The CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) soared another 8.79% today to 18.56 on news that a ABC News/Washington Post poll put Republican Donald Trump ahead of Democrat Hilary Clinton 46% to 45%, and on another inexplicable release from the FBI, this time of the record of its closed 2005 investigation of President Bill Clinton’s end of term pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.
On October 24 the VIX closed at 13.02. But that was before the end of election political storm broke. That’s a 42.5% move to the upside in a little over a week. (The VIX tracks the price that investors are willing to pay to hedge against a drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index.)
Of course, U.S. politics isn’t the only thing going on in the world. We’ve had positive and negative news out of China. Brexit continues to drive down the pound. The EuroZone economy can seem to get either inflation or growth moving upward. OPEC seems to have hit deadlock in its effort to reduce oil production by its members.
In my October 20 post “Specific volatility plays for a vulnerable market” http://jubakam.com/2016/10/specific-volatility-plays-for-a-vulnerable-market-options-on-the-vix-look-cheap/ I wrote that volatility seemed cheap given all the potential worries facing the market. And I suggested playing that cheapness/potential rise in fear by buying options on the VIX futures directly or by buying shares in a VIX ETF such as the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-term Futures ETF (UVXY). I suggested a 2X leveraged ETF like the ProShares ETF because the leverage would give you performance of something like that in the VIX futures themselves.
If you hit the October 24 low on the VIX exactly, you’d be looking at a 42.5% move to the upside. If instead you bought on October 20 when I posted, you’d be looking at a 28.8% move in the VIX.
For the ETF, from the October 24 low, the gain is 32.8%. From the time of my post on October 20, the gain is 15.1%.
Now, of course, the question is how much higher can fear go in the days before the U.S. election on November 8. I think fear has got a way to run in that very short-term. The FBI stands very little chance of getting far enough into its investigation of the Anthony Weiner/Huma Abedin laptop to tell voters any specific about what’s in the emails that it has found on that device. The polls will continue to tighten–if for no other reason than they almost always do in the closing days of a campaign as somewhat disaffect partisans return to the fold of their parties. Clinton’s huge Electoral College edge isn’t going to make Democratic voters and politicians any less anxious–Democrats frequently remind me of Cub fans in that they always see disaster around the next fly ball.
You still might be able to make 10% or so on the VIX, in my opinion. I do remind everyone that this was intended to be a very short-term trade and I wouldn’t hold this beyond election day or 22 on the VIX. Whichever comes first.
Full disclosure: I bought shares in the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-term Futures ETF for my personal portfolio three days after my October 20 post.