Rates History Shows Promise of Summer Lull Is All Too Elusive

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Traders itching for a vacation should probably go now, before bond volatility rears its head again.

Price swings as measured by options on 10-year interest-rate swaps have increased in eight out of the last nine years in August, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. And that’s followed a decrease in July with just two exceptions.

If history is any guide, the dearth of activity that is so common as traders take time off, is likely to give way to oustsized moves again in their absence. Volatility on rates swaps fell the most since May last week and is now trading at the lowest level since February, having retraced around half of this year’s move higher.

Banks are already kicking into action amid the lull. Marco Meijer, a senior G-10 rates strategist at BNP Paribas SA, is recommending investors use options strategies to bet volatility will be higher in a few months.

Rates History Shows Promise of Summer Lull Is All Too Elusive

“Now that payrolls is out of the way, people will feel it is time for the beach,” he said, referring to the highly-anticipated U.S. jobs data last week. He favors selling three-month 10-year swaps straddles and buying the six-month tenor.

For many, the stakes associated with another spate of turbulence have never been higher.

Volatility Usually Goes Away for Summer Holiday; Back in August

The world’s biggest central banks are now toying with the idea of paring back unprecedented stimulus that has placated markets, and any sudden shifts in outlook could catch traders out.

They’re already on high alert for any tapering signal from the Federal Reserve at its Jackson Hole Symposium in August, and similar clues from the European Central Bank, which may reveal the results of its strategy review in September.

Add to the mix German elections that could see the free-spending Green Party join a ruling coalition that same month, and the stage is set for a host of potentially market-shaking surprises.

“Many investors are looking forward to -- or hoping for -- a quiet summer,” wrote Giles Gale, head of European rates strategy at NatWest Markets, who favors betting on a strong economic recovery that will offset any shake-up surrounding the taper debate.

“This may well be the case in July, when volatility is typically low and the calendar light,” he said. “But August is shaping up to be a busy month as markets look ahead to a September which is jam-packed full of risk events.”

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