Six Years After Volmageddon, Volatility Fears Resurface in US Stocks

Six years after a famous blowup in the volatility market shattered a lengthy calm in US stocks, the latest Bloomberg Markets Live Pulse survey reveals growing Wall Street concern over a new boom in trades that bet against equity turbulence.

In this latest era of prolonged stock-market serenity, billions of dollars are pouring into strategies that seek to juice returns by selling options.

These so-called short-volatility trades are a dangerous way to generate income, according to 71% of 377 MLIV Pulse respondents. Some 59% fear the current boom is a possible threat to the market. Even among those who said they use short-vol strategies, more than half consider it a hazardous way to boost returns.

Short Volatility Trades Are Hazardous

The worries may have their roots in the events of February 2018, when a downturn in the S&P 500 set off a surge in the Cboe Volatility Index, a measure of expected swings in the benchmark equity gauge otherwise known as the VIX.

The episode, which was dubbed “Volmageddon,” wiped out billions of dollars in trades betting against volatility that had built up during a years-long period of relative calm. Most famously, the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term note (ticker XIV) shrank from $1.9 billion in assets to $63 million in a single session.