Federal Reserve Meeting
Are we finally going to see the correlation between stocks and oil soften?
In overnight trade, it was the same 'ol, same 'ol. Crude and stock index futures moved together in lockstep; we saw the same action in early day session trade. Yet, after the Fed meeting, each market seems to be willing to have it's own reaction to the Fed news. Crude oil squeezed, and held, well into positive territory while the stock market remained under moderate pressure. This probably isn't an immediate game changer, but it is a step in the right direction and is worth noting. Both assets trading as one isn't healthy for the financial markets, or the commodity markets. In fact, it should eventually be bullish for stocks...after all, they've taken a hit at the hands of the crude oil futures slide.
The big news of the day was the Fed meeting. The meeting itself was considered to be "dead" going in. This means that few (nobody) believed there was a chance for a policy change, but traders were hoping for hints regarding the pace of upcoming interest rate hikes. In a nutshell, they were very careful to leave a rate hike in March as a possibility, while simultaneously noting softening conditions that probably won't warrant another immediate tightening of credit. In the end, the news was relatively neutral to slightly bearish for stocks, but seems to have been enough to throw cold water on market volatility, which is a blessing in itself.
The NASDAQ futures weighed on stocks, but the broad market is marching on.
From a historical perspective, this week is not the time to be a stock market bear. As we've outlined, the market generally likes to move higher into Fed meetings and quarterly futures expiration also tends to put upward pressure on pricing. This is true, at least until the Friday morning Triple Witch. From there, things sometimes turn sour. Thus, the ES bears will likely have better entry points in the coming sessions if they are patient.
We've also heard chatter about a Bradley turn date occurring on the 20th of this month, and others are noting June 26th as a potential reversal date based on moon cycles. We don't normally pay attention to these types of things, but the fact that they coincidentally appear to be in line with the charts make them at least worth noting.
Wednesday's long squeeze quickly became the Thursday/Friday short squeeze
Although in the heat of the moment on Wednesday morning, most online and TV chatter suggested the capitulation had yet to come, it seems it already had. The ES has rebounded nearly 100 points from Wednesday's lows and crude oil has bounced nearly $5.00 per barrel. It is unfortunate that margin calls, and fear, likely left a handful of bulls watching the recovery from the sidelines after they had realizing massive loses. Unfortunately, when volatility picks up, so do these types of stories.
Although this type of stop loss running and squeezing out the weak hands has always been a part of the financial and commodity markets, I would argue that computerized trading has increased the frequency of exaggerated moves. In the same manner natural gas futures traded well beyond reasonable fundamentals for three for four days in December prior to a quick snap back rally, we saw the same nonsense in oil and, therefore, equities.
If it weren't for the no crying in commodities rule, we might have shed a tear. Luckily most clients were able to ride the storm with most positions in tact...and at least for today, the S&P, crude oil, and the 10-year note is all moving our way.
Where did the ES futures volume go?
At the time this newsletter was being written, volume in the December e-mini S&P was creeping up on the one million mark in contracts traded. This is dramatically lower than the 1.5 to 2.0 million we were starting to get used over the last three or four weeks of trading.
Our theory is that many of the highly leveraged market participants have moved to the sidelines after a rough period of trading. Don't forget, bear markets lure traders to the futures markets like flies on "fertilizer". This is because most speculators believe there is quicker, and bigger, profits to be made during sell-offs than can be made during a bull market phase. Their assumption is true, but it also comes with elevated risks.
The big sell-offs in August and September brought traders to the markets, but the October rally has likely chased them back into hiding (particularly the massive short squeeze seen on Thursday and Friday of last week).
What does this mean going forward? Two things stick out in our minds; first, the e-mini S&P 500 bears will think twice about selling into a market that has burned them (twice). Second, if these traders stay sidelined and volume remains light, the path of least resistance will continue to be higher in the stock market (light volume tends to see melt-up type of trade).
As most futures traders expected, the Federal Reserve didn't take action
Going into today's FOMC meeting conclusion, the Fed Funds futures markets were assigning a 15% probability of a rate hike. As it turns out, the majority of traders were correct in assuming the Fed would bypass the September meeting. In our view, we probably won't see any action until December but of course, the November meeting is still up in the air.
We recently took part in a survey conducted by FXStreet.com in which we found the results to be rather interesting. According to the survey, expectations of the rate hike campaign are rather meager. The consensus average of those polled is calling for the rate hike cycle to stop at about 1.5%. Some were even predicting the Fed would stop at .75% (only one more rate hike from the current level). Also interesting, almost 60% of those polled believe quantitative easing is a tool the Fed will continue to use in the mid-to-long term.
If you are interested in seeing the details of the survey, click here: (http://www.fxstreet.com/analysis/fxsurvey-dovish-fed-to-hike-interest-rates-in-december-qe-might-return-in-the-mid-term-201609201150)
Light futures market volume, and surprisingly light volatility
Another wave of stock selling in China failed to excite the U.S. equity market bears. In our opinion, the bears are simply busy doing other things (not trading). In regard to both volume and volatility, this is one of the most sluggish markets we've ever seen during our time as commodity brokers. It feels like Christmas in August! (If you've ever followed the markets over the holidays, you know what I'm talking about).
We've been reminding our readers of the fact that China is a communist country with few rules. When things get bad, they simply fabricate stability through money printing, legal restrictions on stock selling, currency market manipulation, implementing constructions projects with no real purpose, etc. Last night the Chinese central bank reached into their bag of tricks, and pulled out one of the largest cash injections into their financial system in nearly 2 years to put the brakes on economic contraction. Despite the government's intention of stability, the reaction was panic.
For Futures Traders, the Countdown to the Fed is on
Six days from now we'll finally find out whether or not the Fed believes initiating a rate hike is a good idea. The investment community is polarized by the debate, and it seems the Fed might be too. We are still of the belief that they won't be looking to make any moves until the October or December meeting (most likely December), but either way the impact on the economy will be minimal.
Even if they raise the overnight borrowing rate a full percentage point over the next year, funds will be historically cheap. With that said, we will likely see a knee jerk reaction to the first rate hike but that doesn't mean the actual value of financial assets have changed. More often than not, equity markets moved higher overall in the early stages of a rate hike campaign.
This is what professionals call a WTH market (the "H" stands for heck).
Markets undergoing vast changes in their technical outlook on a minute to minute basis are best described as WTH markets. I have no doubt that investors who have been trained, and thus far rewarded, to "buy the dip" were putting money to work early this morning as the S&P 500 screamed higher, but I also have no doubt they are now remorseful buyers.
The market looked equally as horrible on the close as it looked fantastic on the open. In such markets, typical market analysis techniques simply don't work and traders attempting to chase prices back and forth will wish they had never heard of momentum indicators.
In the past, WTH markets have been followed by big moves so traders should approach the S&P with more caution than usual.