Make no mistake about it, the Fed minutes from last month’s meeting today are a big risk. Economic data is a big driver of the market right now, and nothing could be more important than the Fed’s attitude on rates. If the minutes show a very hawkish Fed, then expect some volatility as investors interpret the odds for more and faster rate hikes. If the notes are dovish, expect gains. The minutes may include the Fed’s views on how the tax cut will affect the economy, which is another x-factor.

FINSUM: The market seems have grown slightly less worried about higher rates over the last couple of weeks, which we were readily expecting. But this could still be a risky minutes release.

(New York)

Investors need to be on red alert today, as this is the day markets have been waiting for. US inflation data for January comes out this morning, the piece of information which will either assuage or accelerate fears about pending Fed rate hikes and a possible recession. Not only will the data affect US markets, but if inflation accelerates, it will also impact other asset classes, such as the Dollar, and by extension, emerging markets.

FINSUM: If inflation is ahead of forecasts, or looks at all strong, it will likely panic markets. If it is weak, there may be a relief rally.

(New York)

Everyone is blaming last week’s big volatility on the VIX index. Explanations for the big falls are swirling and include an over-reliance on VIX-linked funds and insurers’ volatility strategy. However, FINRA is now looking into another potential cause—deliberate manipulation of the VIX. FINRA suspects traders have been trying to deliberately influence the VIX to move the price of derivatives. The tip on the behavior was given by an anonymous whistleblower.

FINSUM: Given the track record of misbehavior (e.g. Libor), it would be no surprise if traders were trying to manipulate the VIX. However, it is unclear what role that might have had in last week’s crash.

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