The Week that Was: March 8 - March 12
A concise weekly overview of the U.S. equities and derivatives markets
Last week (March 8 to March 12), the third U.S. stimulus package was passed and equity markets responded. The expectation for continued growth in 2021 may also drive corporate earnings, however, forward volatility expectations remain historically elevated and there is concern over the potential for higher rates to derail the bull run in equities. Initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level since November and continuing claims are at the lowest level in a year. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index hit a new pandemic-era high of 83, though the same measure was 101 in February 2020. Bitcoin moved between $57,500 and $50,000, bumping up to its February highs before ending the U.S. work week around $57,000.
- U.S. Equity Indices ramped up after Congress passed a third stimulus package. Concentration remains in the Financials and Energy sectors as Tech continues to lag.
- S&P 500 Index (SPX): Added 2.6% for the week, reaching new all-time closing highs.
- Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX): Increased 2.1% for the week.
- Russell 2000 Index (RUT℠): Climbed 7.3% for the week, establishing new highs. Small-caps bounced off the 50-day simple moving average (SMA) and gained 9.6% on a closing basis in six sessions.
- Cboe Volatility Index™ (VIX™ Index): Declined throughout the week, ranging from intraday highs around 28 on Monday to lows around 20.60 on Friday. The index closed the week near one-year lows, just off the week’s lows.
- SPX options declined slightly week-over-week with an average daily volume (ADV) of about 1.15 million contracts, compared to 1.27 million contracts the previous week. ADV in SPX options has been around 1.22 million contracts over the past three months.
- VIX options ADV was about 618,000 contracts last week, up from the previous week’s ADV of approximately 516,000 contracts. VIX options call volume was about 1.7 million total contracts compared to VIX options put volume of approximately 1.4 million contracts for the week. Tuesday was the most active session of the week with more than 845,000 VIX options contracts on the tape.
- RUT options volume increased week-over-week to an ADV of 41,300 contracts, which is slightly higher than the three-month average. Friday’s session was the busiest of the week with more than 48,000 RUT options trading.
Across the Pond
- Global markets were mixed but primarily climbed higher.
- The Euro STOXX 50 Index was up 4.1%.
- The MSCI EAFE Index (MXEA™) advanced 3% while the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF™) remained unchanged.
Charting It Out
Observations on VIX futures term structure, the Russell 2000 Index and U.S. inflation rates
- The VIX futures curve steepened further heading into March expiry.
- The Month-1/Month-2 spread settled at 3.40 wide versus 2.20 for the same spread a week prior.
- The April/May spread settled at 0.80 wide, with May over.
- March VIX futures fell 3.00 and April futures fell 1.80.
- Standard March VIX futures and options will expire on Wednesday, March 17.
VIX Futures Term Structure
Source: LiveVol Pro
- The small-cap Russell 2000 Index rally has been nearly relentless. The index is up more than 60% since late September 2020.
Growth in the Russell 2000 Index | September 2020 to Now
Source: LiveVol Pro
- Last week, the 5-year U.S. breakeven inflation rate surpassed highs from 2011, when global inflation ran hot.
U.S. Inflation Expectations: 5-Year U.S. Breakeven Inflation Rate
Source: Compound Advisors
- Big Tech: Last week was a mixed bag for technology companies. Google was lower after outperforming during the previous three weeks. Apple remained unchanged, while Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla were all higher. Tesla jumped 16% on the week but ultimately settled below $700.
- The $1.9 trillion stimulus plan was approved and Biden signed it into law on Thursday evening.
- The U.S. 10-year yield ranged between 1.5% and 1.625% and settled at the high end of the range for the week. Recently there’s been a positive correlation between bonds and tech stocks.
- The commodity advance has slowed over the past few weeks and even reversed in some products. Oil has been relatively rangebound, copper remains off highs and lumber has pulled back slightly. Livestock (hogs in particular) continues higher.
- Over the past week there were about 57,400 new COVID-19 cases per day, down from the 63,000 cases per day average seen in the previous week.
- COVID-19-related hospitalizations have declined for seven consecutive weeks.
- 20% of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVIDI-19 vaccine and 11% are considered fully vaccinated.
- Daily vaccination rates in the U.S. are now averaging approximately 2.2 million.
Current COVID-19 Case Rates in the U.S.
Source: The New York Times
Tidbits from the News
- Individual investors have been chasing the “shiny objects” in the marketplace for the past year. While their interest has ebbed, their volume has undoubtedly impacted price discovery in certain areas of the market.
How Retail Trading Themes Have Fluctuated
10-Day Rolling Net Purchases of U.S. Stocks by Retail Investors (In Billions)
Source: Financial Times
The Week Ahead
- Data to be released: Retail sales and Home Builders Index on Tuesday, Initial Jobless Claims on Thursday.
- There will be a Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcement and subsequent press conference with Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday.
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