It’s another one of ‘those’ weekends again, but as Bloomberg’s Mark Cudmore notes, anecdotally, FX traders are significantly less excited by the French presidential election than the commentariat (may exacerbate the reaction to any surprise, though it doesn’t increase its likelihood). With options activity at record highs, what should be the game plan for the weekend if you’re a European-based investor?
In the last week of trading before the French election, investors increased bets for European stock volatility, sending the volume of VStoxx Index (European VIX) call options to a record.
The measure that tracks expectations for turbulence in euro-area shares is set for a fifth straight weekly gain, the longest streak since 2014. It hit its highest level since the aftermath of the Brexit vote, but as Mark Cudmore explains, with so much hedging activity, perhaps there is another way…
Bank strategists and sales people are almost as hyped up as journalists about this vote. However, those who actually manage risk aren’t rushing to alter their usual working habits for Sunday’s election.
Every major bank mans the early Monday Auckland FX opening as standard practice. Given the dearth of liquidity, most traders in Europe see little benefit from getting involved in those early hours.
I sympathize. I expect the event to be anti-climactic and positive for markets. As one reader replied, even negative outcomes may be faded as the narrative quickly shifts to focus on the fact that neither Le Pen nor Melenchon would have the parliamentary support to call a referendum on the euro anyway.
So, what should be the game plan for the weekend if you’re a European-based investor?
- Enjoy your Saturday. No polls can be published after Friday midnight
- Enjoy most of your Sunday. Don’t worry about early turnout information. It would have to provide some tremendous shock to seriously change the outcome and there’s no market to react anyway. If you’re based in the U.K., there’s an exciting FA Cup semi-final to watch
- At 8 p.m. in Paris on Sunday you can check your phone for preliminary projections
- If Macron and Fillon look set for a run-off, prepare for a significant risk rally on Monday
- If Le Pen looks like getting more than 30%, or Melenchon is within 2% of the top two spots, stay tuned to the action.
- If the results point to anything else, stop worrying and enjoy your evening
It’s only if Le Pen eventually wins more than 35% of the vote or Melenchon gets through to the second round that markets will react badly. Even then, don’t let any extreme euro move panic you.
If it crashes too far on low liquidity, that move will be partially faded by the European day.
Notably, options market implied distribution is tilted to a positive shift in the euro over the next week…