Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Correction As Seen in the ETP Landscape

Since stocks bottomed in March 2009, I have periodically been publishing an SPX pullback table and occasionally a plot of all those pullbacks and their duration. The recent selloff in stocks, however, has been anything but an SPX pullback. I toyed with the idea of presenting comparable data for the NASDAQ Composite or NASDAQ-100 Index (NDX), but here again, the selling has been disproportionate in some areas of the NASDAQ universe, even though it has been hit harder than the SPX.

This time around I have opted instead for a chart that shows the peak-to-trough drawdown across the equity ETP universe, focusing on sector groups that I believe are among the most important to watch.

ETPLandscape2014DDs041514_zpsd48e4da4[1]

[source(s): Yahoo, VIX and More]

The data above cover only 2014 and indicate the maximum drawdown since the 2014 peak. While many of these maximum drawdowns are from earlier today, there are quite a few instances in which the maximum drawdown was established earlier in the year.

Note that while the NASDAQ gets most of the attention, it is the small caps (IWM) that have suffered the most among the major market index ETPs.

Not surprisingly, biotechnology (IBB), social media (SOCL) and Russia (RSX) have seen the largest declines, but among cyclicals, defensive stocks and European country ETPs, there is very little to choose from.

Finally, just for fun I have added four alternative ETPs with an equity flavor (SPLV, PBP, CWB and PFF) to show how low volatility, covered call, convertible bond and preferred stock ETPs have fared.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Sunday, March 30, 2014

CBOE RMC 2014: A Retrospective

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the CBOE Risk Management Conference (RMC) in Bonita Springs, Florida. Now that the conference is over and the CBOE has posted most of the presentations, I thought I would take a little time and offer a retrospective look at some of the content that caught my attention.

Before I do that, I am compelled to tip my cap to Russell Rhoads, whose indefatigable and prolific efforts were responsible for capturing many of the details of the conference. Russell’s posts and those of Matt Moran made it possible for anyone to have a virtual front-row seat throughout the proceedings. Their efforts in conjunction with the RMC are archived at the CBOE Options Hub with the CBOERMC tag.

From my vantage point, I thought it particularly interesting that the two keynote speakers, Martin Zonis and Carl Tannenbaum, had such divergent views about the potential risks and rewards in the U.S. financial markets in the coming years. Zonis placed most of his attention on political risk and foreign policy matters and declared that the markets were “underestimating volatility in future years.” While Tannenbaum expressed concern about banks in Europe as well as credit and real estate in China, he had a much more sanguine view of the future of the U.S. economy and financial markets.

Among the other presentations, I was particularly interested to hear Maneesh Deshpande provide an overview of the players and strategies used in volatility products during the course of the evolution of the VIX product platform. Deshpande described the VIX futures as a mature market, with liquidity and supply having shifted from commercial to con-commercial traders. He also indicated that demand for VIX puts has stagnated, while new entrants are increasing the demand for VIX calls. All of this has influenced how the VIX spikes and mean reverts, as well as how the VIX futures term structure has evolved.

Another particularly interesting session involved Ed Tom and John-Mark Piampiano, who tackled the subject of the volatility of volatility, invoking the likes of VVIX as well as the third and fourth derivatives of SPX implied volatility. At every conference at least one session gives you things to mull over long after the speakers are done and for me, this was the session that hit the high notes. Ed Tom’s presentation has not yet been posted, but he started his talk by decomposing VIX risk premium into realized volatility plus skew plus kurtosis and went on from there.

Sheldon Natenberg and Trevor Mottl were tasked with the subject of evaluating the volatility surface: skew and term structure. Not surprisingly, they were up to the task, with Mottl focusing on the role of money and credit in shaping the volatility surface. He indicated that the increasing size of the Fed’s balance sheet has depressed volatility across the board over the course of the past few years and expects that as the Fed’s balance sheet normalizes, the change in non-financial debt will become the most important influence on equity market volatility going forward. Mottl attributed the steepness of the VIX futures term structure to the uncertainty related to the Fed’s ability to be successful with its quantitative easing program. He also traced fluctuations in the skew of volatility to expectations related to the Fed’s tapering plans.

