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Analysis

Volatility Hits 24-Year Low: Calm Before the Storm?

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Wall Street hasn’t been this confident since 1993 – at least, if you’re a proponent of the CBOE VIX Volatility Index.

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The VIX is a barometer of investor fear that measures implied volatility in S&P 500 Index options over the next 30 days. It is designed to move inversely with the S&P 500 the majority of the time. When the VIX falls, it usually means stocks are rising. When the VIX rises, stocks are usually on the decline.

The so-called “fear index” closed at 9.36 on Friday, on a scale of 1-100 where 20 represents the historic mean. By comparison, U.S. stocks closed near record highs. The inverse correlation is easy to spot:

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A Bull Market With Legs

Volatility has been in a perpetual state of decline since the aftermath of the Brexit vote, when markets quickly recovered from their biggest sell-off in history. The VIX declined more rapidly following the election of Donald Trump, as investors rallied behind the incoming administration’s pro-growth policies.

In addition to Trump’s pro-growth policies, markets have benefited from a resurgence in corporate profits after a so-called “earnings recession” on Wall Street. Tepid economic growth on the domestic front has shored up confidence that the Federal Reserve is in no rush to normalize monetary policy over the medium term.

But the VIX has been far more sporadic in recent months. As the chart above demonstrates, volatility has been “in play” several times this year, as markets gyrated in response to political chaos in Washington and, more recently, a rotation out of technology stocks.

Not Everyone Is Convinced

At the same time, America’s second-longest bull market has many detractors, even among the mainstream investment community. For starters, fund managers are becoming more hesitant to buy equities, with a net 80% of investors signaling that the U.S. is the most overvalued region, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. In fact, fund managers haven’t been this underweight U.S. stocks since before the financial crisis.

On Capitol Hill, the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare has hurt President Trump’s political capital, possibly setting the stage for further clashes on tax reform and deregulation. Political chaos was the main source of volatility on Wall Street through the first six months of the year, as evidenced by the market’s reaction to the ongoing probe over Russian interference in the November election.

Remember: the VIX is a mean-reverting indicator, which means it usually finds a way to return to its “sweet spot.” At its current level, the path of least resistance may be up.

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Analysis

Daily Analysis: Dollar Rally Continues amid Fed Chair Confusion

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Tuesday Market Recap

Asset Current Value Daily Change
S&P 500 2554 -0.09%
DAX 12995 -0.07%
WTI Crude Oil 51.53 -0.66%
GOLD 1287.00 -1.22%
Bitcoin 5652 -0.86%
EUR/USD 1.1751 -0.38%

Yesterday’s trends are mostly continued in financial markets, such as the low-volatility levitation in stocks and the slightly more active trading in currencies with the apparent Dollar strength. The Great British Pound continued to be under pressure amid the amplified Brexit-related worries, but most of the other majors also lost ground to the Greenback.

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The Dollar rally has been fueled by the rise in the odds of some of the hawkish Fed Chair candidates, while overall, the “race” for the positions looks more chaotic than ever. Interestingly, the long-end of the yield curve is refusing to follow the short-term moves, and without the effects of the Fed’s QE program, the yield curve would probably be inverted by now, signaling strong recession risks.

Dollar Index (DXY), 4-Hour Chart Analysis

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The major stock indices are virtually unchanged yet again and even the previously surging Nikkei entered a consolidation, adding to the unusual October lull. Commodities have been quite active thanks to the Dollar’s vigor, with crude oil and gold both turning lower. Oil gave back most of yesterday’s gains as the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict turned out to be less violent than previously feared, and the brief rally fizzled.

WTI Crude Oil, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Cryptocurrencies

The major coins are having a mixed session at best, as yesterday’s rebound wasn’t durable, and most of the coins turned back lower again. That said, despite the recent choppy price action, the total market cap of the segment is close to its all-time high, even as only Bitcoin is trading near its own record price level.

The optimism regarding Ethereum major Byzantium upgrade wasn’t enough to lift the second most valuable coin today, and the price of the ETH token retreated below the key $330 level after touching $350 yesterday after the upgrade’s lock-in. Ripple and NEO have been among the most active majors today, but with opposing performances, as Ripple fell significantly after yesterday’s break-out attempt, while NEO defied gravity and jumped above the $30 level after a corrective period.

BTC/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Technical Picture

The S&P 500 is grinding higher despite the overbought short-term momentum readings, and the benchmark is trading very close to its all-time high. The 2550 level is still in focus, but until volatility remains near record lows, the minuscule moves are unlikely to change the technical setup. While a sudden drop in prices could quickly negate the recent break-out, the consolidation could very well lead to further upside, as bulls remain firmly in control, despite the lofty valuation levels.

