Category Archives: VIX

Another Huge VIX Bet

Richy RichBloomberg reported today (here) a $5 Million VIX bet – 40,000 April calls with the VIX at 15.5 – this follows the $6 Million spread I saw in November  (here).

Things are getting interesting.

The trader purchased 40,000 April calls on the VIX with a strike price of 22 for $1.28 each, according to Trade Alert LLC. The bullish volatility bet was the biggest single block of options to change hands on U.S. exchanges, the research firm said. The VIX rose 0.8 percent to 15.54 today.

Investors are positioning for a possible jump in volatility with stocks poised for the biggest annual advance since 2003 after the Federal Reserve refrained from reducing monthly bond purchases. The central bank may begin reducing its $85 billion of monthly bond purchases at its Dec. 17-18 meeting, according to 34 percent of economists surveyed Dec. 6 by Bloomberg, up from 17 percent in a Nov. 8 poll.

“Customers continue to hedge their stock-market risk by buying upside calls in the VIX,” Mark Caffray, who brokers contracts on the index for clients at Chicago-based PTR Inc., said in an interview. “There have been very aggressive customer buyers of VIX calls in March 23, April 24, and today April 22 call strikes,” he said. “We do not expect this activity to subside until a Fed decision on tapering.”

An explanation from ZH which also suits this trade; “everyone remembers the summer very vividly, the last thing anyone wants is to be the last Kool-aid drinker at the centrally-planned party.”

Following a $6.7 Million VIX Call Spread

On October 18th Bloomberg published an article (here) about a trader or institution that bought 160,000 February 24 calls and sold February 29 calls (in equal measure).  The open interest today is at 170,000 and the cost for the trader on October 18th was 42 cents per contract or $6.7 Million. I’m following this trade for fun.

It was very likely a hedge against the SPY (or maybe some SPX futures?). Almost 30 days later the pair would trade at about the same price but what’s interesting is to imagine what this trader/institution had on the other side.

Look at the 6 month VIX and SPX chart below.

VIX-SPX-Call Spread

The SPX is up about 50 points since October 18th and the VIX has barely budged from 13. What would the hedge be? Long SPX or short SPX? It’s a call spread so presumably long SPX (remember VIX has a pseudo inverse relationship with the SPX). The hedge will make money as volatility increases and a quick look at the chart above shows strong resistance at 13.

So how many shares of the SPY (or SPX futures) would you own, if you put in place a $6.7 Million hedge? That’s a good question…  But whatever their long position even 30 days later, it looks like a good trade.

 

Using the VIX for Trade Entry Signals

With the popularity of the VIX and VIX futures being overly used as a volatility hedge, I’ve been thinking about the signals it might give for medium term entry or exit points. If you chart the VIX and overlay Bollinger Bands (20,2,SMA) and look at the SPX, you’ll notice something interesting. Remember the VIX is forward-looking. The other indicators are price biased, and historical.

When the VIX breaks over the upper Bollinger band, you’ll see a low point directional change in the SPX. This isn’t a completely new idea, I was at a seminar recently which looked at combining this with Chandelier as a trading strategy. I’m going to just stick with the Bollinger Bands, the VIX and ATR. That’s where I see the most interesting information.

I mention ATR (Average True Range) because the 1 day ATR helps confirm long entry points.

Everything is in the chart below. The long signals look better than the short signals.

VIX SPX Bollinger

Good Trading.

Credible Confusion

For those watching the gyrations of the S&P Futures, the sceptics are being vindicated. How long will the weakness last is unsure (though I have an idea), but; fear is seeping into the market. The strategy I’ve been following is written about obtusely here, here, and here. The list of red flags which have been raised over the last month is long, and taken individually the market might have easily overlook each. Yet even as the elephant in the room, Mr. Bernanke, tied the lose ends together as optimistically has his communication strategy would permit, traders started looking for an exit.

So that’s all well and good, but what now? The elephant has spoken. Continue reading

Good Morning Viatnam – S&P Retracement Levels

This morning it was ALL Japan – not Viatnam – I admit, but I woke up with Robin Williams ringing in my head.

 

The Nikkei extended their losses after:

  • BOJ REFRAINS FROM EXPANDING J-REIT, ETF PURCHASES
  • BOJ LEAVES FUNDING TERMS UNCHANGED AFTER JGB YIELD VOLATILITY

This sent the US and European markets into a tailspin. Expectations were obviously not met. It’s not often you see a gap open in the S&P down 1%. A bit unexpectedly the ES has been working off it’s overnight fear all day. Remember there’s a big buyer stalking…

Considering a slightly longer term, I’ve been looking at some potential cycles that might make good targets. If you’re even slightly bearish this perspective might interest you. If you’re bullish these might make good entry points.

I looked at three of the last major retracements during this bull market on a yearly chart.

  • September-November 2012
  • March – June 2012
  • May – September 2011

I measured the range as a percentage and measured the duration between the high and low. I’ve written about it, here. This is what I come up with:

Retracement Targets

If history rhymes, the medium term levels to keep an eye on:

  • 1558
  • 1515
  • 1400

And if this pullback continues we should be attentive around:

  • July 23rd
  • August 1st
  • October 24th

Even at these targets on the yearly chart, the market will still be trending upward. Count on the bears coming out of the woodwork.

Good Trading

Robin Williams

The Divergences Screaming, Hello?!

Rambling about nothing is better than proclaiming some truth based on limited information.

And as we know, we know very little when it comes to predicting market moves. Just this morning, for example, terrible numbers hit the tape and the S&P continues oozing skyward. Good is Good, Bad is Good, the Fed is Good, indefference is even good. Until it isn’t.

So I thought I’d ramble about a few divergences which have me perplexed.

The first jumped out at me yesterday while the VIX was climbing on momentum WITH the S&P. Technically that happens but it was screaming  “look at me” yesterday. Options in general and puts in particular were getting bid up while the market was climbing. Fear of a rising market?

VIX ES DIVERGENCE

The second has been obvious all year, but it’s worth thinking about. The Gold Story – some would call it the Apple Story…

If you take the premise that gold is a hedge against inflation, gold isn’t worried, atleast paper gold isn’t. That surprises me, because there’s another argument: easy money from the central bank leads to inflation. This argument seems on firmer footing, every central bank in the world is printing. Yet it’s the divergence which has me looking for a trade.

ES GC Divergence

Here are some other good divergences, credit/macro/vix/10yr, labeled ‘just plain silly‘ from ZH.

 

EUR-USD Chart

Something Is Always Parabolic

Gold's Parabolic Fall

The surprise yesterday was gold. We’re always looking for congruence within the paradigms we’ve learned to believe in. I had heard somewhere gold was a safe haven play. During periods of fear or worry, in theory, we should see gold rise while money moves away from risky assets (like the S&P).

That didn’t happen yesterday.

We’ve been told over and over gold is a safe asset, real money. Those rules are too simplistic and after getting burned a few times we start doubting our basic notions. And the press doesn’t bother with details. If gold is up they’ll say “The Fed” and if gold is down, “Cyprus”. In reality information we never see is what drives these markets. In the case of gold it might be sovereigns buying (or selling), Fed fear, short covering, muppet trading, shenanigans in a dark pool, an Asian holiday, or a sublime combination. Traders scramble for an explanation, they scramble to mount another paradigm, to justify tomorrows trade. I do it, you do it, that’s the game.  The game gets easier though when you accept that you’re basing a decision on incomplete, simplistic, and probably false, information. I can tell you categorically, whatever your model is, it’s wrong. In all cases, even Goldman Sachs, a Central Bank, or a sneaky congressman will eventually find his assumptions, wrong. Continue reading