Watching For The Return Of Volatility

Hello and welcome back! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving break.

Today I wanted to provide a brief look back on volatility over the past several weeks and provide my thoughts on what it means going forward. Ever since the debt ceiling deadlock concluded in October, VIX has remained in a fairly tight range between 12 and 14. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has notched eight straight weeks of gains.

In this post I'll be covering:
  • Technical Review
  • Forecast Review
  • Nov 15 VIX Reversal
  • Elevated SKEW
  • Trading Plan (Member Access Only)

Technical Review
Taking a look at the chart of implied volatility vs actual volatility (from the VIX Futures Data page), we can see that the current VIX range is roughly the same as what we saw in the July/August timeframe (orange highlight), which at the time, bounced along the floor set by HV60 (actual volatility over the last 60 trading days). Actual volatility in the S&P 500 has continued to decline since then and the HV60 floor is now two points lower, hitting 10.28 on Friday. This premium in VIX to HV60 tells us that options sellers are not yet convinced that the low volatility environment we are currently experiencing will continue into 2014.

The VIX futures term structure shows us a pretty consistent contango since mid October, with nearer months cheaper than the more distant months. Overall the movement has been mostly sideways with a slight decline across all months, while the front months futures have fallen more rapidly toward spot VIX.

Forecast Review
Looking at our forecast charts we can see that the Bias (left axis) has remained mostly negative for VXX and positive for ZIV. During this past 6 months VXX has declined from $80 to $45 (-43%), while VXX inverses (XIV and SVXY) have each gained 45%. Meanwhile, ZIV has increased 18%, moving from $30 to $35.80.

Taking a look at the VXX Spike Risk forecast we can really get a feel for how sleepy the volatility market has been lately with only a couple days above the 30% risk mark over the past 6 weeks.

Nov 15 VIX Reversal
On Nov 20th I posted in our Members' Forum about a possible reversal in the VIX daily chart that occurred on Nov 15th. While it is still possible to break lower, this remains something for VIX traders to watch in the coming weeks, especially as we press up against the 200 day moving average at 14.37 (red dashed line).

Elevated SKEW
The CBOE SKEW index has been elevated near 130 for a few weeks now (weekly chart below) and is at its highest levels since March 2012. This value tells us that the options market views a higher probability of returns that are two or more standard deviations below the mean over the next 30 days, which represents a 15%+ decline in the S&P 500. Given the recent run-up in stocks an expectation of a pullback isn't too surprising, but is something to be prepared for nonetheless.

Trading Plan (Member Access Only)
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