An explanation of the so-called “fear gauge” and insight into how it is used.
The VIX is a measure of the implied or expected volatility of S&P 500 options over the next 30 days. Implied volatility is the market’s estimated future volatility and is reflected in the premiums paid for options.
Originally launched in 1993, the VIX underwent a change in calculation in September 2003. The “original” VIX was calculated using at-the-money put and call options on the S&P 100 index OEX. Furthermore, the original VIX was based on prices of only eight at-the-money OEX puts and calls, the most actively traded index options at the time.
By 2003, the S&P 500 index SPX option market was the most actively traded option market, while trading volume in OEX index options had fallen off significantly. Also, portfolio managers were using options more as a means of insuring their portfolios, specifically with out-of-the-money and at-the-money index puts. Therefore, the new VIX calculation includes put and call options with a wide range of strike prices, including those in-the-money, at-the-money and out-of-the-money.