When XIV Loses Its Edge: Getting Into Defensive Mode

Actual market volatility has clearly picked up over the past month as the broad market tests both upper and lower ranges to figure out the next major direction.

As I discussed in our members' forum post on 6/14, I expect choppy conditions and urge caution for XIV longs over the next few months. During this time there will be streaks of days where VXX will gain and streaks when XIV will gain, but over the course of weeks I tend to think the wide price swings will prevent either of these from really going anywhere. 

Overall the volatility futures market is not sending very positive signals, as we can see from the data on our VIX Futures Data page.

The premium of front month VIX futures to VIX has been decreasing (a concept I outline here):

The slope of the term structure is flattening (which I define as important here):

I think there are still opportunities to make money by trading XIV and VXX in these swings but it requires a more active trading strategy with shorter hold times (a few days), and use of smaller positions since trends will be unpredictable. The VXX bias remains small meaning that the "edge" in trading these products is mostly gone for now, so trading these swings also requires a bit of luck as it ultimately becomes a guessing game for the next direction -- a strategy that is not usually profitable.

I'm inclined to keep a good amount of my portfolio in cash and put some money in ZIV where the price swings are smaller, as long as the bias forecast is positive and I can still get a decent roll yield.

Picking up some VXX here is very tempting as I think there is a good chance it heads higher over the next few months, but again I think in the short term it will see some wild swings so I prefer to wait until there is a positive bias behind it even if it means missing out on some of the gains.

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