Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Fear index hits 6-month highs

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wall Street's key volatility measure hit a more than six-month high Thursday on fears of a European debt crisis and slowing global growth.

The CBOE Volatility (VIX) index, or the VIX, jumped as much as 13% Thursday to 28.50, before pulling back a bit to close at 24.91.

The high was the greatest peak since the close of November 3 and up 81% since April 12, when the VIX was trading at its lowest level in nearly three years.

Markets were rattled Wednesday after ratings agency Moody's placed Portugal's debt ratings on review for a potential downgrade, one week after Standard & Poor's cut the country's ratings. The fear accelerated Thursday after the Dow lost 200 points, the price of gold topped $1,200 and the euro fell to a 14-month low.

Investors also continued to worry that the $146 billion aid package for Greece won't be enough to stave off bigger debt problems in Europe.

"When we finally did address the Greece situation, the market doesn't believe it or just thinks that there's another shoe about to drop," said Joseph Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading.

Greece is a member of the so-called PIIGS, a collection of five debt-laden European nations. Many investors fear that Spain and Portugal could be two of the next countries to need financial assistance. Italy and Ireland are the other two countries.

"This is not an isolated situation, because if it was just one country, the market would get over it," Saluzzi said. "It looks like we're now going to see the ramifications of this."

But it's not just concern over sovereign debt that's causing the VIX to surge, said Saluzzi.

"At this point there are just so many issues out there," he said. "You can pick anything, whether it's any country in Europe, the oil spill, volcanic ash or Goldman Sachs -- the market is having a hard time."

Given these lingering fears, Saluzzi said he wouldn't be surprised if the index continued to climb in the next few weeks, meaning stocks may be in for a rough ride.  To top of page

Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.63%3.68%
15 yr fixed2.76%2.79%
5/1 ARM2.97%2.94%
30 yr refi3.66%3.72%
15 yr refi2.79%2.82%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,891.16 117.52 0.66%
Nasdaq 4,817.59 42.23 0.88%
S&P 500 2,081.43 16.13 0.78%
Treasuries 1.86 0.05 2.53%
Data as of 6:27pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 14.77 0.21 1.44%
Ford Motor Co 13.62 0.06 0.44%
Apple Inc 93.64 -0.10 -0.11%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 13.55 -0.45 -3.21%
Frontier Communicati... 5.44 -0.12 -2.16%
Data as of 4:15pm ET

Sections

Shares of Amazon have been on fire lately. Investors are bullish after the company's latest earnings. Even Warren Buffett is a big fan of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos -- even though Berkshire Hathaway does not own Amazon stock. More

It's getting worse for Puerto Rico. The island defaulted on $422 million in bonds related to its Government Development Bank on Monday. Congress is currently debating an aid package for the island. More

Tech leaders Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft all disappointed Wall Street with their latest earnings reports. And that's dragged the Nasdaq back near correction territory. Is this the beginning of another huge pullback or an overreaction? More

Visa says new software will allow consumers to check out with chip cards as fast as swiping a card with magnetic strip. More