A number of theories have been kicked around recently to explain why the VIX is at historical lows.
Justin Lahart re-ignited this debate with his comments in the WSJ yesterday in which he offered the explanation that:
“The VIX and other measures of implied volatility are low, in part, because investors are selling put and call options — ’selling volatility’ in Wall Street parlance. That helps to drive option prices — and implied volatility — even lower.”
Bernie Schaeffer takes issue with Lahart’s analysis this morning in www.SchaeffersResearch.com, arguing against both the low VIX theory and the likelihood that selling volatility is the cause. Schaeffer cites the recent extremely tight trading range of the OEX as proof that the VIX can go much lower. He also maintains that a large majority of the option activity in question has been initiated by buyers, not sellers.
Striking a similar note, Adam at the Daily Options Report draws comparisons between the current VIX and the range-bound VIX of the early to mid-1990, suggesting that the 10-15 range may be the natural long-term range of the VIX.
As mentioned previously in this space, Jason Goepfert of www.sentimentrader.com has attempted to reconstruct the VIX going back all the way to 1900 and believes that the current VIX readings are not particularly low by the historical standards of the past century.
Finally, in my first entry in this blog, I proposed that the VIX had moved in four macro cycles in the 14 years since it first appeared, with a typical length of 3-5 years per cycle. According to my analysis, the current cycle of decreasing volatility began in April 2002, so the five years will be up in another two months or so.
I have no prediction for what will happen to volatility two months from now and beyond, but I will do my best to use this blog to present the various theories of why the VIX is low and refine my own thinking as I go along. In the meantime, I will continue to fade any large spikes and continue to work the bear call spread angle.