Categories
Commentary

Weekly Brief For September 19, 2021

Editor’s Note: Late today. So sorry! The main takeaway is that we’re in a window of volatility and participants should focus on leveraging rich skew and complex spreads to hedge or speculate on sideways to lower trade.

Market Commentary

  • SPX below balance, 50-day SMA.
  • Ahead is a 2-day FOMC meeting.
  • Concerns around the debt ceiling.
  • Rich skew makes hedging easier.
  • Post OPEX volatility likely in play.

What Happened: U.S. stock index futures auctioned lower, last week, into Friday’s quadruple witching derivatives expiry. 

Of interest this week is a meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Graphic updated 5:30 PM ET Sunday. Sentiment Neutral if expected /ES open is inside of the prior day’s range. /ES levels are derived from the profile graphic at the bottom of the following section. 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. 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: During the prior week’s trade, on weak breadth, the worst-case outcome occurred, evidenced by a balance-area breakout and separation of value below the S&P 500’s 50-day simple moving average (i.e., a visual level likely paid attention to by short-term, technically-driven market participants who generally are unable to defend retests).

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

We now monitor for rejection (i.e., return inside of balance) which portends a move to the opposite end of the balance.

Further, the aforementioned trade is happening in the context of a waning economic recovery, heightened valuations in the face of strong EPS expectations, the prospects of stimulus reduction, non-seasonally aligned flows, impactful options and equity market dynamics, divergent sentiment, as well as fears of a mid-cycle transition.

In a Goldman Sachs Group Inc (NYSE: GS) note posted by The Market Ear, analysts “believe it is a critical period for many investors and companies that manage performance to calendar year-end. Such pressures boost volumes and volatility as investors observe earnings reports, analyst days and managements’ guidance for the following year.”

At the same time, inflows into equities are exploding to the upside as JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) technicians “do not see a pattern on the [S&P 500] chart or any cross-market dynamics that would suggest the market is set for a lasting bearish reversal. The late-Aug systematic sell signals lose statistical significance into next week and the seasonal trends improve into early-Oct.”

Graphic: Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC) charts equity flows, via The Market Ear.

That said, we hone in on risks.

If concerns like the debt ceiling are not resolved, some economists argue, according to Bloomberg, “that an announcement on tapering is likely to be delayed to December, and that Treasury yields could fall further as a result.”

We note that – as Goldman Sachs writes – “The upcoming debt limit deadline is beginning to look as risky as the 2011 debt limit showdown that led to Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the US sovereign rating and eventually to budget sequestration, or the 2013 deadline that overlapped with a government shutdown.”

On the other hand, according to SqueezeMetrics, “the current combination of weak put flows and large customer vanna exposure” is fragile; “people are [still] overexposed to changes in VIX, and will be hurt more than usual if VIX starts moving up. Historically, this means SPX down, VIX up.”

Following SqueezeMetrics’ remarks, SpotGamma adds that “over 50% of stocks [had] their largest gamma position” roll-off Friday. This suggests an increased potential for volatility heading into the September 21-22 FOMC event.

In this post-quad-witching window of non-strength, we may, as a result, use the rich skew to hedge (see below Weekly Trade Idea section).

Moreover, for today, given an increased potential for heightened volatility and initiative trade, participants may make use of the following frameworks.

In the best case, the S&P 500 trades sideways or higher; activity above the $4,437.75 micro-composite point of control (MCPOC) puts in play the $4,481.75 high volume area (HVNode). Initiative trade beyond the $4,481.75 HVNode could reach as high as the $4,510.00 low volume area (LVNode) and $4,526.25 HVNode, or higher.

In the worst case, the S&P 500 trades lower; activity below the $4,437.75 MCPOC puts in play the $4,393.75 HVNode. Initiative trade beyond the $4,393.75 HVNode could reach as low as the $4,365.25 LVNode and $4,341.00 untested point of control (VPOC), or lower.

We note that the $4,481.75 and $4,393.75 HVNodes intersect key anchored volume-weighted average price levels. These are metrics highly regarded by chief investment officers, among other participants, for quality of trade. Additionally, liquidity algorithms are benchmarked and programmed to buy and sell around VWAPs.

Graphic: 4-hour profile chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures updated 5:30 PM ET Sunday.

Key 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.

Weekly Trade Idea

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: SELL -1 1/2 BACKRATIO SPX 100 (Weeklys) 29 SEP 21 4400/4300 PUT @.65 CREDIT LMT

I’m neutral to bearish on the S&P 500 and I think the index may slide toward $4,300. I will structure a spread below the current index price, expiring in about 2 weeks. I will buy the 4400 put option once (+1) and sell the 4300 put option twice (-2) for a $0.65 credit. Should the index not move to my target, I keep the $65 credit. Should it move to $4,300, I could make $10,065.00 at expiry. Should the index move past $4,200.00 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 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.

News And Analysis

An essay on why you keep losing money as a trader.

