# Using VIX to trade SPY and S&P 500

VIX is a popular measure of the implied volatility of S&P 500 index options. You can read about the VIX using the link, but put shortly this is a mean reversion indicator: when the risk premium increses (VIX is rising in value) it might be wise to buy stocks and sell when VIX drops in value. As you can see, the VIX goes the complete opposite way compared to the stock market. It is a well known indicator and a lot of strategies can be found on the internet. However, many of them are quite complicated. Personally I have also tested a few of them.

VIX can also be traded. For example the ticker VXX is an ETF for the short to intermediate volatility. However, an ETF can never replicate VIX completely and VIX is also a spot indicator.

Here is one idea to trade the VIX: Go long SPY/ES when VIX breaks the upper bollinger band (BB). Exit after two up days in SPY/ES (I have a fetish for this exit). I’ll test this in several versions: one going for the extreme fills, and others going for a lot more fills. Test period is from 2005 until July 2012.

Strategy 1: I’m using a 10 day moving average for the BB. I like to use short time frames since they are more responsive. First, let’s try with a standard deviation of 3 for the upper band. When testing, there is no fills using 3 STD.

Strategy 2: Here are the results using a standard deviation of 2.5:

Avg | #Trades | #Wins | Max.win | Max.loss |

1.44 | 25 | 21 | 5.22 | -1.39 |

Here are the results using a standard deviation of 2:

Avg | #Trades | #Wins | Max.win | Max.loss |

0.93 | 70 | 53 | 12.89 | -9.56 |

Here are the results using a standard deviation of 1.75:

Avg | #Trades | #Wins | Max.win | Max.loss |

0.56 | 82 | 58 | 4.46 | -9.56 |

Here are the results using a standard deviation of 1.5:

Avg | #Trades | #Wins | Max.win | Max.loss |

0.49 | 102 | 72 | 4.33 | -13.43 |

Here are the results using a standard deviation of 1:

Avg | #Trades | #Wins | Max.win | Max.loss |

0.42 | 135 | 94 | 4.2 | -13.43 |

The basic principle here is to buy on weakness and sell on strength. I’ll leave it up to the reader to do some more research.

(The equity chart in this article shows returns using just 50% of the capital per trade, ie the return is the double allocating 100%. The reason is a bug in my software. )

Just wanted to point out the interesting factor regarding riskmanagement. As I can see from the two-three first pics, the subprime crash in 2008 didn’t hit that hard on the strategy. But when you lower the level of standard deviation, you also rise the exposure a bit.

It’s a bit hard to read presicely on the graphs, but it seems to me that the crash are smoothen out a little on the first pics.

Anyway, thanks for posting and sharing these ideas, it’s very inspiring.

Nice post. This agrees well with my analysis of the VIX that I did last year in a blog post here: http://nightowltrader.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-vix-really-predict-market.html.

Simply put, I’ve noticed in general that once the VIX hits its upper BB, it rarely stays there more than a day or two before retreating. And when the VIX goes down, the market goes up.

I’m going to have a look at your findings. The reason I post is that I want to get input….

Interesting stuff. VXX is not a good proxy for the vix in the long term because it suffers from major contango issues – often 10% per month!

Yes, you’re right. The results using volatility ETFs can be completely different compared to VIX. Here is a definition of contango: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contango