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Showing posts from 2017

Wake Me Up When September Ends

The fiscal year for the U.S. Government ends September 30th, 2017. Which is something market participants could care less about if not for, sometime near that date, Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling. Missing that deadline would result in a self-inflicted financial wound that would send shock-waves throughout global markets.  The U.S. Government has been paying off debt since the Andrew Jackson administration without missing a single payment. Raising the debt ceiling is a routine vote.

In fact, with the polarized Washington we have seen in recent years, it is happening a lot more frequently, as Congress has only once passed a budget in the past eight years. In lieu of a budget, Congress passes what is known as a continuing resolution.  A continuing resolution is a type of legislation in which Congress decides to let last year’s budget continue as this year’s budget. Nevertheless, a continuing resolution is incomplete, as it does not allow for the government to spend the money a…

I would like to bet ten tens on the tenth horse in the tenth race, please.

"I would like to bet ten tens on the tenth horse in the tenth race, please."


Last summer, on a warm cloudy day June 11, 2016 in Elmont New York, a good friend of mine (Rob) confidently walked up to the cashier at Belmont and spoke those famous words.  Ten Tens on Ten in the Tenth Race.  In fact, it had been decided it months earlier. We had been discussing hosting his bachelor party in New York, go to the Belmont Stakes, and watch a Yankees vs Tigers game and Rob convinced the group to go to New York by proudly proclaimed his prophecy.  I had almost forgotten about this bold prediction when I witnessed him at the register, but when I looked up, and saw Flintshire, the 10th horse in the race upcoming race was the favorite.  “What could possibly go wrong?”  I thought to myself (an options trader who bought a racing program attempting to handicap and gain an ‘edge’ in the previous nine races unsuccessfully).  I went to a pretzel vendor and changed 5 twenties into ten tens, wal…

The market should take Trump seriously this time.

Kim Jung-Un gave the U.S. an unwelcome birthday present as he test launched an ICBM capable of reaching Alaska.  North Korea has made it very clear that their intention is to grow their nuclear capability to be able to reach the Continental United States.  This would destabilize the region, and world overnight.
Now I don’t expect the war drum beating will spill over into mortar shells raining down on Seoul anytime soon.  There has been a choreographed diplomatic dance going on for the past 40 years with North Korea that is likely to continue as follows; North Korea acts out, U.S. gets upset, U.S. sanctions them (with help from China).  North Korea gives up their acting out activity (promises they won’t do it again), a North Korean South Korean gesture of goodwill takes place, such as joint Olympic teams, joint economic projects, North Korea gets to declare victory.
However, this go around seems slightly different.  Now we have a President who has made it very clear in his campaign tha…

Is the KCJ Foreshadowing a 2008 Repeat?

The CBOE Correlation Index (KCJ) is close to the lowest level we have seen since it was first listed in 2007. The KCJ measures the implied movement of the S&P 500 components options, compared to the implied movement of the S&P 500 index options. Simply put, the higher the number, the more likely all stocks are going to move together. Conversely, a low number will be characterized by sector rotation, and flat markets; one sector moves higher, another moves lower. 
Correlation, for lack of a better term, is correlated with volatility. Not surprisingly, 30-day S&P 500 historical volatility is near the low level of 6.5%. Currently at 33.5, KCJ is sitting close to rock bottom, lower than where it was in 2007, (but not lower than where Lindsay Lohan was in 2007). 
So far this year, the market has been able to grind higher, characterized by leadership in FANG(Facebook Apple/Amazon, Netflix, Google) and sector rotation. As the summer hit, FANG has slowed with GOOGL and AMZN hitting…

FED Rate Hikes Could Cause Unintended Volatility Shock

Last week the Federal Open Market Committee surprised no one when they raised rates 0.25 basis points to increase rates to between 1% and 1.25%.  What did surprise the market, was the revelation that the FED is committed to normalize rates, even if inflation does not meet their target.  This was reiterated this week in a speech by William Dudley, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who stated he feels the FED needs to raise rates, despite low inflation, to be ready to act if the economy does slow down.
The market has been quick to respond, and nothing was hit harder by a reduction in inflation expectations than commodities.  Gold, since the announcement, is lower by 2.39%, and oil is down -3.18%.  Crude futures have broken their upward trend line and appear poised to test the previous low of $39.56.
While, oil has been under pressure all year, the S&P 500 does not seem to care, as it continues to make all-time highs.  Oil is down 23% year to date, while the S&P…

Fed Sleight of Hand

“What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.”  Harry Houdini
Today is the day volatility traders have been eagerly waiting for, that is of course Fed Day!  And it is not just any Fed Day, it is the most important Fed meeting since the last Fed meeting.  That is of course hyperbole, and if there is one thing financial news loves, it’s exactly that.   The Fed is overwhelmingly expected to raise rates, but every time we have the most important Fed meeting since the last Fed meeting, we need to remember the Fed mission.  The Federal Reserve Mission is to promote maximum employment while at the same time keeping prices stable.   In laymen’s terms, high jobs and low inflation.   Those two goals are of course at odds with each other-- as the economy heats up, so will inflation.  So how does the Fed achieve its mission on a day where rates are expected to rise?  They act like a parent who went to Phish concerts in college and tells their children not to do drugs.  Yes, the Fed wil…

Gold and Treasuries Say “RISK OFF”, But VIX Says "RISK ON"

Today we are seeing a modest rebound in the market after yesterday’s small selloff.  Volatility remains extremely low, with the VIX hovering around 10.  It’s important for traders to recognize how low the VIX has been lately.  Since 2010, the VIX has only closed below 10 five times, and each of those five times has come in the last month.                   However, the market is not without risks right now.  Gold has rallied 6.5% since May 9th.  Treasuries have rallied, pushing rates to below 2.15.  So, the market is currently in a risk off mode while equities are in a period of historically low risk.  The VVIX (the VIX of the VIX), for its part, is not sounding the all clear signal, 87 is in the medium range for VIX volatility.  Tomorrow we have a potential market moving event with James Comey’s testimony to Congress.  The last time Comey’s name was in the news, we saw the VIX move from 10.5 to over 15 in one trading day (a 50% increase) on a day where the market was down over 2%.  …