Growing volatility in U.S. stocks is driving a search for defensive assets, though investors may have fewer places to hide this time around.
Wall Street’s most closely-watched measure of investor nervousness, the Cboe Volatility Index (.VIX), on Friday hit its highest in nearly seven months, as the S&P 500 slid for the week. The benchmark stock index is down 8% from late July, when it hit its high for the year, though still up 10% year-to-date.
Assets that can help investors weather the storm may be in short supply. Equity sectors such as utilities and consumer staples, popular with nervous investors when markets grow choppy, have been swept up in the S&P 500’s recent decline.
The Japanese yen stands at its lowest against the dollar in about a year. U.S. government bonds are on track for an unprecedented third straight annual loss, with yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury – which move inversely to bond prices – at their highest since 2007.
That has left investors piling into other traditional safe-haven assets such as the dollar and gold, as well as short-term debt.
Nevertheless, “it is no doubt a challenging environment for well-diversified portfolios,” said Angelo Kourkafas, senior investment strategist at Edward Jones. Of Treasuries, he said, “We have this safe haven asset class that is not necessarily at the moment getting any bid or providing much safety from that volatility of the headlines.”
Source : Reuters