Among the other presentations I sat in on were:

  • a panel on volatility as an asset class (the consensus that volatility is more of a tool and in order to be thought of as an asset class needs to harvestable, allocatable and easier to benchmark; a separate thread was critical of the costs associated with traditional approaches to tail hedges)
  • a discussion of trading volatility across asset classes (included an interesting set of metrics and trade ideas)
  • a wide-ranging session on the design and trading of VIX and other volatility derivatives, which had a detailed explanation of the VIX settlement process as well as a discussion of VXST, which is expected to gain much more momentum when options on the index become available on April 10

Finally, I had an opportunity to sit down with Angela Miles of CBOE TV to offer my thoughts on the second day of RMC:

 

For those who may be interested, the 3rd Annual CBOE RMC will be held September 3-5, just south of Dublin, Ireland.  Since all of my ancestors trace their roots back to Ireland, I can’t imagine a better place to hear about the latest thinking in volatility and ponder the miracle of Guinness draught at the same time.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Turnaround in Emerging Markets and VXEEM

While I have a long way to go before I become the next Manny Mota, yesterday I was delighted to be able to pinch hit for Steve Sears of Barron’s for the twelfth time, when I penned Emerging Market Stocks: Have They Hit Bottom? as a guest columnist for The Striking Price.

In the Barron’s article I talk about how rapidly increasing uncertainty and risk in emerging markets during January was largely responsible for the 31.7% VIX spike on January 24, but was nowhere near the levels of June 2013, at least as measured by the CBOE Emerging Markets Volatility Index (VXEEM).

I also used the VXEEM:VIX ratio and some other data to support the idea that emerging markets have likely bottomed and are poised for a bounce. I concluded the Barron’s column with a couple of options trade ideas to take advantage of a reversal in emerging markets.

When I wrote the article, on Tuesday, my position on emerging markets was very much a case of going out on limb. By Friday’s publication date, which includes Tuesday’s option pricing data, emerging markets had already experienced a significant bounce and my emerging markets thesis no doubt sounded much less provocative than it would have three days earlier.

EEM SPY EFA 032814

[source(s): StockCharts.com]

In any event, I strongly believe that emerging markets (EEM) and VXEEM bear close watching going forward, as the Fed moves toward a new policy direction, emerging markets grapple with rising interest rates in the U.S. and the global economic growth story has many critical ripple effects across the full emerging markets landscape.

Related posts:

A full list of my Barron’s contributions:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

CBOE Risk Management Conference Update

Today was the first full day of the CBOE Risk Management Conference and between the presentations, sidebar conversations and opportunities to meet and greet, I have to say that things hit full stride very quickly.

Today CBOE CEO Ed Tilly announced that the CBOE will roll out nearly 24 hours of trading, five days per week in VIX futures beginning on Sunday, June 22. This announcement follows another important announcement last week that options on VXST (the CBOE Short-Term Volatility Index) will commence on April 10. Clearly, things continue to move forward on the volatility product front and at the end of the year, I suspect we will lock back on these two developments as critical milestones in the volatility space.

Today I had the opportunity to listen to Marvin Zonis give a keynote address on “New Insights into Geopolitical Risk: Examining Geopolitical Risk Hot Spots and the Implications for Trading Strategies and Risk Management.” For anyone wondering about what it might take to drive the VIX higher over the course of the next few years, Zonis had a laundry list of grave concerns (Ukraine, Japan/China, Korean Peninsula, Pakistan, Iran/Israel/nuclear weapons, Egypt/Syria/Turkey, China, political stagnation, etc.) and summarized the situation by saying, “We are in the age of major, major political risk.”

Another featured speaker was Maneesh Deshpande, who talked extensively about the evolution of the demand for volatility products as well as the evolution of the supply for volatility products. Maneesh had a number of interesting observations about new players and new strategies in the volatility space. He also expressed concern about the crowded VIX short trade and the potential for the next crisis that does not mean-revert quickly to lead to a sharp second VIX spike as shorts scramble to cover their positions.

