Stock Market Volume Falls Off a 'Cliff'

Stocks Rally on Mushy ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Rumors
Colin Anderson | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

Volume continued to decline in the stock market during November, and some pros think it's because investors are worried about the "Fiscal Cliff."

As of Wednesday's close, volume on the New York Stock Exchange this month totaled 64 billion shares, the lowest this year (see chart below). That includes all trades executed on the exchange's various platforms.

There also have been big swings in the major indexes. The Dow's trading range this month was 819.26 points, while the S&P 500's was 90.92, the largest spread for both since June.

At the same time, the volatility index known as the VIX has not traded above 20 for four consecutive months, marking the longest streak since Feb. 2007, when it remained below that level for five straight months (Oct. 2006 to Feb. 2007).

While some of the lighter volume can be attributed to the Hurricane Sandy and the Thanksgiving holiday, the bigger issue keeping investors on the sidelines is uncertainty over the 'Fiscal Cliff,' according to Art Hogan, Head of Trading at Lazard Capital Markets. (Read More: Fiscal Cliff, Complete Coverage )

And although volume has been progressively declining since May, November's drop came as surprise since the month has traditionally marked the start of a busy trading cycle ( See the Stock Trader's Almanac "Best Six Months Switching Strategy" ).