After an extended period of extremely depressed levels in the market's most popular "fear gauge," the VIX has been steadily moving over the last couple weeks.
It wasn't long ago that we were watching the VIX drop below 10 for the first time in about a decade. So comparatively, last week's level of nearly 16 seemed like quite a pop.
However, before pulling a Chicken Little ("The sky is falling!"), it's worth noting that the average in the VIX over its lifetime is closer to 19. That suggests that the VIX was previously ultra-low, as compared to currently being "super high."
Interestingly, the VIX has been quietly rising alongside a broader equity market that has also been rising, or at worst standing still. Typically, the VIX and indexes like the S&P 500 are inversely correlated.
While it's never easy to directly attribute a specific news item to rising uncertainty, the upcoming election in France on April 23rd appears to be playing at least some role in current volatility-related developments.
Much like "Brexit," uncertainty in Europe has possibly spilled over into the US, and demand for “safety” may be pushing volatility higher.
The combination of "market up, VIX up" certainly isn't new. According to previously conducted tastytrade research, days in which both SPY and VIX have risen accounts for roughly 9% of trading days since 2004.
Furthermore, this type of behavior in the market doesn't necessarily indicate that the market is set to make a big move. The average 45-day move in the SPY following "market up, VIX up" periods is actually positive by roughly 0.8%, according to the same aforementioned tastytrade research.
No matter your strategy, a pickup in volatility should open up further opportunities in the market. And if you do lean toward selling premium, then a rising VIX may be just what you've been waiting for.
It will be interesting to follow the market in coming days and weeks to see if the result of the French election (or whatever has been driving the VIX higher) catalyzes a pick-up in realized volatility. If not, this period of market history may be even more reminiscent of "Brexit."
If you have any questions about the VIX, or other volatility-related strategies and products, don't hesitate to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Sage Anderson has an extensive background trading equity derivatives and managing volatility-based portfolios. He has traded hundreds of thousands of contracts across the spectrum of industries in the single-stock universe.