Record Days for VIX Futures and Options Volume and Open Interest This Month

Despite the fact that the average daily closing value of the CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX®) is about 11.5 so far this year, VIX futures and options both had record days for volume and for open interest this month.

OPEN INTEREST RECORDS. VIX futures hit a new record for open interest with more than 673,000 contracts on August 7, and VIX options reached a new record for open interest with 14,783,380 contracts open on August 15. 

VOLUME RECORDS. August 10 was an all-time record volume day for both VIX futures (volume of 942,109 contacts) and for VIX options (volume of 2,538,121 contracts). 

 IS THE VIX INDEX “TOO LOW”? SPX HISTORIC VOLATILITY HAS BEEN EVEN LOWER; THERE STILL IS A VOLATILITY RISK PREMIUM

This year many financial professionals have raised the issue as to whether the VIX level appears to be “low” compared to the levels of worldwide financial insecurity.  At the 70th CFA Institute Annual Conference in May 2017, Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago opined that the “low” level of the VIX Index was one of the biggest financial mysteries of our time. As shown in the chart below, in 2017 the averages of the daily levels were 11.5 for the VIX Index and only 7.1 for the 30-trading-day historic volatility of the S&P 500 Index. Compared to the SPX historic volatility, the VIX Index has not necessarily been “low” this year.

The fact that the VIX Index has been higher than SPX historic and realized volatility means that there has been a volatility risk premium. Some professional money managers who consistently sell index options like to see the volatility risk premium. Benchmark indexes that take advantage of the volatility risk premium (such as the CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Index (PUT) and the CBOE S&P 500 30-Delta BuyWrite Index (BXMD)) generated relatively strong risk-adjusted returns over three decades, according to a research paper by Wilshire – Three Decades of Options-Based Benchmark Indices with Premium Selling or Buying: A Performance Analysis (2016).

HIGH DEMAND FOR DISASTER PROTECTION – CBOE SKEW INDEX AND VOLATILITY SKEW CHART

Demand for disaster protection using index options has been high this year. Note in the volatility skew chart below that the implied volatility was highest for the out-of-the-money VIX calls (at 120% moneyness) and the out-of-the money SPX puts (at 80% moneyness)

On August 18 I posted a blog on the CBOE SKEW Index that noted “The long-term daily average for the SKEW Index (since January 1990) is 118.8, but the daily average for the SKEW Index in 2017 (through August 17) is a much higher 134.5. …”

An August 24 story in the Financial Times noted that –

“Investors seek more protection against risk of a Wall St plunge A gauge that tracks hedging against a fall in US stocks is near a record level …       The CBOE SKEW index, which is meant to reflect concern about “tail risk”, or events roiling the markets, rose to 148.62 last week, its third highest reading … “

MORE INFORMATION ON VIX FUTURES AND OPTIONS

To learn more about ways in which the powerful VIX futures and options can be used for portfolio management, please visit www.cboe.com/VIX.

 

 

New Single-day Volume Records for VIX Futures and VIX Options, as the VIX Index Rises 44.4%

An August 10 press release by CBOE Holdings stated that —

“ … trading volume in options and futures on the CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX®) each reached new all-time highs on Thursday, August 10. In VIX options at CBOE, a reported 2,562,477 contracts traded on Thursday, surpassing the previous single-day record of 2,382,752 contracts on February 3, 2014. Year-to-date through the end of July, average daily volume in VIX options was 687,181 contracts, 11 percent ahead of the same period a year ago. In VIX futures at CBOE Futures Exchange (CFE), a reported 939,297 contracts traded on Thursday, surpassing the previous single-day record of 791,788 contracts on October 15, 2014. Of the 10 busiest trading days of all-time for VIX futures, four have occurred in 2017. Year-to-date through the end of July, average daily volume in VIX futures was 283,342 contracts, 20 percent ahead of the same period a year ago.”

