S&P 500: Does Low Fear Portend High Risk?

Below is a free excerpt of the December 9, Profit Radar Report, which takes a detailed look at various sentiment, liquidity, breadth and moment indicators to gauge the down side risk. Since this update is published out of context with all the other updates, an additional “Summary” section is provided at the end of the December 9 Profit Radar Report to provide bigger picture context.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Business Daily says: “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

                                       * * * * * December 9, 2018 Profit Radar Report * * * * *

The S&P 500 closed at 2,633.08 on Friday. That’s only 1.99 points higher than the November 23 low. If the S&P would have closed at a new low, it would have been interesting to see if there are any bullish divergences.

Well, futures are down 20+ points in Sunday’s trading, so let’s just pretend the S&P closed at new lows, and look for potential divergences anyway. The blue box highlights the price action since the September high.

  • RSI-35 did not confirm the ‘new low’ (RSI-2 is near over-sold)
  • The cumulative NY Composite a/d lines did not confirm
  • The NY Composite a/d ratio did not confirm
  • The percentage of stocks below their 50-day SMA did not confirm

How about different sentiment gauges?

  • The VIX is below its October extreme
  • The VIX/VIX3M ratio is below its October extreme
  • The CBOE equity put/call ratio is at the same level
  • Contango is above its October extreme
  • The SKEW carved out a new low
  • The CBOE equity put/call ratio (5-day SMA) is below its November extreme
  • NAAIM equity exposure is about even, but above its November extreme
  • Bullish Advisors polled by II are less bearish than last week
  • Bullish Investors polled by AAII are less bearish than last week

All the above indicators show that there is little panic, certainly less panic than in October or November. This could be viewed as either 1) a bullish divergence or 2) there is enough room for the market to fall further.

Based on Elliott Wave Theory, the S&P 500 could be 1) nearing the exhaustion point of this down leg, or 2) be in a strong and sustained wave 3 lower (S&P could still rally towards or into 2,700s before next down move). The summary section below discusses which scenario is more likely.

Another attention grabber was last week’s ‘death cross,’ where the 50-day SMA fell below the 200-day SMA.

The last time death cross that received a lot of attention was in May 2016, when the 50-week SMA fell below the 100-week SMA. This was supposed to be an ‘irrefutable sell signal,’ but ultimately turned out to be one of the best buying opportunities ever.

At best, SMA crossovers have a spotty track record, and we don’t base our anlysis on such lagging indicators. For those interested, the arrows in the weekly chart below mark all bearish and bullish 200/50-day SMA crosses over the past 20 years (weekly chart shown to capture longer-term history of signals).

Shown below are various support levels that may help navigate the coming weeks, and answer the question posed above: What’ next? Sustained move lower, or quick wash out decline followed by snap-back rally?

  • 2,618: Black trend channel
  • 2,607: Wave C = 61.8% wave A
  • 2,550: Wave C = 78.6% wave A
  • 2,500: Fibonacci support going back to 2011
  • 2,478: Wave C = 100% wave A
  • 2,385: Trend line support going back to 1998
  • 2,280: Trend channel support going back to 2009

The Russell 2000 IWM is in the general green support range, with trend channel support at 143.25 and 141.30. A bounce from 143.25 – 141.30 seems likely, but sustained trade below the lower trend channel would unlock lower targets.

The Nasdaq-100 QQQ has a general range of support at 161 – 157. A break below, would likely lead to a retest of the February/March lows at 154-150.

Summary: The above analysis was based on Friday’s closing price. The S&P 500 futures chart below includes Sunday’s 20+ point drop. Trade is right around black trend channel support. Anytime prices reaches support, odds of a bounce increase.

Based on the Elliott Wave Theory structure, we are trying to figure out whether we are nearing the end of this down leg (with a potential wash out decline), or if trade will accelerate lower (as a wave 3 would).

A brief drop (1-3 days) below 2,618 (with next support at 2,607, 2,550 and perhaps as low as 2,500) followed by a quick recovery would preserve the bullish divergences and suggest sellers got ‘washed out’ and a year-end rally is underway.

Persistent trade below 2,618 and 2,607 means we need to allow for more weakness.