Also of interest was a two-part presentation with Dominic Salvino discussing VXST and other volatility index products (he expects interest in VXST futures will pick up dramatically after the options are launched in less than a month) as well as a detailed description of the VIX settlement process (VIX SOQ) by Bill Speth of the CBOE

Other sessions I attended today included:

  • a panel on volatility as an asset class that produced considerable debate on the proper answer to that question as well as a good deal of criticism of tail risk strategies
  • two speakers on trading volatility across asset classes that shared details on the methodology they use to generate trade ideas as well as quite a few cross-asset class pairs trades

Last but not least, I had the opportunity to meet quite a few people who have been regular readers of VIX and More over the years, many of whom nudged me to ramp up my posting frequency – which I certainly intend to do in 2014, starting this week.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Friday, March 14, 2014

VIX March Futures and Options Expiration on Tuesday, Not Wednesday

Just a quick reminder for those who may not be aware of it that the VIX futures and options expiration for March falls on next Tuesday, March 18th, not the typical Wednesday. This means that the VIX special opening quotation (SOQ) used to determine the March settlement price will be at the open on Tuesday and also the last trading day for the VIX March futures and options will be on Monday. With the speed at which things are developing in Ukraine and elsewhere, these 24 hours could turn out to be significant.

For those who are interested in a link to the VIX options expiration calendar, the CBOE maintains a 2014 options expiration calendar here, with the VIX expiration highlighted in a solid dark orange box. Note that I have a link to the CBOE options expiration calendar on the blog at the bottom of my VIX, Sentiment & Options section.

To review how the VIX expiration dates are determined, the VIX futures and options expire 30 days before the SPX monthly options expiration in the following month. These SPX options expirations are almost always on a Friday, therefore the VIX expiration is almost always on the Wednesday four weeks and two days prior to the SPX expiration. The complication factor for the VIX March 2014 expiration cycle is that on Friday, April 18, the CBOE is closed due to the Good Friday holiday, which pushes up the April SPX expiration to Thursday, April 17, with the result that the VIX March expiration is pushed up one day as well.

Last but not least, the VIX SOQ probably deserves a separate post in order to explain some of its unique characteristics, but it is worth noting that the VIX SOQ is not the price at which the VIX opens, but rather another separate calculation that takes place at the open.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CBOE Risk Management Conference, the VIX and Volatility Summit, Begins in One Week

The CBOE calls it the CBOE Risk Management Conference and I like to think of it as “The VIX Summit,” but by any name I am convinced that the 30th annual CBOE RMC (yes, it is even nine years older than the VIX) is the top conference of the year for anyone with an interest in the VIX, volatility and more broadly in the subject of risk management.

Kicking off one week from today, on March 17th in Bonita Springs, Florida, the CBOE RMC is the best place I can think of to interact with the top thinkers and practitioners in the volatility space. The speakers and the agenda are both top notch and as always, an abundance of fascinating ideas and information will flow freely outside of the formal presentations. Some of the sessions that sound particularly interesting to my ear include:

  • The Shifting Landscape of Volatility Products: Who is Doing What and Why, and What Should You Do About It?
  • Panel on Volatility as an Asset Class: What Options- and Volatility-Related Strategies are Institutional Investors Employing and Why?
  • Trading Volatility Across Asset Classes
  • Volatility of Volatility
  • The Volatility Surface:  Skew and Term-Structure
  • Listed Derivative Product Design and Trading

I encourage anyone with an interest in volatility to attend as this is an excellent place to find ideas to ruminate on and to master the art of volatility cross-pollination. After all, it is still a relatively small (but growing) group of aficionados that live and breathe volatility. Where else, for instance, can you find a bunch of like-minded souls who are already plotting how to implement VXST options strategies when these products have not even been launched?

Speaking of like-minded souls, if you have a moment, I encourage you to flag me down and say hello.

