Volatility ETFs Spike as Economic Concerns Fuel Market Fear

The CBOE Volatility Index hit its highest level in over two weeks Thursday, as equity markets reeled and investors turned risk off in face of growing concerns over the market’s economic outlook.

On Thursday, the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (NYSEArca: VXX) and ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (NYSEArca: VIXY) both advanced 6.9%. Meanwhile, the CBOE Volatility Index climbed 17.6% to 19.05.

“What you’re seeing now is risk aversion as uncertainty and fear starts to take over,” Christopher Harvey, head of equity strategy at Wells Fargo Securities, told the Wall Street Journal. “You have less liquidity because of the holiday weekend, you have a pre-earnings period where basically everything is quiet, and everyone turns to the macro [landscape], which isn’t great. And there is no indication that the slide in bond yields is going to abate in the short term.”

The so-called fear gauge jumped as Wall Street’s main indices plunged Thursday on fears that the rising infection rates of the Covid-19 Delta variant could weigh on the global economic recovery and delay ongoing re-openings.

Furthermore, Beijing crack downed on foreign-listed Chinese technology companies, adding to the broad global market selling.

Nevertheless, some saw the market pullback as an inevitable occurrence after both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rallied to record highs in the previous session.

“Markets are having a bad morning, but this is normal and even healthy given the recent strong run,” Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network, told Reuters. “This looks like a short-term reaction to recent concerns about the Delta variant more than anything else.”

In another sign that further added to concerns over re-opening economies in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the International Olympic Committee banned spectators at the summer games in Tokyo after the country implemented a state of emergency that will run throughout the Olympic event.

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