Was Today’s VIX Action Indicating Panic?

While most people were watching the markets today I was running from meeting to meeting and only had a couple of chances to check out what was going on in the markets. Usually on days like this we can hear extra volume (not numerical, but audible) at The Options Institute as our offices are just above both the VIX and S&P 500 pits. I do not recall one time today hearing any outburst of activity from the floor. Once the day was over and I had a moment to check on the markets I was honestly surprised to see VIX close under 20.00 today.

With the S&P 500 down 1.86% on the day VIX was up less than 12% for the day and was never up more than 20% on the day. Also, it appears that the high for the day in VIX was put in about 12:30 eastern time while the low for the S&P 500 came about an hour before the close. A late day new low in the S&P 500 did not add any fuel to the fire as far as VIX was concerned. A five minute chart showing the S&P 500 and VIX price action today appears below.

VIX - SPX 5 Min 01052015

One final assessment of today’s sell off comes by looking at how orderly the day was, there was not a moment of panic where several low levels were taken out. Conversely, VIX didn’t rocket up on panic buying of SPX option contracts. Today’s stock market sell-off can be called dramatic, but when checking in on VIX it would be a stretch to say there was any panic in the midst of today’s action.

  • SW

    The VIX futures curve has stayed away from full inversion so far.

    I find it instructive to integrate the area under the VIX futures curve. Using a 5th order polynomial and Simpson’s Rule, the operation can be done in just a few seconds on a spreadsheet. From this, a single numerical value is assigned to the futures plot and stowed away in a library for analysis and reference.