Fear & Greed Index in Stock Market Investing Explained


The Fear & Greed Index, developed by CNN Business, is a crucial tool for measuring investor sentiment in the stock market. This comprehensive guide explores how this index works, its key indicators, and its impact on investment decisions. Dive into the world of emotions and market psychology to understand how fear and greed can influence stock prices and help you make informed investment choices.

Understanding the fear & greed index

Investing in the stock market is not just about analyzing financial data; it’s also about understanding the psychology of investors. Emotions play a significant role in driving stock prices up or down. The Fear & Greed Index, developed by CNN Business, is a valuable tool that quantifies these emotions and helps investors assess market sentiment.

The Fear & Greed Index is calculated daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. It’s based on the premise that excessive fear leads to lower stock prices, while unchecked greed drives prices upward. This index provides insights into whether stocks are reasonably priced at any given time.

How does the fear & greed index work?

The Fear & Greed Index consists of seven key indicators, each measured on a scale from 0 to 100. A reading of 50 is considered neutral, while higher numbers indicate greed and lower numbers signify fear. Let’s explore these indicators:


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of using the Fear & Greed Index.

  • Helps assess market sentiment
  • Can gauge market trends
  • Useful for timing market moves
  • Not the only tool for investment decisions
  • Should be used alongside other research

The seven fear and greed indicators

  1. Stock Price Momentum: Measures the S&P 500 versus its 125-day moving average (MA).
  2. Stock Price Strength: Tracks the number of stocks hitting 52-week highs compared to those hitting 52-week lows on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
  3. Stock Price Breadth: Analyzes trading volumes in rising stocks versus declining stocks.
  4. Put and Call Options: Examines the extent to which put options lag behind call options (indicating greed) or surpass them (indicating fear).
  5. Junk Bond Demand: Measures the spread between yields on investment-grade bonds and junk bonds.
  6. Market Volatility: Uses the Cboe’s Volatility Index (VIX) based on a 50-day MA.
  7. Safe Haven Demand: Compares returns for stocks versus treasuries.

These indicators collectively provide a snapshot of investor sentiment, helping traders make more informed decisions in the volatile world of stocks.

Fear & greed index in action

The Fear & Greed Index has a track record of accurately reflecting market sentiment. For example, during the 2008 financial crisis, it sank to a low of 12, indicating extreme fear, as the market reacted to the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy and the AIG crisis. In contrast, it soared above 90 in September 2012, reflecting extreme greed following the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the index hit an annual low of 2 when stocks plummeted due to fears surrounding the virus. However, it bounced back to over 75 as optimism grew about a potential vaccine.

Fear & greed index vs. cryptocurrency index

Not limited to traditional markets, the concept of fear and greed also extends to cryptocurrencies. Alternative.me introduced the Crypto Fear & Greed Index, which assesses market sentiment for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. This index considers factors like price volatility, market volume, social media mentions, Bitcoin dominance, and Google Trends data.

Investor psychology: fear and greed

Understanding the role of emotions in investing is crucial. Fear and greed are the two primary emotions that influence investors’ decisions. Fear can lead to selling stocks below their intrinsic value, while greed can drive irrational buying, pushing stock prices higher than they should be.

It’s important to note that while the Fear & Greed Index is a valuable tool, it should not be the sole basis for investment decisions. Investors should conduct thorough research and consider information from various sources before making significant moves in the market.


The psychology behind fear and greed

Investor sentiment is not solely based on data and analysis; it’s deeply influenced by human psychology. Understanding how fear and greed drive market behavior is essential for any investor. When fear dominates, investors tend to sell off assets, driving prices down. Conversely, during periods of greed, they may buy aggressively, inflating asset prices. These emotional cycles often lead to market volatility.

It’s important to recognize that market sentiment can sometimes be irrational. Investors may panic and sell during market dips, even when it’s not warranted by fundamental factors. This emotional rollercoaster is what the Fear & Greed Index attempts to quantify and provide insights into.

The role of media in shaping sentiment

Media coverage plays a significant role in shaping investor sentiment. News headlines, social media, and financial reports can amplify fear or greed, influencing market behavior. During times of crisis, sensationalist news can exacerbate fear, leading to panic selling. On the flip side, overly optimistic reports can fuel greed, causing asset bubbles.

As an investor, it’s essential to be aware of how media can impact your emotions and decision-making. Learning to filter information and make rational choices based on data rather than emotions is a key skill for successful investing.

