Complacency Everywhere You Look

When trying to get a handle on investor sentiment, the benchmark of choice for many market-watchers is the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index, or VIX. However, this popular “fear gauge” only offers a snapshot of implied volatility, or relative pricing levels, for equity index options, which might not necessarily tell us all we need to know about the mood on The Street.

In theory, stock traders could be overreacting to equity-specific developments that are not relevant to other markets.

Impliedvolatilitylow

That said, there is data that suggests the high levels of complacency in the stock market are also being seen elsewhere. As the chart shows, gauges of implied volatility levels for equity, bond, currency, gold, and oil markets are at or near multi-month lows, suggesting that “the crowd” is unanimous in its belief that nothing untoward is going to happen in the immediate future.

Should we be worried?