Stocktake: Volatility persists as markets remain nervous

If history is a guide then volatility should abate and stocks should gain over rest of year

A share trader reacts on first share prices during early trading at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt in 2008. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

A share trader reacts on first share prices during early trading at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt in 2008. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

 

Stocks have enjoyed a strong recovery, but volatility hasn’t gone away – far from it. “Investors have calmed down much more than the market has”, notes Ritholtz Wealth Management’s Michael Batnick. Volatility “feels much better on the way up then on the way down”, so much so it’s easy to miss the fact that markets remain nervy. How nervy? The S&P 500 has moved up or down by over 1 per cent on more than half of all trading days in 2020, notes Datatrek Research.

There were 30 such days in the first quarter, more than twice as high as normal. Another 38 followed in the second quarter, almost three times the number seen in a typical quarter. If history is a guide, says Datatrek, then volatility should abate and stocks should gain over the remainder of the year. Still, volatility “will likely still be above average”, the firm says. Stocks may continue to advance but don’t expect the sailing to be smooth.

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