World News

Fear gauges signal calmer trade as coronavirus deaths slow

LONDON (Reuters) – Major stock and currency fear gauges steadily declined over the last week from 2008 levels as a slowdown in the number of coronavirus-related deaths calmed investor nerves and increased appetite for risky assets.

The Cboe Volatility Index <.VIX>, known as Wall Street’s fear gauge, was at 44.60 points on Monday, well below its March 16 record closing high of 82.69. It was by far the biggest drop yet seen over a fifteen-day period.

For the currencies markets, one-month gauges for implied volatility in the euro and Japanese yen fell to their lowest in a month, a sign that investors no longer expect wild price swings in euro-dollar and dollar-yen for the near future. <EUR1MO=FN> <JPY1MO=FN>

“The drop in vols (volatility) is a combination of the recent actions by global central banks and markets kind of settling down a bit after the recent wild swings,” Gavin Friend, senior FX strategist at NAB Group based in London, said.

But he said market volatility levels were still very high.

The relative calmness led to global stock markets recouping some of the steep losses incurred during March, although the MSCI World equity index <.MIWD00000PUS> is down 26% from record highs hit on Feb. 19.

While the decline in volatility will offer respite to investors, it is too soon to say markets have bottomed out after a 34% plunge from record highs on the S&P 500 <.SPX>.

During the financial crisis of 2007-08, the S&P 500 took months to establish its bottom even after the VIX plummeted.

For emerging markets, the mood was still very nervous. Turkish lira implied volatility gauges jumped to the highest level in a year on Monday after the lira weakened to levels last seen in August 2018.

Graphic – Market volatility gauges retreat but still elevated:

(Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan, Saikat Chatterjee and Olga Cotaga; editing by Barbara Lewis)