More Stress and VIX Above 40 Before 'Powell Put' is Triggered - Wells Fargo

October 5, 2022 8:47 AM EDT
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Wells Fargo analyst Christopher Harvey has reiterated the firm’s view that 2023 will bring a recession, more Fed hawkishness, and lower EPS.

These factors, as well as growing tail risks (e.g., liquid credit markets, the limited chance of a Lehman/TARP event), could eventually “catalyze a VIX spike.”

“Look for a 40 handle. A VIX > 40 has historically coincided with SPX -4% (average 1-day) and helped trigger the "Powell Put". In other words, the environment needs to get worse before a monetary policy pivot marks a longer-term buy-able equity bottom,” Harvey wrote in a client note.

The analyst also noted that market volumes year-to-end are mirroring 2008.

“The frequency of SPX pullbacks (~200) and near decades-low ratio of downside vs. ATM vols (~1.3x) are reminiscent of Sep '08. Instead of a liquidity crunch or systemic failure, today we envision the VIX catalyst to be monetary tightening that slows the economy, sinks earnings, weighs on confidence, and spurs short-selling,” Harvey added.

The spike in volatility will likely come in the first half of the next year, delayed by the increase in expectations for a Fed pivot. As a result, the “Powell Put” may come into play but not at current levels.

“Markets will need to experience more stress before the "Powell Put" is triggered. We believe the Powell Put is "lower" now vs. pre-pandemic due to the Fed's committed inflation battle. Equity risk (VIX >40) rather than levels (SPX: -24% YTD) may be a better indicator for when the Powell Put is "in-the-money",” Harvey concluded.

By Senad Karaahmetovic

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