Volatility Trading Outlook With The S&P 500 At All Time Highs

With the debt ceiling drama behind us the S&P has responded by making new all-time highs, while the VIX has fallen back to levels from Sept 20 and are VIX futures are back in a moderate contango. From the VIX Futures Data page:

Since Oct 18, VIX and VIX futures have been essentially frozen with intraday ranges of only a couple points for VIX and a range of closing values of just 0.38 points. The fact that VIX futures across all months are not declining, but flat (and ever so slightly up in months 3-7), is indication that all may not be well -- especially as the S&P is hitting all time highs. Usually when we see the VIX term structure hold steady like this investors are starting to pick up on some sort of risk on the horizon (see May 10th - 21st), however, no risk seems to be readily apparent at the moment (although I can name several that are on my mind). Maybe this is just a period of consolidation after a swift move down, but it doesn't quite sit right with me.

It is a five week roll period this month, with 17 trading days still left until November futures expire on Nov 20. Assuming we manage to avoid unforeseen drama during this time we should expect Nov futures to converge towards VIX (Nov currently at a 11% premium to VIX), and VIX to fall along with HV20 towards HV60. This will cause VXX to drift lower and SVXY higher, however the entire futures curve is once again rather compressed with limited room to the downside and larger risk to the upside. I see a ceiling for XIV over the next few weeks in the $32-33 area (~$125 for SVXY). For ZIV, $36 looks to be the limit.

With people increasingly predicting new highs and getting greedy I start to get concerned and like to raise cash. No one really knows if we'll go on like this for months or if the rally ends tomorrow, but all good things come to end so it's always good to take profits along the way and raise stops to help manage risk.

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