A story posted at nytimes.com noted that —

“… After a record-breaking run of buoyant market behavior, investors appeared unnerved on Thursday by a series of provocative remarks by President Trump and increasing tensions with North Korea. …”

BIGGEST ONE-DAY MOVES FOR VIX INDEX

On August 10 the VIX Index jumped 44.4% to close at 16.04. The move was the ninth-biggest one-day move (in percentage terms) for the VIX Index. Note that in the table below with ten dates that the S&P 500 Index fell farther than the CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Index (PUT) on all ten dates, and that option-writing strategies often are designed to provide a cushion in the event of a downward move in the stock index.

 

 

OTHER VOLATILITY INDEXES ALSO ROSE ON AUGUST 10

As shown in the next table, several other volatility indexes also rose on August 10, including the CBOE Equity VIX on Apple (VXAPL) (up 22.4%) and the CBOE VIX of VIX Index (VVIX) (up 26.7%).

RECORD OPEN INTEREST FOR VIX FUTURES

In addition to this month’s single-day volume records, the VIX futures set another new record with more than 675,000 open interest. VIX futures open interest has more than doubled since January 2016. I find it interesting to examine the table below with its comparison of VIX futures open interest and VIX Index values. While some observers assume that high volatility levels are  associated with high volume and open interest figures, in the chart it appears that at times VIX futures open interest increased when the VIX Index was well below its long-term average levels.

 

VIX FUTURES PRICES

While there is much press coverage of movements of the spot VIX Index, the index is not investable. Investors who are interested in VIX-related investable instruments can explore the pricing of VIX futures. The table below shows that the last prices for VIX futures with 14 different expiration dates ranged from 14.75 to 17.45 at around 7:05 p.m. Chicago time on August 10.

MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about how VIX futures and VIX options can help in the management of portfolios, please visit www.cboe.com/VIX.

 

 

Weekend Review of Volatility Indexes and ETPs – 7/30/2017

On a week over week basis the S&P 500 was down fractionally.  One would not assume such a small move from SPX when looking at the VXST – VIX – VXV – VXMT curve below.  VXST and VIX made nice moves to the upside while the longer end of the curve moved up a bit less resulting in a slight flattening of the curve.

VXST VIX VXV VXMT Curve 7282017
The long funds that focus on the first and second month futures were up slightly while the short funds were down slightly.  SKEW and VVIX both moved up nicely last week which should be encouraging for volatility bulls or equity market bears.

VXX Table 07282017

The three funds that represent long (VXX), daily double long (UVXY), and daily short (SVXY) have had very divergent performance this year and last week didn’t really change much on the year to day performance below.  SVXY did manage to top up 100% early in the week before falling off a bit.

VXX UVXY SVXY Perf 07282017

The majority of volatility indexes quoted by CBOE were higher last week.  If it weren’t for earnings from GOOG, IBM, and AMZN which resulted in a volatility crush in options on those stocks there would probably be more green on the table below.

Vol Index Prices 7282017

 

Early Thursday, before volatility finally started to get moving someone came in and bought a large number of out of the money VXX calls with an outlook that appears to hope for an overdue volatility spike between now and September 15th.  With VXX at 11.00 they purchased just over 2500 of the VXX Sep 15th 15 Calls for 0.34.  Note about a 40% move is needed for this trade to break-even at expiration, for most markets that’s unheard of, but not in the volatility world.

Weekend Review of VIX Futures and Options – 7/30/2017

This past week is one of those weeks where those new to VIX futures get a lesson in price behavior and the lack of fair value that exists between the futures and the spot index.  VIX rose almost 10% on the week, the August contract was unchanged and the rest of the curve actually moved lower.  The curve had been steep and the result was futures not budging too much when VIX got moving to the upside.

VIX Table and Curve 7282017

As we enter the last five months of the year I would like to highlight where we are compared to VIX history going back to 1990.  Below is a chart showing the high, low and average close by year for the full history of VIX.