August retail sales reflect strong consumer demand.

UBS: Resist temptation to time market despite highs.

U.S. debt ceiling fight could cause markets to tumble.

Nasdaq on whether Rule 605 works better in dollars.

Rally driven less by reflation prospects; TINA to stock.

Higher U.S. CGT proposal spurs a PE and M&A rush.

If a CEO talks like Kant, think twice before investing.

New vehicle prices surge amid global chip shortages.

Active managers’ performance disappointing in 2021.

DeFi is disrupting but not derailing traditional finance.

OpenSea admitted recent incident as insider trading.

SEC looks to greater oversight of the crypto markets.

Central bank digital currency; cash for the digital age.

White House to put forward three CFTC nominations.

Some key lessons from NYC’s first SALT conference. 

Let’s Hang Out

Salt Lake City, UT September 28-30

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 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.

Disclaimer

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.

Categories
Commentary

Daily Brief For September 1, 2021

Market Commentary

Equity index futures trade sideways to higher overnight. VIX, bonds, dollar were all lower.

  • Inflows and options and peak growth, oh my!
  • Ahead: Employment and manufacturing data.
  • Indexes are positioned for directional resolve.

What Happened: U.S. stock index futures auctioned sideways to higher overnight as participants get past reports of European hawkishness, as well as position for directional resolve on the basis of new fundamental data.

Ahead is data on ADP employment (8:15 AM ET), Markit manufacturing PMI (9:45 AM ET), ISM manufacturing index, and construction spending (10:00 AM ET).

Graphic updated 6:30 AM ET. Sentiment Risk-On if expected /ES open is above the prior day’s range. 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. SHIFT data used for S&P 500 (INDEX: SPX) options activity approximation. 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: As of 6:30 AM ET, Wednesday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM EST) in the S&P 500 will likely open outside of prior-range and -value, suggesting a potential for immediate directional opportunity.

Adding, during the prior day’s regular trade, on positive but weak intraday breadth and middling market liquidity metrics, the best case outcome occurred, evidenced by trade within Monday’s range. This is significant because it was a validation of Monday’s emotional price discovery.

Graphic: Divergent delta (i.e., non-committed buying as measured by volume delta or buying and selling power as calculated by the difference in volume traded at the bid and offer) in SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (NYSE: SPY), one of the largest ETFs that track the S&P 500 index, via Bookmap. The readings are supportive of responsive trade or balance (i.e., rotational trade that suggests current prices offer favorable entry and exit). 
Graphic: Market Internals (Advance/Decline, Up-Volume/Down-Volume, Tick) displayed as Peter Reznicek at ShadowTrader teaches. Though positive, readings were weak and supportive of responsive trade, similar to what market liquidity (via Bookmap) was showing.
Gap Scenarios In Play: Gaps ought to fill quickly. Should they not, that’s a signal of strength; do not fade. 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.

Auctioning and spending at least 1-hour of trade back in the prior range suggests a lack of conviction; in such a case, do not follow the direction of the most recent initiative activity.

Further, the aforementioned responsive trade is happening in the context of peak growth and a moderation in the economic recovery, as well as some of the dynamics unpacked in-depth yesterday (e.g., 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, on one hand, yes, inflows and divergent sentiment are a green light with respect to the advance in equities (i.e., markets tend to climb a wall of worry given – all else equal – a decay in options skew and removal of hedges, among other things). 

“I use this analogy of a jet,” Kai Volatility’s Cem Karsan explained, referencing the three factors – the 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. “As volatility is compressed, those jets will keep firing because … the hedging vanna and charm flows, and whatnot will push the markets higher.”

On the other hand, as Moody’s Corporation (NYSE: MCO) believes, “The Dow is forecast to have peaked and will gradually decline during the next year. Risks are heavily weighted to the upside, but peak growth, inflation and Fed tapering could weigh on equity markets.”

Graphic: Bloomberg data on S&P 500 seasonality.

Moreover, for today, given the increased potential for balanced trade, participants may make use of the following frameworks.

In the best case, the S&P 500 trades sideways or higher; activity above the $4,529.25 low volume area (LVNode) pivot puts in play the $4,542.25 overnight high (ONH). Initiative trade beyond the ONH could reach as high as the $4,556.25 and $4,592.25 Fibonacci extensions.

In the worst case, the S&P 500 trades lower; activity below the $4,529.25 LVNode puts in play the $4,521.00 untested point of control (VPOC). Initiative trade beyond the VPOC could reach as low as the $4,510.00 figure (which corresponds with a regular-trade high and small gap) and $4,481.75 HVNode.

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.

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

Balance (Two-Timeframe Or Bracket): Rotational trade that denotes current prices offer favorable entry and exit. Balance-areas make it easy to spot a change in the market (i.e., the transition from two-time frame trade, or balance, to one-time frame trade, or trend). 

