When Politics Does and Doesn’t Matter

 

The political world is agog over the fallout from President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. But investors? Not so much.

The event and the constantly changing rationales coming from the White House are making cable news executives smile. Neither conservative Fox News nor progressive MSNBC nor center-left CNN are having problems filling air time—or, as they say in the trade, feeding the beast. And it’s been driving ratings to the sky.

Even print media stalwarts, who now claim to be “digital first,” like The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal are racking up good old-fashioned scoops and boosting subscriptions by the most in years.

But Wall Street is keeping its cool. Over the last three weeks the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been stuck within a 125-point trading range, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index hasn’t swung more than 25 points either way.

Meanwhile the CBOE Volatility index (VIX), which people call Wall Street’s “fear index” but I think is more accurately its complacency index, has ticked up from a 24-year closing low of 9.77 Monday to 10.72 late Friday. Still, that’s way below where  it’s been for most of the year and suggests nervous jitters rather than real fear.

So, if the Comey Affair doesn’t matter to markets—yet– what does?

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