The VIX is a popular measure of the implied volatility of S&P 500 index options. Put shortly, the VIX is a mean reversion indicator: when the risk premium increases (VIX is rising in value) it might be wise to buy stocks and sell when VIX drops in value.
In this article, we present several VIX trading strategies.
VIX vs SPY
Let’s start with a chart that shows the VIX and SPY (SPY is the ETF that tracks the S&P 500):
The lowest pane shows VIX (the blue line in the pane in the middle is a “synthetic VIX” called WilliamsVixFix). How does VIX affect SPY?
As you can see, the VIX goes the complete opposite way (negative correlation) compared to the stock market and it’s possible (of course) to make a VIX trading strategy based on the indicator. They are rarely both up and 99% of teh time the pattern is one of diverging paths.
VIX 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. The test period is from 2005 until July 2012.
VIX trading strategy no. 1:
Let’s make some trading rules:
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.
VIX trading strategy no. 2:
Strategy 2: Here are the results using a standard deviation of 2.5:
VIX trading strategy no. 3:
Here are the results using a standard deviation of 2:
VIX trading strategy no. 4:
Here are the results using a standard deviation of 1.75:
VIX trading strategy no. 5:
Here are the results using a standard deviation of 1.5:
VIX trading strategy no. 6:
Here are the results using a standard deviation of 1:
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 double allocating 100%. The reason is a bug in my software. )
VIX strategies video
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The VIX trading strategies presented in this article are simple, but still seem to work. However, as always, we recommend doing your own backtesting when testing an indicator.
– What is the VIX, and how is it related to the S&P 500?
The VIX, or Volatility Index, is a measure of implied volatility in S&P 500 index options. It often moves inversely to the S&P 500, meaning when the VIX rises, it suggests higher market volatility.
– How does the VIX function as a mean reversion indicator?
The VIX can be considered a mean reversion indicator. When the VIX increases (indicating rising risk premium), it may signal a potential opportunity to buy stocks, and when the VIX decreases, it may suggest a time to sell.
– Why do VIX trading strategies tend to be complex?
Many VIX trading strategies can be complex due to the intricate nature of the indicator and the stock market. Traders often seek to fine-tune their strategies for optimal results.