Blog Archives

Odd Market Swings Intra-day; Volatility Crush Over Multi-day

April 19, 2017
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Odd Market Swings Intra-day; Volatility Crush Over Multi-day

Earlier this month, April 5th was an odd day for financial markets. During market hours, it was interesting to behold one of the strongest single hours of the year, at the open, when the market rallied 20 handles on no real news of consequence. Sales could be seemingly filled at any price. One felt an aura of panicky, indiscriminate buying. Wednesday’s tape had a gushing first hour. After stabilizing through the day, at higher levels, the market came undone starting around 2:30. As un-stoppable the rally, the sell-off was of an equal magnitude violent to the downside. The excuses, after the fact, we’re squishy: that the Fed minutes cited participants noting the market was expensive, and/or Paul Ryan mentioning that a tax plan was at least several months away. Both statements...

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Holding Pattern

March 31, 2017
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Holding Pattern

The relentless grind higher in equity markets continues irrespective of periods of policy awkwardness, twitter rants, and republican in-fighting. Recent announcements that corporate tax reform isn’t likely until August/September didn’t faze the market at all. Clearly, the benefit of the doubt is being given to the Trump administration to make the American economy greater, and, the Fed is complicit, hinting at a lower for longer interest rate policy, still, into 2017. Not surprisingly, asset price re-ratings persist, and now the bond market, gold, energy, commodities, EM currencies, have all bounced too. Risk pricing remains high, and implicit volatility is exceptionally low. The playbook, between now and the fall, appears limited at first blush, with markets neither likely to rally at an accelerated pace, nor likely to sell off meaningfully,...

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2017

February 1, 2017
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2017

2016 started in a tailspin with spiraling China meltdown fears. Those fears proved to be ill-timed, and against most prognostications, despite BREXIT, the start of Fed rate hikes, and the looniest election anyone can remember with a shocker outcome, the market went on to have a gangbuster 2016, producing a total return of 12%. The Trump rally surprised most, and despite highly unpredictable tweeting habits, and inflammatory comments, the markets took to the perception of the return of a business friendly administration. 2017 started with complacency, and the Trump driven market getting “the benefit of the doubt”. Interest rates are modestly higher, though this isn’t thought to be problematic because stimulus is proposed to support US GDP growth. Jobs are being talked/threatened back into the US. The financials exploded...

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Turkey Day Highs

November 29, 2016
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Turkey Day Highs

The bull market is set to turn 9 in 2017. Vanquished by the bull: Eurozone crisis, deflation, China bubbles, taper tantrums, BREXIT, and now Trump. The bullishness of the tape continues to shock, with the Trump rally, after the fact, looking strikingly similar to the BREXIT rally; the market provides every indication that one outcome is good, the other outcome bad, it gets the bad outcome, and not only fails to sell off, but rallies on it! Enough to generate plenty of Aflac goose head shakes. Why did the market change its mind on Trump? Firstly, a Trump victory was never really “bad” it was just unfathomable, and Trump’s campaign rhetoric was at times, preposterously market unfriendly (forcing production in the US, undoing global trade). Upon further consideration, the...

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Trump; & The Arrogance of The Elites

November 9, 2016
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Trump; & The Arrogance of The Elites

In shocking, inexplicable, unfathomable, polarizing, surreal fashion, Donald Trump wins the presidency of the United States, by winning the states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, along with all of the states expected to lean his way. Stocks, currencies, and commodity markets are in disarray. The S&P 500 futures sank approximately 100 points (~5%) around midnight, with a very strong snap-back ever since it became clear Trump would win (by midnight), and subsequently did win (at 2:30am). As of 5:00am the market is only down 1.5%. Initial thoughts:   FED policy uncertainty is the largest actual negative. Yellen, Brainard, and crew, are likely “fired” in 2017. The market will need to come to terms with a new, and potentially much more hawkish, Fed Chair. The Yellen Fed may move to the...

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Complacent Market; Fraught with Risk

October 28, 2016
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Complacent Market; Fraught with Risk

In a shockingly flat stretch, noteworthy for the lack of volatility, and an incredibly tight range, the market has gone absolutely NOWHERE from July to October. 20-30 basis point moves feel outsized, even though they are not, in any sort of historical context. On days when the market goes up, the VIX falls to a 12-handle. Almost each and every session, the tape is “heavy” for some sort of “reason”, at some point in the morning, only to “rip” violently, for no apparent reason, undoing any meaningful move down. It’s been torturous for traders, the market is very expensive, the economy is late-cycle, yet the market can’t go down meaningfully for any reason. CJF believes that in a period of light volumes, algorithmic trading is increasingly dominating market action,...

