ETFs tracking the Chicago Board Options Exchange SPX Volatility Index (VIX) have been among the most-actively traded over the past two weeks as well as some of the biggest movers. The VIX, which attempts to reveal market sentiment by tracking options trading in order to forecast the level of volatility over the next month based on that activity, has been on the rise lately as concern about the government shut down and debt ceiling negotiations had investors anticipating higher volatility. However, recent signs that the stalemate might be nearing conclusion, or at least that Republicans may be willing to pass a short-term increase in the debt ceiling, has the VIX declining and the ETFs tracking it moving accordingly.
The VIX fell over nearly 5 percent on Friday, prompting the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures (VXX) to drop almost 2 percent and the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term ETN (XIV) to gain nearly 2.25 percent.
More Promising News From Washington
The most recent move in the VIX and its corresponding ETFs appears to be related to news that a meeting between congressional leaders and President Obama went positively. Sources are indicating that congress will vote on a 6-week increase in the debt ceiling as soon as Friday, significantly cooling market fears.
Other ETFs tracking projected volatility were on the move as well, with the ProShares Trust II ($UVXY) and the VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short Term ETN (TVIX) both declining close to 5 percent.
VIX, ETFs Go on Wild Ride
The VIX is often referred to as the “fear index,” as it’s commonly viewed as a measurement of investors’ concerns about the markets. And the government shut down had investors appearing afraid, based on their options trades. The index shot up over 30 percent from October 1 to October 8, prompting the iPath VIX Short Term fund to gain just over 15 percent over the same period. Then, beginning with news that Boehner might be willing to pass a short-term debt ceiling increase, the VIX dropped nearly 20 percent to where it is today with the iShares fund declining over 15 percent during the same period.
On the whole, both the iShares fund and the VIX have declined over the last three days to return to levels close to where they were at the beginning of the month prior to concerns of political stalemate driving market worries.