02.22.2012
By Terry Flanagan

Traders Seek Clarity

Although a Greek debt deal was reached, traders remain skeptical as to whether a long-term solution has been reached.

“There has been a steady stream of these kinds of announcements, but it’s hard to know if anything definitive is on the horizon,” said Jamie Selway, managing director at ITG. “The news flow for the past two or three years is one of continual government announcements and various geopolitical developments. The latest Greece announcement is more incremental than a final solution.”

Although the deal was met with a lot of fanfare, market participants remain wary as to whether or not the debt deal offers any long-term solutions to the macroeconomic problem, or if it’s just a temporary band-aid.

“The markets right now are driven by geopolitical and policy risk,” said Selway. “There is so much uncertainty around what policy makers what and won’t do. That needs to be removed before the markets will head to higher levels and feel more stable.”

While the markets remain difficult for traders, with low trading volume and low volatility, the signs are pointing in the right direction. There was a general sentiment that things got better in January, as conditions took a turn for the better. “Clients would characterize the prevailing conditions as pretty poor, but January was an improvement.”

Market volatility was volatile for much of 2011, as the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index indicated. Two and three percent intraday swings became the norm. The surges came in the wake of a slew of macroeconomic events, including the European debt crisis and the U.S. debt downgrade. The VIX reached a high of 48 on Aug. 8, 2011, as the markets reacted to the lengthy U.S. debt ceiling negotiations and the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt. Since late 2011 however, volatility has settled down and has remained in the high-teens and low-twenties. As of mid-day Feb. 22, the VIX was trading at about 18.

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