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Pounded; BREXIT Risks Hit Markets

October 12, 2016
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Pounded; BREXIT Risks Hit Markets

In a low volatility, range bound market, it doesn’t take much to cause a break. Rising global bonds yields are a major concern that double-impact the market; higher future business costs of funding growth, financing acquisitions, and implementing share repurchases, while, in tandem, high equity valuations are pressured. Now the market has another major worry. Over the past week, the British Pound sank dramatically, to a value (1.215) vs. the US dollar not seen since 1985. The weakness in the Pound (GBP) highlights the risks of a hard exit from the EU. Selling accelerated after Theresa May stated that the U.K. would give priority to the issue of controlling immigration rather than preserving the nation’s access to a single EU market. Francois Hollande stated that “there must be a...

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No Man’s Land

October 5, 2016
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No Man’s Land

an anomalous, ambiguous, or indefinite area especially of operation, application, or jurisdiction definition two: financial market direction over the 2015-2016 period The meandering, low-volatility, sine wave oscillations of the tape continue. How did markets arrive at a point where a 3% pull-back is petrifying, and a 5% pull-back feels like a crash? The Brexit pull-back in June, was just about 5% on the nose, but it lasted only 2-days. Policy maker support of markets , vis-a-vis central bank actions, and ultra-low interest rates, stumble upon the end of the rainbow. Now what? The pressure on the Fed to assert its independence from politics, specifically the democratic party, is rising. Last week, Janet Yellen short circuited (in this clip) when confronted by Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey. Donald Trump,...

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Yellen Fed & Monetary Policy: “Running it Hot”

September 24, 2016
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Yellen Fed & Monetary Policy: “Running it Hot”

The September Fed meeting issued few surprises; fed funds were not hiked, as was telegraphed by the Brainard speech. While the Fed maintained interest rates, in the press conference, Yellen once again, found a way to interject incremental dovishness, driving interest rates lower, and asset prices up. The playbook of the Yellen Fed for the past 3-years continues. The new focus of the Fed revolves around finally acknowledging that the Philips Curve is a rubbish inflation model, and that more slack exists in the labor market, and the economy, than previously believed, hindering an acceleration in inflation pressures. Cynics will observe that this new found slack wasn’t focused on by hawkish Fed Governors, up until September 10th, when talk of two hikes this year were still be floated. The...

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Big in Japan; Can the Fed trump the BOJ?

September 21, 2016
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Big in Japan; Can the Fed trump the BOJ?

VIX back to the 15 range ahead of a consequential Fed meeting, deep into the economic cycle. Volatility crush continues into actual central bank announcements. Zombie US markets can’t go down but can’t rally either. After recent, underwhelming ECB announcements, markets sense more to come from the Fed, yet a gasping sense reigns omnipresent. What, actually, can the Fed do? After a litany of hawkish babble, commentary, from Fed governors this month, indicating the potential for two rate hikes. Can the expectation fall all the way to zero hikes in 2016? Just on an employment report that missed by 20,000 jobs? It seems that getting expectations down to no hikes in 2016 is the only way to deliver a “dovish surprise”. In this context, market action will be difficult to predict at 2:00...

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Inmates Running the Asylum; Fed Policy 8-years into Recovery

September 16, 2016
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Inmates Running the Asylum; Fed Policy 8-years into Recovery

Last week, a Fed Governor, made comments hitting Bloomberg, that the Fed was not a handmaiden to the markets. The comments, not part of a major speech, and difficult to find on Google, were striking, and provocative, conjuring memories of a period when this would never need to be said. Today’s baffling Fed communication strategy involves speeches of voting members, non-voting members, incorporates guidance, including some guidance that makes its way to the cover of the WSJ through Jon Hilsenrath, and includes a full blown black-out period where no comments are allowed at all. What happened to the time when there was a Fed meeting, and sometimes unexpected things happened? Post-financial crisis, markets are viewed as fragile by policy makers. The extent to which markets are actually fragile is debatable,...

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Volatility Suppression Challenged

September 12, 2016
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Volatility Suppression Challenged

Since the BREXIT rebound/rip, it’s been an exceptionally stable summer. Few predicted that the unexpected BREXIT vote, would be an unequivocal positive to markets. The tell, quite clear after the fact, was the global rate plunge, and the US 10-year yield sinking to the 1.35% range, around the 4th of July. The perfect combination arose to send markets to all-time highs during the summer, a scary event (BREXIT) that lowered global rates, took the Fed off the table, and led to stimulus as far as the eye could see in Europe/elsewhere, all while not really impacting the US economy. As long as “lower-for-longer ” (interest rates), a BREXIT residual, remained in-play, volatility suppression reigned, and equities could grind higher. While the dynamic persisted all summer, it came undone the...

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