On a day that has been dominated by geopolitical news–the Obama administration has imposed sanctions in response to Russian cyberattacks during the November election–light volume in the financial markets today make drawing any conclusion from market moves extremely risky.
The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell for the first time in four trading sessions–but that comes after the dollar hit its highest level in a decade. A stronger yen sent Japanese stocks to their biggest loss in a month. Crude oil fell for the first time in nine days. Gold rose for a fourth straight session as it bounced off an 11-month low.
But trading volume in New York was 40% below the 30-day average. In Europe trading volume was about half the 30-day average.
The one trend that I would watch carefully is the bounce in the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility index (VIX). This indicator, which tracks how much traders and investors want to pay to hedge the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, has climbed from a local low of 11.27 on December 21 to 13.41 as of 4 p.m. New York time today. That’s a move of more than 18% in five sessions. Much of it, I’d surmise is a reaction to a desire to protect gains with the end of the year fast approaching and with the S&P 500 near record highs and price of volatility protection extremely low.
However, I wouldn’t discount the possibility that lots of complicated and scary geopolitical news in recent days–from China to Israel to Syria to Russia–is leading to some worry among investors and traders about the abilities of a new administration to meet these challenges.