Skipping Around: Of Jobs, Oil and Markets

Today, we’ll take a look at how jobs, oil and market volatility are playing a role in the market environment.

A Solid Jobs Report:  But You Can’t Please Everyone

Last week’s job number took many by surprise.  What a great report it was, 321K jobs created based on the latest survey, previous reports revised upward.  Yet, all I heard were complaints – the jobs created were temporary, not high-paying career type positions and that this will turn tail in a couple of months.  I disagree with all of this noise.  First, any job creation is great for the economy, and those who have been sitting around waiting for a job are finally getting their chance.

To me, it doesn’t really matter the quality of the job – just that companies are hiring is a GREAT sign!  There have been so many unemployed for so long that they have mostly been forgotten.  More jobs, more income, more spending, broader tax base.  It’s all good.  This jobs report is indicative of an economy growing at a moderate pace which can continue for the next three to five quarters at least.

Oil is Gushing Out of Control

Many were shocked and surprised after the OPEC meeting and the ministers decided not to cut production of crude.  While the drop in price has been substantial over the past four months, the trend was pretty clear by looking at the chart.  Bearish sentiment has also been seen with an increase of put options bought in the futures market.  OPEC controls supply but does not control demand, and therein lies the issue.

Demand for crude has not expanded to absorb the supply on the markets and hence prices fall.  At some point the market will find a balance.  Much of the speculation about companies’ health and spending in the years ahead is just guessing and trying to jump ahead.  Stay away from the noise and just pay attention to what the market is telling you.

No Fear According to the VIX

With the VIX indicator sitting just under 12% it is understood that market players are showing complacency.  That might be ‘normal’ at a time when holiday cheer is being spread around but extremes are something we need to guard against.  Remember the opposite in mid-October, when fear was rising and hit a point of ‘I can’t take it anymore’?  At the time markets had corrected nearly 10% in  short month, volatility hit more than 30% but subsequently collapsed to where we are at today.

There are reasons for a rise in fear, an overbought market may be just one of them.  Recently it was the ebola crisis, which thankfully has dissipated.  But the pain left on the airlines and travel business was real, more than 30% declines in stock values – but when that disappeared and lower oil prices (see above) hit then these stocks started to gain some footing and are at/near highs again.

Right NOW would be a good time to lighten up on long portfolios, perhaps even buy some cheap protection via SPY, QQQ, or IWM puts.  But have an understanding of what the purpose is of that protection or insurance.   Every time we have seen volatility spike lower to this area there has always been a whack coming.  As Pete Najarian from Optionmonster said on CNBC’s Fast Money Friday, ‘expect to lose money on this‘, that is if you are protecting a long portfolio.  Bob Lang, Senior Market Strategist, and editor of Explosive Options.