Daily chart of SPY with the standard deviation and the ratio of the statistical to the implied volatility, note the rise in the ratio of the implied volatility.
No, I’m not discussing political leadership changes in a foreign country due to intervention or a coup. The term “regime change” also applies to the stock market. The stock market goes through regime changes or shifts. What the term refers to is the state of the market in terms of its trend and volatility. The majority of the time, the market trends quietly upwards with low volatility. These periods of low volatility are interrupted by brief periods of rapidly falling prices and high volatility. Without delving into the underlying mathematics of the econometric models that calculate regime change, it can be summed up in simple terms to mean that about 85% of the time the market will trend higher with low volatility. We’ll call this “state one”. About 15% of the time the market will be in “state two” characterized by falling prices with high volatility. The trend is approximately three times as large in the negative direction when the market is in state two. Also, when the market is in state two, it tends to revert to state one quickly with 90% probability.
Ok, so what does this type of quantitative research mean to investors? What it means is that if you invest in the market you should expect most of the time to see your portfolio increasing in value with modest price swings, but also expect to have those quiet periods interrupted by brief periods of rapidly falling prices with larger price swings. Long term investors can use the periods of falling prices to add to market positions. Investors with a shorter time horizon, like those who are already retired can find the state two periods to be very unsettling. Investors can always consider using some sort of hedging mechanism if the volatility is causing too many sleepless nights. Index options can be used to hedge downside risk as can some of the new volatility and inverse ETFs.
What this can mean for option traders is that if we are in a period of high volatility, we can expect the market to eventually return to normal which means that the high volatility will eventually subside and we can expect to profit from strategies that involve selling options and collecting premium.
Investors who followed the price action of TVIX today witnessed a great example of what can happen when using leveraged and inverse ETNs. The TVIX is designed to give an investor twice the daily price movement of the VIX. If you want to place a hedge and think that volatility is going to rise, the TVIX should give you double the action of the VIX and make for a good hedge when IV is rising.
Today the VIX rose and TVIX got crushed. In February, Credit Suisse announced that it was not going to create any more shares of TVIX. As a result TVIX is driven by market forces and can trade at a premium or discount to its indicative value, like the NAV of a closed end fund. The last few days TVIX has been trading at a substantial premium to its NAV. Because Credit Suisse is not creating new shares the algorithm that allows it to track its index, the VIX could not work and the mass selling on very high volume brought the shares down to an all time low. Volume was more than two and a half times its three month average. Today’s fall was almost 30 percent. Yesterday it had closed over 80% above its indicative value at $14.43. Today it closed at $10.20.
When using any leveraged or inverse funds investors need to do their homework and know what they are buying and how to apply them to a trading or investing strategy. Before purchasing a levered or an inverse fund it is critically important to understand the structure of the fund. They have added risks. The funds are designed to move up by twice the amount of an index, or move up if an index declines or move up double or triple the amount an index declines on a daily basis. The key word here is daily. Over longer time periods they will not perform with double leverage. Due to what’s known as ‘roll costs’ and after factoring in how daily market volatility works, the funds may not perform well over longer time periods.
You can own a leveraged index fund, watch the index gain over a long time period and see the leveraged fund decline in value. Here’s a real world example as reported by the SEC, the Securities Exchange Commission. Between December 1st, 2008 and April 30th, 2009 a certain index gained 2%. A leveraged fund that delivered twice the daily performance fell by 6%. During the same time frame an ETF seeking to deliver three times the daily performance of an index fell by 53%, while the underlying index gained about 8%.
Before using a leveraged or inverse fund, check past price action to see if it is performing as it should relative to its index. Check the fundamentals of the issuer for changes to its credit rating or if they have suspended issuing any new shares.
ETNs can be great tools for portfolio management, but one must understand the risks.