By: Steve Smith
I recently discussed how historically low volatility has limited the trading opportunities in individual options, but that hasn’t prevented people from trading the products tied to the volatility itself. Today’s investing advice will take a closer look at some of these products.
The dominant volatility gauge is the VIX, which was launched and controlled by the Chicago Board of Options Exchange (CBOE), and has spawned connected and similar measures for everything from Gold to Apple (AAPL)
Volume in VIX futures and related ETFs such as the iPath S&P 500 Short Term Volatility (VXX) and their options remains robust, and one of the few bright spots for the CBOE that has otherwise seen dwindling trading volume.
Even as VIX hits fresh lows, shorting volatility has actually become one of the most popular and crowded trades.
Now, as the Wall Street Journal reports, the Nasdaq (NDAQ) wants to get in on the action by launching its own S&P 500 based volatility index to be called the VolDex. The main difference is that VolDex will be based on SPDR (SPY) ETF options rather the S&P 500 futures options.
The reasoning is the SPY options are more liquid, and will therefore be both more accurate and less open to price manipulation, especially as expiration dates approach.
But the bigger and better news is that Nasdaq may finally be launching a tradeable product based on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 Volatility Index (VXN).
The VXN was also created by the CBOE, but due to licensing issues, they have never launched futures or ETFs that could actually be traded.
It would be a very welcome development if the Nasdaq created and listed products, including options, based on the popular Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) PowerShares Nasdaq 100 (QQQ).
Maybe, in a “build it and the will come” scenario, once they list the new volatility products, the actual volatility levels will increase. Our investing advice is to keep a close eye on these products, and make sure they deliver on their promise before committing your money.