The markets' fear gauge jumped over the 18 mark in early trading Friday as concerns over the global impact of the coronavirus refuse to abate. The index closed Thursday's trading at about 15.5 and saw an average level of about 13.7 in the opening weeks of 2020.
Call option values, or bets that the index will rise in the near future, rose as well, suggesting investors see a prolonged drawdown as a real possibility. Strike prices for options expiring Feb. 20 show many see the index remaining above 17 and even 20, with similar interest in calls expiring in March and April.
The S&P 500 was down about 1.1% at midday Friday, while still up 0.42% year-to-date.