The above chart is the VIX. Sometimes it’s called the “fear index”. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a quick way of looking at how much investors are willing to pay for downside protection in the market. Right now, complacency is high, and nobody wants to pay much for “insurance.”
Once again, we’re getting close to what’s been a floor for the index (since the crisis) and so it seems inevitable that something is going to come along and jolt everyone awake.
What’s funny is that it’s not hard to see the risks out there: There’s Greece. There’s Portugal. There’s Syria. There’s the fact that in a few weeks, the tax cut extension is about to expire, and Congress is supposedly deadlocked on how to do it (though of course everyone’s betting on a last-second save).
2012 has been a much quieter year than 2011 was from an economy standpoint. As the saying goes: Perhaps too quiet.