Did One Fund Cause The Rally?

Make sense of the rumors FAST. Below is an excerpt from today’s Sevens Report: www.7sReport.com.

Easily the biggest story that circulated trading desks Thursday morning was an article that a $4 billion options fund was blowing up. In doing so, the implication was that is what has caused the relentless really we’ve seen in stocks since last Thursday.

The fund in question is the Catalyst Hedged Futures Strategy, and in a broad sense this fund sells volatility using option strategies.

Did one fund cause this rally?

The story/rumor going around is that this fund sold a massive amount of call spreads, making them effectively short $17 billion worth of S&P 500 Index futures. Well, you can imagine how that’s worked out over the past week, and the takeaway is that this fund has been relentless buying S&P 500 futures over the past week to cover their shorts… and that’s why stocks have surged.

Normally, these stories about funds blowing up and causing a market disruption are little more than rumors created to explain a market that is defying fundamentals. But, markets defy fundamentals in the short term quite frequently without fund blowups.

This, however, is a bit of a unique case, because we can actually see the return data for this fund (it’s an open-ended futures fund). Over the past week, the fund has lost -14%. That has brought its year-to-date return to -13.5%, meaning prior to the last week, the fund was flat year to date. Taking a quick look at historical returns, a 14% weekly move in this fund is not normal, so it’s fair to say that something has gone very wrong there.

Looking more broadly, does the story of this fund explain why the market simply hasn’t been able to go down for a week (and why it suddenly exploded higher last Thursday despite the lack of anything good happening)? Yes, partially.

Even though I can’t directly validate the story, it reinforces my skepticism on this latest move higher from 2,300 in the S&P 500, and that is that this is a rally built on chasing and a squeeze.


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