Is it dangerous time for traders to take a vacation?

Leslie Shaffer | Writer for CNBC.com
Delpixart | iStock/360 | Getty Images

With volatility and geopolitical risks picking up over the summer months, some in the financial markets are questioning whether vacation plans should be put on hold.

"Going on holiday now is a risk," said Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG. "You could find yourself missing some interesting developments."

U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Asian trading hours Friday offered a case in point: after announcing that he authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq, stocks dropped sharply, with the Nikkei index falling as much as 3.1 percent, touching its lowest levels since May, while safe-havens such as the yen climbed.

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Fears of poorly chosen vacation timing found their poster child in former Bear Stearns CEO James Cayne. In 2007, during what would become the global financial crisis, as two of his company's hedge funds were melting down amid demands for redemptions and more collateral, Cayne was competing in a bridge tournament without access to a mobile phone or e-mail.

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The blunder was a factor in the market's cratering confidence in Bear Stearns, which collapsed in March of 2008 and was sold for $2 a share to JPMorgan.

Over the next couple years, many market participants worried whether taking a vacation would mean coming back unemployed. Data on vacations by those in the financial services sector is hard to come by, but trading volumes suggest market interest may have waned, which could signal players are taking some time out.

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The total number of shares handled by NYSE Group on an average daily basis in July fell around 6 percent from June and 21 percent from the year-ago period. On Intercontinental Exchange, the average daily number of futures and options contracts traded in July dropped 23 percent from a year earlier and around 22 percent from June.

"If you have a look across the globe, even in the U.S. where things are certainly getting better, the amount of hiring in the financial services space is still subdued at best," Lucas said, noting that many financial applications have moved online, decreasing the need to hire an actual person for many roles.

Others aren't so sure the latest bout of volatility is enough to warrant much concern about spending some time in the sun.

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In 2008, "it took a long time to get to that point where the fear of vacations started. Certainly the share markets had fallen more than the 4 percent we've seen" so far in the U.S.," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital, said in a phone interview. Since tapping an all-time high of 1991.39 intraday on July 24, the S&P 500 has shed 4.1 percent through Thursday's close, although it's still up around 3.3 percent year-to-date.

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But Oliver added, "If you're in the investment market, you usually feel nervous about going on vacation… it's not necessarily indicative of anything like the global financial crisis, when companies went bust on a grand scale."

Some don't think the selloff is anything more than a hiccup.

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While traders are nervous, with traditional flight-to-safety indicators such as the climbing, "we have to see sustained sharp spikes that could potentially mean the global recovery is at risk for people to worry about job security," said Song Seng Wun, head of research at CIMB.

But for those with vacation plans, he added "you might want to hang on to your smartphones" -- but only because he expects bargain hunting opportunities.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter