Since the start of the year there has been a very noticeable uptick in volatility in the marketplace. Twice over the past couple of months volatility has spike past the coveted 30 value level which is considered to be the level that demonstrates a large amount of investor uncertainty and/or fear. This you can see clearly in the chart of the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, Symbol: VIX (chart). The VIX tracks the S&P 500 and calculates the next 30-day expectation of implied market volatility of a wide range of call and put options related to the S&P 500. Investors have not seen this type of volatility in quite some time and traders and short sellers have certainly taken advantage of it.
Let’s take a look at what the increase in vol has done to the major averages. Year to date the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) is down over five percent, the Nasdaq (chart) is lower by almost nine percent, the S&P (chart) is off by over five percent and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) is down almost nine percent on the year as well. That said, these key indices have bounced sharply off of their recent lows in mid-Feburary and crude oil (chart) has seemingly found a interim bottom around the $30 dollar level.
So now what? I am expecting volatility to continue throughout the month of March especially as we lead up into the upcoming Federal Reserve policy meeting March 15-16th. Most experts do not expect the Fed to raise interest rates at this meeting and furthermore not until the economic data consistently proves otherwise. In fact, there are certain economists out there that think that the Federal Reserve is handcuffed for now and won’t raise rates until the fourth quarter because of the global turmoil that has surfaced this year especially in China and Europe. The current global equity sell-off is without question part of the reason for the increase in vol here in the United States. Whatever the case is, I will be listening to what tone and language Janet Yellen will use at her press conference post meeting to get a sense of what’s next for rates and how this will effect our markets.
Good luck to all 🙂