Showing posts with label WB. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WB. Show all posts

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Year in Global Volatility (2008)

In November I launched the VIX and More Global Volatility Index, which is a weighted average of the implied volatility in options for equities in the 15 largest global economies. I will have more to say about the Global Volatility Index in 2009, but want to use this occasion to highlight the index as a means of tracking the rise of volatility in response to major volatility events during the course of the past year. In addition to the Global Volatility Index (shown in red), the chart below captures the Dow Jones World Stock Index (blue), as well as the signing of the TARP legislation (black) and the tickers (dark red) for some of the major financial companies that failed and/or were rescued by the U.S. government.

[source: VIX and More]

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recent Volatility in Corporate Bonds

There is a good reason why you rarely hear about high volatility and bonds in the same sentence. It is the same reason why people don’t debate whether the grass is growing faster on Thursday than it was on Wednesday or whether the paint is taking longer to dry than usual. For the most part, bond volatility is nano-volatility.

Until last week, that is.

The graphic below (courtesy of the ISE) shows one year of pricing, implied volatility, and historical volatility for the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD). Looking solely at implied volatility, one would be tempted to conclude that March was relatively uneventful and the real difficulties in the bond market were from early May through early July. The price of the ETF and the historical volatility, however, tell another story. Rarely will you find a chart where historical volatility spiked to such dramatic levels without first seeing a rise in implied volatility that hints at what is coming.

A large part of the reason for the dramatic spike is that in addition to the general freezing of the credit markets, as recently a few months ago half of LQD’s holdings were in the financial sector. One only has to check the list of current holdings to see that LQD continues to own bonds issued by Lehman Brothers and AIG, as well as Wachovia (WB), Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), and other names that have recently come under extreme pressure.

Depending upon your intermediate to long-term view of the U.S. economy, LQD could be an interesting buy and hold investment, if one is interested taking an approach not too different than what is being proposed by Paulson, et al. As always, caveat emptor.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

optionsXpress Trading Patterns and the VIX

One of the trading tools that satisfies my inner investment voyeur is the Trading Patterns feature at optionsXpress. If the “Trading Patterns” name doesn’t ring a bell, you might also know this feature as “People Trading ___ Also Traded…” in the spirit of Amazon’s recommendation technology and predecessor technology that dates back to internet pioneer Firefly Network Inc.

In the past, I have used the Trading Patterns data to see which companies were being most actively traded by those who are seeking high risk speculative momentum plays. I somewhat arbitrarily made BIDU the poster child for these momentum chasers and have twice looked at what those who were playing with BIDU were also trading.

With all the discussion around potential substitutes for the VIX at least as a hedging tool, I thought it might be interesting to get a broader picture of those who trade VIX options. Thanks to Trading Patterns, I have captured just such a snapshot below. Not surprisingly, VIX traders are aggressive risk takers. In aggregate, they appear to be hoarding gold (GLD) and going short with the double inverse ETFs for real estate (SRS) and the NASDAQ-100 index (QID). It’s just a guess about the direction of some holdings, but the other positions appear to fall squarely in the short finance and technology camp: SPY, WB, AAPL, YHOO, and NVDA. The one finding that I see as somewhat surprising is the presence of the ProShares Ultrashort Oil & Gas ETF (DUG). Given the list of trading vehicles, I am concluding that the VIX players see oil and gas as overbought instead of a safe haven like gold. In any event, it is clear that the pessimism of VIX traders continues to be grounded in an expansion of the real estate and financial woes, the expectation that this will drag technology down with it, and the opinion that gold is the most sensible long position at the moment.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

MBI, Bond Insurers, and Volatility

One of the more interesting – and important – subplots to keep an eye on during the current market difficulties is that of the bond insurers. The two most prominent of these bond insurers, MBIA (MBI) and Ambac (ABK), are in the news today with reports that the New York Insurance Superintendent is trying to arrange a capital infusion from the likes of Goldman Sachs (GS), Merrill Lynch (MER), JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C), and Wachovia (WB). Presumably, the Fed is doing some arm twisting and offering some financial incentives behind the scenes, as a failure to resolve the problems with the bond insurers would likely trigger systemic havoc and involve a long and expensive list of dominoes in the process.

Eric Dinallo, the New York Insurance Superintendent, was quoted earlier today as saying that while a rapid resolution is essential, ironing out the details of a bailout may take awhile. “It is important to resolve issues related to the bond insurers as soon as possible,” Dinallo noted, while cautioning “these are complicated issues involving a number of parties and any effective plan will take some time to finalize.”

While most investors should be thinking about the bond insurer issue in terms of its impact on the broader markets, there are some interesting plays on bond issuers themselves. As reported in 24/7 Wall Street, Goldman Sachs laid out some potential valuations under three different scenarios, ranging from the bond insurers’ being unable to raise enough capital to mollify the rating agencies to a situation where the capital raised enables the bond insurers to continue to operate as they had in a pre-crisis mode. Looking just at MBI, the valuation spread ranges from $6 to $48.

Investments don’t get much more speculative than this, as the chart from optionsXpress above shows. For the record, all February puts now carry an implied volatility of more than 200. While I am not going to recommend a specific trade here, there are some fascinating options spreads and ratio spreads to look at for those who believe that the Goldman scenarios and numbers are in the ballpark.

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