Waiting for a VIX Signal

If the closely watched volatility index moves below a key level on Tuesday, it should coincide with a stronger market

By Paul Cherney

The VIX (market volatility index) has now spent so much time above 30.00 that it is reaching into rarefied air. You would have to go back to October, 1987, through January, 1988 to find as many crosses down through a 10-day exponential moving average (which is above 37.99) as we are seeing now. Back in 1987-88, there were eight crosses, and when the current VIX crosses down through its 10-day expononential, that will represent the fourth time in under three months.

Back in 1987-88, the S&P 500 was in an extended basing period, and that seems the logical path for current prices (in the intermediate term view meaning weeks).

The VIX has not moved back down through its 10-day exponential moving average. As of Monday's (Sept. 16) close, the 10-day moving average of the VIX finished near 38.98. So on Tuesday, a VIX move below 38.98 should coincide with a stronger market.

This is the week of the the September Triple Witch, when the monthly stock and index option expirations coincide with the quarterly expiration of futures contracts. This does have the potential to add some volatility, but the historical odds favor a positive bias unless something more dramatic occurs technically.

On Monday, the CBOE Total Put/Call ratio was 0.97 as of 3:30 pm EDT. That is high, and represents a building buying force. The Equity Only P/C was 0.81 as of 3:30 pm EDT. These are high and suggest that downside is limited.

The current market is a complex situation both technically and psychologically. I think in the short-run the downside risk appears limited versus the potential reward of higher prices sometime in the next 6 trade days.

Support: Immediate support for the S&P 500 is 890-875. Substantial support is at 876-833, with a focus of support at 868-854.

Immediate support for the Nasdaq is 1280-1265.

Resistance: Immediate intraday resistance for the S&P 500 is 892-898, then 909-928, with a focus at 923-928.

Immediate resistance for the Nasdaq is 1288-1298, then 1319-1350.92, with a focus at 1346-1350.92.

Cherney is chief market analyst for Standard & Poor's

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