For those who are unable to attend, I will do my best to pass along some of the highlights from the conference.

Finally, for those who might be interested in a similar event on European soil, planning for the 3rd Annual CBOE RME-Europe is ongoing and at this juncture the odds favor a location that will appeal to those who are fans of links golf courses.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More; VIX and More is a sponsor of the CBOE Risk Management Conference

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Very Middling Pullback, So Far

Nary a selloff goes by these days without at least a handful of readers asking for an update of the SPX pullback table I have used to chronicle the pullbacks in the S&P 500 index since stocks bottomed in March 2009.

The table below captures the 24 most significant peak-to-trough declines from new highs during the course of what is now an almost five-year bull move:

[source(s): Yahoo, VIX and More]

Note that the current peak-to-trough decline of 6.0% puts the pullback in the middle (#11 of 24) of those pullbacks in terms of magnitude, though it is slightly lower than the 6.9% average (mean) pullback during the period, due to large selloffs in 2010 and 2011 that skew the average well above the median.

While the recent decline seems sharp, it actually progressed in two stages: a sideways to slightly down move for the latter half of January; and a sharper decline at the end of January and the beginning of February. If one were to plot the magnitude of the current pullback against the duration of the peak-to-trough move, it would like exactly on the trend line which can be found on the plot in All About the Pullback from 1687. In other words, the current pullback, should it stop at SPX 1739, is very middling in almost all respects.

That being said, a mean pullback of 6.9% would take the SPX down to 1723 and a pullback matching the 21.6% decline from 2011 would take the SPX all the way back to 1451 – a level not seen since early January 2013.

Right now the SPX is at 1757 and has about a 1% buffer over yesterday’s low. While emerging markets are bouncing back nicely today, anything can happen following the release of Friday’s nonfarm payroll data.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Friday, January 31, 2014

VXX and VXZ Now Five Years Old!

In the midst of all the emerging markets turmoil, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the fifth birthday of the two pioneering VIX ETPs : VXX and VXZ. Launched five weeks before stocks hit their 2008-09 financial crisis bottom, both VXX and VXZ have struggled against a tide of falling volatility over the course of the past five years and have also been battered by persistent contango in the VIX futures, which has created additional head winds in the form of negative roll yield.

The table below captures the grim history of these two products, looking at product lifecycle years from January 30th to January 30th:

[source(s): CBOE, Yahoo, VIX and More]

Note that even though each of the five years have been losing years for both products, there have been periods in which these products have been extremely strong performers. One of these periods was from July to October 2011 when VXX nearly tripled (maximum gain of 198%) and VXZ rallied some 66%. I mention this because both have performed well in January, with VXX up 13.0% as I type this and VXZ with gains of 2.2% for the year.

While I am not going out on a limb and predicting a renaissance for these two VIX ETPs, they are two of the most important and liquid VIX ETPs on the market and can be attractive hedges or speculative trades when the markets go through a period of selling and/or there are concerns about a potential crisis.

I have been writing about these even before they were launched and will continue to offer my thoughts on them going forward.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): short VIX and VXX at time of writing

[source(s): CBOE, Yahoo, VIX and More]

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Performance of VIX ETPs in 2013

A number of readers have asked me to recap the performance of the VIX ETPs in 2013 according to the leverage/maturity grid I have been publishing for several years.

The graphic below should look familiar to long-term readers and measures the performance of all VIX and volatility ETPs for 2013, including dividends. (Two exceptions are TRSK and SPXH, which have data going back to June 24, 2013 and as such, the closing price on that date is treated as the opening price for 2013.)  This time around I am going to refrain from most editorial comments, yet point out that the data bears a very strong resemblance to what I presented in VIX ETP Performance in 2012.  It is also worth noting that just because there were similar numbers in 2012 and 2013, one should not expect these patterns to repeat on a regular basis. In Performance of VIX ETPs During the Recent Debt Ceiling Crisis, for instance, I present a very different set of data that students of volatility should also pay close attention to.

