VIX ETFs Show Market Complacency As Stocks Flirt With Record Highs

Includes: SVXY, VIXY, VXX, XIV
by: Tom Lydon

Exchange traded funds that track the movement of CBOE Volatility Index futures reflect the growing complacency within the equities market as investors feel more confident in dipping back into riskier assets.

Over the past three months, the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX) and the ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (NYSEARCA:VIXY) have plunged almost 47%.

In contrast, the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-term ETN (NASDAQ:XIV) has gained 64.9% and the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (NYSEARCA:SVXY) returned 63.8% over the same period. They're inverse ETFs that move in the opposite direction of VIX futures.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has increased 8.2% in the last three months as monetary easing measures sent the markets back to a "risk-on" rally.

The VIX now hovers around 14.3, which is below its historical mean and median and near a five-year low - the index traded at a five-year low of 13.45 on Aug. 17.

The VIX is a widely viewed gauge of market risk or "fear" - the index tracks implied future volatility. With its current low readings, the indicator is pointing to greater complacency in the markets and less fear of rising volatility in the near term.

Nevertheless, investors remain cautious with the current rally. Options volume on VIX futures hit a daily record on Tuesday, with over 1.2 million contracts swapping hands, the highest since Aug. 2011 when the VIX was at 48, reports Doris Frankel for Reuters.

"As volume in VIX options increases, it is a signal that more people are using the contracts as a hedge to their long equity exposure," Ben Londergan, co-chief executive officer at Group One Trading in Chicago, said in the Reuters article.

Max Chen contributed to this article.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.