Earlier in the week, I looked at the decreasing volume in VIX options in Interest in VIX Waning? Over the course of my analysis, I attributed some of the decline in VIX options to the launch of QID (and SDS) options back in November.
While the QID and SDS are undoubtedly stealing some market share from the VIX for those looking at leveraged hedging opportunities, a much bigger factor has been the meteoric rise in interest in options for XLF, the financial sector SPDR.
As the graphic below demonstrates, XLF options were not actively traded until July 2007. After a surge in interest in mid-summer, volume dropped off until November, at which time implied volatility and options volume both rose dramatically. By means of comparison, back in June 2007, XLF and VIX options traded in roughly equal numbers, but so far in 2008, XLF options volume has been outpacing VIX options volume by about five to one. Additionally, I find it noteworthy that a there has been a sustained increase in XLF options volume since the beginning of November – the same time that VIX options volume peaked and started to decline.
There are several other features of the XLF implied volatility chart that are worth pointing out. One of which is that implied volatility and options volume have moved in almost perfect lockstep over the past six months. Another point of interest is that XLF implied volatility peaked just as the major indices bottomed in January. A break below the current 35 support level might signal a lessening of put activity in the financial sector and perhaps indicate that the January bottoms are a good bet to hold.