SteadyOptions is an options trading forum where you can find solutions from top options traders. TRY IT FREE!

We’ve all been there… researching options strategies and unable to find the answers we’re looking for. SteadyOptions has your solution.

How Does VIX Work?


The CBOE Volatility Index® (VIX® Index®) is a key measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. Since its introduction in 1993, the VIX Index has been considered by many to be the world's premier barometer of investor sentiment and market volatility. 

VIX’s value

 

The VIX is based on option prices of the S&P 500 index (SPX). One component in the price of SPX options is an estimate of how volatile the S&P 500 will be between now and the option’s expiration date.  

 

The CBOE’s approach combines the prices of many different SPX options to come up with an aggregate value of volatility. Their approach has some advantages.

 

The current VIX concept is about the expectation of stock market volatility in the near future. The current VIX index value quotes the expected annualized change in the S&P 500 index over the next 30 days, as computed from the current options-market prices. 
 

What does the number mean?
 

For those interested in what the number mathematically represents, here it is in the most simple of terms. The VIX represents the S&P 500 index +/- percentage move, annualized for one standard deviation. Example, if the VIX is currently at 15. That means, based on the option premiums in the S&P 500 index, the S&P is expected to stay with in a +/- 15% range over 1 year, 68% of the time (which represents one standard deviation).
 

 

What does VIX track?

 

VIX tracks prices on the SPX options market. The SPX options market is big, with a notional value greater than $100 billion, and is dominated by institutional investors. A single SPX put or call option has the leverage of around $200K in stock value.

 

In general option premiums have inverse correlation to the market.  In a rising market, stocks tend to be less volatile and option premiums low which causes lower VIX values. Declining markets are volatile (the old saying is that the market takes the stairs up and the elevator down) and option premiums increase.  Much of this increase occurs when worried investors pay a large premium on puts to protect their positions.

 

While S&P 500 option premiums generally move opposite to the S&P 500 itself they sometimes go their own way.  For example, if the market has been on a long bull run without a significant pullback, institutional investors can become increasingly concerned that a correction is overdue and start bidding up the price of puts—leading to a rising VIX in spite of a rising S&P.   Historically 20% of the time the VIX moves in the same direction as the S&P 500—so please don’t claim the VIX is “broken” when you see the two markets move in tandem.

 

The daily percentage moves of the VIX tend to be around 4 times the percentage moves of the S&P 500, but unlike the stock market, the VIX stays within a fairly limited range. The all-time intraday high is 89.53 (recorded on Oct.24 2008) and the all-time intraday low is 9.39 (recorded on Dec.15 2006) with the current methodology. It’s unlikely that the VIX will go much below 9 because option market makers won’t receive enough premium to make it worth their risk.  At the high-end things go could go higher (if the VIX had been available in the October 1987 crash it would have peaked around 120), but at some point investors refuse to pay the premium and switch to alternatives (e.g., just selling their positions if they can).

 

How does VIX trade?

 

There is no way to directly buy or sell the VIX index.  The CBOE offers VIX options, but they follow the CBOE’s VIX Futures of the same expiration date, not the VIX index itself.  VIX futures usually trade at a significant premium to the VIX.  The only time they reliably come close to the VIX is at expiration, but even then they can settle up to +-5% different from the VIX level at the time.

 

There are around 25 volatility Exchange Traded Products (ETPs) that allow you to go long, short, or shades in-between on volatility, but none of them do a good job of matching the VIX over any span of time. 

 

The most popular VIX related products are: iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (ARCA:VXX), iPath S&P 500 VIX Mid-Term Futures ETN (ARCA:VXZ), iPath Inverse S&P 500 VIX Short-Term ETN (ARCA:XXV).

VIX-related ETPs can be used to trade long and short, to hedge, to manage risk etc. There are a wide range of VIX-related ETPs on the market, including pure VIX futures-linked products, that can be long, leveraged long, or inverse.

 

VIX Futures


This is as close to a pure play as you will get, and it's what all the other instruments revolve around. The most important thing to understand: VIX futures don't track the spot VIX on a 1:1 basis.


VIX futures are an estimate where the VIX will be at a certain date, not where the VIX is right now. This is what is called a "forward" contract.


The VIX futures have their own kind of supply and demand and it reflects the expectation of where the VIX will be around the settlement date of that particular future.


VIX futures have a cash settlement. As we get closer to the settlement, the spot VIX and futures price will converge. but until then the market will attempt to guess where the VIX will be by a forward date.

VIX Options
 

VIX options do not trade based off the spot VIX. Instead the underlying is based off the forward expectation of where the VIX will be. Eventually, the spot VIX and the forward readings will converge as expiration closes in, but for the most part there will be a difference in the two values.
 