We will take a stab at going long (only with a small amount as this correction may carve out lower lows eventually) if the S&P 500 drops below 2,607 and subsequently rallies above 2,620 (stop-loss to be set at that day’s low). The SPY buy level is thus linked to the S&P 500 (approximate corresponding SPY levels: buy on drop below 261 followed by move above 262.10 with stop-loss at day’s low).

The very first graph of today’s update (S&P 500 in 2011 – blue box) illustrates what a wash out decline may look like.

                                        * * * * * December 9, 2018 Profit Radar Report * * * * *

SUMMARY: The lack of fear, expressed by various ‘bullish divergences,’ is likely to result in a short-term bounce. Back in September, we expected a correction toward 2,400, and that seems still likely (longer-ter S&P 500 outlook available here). A drop toward 2,400 (or at least below 2,500), would probably trigger the kind of ‘panic readings’ commensurate with a more significant bottom.

Continued updates are available via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s evaluation of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, 24.52% in 2015, 52.26% in 2016, and 23.39% in 2017.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF e-Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

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S&P 500 Update: Is This Rally Leg Over?

The September 5, 2016 Profit Radar Report published the chart below along with the following commentary:

The chart below shows the long-term up side target purely based on projected symmetry. Based on the 1997 – 2013 trading range, the measured up side target is S&P 2,330 – 2,485, which is in the general vicinity of the 2,290 – 2,342 Fibonacci levels mentioned in the 2016 S&P 500 Forecast. Higher targets are possible, but we’ll reassess once we get there.”

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

The second chart shows the trading activity over the past year along with short-term bars and trend lines we used to narrow down the up side target (the latest up side target was 2,494).

Short-term X-Ray

A special August 7 Profit Radar Report update featured this potent warning:

The S&P 500 ETF (SPY) closed at a new all-time high at the lowest volume of the year. For the first time in a while, there is a bearish divergence between the S&P 500 and the NY Composite a/d lines. The ideal scenario (and tempting setup to go short) would be a spike to 2,495+ followed by an intraday reversal.”

This is almost exactly what happened. The S&P 500 spiked as high as 2,490.87 before falling 52 points.

However, this drop quickly caused an oversold condition.

A special August 10 Profit Radar Report update featured this chart and stated that:

The CBOE equity putt call ratio (last chart) spiked to the highest reading (0.88) since April. The VIX is overbought. The VIX/VXV ratio jumped and contango fell. Both are near levels that have been seen at VIX highs. Stocks are oversold and ready to bounce. Based on the wave structure, we anticipate this bounce to be brief (2-6 days) and stay below the prior all-time highs (although the extent of the oversold condition would allow for a stronger bounce).”

Conclusion

The August 28, 2016 Profit Radar Report featured a bullish Elliott Wave Theory count with a projected up side target around S&P 2,500 (more details here: S&P 500 Update – Expect the Abnormal).

One of the images featured was a conceptual “We are here” chart (shown below). The green dots mark where we were in August 2016 (along with probability scores).

The red circles highlight where we are at today. The upcoming correction should be a choppy and frustrating wave 4 decline to be followed by another rally to new all-time highs. It then remains to be seen whether that high will be a major top or not.

Since the S&P did not quite reach our up side target, there is an alternate interpretation, which allows for continued gains almost immediately. However, that remains only an alternate unless the market tells us otherwise.

Continued analysis, with down side targets and buy/sell signals are provided via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

This ETF Flaw Caused Subscribers a 30% Loss, But we Fought Back

I am about to share the worst trade of my carrier with you. It cost me a fair amount of sleep (and probably cost me a number of subscribers, who must have thought Simon is quite the moron).

Here is the sad tale of a good trade hijacked by an ETF flaw (fortunately there’s a happy ending).

The Setup

Earlier this year, in mid-January, we saw a number of VIX extremes, such as highly elevated SKEW readings (SKEW measures ‘black swan’ risk), near-record SKEW/VIX ratio readings and the highest ever long exposure of commercial VIX traders (smart money). The charts below, published by the Proift Radar Report in January, illustrate the extremes.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

Statistically, those conditions led to an average VIX spike of 22% over the next month every time (even a week later the VIX was higher 85% of the time).

The biggest problem (which we were well aware of) was the lack of a suitable trading vehicle for long VIX exposure. Yes, there is VXX, but it suffers from contango (we have often successfully shorted the VIX via XIV, which puts contango in our favor, more about XIV below).

