Wall Street’s Fear Gauge Surges as New Strain Hits Markets
(Bloomberg) -- Volatility traders are rushing to bet on turmoil in the U.S. stock market as fears over a new strain of the coronavirus look set to finally end weeks of tranquil trading.
The Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, jumped as much as 9 points on Friday morning, the biggest intraday move since February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It was 7.7 points higher at 26.3 as of 5:40 a.m. in New York, the highest level in more than six months on a closing basis.
Exchange-traded products tied to the index led ETF gains in early trading.
The index, often referred to as Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” measures the implied volatility of the S&P 500 over the next month. Futures for America’s equity benchmark slumped 1.8% on Friday amid a global pullback sparked by a new Covid strain emerging in southern Africa.
If that move holds, it would be the first drop of more than 1% for the S&P 500 since the start of October, and the biggest decline in almost two months. The gauge has enjoyed a relatively calm few weeks as traders focus on monetary policy and the pace of growth, rather than the virus.
The VIX move looks set to ripple through the volatility complex. In pre-market trading, the $1 billion ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (ticker UVXY), which delivers 1.5 times the performance of the VIX, surged 19%. The $1.1 billion iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX), a non-leveraged product, jumped 13%.
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