Could volatility be returning to the stock market?

After last week marked the best weekly performance for stocks since 2013, Wall Street came back from a long weekend to a stock market well into the red.

As the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all traded lower late Tuesday afternoon, the Cboe VIX Volatility Index spiked higher more than 5.2% to 20.48 at the market close.

The index, commonly regarded as Wall Street's fear gauge, spent most of last week in the red as investors returned to stock market optimism and threats of a major correction waned. The index last gained this much Feb. 8, when it shot higher 8.93% by the market close.

While Tuesday's increase in volatility comes as something of a surprise given the previous week, it's nothing compared to the performance the VIX had earlier this month. On Feb. 5, the index soared higher 112.64% as the Dow registered its biggest-ever single-day point decline.

The VIX is up 86% in the last month, but lower about 20% in the past five days.

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