VIX H L Avg 7282017

We have been fixated on putting in a new all-time closing low (9.31 in 1993), which has not happened.   However, the average closing price for VIX in 2017 is 11.39 which is a full point below the average closing low for VIX that occurred in 1995.  In order to avoid 2017 having the lowest VIX average close on record we need to average about 13.74 over the remaining 107 trading days this year.  That would involve a pretty sustained volatility event considering how quickly VIX drops after any sort of strength these days.  I’m not saying it is going to happen, I’m just pointing out what has to happen.

Finally, with an hour to go in the trading day on Thursday one trader came in who does not think VIX is going anywhere above 13.00 over the next few weeks.  With VIX at 10.80 and the September contract at 12.80 there was a seller of the VIX Sep 13.00 Calls for 1.42 who then purchased the VIX Sep 20 Calls for 0.56 taking in a net credit of 0.86.  The payoff at September 20thAM settlement shows up below.

VIX PO 7282017

Of course, the goal is for standard September VIX contracts to settle below 13.00, but anywhere under 13.86 would result in at least a partial profit.  Of the 144 trading days, we’ve experienced in 2017 only 11 have had closed over 13.86, so at least based on recent history this may be a smart trade.

2017 is a Record-Breaking Year for Both SKEW-Over-145 and VIX-Under-10 Values

In recent weeks several news articles have noted that the CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX®) dipped below 10, and have asked if there is an unusual amount of complacency in the markets. The VIX Index closed below 10 on seven straight trading days (an all-time record) from July 13 to July 21. Recent headlines stated (1) “Too calm? Wall Street volatility collapses to lowest since 1993” (by CNBC), and (2) “Dip in volatility stirs warnings about too much complacency” (by Pensions & Investments).

IS THERE TOO MUCH COMPLACENCY IN THE MARKETS?

I believe that an argument could be made that the markets still are concerned about downside risk, and are not completely complacent in 2017, particularly if one looks at the statistics in three charts below: (1) the CBOE SKEW Index already has closed above 145 on 10 days in 2017 (more than any other calendar year); (2) a recent SPX volatility skew chart showed that the implied volatility estimates for many of the out-of-the-money put options ranged from 11 to 27, and (3) a recent VIX futures term structure chart showed VIX futures prices (with expirations at future dates) ranged from 10.35 to 16.

CBOE SKEW Index values, which are calculated from weighted strips of out-of-the-money S&P 500 options, rise to higher levels as investors become more fearful of a “black swan” event — an unexpected event of large magnitude and consequence. The value of SKEW increases with the tail risk of S&P 500 returns. If there were no tail risk expectations, SKEW would be equal to 100.

SPX VOLATILITY SKEW CHART – SHOWS DEMAND FOR DOWNSIDE PROTECTION

The volatility skew chart below shows the implied volatility estimates for SPX options at the close on Friday, July 21. On that date the closing values were 2472.54 for the SPX Index, 9.36 for the CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX®) (the second-lowest daily close for the VIX Index), and 134.53 for the CBOE SKEW Index (SKEW). The long-term average daily closing values since January 1990 are 19.5 for the VIX Index and 118.7 for the SKEW Index.

The SPX volatility skew chart below shows:

  • Expirations on 26 upcoming dates in 2017 (including Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and end-of-months) are available for SPX options; and
  • The implied volatility estimates for at-the-money SPX options ranged from around 5 to 12, and the implied volatility estimates for many of the out-of-the-money put options (with strike prices from 2230 to 2404, and that can be used for downside portfolio protection) were often much higher, with a range from around 11 to 27. With the SKEW Index at 134.53, one can expect generally higher implied volatilities for out-of-the-money SPX put options, when compared with at-the-money SPX options.

 

VIX FUTURES TERM STRUCTURE – RANGE FROM 10.35 TO 16

The VIX futures term structure chart is upward sloping and shows that the VIX futures prices ranged from 10.35 (for the July 26 expiration) to 16 (for the VIX futures expiring on February 14, 2018).

