,NEW YORK - The Cboe Volatility Index, known as Wall Street's "fear gauge," slipped to a fresh COVID-19 pandemic low on Tuesday, as U.S. stocks soared to new highs on expectations that fiscal stimulus and signs of progress in a countrywide vaccination drive will spur a broader economic rebound. The VIX was recently down 0.54 points at 19.49, its lowest since Feb. 21, 2020, days before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. A pandemic-fueled tumble that shaved about a third of the value off the S&P 500 last March pushed the VIX index to a near-record high of 85.47, a level it only topped during the global financial crisis. The index has retreated since then, as the S&P 500 rallied 80% from its March lows to hit a fresh high on Tuesday, led by technology stocks. Investor appear to have become more optimistic over the pandemic’s trajectory in recent weeks, as a vaccine rollout in the U.S. expands. The United States has administered 110,737,856 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and distributed 142,918,525 doses in the country as of Tuesday morning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fund managers in a monthly survey from BofA Global for the first time in a year did not name COVID-19 as the market’s top “tail risk,” citing inflation instead. Still, the VIX remains above the 15.4 average seen for 2019. And volatility futures expiring further out in time still remain relatively elevated, a sign that some investors continue to maintain a cautious stance. "The coronavirus volatility spike is still lingering in investor’s memories," Susquehanna International Group’s Chris Murphy said in a note. "Although near term volatility has decreased, the scars from Covid likely leave investors hesitant to bring down medium and longer term volatility. We saw something very similar after the great financial crisis," Murphy said. REUTERS
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