Market Experts Weigh VIX and S&P 500s Rise in 2024

In 2024, the financial markets have presented a curious scenario: both the S&P 500 and the Cboe Volatility Index, commonly known as the VIX, have registered increases. This simultaneous rise may prompt some to question the stability of the current market environment. However, insights from seasoned professionals suggest a different narrative.

Barbara Reinhard, serving as the Chief Investment Officer for Voya Investment Management's Multi-Asset Strategies and Solutions, offers a perspective grounded in the inherent tendencies of market volatility. She interprets the uptick in the VIX, which followed a notable four-year nadir in December, as a reflection of the volatility index's tendency to revert to its mean rather than a harbinger of imminent market turmoil. This view is bolstered by conversations with other financial experts, who, like Reinhard, do not see the current levels of the VIX—despite its recent increase to 12.98 from the quarter's start—as particularly alarming. Historically, the VIX's long-term average hovers around 20 since its inception in the early 1990s, suggesting that current levels are relatively subdued.

Moreover, the S&P 500's performance further complicates the narrative of impending market distress. The index is on track to secure a 10% gain for the quarter, marking its 22nd record high within the year. This milestone, achieved amidst a period of relative market calmness, underscores the complexity of interpreting the VIX's movements in isolation.

The parallel ascent of the S&P 500 and the VIX is uncommon, yet not unprecedented. Instances in the recent past where both indices rose concurrently typically featured a temporary retreat in the S&P 500. The most recent occurrence prior to this was in the third quarter of 2021, during which the S&P 500 modestly increased by 0.2%, while the VIX surged by 46%, largely due to market jitters prompted by the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.

This phenomenon has been observed during other turbulent periods, such as the brief market downturns amidst the 2019 trade tensions between the United States and China. Currently, the market's resilience is notable, with the S&P 500 having avoided a 2% decline for over 100 trading days, marking its longest stretch of stability in nearly six years.

It's crucial to understand that the VIX reflects market expectations of future volatility based on S&P 500 option trading activities, rather than present conditions. This distinction is key for wealth advisors and RIAs when considering the implications of the VIX's movements for their strategies. The current landscape, characterized by the rare concurrent rise of the S&P 500 and the VIX, emphasizes the importance of a nuanced approach to market analysis and investment decision-making.


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