 65-minute candlestick chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures

What To Expect: Friday’s session found responsive buyers surface at a key technical level (i.e., the high-volume node near $3,630.00 and 20-day simple moving average). The fact that there was a response at a technical reference confirms that participation in the market is overwhelmingly short-term; in other words, institutions (e.g, funds) tend not to transact at exact technical levels. 

Given that the higher-time frame breakout remains intact, participants will come into Monday’s session knowing the following:

  1. Both sentiment and positioning are historically stretched while the market has entered a short-gamma environment; in such cases, dealers hedge their derivatives exposure by buying into strength and selling into weakness. This, alongside the presence of short-term traders in U.S. equities, will exacerbate volatility in the coming week.
  2. Looking to 2021, the decline in realized correlation due to factor and sector rotation, as well as the return of systematic option selling strategies should push the long-gamma narrative in which volatility is suppressed and the market pins or slowly rises in a range-bound fashion.
  3. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) strategist Marko Kolanovic suggests equities will rally short-term with the S&P 500 auctioning as high as $4,000 on the basis of low rates, improved fundamentals, buybacks, as well as systematic and hedge fund strategies.
  4. Despite high CAPE ratios, stock-market valuations aren’t that absurd.
  5. Prior trade points to the non-presence of committed selling; after Friday’s session saw a failure to range extend and establish excess, the technical down-trend was broken.

Therefore, the following frameworks for next week’s trade apply.

In the best case, buyers surface at the $3,654.75 low-volume node and extend range up to the high-volume node at $3,667.75. High-volume areas denote value and should slow prices allowing participants enough time to enter and exit trades. An initiative drive through this area would portend a test of the $3,690.75 high-volume node, and then the prior all-time rally high.

In the worst case, if the S&P 500 auctions below $3,630.00, participants would look to repair the poor structure just shy of $3,625.00. Finding acceptance (i.e., spending more than one half-hour of regular trade) below Friday’s range would be the most negative outcome.

Conclusion: Though sentiment and positioning imply limited potential for further upside, the S&P 500’s higher-time frame breakout remains intact.

Pictured: Retest of the upside breakpoint on a daily candlestick chart of the cash S&P 500 Index

Levels Of Interest: $3,720.00 extension, $3,715.00 all-time rally high, the micro-composite HVNode at $3,690.75, $3,667.75, and $3,630.00, as well as the $3,654.75 LVNode and poor structure near $3,625.00.

Bonus: Here is a look at some of the opportunities unfolding.

Spotify Technology SA (NYSE: SPOT) – Acceptance after higher-time frame balance-breakout. Potential remains for a push to the balance-area projection.

Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) – Acceptance after higher-time frame balance-breakout. Potential scenarios include (1) continued rotation, (2) upside continuation, or (3) failed breakout and a return to balance.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc (NASDAQ: AMD) – Acceptance after higher-time frame balance-breakout. Potential for upside continuation or failed breakout and return to balance.

Shopify Inc (NYSE: SHOP) – Balance just shy of channel boundary. Potential for upside breakout and continuation.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (NYSE: CMG) – Just shy of balance-area high. Potential for upside breakout and continuation.

Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA) – Rejected prior week’s balance-area. Likelihood of continuation up to S&P 500 index inclusion intact on surging call volumes, dealer accumulation. $700 strike is the high-OI strike of interest.

Zoom Video Communications Inc (NASDAQ: ZM) – Just shy of long-term trend, anchored VWAP. Potential for responsive buying.

Summit Materials Inc (NYSE: SUM) – Failed breakout, but speculative call volumes surfaced on the return into balance. Potential exists for another attempt higher.

Nasdaq-100 (INDEXNASDAQ: NDX) – Retest of balance-area high. Higher time-frame breakout remains intact.

Cover photo by SpaceX from Pexels.