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Cyclical-Defensive Sector Rotation Based on VIX Level

November 25, 2020 • Posted in Volatility Effects

Do differences in equity sector responses to stock market crashes (and associated volatility spikes) support an exploitably attractive sector rotation strategy? In the November 2020 update of his paper entitled “Actively Using Passive Sectors to Generate Alpha Using the VIX”, Michael Gayed examines a cyclical-defensive sector rotation strategy using the level of the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) as trigger. Specifically, he iteratively favors defensive sectors (Utilities, Consumer Staples and Healthcare) when daily VIX is relatively low in anticipation of VIX increases and favors cyclical sectors (Technology, Industrials, Materials and Consumer Discretionary) to buy into high-VIX panics and benefit from VIX reversion. He considers:

  • Three allocation schemes: (1) 100% long favored sectors and 100% short unfavored sectors; (2) 100% long favored sectors; and, (3) overweighting (underweighting) favored (unfavored) sectors by 5% to form a modified S&P 500 Index.
  • Two weighting schemes for sets of defensive and cyclical sectors: (1) equal weighting, and (2) S&P 500 sector weighting.
  • Two ways of applying the Nelder-Mead method to identify daily VIX levels that trigger defensive-to-cyclical and cyclical-to-defensive switches: (1) using only the first five years (1999-2004) of the full sample, and (2) using a 5-year rolling window throughout the sample period.

Using daily levels of VIX and the S&P 500 Index and daily prices of Select Sector SPDR Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) during January 1999 through October 2020, with strategy tests starting January 2005, he finds that: (more…)

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