Stock market volatility is showing no signs of easing off, with the
year-to-date loss for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index reaching 10% on
Tuesday. Investor angst is plain to see in the S&P’s wide intraday price
swings, in the VIX “fear gauge,” a volatility index that was up 12%
Monday and a few percent more Tuesday, and in the stampede into
safe-haven assets like Treasury bonds and gold.
The price of oil is once again flirting with $30 a barrel, which is
refueling those nagging worries about slower economic growth here at
home as well as in China, Europe and elsewhere. Growth fears have been
the primary source of downward pressure on global stocks and riskier
bonds in 2016, with the result being a “flight to safety” upswing for
Treasuries and gold.
U.S. equities are having trouble holding a lead lately. The prevailing
pattern has been a hopeful jump at the start of trading that quickly
reverses course as nervous investors sell into the brief display of
strength. Through Tuesday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 was down about 8%
for 2016, making it the worst start to a year ever, and on Wednesday
markets opened in the red.