What is Contango?

Below is a brief explanation of contango (taken from an August 2014 report):

The VIX quoted in-day-to-day life is the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) spot price (today’s VIX price). However, the futures used to create ETPs like the iPath S&P 500 Short-Term VIX Futures ETN (VXX) are based on the future VIX price, which is almost always more expensive than the spot price. Over time the more expensive VIX futures decline in value, eventually converging with the spot price at expiration.

The chart below compares the current spot price with various futures prices. The difference between the spot price (12.20) and the September futures (13.45) is 9.84%. In other words, it will take a 9.84% move in the VIX to neutralize the time decay between the spot and September futures price.

As time goes by, ETF providers are forced to continuously replace expiring futures with new (more expensive) futures (this process is called ‘rolling over’). The further away the futures expiration date, the bigger the time premium. This time premium and resulting value decay is called contango.

Contango vs the Setup

Despite contango, the VIX buy signal seemed strong enough to deliver a net gain (a 20% short-term VIX spike tends to translate into a 5-7% VXX gain). We were looking for a short-term VIX spike, before a multi-week S&P 500 rally.

On January 23, we pulled the trigger and bought a very small amount of VXX at 20.60. A week later, the VIX traded higher, and a month later, the VIX traded higher. The VIX even spiked 22% (as expected) a number of times, but VXX contango persistently eroded VXX.

VXX by-passed the short-term VIX spike, and then, as anticipated, the stock market continued higher (which kept the VIX depressed). Nevertheless, we expected a period of choppy trading (volatility) to start in February/March.

On March 1, the S&P 500 topped, and has basically been range bound since.

On March 23, it was obvious that the VIX would fall again before the next window for a S&P 500 correction arrived. We bought XIV to hedge VXX, which turned out to be a great move.

The Next Window

The window to unwind this unfortunate VIX trade finally arrived this week. The May 14 Profit Radar Report stated that: “We are still looking to sell XIV and double up on VXX at S&P 2,407. Aggressive traders may elect to short the S&P around 2,410.”

Unfortunately there was another blow. The S&P 500 missed our trigger level for XIV and VXX (2,407) by one point (on Tuesday, March 16). The S&P gapped lower the next morning (by 17 points), robbing us of the best opportunity to unwind this trade.

We took the second-best opportunity. The March 17 intraday Profit Radar Report recommended to sell XIV at 77.40, and double up on VXX at 14.45. We closed XIV for a profit of 12.17% and bought VXX at 14.45.

The next morning (Thursday, March 18) we closed our entire VXX trade at 15.97. The VXX portion bought on January 23 accrued a 22.47% loss, the VXX portion bought on May 17 ended with a 10.51% gain. The 11.96% loss was offset by the 12.17% XIV gain.

At the end, we closed this unfortunate trade combo with a tiny 0.21% gain.

Lessons Learned

Patience and impeccable timing (at the end) rescued this trade, but in hindsight, the best worst trade is one not taken.

Contango needs to be respected. In the past, we traded XIV six times (XIV benefits from contango). All six XIV trades were profitable (12.17%, 14.46%, 13.33%, 7.57%, 15.70%, 4.49%). It’s better to focus on XIV (falling VIX) than VXX (rising VIX), especially in a bull market.

Although we knew that the VIX would fall mid-term, we bet on a short-term rise. It’s not smart to bet against the larger trend.

With the VXX trade closed at a miniscule profit, we keep our streak of no losing trade (since June 2015) alive.

The Profit Radar Report provides about 20 specific trade setups per year.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

How Alarming is the 23-year VIX Low?

According to Barron’s, the VIX is flashing a stock market warning. Barron’s is not alone. If you threw a water balloon in a room filled with analysts, odds are you’ll hit someone who’s bearish stocks because of the VIX.

Facts Trump Opinions

VIX readings below 10 are rare. There’ve only been 9 other ones since the VIX’s inception in 1993. None of them led to stock market crashes (click here for detailed analysis).

Some claim that the 2000 and 2007 market tops were preceded by a low VIX, but that’s one of the biggest misconceptions on Wall Street.

This special report, published by the Profit Radar Report on June 16, 2014, showed why the VIX was TOO LOW for a major market top back then (and still is today).