Strategies for using the fear & greed index

While the Fear & Greed Index is a valuable tool, it’s essential to know how to integrate it into your investment strategy effectively. Here are some strategies for making the most of this sentiment indicator:

Contrarian investing

Contrarian investors often go against the crowd. When the Fear & Greed Index reaches extreme levels of fear, contrarians may see it as a buying opportunity, expecting that the market will rebound. Conversely, when the index indicates extreme greed, they might consider it a signal to sell, anticipating a market correction.

Contrarian investing requires discipline and a long-term perspective, as it involves going against prevailing emotions in the market.

Using the index as a confirmatory tool

The Fear & Greed Index should not be the sole basis for investment decisions. It’s most effective when used in conjunction with other analytical tools and research. Consider it as a confirmatory tool that aligns with your broader analysis.

For example, if you’ve conducted a fundamental analysis of a stock and it aligns with your investment thesis, a high level of fear in the market, as indicated by the index, could provide additional confidence in your decision to buy.

Remember that successful investing involves a comprehensive approach, combining data, analysis, and market sentiment.

The bottom line

The Fear & Greed Index is an essential tool for investors, offering insights into market sentiment and helping assess whether stocks are priced fairly. Whether you’re trading in traditional markets or cryptocurrencies, understanding the impact of emotions on stock prices can be a game-changer. Use this index wisely, but always complement it with comprehensive research and analysis to make informed investment choices.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is the Fear & Greed Index, and why is it important for investors?

The Fear & Greed Index is a tool developed by CNN Business to measure investor sentiment in the stock market. It’s crucial for investors because it provides insights into how emotions like fear and greed influence stock prices. Understanding these sentiments can help investors make informed decisions.

How often is the Fear & Greed Index calculated?

The Fear & Greed Index is calculated daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. This frequency allows investors to track changes in sentiment over different time frames, from short-term fluctuations to long-term trends.

What are the key indicators used in the Fear & Greed Index?

The Fear & Greed Index comprises seven key indicators, including stock price momentum, stock price strength, stock price breadth, put and call options, junk bond demand, market volatility, and safe haven demand. These indicators collectively assess market sentiment.

How is sentiment categorized in the Fear & Greed Index?

The Fear & Greed Index categorizes sentiment into different levels:

  • 0 to 24: Extreme Fear
  • 25 to 44: Fear
  • 45 to 55: Neutral
  • 56 to 75: Greed
  • 76 to 100: Extreme Greed

These categories help investors gauge the prevailing sentiment in the market.

Can the Fear & Greed Index be used for timing market moves?

Yes, the Fear & Greed Index can be used as a timing tool. When the index reaches extreme levels of fear or greed, some investors may consider it an opportunity to make contrarian moves. For example, extreme fear might indicate a buying opportunity, while extreme greed could signal a potential market correction.

Is the Fear & Greed Index the only tool investors should use?

No, the Fear & Greed Index should not be the sole basis for investment decisions. It’s most effective when used alongside other research and analysis. Investors should consider a comprehensive approach that includes fundamental analysis, technical analysis, and market sentiment indicators.

Is there a Fear & Greed Index for cryptocurrencies?

Yes, there is a similar sentiment index tailored to the cryptocurrency market called the Crypto Fear & Greed Index. It assesses sentiment for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and considers factors such as price volatility, market volume, social media mentions, Bitcoin dominance, and Google Trends data.

How can investors use the Fear & Greed Index to manage risk?

Investors can use the Fear & Greed Index to manage risk by being aware of market sentiment. For example, during periods of extreme greed, it may be wise to exercise caution and consider taking profits. Conversely, during extreme fear, it might be an opportunity to accumulate assets at lower prices.

Key takeaways

  • The Fear & Greed Index quantifies investor sentiment in the stock market.
  • It consists of seven indicators, each measured on a scale from 0 to 100, to gauge market sentiment.
  • Understanding the role of fear and greed in investing is crucial for making informed decisions.
  • It’s essential to use the Fear & Greed Index in conjunction with other research and analysis.
  • Similar sentiment indices exist for the cryptocurrency market, reflecting the emotional nature of both traditional and digital asset markets.
View Article Sources
  1. Crypto Fear and Greed Index: Chart, Meaning, Calculation … – ClearTax
  2. Decomposing the VIX Index into Greed and Fear – RePEc
  3. Crypto Fear & Greed Index – Carl Runefelt Investments