 

 

CONCLUSION

In order to gain a better sense of the amount of overall fear or complacency in the markets, analysts and investors can examine and compare many metrics, including the VIX Index, SKEW Index, volatility skew charts, and VIX futures term structure.

Links to more information on the SKEW Index, VIX futures and options, and more than 25 volatility indexes is at www.cboe.com/volatility.

Weekend Review of VIX Futures and Options – 7/23/2017

VIX closed Friday a tad shy of an all-time low while the S&P 500 continues to push higher having gained just over ½ a percent last week.  The curve below does appear steep, but the context of VIX being so low should be taken into account.
VIX Table Curve 07212017

One trader came into the VIX pit mid-day on Friday with what could be considered a massive trade.  With VIX at 9.76 and the standard October contract at 13.70 someone came in with a three-leg bullish trade on VIX.  They sold 262,441 VIX Oct 12 Puts for 0.75, purchased 262,441 VIX Oct 15 Calls for 1.45 and then finished things up with a sale of 524,882 VIX Oct 25 Calls at 0.45.  The result is a spread that is short 1 12 put, long 1 15 call and then short 2 25 calls for a net credit of 0.20.  The payoff below depicts this trade at October expiration along with an assumption of how this would work based on different October VIX futures pricing half way to expiration.

VIX PO 07212017

Note the purple line and how it basically returns some sort of profit between the current October VIX future level and about 33.00.  Of course, there are assumptions about IV, etc, that go into the half-way to expiration line, but it shows that this trader got some long VIX exposure while taking in a credit that pays off if we get even a minor volatility event between now and October expiration.

Weekend Review of Volatility Indexes and ETPs – 7/23/2017

VIX finished the week just off all-time lows and the VXST – VIX – VXV – VXMT curve shifted lower.  This is a result of realized volatility for S&P 500 price action remaining low and there not appearing to be any speed bumps on the horizon for the financial markets.

VXST VIX VXV VXMT 07212017

VVIX dipped below 80.00 to finish the week and TYVIX is near all-time lows despite there being an FOMC meeting this Wednesday.  The long funds continue to suffer (discussed a little more shortly) and the short funds are having nothing short of a stellar year.

VXX Table 07212017

To be specific SVXY is now up 99.96% for the year.  I know that rounds to 100.0%, but since it fell short of a double I rounded down this week.

VXX SVXY UVXY 07122017

GS and IBM reported earnings last week and their presence at the bottom of the table below is a result of a post earnings volatility crush.  Note GOOG, AAPL, and AMZN are near the top of the table as they are yet to report.  The rise in VXN may also be attributed to earnings as just a handful of stocks contribute to a big portion of price action in the Nasdaq-100.

Vol Indexes 07212017

We know the long VIX related ETPs tend to move down over time.  Apparently, someone decided that this sort of behavior was going to kick in between the open and the close on Friday for UVXY.  Two seconds into the day on Friday someone sold 200 UVXY Jul 21st 30 Calls for 0.80 and purchased 200 UVXY UVXY Jul 21st 34 Calls for 0.25 taking in a net credit of 0.65.  The payoff on the close yesterday appears below.

UVXY PO

Note that this trade worked out quite well with UVXY finishing the day at 29.79 and both options expiring with no value.  I was webcasting last week and got a question about selling options on the Friday of expiration, this is a bit of a deviation of that sort of activity, but a deviation that worked pretty well.

Weekend Review of VIX Futures and Options – 7/16/2017

VIX finished the week at the lowest close since 1993, but the two lower closes came during a holiday week so I’m considering consulting with other VIX watchers with respect to if this is basically an all-time low.  Note the dramatic move in the July contract that goes off the board on the open Monday.

VIX Table Chart 07142017

The most exciting activity we got from VIX came around lunchtime on Tuesday.  Many traders may have miss VIX running to the mid-11’s and the July contract trading around 12.50.  At least one nimble trader pulled themselves away from Amazon Prime day shopping and caught a good purchase in VIX Put options.  They managed to buy the VIX Jul 19th 14.00 Puts for 1.80.  With VIX around 11.50 this trade had a break-even just above the spot index with just over a week to go until expiration.

