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Oil and Gold Update

Friday’s 3% drop in crude oil definitively broke below $50/barrel with open interest for WTI (as reported in the COT Report) at all time highs. Headlines cite lessening concerns regarding Tropical Storm Nate and oversupply issues. Volatility remains subdued though ahead of OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report on Weds followed by the IEA’s report on Thurs.

The WTI COT Report also shows that Producers – who have a natural bias to be short – haven’t been net short this little since Jan 2015 (AKA their net position, while still short, is the longest it’s been in awhile). In Brent, the Money Mangers’ net position is the shortest it’s been in our data’s history (dating back to 2008).

Funny trade in gold on Friday as well – expiring over a year from now the following trade was blocked – all new positioning:

– 7,500 Dec18 2000 calls @ 3
– 7,500 Dec18 2600 calls @ 0.15
– 15,000 Dec18 3000 calls @ 0.1

The sizes make it look like a call spread stupid (the 2000-3000 call spread WITH the 2600-3000 call spread) for when the SHTF – but that far out both in strike and expiry, who knows.

Market Update

This week starts with Jackson Hole behind us, Hurricane Harvey still playing out, and NFPs/debt ceiling concerns looming on the horizon. S&P500 ATM volatility (and put skew) has come back down to earth in spite of realized vol creeping higher while the dollar index is at the lowest level it’s seen since Jan 2016.

Energy

As of Sunday evening, according to the WSJ Hurricane Harvey has taken out ~15% of the US’ oil refining capacity as it continues its destruction and energy markets prepare for a bumpy week. WTI futures are pivoting around the new year although gasoline (RBOB) futures could end up being the more interesting story having caught a pure bid with front contracts up 5.8%:
WTI
RBOB

Gold

Thus far in 2017 gold has been unable to break $1,300 although not for lack of trying. With spot prices threatening the high-water mark again the COT report shows that managed money (AKA speculators) have reduced their short positions to the lowest absolute level since mid-Dec 2012:
Gold
Dec 2012 started a ~40% decline in gold prices so YMMV.
Longer dated constant maturity vols are near recent lows, while 7-day CM vol is hovering around average on a 1-year timeline so it appears that the market isn’t setup for any long-term surprises (with the exception of the occasional volume spike like the one on Friday ahead of Yellen’s speech):
Gold Vol Cone
Gold Volume Spike

Cross Asset Class Volatility Update

In the last few weeks volatility has returned to financial headlines with a vengeance leaving traders checking under their beds for asset bubbles and causing “panic” when VIX traded with a 17-handle for the first time since November 2016. So what’s really playing out in markets?

* note that the volatilities shown are calculated using industry standards based on the type of asset; for example, absolute levels cannot be compared between rates and metals.

Rates

In rates space historical volatility (orange) has picked up but implieds (blue) are lackadaisical. FV/5-yr, TY/10-yr, and US/bond, 30-day constant maturity series are shown respectively below:

 

Here’s a longer dated TY history:

Metals

Gold vol has actually found a bid (with silver and palladium following suit):

While platinum, thus far, is flat:

Energy

Natural Gas implied volatility is the lowest it’s been since 2014:

Although oil is off the lows of the year:

Ags

Vol has come back down in grains after an exciting month although wheat could be picking up again:

Equities

And last but not least, E-mini S&P500 vol has caught a bid:

For a little perspective of where we are currently, here’s a 5-year history of a few constant maturity series:

Like all things, low vol environments eventually come to an end, but low vol by itself doesn’t “trigger”  eruptions. Claiming that vol can uptick ahead of an event isn’t exactly going out on a limb. But I’m sure they’ll tell you they told you so next week.

Our CEO Nick Howard joins The Futures Options Roundtable once again…

“One thing that I think the people out there that are trading options might forget now is that the CME has the weeklies that are listed. The weeklies are going to tend to give you a pretty good idea of what people are thinking in the short term.”

This was one of many insights from Nick during the hour-long podcast hosted by Mark Longo, founder of The Options Insider. The rest of panel included Matthew Bradbard, vice president of managed futures and alternatives at RCM Asset Management, Dan Collins, editor-in-chief of Futures Magazine, Dan Cook, director of business development at Nadex and Jeff Lewandowski, analyst at Protean Trading.

Brent-crude-vol-skewDuring this edition of The Futures Options Roundtable, the panel discussed the Commodity Sturm Ung Drang Grand Marketplace, most notably volatility in the crude oil/energy markets, the affects of the recent situation in Iraq on the oil markets and the changing volatility of gold in past months. Longo rounded out the conversation by prompting his guests with a series of questions from his listeners.

To listen to the entire podcast, follow this link: ow.ly/z0Lww.