The relentless rally in big tech, options positioning and bets on a Federal Reserve pause following a mixed jobs report put stocks on the verge of a bull market.
An advance of roughly 1.5% for the S&P 500 extended the benchmark’s surge from its October low to nearly 20%.
A gauge of megacaps like Tesla Inc. and Apple Inc. saw its sixth straight week of gains — the longest winning run in since July 2021. Broadcom Inc. climbed after predicting that sales tied to artificial intelligence will double this year.
As stocks rose, Wall Street’s “fear gauge” plummeted to pre-pandemic levels. The Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, dropped below 15 from an average of 23 in the past year. The risk-taking mode also drove the Russell 2000 index of small caps — the home of several regional banks — up about 3.5%
“The impressive run for equities continues to drive retail investors into the market,” said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide. “Investors have spent much of the past three years obsessed by the Fed, inflation, and payrolls, though volatility around those reports has settled, reflecting a less emotional market. This is bullish, as less reactivity is a sign of a healthy market.”
To Andrew Brenner at NatAlliance Securities, the melt-up in equities has a lot to do with one thing: positioning.
“Options traders were off sides,” Brenner said. We think they will get back next week, “and the rally will run out of steam,” he added.
Indeed, the stock advance doesn’t mean the market isn’t facing headwinds, according to Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial.
Among the risks, she cites the potential ramifications of the deluge of Treasury notes — approximately $1 trillion — to be auctioned as the US department replenishes its general account following a debt-limit deal. that could ignite a significant sapping of liquidity from financial markets, she noted.