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Market Overview

Is the VIX Being Manipulated?

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A conspicuous rise in the CBOE VIX last Wednesday has reignited a long-standing debate over the soundness of the Wall Street fear index. Now, traders are asking whether the VIX is just plain broken or being gamed by holders of derivatives.

VIX Spikes

The CBOE Volatility Index measures how much traders are willing to pay for options that are used to hedge against future stock-market declines. The so-called “fear index” normally trades inversely with the S&P 500 Index, which means it rises when stocks fall or vice versa.

On Apr. 18, the VIX spiked 12% in the first 30 minutes of trading, marking the biggest move since 2010, according to data gathered by Macro Risk Advisors and The Wall Street Journal.

The following chart, courtesy of WSJ, illustrates the dramatic surge between 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. The only comparable move after the opening bell occurred on Feb. 14, when the index dropped nearly 14%.

Since the VIX cannot be traded outright, investors use VIX-linked products to trade volatility, including options, futures and exchange-traded notes. VIX futures normally trade in a state known as contango, where the futures price is above the cash price and later contracts are incrementally more expensive than earlier ones.

An illustration of the structure of VIX futures contracts is presented below based on Friday’s closing prices. Contango is observed for the first six futures months.

Concerns Over Manipulation

While VIX’s sudden spike was supposedly tied to large orders for S&P 500 put options, concerns over market manipulation have been on the front burner for some time. Since February alone, at least nine lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs arguing that the VIX is being gamed.

CBOE President Chris Concannon, who recently testified before Congress over cryptocurrency regulation, has said the allegations have impacted the monthly auctions process. He also said that CBOE is boosting its technical infrastructure to resolve these long-standing issues.

Concerns over CBOE’s options settlement process emerged last December after the exchange fined a trading firm over allegations of improper bids related to volatility auctions. The markets in question were tied to both stocks and oil. For its part, CBOE has denied that manipulation exists, with exchange officials arguing that the VIX settlement process offers a transparent auction.

Analysts warn that the VIX, while growing in popularity, is dominated by speculators betting large sums of money on how chaotic stock prices will be 30 days from now.

Volatility returned with a vengeance in early January and hasn’t left the market ever since. The fear index spiked so heavily in February that products shorting volatility were put out of commission. Credit Suisse pulled the plug on XIV,  a popular inverse volatility product, on Feb. 20 after assets under management plunged from nearly $1.9 billion to $110 million in just six days.

Prior to the decline, XIV had performed extremely well during the bull market, with gains accelerating thanks to Donald Trump’s election.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

 

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 743 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he leads content development for one of the world's foremost cryptocurrency resources. Over the past eight years Sam has authored more than 10,000 articles and over 40 whitepapers in the fields of labor market economics, emerging technologies, cryptocurrency and traditional finance. Sam's work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Contact: sam@hacked.com Twitter: @hsbourgi




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Market Overview

U.S. Stock Futures Fall on Brexit, China Growth Woes; Lifeless Crypto Market Drift Sideways

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U.S. stock futures declined on Monday, as concerns over Brexit and the health of China’s economy weighed on investors’ sentiment. Crypto markets were largely uneventful following a sudden correction early Sunday.

Stock Futures Falter

Futures tied to the Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S&P 500 Index finished lower in holiday trading. The Dow Jones mini futures contract fell 72.00 points to 24,615.00. The March contract for Nasdaq futures declined 31.25 points to 6,761.50. S&P 500 mini futures closed down 8.25 points at 2,663.25.

U.S. markets were closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq will resume regular trading hours on Tuesday.

European equity markets were also down on Monday. The Euro Stoxx 50 Pr declined 0.3% to 3,125.07. Bourses in Frankfurt, Paris and Madrid declined by at least 0.2%. London’s FTSE 100 Index broke even in the final moments of Monday’s session.

China, Brexit in the Spotlight

Concerns about the global economy resurfaced Monday after China reported the slowest pace of annual growth in nearly three decades. Gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced in the economy, grew 6.6% annually, the slowest since 1990. In the fourth quarter, China’s annual growth rate slipped to 6.4%.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has once again revised down its estimate for global growth, warning that the synchronized global recovery was losing steam. The Washington-based lending institution now expects global GDP to grow 3.5% in 2019 and 3.6% in 2020. That’s down from the October estimate of 3.7% for both years.

Another form of instability comes from the United Kingdom, which is still grappling with how to proceed on the issue of Brexit. Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday unveiled a new Brexit plan after her initial bill was shot down by British Parliament last week. A vote on the so-called Brexit Plan B is scheduled for Jan. 29.

Crypto Markets Drift Aimlessly

The cryptocurrency market saw little movement on Monday, as a lack of conviction from the bulls and the bears kept price action subdued. Tron was the notably exception among the major cryptocurrencies, gaining 5.1% to $0.0250.

Bitcoin’s price was little changed over the 24-hour cycle and was last seen trading at $3,583.44. The largest cryptocurrency by market cap dropped 4% on Sunday after gaining nearly 3% during the previous session.

Altcoins and tokens traded in a similar fashion at the start of the week. XRP edged up 0.3% to $0.3196. Ethereum fell 1% to $117.79. Bitcoin cash, EOS and Stellar XLM were little changed during the session.

The combined crypto market cap held below $120 billion on Monday.

In terms of news, Ethereum’s developer communication has announced that the highly-anticipated Constantinople hard fork will take place Feb. 27. The rollout, which was originally scheduled last week, was delayed after developers identified a major security flaw in one of the Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP).

