The CBOE Volatility Index—known as the “fear gauge” that measures investor sentiment—has been surprisingly below levels of past bear markets, reports an article in Bloomberg. According to strategists, that’s because the S&P 500’s descent has been slow and “orderly” as the Fed gradually pulled back the stimulus money it poured into the economy during the pandemic, compared to other crashes driven by shock and panic, such as the Covid-19 crash in March 2020 or the September 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse.
The Volatility Index (VIX) hasn’t pushed past 40 this year, which is the level generally accepted as a “peak fear signal.” The current bear market looks more like the 2000-2002 dot-com bubble burst, says Talal Dhbi of PrismFP, “with no big sudden shocks but sustained high realized volatility.” Traders aren’t rushing to make hedges against that volatility, with the biggest question on everyone’s mind being when inflation will begin to ease and loosen up monetary policy, the article contends.
The VIX would be driven higher if investors start panicking and snapping up short-term protection puts, but that’s not happening. In fact, the VVIX Index, which gauges “the implied volatility in options on the volatility index,” just hit its lowest level since pre-pandemic—an indication that traders aren’t expecting rough waters on the VIX index in the near future.
But unlike the equities of the VIX, the Treasury market’s volatility gauge, the ICE BofA MOVE Index, is at its highest levels since its pandemic-induced peak of March 2020, along with the JPMorgan Global FX Volatility Index. Those high levels are being driven by the Fed’s tightening policies and rising interest rates. But though the VIX has risen to 45 just before the S&P 500 hits bottom in past bear markets, it ended last week around 27, the article notes.