Talking Numbers

Have no fear. Why stocks could be headed higher

Have no fear. Why stocks could be headed higher

The "Fear Index" isn't showing much fear these days. But could it also be a signal to higher returns ahead?

Citigroup's Tobias Levkovich recently pointed out that when the CBOE's Volatility Index (the VIX) is between 10 and 15, the benchmark S&P 500 index has positive returns three, six, and 12 months down the road a vast majority of the time. The VIX is a measure of expected volatility in the S&P 500 over the next 30 days. On Tuesday, the VIX closed at 11.51, but it closed last week at 11.36, a low not seen since 2007.

"I don't think the VIX is adequately reflecting the real risk in the market," said Gina Sanchez, founder of Chantico Global. "The problem is the VIX is concurrent. It spikes as the market crashes. That's not really that helpful."

(Watch: VIX gives insight on market's mood: Cramer)

That risk includes valuations that Sanchez describes as "stretched." Though companies in the S&P 500 were able to beat first-quarter revenue estimates, it's only because those expectations were lowered by Wall Street, according to Sanchez, a CNBC contributor.

"Total sales growth was in the 2 percent range, which is really low," Sanchez said. "The VIX doesn't reflect any of that."

Richard Ross, global technical strategist at Auerbach Grayson, is also not a fan of the VIX.

"The VIX is not one of my favorite tools," said Ross, a "Talking Numbers" contributor. "It's really a blunt instrument and not to be relied upon for market timing in isolation."

Although the VIX has broken to new six-year lows, Ross doesn't believe it indicates a bull market ahead. Still, the markets may move higher on other factors.

(Watch: The fearless market)

"You have a lot of momentum here in the market," Ross said. "You have a technical breakout, so I wouldn't look at the VIX as the driver of the market gains."

Nonetheless, Ross sees some value to the VIX when it comes to the downside. The VIX "only becomes useful when we get spikes, these big time downdrafts in the market," said Ross, who thinks there are still high market risks. "For whatever reason, fear is much more tangible. It's palpable. We can touch it. We can taste fear. But, complacency and greed is more like a gas, like nitrous oxide. You can't really touch it. You can't taste it. But it sure makes you feel good while you're sitting in the chair."

To see the full discussion on the VIX, with Sanchez on the fundamentals and Ross on the technicals, watch the above video.

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