Updated from 7:10 p.m. ET to include added commentary on the jobs report, and Tyson Foods quarterly report.
Volatility is on holiday so far in 2012. The VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, has been sitting below 20 since Jan. 19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, despite gaining 4% year-to-date, is down in seven of the last nine sessions and has still only finished a single session with a triple-digit swing in 2012, and that was Jan. 3, the very first one of the year.
At least one market watcher is finding the lull a bit unsettling. Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. equity strategist at UBS, pointed out the incongruity of the yield on the 10-Treasury bond sitting right around 50-year lows, indicating many investors are decidedly risk-off, and the VIX resting just below its all-clear level."While Treasury yields indicate caution, the same cannot be said of the VIX, which remains at a sub-20 level," Golub wrote. "This disconnect -- between bond and stock indicators -- is one we are uncomfortable with." Bespoke Investment Group looked at the action in theS&P 500 on Thursday, noting the index has had only 2 sessions with 1%-plus moves (both positive). The firm says the average change in the S&P 500 has been 0.79% plus/minus over the past 50 days, a stark contrast to the average 1.92% swing seen a few months ago and even more striking when considering what occurred when the credit bubble burst three years ago. "Last year's volatility, while rough, was nothing compared to what we saw during the financial crisis," Bespoke writes. "At one point in early December 2008, the S&P 500 had averaged a daily change of +/-4.02% over the prior 50 days, which is the highest level ever seen in the index's history. With the entire US stock market swinging an average of 4% on a daily basis for more than two months, it's no wonder that individual investors are still having a tough time dipping their toes back in the water, even three years later." Individual investors are slowly coming back though with the latest data from the Investment Company Institute showing mutual funds investing in equities took in $1.17 billion last week, making it two weeks out of the past four where stocks saw inflows.