Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gustav and the Oil Volatility Index (OVX)

Since first becoming a tropical depression on the morning of August 25th, Gustav became a tropical storm, then a hurricane, and is now back to being a tropical storm – at least for the time being. Most models have Gustav reaching hurricane strength again later today, perhaps as soon as the next National Hurricane Center (NHC) update, which is only a half hour away.

If anyone is interested in watching a movie of the evolution of Gustav and the evolution of the five day forecast cone, I can highly recommend the Gustav graphics archive at the NHC web site.
At least as interesting as the changing fortunes of Gustav and predictions for Gustav’s future has been the market’s reaction to crude oil and natural gas prices. In the graph below, courtesy of, I have captured the change in crude oil prices (via the USO crude oil ETF) as well as the change in the new ‘Oil VIX’ (OVX) that was recently launched by the CBOE. Note how volatility (the candlesticks) has generally followed the underlying up and down, though it has remained elevated as oil prices (the gray area chart) trended down this morning.

Those who are looking at options plays on oil and gas are likely to see long positions facing an uphill battle against time decay in the current highly speculative environment. As a result, spreads and short volatility plays should look more attractive as alternatives.


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