[source(s): CBOE, Yahoo, VIX and More]

For a more detailed discussion of the performance drivers of various VIX ETPs and for additional performance data and commentary, the links below should provide an excellent jumping off point.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

The Year in VIX and Volatility (2013)

This is the sixth year in a row I have offered a retrospective look at the year in VIX and Volatility, which is my attempt to cram the highlights of the year in volatility onto one graphic with a manageable amount of annotations.

In terms of equity volatility and specifically the VIX, 2013 was the story of a persistent bull market in stocks and very little in the way of implied or realized volatility, at least by historical standards. In fact, the VIX’s high water mark of 21.91 was the second lowest annual high point since 1995, eclipsed only by the Greenspan liquidity flood in 2005. Similarly, the average VIX in 2013 was just 14.23, considerably lower than the long-term average, which is a shade over 20. The year only saw two days in which the SPX was up 2% or more and another two days in which the SPX was down at least 2%, the fewest number of such days since 2006.

Even though the numbers may not be impressive, there were still some significant events during the course of the year that were able to provoke substantial anxiety and fear, at least for the short-term. The year began with the Fiscal Cliff drama coming to an end and saw fear in the euro zone heat up after the Italian elections ended with a parliamentary deadlock and Cypriot banks triggered a joint EU/IMF bailout of Cyprus. The Boston Marathon bombings provided a jolt of terrorist fear in April and fears about Japan the future of Abenomics created huge volatility in the yen, with ripple effects felt across currency markets and in many related financial markets during May and June.

In the U.S., the Fed tapering scenarios dominated the investment landscape during the second half of the year and the debt ceiling crisis, government shutdown and entrenched bipartisan bickering cast many doubts about the potential for some huge self-inflicted wounds.

In the end, the SPX set 44 new all-time closing highs in 2013 and the VIX ended the year almost 24% below where it finished in 2012, though the Fiscal Cliff was responsible for most of that gap.

[source(s): StockCharts.com. VIX and More]

So far 2014 looks more interesting from a volatility perspective, but the year is young and the volatility story is always one of surprises in the form of swans with dark gray plumage.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Top Posts of 2013

Every year I tabulate the most-read posts in this space as a way to monitor the issues that are resonating with readers and also to see how these issues evolve over time. These most-read posts also serve as easily accessible repositories of high-quality material for the benefit of new readers and long-term readers alike.

The top themes from 2013 echo some top themes that resonated with readers from previous years, including continued interest in VIX spikes and SPX pullbacks, as well as the VIX ETPs, low volatility ETPs, the Fed, interest rates and various global flash points, such as emerging markets.

The posts below represent those that have been read by the highest number of unique readers during 2013. Farther down there are links to similar lists going back to 2008, along with several other “best of” type posts that I have flagged for archival purposes.

For the record, each year I also attach the hall of fame label to a handful of posts that I believe have particularly compelling and/or original content, regardless of readership. I find it interesting that ten posts from 2013 made it into the hall of fame – a record for any single year. Part of the reason for this is that while my total number of posts for 2013 was low, I favored quality and more in-depth analysis than pithy commentary, most of which I have migrated to my Twitter handle feed, @VIXandMore

The most-read posts on VIX and More in 2013 were:

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Was the VIX Too Low in 2013? No…

There was a time when investors would generally fret about the VIX being “too high” and the resulting possibility that there was some sort of unseen threat to the financial markets that was not showing up on their radar. In the last few years, the situation has reversed and now I find investors expressing more concern about a low VIX more often than a high VIX. Yes, there are some (many, actually) who start to get anxious and fearful when the markets are not reflecting as much anxiety and fear as they think they should. For those who still think about the battle scars from 2008, this phenomenon seems to be a recurring issue.  (See my posts on disaster imprinting for more information on this.)

So…was the VIX too low in 2013? In order to answer this question, I am updating a chart I last presented in October 2012 in Ratio of VIX to Realized Volatility Higher than Any Year Since 1996.

