Phases of fear and elation in the VIX

March 18, 2009

Here we show a nice relationship between the VIX and the SPX.  While this is a commonly referenced pairing, many still challenge the value of using the VIX as a market indicator.  There are numerous ways too use the VIX and almost everyone has their own tweaks.  This chart shows a very clear inverse relationship with several distinct “phases” discernible in the value of the VIX.  These “phases” correlate well with the action in the SPX.  We have labled these phases “euphoria”, “fear” and “panic”.  We also included the 400 day moving average (equivalent to the 80 week) which we discussed previously in The Significance of the 400 day (80 week) moving average.  This bull/bear market reference point matches up very well with the action in the VIX, as the VIX moves into the “fear phase” just as the 400 day is coming under assault, before eventually breaking.  A final test of the 400 day from below, which we highlighted in late April 2008, was accompanied by one last dip into the “euphoria” zone for the VIX.  That was the “last chance” to get out before the drop gathered steam as the SPX then dropped over 50% in less than 12 months.

We added the notes on Bear Stearns and Citigroup for a consensus of the “expert” opinion at the time.

vixspx031809


Once, Twice, Three Times a Bottom…

October 30, 2008

Time for another chapter in the saga of capital destruction we call the stock market.

Just in time for the negative GDP number everyone has been waiting for, the market is finding a bottom.  It may not be the ultimate bear market bottom, but it’s probably the bottom for 2008.  As we noted in We’re sure scared now…bringing it all together, “Historically, a retest of the lows develops within a few months to verify the strength of the bottom.  Hitting the exact lows again is not a necessity, but a second significant down move usually at least comes close.  This offers a great time to pick up relative strength leaders as they separate from the pack.”

We have seen not only one, but two tests of the lows since that writing, in the broad market indices.  Neither one of those tests completely reached the initial low, but both were violent and low enough to be considered valid.  The updated chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average shows pullbacks of 1,500 and 1,100 points respectively, with both lows about 300 points above the initial low of October 10.

What has developed now is a trading range.  Not exactly bullish, but much better than the ski slope drop of the last few months, October in particular.  Seasonality is also about to turn positive as the November through April time period is historically the best six months of the year for the markets.  November itself is one of the best single months to be invested.

So how do we decide what to do?

There are several options here really.  Trading range strategies are particularly profitable in times of high volatility.  Selling premium and initiating spreads are some preferred options trading strategies for this kind of market environment.  For long term investors, picking up relative strength leaders near the lows is a great strategy.  Many stocks have been unfairly punished and are now wildly undervalued.  For indexers or 401k investors that have protected their assets with bond funds and stable value funds and cash, start moving it back in on these bad days as long as the lows hold.  For aggressive traders, we know there are some serious mean reversion trades already started.

What we must all keep in mind is that we do not know if the lows will hold or not.  As long as they do, buy them but don’t commit all of your capital at once.  Take little bites and dollar cost average into positions, especially if you are not trading.  There are many great opportunities here, but there will be many in the future also.  Don’t let yourself get stopped or margined out (heaven forbid) when you should be buying more.  The amount of forced liquidation by hedge funds is not something that is knowable by anyone.  It is creating great prices, but it could carry much further if the selling continues to feed upon itself.  If the trading range is broken to the upside we would become more bullish and would start to look at the 50 day, 200 day and 80 week moving averages as resistance.  Another bullish clue we are looking for is for volatility to drop, specifically the $VIX needs to drop under the 20 day moving average which has provided support since the breakout in early September.


U.S. options fear gauge soars to record close

October 6, 2008

Mon Oct 6, 2008 5:54pm EDT

By Doris Frankel

CHICAGO, Oct 6 (Reuters) – An index regarded as Wall Street’s fear gauge surged to a record close on Monday as investors clamored for protection in anticipation of more stock market turmoil on worries over the widening credit crisis.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index .VIX, or VIX, surged to a record high of 58.24 before easing back to close up 15.31 percent to 52.05.

“This is absolutely amazing. The elevated VIX is reflecting that people are unsure about every financial relationship they have ever known not only in the U.S. but worldwide,” said Joe Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at thinkorswim Group.

Persistent strains in the credit markets added to nervousness about the wider economic outlook, while a spate of bank rescues in Europe heightened worries about the stability of global financial institutions.

“Not only are the U.S. banks in financial trouble but it appears that the European and foreign banks may be in worse trouble due to the credit crisis,” Kinahan added.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 369.88 points to fall below 10,000 for the first time in four years. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index .SPX fell 3.85 percent to 1,056.89.

The VIX, which reflects investors’ consensus about anticipated stock market volatility over a 30-day period, tends to move inversely to the S&P 500 benchmark, and spikes upward when the market posts sharp losses.

The record level in the VIX on Monday reflects a change in the index made by the CBOE in 2003 to provide a more precise reading on stock market conditions, basing the index on the prices of the more popular S&P 500 options.

The old VIX, introduced in 1993, is based on S&P 100 options, a smaller basket of stocks. That index, the VXO .VXO ,also hit a multiyear high on Monday, closing up 14.95 percent at 59.50, after scoring a new peak of 66.42.

“With today’s high on the VXO of 66.42, it is safe to say the uncertainty now exceeds all times in recent history, with the exception of the crash of 1987 when the old VIX hit 150.19 briefly and remained above the current levels until about Oct. 29, 1987,” said Randy Frederick, director of derivatives at Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

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Bernanke the Magnificent? or The Amazing Bernanke?

July 18, 2008

Well, our president may not have a magic wand, but it looks like our Fed Chairman does.

This weekend Big Ben got together with his govt. cronies and they whipped up a wicked brew that is the antidote to the housing crisis and savior of all things financial. The SEC put the clamps on the shorts, the Treasury got into the mortgage underwriting business and Big Ben opened the Fed money faucet a little wider.

Hooray!??

Let’s see, that’s $30B for Bear Stearns, $8B for Indy Mac & now $5T worth of mortgages at Fannie and Freddie. I wonder if the cost of printing dollars has gone up with the increased raw material costs?

Our LD President Bush danced on the scene with an empty promise to drill the OCS for a few hundred thousand Bpd in 10 years and the world was right again.

Oil plunged, bank stocks soared. It must have brought a smile to their faces.

But is it reality? Have the finance gods truly been appeased?

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Are We Scared Yet?

June 30, 2008

Well, our commentary on June 22 in Is it really 2001 again? certainly proved timely. Big Ben stepped up to play the role of boogeyman again and the markets took a tumble last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) found new lows while the S&P 500 (SPX) tested the lows from March. Everything was going exactly to plan, or was something missing?

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