Monday, June 29, 2015

Today’s 34% VIX Spike and What to Expect Going Forward

One of the top posts of 2013 was All-Time VIX Spike #11 (and a treasure trove of VIX spike data), in which I sliced and diced the twenty largest one-day VIX spikes in the history of the VIX. Nineteen of those spikes were in excess of 30% and with all-time #5 arriving later in 2013 and all-time #15 and #16 following in 2014, I was compelled to comment that despite the seemingly low VIX and concerns about complacency, 2014 Had Third Highest Number of 20% VIX Spikes.

Fast forward to the present and for all the talk of a low VIX, some forget that the second day of 2015 had a 28.1% VIX spike and then today, we saw a 34.5% VIX spike, the eleventh largest in the history of the VIX and enough to trigger an update to the table of largest one-day VIX spikes below.

History of 30pct VIX Spikes 062915

[source(s): CBOE, VIX and More]

Note that based on the data for the 23 VIX spikes in excess of 30%, the SPX has a tendency to outperform its long-term average over the course of the 1, 3 and 5-day periods following the VIX spike. Also worth noting that that 10 and 20 days following the VIX spike, the SPX has a tendency not only to underperform, but decline. Further, while the huge decline following 9/29/2008 VIX spike tends to dwarf the other data points, even when you remove the 9/29/2008 VIX spike it turns out that the SPX still loses money in the 10 and 20-day period following a VIX spike. When the analysis is extended out 50 trading days, the SPX is back to being profitable, but performing below its long-term average. On the other hand, when the analysis includes 100 days following the VIX spike, the SPX is back to outperforming its long-term average.

With the caveat that this is a limited data set, it is still worth flagging the pattern in which following a 30% one-day VIX spike, there appears to generally be a tradable oversold condition in stocks that lasts approximately one week, followed by a period of another month or so in which the markets typically has difficulty coming to terms with the threat to stocks. One quarter later, however, all fears are generally in the rear view mirror and stocks are likely to have tacked on significant gains.

This type of pattern supports the idea of both short-term and longer-term mean reversion, but calls into question the role of mean reversion in the 10-20 days following a VIX spike, perhaps has fundamental factors begin to win out over a technically oversold condition in stocks.

Now that we have a template, let’s see how well it works for the current market environment.

Since the events of the day have given all of us a fair amount to think about, I have included a larger than usual number of related and tangential links below for those who wish to do a little extra reading.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): short VIX at time of writing; the CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Longest SPX Peak to Trough Pullback Since 2012

I have been quiet in this space as of late, but there is nothing like a 34% one-day spike in the VIX to inspire me to dust of the cobwebs and get this place humming again. I will start by updating an old favorite table that invariably is the subject of many requests whenever stocks begin to show signs of a meaningful pullback, as is the case today.

Note that the table below includes only pullbacks from all-time highs and only those that go back to the March 2009 bottom. Here 2.75% seems to be a natural cutoff, but I am more apt to include smaller numbers if it took a relatively large number of days to arrive at the bottom. Seen in this light, today’s 2.09% decline in the S&P 500 Index brings the aggregate peak-to-trough decline to 3.7%, but perhaps the most interesting number is that it took a full 27 trading days to realize that 3.7% drop. In fact, no peak-to-trough decline has taken longer to materialize since a pair of 43-day moves from late 2012 that resulted in 8.9% and 10.9% declines. Of course, there is no reason to believe that today is a bottom, but then again, there have been only four longer-lasting pullbacks since the current bull market started over five years ago.

SPX pullback chart as of 062915

[source(s): CBOE, Yahoo, VIX and More]

Depending upon whether one attributes the current pullback to China, Greece, Puerto Rico or more nebulous factors as valuation, time without a correction, etc. one might draw different conclusions about the path forward. Personally, I see China as the biggest culprit, followed (at least today) by Puerto Rico and then Greece. What concerns me most is that the issues in China and Puerto Rico are no less thorny or difficult to resolve than they are in Greece.

