Markets Love Round Numbers – 50k, 30k, 4k, 20, 1.25

Humans have biases. One of them is a fascination with round numbers. Because markets are a manifestation of mass psychology, it is not surprising when a financial instrument or index becomes fixated on a round number as one approaches. Currently there are several to attract the market’s focus: $50,000, 30,000, 4,000, 20 and 1.25%.

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The big news of this morning – one that triggered an alert on my phone – was that bitcoin crossed the $50,000 level. It didn’t last long (at least on the first pass), but it was sufficient to further engross investors who had been eyeing the cryptocurrency’s spectacular rise. I discussed this topic in an Asian radio interview on Monday morning and said that a rise to 50k seemed inevitable. Investors are fascinated with bitcoin, and perhaps the best stock promoter the world has ever seen is a public and vocal advocate. But I don’t draw any real conclusions from a given number in bitcoin – only that it is a barometer for the level of speculation in the financial system. There is a speculative fervor in this product, and $50,000 was merely the next milestone.

Of a similar nature, the S&P 500 Index (SPX) is approaching 4,000. With that figure less than 1.5% away, it also appears to be an inevitability. I suspect that I will get another alert on my phone in the coming days. Similar to this morning’s bitcoin alert, it is more about becoming another milestone of the risk-on nature of most financial markets rather than a meaningful achievement in its own right.

Two numbers that are tied tightly to SPX are the 20 level of VIX and the 1.25% yield on the 10-year Treasury note. As part of the last-minute buy program that pushed a flat market higher in the last 20 minutes of last Friday’s trading day, VIX slipped below 20. This didn’t trigger an alert on my phone, but I saw highlighted headlines come across my news services. I personally don’t ascribe much meaning to a specific level of one particular volatility measure, but I have heard numerous portfolio managers claim that they are looking for a sub-20 VIX as further affirmation of the bull market. That said, none are options people and I can’t imagine that they’re not already largely invested, but if I take them at their word, at least some will use the declining VIX as a reason to put more money into the markets. With VIX bouncing by about 10% this morning, it seems clearer that the dip was more about short-term trading ahead of a long weekend than a meaningful move.

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Disclosure: BITCOIN FUTURES

Trading in Bitcoin futures is especially risky and is only for clients with a high risk tolerance and the financial ability to sustain losses. More information ...

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