VIX Seasonality

VIX seasonality supports overall lower readings until the major seasonal low in early July.

Barron’s rates iSPYETF as “trader with a good track record” and Investor’s Bussines Daily says “When Simon says, the market listens.” Find out why Barron’s and IBD endorse Simon Maierhofer’s Profit Radar Report.

VIX-based Indicators

The chart below plots the S&P 500 against the VIX, VIX/VXV ratio, CBOE equity put/call ratio, and contango.

The VIX/VXV ratio gauges fear of short-term volatility (30-day, VIX) compared to longer-term volatility (90-days, VXV). Readings above 1 happen when investors are more concerned about the short-term than longer-term.

This occurs near stock market lows and has been a very reliable buy signal. The April 16 Profit Radar Report noted the VIX-sell signal highlighted in green (VIX is down 39% since).

On Monday, the VIX/VXV ratio was 0.776. Readings below 0.76 happen when investors are more concerned about the longer-term than the short-term.

Although a potential warning sign, the VIX buy signal (<0.77) has not been as accurate as the VIX sell signal (>1.0).

The CBOE equity put/call ratio and contango are showing a measure of bearish (for stocks) potential, but have plenty room to become more extreme.

S&P 500 Outlook

The April 11 Profit Radar Report published the chart below along with the following forecast: “As long as trade remains above 2,330, we are still looking for higher prices. The chart below outlines two potential up side targets (2,365 – 2,375 and 2,380 – 2,410).” The upside target was revised to 2,405 – 2,410 on April 26 (more detailed outlook available here).

The S&P is now just below 2,410. It remains to be seen whether bears will take a stand, but if they do, it should be around 2,410 (which would result in a VIX spike).

Continued analysis for the S&P 500, VIX and other asset classes is available via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

 

The Spectacular VIX Tailwind Trade

This is a reprint of the August 24 Special Profit Radar Report:

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is a popular index, but in itself is not investable. You can’t just go out and buy the VIX. The same is true for the S&P 500 or any other index.

But investment vehicles like the SPDR S&P 500 ETF, which aims to replicate the performance of the S&P 500 index, make it possible to invest in indexes.

Duplicating the performance of the S&P 500, however, is much easier than creating a vehicle that mimics the VIX. Fund managers simply purchase the stocks that make up the S&P 500 to create an S&P 500-like product.

It doesn’t work like this for the VIX. Here’s why:

There is no ‘VIX stock.’ The only way to invest in the VIX is via futures or options, which are complex financial instruments. ETFs, ETNs or other ETP’s use futures or options to attain ‘VIX-like’ performance. VIX futures and options generally suffer from some sort of time decay.

Explained: Contango

The VIX quoted in-day-to-day life is the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) spot price (today’s VIX price). However, the futures used to create ETPs like the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) are based on the future VIX price, which is almost always more expensive than the spot price. Over time the more expensive VIX futures decline in value, eventually converging with the spot price at expiration.

Figure 1 compares the current spot price with various futures prices. The difference between the spot price (12.20) and the September futures (13.45) is 9.84%. In other words, it will take a 9.84% move in the VIX to neutralize the time decay between the spot and September futures price.

As time goes by, ETF providers are forced to continuously replace expiring futures with new (more expensive) futures (this process is called ‘rolling over’). The further away the futures expiration date, the bigger the time premium. This time premium and resulting value decay is called contango.

Contango generally exists when the VIX is flat or trending lower. Even gradual increases when the VIX is below 20 tend to occur in an environment of contango.

Backwardation (figure 2) is the opposite of contango. Backwardation generally appears only during times of panic and significant VIX spikes above 20.

To sum up, contango erodes investors’ returns during periods of a flat or falling VIX.

How to Profit from Contango

We don’t expect a major stock market top yet, therefore the period of low volatility is likely to continue (or resume after the seasonal October VIX high).

Is it possible to use contango in our favor?

Figure 3 plots the VIX against the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (XIV), and reveals a very simple truth: XIV has risen much more than the VIX has fallen.

Figure 4 shows the cumulative gain/loss from January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014. The VIX lost 25%. XIV gained 242%. XIV returned 217% more than the inverse VIX.