VIX PO 07142017

This trade looked pretty good as of Friday with VIX down at 9.51 and the July contract finishing about a point higher.  The bid side on the close for this option was 3.40 for a potentially unrealized gain of 1.60.

Weekend Review of Volatility Indexes and ETPs – 7/16/2017

We only have data going back to the 2007 – 2008 period for the non-VIX SPX related indexes on the diagram below.  VXST, VXV, and VXMT all made all-time lows, based on the history we have to work with, on the close Friday.  VIX closing at 9.51 was the third lowest on record.  However, the two instances of lower closing prices for VIX occurred on December 22nd and 23rd of 1993 (9.38 and 9.41).  In December 1993, the 24th was a market holiday as Christmas fell on the 25th.  Also, options expiring on January 21, 1994 dominated the VIX calculation as there was just under 30 days left until that expiration. There were three market holidays between the days where VIX closed lower that this past Friday and the third Friday of January.  We know holidays take a little bit out of VIX, we see it every December and often before three-day weekends.  Since there are no holidays between now and the two option series feeding into VIX (August 11th and August 18th) I’m going to say the VIX closing price on Friday counts as an all-time low, with an asterisk followed by the previous explanation.

VXST VIX VXV VXMT 07142017

The week was tough for long funds and good for short funds.  VMIN continues to have a great 2017 and added over 11% to that year.  VSTOXX is low which contributed to over a 9% move in the upstart EXIV ETN.  Finally, TYVIX is testing all-time lows at 3.75.

VXX Table 07142017

SVXY is on path for an easy double in 2017 as long as we don’t get a catastrophic market event in the next few months while VXX and UVXY performance continues to languish.  As a quick reminder, UVXY is set for a reverse split this coming week.

VXX SVXY UVXY 07142017

The table below shows how volatility is under pressure across the board.  VXIBM and VXAZN moving up are both a function of a pending earnings announcement.  GVZ snuck in an all-time low in late June, which I missed, and at 11.11 is amazingly low when you read about geopolitical issues.

Vol Index Prices 07142017

As the trading week had about an hour left and VXX was trading at 12.01 someone came into the VIX Pit (VXX options trade there too) with a bullish VXX trade that has a pretty interesting time-frame.  The trader sold the VXX Sep 1st 14 Puts for 2.54 and bought the VXX Sep 1st 12.50 Puts for 1.34 and a net credit of 1.20.  The risk for this trade is 0.30 if VXX is at or below 12.50 on the close September 1st.  Basically, for this trade to make money we need a volatility event (or two) that pushes VXX up to around the short strike prices of 14.00. The payout diagram below shows the payoff at expiration, but also includes a half way to expiration line since I believe our put spread seller would be inclined to take profits on any sort of volatility spike.

VXX Po 07142017

Award-Winning PUT Index Now Has 31-Year Price History with Strong Risk-Adjusted Returns

Over the past couple of years more investors have expressed interest in the cash-secured put writing strategy. The leading performance benchmark for this strategy is the CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Index (PUT), an index that measures the performance of a hypothetical portfolio that sells one-month S&P 500® Index (SPX) put options against collateralized cash reserves held in a money market account.

HIGHER RETURNS AND LOWER VOLATILITY

Note in the bar charts that the PUT Index had higher returns and lower volatility than the other six benchmark indexes, and put option writing (as represented by the PUT Index) had much higher returns than put option buying (as represented by the PPUT Index). A driving factor behind strong risk-adjusted returns for the PUT Index has been the volatility risk premium; options sellers often have been rewarded because implied volatility usually has been higher than realized volatility for S&P 500 options.

HISTOGRAM AND LESS LEFT-TAIL RISK

In the 31-year histogram, the left tail risk was mitigated in that the S&P 500 Index had 26 monthly declines with losses of worse than 6%, while the PUT Index had only 12 such declines.

