Today's in-depth look at the week ahead begins with a recap of last week's Fed-induced market volatility and collapse in the metals and commodities markets. Next, Schaeffer's Senior Vice President of Research Todd Salamone zeroes in on the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX) and the bearish implications current readings have in relation to the S&P 500 Index (SPX). Joe Sunderman, Vice President of Financial Market Analytics, dives into the International Securities Exchange (ISE) Equities-Only Sentiment Index. Finally, we wrap up with a look at some key economic and earnings reports slated for release this week.
Recap of the Previous Week: Fed-Rate Cut and Solid Earnings Strengthen Bulls
By Joseph Hargett, Senior Equities Analyst
It's not every week that you kick off trading with a $2-per-share fire sale of a major Wall Street brokerage house, but the J.P. Morgan Chase buyout of Bear Stearns greeted traders last Monday morning. The tension in the credit and financial markets came to a head on Tuesday, when the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) cut its key overnight lending rate by 75 basis points, less than the 100-basis-point cut economists expected. However, positive earnings from Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers bolstered the case for a positive session, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) finished Tuesday with a gain of more than 420 points.
However, despite the strong results from investment brokers and a record initial public offering from Visa, Wednesday saw the Dow give back most of Tuesday's Fed-induced gains. Driving the loss was an implosion by commodities and metals. Gold plunged $59 an ounce on Wednesday, while crude futures dropped about $5 per barrel due to strength in the U.S. dollar. By the end of the holiday-shortened week, gold had plunged 8.6%, crude oil was hovering just above $100 per barrel, and the Dow rebounded to gain more than 3% on the heels of a strengthening financials sector.
What the Trader is Expecting in the Coming Week: S&P 500 Index Support Sets Up Bear-Market Rally, Sentiment Points to Long-Term Concern
By Todd Salamone, Senior Vice President of Research
With the S&P 500 Index (SPX) finding support at its January low in the 1,270 area last week and then closing the week above its February low at 1,320, stocks are certainly poised for a bear-market rally. Also of interest is potential support at the SPX's 60-month, or 5-year, moving average. This support is notable because it marked the approximate site of the index's low in November 1990, the last time the U.S. was in the midst of a liquidity crisis.
Last week, we saw some interesting extremes in terms of the sentiment measures that we follow. Such extremes could be important as we move into the final week of the quarter. First, the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX – 26.28) hit a high of 35.60, which was just shy of the August and January highs of 37.50. In last week's Monday Morning Outlook, we concluded that there was a strong possibility that the VIX was poised to revisit its highs. By Monday's trading, the index came close to doing just that. However, the fact that the VIX failed to make a new high as the SPX carved out new intraday lows is cause for intermediate- and long-term concern.
While we alluded to a big pop in VIX call open interest in last week's Monday Morning Outlook, call liquidation and put accumulation quickly followed. With March VIX options expiring last week, we will closely be following VIX option activity this week. The absence of major call accumulation would be encouraging for the bulls, while alarm bells should go off if you see a call build similar to that which occurred following February expiration.
As for the VIX, we'll be watching the 22.68 level, which is the site of its 200-day moving average. This moving average has contained all pullbacks for the VIX since March 2007. If the market were to advance strongly in the upcoming week, a VIX decline to this level might become a headwind for equities, as index option buyers accumulate put positions at perceived cheap levels.
Finally, the latest poll from the American Association of Individual Investors showed that 54.3% of those surveyed were bearish, while only 25.2% were bullish. What is striking about these numbers is that on October 11, 2007, with the SPX trading near an important market top, 54.6% of investors were bullish, while only 25.8% were bearish.
Against this backdrop, the SPX closed below its 160-week moving average for the fourth consecutive week. This trendline is located at 1,340, just 12 points above Thursday's close. With a weekly close above this trendline, the next level of potential resistance would be 1,400, site of the SPX's 80-day moving average and the February high. Meanwhile, 1,270 remains a potential support level on a resumption of the decline.
The bottom line is that we are technically in a bear market environment. However, recent price action amid short-term negative sentiment extremes suggests that the market could be in rally mode for the coming weeks. Of course, that's excluding heavy call trading among VIX option players that would suggest that another credit market accident is around the corner. The financial sector is a group short-term traders should consider on the long side, following put accumulation that were added in the face of positive earnings surprises last week.
Indicator of the Week: ISE Equities-Only Sentiment Index
~Joe Sunderman, Vice President of Financial Market Analytics
Background: In our Monday Morning Outlook on March 3, we focused our attention on the Schaeffer's Equity-Only Put/Call Volume Ratio. This indicator measures the sentiment of the options crowd by tracking the number of call contracts and put contracts that change hands in a market session. Along these lines, the International Securities Exchange (ISE) developed the ISE Equities-Only Sentiment Index. This unique put/call index uses only opening long customer transactions to calculate bullish/bearish market direction. Thus, this indicator does not include opening sell and transactions from market maker and firm. Thus, the ISE believes this ratio is a more accurate measure of true investor sentiment than traditional put/call ratios.
How to interpret the data: Unlike other option ratios that place the number of puts in the numerator and the number of calls in the denominator, the ISE ratios are the inverse in this relationship - call-to-put ratios. Thus, a high ISE call/put volume ratio would be seen as sign of optimism, as there are more calls than puts in volume. On the other hand, a low ISE call/put volume ratio would be a sign of pessimism. Finally, this ratio is multiplied by 100, as opposed to simply a ratio figure that falls between 0 and 1.
With this indicator, we like to study the trends of the ratio rather than the day-to-day readings, which can be volatile depending on market conditions. In particular, we like to look at the 10-day moving average to gauge the sentiment during a longer period.
Current reading: During the past 10 sessions, the ISE ratio has floated between 66 and 131 for an average 10-day reading of 99. This is the lowest 10-day reading in the entire ISE data set that dates back to January 2006. As seen by the graph, the current reading is even lower than the readings of March 2007 when this average reached a low of 101.90.
Implications: Sentiment at current levels is pessimistic, but unfortunately it has taken a very steep market decline to reach these levels. In March 2007, the market had to fall 6% for the indicator to reach the 100 level. Comparatively, the current levels of pessimism are the result of a 20% decline. Thus, even though this indicator is showing pessimism, we would like to see further drops in this 10-day reading as a sign of full capitulation.
This Week's Key Events: Consumer Confidence, Fourth-Quarter GDP, and Earnings from Homebuilders
By Joseph Hargett, Senior Equities Analyst
Here is a brief list of some of the key events for the upcoming week.
And now a few sectors of note...
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Recent XIV Action May Bode Well for Bulls
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