For what it is worth, while I think it is important to understand the age of a bull market as a partial proxy for vulnerability, I do not subscribe to the theory that a healthy market needs a 10% correction every x months or y years. Further, did the 9.8% peak-to-trough decline in the SPX really need another 0.2% to reset some sort of magical market-timing sundial? (Don’t forget that both the NASDAQ-100 [NDX] and Russell 2000 [RUT] did hit that threshold during the same period.)

In technical analysis, the time for a move to unfold is sometimes almost as important as the magnitude of the move. In another week or so, we should know whether the current price action is just a slow-motion, short and shallow dip or perhaps the first signs of a deeper and more painful countertrend – and the best part is that we don’t even need a referendum to decide the matter.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Average Annual Normalized VIX Futures Term Structure, 2004-2014

One graphic I post periodically that never fails to generate a great deal of interest among traders, strategists and other volatility aficionados is my normalized VIX futures term structure graph. From 2008 – 2013, the annual normalized term structure was notable in that almost every year was an outlier in one way or another. For instance, 2012 and 2013 were the two years with the steepest contango in history, while 2008, 2009 and 2011 represent three of the four years (2007 being the fourth) with the flattest term structure.

And 2014? It could not have been more average. If one combines all the years from 2004 to 2014 and creates an “average year” (i.e., the wide gray line on the chart) then 2014 (double blue line) comes closest to that average.

Normalized VIX Futures Term Structure, 2004-2014

[source(s): CBOE, VIX and More]

Note that the terms structure lines are dotted and somewhat wavy for 2004 – 2006, due to the fact that the CBOE did not implement a full complement of consecutive monthly futures until October 2006.

As for 2015, which is not plotted on the graph above, so far it looks quite flat, almost like a cross between 2007 and 2009. It will be interesting to see if this pattern holds for the balance of the year.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): the CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Year in VIX and Volatility (2014)

This is the seventh year in a row I have offered a retrospective look at the year in VIX and Volatility, which is my attempt to cram some of the highlights of the year in volatility onto one eye chart graphic with a (somewhat) manageable number of annotations.

In aggregate, 2014 was a very quiet year for the VIX, with a mean close of just 14.19 for the year, which is the lowest the VIX has been since 2006 and third lowest since 1995. On the other hand, as I recently documented, VIX spikes were common last year, with 2014 registering the third highest number of 20% VIX spikes since the beginning of VIX data, in 1990. In short, the VIX was susceptible to large spikes, but these were typically followed by strong mean-reverting declines. For example, the peak VIX of 31.06 on October 15 was the highest VIX reading since 2011, yet just six weeks later the VIX was back in the 11s.

When asked in October what they perceived as the biggest threat to stocks, respondents to the VIX and More fear poll pointed to the end of quantitative easing and the removal of the Fed safety net as their top concern, with Ebola narrowly edging out the much more nebulous “market technical factors” for the second slot. As best as I am able to determine, it was the panic associated with fears of an Ebola epidemic that took an already elevated VIX and pushed it up into the 30s.

At various times during the year, Ukraine/Russia, crude oil, ISIS/ISIL, Israel/Gaza, the Fed and the European Central Bank all managed to increase anxiety and perceptions of risk among investors. Also, the narrow miss in the vote for Scottish independence created turmoil in the United Kingdom and across the euro zone, but managed to avoid morphing into another nationalist crisis. Early in the year, there was a currency crisis in emerging markets that was triggered by (unfounded, in retrospect) concerns about higher interest rates in the U.S. Throughout the year there were concerns about valuations and excesses momentum trading in the likes of biotechnology, social media, internet and solar stocks. To some extent, these concerns peaked in April (see The Correction as Seen in the ETP Landscape for additional details), only to return periodically throughout the balance of the year.

The Year in VIX and Volatility 2014

[source(s): StockCharts.com, VIX and More]

Last year at this time, the prevailing worries were focused on whether or not Fed Chair Janet Yellen was leaning toward a more hawkish stance, the inevitable march to higher interest rates in the U.S., the weakening of emerging markets currencies and the potential fallout from the Fed’s tapering of bond purchases. In retrospect, investors were largely worrying about the wrong things.

