These caught my eye, maybe some will catch yours.

1. Surprise at the relentless rise in markets is the dominant theme wherever I look. If investors are fearing a pullback, and acting on it, then one would expect a higher VIX than in the low teens.  As they are  not seeking protection, they may be apathetic. Indeed, Minus 38 on the Bloomberg comfort index (HERE) suggests that they are quite depressed.  As US markets approach and in some cases surpass pre-crisis highs, shouldn’t there be much joy? Or do stocks have to make newer highs for a lot longer before people get excited? Wonder what has OCCUPIED the collective psyche.

2. A recent NYSE report (HERE) puts member program trades at 30% of volume for the week ended Feb 17, 2012. See who the traders are. Poking around on NYSE Euronext, reveals THESE crossing sessions that illuminates member trading activity a little more.

3.  I liked THIS futuristic look at mutual funds finally admitting defeat in the war against ETFs.

4.  Always insightful, THIS piece from GMO looks at gold through a different lens.  Rather than the traditional view as a store of value tracking inflation (as  in years past) gold is now an emerging market play (tracking investor demand from emerging markets). I have read the odd column linking gold price jumps to demand from India’s wedding season and pooh-poohed them but one of the charts is quite telling.  Regardless of which view you take and both have some truth to them, the long-term direction has to be UP doesn’t it? I have traded both sides and maintained a core position for a couple of years now, but as I read this story it belatedly dawned on me that this is one reason why GLD and GDX behave differently. Demand for physical gold comes from Asia while demand for gold miner stocks is domestic (and they haven’t reported the best of results this quarter).

5. Along the lines of recognizing the obvious rather late, I was telling the class about going to the NYSE gallery years ago. A student from NYC remarked after class that the viewing area at the NYSE has been shut since 9-11!!!!