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Investors run for cover as fear intensifies

June 1, 2012: 2:35 PM ET

If you thought last week was bad, it's just gotten a lot worse.

A series of disappointing manufacturing reports were topped off Friday with dismal jobs numbers that showed a paltry 69,000 jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May.

Related: Behind the jobs report

If that's not enough to give you agita, the yield on the 10-year note tumbled to a record low of 1.46% today. It's not Armageddon just yet (but it sure feels close).

Just take a look at CNNMoney's Fear & Greed Index, which hit a low of 8! The last time it was that low was last August, after the United States got downgraded following the debt ceiling debacle.

That fear sent investors fleeing for the exits and into the safe havens of U.S. Treasuries and gold. Last September, the price of an ounce of gold hit a record intraday high of $1,923.70. Today, it's trading just above $1,600.

But the fear wasn't just confined to us. Europe's problems really took center stage for much of the latter part of 2011 -- not so different from current events.

With all that fear running rampant, we thought it was a great time to create our own risk gauge -- CNNMoney's Fear & Greed Index launched last week. Along with our partner Markit On Demand, we targeted 7 key market indicators, including volatility, junk bond demand and stock highs and lows.

Using the power of algorithms, we combined them all into one brand spanking new index that tracks just how much risk investors are willing to stomach, on a scale of 0-100. Any reading above 50 and you might start hearing the casino mantra "place your bets," while the closer the number gets to zero, and you have a situation like the one we're currently in.

Related: What is the Fear & Greed Index?

Last year, the VIX (VIX), the market's other fear gauge, stayed above 30 from August through November. Any number above 30 signals growing fear. The put/call ratio, which compares the trading volume of bullish call options (right to buy) against the trading volume of bearish put options (right to sell), was also practically off the charts.

On top of that, money was flowing out of markets during the latter part of the year -- much like the past 14 weeks. In fact, investors have yanked nearly $46 billion from U.S. stock mutual funds since the start of this year.

Have we hit bottom? It may be too soon to say.

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Catherine Tymkiw
Catherine Tymkiw
News Editor CNNMoney

Catherine Tymkiw is a news editor at CNNMoney where she helps oversee breaking news coverage and futures planning. Previously, she was the investing editor. Prior to joining CNNMoney, she was the online editor at Crain's New York Business and has nearly two decades of reporting and editing experience. She tweets @ctymkiwcnn

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