The FOMC announcement this week overwhelmed all other news for traders. And the market did not like the message they inferred from the rate hike. The Standard and Poors 500 index (SPX) closed today at 3693, down 65 points or -1.7%. SPX opened the week at 3850, so today’s close represented a decline of 4.1% for the week. This month is setting up to be one of the weaker Septembers in market history. Trading volume was modestly higher than the 50-day moving average (dma) all week, but we did not witness a significant spike in volume as we did last Friday.
VIX, the volatility index for the S&P 500 options, opened the week at 27.7% and spiked to 32.3% today before settling into the close at 29.9%. VIX has been steadily rising since early September, probably in anticipation of the FOMC announcement.
I track the Russell 2000 index with the IWM ETF. IWM traded lower over the last three days, closing today at 167.31, down 4.08 or -2.4%. IWM opened the week at 177.01 for a weekly decline of 5.5%. IWM’s June low was 163 and today’s low was 165 before it recovered into the close.
The NASDAQ Composite index matched the S&P 500’s decline today, closing at 10,868 , down 199 points or 1.8% on the day and down 4.2% for the week. NASDAQ’s trading volume was below the 50 dma all week. NASDAQ took the largest declines into the June low but did not stand out this week. Perhaps the selling pressure for the formerly hot NASDAQ stocks has slowed.
The market moving event this week was the FOMC meeting with the discount rate increasing 75 basis points to result in a range of 3.00% to 3.25%. The consensus expectation of market analysts was for a 75 basis point rate hike. That appeared to be priced into the market’s prices and the market actually rose for a few minutes after the announcment. Then it settled modestly lower into the close Wednesday as Powell’s remarks at the press conference appeared rather hawkish.
As market analysts reviewed the members’ dot map of rate predictions, the overnight mood shifted significantly with gap openings lower yesterday and again today. FOMC members are projecting a discount rate of 4.4% by year end, peaking at 4.6% in 2023 and declining somewhat in 2024. The market interpreted this as the beginning of the “hard landing” scenario where higher interest rates push the economy into a serious recession.
I was considering taking this opportunity to sell far OTM SPX put spreads for my Flying With The Condor™ trading service. But the market continued to sink until a slight recovery about an hour before the close. Today’s market did appear to bounce off the June lows, and that was very positive. I decided that staying in cash and watching the market open on Monday would be much more prudent.
My advice is to stay on the sidelines until we witness a clear bounce from the June lows. Don’t jump too soon; markets often test previous lows at least once before beginning a recovery.