Rise in Unfavorable Sentiment as Investors Attempt To Anticipate a Down Market

March 30, 2023

Source: Bloomberg Source: Bloomberg

Tennis is a thrilling sport where competitors must anticipate their opponents’ movements and make split-second judgments based on their observations. A parallel can be drawn to the financial markets, as investors strive to predict and manage quickly shifting circumstances.

This week’s chart depicts the U.S. Put Call Ratio Composite (OPCVTPCR Index), which represents the ratio of total put option volume to call option volume. As of March 26, the ratio stood at 1.2, meaning that the total volume of put options was greater than the number of call options.

Investors may use this indicator to assess market sentiment and forecast future market moves. The ratio peaked above 1.5 on Dec. 31, 2007, shortly before the global financial crisis — which was brought on by a number of causes, including a housing bubble and irresponsible lending practices.

It is interesting to note that the current level of 1.2 or above has only been seen three other times in the past 20 years: February 2007, June 2008 and February 2020, right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. This data shows that market downturns driven by macroeconomic risks tend to make investors rush to hedge their portfolios by buying puts as a form of downside protection.

On the other hand, during periods of market prosperity, the index trends below 1, indicating that more calls are being bought over puts, with an average of 0.862 over the last 20 years. This suggests that investors are more optimistic about market conditions during such times.

Recent economic and market developments have pushed investors to explore strategies to hedge their downside, and the most recent Federal Reserve (Fed) move has placed many balance sheets through another stress test. Against a backdrop of bank mergers and failures, financial institutions have tightened credit lending. These developments are beginning to mimic the circumstances that preceded the 2008 global financial crisis, with this week’s chart demonstrating how investors have reacted.

Key Takeaway    

According to the U.S. Put Call Ratio Composite, macroeconomic developments and present market circumstances are causing a rise in unfavorable sentiment. Investors seem to be attempting to anticipate a down market in the same way that athletes aim to predict the actions of their rivals.

Tags: Portfolio | Market volatility | Federal Reserve | Balance sheet | options

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