XIV’s objective (and the objective of every other inverse or leveraged ETP) is to replicate the daily (not long-term) inverse performance of the VIX, but regardless, this kind of excess return is worth exploring.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of XIV’s excess return.

XIV is an inverse VIX ETN. For an apples to apples comparison, we are comparing XIV with a simple inverse VIX.

Of the 911 trading days from January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014, the inverse VIX had 484 up days and 427 down days. The inverse VIX had 1.13x more up than down days.

The average gain of 484 up days was 4.55%. The average loss of 427 down days was 5.85%. The average loss was 1.28x greater than the average gain.

Of the 911 trading days from January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014, XIV had 522 up days and 389 down days. XIV had 1.34x more up than down days.

The average gain of 522 up days was 2.63%. The average loss of 389 down days was 3.18%. The average loss was 1.21x greater than the average gain (see figures 5 and 6).

Summary

Since 2011, XIV outperformed the inverse VIX by 217% (0.24% per day). Although there are other factors at work, the excess return of 0.24% per day is largely attributed to the effect of contango.

Contango does not guarantee a profitable trade or protect against losses. From July 7 – November 21, 2011 XIV lost 75%. There are also times where the VIX moves lower and XIV loses value (i.e. August 18 – 21, 2014).

Over time however, contango significantly enhances the odds of a successful XIV trade, especially when XIV is purchased during times of VIX spikes.

A list of VIX Exchange Traded Products that benefit from contango, a updated VIX seasonality chart, and actual buy/sell signals are available via the Profit Radar Report.

Simon Maierhofer is the founder of iSPYETF and the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. Barron’s rated iSPYETF as a “trader with a good track record” (click here for Barron’s profile of the Profit Radar Report). The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013, 17.59% in 2014, and 24.52% in 2015.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

3 Tricks for Trading the VIX

More than any other asset class, the Volatility Index (VIX) is subject to distinct patterns or biases that either help or hurt investors.

Being aware of the 3 VIX tricks discussed below will significantly increase the odds of a winning trade.

1) VIX Seasonality

I invite you to inspect the VIX seasonality chart below. Based on 25 years of trading history, there are two important seasonal turning points: July 2 and October 9.

The VIX has a strong tendency to move higher starting in early July (green arrow), and to move lower after early October (red arrow).

For example, the June 23, 2015 Profit Radar Report stated that: “The VIX closed below the lower Bollinger Band for the first time since June 6, 2014. A close back above the lower Bollinger Band will be a buy signal. VIX seasonality is soon turning higher for the best VIX seasonal signal of the year.”

Shortly thereafter the VIX rallied from 12 to 20 and eventually to 50.

Due to the massive summer spike, this year’s October sell signal was shifted.

Nevertheless, the November spike (last chart, red arrow) offered a good setup to short the VIX, as the November 16 Profit Radar Report brought out: “The VIX closed below the upper Bollinger Band, which is a sell signal.”

The October sell signal is particularly intriguing because it gets magnified by a major bias of inverse VIX ETPs (Exchange Traded Products, such as ETFs and ETNs). This bias can be worth 0.25% per day for weeks.

2) Inverse VIX Bias

ETPs like the iPath S&P 500 VIX ETN (VXX) or the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX ETN (XIV) use futures (or options) to replicate VIX-related performance.

The performance of futures-based ETPs is typically cannibalized by a condition called contango. However, a bet on lower VIX prices allows investors to turn this generally harmful condition into a superbly beneficial tail wind.

Below is an admittedly dry explanation of contango, but I think you will find it well worth your time (no pain, no gain).

The VIX quoted in-day-to-day life is the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) spot price (today’s VIX price). However, the futures used to create VIX ETPs are based on the future VIX price, which is almost always more expensive than the spot price. Over time the more expensive VIX futures decline in value, eventually converging with the spot price at expiration.

As time goes by, ETF providers are forced to continuously replace expiring futures with new (more expensive) futures (this process is called ‘rolling over’). The further away the futures expiration date, the bigger the time premium. This time premium and resulting value decay is called contango.

Contango generally exists when the VIX is trading below 20. The opposite of contango – backwardation, when future VIX prices are lower than at present – generally appears when the VIX trades above 20.

I wrote a detailed report on how to actually make contango work for investors back on August 24, 2014 (entire report available to subscribers of the Profit Radar Report).

