Editor’s Note: Before getting into today’s commentary, we take a moment to reflect on the following quote taken from page 123 of The Disciplined Trader by Mark Douglas.
“For years, many people in the academic community believed that the markets were random; this is a perfect example of their general lack of understanding of human nature. People act as a force on prices in perfectly logical ways, when you understand the logic of their fears.”
Also, given Labor Day, markets are closed Monday, September 6. As a result, Daily Briefs will resume Tuesday, September 7. Thank you and have a great extended weekend!
Equity index futures traded sideways to higher last week.
- Reality throwing a wrench in seasonality.
- Ahead: Light calendar to base decisions.
- Equity indices rising; SPX above 50-day.
- Positioning risks mount case for volatility.
- A couple trade ideas for the week ahead.
What Happened: U.S. stock index futures auctioned mostly sideways to higher, into Friday’s nonfarm payrolls miss.
Next week participants have a light calendar to base decisions around.
What To Expect: During the prior week’s trade, on mostly lackluster intraday breadth and market liquidity metrics, the best case outcome occurred, evidenced by new all-time highs in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100.
This is significant because the sideways to higher trade marks acceptance, or a willingness to transact at higher prices after a v-pattern recovery, above the key 50-day simple moving average.
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.
Further, the aforementioned trade is happening in the context of peak growth and a moderation in the economic recovery, as well as non-seasonally aligned inflows, impactful options market dynamics, divergent sentiment, and fears of a mid-cycle transition.
The implications of these themes on price are contradictory.
To elaborate, August, over the past 25 years, has historically been the largest month for equity outflows. According to Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s (NYSE: GS) Scott Rubner, “We have seen none of these outflows and it has been buying the dip (TINA).”
Given this divergence from the norm, advances are not “welcomed and may lead to a quick right tail hedging … [as] option volume notional is 120% of stock volume notional.”
To put it simply, an increased share of options being traded expires within two weeks. The hedging of these directionally sensitive options can represent an increased share of volume in underlying stocks.
As a result, option flows impact the underlying’s price, markedly.
We couple this so-called right-tail hedging with the structural positioning – the so-called wall of worry – that can drive the market through three factors – change in the underlying price (gamma), implied volatility (vanna), and time (charm) – that are well known to impact an options exposure to directional risk or delta.
“Charm is a major driver for support in the markets,” said Cem Karsan of Kai Volatility Advisors. “All of that support is leading up to and accelerating into that Monday-Wednesday window” ahead of options expiration (OPEX). “And then the window really opens for lack of support. It’s not like there’s a bunch of selling all of a sudden. It’s a window of non-strength; a lack of these supportive flows that have been there prior.”
With the August monthly OPEX behind us, the focus shifts now to September. At and around the same time, Morgan Stanley’s (NYSE: MS) Michael Wilson expects a formal signal (which would align with Karsan’s window of non-strength) on the taper of asset purchases, that could lead to a mid-cycle transition and possibly an S&P 500 correction.
“Assuming a stable equity risk premium at 345bp, P/Es would fall to 19x, or 10% lower.”
Adding, the eventual reduction in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet – a removal of liquidity – may exacerbate any sort of risk-off scenario in which participants try to get ahead of whatever cascading reaction may come with a taper.
As Karsan explains: “It’s not a coincidence that the mid-February to mid-March 2020 downturn literally started the day after February expiration and ended the day of March quarterly expiration. These derivatives are incredibly embedded in how the tail reacts and there’s not enough liquidity, given the leverage, if the Fed were to taper.”
SpotGamma – in a September 2, 2021 note – echoed the possibility of volatility; “markets are fast approaching a window of volatility which could produce some pretty sharp volatility: 9/15 VIX expiration, 9/17 Quarterly OPEX and the 9/22 FOMC. This lineup is particularly interesting as we believe that expiration leads to a pickup in volatility – however, traders may hold the pause button on selling that volatility due to the FOMC. This could catch less sophisticated vol sellers off guard and lead to some exacerbated volatility.”
Others, like SqueezeMetrics – which sees “the current combination of weak put flows and large customer vanna exposure” as fragile – suggest that volatility risks have risen, too.
Given the big picture context (i.e., status quo – higher prices – in the face of volatility risks) participants may make use of the following frameworks.
