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)
Historically FOMC minutes have been an afterthought, but in today's climate they are a big deal to futures traders
The futures markets have been hanging on every word that trickles from the mouths of Federal Reserve members. Even off-handed comments made on their personal time have been moving through the grape vines.
Today's FOMC minutes didn't offer any surprises. The Fed feels like the U.S. economy is moving in the right direction, which justifies a rate hike. But overseas market turmoil (namely China) has them pressing pause. The market seemed to like what they heard.
In more bullish equity market news, the Chinese stock market opened for trade today after being closed for an entire week in observance of a national holiday (this is odd to us because it is essentially illegal in the U.S for the stock exchange to be closed more than 3 consecutive days). Once the bell rung, Asian traders bid prices higher to catch up with the global equity market rally that had taken place without them.