Below are some of the findings and charts shared in this report:

The two biggest beneficiaries of the ‘reverse contango’ benefit are the VelocityShares Daily Short-term VIX ETN (NYSEArca: XIV) and ProShares Short VIX Futures ETF (NYSEArca: SVXY).

The chart below compares the VIX with its inverse counter part, XIV. Shown is the cumulative percentage return from January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014.

It quickly becomes obvious that XIV has risen much more than the VIX has fallen.

XIV is an inverse VIX ETN. For an apples to apples analysis of the excess return, here is a comparison between XIV and an inverse VIX (the VIX inversed).

  • Of the 911 trading days from January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014, the inverse VIX had 484 up days and 427 down days. The inverse VIX had 1.13x more up than down days.
  • The average gain of 484 up days was 4.55%. The average loss of 427 down days was 5.85%. The average loss was 1.28x greater than the average gain.
  • Of the 911 trading days from January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014, XIV had 522 up days and 389 down days. XIV had 1.34x more up than down days.
  • The average gain of 522 up days was 2.63%. The average loss of 389 down days was 3.18%. The average loss was 1.21x greater than the average gain (see figures 5 and 6).
  • From January 3, 2011 to August 15, 2014, XIV outperformed the inverse VIX by 217% (0.24% per day).

Obviously the reverse contango benefit doesn’t guarantee a profitable trade, but on average XIV provides a ‘daily edge’ of 0.25%. At times, the edge is much more pronounced, such as on November 30, 2015, when the VIX rose 6.68%, but XIV gained 0.74% (when it should have lost some 6.68%).

VIX Technical Analysis

As you may have noticed from the two above Profit Radar Report quotes, the Bollinger Bands can be very helpful when it comes to spotting buy/sell signals, especially when they occur near the two major seasonal turning points (see chart below).

Simple support/resistance levels and trend channels can also be of help. The green/red arrows below highlight the buy/sell signal given by the Profit Radar Report.

Summary

Seasonality and technical analysis triggered a VIX sell signal on November 16.

The sell signal remains active and the ‘contango tailwind’ should by overall positive for XIV until late December.

However, for the first time since the start of the 2009 bull market, we are seeing signs of distribution (liquidity is drying up). This could become an issue when the next (bullish) VIX turning point arrives.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.

This VIX Trick is Stumbling Investors

On August 24, the VIX briefly soared to 53.29, I was getting ready to leave for Europe that day, but saw the action on my phone and thought: “Boy, wish I had the time to figure out a good VIX short.”

I even wrote in the August 24 Profit Radar Report update that: “Today’s VIX high (53.29) will likely stand for a while. Buying XIV (inverse VIX ETN) is tempting, but the issue with XIV is that we may not have the benefit of contango right now, but the drag of backwardation.”

An explanation of contango and backwardation (along with the best seasonal VIX signal) is available here (last two paragraphs).

In short, backwardation is a condition that either increases XIV or SVXY losses or erodes XIV and SVXY gains while the VIX trades above 20 – 25.

The chart below plots the CBOE VIX against the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX ETN (NYSEArca: XIV). Another inverse VIX vehicle is the ProShares Short VIX ETF (NYSEArca: SVXY).

Although the VIX retreated more than 50% since August 24, XIV is up ‘only’ ~10% (SVXY is up ~8%).

Welcome to the power of backwardation.

Understanding contango and backwardation is vital for VIX investors.

Just as backwardation is hurting XIV and SVXY right now, contango will likely benefit them later on this year.

The VIX seasonality chart offers strong clues when the next good setup will be. This is the same VIX seasonality chart that triggered a buy signal in early July.

Simon Maierhofer is the publisher of the Profit Radar Report. The Profit Radar Report presents complex market analysis (S&P 500, Dow Jones, gold, silver, euro and bonds) in an easy format. Technical analysis, sentiment indicators, seasonal patterns and common sense are all wrapped up into two or more easy-to-read weekly updates. All Profit Radar Report recommendations resulted in a 59.51% net gain in 2013 and 17.59% in 2014.

Follow Simon on Twitter @ iSPYETF or sign up for the FREE iSPYETF Newsletter to get actionable ETF trade ideas delivered for free.