VIX options have a cash settlement-- meaning if you are short in the money options, you can't get assigned any VIX stock. Instead you will have cash pulled out of your account that is the difference between the strike of your short option and the settlement quote for the VIX.
 

The settlement value is called the Special Opening Quotation (SOQ). This value is based off the opening prices of SPX options. This means that you may think your short VIX options will be out of the money at expiration, but you can find yourself with a not-so-fun surprise if the SOQ runs against you because somebody decided to buy a ton of SPX options. We recommend never to hold VIX options into settlement to avoid nasty surprises.

 


The Bottom Line

 

VIX is complicated, you can’t directly trade it, and it’s not useful for predicting future moves of the market.  In spite of that, the investment community has adopted it, both as a useful second opinion on the markets, and as the backbone  for a growing suite of volatility based products.

 

If investors really want to place bets on equity market volatility or use them as hedges, the VIX-related ETF and ETN products are acceptable but highly-flawed instruments. They certainly have a strong convenience aspect to them, as they trade like any other stock. That said, investors looking to really play the volatility game should consider actual VIX options and futures, as well as more advanced options strategies like straddles and strangles on the S&P 500.


Related articles

What Is SteadyOptions?

Full Trading Plan

Complete Portfolio Approach

Diversified Options Strategies

Exclusive Community Forum

Steady And Consistent Gains

High Quality Education

Risk Management, Portfolio Size

Performance based on real fills

Try It Free

Non-directional Options Strategies

10-15 trade Ideas Per Month

Targets 5-7% Monthly Net Return

Visit our Education Center

Recent Articles

Articles

  • 3 Key Pieces Of Advice For New Traders

    These days, everyone claims to be an ‘expert’ on absolutely everything. Apparently, it only takes having a Twitter account to be a seasoned expert on any given subject; all in all, the Internet is full of nonsense. It’s becoming harder and harder to find legitimate answers amongst the quagmire of false information online.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 52 views
  • Why New Traders Fail

    Our first advice to new traders is: "Learn First, Trade Later". The markets will always be there, but if you start trading without proper fundamentals, your capital will be gone very fast. The barrier to enter trading is so low today, commissions are near zero, and the whole trading game looks very promising.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 279 views
  • Lumpy Dividends and Options

    Dividend payments, like oatmeal, may be smooth or lumpy. Smooth dividends are predictable, usually once per quarter. It is easy for options traders to believe these dividends are guaranteed, because they usually continue uninterrupted quarter after quarter. This also makes it easy to predict total return over a longer time span.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 296 views
  • Coming to Peace With Market Volatility: Part II

    On April 18th I wrote part I of this article, Coming to Peace With Market Volatility. I showed how the US equity market risk premium, defined as the annual average return of the Total Market minus the return of one-month US Treasury Bills, was a large 8.37% per year from 1950-2019. That’s the good news.

    By Jesse,

    • 0 comments
    • 291 views
  • Ratio Calendar Spreads

    The ratio calendar spread is well-known to some, but for others the risk/reward aspects are not well understood. One way to cover a short position is to own 100 shares of the underlying stock. Another, more creative way is to sell a shorter-term expiration position and buy a longer-term position.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 642 views
  • Studies Vs. Real Trading

    "Who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" Our members and readers know that buying pre earnings straddles has been one of our favorite strategies that produced consistent gains in the last 8 years with very low risk. Yet there is a significant number of studies showing that this strategy has a negative expectation. 

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 671 views
  • Should You Hedge or Diversify?

    Using the most popular S&P 500 ETF (SPY) to represent the US stock market, this article will look at different ways to manage equity market risk using historical ETF and options data from ORATS Wheel since 2007. We will analyze the following unhedged, hedged and allocation choices:

    By Jesse,

    • 11 comments
    • 972 views
  • Coming to Peace With Market Volatility

    From 1950-2019, the average annual US equity market premium (return of the total stock market minus the return of one-month US Treasury Bills) was 8.37% per year. This was a large average annual risk premium for owning stocks.  The premium was volatile, with a Standard Deviation of approximately 15% per year.

    By Jesse,

    • 0 comments
    • 464 views
  • 1,300% Gain in One Day? Not so Fast

    Would you like to book a $1,300% gain on a one day low risk trade? I would. That would imply that you turned your $100,000 account into $1,400,000 in just one day. Do it couple times - and you are a billionaire. Sounds too good to be true? It is possible in a Twitterworld. In a real world.. not so much.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 514 views
  • A More Diversified Anchor Strategy

    Over the past few months, the performance of the Leveraged Anchor strategy has exceeded our expectations.  There has also been a few things learned regarding adjustments after large market falls, that had never been contemplated (see Anchor Analysis And Options). 

    By cwelsh,

    • 0 comments
    • 493 views

  Report Article

We want to hear from you!




Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

Options Trading Blogs Expertido