Simon Maierhofer | ‘Black Swan’ warning indicator soars to record high

14 Jun, 2021 02:41
source: iSPYETF

Singularity Financial Hong Kong June 14, 2021 –  Black swans are rare, that’s why they have been used to describe extremely rare stock market ‘events.’ The ‘black swan indicator’ just soared to a record high. (Source: iSPYETF)

About this author: Simon Maierhofer, founder of iSPYETF and publisher of the Profit Radar Report, is a self-taught entrepreneur and market forecaster. Simon has personally appeared on CNBC, FOX News, Channel 8 and his opinions have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, USA Today,,,, Yahoo Finance!, Google Finance, and other outlets. 

Have you even seen a black swan, I mean the actual bird? Probably not, because they are extremely rare.

That’s why the black swan has been used to describe extremely rare outlier stock market events. ‘Event’ is simply a nice way of saying crash or meltdown.

Black swan events are as rare as they are unpredictable, but the CBOE (the same outfit to create the VIX) crafted an index designed to measure the risk of a black swan event. This index is called the SKEW Index.

Here is the main difference between the VIX and SKEW: The VIX is based on implied volatility of S&P 500 at-the-money options while the SKEW is based on implied volatility of far out-of-the-money S&P 500 options.

Here is how the SKEW works: Readings of 100 mean that the risk of a black swan event is low. For every 5-point increase in the SKEW Index, the risk of a black swan event increases 1.4%.

On Friday, the SKEW Index closed at 155.31, which is the second highest reading since 1990 (as far back as SKEW data goes). A reading of 155 also means that the risk of a black swan event is 15.4% higher than usual.

With the theoretical stuff out of the way, let’s see if the SKEW Index actually works.

Does the SKEW work?

The chart below plots the S&P 500 agains the SKEW Index (going back to 1990). The SKEW moved above 150 only on 17 of 12,967 trading days (that’s 0.13% of the time). And none of those 17 days happened before 2015.

The next chart makes it easier to identify those 17 times. Here are the key takeaways:

13 of the 16 prior signals (81%) saw any gains erased within the next 3 month

3 of the 16 prior signals (19%) saw significant further gains (2 of those gains were erased within 18 months)


The SKEW Index deserves credit for flashing warning signals prior to the 2016, 2018 and 2020 declines. It needs to be noted though that those signals were about 2 months too early. It will take a break below support to edge the potential black swan risk closer to reality.

(This post is republished with permission from iSPYETF.)