As the chart shows, both the (mean) VIX and 10-day historical volatility (HV) of the S&P 500 index were are relatively low levels during 2013. More importantly, the VIX maintained an average premium of 34% to the 10-day HV of the SPX during the year, which is right in line with historical norms going back to 1990 of a premium of about 35%.

[source(s): CBOE, Yahoo]

While I have used data provided by the CBOE going back to 1990 in calculating historical norms, I think it is worth noting that from 1990-1996, the VIX typically had a much higher premium relative to historical volatility in the SPX than it has in more recent years, so whereas the long-term VIX premium to HV stands at about 35%, the post-1996 average premium is closer to 26%. As a result, if you really need to drive home the point that the VIX was “too low” in 2013, you can always trot out the post-1996 data, but otherwise consider the VIX to be just about exactly where it should have been – at least in relation to historical volatility – during the past year.

Last but not least, the chart also illustrates that while the VIX and SPX HV do have a tendency to trend over the course of several years, the ratio of the two has a much more random movement and is therefore much more difficult to predict for 2014.

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

VIX Futures Term Structure in 2013 Looks a Lot Like 2012

This was a very quiet year for the VIX, with the volatility index posting its second narrowest range for the year since 1995, trailing only 2005, when the Greenspan liquidity flood overwhelmed even the mere thought of a meaningful correction.

The graphic below shows the average (mean) normalized term structure for each year since the VIX futures were launched, back in 2004. In normalizing the data, I have set the average front month VIX futures contract to 100 and have expressed the averages of the second through seven months as multiples of the front month.

[source(s): CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE)]

Note that although the VIX futures were launched in 2004, consecutive VIX futures contracts for the first six months were not available until October 2006, hence the dotted lines for these years to reflect the erratic nature of the data. Interestingly, the lower VIX years of 2005 and 2006 did not produce the steep term structure that we saw in 2012 and saw again in 2013. Last year I described the 2012 VIX futures term structure as a statistical outlier, but now that 2013 data is in the books, it may be more appropriate to think about how the markets might have changed in the last two years, with potential causes that range from the VIX ETPs, more interest in trading volatility products, the rise of weekly options and other developments.

In the next few days I will devote a series of posts to analyzing some VIX, volatility and related data for 2013, then as 2014 unfolds I will offer some thoughts on how some of these markets are changing and evolving.

At the very least, I expect to ramp up my posting substantially in 2014, now that I have my investment management business up and running and find it easier to wear multiple hats at the same time.

Happy New Year!

Related posts:

Disclosure(s): none

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Evolution of the Holiday Effect in VIX Futures

[The following originally appeared in the November 2012 edition of Expiring Monthly: The Option Traders Journal. I thought the contents might be timely in light of the upcoming holiday season.]

With fewer trading days and a historical record that favors an uptick in stocks and a downtick in volatility, the end of the year never fails to present an intriguing set of trading opportunities.

One phenomenon related to the above is something I have labeled the “holiday effect,” which is the tendency of the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) December futures to trade at a discount to the midpoint of the VIX November and January futures.

This article provides some historical analysis of the holiday effect and analyzes how the holiday effect has been manifest and evolved over the course of the past few years.

Background and Context on the Holiday Effect on the VIX Index

Part of the explanation for the holiday effect is embedded in the historical record. For instance, in eight of the last twenty years, the VIX index has made its annual low during the month of December. In fact, the VIX has demonstrated a marked tendency to decline steadily for the first 17 trading days of the month, as shown below in Figure 1, which uses normalized VIX December data to compare all VIX values for each trading day dating back to 1990. Not surprisingly, those 17 trading days neatly coincide with the typical number of December trading days in advance of the Christmas holiday.

{Figure 1: The Composite December VIX Index, 1990-2011 (source: CBOE Futures Exchange, VIX and More)}

Readers should also note that, on average, the steepest decline in the VIX usually occurs from the middle of the month right up to the Christmas holiday.

