Last week (February 15–19), the bond market took center stage as the U.S. 30-year treasury yield traded to 2.14% and the long end of the curve has moved significantly higher since August and continues to steepen. Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies also made headlines, as BTC traded up to $57,000 and Ether reached a new all-time high of $2,000, now up 173% year-to-date. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren expressed surprise at the rise in crypto values last week and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has voiced similar skepticism. U.S. equities were relatively range bound during the shortened holiday week as the S&P 500 Index (SPX) high-to-low range for the week was just 1.64%, with 10-day realized volatility declining to levels not seen since the end of 2019. Minutes from the Fed’s previous meeting seem to indicate a willingness to accept potentially higher inflation measures in the hopes of buoying the pandemic-scarred domestic economy. Retail sales data surged to record highs, seeing the largest year-over-year increase (6%) since June 2005. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to decline with hospitalizations down 54% from January 6 highs and infections falling 72% from the January 11 highs.
- U.S. Equity Indices were under pressure most of the week, but selloffs were met with buying interest. The Nasdaq 100 Index and S&P 500 Index reached intraday all-time highs on Tuesday but traded to weekly lows on Thursday.
- S&P 500 Index (SPX): Fell slightly from all-time highs. The index is 0.7% lower week-over-week, holding to 3,900.
- Nasdaq 100 Index (NDX): Fell 1.64%, with the weekly range only 2.8% from peak to trough.
- Russell 2000 Index (RUT℠): Declined 1%, after moving higher on Friday. Small caps had a 100-handle range, or 4.35%, throughout the week.
- Cboe Volatility Index™ (VIX™ Index): Edged higher last week, moving from 19.97 to 22.05. The index reached 24.33 on Thursday, marking its intraday high for the week.
- Cboe VIX Volatility Index™ (VVIX™ Index): Ranged between 127 and 116 during the week and closed at 117.45, the low end of its weekly range.
- SPX options volume averaged about 1.3 million contracts per day, up more than 22% on a daily basis compared to 1.06 million the previous week.
- VIX options average daily volume (ADV) was about 700,000 contracts, down slightly from the previous week’s ADV of about 760,000 contracts. Overall, VIX options volume has been strong in 2021.
- RUT options volume declined week-over-week from 46,400 per day to 34,200 per day. Over the past three months, RUT ADV has been roughly 37,7000 contracts.
Across the Pond
- Euro Stoxx 50 Index: Down 0.83%.
- MSCI EAFE Index (MXEA™) and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF™) were essentially unchanged.
Charting It Out
Observations on VIX Futures Term Structure
- February VIX futures expired on Wednesday at 22.81.
- The VIX futures term structure steepened again last week, with the front month March contract falling 1.00 week-over-week. April was basically unchanged, while the May and June futures inched higher.
- The persistently high mid to back month VIX futures levels show no sign of subsiding.
VIX Futures Term Structure
Growth in Small Caps
- The recent climb higher in small caps pushed the Russell 2000 Index to historic wides — 40% — relative to its 200-day moving average.
Russell 2000 Index Distance from 200-Day Moving Average
- Inflation sensitive assets like commodities, cryptocurrencies and energies remain bid.
- Jobless claims remain elevated — well above one million — which is likely a concern for central bankers and politicians.
- Treasury volatilities have moved significantly higher, relative to the VIX Index, as the focus on fixed income and uncertainty around inflation moves into bond options.
- April WTI Crude Oil traded over $62 but backed off late in the week as the market priced in an increased supply from Saudis and Permian basin production coming back online.
- Big Tech: Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla all declined on a weekly basis. Google was the best performer on a relative basis but was slightly lower week-over-week. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook and Tesla all declined, dragging the SPX and NDX lower.
- Over the past week, on average, about 70,000 new COVID-19 cases per day in the U.S., compared to a moving average of approximately 97,000 a week ago.
- Approximately 1.7 million vaccines were administered daily last week, in line with the prior week.
New COVID-19 Cases in the U.S.
Tidbits from the News
- Weather now has the power to move markets. Historically, nearly all weather data came from the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but private weather forecasting has grown into a $7 billion industry.
- The lumber market traded to new all-time highs. Copper futures and iron ore are at 9-year highs and copper breached the $4.00 mark.
Lumber and Copper Futures on the Rise
- Streaming may not be crushing the music industry after all. Universal is the largest company in the music business and the company’s revenues are growing meaningfully. Last week Vivendi, Universal’s parent company, announced plans to spin off the subsidiary.
Universal Music Group Annual Revenue
The Week Ahead
- Data to be released: Leading economic indicators on Monday, Cas-Shiller Home Price index and the Consumer Confidence Index on Tuesday, Initial Jobless Claims and Durable Goods orders on Thursday, Income Spending Inflation, Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) and UMich Confidence Index on Friday.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will give his semiannual monetary policy testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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