Which is the most important trading day of the month?
“The one when my company reports results,” you say.
Good guess, and you’re usually right. Not this time. It’s the last day. Yesterday was it, the vital day of April, the benchmark for monthly fund-performance.
All funds want to clock results, punch the timer when the sprinter hits the tape. But it’s most true for money tracking a measure like the S&P 500.
CBOE, the giant derivatives and equities market operator, began in 2014 offering an options contract to “allow asset managers to more precisely match SPX option expirations to end-of-month fund cycles and fund performance periods.” SPX is the S&P 500. CBOE offers many ways for investors to improve tracking or profit on variances.
CBOE describes SPX securities as “flexible tools that allow investors to synthetically adjust their positions to a 500-stock portfolio.”
All three big exchange groups (NYSE, Nasdaq, CBOE) operate equity and derivatives markets, and all promote pricing advantages for firms trading equities and derivatives simultaneously.
That means, public companies and investors, these exchanges are encouraging traders to speculate. How often are prices of stocks affected by the prices of derivatives ranging from options on individual stocks to futures on indexes and ETFs? (Heck, there are options on futures.)
Answer: Behavioral analytics ModernIR developed show that about 19% of volume marketwide the last five days ties to derivatives. By sector, Communication Services was highest at 20.6%; Industrials the lowest, 17.7%.
Active Investment by comparison was 11.2% of volume in Communication Services stocks, and 12.6% in Industrials (sellers, however).
AAPL, trading today on results, had 23% of volume on Apr 29 – $1.03 billion! – driven by derivatives-related trades. About 150 S&P 500 components, and hundreds of others, release this week.
Derivatives are bigger than investment. Do stocks then reflect fundamentals?
BK plunged Apr 17 – index options expired that day – and the biggest behavioral change was in Risk Mgmt, reflecting derivatives. Shorting peaked Apr 17. Bets preceding results were quantitative, and big. Math. Active money then bought the dip.
SIRI dropped on results like a diver off a cliff, and over 23% of its trading volume beforehand traced to counterparties for derivatives bets.
TWTR exploded from about $34 to over $40 intraday on long (not short) derivatives bets made with new options that traded Apr 22, driving more than 20% of TWTR volume. Active money played no price-setting role and was a profit-taker on the move.
INTC rag-dolled down Apr 26 with results, on volumes approaching 80 million shares, and the biggest behavior was Risk Mgmt – counterparties to derivatives bets.
CHRW was 70% short and 25% of its trading volume tied to derivatives – a resounding bear bet – before shares blinked out this week to December levels.
Imagine the value you’d add – what’s your name, IR professional? Portfolio manager? – if you knew the behaviors behind price and volume BEFORE stocks went wild.
Fast Traders arbitrage the tick. That is, computerized trades profit by churning many securities long and short fleetingly, netting gains. The more money seeks a measure – indexes, ETFs, closet indexers, money trying to beat a benchmark – the more machines change prices. Fast Trading is 42% of volume the past five days.
Passive investment must track the benchmark. ETFs need variance versus the index to price shares. That combination is 27% of volume.
Active money chasing superior stories defined by fundamentals is 12% of market volume the five days ended Apr 29. So, during earnings season stocks had a 1-of-8 chance of being priced by story.
Derivatives (Risk Mgmt to us at ModernIR) used by indexes to true up tracking and traders to profit on volatility are 19% of volume.
Got bad news to dump, companies? Do it the last three trading days of the month. You’ll get hammered. But then it’s done. Money will return in the new month. Investors, in the new month the stuff hammered to finish the last month could win.
There’s a vital day: The last trading day each month. It trumps story. You should understand it. We can help you.