The first few weeks of 2015 have seen Greece, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine back in the spotlight, with the Swiss National Bank and European Central Bank dominating news on the central banking front. If the past is any guide, the big issue for 2015 has yet to rear its ugly head, whether it turns out to be a gray, charcoal or black swan.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Top Posts of 2014

Since I launched VIX and More some eight plus years ago, I have devoted one post to highlighting the top 25 most-read posts of each year. I do this in part for archival purposes: to see what is important to readers and how their interest in various issues changes over time. I also hope that these aggregations of most-read posts will serve as relatively easily accessible repositories of high-quality material for the benefit of new readers and long-term readers alike.

During 2014, the blog saw an extended hiatus for the first time in its history, largely due to events arising from the passing of my father. For this reason, I am limiting the number of top posts for the year to thirteen, largely because Song for My Father* ended the year in the #13 slot.

Looking ahead, volatility is back and so am I. I miss writing and I miss the interaction with readers. In the coming year I will significantly ramp up my activity on the blog and also in the comments section. I will also continue to write a weekly newsletter specializing in volatility (which just so happens to have a 14-day free trial), pen periodic guest columns for Barron’s and perhaps contribute to some other publications as well.  All this will be in addition to my primary role, which is that of an investment manager.

In 2014, some of the top stories were Ebola, Ukraine vs. Russia, crude oil, ISIS/ISIL, the Fed and the European Central Bank.  The posts below represent those that have been read by the highest number of unique readers during 2014. Farther down there are links to similar lists going back to 2008, along with several other “best of” type posts that I have flagged for archival purposes.

For the record, each year I also attach the hall of fame label to a handful of posts that I believe have particularly compelling and/or original content, regardless of readership. I was a tough grader last year, as I only added one new post to the HoF in 2014, but I already have an addition for 2015 and my goal is to continue to crank out Hall-of-Fame-worthy posts on a regular basis in 2015 – and even manage to do it without assistance provided by performance-enhancing drugs…

With an increase in posting on the blog, I also foresee a substantial uptick in my activity on Twitter, where @VIXandMore gives me a platform to contribute more in terms of time-sensitive news, short-term insights and other related subjects.

The thirteen most-read posts on VIX and More in 2014 were:

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Had Third Highest Number of 20% VIX Spikes

By most measures, one would think that 2014 was a relatively quiet year for the VIX and equity volatility in general. In fact, the average VIX of 14.19 was the lowest for the full year since 2006 and the third lowest going back to 1995. Of course, averages can be misleading and just as you can drown in a river with an average depth of one inch, anyone who was short the VIX when it spiked all the way up to 31.06 in October knows that minimum and maximum readings are important.

With this in mind, the chart below shows the number of 20% one-day VIX spikes per year, going back to 1990. Note that when looked through the lens of those 20% spikes, 2014 was the third most volatile year for the VIX since 1990, with the same number of 20% VIX spikes as 2008! Additionally, if one were to round up a near miss from December 8th, last year would move into a tie for the #2 slot, just behind the euro zone carnage from 2011.

VIXspikesbyyearthru010515_zpse2baffc9[1]

[source(s): CBOE, VIX and More]

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the 20% VIX spikes is that two of them came during the last month of the year and with a little rounding, the December 8th spike could have been number three. Toss in yesterday’s 28.1% VIX spike and that is four VIX spikes of at least 19.5% in one month. Uncharted territory? Not quite, with August 2011 having already marched down that path, but something not achieved in any other year, including 2008 or at any time during the bursting of the dotcom bubble.

The have been a number of important changes in the volatility space during the past year or so and going forward I will address quite a few of them, with additional analysis and commentary.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): short VIX at time of writing

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Ride an Aging Bull (Guest Columnist at Barron’s)

Yesterday marked the fifteenth time I have served as a guest columnist for The Striking Price at Barron’s and How to Ride an Aging Bull is one of the few articles I have written for Barron’s that has not focused almost exclusively on the VIX and volatility.

In the Barron’s article I note that pundits have been calling this “the most hated bull market ever” for about three years and partly as a result of the mistrust of large bull moves, many retail investors have exited the market when they feared prices were getting ahead of themselves. As stocks have continued to rally, these same investors have had difficulty getting back in at even higher prices. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, quite a few of these investors believe stocks can continue to move higher and are wondering how they might be able to take advantage of a continued rally even though they believe the six-year bull is too long in the tooth.

