Volatility is one of the defining characteristics of today's global markets. As a result, many traders are seeking better ways to profit from their bets on shifting volatility. Once, the primary way to trade volatility was to buy and sell standard calls and puts. Then, the world discovered VIX, the so-called "Fear Index." Next, the CBOE devised ways to trade the VIX: first VIX futures, and then VIX options. Unfortunately, not everyone can trade futures; hence, the latest of innovations derived from ETFs are volatility-based Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs): first VXX, then VXZ, and now more than two dozen additional competitors. These debt instruments can be excellent trading and hedging vehicles, but they don't perfectly track the VIX. As a result, it's tricky to use them reliably, and many traders who've experimented with them have suffered significant losses. In Trading Volatility ETFs, Adam Warner explains the structures of VXX and VXZ, reveals how they've worked in the past, and projects their behavior in different market environments. He systematically demystifies their subtleties, explains who should and shouldn't use them, and describes how they can best be applied in effective hedging and trading.
Adam Warner is a proprietary option trader with Addormar Co, Inc., and author of Options Volatility Trading: Strategies for Profiting from Market Swings. He has guest-written Barron's The Striking Price Daily, has contributed to Street Insight, Trading Markets, and Minyanville, and cofounded Expiring Monthly magazine. Warner traded as a member of the American Stock Exchange from 1988 through 2001.