of all, our
strategies exploits changes in volatility via identifying
key areas where supply/demand has changed via WRB Analysis.
However, we don't use
the VIX or VXN for such.
Instead, we use the
VIX and VXN to help with position size management and to help
with trade management.
Yet, we invite you to
our new discussion forum at the below link to ask us questions
about how to use the VIX and VXN for position size management or
With that said, the
information below about the Market Volatility Index will give
you a strong basic understanding about what it is.
What exactly is the Volatility indicator
(today's charts and other resources at bottom of
this education post)
The Chicago Board Options
Exchange (CBOE) Market Volatility Index (VIX)
indicates the level of anxiety or complacency of
the market. It does this by measuring how much
people are willing to pay to buy options on
S&P 500 'futures' (SPX), typically 'put'
options when are a bet that the market will
Sophisticated investors buy S&P 500 futures
'put' options to protect their stock portfolios
or even to speculate that the market may decline.
If the market does decline, the value of the put
options increases, compensating for the lose of
value in the stocks.
You could buy put options for each stock in your
portfolio, but that's more expensive and tedious.
Options on the S&P 100 futures are more
readily available and the market for them is more
'liquid', meaning they can be bought and sold
more quickly, especially in large volumes.
There are a number of factors that go into the
pricing of options. One of them is 'volatility'.
It's simply the extent to which the price of
something has changed over a year, measured as a
percentage. An option on a more volatile stock or
future will be more expensive. But options are
just like any other asset and as really priced
based on the law of supply and demand. If there
is an excess of supply compared to demand, the
price will drop. Conversely, if there is an
excess of demand, the price rises. Since all the
other parameters of the option price are
predictable or measurable, the piece that relates
to demand can be isolated. It's called the
'implied volatility'. Any excess or deficit of
demand would suggest that people have a
difference in expectation of the future price of
the underlying asset. In other words, the future
or 'expected volatility' will tend to be
different from the 'historic volatility'.
The CBOE has a rather complex formula for
averaging various options for the S&P 100
futures to get a hypothetical, normalized,
'ideal' option. The volatility component cant be
isolated from the the price of this ideal option.
That's VIX. Although both 'put' and 'call'
options are included in the calculation, it is
the 'put' options that lead to most of the excess
demand that VIX measures.
VIX is a good surrogate for market sentiment.
When everything is wonderful in the world, nobody
wants to buy put insurance, so VIX falls. But
when it looks like the sky is falling, everybody
wants insurance in spades and VIX heads for the
Values for VIX tend to be between 10 and 100.
Even in the most idyllic of times, VIX may not
get below 12 or 13.
VIX tends to move opposite the market. The market
goes up and VIX goes down. The market goes down
and VIX goes up.
VIX is viewed as a 'contrarian' indicator'.
Higher values (when the market is way down), such
as 40, can represent irrational fear and can
indicate that the market may be getting ready to
turn back up. Lower values (when the market is
way up), such as 14, can represent complacency or
'irrational exuberance' and can indicate the the
market is at risk of topping out and due for a
fair amount of profit taking. There's no
guarantee on any of this and VIX is not
necessarily by itself a leading indicator of
market action, but is certainly an interesting
indicator to help you get a sense of where the
10-15 - Excessive complacency
15-20 - Moderate complacency
20-25 - Low anxiety. Just about right.
25-30 - Moderately high anxiety
30-35 - High anxiety
35-40 - Very high anxiety
40+ - Panic
You can feel fairly comfortable if VIX is moving
in a range between 18 and 27.
Note: The above
numbers are those of the VIX...currently, we are
getting the numbers for the VXN. Until then...the
method for VXN is very similar to VIX, the
difference being that below 60 would be
considered bearish and above 90 would be
Also, many active traders use the
VXN as a signal for a major market change when
trading Nasdaq 100 Emini Future NQ or the big
contract ND because many feel
it's a better indicator than the VIX...especially
when the VIX isn't correlating well with the
What happens when the VIX and the market
produces conflicting signals?
Conflicting signals between VIX and the market
can yield sentiment clues for the short term.
Further, overly bullish sentiment or complacency
is regarded as bearish by contrarians. On the
other hand, overly bearish sentiment or panic is
regarded as bullish.
Lets say the market declines sharply and VIX
remains unchanged or decreases in value (towards
complacency), it could indicate that the decline
has further to go. Contrarians might take the
view that there is still not enough bearishness
or panic in the market to warrant a bottom.
Lets say the market advances sharply and VIX
increases in value (towards panic), it could
indicate that the advance has further to go.
Contrarians might take the view that there is not
enough bullishness or complacency to warrant a
VIX can occasionally 'spike' or move up very
rapidly as people receive a sudden shock. But
frequently people over-react and VIX quickly
settles back, at least somewhat.
During a true crisis, it's not uncommon for VIX
to have a 'spasm' of spikes, each higher than the
previous as anxiety increases with the severity
of the crisis. Perceived severity that is.
Many people on Wall Street subscribe to the
"If there's smoke, there's fire"
philosophy and "head for the exits" at
the first hint of trouble. Cooler heads tend to
take advantages of those over-reactions and bring
the anxiety level back down. But when real events
do suggest that anxiety should be higher, VIX
will rise again, this time to a higher level.
This cyclical process continues until the
perceived anxiety matches the actual crisis. Many
crises are resolved in short order, so VIX will
spike up and then come back time. But the
resolution of a crisis may take days or weeks or
even months to resolve to the market's
Market observers sometimes refer to a spike in
VIX as an indication of a 'capitulation'. When it
looks like the sky is falling everybody who is
likely to sell has done so. Or they bought
S&P 100 futures 'put' options to protect
themselves against a further decline.
But if all the sellers have sold, there's nobody
left to sell. It's only selling that makes the
market go down. And there're enough optimists to
buy any dip. It's also called an 'exhaustion of
This is considered a sign of a 'market bottom'.
But a market bottom may not be a final market
bottom. That's why you see a spasm of VIX spikes
and not just a single sharp spike.
It may just be a ledge on the way down even
further. There will always be optimists that jump
the gun before it's really time. For a true
bottom and ultimate capitulation, there really
needs to be some kind of good, soothing news that
leads people to believe that yes, the worst
really is past.
Traders may also use relative changes in the
level of VIX as a 'signal' for buying or selling.
If the VIX does not hit a very high or very low
level, traders might simply note that it has
moved more than 10% or 20% and use that to
suggest that a rally or correction could soon run
out of steam soon.
In other words, it's a way of sensing whether the
market has moved too far (up or down) too fast to
continue in that direction much longer, at least
in the short run.
There are other simpler explanations of the
Volatility Index at
Recommended Books for
the Informed Active Trader
Note: You need to know and
understand how options affects your futures
trades...thus, stay informed or play the
Phone: +1 708 572 4885
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