U.S. equities are back on the defensive
U.S. equities are back on the defensive after risk proxies like the yen and gold rallied overnight and VIX equity vol is back on the rise, up 3% to the 26.4 area, below earlier highs of 27.58. Japan rejoined the markets after a holiday only to find the N-225's catch-up rally sputtered, falling 0.65%, though the HK Hang Seng and China CSI 300 gained roughly 1.2% apiece. Europe is trading mostly 0.2-0.5% lower, ex-UK FTSE 100 +0.3% after firm UK CPI and GBP. The Dow is 115-points lower, S&P faltered 10-points and NASDAQ is off 30-points in pre-open action, above overnight lows. News that up to 200 Russian mercenaries were killled last week on a failed attack on a U.S.-backed base/refinery in Syria was alarming and may have added to safety premiums in gold, the yen and Treasuries on the margin. Nerves may be showing ahead of U.S. CPI due tomorrow after wage gains emerged in January's employment report as well. Cleveland Fed hawk Mester said that the U.S. markets would survive recent "turbulence" and rate hikes remained on track. Under Armour surged 10% on a quarterly revenue beat. NFIB small business optimism index came in 2-points firmer, close to record highs.