Easy Volatility Investing
34 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2013
For many decades the only way to invest in volatility has been through trading options, futures, or variance swaps. But in recent years a number of volatility-related exchange traded Funds (ETFs) and Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) have been launched which make volatility trading accessible to the retail investor and fund managers without the need to access futures markets. Our objective is to devise a trading strategy using them. We document where volatility returns come from, clearing up some misconception in the process. Then we illustrate five different strategies that will appeal to different investors. Four of the strategies are simple to describe and implement. All of the strategies have had extraordinary returns with high Sharpe Ratios and low correlation to the S&P5'08 in some cases negative correlation. The returns seems to be too good to be true – like picking up $100 bills in front of a steamroller – so we have a detailed discussion on the risks and the nature of the steamroller.
We illustrate how these strategies can be incorporated into existing portfolios to reduce portfolio risk especially in times of crisis. They have positive exposure to the markets during good times and negative exposure during bad times. Unfortunately they do not always provide absolute returns and while reducing net portfolio drawdowns they can themselves have significant drawdowns. Still, we suggest that a traditional 60% equities, 40% bonds portfolio should be adjusted to 55% equities, 35% bonds, and 10% volatility.
Keywords: Volatility trading, Futures pricing, Volatility Risk Premium, Roll yield, Momentum
JEL Classification: C32, C53, G11, G12, G13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation