Stocks are down across the markets today, May 11–with the Standard & Poor’s 500 lower by 0.87% at the close, the Dow down 1.36%, and the NASDAQ Composite off 0.09%–ahead of tomorrow’s report on the Consumer Price Index read on inflation.
But the real action today is in the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) as investors and traders look to buy protection against potential volatility in case inflation, expected to head higher tomorrow for April, really spikes higher.
The VIX climbed 11.38% yesterday, Monday May 10, to 18.59 And today the index, which measures the prices that investors and traders are willing to pay to hedge risk on the S&P 500 in the futures market, had gained another 11.09% to break above the 20 level that has capped the index recently. At the close the VIX was at 21.84.
My thoughts are that the VIX is likely to come down tomorrow–whatever the inflation reading–as investors and traders sell their hedges once the inflation data is released. It’s uncertainty that’s the big driver in today’s climb in the index.
That could be decidedly wrong, however, if the CPI climbs so significantly that investors and traders come to believe that inflation has already escaped the control of the Federal Reserve. Remember that the Fed has said, repeatedly, that any rise in inflation will be transitory. The market’s worry is that the Fed is wrong. And that the central bank has fallen behind the curve on inflation.