What Is the VIX?

The VIX is typically used to measure short-term investor sentiment, but many also use the index as a foundation for active investing strategies.

VIX, a financial term, written over blue financial chart background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Cboe Volatility Index – frequently referred to by its ticker symbol, VIX – is a real-time measure of implied volatility on the benchmark S&P 500 Index (SPX). Not only is the VIX used as a quick gauge of short-term investor sentiment, it's also the basis of many active investing strategies, from portfolio hedging to directional speculation.

First introduced by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (Cboe) in 1993, the initial version of the VIX reflected a rolling 30-day calculation of at-the-money implied volatility (IV) on S&P 100 Index (OEX) options. This calculation is no longer widely used or tracked, but the "old VIX" is still available under the ticker symbol VXO.

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Elizabeth Volk
Contributing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Elizabeth Volk has been writing about the stock and options markets since 2007. Her analysis has been featured on CNBC, published in Forbes and SFO Magazine, syndicated to Yahoo Finance and MSN, and quoted in Barron's, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.