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Why Financial Markets Underestimate Risk

Today's economy is in a “risk-on” period, when investors exchange safe-haven assets like US Treasury Bills for riskier ones, from real estate to carry-trade currencies. But when such behavior assumes that economic conditions are more stable than they are, as seems to be the case today, trouble inevitably follows.

CAMBRIDGE – During most of 2017, the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) has been at the lowest levels of the last decade. Recently, the VIX dipped below nine, even lower than in March 2007, just before the subprime mortgage crisis nearly blew up the global financial system. Investors, it seems, are once again failing to appreciate just how risky the world is.