Last week, we noted that the declining volatility of option prices ahead of this Wednesday’s FOMC meeting was curious, to say the least. As we dug in, we noted the broader scope of this trend towards declining option volatility. Today, I’ll show you another way of using the Commitments of Traders report to track investor sentiment and in this case, why the correspondingly bullish put/call ratio via the large speculators is probably bad news for the stock market.
The S&P 500 is making all-time highs ahead of the triple witching expiration of the underlying futures, futures options and cash options next Friday, June 17th. While this combination can be precarious in its own right, the fact that it comes two days after one of the most highly anticipated Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings in recent history could make it truly pivotal for the remainder of the year. This week, we’ll focus on the S&P 500 and a combination of factors that could sustain a breakout in either direction based on the FOMC’s actions or, inaction.
There are two situations that lead to big events in the markets and they represent psychological mirror images of each other. The first issue is overconfidence. Whether this is overconfidence in a market, a strategy or one’s self, overconfidence leads to carrying the largest position at the most inopportune moment. The second issue is indecision. There are times when a market approaches critical levels yet; the trading population appears uninterested or, scared. Either way, indecision leads to fewer participants while overconfidence leads to too many. Therefore, our focus today is the examination of a very bullish net commercial trader position in the face of the lowest commercial participation rate since the economic collapse of 2008-2009.
Has the commodity rally that began just before the New Year ran its course? We posed the argument in early January that the technical breakout in interest rates would point towards the general economic activity of 2016. The interest rate breakout higher, towards lower rates would ultimately show itself in the form of deflation, which would in turn, weaken the commodity sector. I believe we are at a major inflection point for the year’s trading.
Our business focuses on the commodity complex. We rely on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) Commitment of Traders report to sort out what the major players are doing in the commodity markets. Our focus lies with the commercial trader category of this report. These are the traders who either have the commodity to sell or, will be using the commodity in their manufacturing processes. Following the commercial traders category, as a whole, for a given commodity can provide us with a consensus opinion from the world’s largest producers and end users of a commodity. There are times, like now, when their collective actions in the commodity markets can pay direct dividends to equity traders, both in individual stocks as well as commodity based ETF’s.
Most of our trading is based on the consensus opinion of the commercial trader group as reported in the weekly Commitment of Traders report. We track their behavior in a couple of different ways but the simple conclusion is that we want to buy when they’re buying and sell when they’re selling. You’ll see the net commercial trader position plotted in the second pane of the stock index charts, below. We measure their actions on a sum and momentum basis. This allows us to determine how anxious the commercial traders are to get their trades executed at a given price level which, in turn, tells us a lot about the importance of a given area. Obviously, the previous year’s lows are an important area. Based on the collective actions of the commercial traders across the major indices, we’ve issued a COT Buy signal.