Reuters blog archive
By Swaha Pattanaik
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.
Seller beware. That is an unusual warning, but it applies right now to the options market. Sellers of protection against large price moves have been pocketing gains. But many will suffer losses if markets become less calm.
Market torpor has reached historic proportions. One measure is implied volatility, which encapsulates investors’ expectations of how much a particular market will move over a set period. The VIX index of expected U.S. equity volatility hit seven-year lows near 10 percent on July 3. The MOVE index of implied one-month volatility in Treasuries is at 55, near all-time lows just below 50.
The obvious reason for the declines in implied volatility is a sharp fall in actual volatility. Options traders basically expect the immediate future to look much like the recent past. But something else may also be responsible. Some investors are using the options market as a source of revenue.
The Federal Reserve did it again, giving back to the markets at a time when it wasn't expected, and showing once again that the early months of a new Fed chair's tenure are fraught ones, in terms of interpreting monetary policy.
Janet Yellen probably didn't mean to suggest rate hikes could come as soon as six months after the bond-buying program ends for good. And the release of the Fed minutes also demonstrated that the Fed - even in discussing projections - worried about how it would all look, specifically the "dot matrix" that showed several Fed members saw higher rates before long, and really, that it was all just kind of overstated. (Yellen even said this at her press conference - that the dots did not mean what you thought they meant).
The messy sell-off in emerging markets was stemmed overnight after Turkey surprised everyone by raising rates to 12 percent – but it didn’t last. Major averages in Britain and Germany opened at their highs of the day but have since faded, and even though the big rate increases in Turkey, South Africa and India are meant to stem capital flight, so far the market’s shooting first and asking questions later. S&P futures were up about 20 points after the Turkey rate hike – an odd move for such a localized event – and we’re seeing the reaction now, which, to quote Tom the cat about the ‘white mouse no longer being dangerous,’ “DON’T…YOU…BELIEVE…IT.” So we’re lower, and continue to head lower, and for those of you new to the markets, this is what’s called a selloff.
The big question: Will the Federal Reserve defer its tapering campaign in recognition of emerging-markets difficulty? One could say the Fed cannot be expected to act as the underwriter for global risk-taking, but you’d be laughed out of the room, given the performance of assets around the world in the last several years as the Fed went into full-QE mode.
from Global Investing:
Emerging stocks have rallied 3 percent today after the Fed's startling decision to leave its $85 billion-a month money-printing in place, and some markets such as Turkey are up more than 7 percent. With the first Fed hike now expected to come in 2015 and tapering starting only from December, emerging markets have effectively received a three month breather. So will the buyers return?
A lot of folks have been banging the drum about how cheap emerging markets are these days. But imminent Fed tapering has been scaring away any who might have been tempted. Plus there is the economic growth slowdown that could knock profit margins at emerging market companies. Bank of America/Merrill Lynch which runs a closely watched monthly survey of fund managers shows just in the following graphic how unloved the sector is relative to history:
Not to mix too many animal metaphors but, generally speaking, monetary policy hawks also tend to bulls on the economy. That is, they are leery of keeping interest rates too low for too long because they believe growth prospects are stronger than economists foresee, and therefore could lead to higher inflation.
That is not the case, however, for Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, a vocal opponent of the central bank’s unconventional bond-buying stimulus program, particular the part of it that focuses on mortgages. He reiterated his concerns last week, saying the Fed should begin tapering in September by cutting out its mortgage bond buying altogether.
If there was ever a time to be worried about whether the Federal Reserve's bond-buying stimulus is having a positive effect on the economy, the last few months were probably not it. Everyone expected government spending cuts and tax increases to push the economic recovery off the proverbial cliff, while the outlook for overseas economies has very quickly gone from rosy to flashing red. But the American expansion has remained the fastest-moving among industrialized laggards, with second quarter gross domestic product revised up sharply to 2.5 percent.
Yet for some reason, at the highest levels of the U.S. central bank and in its most dovish nooks, the notion that asset purchases might not be having as great an impact as previously thought has become pervasive.
By Swaha Pattanaik
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
When there is turmoil in global markets, safe havens, such as U.S. government bonds, typically benefit. But right now, the pattern may be different. In Brazil, India and Indonesia, central banks have intervened to slow their currencies’ slide in the past two weeks. Traders say that other countries are doing the same. These raids on foreign exchange reserves will add to the tailwinds that are driving U.S. Treasury yields higher.
But while volatility is on the rise - surely partly a result of thinned trading volumes during the peak summer vacation season - the consensus around when the Fed will start cutting back hasn't budged.
from Lipper Columns:
Steve Sachs, head of capital markets at alternative ETF provider ProShares, says that, with rising interest rates, funds that short treasuries have gained popularity this year.
The complexity of non-traditional monetary policy is hard enough to explain to other economists and policymakers. Market participants prefer sound bites, opines Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA in a note. As such, the more the Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tries to explain the Federal Open Market Committee's position on tapering and policy accommodation the more he confuses the message, Ricchiuto says.
The problem is fundamental to the nature of monetary policy. According to the Chairman, monetary policy accommodation is adjusted through the Fed Funds rate. Quantitative Easing (QE) is a separate policy. Yet he has also said that tapering is simply reducing accommodation, not tightening. These pronouncements work at cross purposes and ignore how the markets read policy. For the markets, QE is an extension of policy into non-traditional tools. Therefore, tapering is tightening. There is no such thing as reducing accommodation for market participants.