BofA Says S&P 500 to Hit Fresh Lows If Volatility Pattern Holds

(Bloomberg) — U.S. stocks are likely to see new lows if VIX patterns from yesteryear hold sway, according to Bank of America Corp.

The current bear-market rally most closely resembles what occurred in 2008, and suggests there’s limited further upside before a turn that drags the S&P 500 to fresh lows, strategists led by Benjamin Bowler wrote in a note Tuesday. They drew that conclusion by measuring from the peak of volatility in the three most recent major sell-offs and comparing those with the present one.

Volatility markets are “underpricing the risk of a secondary market shock,” they wrote.

If the S&P 500, which is up about 15% since the March 16 peak in the VIX, continues to trade in line with the 2008-09 bear-market rally, it would top out around 2,960 as the economic impact of this crisis get priced in, according to the report.

In the three previous big sell-offs — 1987, 2002 and 2008 — it took between one and a half to four months after the VIX peaks for equity market to bottom, BofA noted. During that time, the S&P 500 rose anywhere from 15% to 25% before falling again, they said.

The analysis is at odds with strategists at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., who maintain that the worst is likely over for stocks. At the same time, others like Guggenheim’s Scott Minerd see risk of the S&P 500 falling well below its mid-March closing low of 2,237.40 as markets work through the implications of Covid-19’s effect on economies, companies and public health globally.

The BofA team recommend selling upside equity calls to fund downside put spreads and selling volatility puts on the belief markets are pricing in a recovery path for the economy that is too optimistic.

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