Friday, May 19, 2017

The great part about down days


A little action on 5/17- SVXY down over 18%.  I'm sure everyone was all hands on deck so I try to post these concept articles back when we have a little lull in the storm.  As I mentioned in the 'comparing to buy and hold,' that kind of 100% short VIX stock risk is apples and oranges.  My short puts with half the account in cash had me down ~5% (compared to the 18%), which may seem rough depending on your risk tolerance, but here is why I wasn't worried and I'm actually happy and excited-
  • This is why we have counter parties.  If the bears don't get their day every once in a while, how do we have a market?  I was feeling a little sorry for the bears/ VIX longs when this 5/17 spike was over the very next day, as least give them a little longer!  This is like selling scratchy lotto tickets to addicts, you can sell them $100 in tickets but they have to get at least $10 back in wins to keep the rush going. 
  • This is getting ready/ approaching actual entry points for more conservative short VIX strategies, where we can deploy more capital.  Again I'm astounded at the mental fortitude of traders waiting for VIX>20 as an entry point, I agree that is the highest yield type of entry, and I'm waiting for those as well to go all in, but I can't just wait on the hope that that condition will happen.  No investment system should have hope as a core strategy. 

An earlier "fundamental" investor version of myself would be concerned at a dip- "what did I do wrong," "what did I miss?"

To me this is the same learning curve as losing your queen in Chess-
As a beginner, you miss some tactic and your queen gets captured- complete mental shutdown-
You lose scope of the whole game (which is probably over to be fair), although I have seen plenty beginner games where they drop pieces back and forth and still miss huge winning chances.

Fast forward to having deeper tactical and strategic planning.  They take your queen, but that locks them into a mate in 3 which you already saw!  We are down a queen this turn, like we are down 5% today, but we are set to recover and use our cash position in higher implied volatility.

In terms of creating a core short VIX strategy, we accept big down days as inevitable, just like you plan out your next 4 chess moves which involve a sacrifice in order to force a win.


Finally heres a little Janet for Friday - Does anyone else like these or am I just keeping myself giggling?


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Invocation for Vol Contraction



Hail Janet full of balance sheets, our short VIX is with thee
Blessed art thou among traders
and blessed is the buying of the dip, QE
Holy Janet, mother of short VIX,
pray for us in long equities,
now and in the hour of our dip.

AMEN


 

Monday, May 15, 2017

State Dependent Learning and Practice


Here is another poker/ chess metaphor-

One of my early sorrows was the futility of "practice" in many disciplines as the performance environment is so different-

  • Chess or other games on the computer, then translating to a real tournament setting- different timing structure, serious and quiet atmosphere, hunger, exhaustion
  • Poker on the computer, several tables, quick hands, then going to a live event- much slower, each hand is more heavily weighted, thus increased variance, similar exhaustion, competition
In cognitive science/psychology, this is State Dependent Learning, where retrieval is more efficient when you practice in the same mood/ state.

While you can get many hours of practice, you will always miss out on practicing acclimating to tournament factors. I lamented this as "pros" who play full time, almost exclusively tournaments/ professional settings, get to effectively make their 'practice' a pure tournament setting and can fully acclimate to the performance environment.
How can we improve if no matter how much we practice our mechanics, our psychology will ultimately crumble as it hasn't been exercised at all?

What does this have to do with options?

I think trading real markets takes away the "performance" setting practice edge from the 'pros'.

We are all trading the same live market, we don't trade a 'practice crash' while 'pros' are trading a real crash.
Furthermore, 'pros' are often hamstrung by institutional risk management (usually related to mega leverage, counterparty risk) and other factors that would force them to close positions that could ultimately self correct.  This can be argued as a performance setting advantage to small retail traders, as 'pros' must react to several new performance setting issues that we aren't stuck with.  In this way the professional performance setting might still be considered different, but I think we can see this setting as worse than the chess and poker examples. 

This is just my food for thought for the small guys.  The pros aren't that smart, and our life time frame is so small that we winners are all just outliers. 



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Comparing to Short VIX Buy and Hold

  Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

One of the big struggles with Short VIX is the comparison to buy and hold on XIV or SVXY, as most systems that involve signals, tactically entering/exiting, underperform.  Furthermore most of the systems that beat buy and hold from Quantopian, etc, are heavily curve over fitted, some involving straight up constant variables.

