The market made an impressive run in May with the S&P 500 hitting new all-time highs at 1955.55 and the VIX touching 10.73. With each passing day during this run it seemed there was yet another article claiming that the market is too high or the VIX too low. With actual volatility of the S&P 500 over the past month just 6.42, a VIX in the 10-12 range makes some sense. But rather than speculate on where the VIX should be, the more profitable question is how to trade the volatility ETPs at these levels.
It's dangerous for investors to speculate on where the market will go next without a solid set of objective tools to guide decision making. At Trading Volatility we rely on our proprietary Bias and Spike Risk indicators to provide us with objective information about the likely direction and momentum of volatility ETPs such as VXX, UVXY, TVIX, XIV, SVXY and ZIV. The daily signals from our indicators make it possible to substantially outperform the market and today I'll provide a closer look at these signals.
VXX Bias Forecast
After the close on each market day our algorithms generate the Bias and Spike Risk forecasts for the following day and publish the data on our Daily Forecast page. We track all of our forecasts and compare the values to the actual movement of VXX, as shown in the graph of our forecasts over the past six months, below.
Here I've highlighted two distinct periods. The first is from Jan 24th to April 28, a three-month period in which the VXX Bias forecast (the blue line, using the left axis) stayed slightly negative with a handful of moves to a positive Bias. This block of forecasts provides us with an indication that there is no real advantage in shorting VXX (or buying the inverse, XIV) given that there is no directional Bias to help us in our trade. While VXX (red line, using the right axis) did see some price spikes during this time, they were short-lived as the Bias failed to remain positive.
Looking at the second period from April 29 to June 11, the VXX Bias was more solidly negative with Bias reading between -1 and -2. These readings told us that the wind was at our back to short VXX (or buy XIV) as VXX fell over 25% during this time. As of the evening of June 11, the VXX Bias jumped back up toward zero remaining just slightly negative, to once again let us know that it is time to be a bit cautious shorting volatility.
VXX Spike Risk Forecast
The VXX Spike Risk forecast provides us with information on the probability of a VXX spike (for our purposes, a "spike" is defined as a move of 7% or more over the next two trading days). As with the VXX Bias, we track our daily Spike Risk forecasts against the percent change of VXX for each day. The graph below captures forecasts vs actuals for the last six months.
We've only seen one period of sustained VXX Spike Risk (blue line, using the left axis) above 50%, which took place in late January/early February when we saw the big upward +30% move in VXX. Other than that we've only seen a handful of forecasts reaching above 40%. Looking at the recent period from 4/22 to 6/10 you can see a string of low Spike Risk forecasts below 28% and as low as 16%, indicating time to be a bit more aggressive in shorting VXX. This worked out very well as the price of VXX fell on almost every day during this period (red line, using the right axis). For June 12 we saw a Spike Risk of 49% on a day when VXX gained 6.5% intraday, and today's forecast (June 16) was back up to 48%, once again indicating that we need to be more cautious.
The market provides subtle clues for what the it might do next. As you have now seen, we incorporate these clues into our algorithms to generate what we believe are the best indicators available. If you find yourself struggling in this market check us out. To learn more visit our Subscribe page or drop us a line via the Contact page.