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VIX surprisingly flat despite selloff

Chris McKhann (chris.mckhann@optionmonster.com)

Equity indexes dropped sharply after remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke yesterday afternoon, but the CBOE Volatility Index and its futures didn't show expected gains.

The S&P 500 was down 22.88 points, or 1.39 percent, to close at 1628.93. The SPX was volatile after the announcement, but then took two legs down to finish at the lows of the day. The move down was sizable, but just gives up the gains of the previous two sessions, as the index remains above Friday's close. Support is now at 1609 and resistance at 1670.

The Nasdaq 100 gave up 36.59 points, or 1.22 percent, to finish at 2959.50. It too finished at the low of the day but remains up for the week. Support is at 2925 and resistance at 3027, though it first needs to get through yesterday's high at 3000.

The Russell 2000 slipped 13.48 points, or 1.35 percent, to end the day at 986.50. Support is at 972 and resistance at 1008.
Oddly, the VIX was up only 0.03 points to 16.64. The volatility index had jumped above 17 in the morning, seemingly just for the June VIX futures settlement, then declined right up to the Fed rate announcement. It had fallen to 15.36 in the slide, so it ended the day up almost 9 percent from that low.

The VIX futures followed suit. The June settlement came in at 17.22 , above the high of the day for the spot volatility index, but the futures fell after that. The now-front-month July futures ended the day at 17.55, down 0.10 points, while the August contracts were down 0.05 points to 18.30. The rest of the VIX futures were mostly higher.

More than 774,000 VIX options traded on the day, with 464,000 calls. But much of that must have been selling, as the VVIX Index, which measures the implied volatility of those options, was lower at the end of the day. The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Note (:VXX) options turned over more than 500,000 times, though in that name puts outpaced calls.

So it appears that traders were comforted by Bernanke's remarks, even as equities sold off, as they do not expect further elevated volatility. 

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