Watch the VIX this Week

The VIX , a.k.a. the investor fear gauge, hit an intraday low of 30.59 on Friday. The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) volatility index has not closed below 30 since September 12, 2008, and if history is an indicator, a crossover below the 30 mark is a bullish signal.

The VIX shows the market's expectations for 30-day volatility of options on the S&P 500 . Values above 30 are generally considered periods of high volatility due to fear and uncertainty while values below 20 are considered calmer times in the market.

The chart below shows how the VIX rose as the S&P 500 fell in the past 2 years. However, the VIX is now getting very close to that 30 marker. Historically, the S&P has seen an average of 3% and 6% gains respectively over the 3 and 6 months that follow a crossover below 30.

VIX During Past 2+ Years

Historical VIX Charts

Looking back at past recessionary periods, a similar pattern followed. Note that the VIX moves opposite the S&P. As volatility falls, the market fears disipate and the markets begin to rise. A VIX between 30 and 20 coincides with market troughs.

VIX During 1990-91 Bear Market

VIX During 2000-03 Bear Market