Stocks opened "flat-plus" -- i.e., with minimal gains -- this morning, but they've since turned "flat-minus." The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) are down 0.37% and 0.22%, respectively, as of 1:25 p.m. EDT.

The macro view
Those of you who follow this column will know that I've been puzzled by the ultra-low volatility of this market in the second half of this year. Anomalies are a source of risk and opportunity, and the volatility market itself has been busy. In fact, the CBOE announced that last month was the busiest month on record for VIX futures, with a 172% year-on-year increase in trading volume. That's a 2% increase on the activity in September, which was the previous record. The VIX Index (VOLATILITYINDICES:^VIX) -- the so-called "fear index" -- is calculated based on the price of options on the S&P 500 and measures investors' expectations of short-term stock market volatility.

The micro view
Shares of equipment manufacturer Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) are underperforming the market today, down 1.35%. Perhaps it is due to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce this morning that said orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft barely budged in September, up just 0.2%. However, investors whose time frames extend beyond the next quarter can afford to adopt a different perspective on this type of data. As Motley Fool analyst Brendan Bynes wrote in his premium report last month: "Caterpillar's stock recently has been beaten down mostly due to concerns over the macro economy, which we think provides a very attractive entry point for long-term investors, especially given Caterpillar's strong future growth prospects." To get a full account of those growth prospects, click here to request the report.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.