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"The Vol Market Finally Broke": A Quant Explains What Happened Today, And What Is Coming Tomorrow

"The Vol Market Finally Broke": A Quant Explains What Happened Today, And What Is Coming Tomorrow

By Charlie McElligott, managing director of cross-asset strategy at Nomura.

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The “grey swan” we all have spoken about for years—that being the absurd “tail wagging the dog” potential of VIX ETN market structure (inverse and leveraged products) AND the massive growth in “negative convexity” / “vol target” / “vol rebalancing” strategies to either generate extra income or “systematically allocate risk” (looks good in the prospectus, right?!) –finally “broke” the volatility market, and has now bled-through to the “underlying” spot equities market…as the short vol trade went “lights out.” 

The ETNs are the “patient zero” of this current market meltdown.  It is estimated that there was anywhere from ~$125mm to $200mm of vega / VIX futs to BUY on the close from the two main “short VIX” ETNs that rebalance daily (XIV and SVXY).  As S&P traded -50 handles AFTER the cash close from 4:00pm to 4:15pm into the market’s anticipation of the massive rebalancing of volatility (buy to cover) on the close, XIV then saw a delayed and terrifying ~-87 PERCENT move after the close, as some who owned XIV puts as crash protection sniffed this potential and speculated liquidation from the ETN, which is set per a rules-based system to buy back short vega after an 80% “crash trigger”(which again isn’t a certainty because they use a blend of 1st and 2nd month).  The asset pool nonetheless was seemingly / largely wiped-out and the note is guaranteed to “pay out” to their shareholders as set per their prospectus.  It is likely that this thing has indeed been “triggered” and will be forced to liquidate.  SVXY doesn’t have the firm 80% “trigger” but too is seeing its NAV “wiped out” and is trading ~-80% post-close as well.

The issue NOW is the pile-on going-forward across assets, as the systematic “short vol” community’s models are now completely toast, and they too will be forced to cover remaining “short vol” positions that didn’t trade today—i.e. BE PREPARED FOR A MAJOR VIX FOLLOW-THROUGH TOMORROW. 

Continued: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-02-05/vol-market-finally-broke-quant-explains-what-happened-today-and-what-coming