The Week that Was: March 29 to April 1
A concise weekly overview of the U.S. equities and derivatives markets
Last week (March 29 to April 1), U.S. equities continued their advance into the end of the first quarter. The S&P 500 Index surpassed 4,000 at the start of the second quarter. The cash market was closed Friday, due to the Good Friday holiday, but the March jobs data was very strong. The labor market added 916,000 jobs during the month, which was well above expectations of about 675,000. The unemployment rate fell to 6% and ISM Manufacturing data hit 37-year highs - expanding at its fastest rate since 1983.
Also last week, the Biden Administration introduced the “American Jobs Plan,” which includes $2.25 trillion in potential spending over the next eight years. The focus is infrastructure, clean energy, research and development (R&D) and manufacturing. The administration hopes to advance the plan into law by July 4, but it is expected to be an uphill battle. Vaccination efforts continue to improve with the seven-day at three million doses per day. Despite the inoculation numbers, new COVID-19 cases ticked higher, mostly driven by variant strains and increased human interaction.
- U.S. Equity Indices were higher across the board. In a reversal of the recent trend, Tech led the way higher last week and the “blue chip” Dow Jones Industrial Average lagged.
- S&P 500 Index (SPX): Traded in a 2% high-to-low range last week and settled at the highs. The large-cap index was up 1.14% week over week while Thursday’s cash close established new all-time highs. Year-to-date, the S&P 500 Index is higher by 7%.
- Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX): Gained 2.7% last week. The Nasdaq 100 Index is now up 3.4% in 2021.
- Russell 2000 Index (RUTSM): Reversed the weakness since mid-March and closed the week higher by 1.46%. The small-cap index remains 4.5% (105 handles) below all-time highs.
- Cboe Volatility Index™ (VIX™ Index): Measured between 17.29 and 21.75 last week with a close on Thursday of 17.33.
- SPX options volume decreased slightly week over week with an average daily volume (ADV) of 1.23 million contracts, versus 1.6 million from the previous week. 30-day SPX options implied volatility declined again, and one-month ATM options are trading on a 13.4% implied volatility (IV). Short-dated SPX options are back in a historically “normal” range from an IV standpoint.
- VIX options ADV was about 350,000 contracts last week as compared to the previous week’s ADV of about 420,000. VIX Index calls slightly outpaced put volume, and Thursday was the most active session of the week.
- RUT options volume decreased week over week to an ADV of roughly 33,200 contracts. The previous week’s ADV was about 53,800.
Across the Pond
- European and emerging equity markets were generally higher last week.
- The Euro STOXX 50 Index was up 1.94%.
- The MSCI EAFE Index (MXEA™) was unchanged while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF™) was higher by 2.1% but still 7.3% off from February highs.
- Chinese markets added onto the previous week’s strength by adding 2.4%. Large-cap Chinese equities have bounced 4.8% from their March lows. The CSI 300 Index is 11% off highs.
Charting It Out
Observations on VIX futures term structure and the S&P 500 Index
- The VIX futures curve declined across maturities.
- The Month-1/Month-2 spread settled at 1.95 wide, which is unchanged week over week.
- April and May futures both declined by 1.55 last week.
- June and July futures fell by 1.40 and 1.50, respectively.
- During Friday’s session (when equities trading was closed), VIX futures continued to decline as equity futures climbed.
VIX Futures Term Structure
Source: LiveVol Pro
Historically, April is a very strong month for the S&P 500 Index. Over the past 56 years, April has the highest average monthly return and the highest number of net positive returns.
Monthly Return Statistics for the S&P 500 Index from 1964-2020
Source: Topdown Charts, Refinitiv
Housing data has been very strong. January 2021 data from S&P Dow Jones Indices showed home prices increasing at an annualized rate of 11.2%. Seattle and San Diego homes are up more than 14% year over year. Las Vegas lags at 8.5%.
January 2021 Housing Data
Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices and CoreLogic
- Big Tech: Market leaders Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google all traded higher last week. Google established a new all-time closing high on Thursday. Tesla gained ground as well.
- The U.S. 10-year yield moved between 1.78% and 1.65% last week. Rates pushed slightly higher following Friday’s jobs data but closed at 1.72% compared to Tuesday’s 1.78% highs.
- OPEC met last week and decided to curb output in May. A resurgent coronavirus, particularly in Europe has clouded the demand outlook for crude oil.
- The French are in the midst of a third lockdown. Germany extended restrictions until April 18. Italy is shut down over Easter and Passover.
- The Suez Canal is no longer blocked, which alleviates some of the supply concerns.
- West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent futures are slightly inverted. Gold is over $1,700 and Copper is around $4.00 a pound.
- COVID-19 numbers in the U.S. have reversed course over the past two weeks. The seven-day moving average for infections moved from ~54k in mid-March to ~65k in early April.
- Michigan has been a “hot spot” of late. Their hospitalization numbers have doubled over the past two weeks. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have also experienced increased caseloads.
- Roughly 2.85 million Americans are being vaccinated/day.
Number of New COVID-19 Cases in the U.S.
Source: The New York Times
Tidbits from the News
- Bitcoin prices ranged between $54,000 and $60,000 last week. As the work week came to a close, Bitcoin was trading around $59,000.
- Ethereum (ETH) traded between roughly $2,100 and $1,650 last week. It’s the first time ETH has traded over $2,000 and its market cap is about $237 billion.
The Week Ahead
- Data to be released: ISM Services and Factory Orders on Monday, Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Minutes on Wednesday, Weekly Jobless Claims on Thursday and Producer Price Index (PPI) on Friday.
- Earnings Season will begin in mid-April with big banks reporting on April 14.
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