With the S&P 500 up 1.64% and the Nasdaq jumping 3.02% Thursday, many investors are asking if today's action was merely an oversold bounce, or the making of a more significant bottom.

While the definitive answer won't be known until the present becomes the past, that hasn't prevented people from sifting through their favorite tea leaves in hopes of positioning themselves for the future.

Sentiment readings, which are considered contrary indicators, are one of the first things people check to get a sense if a current move is reaching a reversal point. Among these, one favorite tell is the Volatility Index, or VIX, which measures the near-term implied volatility of S&P 500 Index options. As fear rises people tend to purchase put-option protection, driving up the cost of options. A peak in option prices has a good track record of demarcating market bottoms or turning points.

Right now, having run up last week, the VIX seems to be flashing that the worst is over. It fell 10% today to 17.80 and is now off over 20% from its intraday peak on Monday. The reading is moderately bullish in that even though the absolute reading is still low, its up-and-down arc was inversely proportionate to the market's swoon and rise.

Bears point to fact that this is now the ninth out of the last 12 trading days in which the VIX has moved up or down at least 10%, which they take as a sign that the yearlong downtrend of the VIX, which hit an eight-year low last month, has finally been broken and is about to reverse.

The put/call ratio, which measures the relative number of bearish to bullish options bets in the market, has also been climbing recently -- another bullish reading to contrarians. The 21-day moving average rose from 0.55 to yesterday's close of 0.69 over the last 15 trading days. While not considered panic levels, the equity-only put/call did post intraday readings above 1.1 in four of the last seven trading days, something it has not done in any prior five-month period. Today it backed down to a decidedly passive 0.51.

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