Here's something unusual about the sell-off: Trader

Stocks are swimming in a sea of red as the S&P 500 Index plunged to levels not seen since October 2014.

Despite the jarring move lower, the market's so-called fear gauge, or VIX, has remained unusually calm.

"What we've seen out of the options market is the lack of expectation of this sell-off that came, volatility was really muted," Harvest Volatility Group's Dennis Davitt told CNBC's "Trading Nation" last week.

"Most of the conversations on options trading desks this week up and down Wall Street were about the lack of the performance that we're seeing in the VIX," he added.

The VIX, which trades inversely with the S&P 500, briefly peeked above 30 on Friday. Yet the index has steadily traded near 25 for the majority of this year's brutal tumble. That's significantly lower than the levels seen during the August swoon.

"With the worst market opening in the last 100 years, we're certainly not seeing that in the options space," he added.

For Davitt, that could mean that this is an orderly pullback rather than something more, but the technicals are telling a different story.

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'More and more'

"What we've noticed in the past two weeks is a loss of momentum that's more than just short term," said BTIG technician Katie Stockton. "More and more stocks are participating in the down move."

Out of the 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial average, Wal-Mart is the only one able to eke out a gain in 2016, with many stocks trading at their August lows.

"It's very much a top-down move, it's a market driven move, not company specific," added Stockton. "We have a lot of breakdowns on the charts. Stocks are taking out levels where they previously had buying interest and that includes a lot of the major indices."

The S&P 500, Dow and Nasdaq closed last week firmly in correction territory, with each index down roughly 12 percent from their respective highs.


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Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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