Coming on the heels of the unflappable market of 2017, the latest spike in volatility and performance pressures for equities has some investors on edge. Sporadic up and down movements for the major indices are a faint memory for those who have grown used to the steady march higher for stocks.
Yet as the chart shows, the extreme calm during the past 13 months was anything but ordinary. Last year, the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) closed below 10% on 52 trading days— compared to zero days in the nine years preceding 2017. Even the recent Feb. 2 spike to 17.5% was below the 10-year average of nearly 20%.
We view the recent uptick in volatility and pullback in prices as long overdue and a healthy development against a still-robust economic backdrop. The return to the historic norm points to price movements driven by company fundamentals and could provide opportunities for active investors going forward.