Friday, January 16, 2009

VIX January Options as Short-Term Portfolio Protection

I know that very few retail traders actively trade VIX options, but for those who usually do not consider this product, I want to highlight the fact that because the VIX expiration calendar is different from the standard third Friday of the month equity and index expiration calendar, this weekend might be an appropriate time to think about VIX options as a short-term portfolio protection play.

Anyone who has portfolio insurance in the form of options expiring tomorrow is likely concerned about what will happen over the long weekend, particularly with rumors about the possibility of Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) being nationalized. One solution, of course, is to roll those January options into February and beyond. If, however, you do not necessarily want to buy portfolio protection for a full month, then you can get it through Wednesday morning with the January VIX options. The last trading date for January VIX options is Tuesday, January 20th, with the options settled at the open on Wednesday morning.

Equity futures have been trending up over night, but substantial short-term risks remain, with all the uncertainty over the financials, compounded by a three day weekend, followed by the inauguration of Barack Obama coming up on Tuesday. I am not going so far as to recommend the purchase of VIX calls, but I do want to make sure that investors with a short-term horizon are aware of the VIX options expiration calendar anomaly.

[graphic: Options Industry Council]



Thanks for the info. I didn't realize this, but it's definitely good to know. But why do VIX,VXN,and RVX have different expiration dates anyway?

Unknown said...


I have become a recent reader of your blog and was interested in the VIX/VXV ratio you have discussed. I am a Bloomberg user and have been having a hard time finding the ticker for the VXV. Maybe we don't have the feed for it but is that the Blomberg ticker?

Bill Luby said...

Hi Jeff,

These volatility indices measure volatility over a 30 day time horizon.

Think about the timing for the options in the underlying (i.e. SPX.) These options are exactly 30 days from expiration once each month. SPX options expire on February 20th...therefore VIX January options are set to expire exactly 30 days prior to that, four weeks and two days earlier. This means that VIX options will always expire on Wednesdays (except for some very unusual holiday situations), 30 days prior to the options for the next month in the underlying.


I don't have a Bloomberg terminal, but perhaps someone else out there can help.

For the record, the VXV is not widely available at this stage.



Anonymous said...


I posted a link to today's post on Elite Trader.

Your 'suggestion' is not for everyone, but as you stated, it may be worthwhile for some.


Bill Luby said...

Thanks, Mark. It has been awhile since I checked in at Elite Trader. Maybe I should try to make the rounds periodically.



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