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 743 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he leads content development for one of the world's foremost cryptocurrency resources. Over the past eight years Sam has authored more than 10,000 articles and over 40 whitepapers in the fields of labor market economics, emerging technologies, cryptocurrency and traditional finance. Sam's work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Contact: sam@hacked.com Twitter: @hsbourgi




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Analysis

3 Things You Need to Know About the Market Today

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1, Chinese GDP Growth Slows to Multi-Decade Low

Shanghai Composite, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

When even the strongly PR-optimized Chinese economic releases are showing severe weakness, it’s not at all surprising that the local stock market is in a deep bear market, and even the explosive oversold rally on Wall Street combined with the trade optimism of last week is not enough to meaningfully change the technical setup.

While economic growth slowed to an almost 30-year low on a yearly basis, retail sales and industrial production beat the consensus estimates by a hair, but that wasn’t enough to cause a material rally in equities, with the global sentiment leaning slightly bearish. This week’s most important question will be how risk assets will hold on to their recent gains, with a special attention on China and Europe, which continue to lag behind the US from a technical perspective.

The Shanghai Composite is more than 30% below its bull market highs, while the main European benchmarks are also around 20% below their respective highs, and that’s following one of the strongest short squeezes in history on Wall Street, mind you. The next few days could be crucial for markets, and we now advise caution even for short-term bulls.

2, Stocks Retreat after Friday Ramp with Wall Street Closed

German DAX 30 Index, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Looking at Europe, the major indices failed to extend their gains from Friday, while US stock futures are also modestly lower after the European close. With the US markets being closed in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, trading volumes and activity has been predictably low, and things will likely get heated tomorrow, as the earnings season will also continue.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and IBM (IBM0 will report earnings tomorrow, and all eyes will be on their overseas numbers and guidance amid the global economic slowdown. We had some negative reports regarding the US-Chinese trade talks, concerning the sensitive issue of Intellectual Property, and we still think that even though an agreement is likely in the coming months, implementation and enforcement will be borderline impossible.

3, Oil Tests December High

WTI Crude Oil, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

While risk assets, in general, had a slightly bearish half-session crude oil kept on pushing higher following Friday’s move to new correction highs, with the WTI contract entering the resistance zone that capped the December consolidation. The crucial commodity, which has been slightly lagging US stocks from a technical perspective is still squeezing late shorts, but we expect a short-term top very soon, possibly after a stop hunting rally above the $55 per barrel level.

What’s sure, is that we wouldn’t be buyers at these levels, even in light of the OPEC production cut, since over-supply remains a major issue, and the increase in US output continues. That said, the short-term uptrend is intact and the topping process could take a while, but we will keep a close eye on the day-to-day price action following the 25% rally off the December lows.

Featured image from Shutterstock

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 445 rated postsTrader and financial analyst, with 10 years of experience in the field. An expert in technical analysis and risk management, but also an avid practitioner of value investment and passive strategies, with a passion towards anything that is connected to the market.




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Market Overview

European Stocks Decline as China’s Economic Growth Hits 28-Year Low

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European stocks traded lower on Monday amid news that China’s economic expansion reached its slowest pace in nearly three decades, casting a dark shadow over the health of the global economy.

Europe Sees Red

All of Europe’s major stock indexes traded lower in the afternoon session. The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.3%, reflecting weakness across the continent.

Germany’s benchmark DAX Index fell 0.6%. In Paris, the CAC 40 Index languished 0.2%. Spain’s IBEX 35 Index also dropped 0.2%. The FTSE 100 Index in London pared losses to trade flat.

The weak European session followed strong gains in Asia, where traders remained optimistic about China’s new stimulus plan. Last week, the Chinese government pledged to lower taxes and increased federal expenditures in 2019 as a way to shore up economic growth. Meanwhile, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said it will make monetary policy easier to gauge moving forward.

Drama surrounding Brexit also weighed on European stocks as British Prime Minister Theresa May prepared to unveil a new plan to withdraw from the EU. May’s Brexit bill was shot down in British parliament last week. A parliamentary bloc tried to oust her from power by forcing a no-confidence vote that the prime minister subsequently survived.

British lawmakers will vote on May’s Plan B on Jan. 29. According to early reports, the new plan is unlikely to be much different than the previous bill tabled to parliament.

China’s Economic Headwinds

The Chinese economy is coming off its slowest year of growth since 1990, a warning sign for investors banking on continued global expansion. The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.6% in 2018, in line with expectations but a substantial drop compared with previous years.

China’s economic grew 6.4% annually in the fourth quarter, which is an extension of a downtrend that began to emerge roughly five years ago.

Retail sales grew 8.2% annually in December, slightly higher than the November rate. During the same month, industrial production picked up to 5.7% annually, up from 5.4% in November. Annual fixed asset investment was unchanged at 5.9%.

Beijing is prepared to make big concessions in its ongoing trade negotiations with the United States. As CCN reported Friday, China has offered to completely eliminate its trade surplus with Washington by purchasing an additional $1 trillion in American-made goods. The additional purchases will be made over a six-year period.

Last year, China’s trade surplus with Washington amounted to $323 billion.

Talks between the two superpowers are expected to continue over the next six weeks as negotiators look to get a deal done during the 90-day truce period. President Donald Trump and Chinese Xi Jinping agreed to de-escalate trade hostilities during a face-to-face meeting in Argentina in early December.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.7 stars on average, based on 743 rated postsSam Bourgi is Chief Editor to Hacked.com, where he leads content development for one of the world's foremost cryptocurrency resources. Over the past eight years Sam has authored more than 10,000 articles and over 40 whitepapers in the fields of labor market economics, emerging technologies, cryptocurrency and traditional finance. Sam's work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Contact: sam@hacked.com Twitter: @hsbourgi




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