(Bloomberg) -- The Cboe Volatility Index popped above 20 for the first time since October as geopolitical angst stoked wagers for added swings in US stocks.

The so called VIX — which measures the 30-day implied volatility of the S&P 500 — popped to 21.36 in early morning trading in New York. The gauge pared its gains to 18.65 at 9:17 a.m. in New York. 

The spike in volatility came after reports of escalating tension in the Middle East. Combined with diminishing confidence that the Federal Reserve will pivot to interest-rate cuts in the coming months and with stocks set for their third straight weekly loss, the news prompted investors to snap up the broad market hedges they’ve eschewed for months.

That complacency yielded months of low VIX levels as US stocks posted record highs to start the year. Since the beginning of April, the calm has ebbed somewhat. The VIX looks on track to close above its 200-day moving average for 12 consecutive sessions — the longest such stretch since October of 2022. 

Rocky Fishman, founder of derivatives analytical firm Asym 500, noted that Friday’s VIX level still puts the index in the range of its historical average, adding that the recent dip in the S&P 500 has pumped up the price of hedges. 

“The sharp reaction of volatility markets to last night’s events showed that among the current market drivers, it’s the geopolitical risks that would have the most potential to drive vol much higher,” said Fishman.


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