Milliman FRM Market Commentary: March 2018

March validated February’s initiation of a new, higher volatility regime. In this month’s commentary, Milliman’s Joe Becker addresses the following:

• March capped off the S&P 500’s first negative quarterly return since Q3 2015 and the first negative Q1 since 2009.
• After not experiencing a single daily move of more than 2% through all of 2017, the S&P 500 has now seen six such moves through February and March.
• If “taper tantrum” was a fitting moniker for the 2013 reaction to the prospect of ending the U.S. Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE), the volatility in early 2018 might well be referred to as the “tightening, tech, trade-tariff tantrum,” as markets reacted to tighter monetary policy, a data breach at Facebook, and the prospect of a tariff-induced trade war.
• While not as high as it was in February, volatility in March was still above its five-year average and much higher than it was in 2017.
• Falling interest rates boosted the U.S. aggregate bond market, reducing its correlation to equities and improving it as a diversifier, while the correlation between U.S. and foreign equities increased.

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