VIX ETPs Flash Some Green In 2016

Last year I shocked quite a few investors and media outlets with the publication of Every Single VIX ETP (Long and Short) Lost Money in 2015.My intent was not to tar and feather the VIX exchange-traded products landscape, but to highlight the fact that in an environment characterized by sharp VIX spikes and other volatility extremes, the power of volatility compounding price decay can overwhelm both long and inverse ETPs. 

In sharp contrast to across-the-board losses in 2015, the performance of VIX ETPs in 2016 was much more balanced and in line with historical norms.While there were some sharp VIX spikes, the combination moderate volatility, above-average contango and persistent mean reversion translated into a sharp down year for the long VIX ETPs and a strong up year for the inverse VIX ETPs.The more complex multi-leg, long-short and dynamic VIX strategy ETPs were closest to breaking even for the year, with half of these posting modest gains and half posting small losses.

In the graphic below, I have plotted the performance of all twenty VIX-based ETPs with respect to leverage and maturity, using leverage on the y-axis and maturity on the x-axis.This group includes five VIX strategy ETPs that have no easily discernible point on the leverage-maturity grid.Depending on how finely you wish to split hairs, these twenty ETPs account for anywhere from fourteen to eighteen unique ways to trade volatility long and short, across various maturities and according to a wide variety of strategic approaches. 


[source(s): VIX and More]

On the plus side, while both XIV and SVXY were up over 80% during calendar 2016, this performance falls short of the 2012 and 2013 numbers, where each ETP gained more than 100% in both years.Similarly, while losses of over 93% for UVXY and TVIX must sound like a worst-case scenario for these two products, losses were over 97% in 2012 and just slightly better – at -92% – in 2013.In terms of consistent winners, while their numbers have been more modest, the most consistent gainers in the VIX ETP space have been ZIVTRSK and SPXH.

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Disclosure(s): the CBOE is an advertiser on VIX and More

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