Trading the VIX Futures Roll and Volatility Premiums with VIX Options
35 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2015
Date Written: June 23, 2015
This study examines the efficiency of VIX option trading strategies that exploit the VIX futures roll and the often substantial VIX futures volatility premiums from January 2007 through March 2014. The study first assesses the related issue of whether VIX options typically are overpriced by examining long VIX option delta-hedged returns and demonstrates that average losses on front contract calls and puts over 5-business day horizons either are not statistically significant or are economically small. In light of the evidence that VIX option buyers on average do not overpay at all or by much for the limited risk associated with VIX options, the study then turns to whether long VIX option positions can be used to exploit the well-documented tendencies of VIX futures to rise and fall when the VIX futures curve is in backwardation and in contango, respectively, as well as the tendency of VIX futures to build in large ex-ante volatility premiums. The results demonstrate that these defined-risk strategies are highly profitable and offer attractive risk-reward tradeoffs. Moreover, the systematic tendencies of VIX futures have far more power for predicting attractive VIX option returns than the ex-ante volatility premiums built into VIX options. The study also shows that long VIX option strategies importantly benefit from a strong tailwind that owes to the tendency of VIX option implied volatilities to rise with increases in the actual volatilities of underlying VIX futures contracts, as VIX futures move toward settlement and their volatilities rise to the typically higher volatility of the VIX.
Keywords: VIX Options, Volatility Premiums, Trading Strategies
JEL Classification: G13, G14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation