Ten years ago, most people hadn’t even heard of the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX. These days, the “fear index” is covered by the mainstream financial media, and you can’t throw a stick without hitting someone who fancies themselves a VIX expert.
The problem is that half of these people don’t have any clue what they’re talking about. So there is a lot of misinformation out there surrounding the VIX and VIX trading products, including futures and ETNs. When it comes to trading the VIX, nothing moves quite like you think it should.
To clear things up a bit, here are eight VIX trading myths you don’t want to fall for.
VIX Myth #1: You Can Buy and Sell the VIX
Reality. You cannot buy and sell the actual VIX. You can buy and sell VIX futures, but that is a very different thing. VIX futures can trade at premiums or discounts to the VIX. In fact, they almost always trade at premiums to the VIX.
VIX Myth #2: You Can Own the VIX Via Futures
Reality. VIX futures cash out when they expire based on a VIX settlement price. So unless you roll out, your position will vanish.
VIX Myth #3: A Rolled Position Will Track VIX Moves
Reality. VIX futures price based on where the market expects to see the VIX on a given date in the future, i.e, the day the VIX expires. That estimate may or may not move on a given day with a move in the VIX. The further out in time the future is, the less it will track VIX moves.
VIX Myth #4: VXX Tracks the VIX Better Than Futures
Reality. The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSE:VXX) is an exchange-traded note that is based on a hypothetical rolling 30-day VIX future and trades like a regular stock. However, it does not track VIX moves particularly well. In fact, it underperforms over time so long as VIX futures trade in an upwardly sloped term structure. And VIX futures virtually always trade that way.
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