Things haven't gotten bad enough to get good again.
That's the paradoxical zone in which stocks find themselves, according to some market-watchers. Despite a dramatic (and deep) decline to start off 2016, an absence of the type of panicky selling that so frequently marks a bottom may suggest that the worst is not over for equities.
"There are three reliable signs of a market bottom, where things get so bad it is safe to step in," Convergex chief market strategist Nicholas Colas wrote Friday.
"First, when the S&P 500 drops 5 percent or more in one day. Second, when the CBOE VIX Index tops 40. And third, when everything sells off for a few days and correlations for all equities approaches one," Colas added. "None of these events have yet occurred. And so we wait…"
The VIX, which is calculated from the prices of options on the S&P 500, is a widely watched by traders, since it gives an indication of how much nervousness is in the market.
Interestingly, while this index has certainly risen over the past three months, it has not reached levels that would suggest investors are buying "insurance" (in the form of bearish put options) at any price. The VIX has barely crossed above 30, while it rose above 40 in August, and reached nearly 90 in 2008.
Longtime VIX trader Brian Stutland said last week on CNBC's "Futures Now" that he's looking for the VIX to display "this sheer sense of panic, where people are just grasping for insurance to protect themselves. That's what I want to see in the market before I become a buyer."