A healthy dose of fear has re-entered financial markets in the final three months of the year. The Chicago Board Options Exchange VIX, a widely tracked measure of market volatility, rose to a two-month high on Wednesday.
Varying news reports offered threats from the Ebola virus and a stagnating European economy as tangential reasons. Perhaps another point is many investors view the U.S. Federal Reserve’s pending decision to raise interest rates as a rumbling train far off in the distance that they now hear headed their way. Closer to the horizon are headlines that can no longer lean on “Fed easing” to explain away rising asset prices and a rising stock market.
“We are in a new period of volatility and it's been developing for the last two or three months,” David Kotok, chairman and chief investment officer of investment advisory firm Cumberland Advisors told the Global Markets Forum on Wednesday. “When you suppress all interest rates to zero you dampen volatility and you distort asset pricing. Now the outlook for interest rates is changing so we are restoring volatility.”
The changes, he said, are evident in a rising U.S. dollar, falling commodity prices and the spread between the high yield and U.S. bond markets.
“These are examples of how things change when you return to more normal volatility and extract and stop monetary stimulus,” Kotok said.