Calmer markets have prevailed in 2012 after record volatility during the second half of 2011. The U.S. recovery is showing noticeable progress led by consistent employment gains and higher consumer spending. In addition, fears emanating from Europe have receded after Greece completed a restructuring of its debt. In fact, volatility has decreased at a faster pace than at any time since 1934. Importantly, this drop in volatility has been accompanied by a sharply higher stock market. In the first quarter of 2012, the S&P 500 Index has gained 12%, the best start to a year since 1998.