This is the sound of stocks sighing in relief

After starting off the year humming the theme to "Jaws," investors suddenly find themselves whistling "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

The VIX, which roughly measures market fear, fell Friday to the lowest levels it has seen since 2015. This as the S&P 500 managed to break above 2,000 on the back of a strong employment report.

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The market has clearly come a long way from Feb. 11. In that session, the VIX rose above 30 as the S&P fell to 1,810. Now with stocks more than 10 percent off of their lows, the volatility gauge is almost 50 percent off of its highs.

"The beautiful thing about the VIX is that it's really where money talks," said Dennis Davitt, a longtime options trader now with Harvest Volatility Advisors. "So right now, people are selling options because they're feeling more comfortable," he said Thursday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

The VIX, or the CBOE Volatility Index, is computed from the prices of options on the S&P 500 —hence Davitt's point that people are selling options rather than buying them.

The reason the VIX is a measure of market fear is that S&P 500 options are more frequently used to protect against downside than to speculate on upside. In addition, since stocks tend to fall more quickly than they rise, market drops are also associated with high volatility.

Of course, just because the market has become a bit more sanguine about the near future (the VIX technically measures expected volatility over the next 30 days) does not mean that equity pain can't soon return.

"The VIX tells us that things are kind of calm in the moment, but I don't know how much it tells us very far into the future," Curtis Holden, senior investment officer at Tanglewood Wealth Management, said Thursday on "Trading Nation." "So I'd say we're still pretty cautious."


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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 CNBC and 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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