An approach I discuss in the Barron’s article is one of seeking out value in underperforming sectors. In the article I cited the energy sector as the headline underperformer, but noted that while the energy sector ETP (XLE) is down 8.5% year-to-date, the metals and mining sector ETP (XME) is down 18.7% for the year. [Unfortunately, due to an editing snafu, the updated numbers I provided using data following the OPEC meeting were not incorporated into the publication.]

The XME March 33/38 risk reversal trade (short the March 33 put; long the March 38 call) cited in the Barron’s article uses strikes and prices that are quite stale now that OPEC has decided not to cut production. An updated version of the trade that would still generate a small credit would use the March 32 and 37 strikes, with a profit and loss chart that looks like the one below. Note that if XME is between 32 and 37 at expiration, the trade will generate a small profit. Should XME settle below 32 at expiration, the risk reversal (blue line) would lose about 2.24 less than holding the underlying (dotted gray line); if XME settles above 37 at expiration, the risk reversal gains would be about 2.76 less than if one had held the underlying.

XME March 2015 Risk Reversal 112914

[source(s): VIXandMore]

While metals and mining have had a difficult year, the recent rate cut by the People’s Bank of China and the anticipated near-term stimulus measures from the European Central Bank should provide a lift to metals and mining stocks. Other factors, including continued strong U.S. economic growth, could also bolster XME, which focuses mainly on steel, coal and aluminum for the U.S. market.

As noted in the Barron’s article, one could also make a similar trade with one of XME’s most liquid components, Alcoa (AA), where a short February 16/19 risk reversal has a similar profit and loss potential, yet taps into one of the metals and mining sectors, aluminum, that has been a very strong performer in 2014. As Alcoa’s options market is more liquid than that of XME, the single-stock version of this risk reversal should be considered as an alternative way of achieving similar exposure.

Related posts:

A full list of my Barron’s contributions:

Disclosure(s): none

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fear Poll: Fed/QE, Ebola and Technicals Top Worry List

Stocks may be in the process of putting in a bottom, but with the VIX hitting 31.06 yesterday at the same time VIX futures were setting new volume records, investor fear and anxiety is as high as it has been since the 2011 European sovereign debt crisis.

As the VIX and More Fear Poll results reflect, the current situation is particularly difficult for investors to grapple with because there is so much disagreement about what the biggest worry is and how some of these fears may be connected.

In the chart below, I have summarized the almost 400 votes from some 35 countries, with the U.S. accounting for 65% of all respondents.

It is worth noting that the responses appear to be somewhat headline driven, as yesterday Ebola topped the list of worries, only to be supplanted by concerns about the impact of the Fed ending quantitative easing and in so doing removing the safety net that has helped keep liquidity high, volatility low and investors more confident. I also find it particularly interesting that “market technical factors (breach of support, end of trend, weak internals, etc.)” are so important to a broad range of investors, which raises the question of whether technicals are more of a cause or effect in the recent downturn.

Looking at global economic weakness, slightly more investors expressed concern about the U.S. economy than that of the euro zone, with concerns about the Chinese economy a distant third.

In these types of polls, I am always interested to see how U.S. respondents differ from those outside of the U.S. In the current market environment, U.S. respondents tend to place more emphasis on the weak U.S. economy and the Ebola virus, while paying less attention to currency issues and China. Some of the detailed results certainly have a whiff of provincialism, yet it remains to be seen whether the global or Americentric perspective does a better job of honing in on what to focus on – a subject I will delve into at a later date.

For those who might be interested in the results of prior VIX and More Fear Poll data, the links below should be a helpful reference.

Last but not least, many thanks to everyone who participated in this poll, which I intend to periodically reprise as market conditions warrant.

VAM Fear Poll 101614

[source(s): VIX and More]

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Monday, October 13, 2014

Largest SPX Pullback of 2014 Hits 6.4%

Every time there is a pullback, it seems as if I receive multiple requests for an updated version of the table below. With the S&P 500 index reeling and still trying to find a bottom, this looks like a good time to put the current pullback in the context of the 27 most significant peak-to-trough declines from new highs since the SPX bottomed in March 2009.

