1. Since the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) first broke south of 20 after the melt-down of 2008, any time the VIX has moved from a relatively low level to a higher level and then eventually breaks through 20, it almost always has some follow through. The lone exception was the fiscal cliff deal.
Basically if we look at a chart of the VIX and the SPX since the beginning of May there is currently no sign that this is going to end. The VIX keeps climbing and the SPX keeps breaking.
This is a pattern that says SPX is going lower and the VIX is going higher.
If we look at how 2011 played out, we can see how the VIX started climbing and the SPX started dropping...aggressively, well before there was any downgrade in the US. The downgrade marketed a total VIX spike (we may or may not get that). That spike was a sign that the market was in turmoil. Once the SPX broke lower in October and VIX failed to follow, with further evidence of both SPX and VIX failing to hit new high/lows in November, it was a clear sign to buy (and was it ever).
The other piece of this puzzle is bonds. If investors think the equity markets looks ugly take a look at the destruction of the 10 year note in the last month. Earlier in the year, the market was acting somewhat normal. When bonds would sell off, stocks would rally....this is the way things are SUPPOSED to work. Now look at the last two large sell offs in the 10 year note, what happens to SPX....IT DIVES.
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