NEWS COVERAGE OF PENSION FUNDS AND PUT-WRITE STRATEGY

Below are excerpts from three news stories on pension fund allocations to the put-write strategy.

  

  • Wall Street Journal   (Aug. 21, 2016)
    • Pensions Try a Fear Trade.  Options strategy used by pension funds aims to work like a volatility dampener Some pension funds are seeking to profit from others’ fear.   Pension funds in Hawaii and South Carolina are plying an arcane options strategy called cash-secured put writing. …  Hawaii wanted to diversify market exposure after the financial crisis hit many assets at once… Pension Consulting Alliance first suggested Hawaii use the strategy and currently advises on it, .. The CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Index, a benchmark for the strategy, … didn’t fall as sharply as the market during the selloff of early 2016, but has lagged behind the rallies. In 2008, during the financial crisis, the put-write strategy returned minus-27% compared with the S&P 500’s return of minus-37%.  CBOE’s calculations of how the index would have performed before its 2007 creation estimate that annualized returns over the 30 years through this June were 10%, narrowly topping the S&P 500. …  ”

 

  • Pensions & Investments   (Oct. 3, 2016)
    • Funds go exotic with put-write options to stem volatility … Hawaii Employees in the spring hired Neuberger Berman, Analytic Investors, UBS Asset Management and Gateway Investment Advisers to run $400 million each in put-write strategies. This was the first move into the strategy for the pension fund. Earlier this year, the $28.2 billion South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission, Columbia, hired Russell Implementation Services and AQR Capital Management to each manage $800 million in put-write strategies.  And the $16.6 billion Illinois State Universities Retirement System, Champaign, hired Gladius Capital Management to manage $400 million in notional value in a put-write overlay, a move that Executive Director W. Brian Lewis said would result in ‘an income enhancement tool’ … In its paper, Wilshire noted that the CBOE S&P 500 put-write index, with an annualized 10.1% return, outperformed the CBOE S&P 500 buy-write index’s 8.9% and the S&P 500 stock index’s 9.9% over 30 years ended Dec. 31. And for 2015 alone, the put-write index returned 6.4% vs. the buy-write index’s 5.2% and the S&P 500’s 1.4%. …” 

 RESEARCH PAPERS THAT HIGHLIGHT THE PUT INDEX

Visit www.cboe.com/benchmarks for links to the papers below that analyze the performance of the PUT and other benchmark indexes —

GROWTH IN VOLUME FOR S&P 500 OPTIONS

Average daily volume for S&P 500 options at CBOE: (1) has risen in each of the last 5 years, and (2) has risen more than 1000% since 2001.

AWARD FOR PUT INDEX AND PUTW ETF

On June 26 the CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Index (PUT) and the WisdomTree CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Strategy Fund ETF (PUTW) won the 2017 Index/ETF Product of the Year award at an annual ceremony that was presented by IMN and the Journal of Index Investing. The awards ceremony was held during the 22nd Annual Global Indexing and ETFs conference, a 3-day event with about 750 financial professionals (including representatives of CBOE, Bats, S&P Dow Jones Indices, and ETF.com) in attendance.

Representatives of both CBOE and S&P Dow Jones Indices celebrated the award for the 2017 Index/ETF Product of the Year.

MORE INFORMATION

The microsite for the PUT Index is at www.cboe.com/PUT.

For more information on dozens of CBOE benchmark indexes, please visit www.cboe.com/benchmarks for research papers and price charts,

If you would like to hear expert speakers discuss options and volatility, please visit www.cboermc.com to learn more about these upcoming CBOE Risk Management Conferences —

  • RMC EUROPE 2017, Sept. 11 – 13, 2017, The Grove Hotel, Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire, UK

 

  • RMC ASIA 2017, Dec 5 – 6, 2017, Conrad Hong Kong, Hong Kong

 

  • RMC US 2017, March 7 – 9, 2018, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, FL

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