Sunday, January 6, 2008

Muted Reaction from VWSI as Markets Drop

The US markets sold off in dramatic fashion last week, with critical technical support levels failing to hold in a number of key indices, including the tech heavy NASDAQ Composite and NASDAQ 100, as well as the small cap Russell 2000. For a change, the damage in tech stocks was greater than it was in the SPX, where financials continue to be the most highly weighted sector.

As I chronicled on Friday, this has been a “low fear selloff” even when one focuses on the volatility index of the hard hit NASDAQ 100, the VXN. In terms of the VIX, the reaction has also been comparatively mild. Last week the VIX rose 3.20 points (15.4%) to 23.94. While this is the highest end of week close in six weeks, an SPX drop of 4.5% typically triggers a rise of about 19% in the VIX, so a 15.4% rise has to be considered a lackluster move relative to market conditions.

Consistent with a lackluster VIX in the face of considerable selling, the VWSI dropped only to -3, suggest a slight mean reverting bias going forward.

As is my 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 in his Linkfest 2008 Review/Preview.

Looking ahead, it is worth noting that the two consecutive weekly jumps of 10% or more in the VIX has only happened six time since 9/11 – and the last five of those have seen the VIX fall in the subsequent week. After two weeks of 12.3% and 15.4% gains, I would not be surprised to see the VIX pull back a little in the coming week.

(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 -3, I continue to recommend a barbera. While Italy produces the best know barberas, Barbera d’Asti and Barbera d’Alba, it is fruity, highly drinkable version of this wine from the Sierra Foothills that recently tickled my fancy: the 2005 Renwood Sierra Series barbera. If you are looking for a different varietal to add to your list of everyday reds, seek this one out. For only $9 at my local wine store, it’s a bargain and a great change of pace.

If you are interested in an entertaining and informative look at Italian barbera, I encourage you to check out Gary Vaynerchuk at Wine Library TV, with The Barbera Episode.


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