The CBOE Volatility Index, more commonly known as the VIX or "Fear Index", is trading at its lowest levels since December 2006, far lower than any time since the market crisis of 2008.
Many market participants view the VIX as a contrary indication. It basically measures the cost of insuring your portfolio against a market crash. Since there is no demand for insurance, prices for protection have fallen. In other words, investors aren't worried about another market crash, and that simple fact has some, well, worried.
"It was FDR that said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, but when it comes to trading it's the exact opposite," said Auerbach Grayson's Global Technical Analyst Richard Ross. "The absence of fear does not suggest that we have nothing to fear, don't be confused."
Ross admitted that the VIX isn't always the best market timing tool, but said in this case, if current form holds, we could be looking at a 5 to 6 percent pullback in the S&P 500.
"We've recently broken down to a fresh 52-week low from a very well-defined trading range," Ross said about the VIX. "Within the context of that range you see those volatility spikes, each of which has coincided with a roughly 5 to 6 percent pullback in the S&P 500." According to Ross, each time the VIX experienced a significant spike, the S&P moved lower by 5%.
Cowen and Company's Head of Sales and Trading David Seaburg, however, isn't convinced by Ross' argument. "Look, you look at the word complacency, everybody wants to know if the market is complacent. Complacency has made you a heck of a lot of money in the last year and a half or so."
And as far as Seaburg is concerned, the market is solid at current levels.
"Look at the VIX for what it is," said Seaburg, circling back to Ross' point that it's not a market timing tool, "the VIX could remain low for a very, very long period of time."
His advice for nail biting investors, protect your portfolio with inexpensive put options.