I’m not calling it a trend yet. Every time over the past six months that it has looked like volatility on the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index has been ready to move up in a significant way, the move has been a head fake. And volatility as measured by the CBOE S&P Volatility Index (VIX) has headed down again to hover near historic lows once more. The VIX hasn’t been above 14 since December 30, 2016 (at 14.04) and for 2017 it’s been stuck around 11 or 12. From 1990 to October 2008, the VIX averaged 19.04. The 200-day moving average for the last 10 years is 20.15. It’s one of the puzzles of the current market, one that I’ve written about repeatedly, why this measure of volatility remains so low when other volatility indexes come in much higher and when the economic and political background seems so volatile.
I am looking for volatility as measured by the VIX to return to something like its historical average.
The not so minor question is “When?”
And I’m starting to see what might be a trend.
Here’s what I’m seeing in the VIX chart for 2017.
There’s certainly a string of higher lows, which is usually a sign of an upward trend. On January 27, the VIX hit a low of 10.58. On February 14, the low was 10.74 and then on March 3 the dip was to 10.96. On March 16, the drop hit 11.21 and then on March 29 the VIX fell to 11.49.
What you want to see on a chart with higher lows, of course, is a series of higher highs. The pattern for the VIX isn’t quite as strong on this side of the chart. On February 2 the VIX hit a high at 11.93. Then came 11.97 on February 15 and 12.92 on February 28.
Then come two data points that put the higher highs trend in jeopardy. On March 9 the high was just 12.30, below the February 28 high of 12.92. And on March 14, the VIX stalled at that same 12.30.
The VIX did manage a new and higher high of 13.12, above the February 28 high, on March 23.
On Friday the VIX closed at 12.37. That’s obviously below the March 23 high of 13.12. For confirmation that an upward trend actually exists we need to see the VIX move over 13.12 sometime in the next week or two. If I see that kind of move, then it may be time to put a little money to work behind