(I originally posted an article on the VIX Index on The DIV-Net website on October 19, 2008)
since the VIX Index introduction in 1993, VIX has been considered by many to be the world’s premier barometer of investor sentiment and market volatility. The VIX Index is an implied volatility index that measures the market’s expectation of 30-day S&P 500® volatility implicit in the prices of near-term S&P 500 options. VIX is quoted in percentage points, just like the standard deviation of a rate of return.
Additionally, one of the most interesting features of VIX, and the reason it has been called the “investor fear gauge,” is that, historically, VIX hits its highest levels during times of financial turmoil and investor fear. As markets recover and investor fear subsides, VIX levels tend to drop. This effect can be seen in the below chart in the VIX behavior isolated during the Long Term Capital Management and Russian Debt Crises in 1998.
(click chart for larger image)
CBOE Volatility Index White Paper