No, this is not a symbol for some Latin number. The Wall Street mavens talk about this market timing device as if they knew how to use it to determine which way the stock market is going - up or down. It is pretty obvious that brokers, analysts and financial planners have not learned the language.

What does it mean and can it be used to predict market moves? The VIX is actually a measure of volatility for those who buy and sell stock options think about the market. To make it simple you can find it displayed as a chart on the Internet at www. cboe. com. It measures the volatility of the market calculated by taking a weighted moving average of the implied volatility from eight puts and calls on the S&P 100 index. I hope I didn't lose you here. Stay with me a moment and I'll try to make it simple.

Every trader is looking for the Holy Grail indicator and recently the VIX seems to be it. Of course, like all indicators it will work until too many use it and then it will fail taking with it the spoils of the market - their life savings.

It seems relatively simple to use and therefore attracts novices as well as professionals. When the indicator goes below 30 it would be a time to be short the general market such as the DOW, the S&P or the Nasdaq. When the numbers go above 45, which is supposed to show panic of investors, it is a time to buy. It is an inverse indicator. The lower the number the more complacency of the little investor - SELL; the higher the number the greater panic - BUY. Maybe it has become too simple because there is a sing/song that goes "When VIX is high it's time to buy, when VIX is low its time to go".

If it were only that simple. Every timing device has its shortcomings. With the VIX the numbers can remain in excessive high and low levels for prolonged periods and therefore cause the trader to experience losses before the desired market movement occurs. Like all other timing methods it is best when combined with other signals such as the 50-day moving average, P/E ratios and other devices.

Having been a trader for many years I can assure there is no Holy Grail indicator. The VIX is but one letter in the alphabet of market language. You cannot be successful with one syllable. You must take the time to learn the entire vocabulary.


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