While last week felt to most investors like a turbulent week in the markets, it must have also been a week in which the VIX was not listening to the gloom and doom reports. While the SPX fell 36.71 (2.4%) on the week, the VIX rose 2.42 points or 11.6%. Historically, when the SPX falls 2.4%, the VIX jumps about 11.4%, so last week was a typical reaction in the volatility markets, with no apparent extra fear factor in the mix. Keep in mind, however, that Adam Warner of the Daily Options Report is maintaining that the VIX is artificially low at the moment because of some idiosyncrasies in the holiday trading calendar.
So here we are, tottering on the precipice of a bear market, but with a relatively mild fear component. My bias has turned bearish, but until we start to see a pattern of lower lows, I will probably play this as more of a sideways market than a downward sloping one.
As is my new weekly custom, for a survey of the best in current thinking about the markets, Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture sums up the week that was and the week that will be: Winter Solstice Linkfest Review/Review
I suspect that in the coming week and into the new year, headline risk will be one of the largest drivers of investment strategy. Whether you are positioning your portfolios for a potential last minute Santa Claus rally, for the January effect, or for any other strategy, consider some of the headlines you may be seeing in the next few weeks and keep in mind that one of the most important tenets of risk management is to limit potential losses.
(Note that in the above temperature gauge, the "bullish" and "bearish" labels apply to the VIX, not to the broader markets, which are usually negatively correlated with the VIX.)
Wine pairing: For a VWSI of zero, I have heretofore been recommending a variety of inexpensive blends. I recently enjoyed the 2005 Trentadue Old Patch Red, a steal at $12. Previous recommendations for a VWSI of zero have included Brassfield Serenity, as well as a wide variety of Rhone blends.