In the best case, the S&P 500 trades sideways or higher; activity above the $4,527.75 high volume area (HVNode) pivot puts in play the $4,550.00 overnight high (ONH). Initiative trade beyond the ONH could reach as high as the Fibonacci extensions at $4,556.25 and $4,592.25.
In the worst case, the S&P 500 trades lower; activity below the $4,527.75 HVNode puts in play the $4,510.00 regular trade high (RTH High). Initiative trade beyond the RTH High could reach as low as the $4,495.00 and $4,481.75 HVNodes.
Overnight Rally Highs (Lows): Typically, there is a low historical probability associated with overnight rally-highs (lows) ending the upside (downside) discovery process. 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.
Weekly Trade Ideas
Please Note: In no way is the below a trade recommendation. Derivatives carry a substantial risk of loss. All content is for informational purposes only.
Options offer an efficient way to gain directional exposure.
If an option buyer was short (long) stock, he or she could buy a call (put) to hedge upside (downside) exposure. Additionally, one can spread, or buy (+) and sell (-) options together, strategically.
Commonly discussed spreads include credit, debit, ratio, back, and calendar.
- Credit: Sell -1 option closer to the money. Buy +1 option farther out of the money.
- Debit: Buy +1 option closer to the money. Sell -1 option farther out of the money.
- Ratio: Buy +1 option closer to the money. Sell -2 options farther out of the money.
- Back: Sell -1 option closer to the money. Buy +2 options farther out of the money.
- Calendar: Sell -1 option. Buy +1 option farther out in time, at the same strike.
Typically, if bullish (bearish), sell at-the-money put (call) credit spread and/or buy a call (put) debit/ratio spread structured around target price. Alternatively, if the expected directional move is great (small), opt for a back spread (calendar spread). Also, if credit spread, capture 50-75% of the premium collected. If debit spread, capture 2-300% of the premium paid.
Be cognizant of risk exposure to direction (delta), time (theta), and volatility (vega).
- Negative (positive) delta = synthetic short (long).
- Negative (positive) theta = time decay hurts (helps).
- Negative (positive) vega = volatility hurts (helps).
Trade Idea 1: SELL -1 1/2 BACKRATIO GOOGL 100 17 SEP 21 2770/2670 PUT @.15 LMT
I’m neutral on Alphabet Inc and I think the stock may travel sideways to lower over the next couple of weeks, toward $2,770.00, or the volume-weighted average price anchored from the July 28 gap. I will structure a spread below the current stock price, expiring in 2 weeks. I will buy the 2770 put option once (+1) and sell the 2670 put option twice (-2) for a $0.15 credit. Should the stock not move to my target, I keep the $15 credit. Should it move to $2,670.00 I could make $10,015.00 at expiry. Should the stock move past $2,570.00 or so, I may incur unlimited losses. My goal, with this spread, is to capture the initial credit and close for additional credit if the stock moves lower.
If necessary, I will hedge the position by either (A) selling stock, (B) widening strikes, (C) buying a far out-of-the-money put option to cap downside in case of an unpredictable move lower, or (D) roll strikes down in price and out in time.
Trade Idea 2: SELL -1 1/2 BACKRATIO SPX 100 (Weeklys) 10 SEP 21 4480/4430 PUT @.25 LMT
I’m neutral on the S&P 500 and I think the index may travel sideways to lower over the next week, toward its key moving averages. I will structure a spread below the current index price, expiring in 2 weeks. I will buy the 4480 put option once (+1) and sell the 4430 put option twice (-2) for a $0.25 credit. Should the index not move to my target, I keep the $25 credit. Should it move to $4,430.00, past the 20-day simple moving average, I could make $5,025.00 at expiry. Should the index move past $4,380.00 or so, beyond the 50-day simple moving average, I may incur unlimited losses. My goal, with this spread, is to capture the initial credit and close for additional credit if the index moves lower.
If necessary, I will hedge the position by either (A) selling futures, (B) widening strikes, (C) buying a far out-of-the-money put option to cap downside in case of an unpredictable move lower, or (D) roll strikes down in price and out in time.
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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 finance and technology reporter. Some of his biggest works include interviews with leaders such as John Chambers, founder and CEO, JC2 Ventures, Kevin O’Leary, businessman and Shark Tank host, Catherine Wood, CEO and CIO, ARK Invest, among others.
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.