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The US “fear index” has crept up to its highest level since the market turbulence surrounding the US presidential election in November, highlighting investor nervousness that a long bout of tranquility might soon end.
The Vix index that measures the expected 30-day volatility of the S&P 500 – as implied by derivatives prices – was remarkably quiet in the first three months of the year, shrugging off the political noise emanating from Washington DC and ignoring concerns over valuations.
But after trading below 12 for most of 2017, Vix has been climbing steadily this month, and on Tuesday shot up above the 15 mark for the first time since November 9.
Pravit Chintawongvanich, head of derivatives strategy at Macro Risk Advisors, said that the recent rise in Vix was primarily due to nervousness over the French presidential election later this month, with the Vix index’s European counterpart also signaling worries over the potential outcome.
But there has also been a sense of simmering unease among some investors worried that markets are due for a correction. Evidence of stronger global economic growth has counteracted fading optimism over the mooted economic policies of US president Donald Trump, but with equities trading at lofty prices, some fund managers warn that there is plenty that could go wrong.
“Valuations are high, and there’s scope for disappointment,” Michael Roberge, the co-chief executive and chief investment officer of MFS, the US mutual fund manager, told the FT recently. “We’re trying to lean against the market.”