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StocksEquity Markets

The Nvidia effect; US equity indices break out to new highs

Chris Weston
Head of Research
Feb 22, 2024
The Nvidia effect has ripped through global equity markets and given fresh wind to markets that were looking ominously poised for a 3-5% drawdown. New highs have been seen in EU Stoxx, GER40, JPN225, and the US large-cap equity bourses; the US30, US500 and NAS100.
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What levels do the bulls target now?

Well either, you’re looking at fibo extension/projections, psychologically important round numbers, or you hold until price action offers an exit signal, or your trailing stop is triggered. 

Our client flow is progressively skewed short index positions at current levels (85% of open positions on US30 are held short, 74% short on the NAS100), with many countering for a reversion move, although this is an aggregation of different strategies and timeframes. 

Nvidia hit the sweet spot

Nvidia has dominated the narrative and rightfully so – the flow-on effects into the AI/semi’s scene has been truly emphatic. I won’t go over Nvidia’s numbers at a granular level, but clearly, they hit the absolute sweet spot – beating on Q424 actuals by some margin across the board, but also on their guidance for Q125 numbers. 

While not meeting some very lofty market expectations was a small risk, there was perhaps a greater fear that the guidance would be too hot, subsequently creating an incredibly high bar to beat in the future. That wasn’t the case, and one could say the outcome was a ‘goldilocks’ scenario.

It’s hard to go past the commentary on their outlook and future operating environment, as this has not just lifted Nvidia but the whole scene. Saying that demand will continue to exceed supply all year was a massive bullish trigger. Detailing that supply constraints should improve over the year was also well received, with supply chains asked to increase capacity by 30% for CYQ1. Sales to China have also dropped to mid-single-digit percentages despite such explosive revenue growth, which was a factor and could be a big kicker further into the future. 

Nivida shares not only closed +16.5%, far higher than the -/+11% implied in options pricing but adding $276b in market cap was absolutely staggering. The fact price closed right on its session highs must enthuse the bulls and for tape readers, it tells a lot about the mindset of the collective – dips will likely be shallow, and traders will chase the upside. 

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87.75m shares traded hands – the most since November 2023 - and in the options market, we saw 1.51m calls bought vs the 20-day average of 913k. Valuations are obviously lofty, but they matter little for these high-growth plays, which are essentially out-and-out momentum vehicles.

Also, consider that Nvidia holds its highly anticipated GTC conference on 18 March – where they are likely to update the market on new products and innovations – so pullbacks in the stock should be shallow, and we could see buyers push price higher into that event. 

The spill over into names like Super Micro Computers (+32.9%), AMD (+10.7%), Marvell (+6.6%) and Broadcom (+6.3%) is clear. The Philadelphia Semi ETF (SOX) also gets some focus as price breaks to new ATHs. Offshore we saw plays such as Infineon, ARM Holdings, Tokyo Election, Taiwan Semi and Korean Semi names all working well and finding a solid bid. 

The biggest one-day move since early February

On a broad index basis, the NAS100 saw its biggest one-day move since Feb 2023 (a 3% move was a 3.3 Z-score move). That said, for such a big percentage change in the index volumes were only 7% above the 30-day average, although this was more than offset by good breadth with 82% of stocks higher (72% in the US500). 

NAS100 implied volatility has fallen a touch with the NAS100 VIX index dropping 1.21 vols to 18.4% with the S&P500 VIX -0.80 vols to 14.5%, with traders rolling out of downside hedges. Hedges cost money when the market is ripping and subtract from performance.

So global high-quality growth equity has found its mojo courtesy of just one stock, and what they have said about the outlook, which of course means so much not just for the A.I adopters but the enablers. 

We can once again talk about concentration risk in equity, but we can use the 2023 case study and see that reduced participation in the rally isn’t the red flag for contrarian positions it perhaps once was. 

While CFD traders will take timeframes down and trade intraday flows – long and short – the primary big-picture trend remains higher, so for those who hold for longer than a day, we need to assess the big risk that can cause a 5%+ drawdown. 

What can cause a reversal?

That risk is inflation, and a resurgence of concerns that we move into a far higher-for-longer regime, with rate cuts essentially priced out for 2024. As I detailed in this note,  equity can hold in and even push higher if expected rate cuts are priced out for 2024, as long the cause is solid growth dynamics. But if the primary reasoning for reduced rate cut expectation is inflation, which causes long-end bond yields to rise (both nominal and real), and volatility in interest rates and US Treasury’s lifts then equity risk premium will rise, and the bears will likely get their 5-10% pullback.

For now, the Nvidia show is real, and a feel-good factor runs through the whole sector – The NAS100 breaks 18k, the US500 eyes 5100 and the US30 looks up at 40k. 

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