FINRA Looking Into Volatility Manipulation
Everyone is blaming last week’s big volatility on the VIX index. Explanations for the big falls are swirling and include an over-reliance on VIX-linked funds and insurers’ volatility strategy. However, FINRA is now looking into another potential cause—deliberate manipulation of the VIX. FINRA suspects traders have been trying to deliberately influence the VIX to move the price of derivatives. The tip on the behavior was given by an anonymous whistleblower.
FINSUM: Given the track record of misbehavior (e.g. Libor), it would be no surprise if traders were trying to manipulate the VIX. However, it is unclear what role that might have had in last week’s crash.
ESG is Now Mainstream
Some may like it, some may not, but there is no changing the fact that ESG, or the acronym used to describe various social, governance, and environmental considerations when investing, is now part of the mainstream. Asset managers large and small, recently led by BlackRock, are now using ESG as a key factor in their investing. One asset manager comments that “In general, companies with the strongest records on employee relations and environmental sustainability, for example, often have better financial performance over the long run than those with the weakest records … Do you really want to hold a carbon-intensive company that’s not thinking about [the risks?”.
FINSUM: The big news here is that ESG and other “responsible” funds have had better returns in recent years than conventional funds, so the old mode of thinking this area has poor returns needs to shift.
Goldman Warns of Treasury + Stock Market Calamity
Goldman Sachs put out a big warning to the market yesterday. The bank’s fixed income division says that it thinks yields on ten-year Treasuries are going to rise to 3.5% within two quarters as the Fed continues to hikes rates and the market sells off. Goldman called its prediction “not very brave”, indicating it thinks yields might be higher, especially since it feels the Fed will hike four times this year. Goldman’s forecast for rates is much higher than most analysts, so if it comes to pass, it could have big ramifications for equity investors.
FINSUM: If yields rose to 3.5% or above that quickly, we expect the equity markets would perform very poorly, and it may be the kind of scenario where we have a recession.
Stocks Look Like the Definition of a Bubble
Well the stock market finally stabilized yesterday with a solid rally (who knows where it will end up today), which may let many breathe a sigh of relief. However, one of the most prominent names in investing, in his typically unemotional way, says that stocks are currently very dangerous as they look like the definition of a bubble. Investors are still buying the market even though they think it is overpriced, saying Schiller. According to him, “that's almost the definition of a bubble. If you think it's overpriced but think it still has time to go, that's the definition of a bubble”.
FINSUM: So our view is that there is still a good deal to be positive about, but that if you really think we are in for a correction, then what just transpired was not nearly enough to “correct” the market.
US Kills 100+ Russian Troops
We don’t run a whole lot of news on the geopolitical and military fronts, but we think we found a story today that everyone needs to be wary of. Bloomberg reports, along with confirmations from the US military, that US troops engaged and killed around 100 Russian soldiers, injuring 200 to 300 hundred. The soldiers were reportedly mercenaries fighting for the Assad regime in Syria who attacked a US held refinery/base. Russia says it had nothing to do with the attack and that it would not engage US forces.
FINSUM: This seems like it could spark a very tense geopolitical situation, but luckily it looks like Russia distanced itself very quickly and is not seeking any confrontation.