S&P 500 Futures, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Key Economic Releases on Tuesday

Time, CET Country Release Actual Expected Previous
02:30 AUSTRALIA RBA Meeting Minutes
10:30 UK CPI 3.00% 3.00% 2.90%
11:00 GERMANY ZEW Sentiment 17.6 20.3 17
12:00 EUROZONE Final CPI 1.50% 1.50% 1.50%
15:15 US Industrial Production 0.30% 0.40% 0.20%
15:15 US Capacity Utilization Rate 76.00% 76.20% 76.10%

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Analysis

Technical Analysis: NEO Jumps as Broad Markets Turns Lower

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As the new waves of regulatory changes keep on hitting the segment, the major cryptocurrencies are mostly lower today. After the major update of Ethereum, and the recent surge in the price of Bitcoin, choppy conditions developed, with no clear short-term trend in most of the coins.

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NEO is the best performing major today, as it surged back to the $30 level after a frustrating period that was dominated by a downward drift.  The coin is now just below the key resistance level, and it could be ready to test the $34 level, with a further target found at $40. The long-term picture still looks positive, with strong support levels at $27 and $25.

NEO/USDT, Daily Chart Analysis

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Ethereum is in a consolidation after the encouraging rally towards the end of last week, while Bitcoin is also correction after its stellar rise. The two largest coins pulled the rest of the majors lower, while Ripple remained very volatile after touching the $0.30 level yesterday, trading below the $0.26 again.

Litecoin, Dash, Monero, and IOTA are all a bit lower today, while Ethereum Classic found some relative strength, although it remains stuck in a declining short-term trend. All in all, the segment is still in a clear uptrend, so let’s see which coins are the most promising regarding the short-term picture.

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Analysis

Daily Analysis: Volatility Near Record Low 30 Years After Black Monday

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Monday Market Recap

Asset Current Value Daily Change
S&P 500 2555 0.12%
DAX 13003 0.09%
WTI Crude Oil 51.88 0.82%
GOLD 1296.00 -0.61%
Bitcoin 5680 2.95%
EUR/USD 1.1793 -0.25%

Stocks markets in the US are at a standstill near their all-time highs, with the major indices trading in extremely narrow ranges yet again. Volatility, as measured by the VIX, is close to its all-time high, in stark contrast to the average October readings, as this month is the most negative for equities regarding seasonality. In fact, this October is the least volatile ever so far, while this week is the 30th anniversary of the most volatile day ever on Wall Street.

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A Riskless Market?

On Black Monday in 1987, the Dow crashed by more than 23% during one session, as widespread bullishness coupled and novel portfolio techniques lead to a massive wave of selling. Although such one-day moves should be prevented by circuit breaking rules in today’s market, the notion that risk is non-existent in the current environment is as dangerous as it was three decades ago.

VIX, Weekly Chart

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Stocks have been very quiet across the globe today, with only the Nikkei continuing its break-out to two-decade highs yet again. In Europe, British assets were the most active, as the Brexit talks seem to be in quite a big trouble, and that pushed the Pound and the Euro lower compared to the Dollar. The Greenback’s rally put pressure on gold as well, and the Japanese Yen also declined, as safe-haven assets were sold in the calm environment.

Nikkei Index, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Oil has been very active as the Iraqi army took control of Kirkuk defying the Kurdish resistance, the WTI contract rose as much as 2% before retreating below the $52 per barrel level, and as we speculated during the weekend, the spike is unlikely to cause a structural change in energy markets, and we expect the range trading environment to continue in the crucial commodity.

WTI Crude Oil, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Cryptocurrencies

Today was a big day for the crypto segment thanks to the Byzantium update of the Ethereum network, and although the hard fork went smoothly, the session ended on a slightly negative note. Ethereum pulled back towards the $330 support/resistance level, while Bitcoin remained stuck near the $5700 level after recovering from Sunday’s dip.

Ripple has been the other major mover of the day as the coin first surged higher and hit the $0.30 resistance just to fall back swiftly below the $0.26 level towards the end of the day. Despite the decline, the currency is still in a clear uptrend, but more volatile moves are expected in its price. Among the smaller coins, Stellar Lumens more than doubled in price after the announcement of a deal with IBM, as blockchain adoption continues in full force, pointing out the sound fundamentals behind the boom in the segment

ETH/USD, 4-Hour Chart Analysis

Key Economic Releases on Monday

Time, CET Country Release Actual Expected Previous
3:30 CHINA CPI 1.6% 1.6% 1.8%
3:30 CHINA PPI 6.9% 6.3% 6.3%
14:30 US Empire Manufacturing Index 30.2 20.3 24.4

Key Economic Releases on Tuesday

Time, CET Country Release Expected Previous
2:30 AUSTRALIA RBA Meeting Minutes
10:30 UK CPI 3.0% 2.9%
11:00 GERMANY ZEW Sentiment 20.3 17.0
12:00 EUROZONE Final CPI 1.5% 1.5%
15:15 US Capacity Utilization Rate 0.4% 0.2%
15:15 US Industrial Production 76.2% 76.1%

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