Note that the current 6.4% decline from the September 19th high of 2019 is roughly average in terms of duration, but makes it the second largest pullback in percentage terms since 2012, just eclipsing the January-February 2014 pullback, when emerging markets (EEM) and Crimea were weighing heavily on the minds of investors.

Keep in mind that as ugly has things have been in the SPX, the Russell 2000 small cap index (RUT) is down 13.8% since topping out in early July, while the NASDAQ composite index is down 8.5% since its mid-September top. Of course, some sectors have been hit even harder, with oil and gas exploration and production (XOP) down 33.3% from its 2014 high. Semiconductors (SMH) have declined 14.4% from their 2014 high, yet that high was established less than a month ago.

There is never an easy answer to the question of whether this has been enough pain to warrant a bottom, but after the events of the past week, all sorts of extreme scenarios now seem much more plausible.

SPXpullbackchartasof101314_zps5ff1c9f6[1]

[source(s): Yahoo, VIX and More]

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Song for My Father*

My father passed away this summer and in the intervening period I set aside my media hat. Before I formally return to the media space, I want to use this space to talk a little bit about my father.

My father was an eccentric man and sometimes a complete enigma even to those who were closest to him. For instance, while we share the same name, he insists that I was named not after him but his uncle Bill, who was a baseball player in his earlier years and later became coach, attorney and a judge. My father followed his uncle into the legal field, with his own twist, carving out his own niche as a modern-day country lawyer and advisor.

Outside of family and work matters, sailing, quantum physics and jazz were the three things my father was most passionate about. While part of the appeal of sailing was no doubt the escapist aspect of charting one’s one course – my father’s own moveable island – I have often thought that more than 90% of our father-son relationship and peer-to-peer relationship was formed while sailing together from Long Island Sound to Down East Maine. One particular trip that I often think about was a voyage from New London, Connecticut to Cape Cod Bay which was slowed dramatically by adverse currents and a lack of wind. Arriving very late one night at Cuttyhunk Island, we determined that the delays had almost entirely depleted our food supplies. After rummaging through the storage locker, my father declared that what remained were nine Saltine crackers and two bottles of wine. For dinner, he placed one bottle of wine on the table in front of me and pushed five of the nine crackers my way. I had begun that day as a 14-year-old boy, but when I woke up the next morning, I had no doubt that I was now a man. Several years later, we talked extensively about buying a Beneteau and sailing it back from Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, France, but this adventure never came to fruition.

Ironically, while my mother was a teacher, journalist and quite adept at communicating, my father preferred to use language as a puzzle, where he would leave a minimal number of clues and see if the recipient of those clues could find his or her way to the finish line. Dubbed “The Great Communicator” by some of those who spent extended periods in his verbal labyrinth, when he wanted to my father could be an expert writer or orator, but when he preferred to get overly creative with language, he typically lost most of his audience in a hurry.

As much as my father provided advice and counsel for countless family and friends, very little advice was aimed in my direction. One piece of advice I did hear over and over again was, “Keep your options open.” I have always attached a high degree of value to having options in life, but I often smile at the thought that a large part of what I do professionally is sell options to those who place a higher value on them than I do.  On a somewhat related note, when I was a child, my father was keen on having me play chess with him. I received no leniency, coaching, hints or advice of any kind while losing literally thousands of matches. Eventually, I was able to learn enough to win consistently and in the process also learned how to figure things out for myself, the value of tenacity and many other life lessons. Only after his passing did I find an old yearbook and discover that he was the chess champion at his high school. Needless to say, without his hand, I would never have developed some of the skills that I enjoy today.

Dad, wherever you are, I hope that the journey is smooth sailing and the wind is at your back.

DadandDeb-Chatham2011-crop_zps8a590547[1]

[my father with my wife, Deborah, at the Cape Cod National Seashore, 2011]

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

*The title of this post also refers to one of my favorite jazzmen, Horace Silver, who wrote Song for My Father

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Low Volatility: How To Profit From a Quiet VIX (Guest Columnist at Barron’s)

Today I was once again a guest columnist at Barron’s, penning Low Volatility: How to Profit From a Quiet VIX for the venerable Barron’s options column, The Striking Price.  While this is my thirteenth turn as guest columnist, much to my surprise this is the firsts time that “VIX” has appeared in the title.  Since everyone seems to be talking about how low the VIX is, whether the VIX is broken, etc. I thought it would be an appropriate time to share some of my thoughts on the subject.

