It seems that whenever you hear something from the stock market including the S&P 500, it is all about where the price is going to close. And yet, these days, something really interesting is happening.
According to one of the big kahunas in Bespoke Investment Group, S&P 500's intraday trading range has been tight over the last 50 trading days. An intraday is the highest and the lowest point of trading within a single day.
Bespoke Investment Group posted a blog last Monday noting that the trading range of the S&P 500 has been the second tightest for the last 50 trading days. The blog also added that if the S&P 500 does not range more than 1% on Tuesday, then it would be the tightest on record (50-day trading day period). So, what happened last Tuesday?
Well, the S&P 500 was not even close to surpassing the 1%. Tuesday's intraday high/low range was about .52%. This means that it went its lowest since 1983. Aside from the new record, there's something more interesting or worrying, depending on who you ask.
For the last 50 trading days, the S&P 500 never exceeded the intraday range by 1%. The last streak was back in 1995 in which the S&P 500 streaked for 34 days. According to the VIX index, the S&P 500 is in a range bound between 10.5 - 13, a number that is way below its long-term average. For those who don't know, the VIX index measures and tracks the volatility of the S&P 500. Bespoke Investment Group is now claiming that the S&P 500 lacks volatility.
For many, the word volatility in the financial industry is associated with something dangerous. The lack of volatility is actually a big problem. While an increase in volatility will result in wild and crazy swings, a lack of volatility will translate to little or no movement. With little or no movement, it's hard for anyone to make money. In fact, a lack of volatility would translate to a sideways market.
The S&P 500, like any financial market, has only three directions to go to. It can either go up, down, or sideways. Most investors can make money if the market is in an uptrend or downtrend. However, a sideways market is very dangerous. A lot of investors would rather stay away from the market until a certain amount of volatility is reached and the market starts to move up or down again.
The market will go sideways if both upward and downward forces are near equilibrium. This also means that both sides are not confident about the overall direction of the market.
While the S&P 500's lack of volatility is a concern, it is just how the market cycles. It goes from periods of high volatility, to low and back again. As a matter of fact, we can experience extended periods of high volatility once the ranging market is broken.