Volatility―or more specifically, the lack thereof―has been in the news recently, as the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) fell below 10 earlier this month, the lowest level in a decade. The calmness in the stock market has perplexed many and sent ETFs tied to the VIX to new records.
The largest products in the space, the $862 million iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX), down 42% year-to-date, fell to a record low on Monday, while the $746 million VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (XIV), up 63% year-to-date, rose to a record high.
Those are big swings, but not unusual. Volatility exchange-traded products (ETFs and ETNs) are routinely some of the biggest movers in the market, something that makes them attractive to aggressive traders. They're also used extensively for hedging and other purposes.
Taking advantage of the popularity of volatility products, VelocityShares launched a pair of new volatility ETNs this week. But these aren't your typical VIX-based products.
First European Volatility ETPs
The VelocityShares 1x Long VSTOXX Futures ETN (EVIX) and the VelocityShares 1x Daily Inverse VSTOXX Futures ETN (EXIV), both listed on the Bats exchange, which is owned by ETF.com's parent company, CBOE, are the first products to offer exposure to volatility on European stocks. They have expense ratios of 1.35%
The two exchange-traded notes provide long and short exposure, respectively, to the EURO STOXX 50 Volatility (VSTOXX) futures. VSTOXX is a gauge similar to the VIX in the U.S. Just as the VIX is calculated based on implied volatilities of short-term S&P 500 options, VSTOXX is calculated based on implied volatilities of short-term EURO STOXX 50 options.
Currently, VSTOXX is trading at 17.4, compared with its long-term average of 25. For comparison, the long-term average for the VIX is 19.6.
VSTOXX Systematically Higher Than VIX
According to Nick Cherney, senior vice president and head of exchange-traded products for VelocityShares' parent company Janus Capital, the VSTOXX is systematically elevated relative to the VIX. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the underlying stock index for VSTOXX has only 50 components compared with 500 for the VIX.
On the other hand, the contango―the difference between front-month futures and subsequent contracts―is generally lower for VSTOXX compared with VIX.