The December VIX Futures Angle

Most VIX traders are aware of the tendency of implied volatility in general and the VIX in particular to decline in December. As a result, since the launch of VIX futures in 2004, there has usually been a noticeable dip in the VIX futures term structure curve for the month of December. Figure 2 below is a snapshot of the VIX futures curve from September 12, 2012. Here I have added a dotted black line to show what a linear interpolation of the December VIX futures would look like, with the green line showing the 0.50 point differential between the actual December VIX futures settlement value of 20.40 on that date and the 20.90 interpolated value, which is derived from the November and January VIX futures contracts. (Apart from the distortions present in the December VIX futures, a linear interpolation utilizing the first and third month VIX futures normally provides an excellent estimate of the value of the second month VIX futures.)

{Figure 2: VIX Futures Curve from September 12, 2012 Showing Holiday Effect (source: CBOE Futures Exchange, VIX and More)}

Looking at the full record of historical data, the mean holiday effect for all days in which the November, December and January futures traded is 1.87%, which means that the December VIX futures have been, on average, 1.87% lower than the value predicted by a linear interpolation of the November and January VIX futures. Further analysis reveals that on 91% of all trading days, the December VIX futures are lower than their November-January interpolated value. The holiday effect, therefore, is persistent and substantial.

The History of the Holiday Effect in the December VIX Futures

Determining whether the holiday effect is statistically significant is a more daunting task, as there are only six holiday seasons from which one can derive meaningful VIX futures data. Figure 3 shows the monthly average VIX December futures (solid blue line) as well as the midpoint of the November and the January VIX futures (dotted red line) for each month since the VIX futures consecutive contracts were launched in October 2006. Here the green bars represent the magnitude of the holiday effect expressed in percentage terms, with the sign inverted (i.e., a +2% holiday effect means that the VIX December futures would be 2% below the interpolated value derived from November and January futures.)

{Figure 3: VIX December Futures Holiday Effect, 2006-2012 (source: CBOE Futures Exchange, VIX and More)}

Conclusions

With limited data from which to draw conclusions, it is tempting to eyeball the data and look for emerging patterns which may repeat in the future. Clearly one pattern is that an elevated or rising VIX appears to coincide with a larger magnitude holiday effect, whereas a depressed or falling VIX is consistent with a smaller holiday effect. The data is much less compelling when one tries to determine whether the time remaining until the holiday season has an influence on the magnitude of the holiday effect. While one might expect the holiday effect to become magnified later in the season, the evidence to support this hypothesis is scant at this stage.

To sum up, investors have readily accepted that a lower VIX is warranted for December and the downward blip in December for the VIX futures term structure reflects this thinking. As far as whether this seasonal anomaly is tradable, there is still a limited amount of data – not to mention some highly unusual volatility years – from which to develop and back test a robust VIX futures strategy designed to capture the holiday effect.

In terms of trading the holiday effect for the remainder of the year, the coming holiday season is also complicated by matters such as the fiscal cliff deadline and various euro zone milestones that are set for early 2013. In fact, there may not be a reasonable equivalent since the Y2K fears in late 1999 that turned out to be a volatility non-event when the calendar flipped to 2000.

While the opportunities to capitalize on the 2012 holiday effect may be difficult to pinpoint and fleeting, all investors should be attuned to seasonal volatility cycles as 2013 unfolds and volatility expectations ebb and flow with the news cycle as well as the calendar.

Related posts:

Other articles republished from Expiring Monthly:

Disclosure(s): none

DISCLAIMER: "VIX®" is a trademark of Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated. Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated is not affiliated with this website or this website's owner's or operators. CBOE assumes no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness or any other aspect of any content posted on this website by its operator or any third party. All content on this site is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as advice to buy or sell any securities. Stocks are difficult to trade; options are even harder. When it comes to VIX derivatives, don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because you can ride a horse, you can ride an alligator. Please do your own homework and accept full responsibility for any investment decisions you make. No content on this site can be used for commercial purposes without the prior written permission of the author. Copyright © 2007-2013 Bill Luby. All rights reserved.
 
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