Surprised by Brexit? These markets were prepared

Despite the global market chaos after Britain's vote to leave the EU, one key measure barely budged: the VIX. The CBOE volatility index spiked nearly 50 percent, hitting a high of 26 — but that paled in comparison to the high seen during the August swoon (above 40).

According to Stacey Gilbert, Susquehanna Financial Group's head of derivative strategy, the markets had already priced in the Brexit.

"What we had happen with the British referendum last night was a known event, so it's come out of the market, this unknown that was being priced," she said Friday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." "Some of the volatility does in fact come out of the market as the decision has at least been made."

Additionally, the U.S. market may actually offer some protection from a possible Brexit chaos.

"U.S. equity markets right now are basically the best house in a bad neighborhood," said Gilbert. "We're the ones who have surprisingly the most clarity, we don't have the significant uncertainty that the global markets are having right now."

"But if we have a huge pullback here, you would expect foreign money to come into the U.S. market," she added. "We're somewhat protected on the downside, but again those high valuation levels are going to top us out in the upside. So in a lot of ways, the S&P 500 market is going to be somewhat range-bound."

What's more, the market's "wait and see" mode also depends on Europe's political scene and what the EU could potentially do to stymie any discontent, according to Chantico Global founder Gina Sanchez. More referendums could be on the way for other European countries.

"We hear France is potentially going to call a referendum, we hear that Italy and the Netherlands may follow suit," she said. "But I do think that the EU has some cards they can pull, especially concessions around this immigration issue that could actually keep people pat and stable where they are. So I think that's one of the reasons why the market is not pricing in this sort of runaway turmoil."

The VIX did hit its highest level since February on Friday, and on Monday, it was up more than 1.5 percent before the markets opened.


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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.

Sara Eisen

Sara Eisen joined CNBC in December 2013 as a correspondent, focusing on the global consumer. She is co-anchor of the 10AM ET hour of CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET), broadcast from Post 9 at the New York Stock Exchange.

In March 2018, Eisen was named co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F, 1PM-3PM ET), which broadcasts from CNBC Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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