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Investors brace for ‘quadruple witching’ markets turbulence. What’s quadruple witching?

June 19, 2020, 8:50 AM UTC

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Happy Friday, everyone. And a happy Juneteenth, too.

It’s also quadruple witching day, which often brings trading volatility as futures and stocks contracts expire and big players unwind their positions. Add that calendar quirk to a pandemic, a global recession, an army of newbie retail investors, and it should be a fun day.

Stocks and futures, so far, are mostly in the green. We did hit a few record highs yesterday: Clorox, Spotify and the daily number of global COVID-19 cases.

Let’s see where investors are putting their money.

Markets update


  • The major indices are all in the green. Shanghai leads the way, up nearly 1% in late-afternoon trade.
  • To comply with the “Phase 1” trade deal, China plans to buy more U.S. farm products. It’s good news if you’re an American soybean or corn farmer. The announcement is also lifting markets this morning.
  • That’s despite the latest antagonistic Trump tweet. The president last night warned the U.S. could still pursue a “complete decoupling from China”—probably not what U.S. soybean and corn farmers wanted to hear.  


  • The European bourses ticked higher out of the gates. The bluechip Euro Stoxx 50 was up 0.8% a half-hour into the trading session, before losing ground.
  • EU nations go to the bargaining table today in hopes of hammering out an agreement on the €750 billion coronavirus rescue fund. The Germans and French want a deal done quickly while fiscal hawks like the Dutch and Austrians are pushing back.
  • The UK debt level hit a 57-year high in May. Debt-to-GDP topped the dreaded 100% level last month as tax revenues plunged amid the coronavirus lockdown.


  • The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures are all pointing solidly higher. The Nasdaq looks to extend its rally to a sixth straight day.
  • Ray Dalio warned clients of a “lost decade” for stocks. One reason, the hedge fund titan says, is because globalization has peaked.
  • The U.S. has pulled out of global talks to harmonize taxes on digital companies, escalating a trade riff with Europe, India and a number of smaller Asian and South American countries that are mulling a digital tax on the likes of Facebook and Alphabet’s Google.
  • What might we expect from triple witching today? The rebalancing of positions could trigger $48 billion worth of trades. Is that a lot? Six months ago the same event forced through $30 billion.


  • Gold is up.
  • The dollar continues to fall.
  • Crude is jumping today with Brent up more than 2%.

By the Numbers

45.7 million. I know the markets don’t care about this number, but I still think it’s a big deal. Stubbornly, I’m going to put it in the top spot each Friday for the foreseeable future… Yesterday’s jobless claims were worse than expected. Looking back to March, 45.7 million workers in the United States have now filed for unemployment benefits. Yesterday’s tally of 1.5 million jobless claims was a mere 58,000 lower than the prior week—not much of an improvement. The fact we’re still seeing more than a million new claims per week, three months into the crisis, signals more permanent damage to the labor market. “Layoffs that happened at the beginning of this [cycle] likely were intended as temporary,” Martha Gimbel, an economist and a labor market expert at Schmidt Futures, told the New York Times. But if you’re laying off people now, that’s probably a long-term business decision.” Here’s what the trend looks like:

9,943.05. The Nasdaq is off its record high of 10,086, reached on June 10. But the tech-heavy index has been remarkably consistent, notching five straight days of gains. It closed up 0.3% yesterday to finish at at 9,943. The big winner yesterday was Spotify, which hit an all-time high after the streaming service announced a bevy of content deals. Spotify is now up 73% this quarter.

-3.57. The S&P 500 is down roughly 3.5% YTD. But dig into the numbers and you see a stark picture of winners and losers. Get a load of this chart, courtesy of Market Ear, which they pulled off the Bloomberg terminal. Just three of the 11 S&P segments are in the green YTD. It’s the Big Tech Show.

Clarification: I got a note from a reader about yesterday’s roundup in which I made reference to the U.S. unemployment benefits due to expire in July. I should have made that clearer—what is set to expire in July is the more generous supplemental benefit of $600 per week. The standard benefits, in most cases, are unaffected by the scheduled July 31 expiry date.


Have a nice weekend, everyone. I’ll see you here on Monday.

Bernhard Warner

If you were to assemble the people who could help you truly understand health care and how it’s affected businesses today, who would you pick? Here’s a few on Fortune’s list: 

  • The CEOs and presidents of healthcare giants Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novartis, Aetna
  • co-discoverer of CRISPR-Cas9 Dr. Jennifer Doudna
  • Dean of Stanford Medicine Dr. Lloyd Minor
  • chief medical officers from IBM, Verily, Google Health
  • healthcare venture capitalists like Sue Siegel
  • Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington
  • CEO of REFORM Alliance Van Jones
  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Hear from them and more at FORTUNE Brainstorm Health, our virtual health-care conference on July 7-8. As a newsletter subscriber, you’re invited to use this code—BSH20HALF!—and get half off.

Today's reads

$2.1 billion. That's the amount of cash missing from the accounts of Wirecard. Shares in the high-flying German fintech bombed yesterday on the news, and there are now big questions hanging over the future of CEO Markus Braun. The company suspended its COO today, and is down a further 20%.

Light. Tunnel. End. Delta Air Lines is predicting it could return to breakeven by next Spring, an impressive feat for a company that's losing about $30 million per day. CEO Ed Bastian revealed that forecast at yesterday's virtual annual shareholders meeting. He also revealed that 500 employees had contracted COVID-19. I'll take the car for now.

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Market candy

An important day in history

Happy Juneteenth, everyone! What's Juneteenth? 135 years ago on this date, the Union army general, Gordon Granger, read out federal orders proclaiming that all enslaved persons in Texas—in essence, everywhere in America—were now free, and that Civil War was over. A movement in state houses and in board rooms has been growing ever since to mark the day as an official holiday celebrating liberty for all Americans. 

You probably have seen many companies have made splashy announcements about Juneteenth company holidays, but the way they treat their black employees when they return on Monday matters just as much, if not more. Fortune has compiled stories from black employees across industries that reveal what their experiences in corporate America are like. It’s clear: No matter what companies are doing to take a stand against racial inequality right now, there is much more work to be done.