In the Barron’s article I make the point that while mean-reversion trades when the VIX spikes higher has been a viable strategy over the years, the mean reversion approach has not fared nearly as well when the VIX dives substantially below its long-term mean, which happens to be just a shade over 20.

As the chart below (monthly bars of the VIX) shows, most significant VIX spikes tend to be short-lived, but the VIX can remain well below the 20 level for multiple years in a row. Just look at 1994 – 1996 and 2004 – 2007 and think about the long-term viability of buying VIX calls or putting on a similar long volatility position during a period like this one, armed with the knowledge that eventually the VIX will have to revert to its historical mean.

VIX Macro Cycles 1990-2014

[source(s): StockCharts.com]

In fact, there have already been two instances (1990 – 1994 and 2002 -2007) in which the VIX declined steadily for a period of at least four years. With the most recent peak volatility in August 2011, it is not unreasonable to think about the possibility of volatility continuing to decline or at least tread water through at least August 2015.

While the Barron’s article does not give my options trade idea a label, it is a ratio risk reversal that contemplates selling VIX June 14 puts and (perhaps) investing the proceeds in twice as many VIX June 17 calls.

I encourage everyone to read the original article at Barron’s, but for those who might not click through, I will include my closing paragraph below:

“No matter what your market outlook, however, do not make the mistake of thinking that the VIX is no longer relevant, and be careful when it comes to equating a low VIX with complacency. The VIX has closed below 13 some 964 times – and almost all of these instances have been in the middle of a bull market.”

Related posts:

A full list of my Barron’s contributions:

Disclosure(s): none

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Correction As Seen in the ETP Landscape

Since stocks bottomed in March 2009, I have periodically been publishing an SPX pullback table and occasionally a plot of all those pullbacks and their duration. The recent selloff in stocks, however, has been anything but an SPX pullback. I toyed with the idea of presenting comparable data for the NASDAQ Composite or NASDAQ-100 Index (NDX), but here again, the selling has been disproportionate in some areas of the NASDAQ universe, even though it has been hit harder than the SPX.

This time around I have opted instead for a chart that shows the peak-to-trough drawdown across the equity ETP universe, focusing on sector groups that I believe are among the most important to watch.

ETP Landscape 2014 DDs 041514

[source(s): Yahoo, VIX and More]

The data above cover only 2014 and indicate the maximum drawdown since the 2014 peak. While many of these maximum drawdowns are from earlier today, there are quite a few instances in which the maximum drawdown was established earlier in the year.

Note that while the NASDAQ gets most of the attention, it is the small caps (IWM) that have suffered the most among the major market index ETPs.

Not surprisingly, biotechnology (IBB), social media (SOCL) and Russia (RSX) have seen the largest declines, but among cyclicals, defensive stocks and European country ETPs, there is very little to choose from.

Finally, just for fun I have added four alternative ETPs with an equity flavor (SPLV, PBP, CWB and PFF) to show how low volatility, covered call, convertible bond and preferred stock ETPs have fared.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Sunday, March 30, 2014

CBOE RMC 2014: A Retrospective

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the CBOE Risk Management Conference (RMC) in Bonita Springs, Florida. Now that the conference is over and the CBOE has posted most of the presentations, I thought I would take a little time and offer a retrospective look at some of the content that caught my attention.

Before I do that, I am compelled to tip my cap to Russell Rhoads, whose indefatigable and prolific efforts were responsible for capturing many of the details of the conference. Russell’s posts and those of Matt Moran made it possible for anyone to have a virtual front-row seat throughout the proceedings. Their efforts in conjunction with the RMC are archived at the CBOE Options Hub with the CBOERMC tag.

From my vantage point, I thought it particularly interesting that the two keynote speakers, Martin Zonis and Carl Tannenbaum, had such divergent views about the potential risks and rewards in the U.S. financial markets in the coming years. Zonis placed most of his attention on political risk and foreign policy matters and declared that the markets were “underestimating volatility in future years.” While Tannenbaum expressed concern about banks in Europe as well as credit and real estate in China, he had a much more sanguine view of the future of the U.S. economy and financial markets.

