Don't call it a comeback.
The Cboe Volatility Index, considered Wall Street's "fear gauge" as a measure of swings expected in the market, has roared back this year after many months of muted moves. The index, commonly referred to as the VIX, surged as high as 50 earlier this year before trading generally between the 15 and 25 levels.
While that range is just about in line with the index's long-term average, it's a stunning departure from recent years. According to a CNBC analysis, the VIX's average level this year is 17.11; that's higher than the average for all of 2015 (16.68), 2016 (15.84) and 2017 (11.10).
The VIX's average since 1995 is 21, said Dennis Davitt, portfolio manager and partner at Harvest Volatility Management.