Coming week could be a sober one for the market
The stock market made strong gains last week after the announcement of the Fed's latest bailout program, which will pump $40 billion into the US economy each month. But Wall Street's sentiment may shift next week, as investors begin to think more long-term.
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Ross believes that equities, commodities and currencies are now approaching extreme levels of both price and momentum while geopolitical tensions in the Middle East are rising.Skip to next paragraph
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Even though all the major stock market rallies since the financial crisis have coincided with new central bank efforts to stimulate the economy, not everyone is buying it.
The latest data shows a moderate increase in short interest - bets that stocks will fall - across S&P 500 stocks during the last two weeks of August, a period when stocks were rallying on expectations of the Fed's announcement. Typically short interest inversely tracks the market. If investors were getting out of bets that stocks will fall, that would mean buying back those stocks and forcing the market higher.
Data provided by Schaeffer's Investment Research, a Cincinnati-based research firm, shows that bets against the biggest 500 U.S. companies edged back to about 7.3 billion shares after falling from about 7.6 billion to 7.2 billion from the start of July through the end of August - a period when the market gained more than 3 percent.
That uptick in short interest could be significant. From the middle of September 2011 through the end of May this year, short interest on S&P 500 stocks fell like a stone to about 6 billion shares. During that period the S&P hit a four-year high, rising more than 20 percent from trough to peak.
One side effect of the Fed's bond-buying should be to reduce volatility in markets. That means the CBOE VIX volatility index should remain close to the five-year lows it hit this summer. In August it fell as low as 13.30.
Yet activity in the options market shows some very bold bets that volatility could sky rocket in the months ahead. Call option buying on the VIX - bets the index will rise - is close to a record high at 5.182 million contracts, according to Schaeffer's data. The record is 5.249 million set in August.
The most actively traded VIX calls on the Chicago Board Options Exchange were October calls with a strike price of 60. Those also had the highest open interest. The VIX would need to rocket more than 300 percent by mid-October, hitting its highest level in about four years, for that trade to break even.