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Wall Street's fear gauge hits its highest level since February

CNBC logo CNBC 10/11/2018

a person wearing a mask: A costumed reveller wearing a mask depicting Munch's famous painting 'The Scream' poses near St Mark's square during the carnival on February 21, 2014 in Venice. © Provided by CNBC LLC A costumed reveller wearing a mask depicting Munch's famous painting 'The Scream' poses near St Mark's square during the carnival on February 21, 2014 in Venice. Wall Street's favorite fear gauge, the Cboe Volatility Index, hit its highest level since mid-February as traders accelerated stock selling during Thursday afternoon.

The VIX hit a high of 28.84 after 2 p.m. ET, its highest level since Feb. 12, 2018.

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The VIX measures the prices of put options on the S&P 500 versus the prices of call options. A rising VIX theoretically means investors are getting more concerned about the market and placing more bets to protect themselves.

Stocks added to steep losses for the week Thursday, a day after the major indexes suffered steep losses sparked by higher rates and a sell-off in tech shares.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 500 points Thursday, bringing its two-day losses to more than 1,400 points. The S&P 500 dropped 2.1 percent and was on pace for a six-day losing streak. The broad index also broke below its 200-day moving average for the first time since May.

The Nasdaq Composite pulled back 1.5 percent and entered correction territory.

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