Volatility Effects

Reward goes with risk, and volatility represents risk. Therefore, volatility means reward; investors/traders get paid for riding roller coasters. Right? These blog entries relate to volatility effects.

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Estimating Snooping Bias for a Multi-parameter Strategy

A subscriber flagged an apparently very attractive exchange-traded fund (ETF) momentum-volatility-correlation strategy that, as presented, generates a optimal compound annual growth rate of 45.7% with modest maximum drawdown. The strategy chooses from among the following seven ETFs:

ProShares Ultra S&P500 (SSO)
SPDR EURO STOXX 50 (FEZ)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets (EEM)
iShares Latin America 40 (ILF)
iShares MSCI Pacific ex-Japan (EPP)
Vanguard Extended Duration Treasuries Index ETF (EDV)
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY)

The steps in the strategy are, at the end of each month:

  1. For the first six of the above ETFs, compute log returns over the last three months and standard deviation (volatility) of log returns over the past six months.
  2. Standardize these the monthly sets of past log returns and volatilities based on their respective means and standard deviations.
  3. Rank the six ETFs according to the sum of 0.75 times standardized past log return plus 0.25 times past standardized volatility.
  4. Buy the top-ranked ETF for the next month.
  5. However, if at the end of any month, the correlation of SSO and EDV monthly log returns over the past four months is greater than 0.75, instead buy SHY for the next month.

The developer describes this strategy as an adaptation of someone else’s strategy and notes that he has tested a number of systems. How material might the implied secondary and primary data snooping bias be in the performance of this system? To investigate, we examine the fragility of performance statistics to variation of each strategy parameter separately. As presented, the author substitutes other ETFs for the two with the shortest histories to extend the test period backward in time. We use only price histories as available for the specified ETFs, limited by EDV with inception January 2008. Using monthly adjusted closing prices for the above seven ETFs and for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) during January 2008 through February 2014 (74 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Shorting VXX with Crash Protection

One finding of “Identifying VXX/XIV Tendencies” is that shorting iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX), with crash protection, may be attractive. To investigate further, we consider applying a simple crash protection rule to three VXX shorting scenarios: (1) shorting an initial amount of VXX and letting this position ride indefinitely (Let It Ride); (2) shorting a fixed amount of VXX and resetting this fixed position monthly (Fixed Reset); and, (3) shorting an initial amount of VXX and adjusting the size of the short position monthly according to the prior-month gain or loss (Gain/Loss Adjusted). For comparison, we also test a more complex set of trend detection rules proposed by a subscriber. For tractability, we ignore trading frictions, costs of shorting and return on cash proceeds from shorting/gains. Using monthly closes for the S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) and both daily and monthly reverse split-adjusted closing prices for VXX from January 2009 through January 2014 (61 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Exploiting the Volatility Risk Premium with ETNs

“Identifying VXX/XIV Tendencies” finds that the Volatility Risk Premium (VRP), estimated as the difference between the current level of the S&P 500 implied volatility index (VIX) and the annualized standard deviation of S&P 500 Index daily returns over the previous 21 trading days (multiplying by the square root of 250 to annualize), may be a useful predictor of iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-term Futures ETN (VXX) and VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-term ETN (XIV) returns. Is there a way to exploit this predictive power? To investigate, we compare cumulative performance for: (1) buying and holding XIV; (2) timing XIV to avoid times when VRP is low; and, (3) timing XIV and VXX to exploit both high and low VRP conditions. Using daily closes for XIV, VXX, VIX and the S&P 500 Index from XIV inception (end of November 2010) through February 2014, we find that: Keep Reading

Exploiting VIX Futures Roll Return with ETNs

“Identifying VXX/XIV Tendencies” finds that S&P 500 implied volatility index (VIX) futures roll return, as measured by the percentage difference in settlement price between the nearest and next nearest VIX futures, may be a useful predictor of iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-term Futures ETN (VXX) and VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-term ETN (XIV) returns. Is there a way to exploit this predictive power? To investigate, we compare cumulative performance for: (1) buying and holding XIV; (2) timing XIV to avoid times when the roll return is positive; and, (3) timing XIV and VXX to exploit both negative and positive roll return conditions. Using daily closing prices for XIV and VXX and daily settlement prices for VIX futures from XIV inception (end of November 2010) through February 2014, we find that: Keep Reading

Identifying VXX/XIV Tendencies

A subscriber inquired about strategies for trading exchange-traded notes (ETN) constructed from near-term S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) futures: iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) and VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term (XIV), available since 1/30/09 and 11/30/10, respectively. The managers of these securities buy and sell VIX futures daily to maintain a constant maturity of one month (long for VXX and short for XIV), continually rolling partial positions from the nearest term contract to the next nearest. We consider four potential predictors of the price behavior of these securities:

  1. The level of VIX, in case a high (low) level indicates a future decrease (increase) in VIX that might affect VXX and XIV.
  2. The change in VIX, in case there is some predictable reversion or momentum for VIX that might affect VXX and XIV.
  3. The term structure of VIX futures (roll return) underlying VXX and XIV, as measured by the percentage difference in settlement price between the nearest and next nearest VIX futures, indicating a price headwind or tailwind for a fund manager continually rolling from one to the other. Roll return is usually negative (contango), but occasionally positive (backwardation).
  4. The Volatility Risk Premium (VRP), estimated as the difference between VIX and the annualized standard deviation of daily S&P 500 Index returns over the past 21 trading days (multiplying by the square root of 250 to annualize), in case this difference between expectations and recent experience indicates the direction of future change in VIX.

