One of the most-widely watched indices of market sentiment, the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index- also know as the VIX, (symbol: VIX)- while not exactly moving in uncharted territory, is moving at least in the rarefied air puffed by the central bankers of the world.
The VIX is now near record lows.
Being a contrary indicator, the VIX tends to move up as stocks move down and it moves down as stocks move up.
And stocks have been moving up- if you didn't notice- thanks in large measure to loose money policies by the Federal Reserve that bring money to Wall Street, not Main Street.
"All is well," the public bankers at the central banks around the world are saying to the private bankers on the Wall Streets around the world; even as the central banks distribute their Get-Well-Soon cards disguised as dollars, pounds, francs, lire and renminbi.
And, at least for now, you should believe them- that all really is well.
Or as well as free money can make a stock market, as opposed to, say, an economy.
And that's one reason why we are seeing so little volatility in the stock market, as opposed to, say, the jobs market. At least volatility as measured by the VIX.
While the VIX has briefly touched these low levels previously- see previous, history-altering stock market corrections- the VIX doesn't stay worry-free for long periods of time. But it generally stays low as long the central bankers intervene and give away money, as they are doing now.
The VIX is called the "fear index" for a reason. It measures how much fear there is the in the market. Conversely, It can also be thought of, as it should be today, as the "un-fear" index because it also measures greed.
In this case, greed is not a negative, but an agnostic term.
Who doesn't like free money for the stock market? Not much fear in that. So you can buy today with confidence knowing that there will be another guy in line tomorrow ready to buy, his pockets lined with fresh, central bank money.
Lows, however, on the VIX, are eventually followed by periods of sharp fear, usually caused by unforeseen events: Tsunamis can cause fear to spike; wars can drive the VIX up. Or even vacations at Martha's Vineyard can cause fear, especially when taken after you screw up debt ceiling negotiations, which result in a weird sequester idea that you never, ever think will be implemented because: 1) you're smarter than everyone and; 2) you have the transcripts from Accidental College to prove it.
In Obama's case, fear could be caused by a combination of all three of these events.