Among the other presentations, I was particularly interested to hear Maneesh Deshpande provide an overview of the players and strategies used in volatility products during the course of the evolution of the VIX product platform. Deshpande described the VIX futures as a mature market, with liquidity and supply having shifted from commercial to con-commercial traders. He also indicated that demand for VIX puts has stagnated, while new entrants are increasing the demand for VIX calls. All of this has influenced how the VIX spikes and mean reverts, as well as how the VIX futures term structure has evolved.

Another particularly interesting session involved Ed Tom and John-Mark Piampiano, who tackled the subject of the volatility of volatility, invoking the likes of VVIX as well as the third and fourth derivatives of SPX implied volatility. At every conference at least one session gives you things to mull over long after the speakers are done and for me, this was the session that hit the high notes. Ed Tom’s presentation has not yet been posted, but he started his talk by decomposing VIX risk premium into realized volatility plus skew plus kurtosis and went on from there.

Sheldon Natenberg and Trevor Mottl were tasked with the subject of evaluating the volatility surface: skew and term structure. Not surprisingly, they were up to the task, with Mottl focusing on the role of money and credit in shaping the volatility surface. He indicated that the increasing size of the Fed’s balance sheet has depressed volatility across the board over the course of the past few years and expects that as the Fed’s balance sheet normalizes, the change in non-financial debt will become the most important influence on equity market volatility going forward. Mottl attributed the steepness of the VIX futures term structure to the uncertainty related to the Fed’s ability to be successful with its quantitative easing program. He also traced fluctuations in the skew of volatility to expectations related to the Fed’s tapering plans.

Among the other presentations I sat in on were:

  • a panel on volatility as an asset class (the consensus that volatility is more of a tool and in order to be thought of as an asset class needs to harvestable, allocatable and easier to benchmark; a separate thread was critical of the costs associated with traditional approaches to tail hedges)
  • a discussion of trading volatility across asset classes (included an interesting set of metrics and trade ideas)
  • a wide-ranging session on the design and trading of VIX and other volatility derivatives, which had a detailed explanation of the VIX settlement process as well as a discussion of VXST, which is expected to gain much more momentum when options on the index become available on April 10

Finally, I had an opportunity to sit down with Angela Miles of CBOE TV to offer my thoughts on the second day of RMC:

 

For those who may be interested, the 3rd Annual CBOE RMC will be held September 3-5, just south of Dublin, Ireland.  Since all of my ancestors trace their roots back to Ireland, I can’t imagine a better place to hear about the latest thinking in volatility and ponder the miracle of Guinness draught at the same time.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Turnaround in Emerging Markets and VXEEM

While I have a long way to go before I become the next Manny Mota, yesterday I was delighted to be able to pinch hit for Steve Sears of Barron’s for the twelfth time, when I penned Emerging Market Stocks: Have They Hit Bottom? as a guest columnist for The Striking Price.

In the Barron’s article I talk about how rapidly increasing uncertainty and risk in emerging markets during January was largely responsible for the 31.7% VIX spike on January 24, but was nowhere near the levels of June 2013, at least as measured by the CBOE Emerging Markets Volatility Index (VXEEM).

I also used the VXEEM:VIX ratio and some other data to support the idea that emerging markets have likely bottomed and are poised for a bounce. I concluded the Barron’s column with a couple of options trade ideas to take advantage of a reversal in emerging markets.

When I wrote the article, on Tuesday, my position on emerging markets was very much a case of going out on limb. By Friday’s publication date, which includes Tuesday’s option pricing data, emerging markets had already experienced a significant bounce and my emerging markets thesis no doubt sounded much less provocative than it would have three days earlier.

EEM SPY EFA 032814

[source(s): StockCharts.com]

In any event, I strongly believe that emerging markets (EEM) and VXEEM bear close watching going forward, as the Fed moves toward a new policy direction, emerging markets grapple with rising interest rates in the U.S. and the global economic growth story has many critical ripple effects across the full emerging markets landscape.

Related posts:

A full list of my Barron’s contributions:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

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