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Jun 6, 2022

Neutral Trading Strategies for an Inactive Market

By:Frank Kaberna

What do you do when the dust settles, the smoke clears, and you’re left with middling markets? After quite a volatile May, June has seen the stock market bounce back (albeit slightly) and the US dollar cool off.

STIX & SFX \ Small Technology and Small US Dollar

STIX & SFX \ Small Technology and Small US Dollar
Source: dxFeed

Many traders hunt price extremes when looking for value in the market, but this strategy can leave you waiting on the sideline for extended periods. Pairs trades, or spread trades, as well as neutral options strategies can create opportunity out of a sideways, seemingly stagnant market.

How to Create a Pairs Trade

One of the most common ways to view pairs trade, or spread trade, opportunity is through the lens of convergence and divergence. You can look at two highly correlated products like stock futures or interest rate futures, measure how much they’ve converged or diverged, and then choose to go with or against such price action.

STIX-SM75 \ Small Technology - Small Stocks

STIX-SM75 \ Small Technology - Small Stocks
Source: dxFeed

For example, stock futures Small Technology (STIX) and Small Stocks (SM75®) have gone from trading around the same price a year ago to the former trading at a $35 discount. If you think the trend will continue, you can sell the underperformer (STIX) while buying the outperformer (SM75). Think the two markets will converge? You can buy STIX and sell SM75.

S30Y-S10Y \Small 30YR Yield - Small 10YR Yield

S30Y-S10Y \Small 30YR Yield - Small 10YR Yield
Source: dxFeed

A similar story is being told in the yield curve as US interest rates of varying duration flatten to historical lows. Traditionally, longer-term rates trade higher than shorter-term ones. Recently, however, the difference between 10YR and 30YR rates has come down to nearly 0% after trading at around a 0.7% premium of the latter over the former. This can be seen and traded in S10Y and S30Y futures. Think they’ll converge further and potentially invert the yield curve? You can sell S30Y and buy S10Y. Those thinking the curve will return to normal can do the opposite.

How to Create a Neutral Options Trade

Options derivatives can give you another opportunity to profit from a market remaining range bound. The short strangle includes a short call and put option and is a strategy rewarding the inactive market thanks to its neutral outlook.

SFX \Small US Dollar with Strangle

SFX \ Small US Dollar with Strangle
Source: dxFeed

As USD cools off from its bull run, a short SFX strangle (for example, -1 156 put and -1 161 call) could show potential if the forex market continues to coil. While the strategy can be expensive using stock or ETF options, a short strangle in SFX options is currently requiring between $100 and $200 in capital.*

Pairs trades and neutral options strategies alike can profit from markets trading in a range, and, if the summer continues to trend in this sideways direction, such opportunities could be booming.

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*Values taken on 6/3/22 (July 15, 2022 Expiration)

© 2022 Small Exchange, Inc. All rights reserved. Small Exchange, Inc. is a Designated Contract Market registered with the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The information in this advertisement is current as of the date noted, is for informational purposes only, not intended as a recommendation, and does not contend to address the financial objectives, situation, or specific needs of any individual investor.The information presented here is for illustrative purposes only, and is not intended to serve as investment advice since the availability and effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon your individual facts and circumstances. Trading in derivatives and other financial instruments involves risk.


Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before deciding to invest in options.

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