Modus operandi is responsive trade (i.e., fade the edges), rather than initiative trade (i.e., play the break).
Graphic: 65-minute profile chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures updated 6:30 AM ET. Note the developing balance area (HVNode) surrounding just short of the ONH. 

News And Analysis

Home prices continue to gain, more double-digit growth.

There is no such thing as an independent central bank.

Beginning to see churn below the surface amid outlook.

Shell plans to install 50,000 U.K. on-street EV chargers.

China manufacturing slows first time since March 2020.

Wall Street traders driving record are loaded on hedges. 

China Evergrande says construction of projects stalled.

‘Forever Changed’: CEOs are dooming business travel.

SEC boss: Crypto platforms need regulation to survive.

‘Egregiously mishandled’: Afghanistan dents Biden team.

SEC boss: Banning Payment for Order Flow is on table.

Euro-area inflation may justify end to ECB’s crisis mode.

What People Are Saying

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 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.

Disclaimer

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.

Categories
Commentary

Daily Brief For August 31, 2021

Market Commentary

Equity index futures, VIX sideways to higher. Commodities, bonds, dollar lower.

  • Ahead: Home prices, PMI, and more.
  • The path of least resistance is higher.

What Happened: U.S. stock index futures auctioned sideways to higher overnight alongside an absence in fundamental catalysts.

Ahead is data on the Case-Shiller national home price index (9:00 AM ET), Chicago PMI (9:45 AM ET), and consumer confidence index (10:00 AM ET).

Graphic updated 6:30 AM ET. Sentiment Neutral if expected /ES open is inside of the prior day’s range. 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. SHIFT data used for S&P 500 (INDEX: SPX) options activity approximation. 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: As of 6:30 AM ET, Tuesday’s regular session (9:30 AM – 4:00 PM EST) in the S&P 500 will likely open inside of prior-range and -value, suggesting a limited potential for immediate directional opportunity.

Adding, during the prior day’s regular trade, on weak intraday breadth and middling market liquidity metrics, the best case outcome occurred, evidenced by further price discovery. 

Price Discovery (One-Timeframe Or Trend): Market seeking new prices to establish value, or acceptance (i.e., more than 30-minutes of trade at a particular price level). 

Despite the low volume, p-shaped profile structures (which denote short covering), and a lack of intraday range expansion, the aforementioned trade is significant because it suggests continued bullishness after a v-pattern recovery.

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 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, on one hand, 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, an advance (such as the one we’re in presently) is not “welcomed and may lead to a quick right tail edging … [as] option volume notional is 120% of stock volume notional.”

To put it simply, 75% of the options being traded expire within two weeks. The related hedging flows of these directionally sensitive options can represent an increased share of volume in underlying stocks.

To put it simply, option flows impact the underlying’s price, markedly.

We couple this so-called right-tail hedging with the structural positioning that drives the market through the three factors – the 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 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 options expiration (OPEX) behind, the focus shifts 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, leading to a mid-cycle transition and 10% S&P 500 correction.

Options Expiration (OPEX): Option expiries mark an end to pinning (i.e, the theory that market makers and institutions short options move stocks to the point where the greatest dollar value of contracts will expire worthless) and the reduction dealer gamma exposure.

“Assuming a stable equity risk premium at 345bp, P/Es would fall to 19x, or 10% lower.”

Graphic: Morgan Stanley unpacks mid-cycle transition thesis. Image retrieved from ZeroHedge.

Moreover, for today, participants may make use of the following frameworks.

In the best case, the S&P 500 trades sideways or higher; activity above the $4,524.00 low volume area (LVNode) pivot puts in play the $4,542.25 overnight high (ONH). Initiative trade beyond the ONH could reach as high as the $4,556.25 and $4,592.25 Fibonacci extensions.

In the worst case, the S&P 500 trades lower; activity below the $4,524.00 LVNode puts in play $4,510.00, the convergence of a regular-trade high and LVNode. Initiative trade beyond the $4,510.00 figure could reach as low as the $4,481.75 high volume area (HVNode) and $4,454.25 LVNode.

To note, the $4,454.25 LVNode corresponds with an anchored volume-weighted average price (VWAP), a metric highly regarded by chief investment officers, among other participants, for quality of trade. Additionally, liquidity algorithms are benchmarked and programmed to buy and sell around VWAPs.

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.
Graphic: 65-minute profile chart of the Micro E-mini S&P 500 Futures updated 6:30 AM ET.

News And Analysis

Inventories continue to constrain home purchase activity.

The Fed now risking too-slow taper after too-fast in 2013.

A fast lane for the ECB to taper purchases ahead of Fed.

OPEC+ faces mixed market signals after U.S. pressures.

Capital raises from infotech sector simmering down July.

Fitch Ratings unpacks commodities and energy research.

Battery storage capacity likely to double inside California.

Moderna creates twice as many antibodies as Pfizer vax.

What People Are Saying

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 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.

Disclaimer

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.

Categories
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.