We identify predictive power by relating daily VXX and XIV returns over the next 21 trading days to daily values of each indicator. Using daily levels of VIX, settlement prices for VIX futures contracts, levels of the S&P 500 Index and split-adjusted prices for VXX and XIV from inceptions of the ETNs through February 2014, we find that: Keep Reading

When Rebalancing Works?

Under what conditions is periodic rebalancing a successful “volatility harvesting” strategy? In his February 2014 paper entitled “Disentangling Rebalancing Return”, Winfried Hallerbach analyzes the return from periodic portfolio rebalancing by decomposing its effects into a volatility return and a dispersion discount. He defines:

  • Rebalancing return as the difference in (geometric) growth rates between periodically rebalanced and buy-and-hold portfolios.
  • Volatility return as the difference in growth rates between a periodically rebalanced portfolio and the equally weighted average growth rate of its component assets.
  • Dispersion discount as the difference in growth rates between a buy-and-hold portfolio and the equally weighted average growth rate of portfolio assets.

Based on mathematical derivations with some approximations, he concludes that: Keep Reading

When (for What) Risk Parity Works

What drives the performance of risk parity asset allocation, and on what asset classes does it therefore work best? In their January 2014 paper entitled “Inter-Temporal Risk Parity: A Constant Volatility Framework for Equities and Other Asset Classes”, Romain Perchet, Raul Leote de Carvalho, Thomas Heckel and Pierre Moulin employ simulations and backtests to explore the conditions/asset classes for which a periodically rebalanced risk parity asset allocation enhances portfolio performance. Specifically, they examine contemporaneous interactions between risk parity performance and each of return-volatility relationship, return volatility clustering and fatness of return distribution tails (kurtosis). They then compare different ways of predicting volatility for risk parity implementation. Finally, they backtest volatility prediction/risk parity allocation effectiveness separately for stock, commodity, high-yield corporate bond, investment-grade corporate bond and government bond indexes (each versus the risk-free asset). They optimize volatility prediction model parameters annually based on an expanding window of historical data. They forecast volatility based on one-year rolling historical daily return dataUsing daily total returns in U.S. dollars for the S&P 500 Index during 1980 through 2012 and for the Russell 1000, MSCI Emerging Market, S&P Commodities, U.S. High Yield Bond, U.S. Corporate Investment Grade Bond and U.S. 10-Year Government Bond indexes and the 3-month U.S. Dollar LIBOR rate (as the risk-free rate) during January 1988 through December 2012, they find that: Keep Reading

Realized/Implied Return Variance Ratio as a Trading Signal

Is it possible to predict serial correlation (autocorrelation) of stock returns, and thereby enhance reversal and momentum strategies. In the January 2014 version of his paper entitled “The Information Content of Option Prices Regarding Future Stock Return Serial Correlation”, Scott Murray investigates the relationship between the variance ratio (the ratio of realized to implied stock return variance, a measure of the variance risk premium) to stock return serial correlation. He calculates realized variance at the end of each month from daily log stock returns over the prior three months. He calculates implied variance at the end of each month as the square of the volatility implied by at-the-money 0.5 delta call and put options one month from expiration. He first measures the power of the variance ratio to predict stock return serial correlation. He then tests the effectiveness of this predictive power to enhance reversal and momentum stock trading. Using the specified return and option data for all U.S. stocks with listed options during January 1996 through December 2012, he finds that: Keep Reading

Unexpected Market Volatility as a Market Return Predictor

Do upside (downside) market volatility surprises scare investors out of (draw investors into) the stock market? In the November 2013 version of his paper entitled “Dynamic Asset Allocation Strategies Based on Unexpected Volatility”, Valeriy Zakamulin investigates the ability of unexpected stock market volatility to predict future market returns. He calculates stock market index volatility for a month using daily returns. He then regresses monthly volatility versus next-month volatility to predict next-month volatility. Unexpected volatility is the series of differences between predicted and actual monthly volatility. He tests the ability of unexpected volatility to predict stock market returns via regression tests and two market timing strategies. One strategy dynamically weights positions in a stock index and cash (the risk-free asset) depending on the prior-month difference between actual and past average unexpected index volatility. The other strategy holds a 100% stock index (cash) position when the prior-month difference between actual and average past unexpected index volatility is negative (positive). His initial volatility prediction uses the first 240 months of data, and subsequent predictions use inception-to-date data. He ignores trading frictions involved in strategy implementation. Using daily and monthly (approximated) total returns of the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), along with the U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the return on cash, during January 1950 through December 2012, he finds that: Keep Reading

Diversifying and Pair Trading with Volatility Futures

Are implied volatility futures good diversifiers of underlying indexes? Do implied volatility futures for different indexes represent a reliable pair trading opportunity? In their November 2013 paper entitled “Investment Strategies with VIX and VSTOXX Futures”, Silvia Stanescu and Radu Tunaru update the case for hedging conventional stock and stock-bond portfolios with near-term implied volatility futures for the S&P 500 Index (VIX) and the Euro STOXX 50 Index (VSTOXX). For this analysis, they use data for the U.S. and European stock market indexes, associated implied volatility futures and U.S. and European aggregate bond indexes from March 2004 for U.S. assets (VIX futures inception) and from May 2009 for European assets (VSTOXX futures inception), both through February 2012. They also investigate a statistical arbitrage (pair trading) strategy exploiting a regression-based prediction of the trend in the gap between VIX and VSTOXX during the last six months of 2012. Using daily data for the specified indexes and implied volatility futures contracts, they find that: Keep Reading

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