You have to have an industrial strength juicer and be willing to drink from thimbles if you hope to squeeze any interesting conclusions out of financial markets so far in 2014. Even heading into the end of 2013, analysts began citing the evaporation of volatility as markets began accepting the fact that tapering was priced-in during the 2nd half of the year.
Historically, major troughs in volatility tend to proceed bigger disruptions and longer-term trends--be they positive or negative for bond markets. Volatility troughs preceded the big rallies in 2010, 2011, and 2012, but also the massive selling spree in 2013.
Key measures of volatility (charted below) are back to being as low as they've been since before the financial crisis. April-May had the potential to become one of those periodic troughs heading into the ECB/NFP combo 2 weeks ago, but things have since died right back down (teal box below).
What changes this? No one knows yet, but odds are excellent that it won't be today's Housing Starts or CPI data. Nor is it likely to be tomorrow's FOMC Announcement or any of the rest of the week's data. Could it be geopolitical risk? Not likely unless something very big changes very quickly.
Unfortunately, these sorts of troughs are only accurately identified with the benefit of hindsight. Sometimes there are strong possibilities as to potential motivations. Europe served this purpose in 2010-2012. Other times, the writing on the wall is only able to be read as you're smashing through it, as was the case in 2013. For what it's worth, there seems to be even less consensus and conviction on where the next major batch of inspiration will come from. That doesn't mean the next move will necessarily be bad or good--simply that it's overdue.
Can today's data conceivably still provide enough movement to make things interesting in the short term? Absolutely (though it's a tall order for this data). Markets aren't in the habit of reacting much to inflation data for the past 4 years and they're not expecting much from the Housing Starts data. Even if the data beats, it will take a lot more to start suggesting meaningful lift-off in housing metrics.
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