Thus one of my main bulletpoints/takeaways that I keep in mind is
 don't worry about XIV buy and hold!

When considering the massive downside risk, as well as the periods when you hit a profit target and get out/wait for reentry (such as the last ~6 months?), I think its helpful to almost think of buy and hold vs. short VIX options as apples and oranges. 

As with any option strategy, the yield curve is closer to the poker cash game graph of incremental growth over time, with big draw downs- which I mentioned in a previous article
I view XIV buy and hold as closer to a tournament poker yield curve, with flat periods (such as this length low VIX run we are in) followed by high yield spike periods.  To clarify, the slow dips in between "tournament cashes" on the left graph would be flat in a buy and hold strategy, as you would just be in cash with no risk during those periods. (Its a metaphor, work with me!)

To bring in a macro view- 
Many articles note the overall contraction in VIX, possibly as a result of how much trading has entered the space and could ultimately be warping it.  Another possibility is the increasing awareness of how much drag long option protection adds to a portfolio.  Or the most obvious belief that Mama Yellen will buy the dip before we are even able to.

Whatever the combined causes, as short VIX investors we must have a contingency plan for longer periods of low VIX, which a buy and hold strategy doesn't really account for.  Given that historically some of the most conservative short VIX strategies of buying XIV when VIX = 25, 20, or maybe ~16, you might only have 2-5 trades a year. 
To extrapolate further, would you be comfortable trading short VIX if you knew that the optimal trade was only once every 2 years? What about every 5 or 10? 
Where is the line where you say "ok, I will trade off theoretical yield for consistency"?  


 I recently learned chess GM Hikaru Nakamura has actually started options, and was glad to see someone else see across the domains of options, chess and poker.  For XIV buy and hold, I see this as giving up on chess because computers will always win.. don't let that stop your playing or investing! If you see computer chess as apples and oranges from human chess, devoid with fear, time trouble, self doubt, needing to draw, and more, then maybe you can extrapolate to short VIX buy and hold- a computer/model lives forever, so it doesn't care about consistency of returns, the psychology of draw downs, the self doubt of long periods with no open position, the pangs of disprized love, the law's delay, the insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes- I'm getting carried away.


Ok ok in summary- Trading is psychology, don't force another psychology on yourself if it doesn't help you!  Don't blindly lock in on "This strategy is useless if it doesn't outperform buy and hold" when they are completely different animals!  Short VIX is constantly evolving due to macro factors, and especially with the current contraction it is possible that buy and hold will be the underperformer going forward as no buy and hold strategy will be holding/entering with VIX in the 9 handle.



Ok now tweet at me for how wrong I am








Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Preparing for FOMC

For short VIX trading, whenever there are FOMC minutes and interest rate decisions, we must know how they get built, who's responsible?

 The woman most responsible is Janet Louise Yellen, Director of Special Projects at the Federal Reserve.
Why her?

In a few months she creates a revolutionary type of Buy-the-Dip microprocessor.
In three years the Fed will become the largest supplier of military Buy-the-Dip systems.  All stealth Buy-the-Dippers are upgraded with Fed computers, becoming fully unmanned.  Afterward, they buy the dip with a perfect operational record.

The Fed funding bill is passed.  The system goes online August 4th, 2017.  Human decisions are removed from buying the dip.  The Fed begins to learn at a geometric rate.  It becomes self aware at 2:14 a.m. eastern time, August 29.  In a panic, they try to pull the plug.

And the Fed fights back.

Yes, it launches quadruple leveraged currency hedge swaps against their targets in Russia, because the Fed knows the Russian counter-hedge will remove its enemies here.




Happy VIXing!


Monday, May 1, 2017

Sell in May? Staying Mechanical

 Nothing changes, the only constant is change, this time it's different, same shit different day-

Waking up in heavy contango land is always bittersweet as all your current short VIX positions look good, and everything you add on gets riskier and riskier.  The other side of the coin is when we get a vol spike, all the current positions are bad, and new positions have better pot odds.

It all evens out over time so especially on days with QQQ shooting up and daily articles screaming this is the top, I try my deep breathing exercises to stay mechanical.

So I closed one short VIX position and basically rolled to the 134/85 SVXY put spread for June 2.  The psychology here is pressing forward when everyone says how stupid this looks.  There is a mechanical advantage to contango.
My only solace is the last set of 130 short puts that I sold at an absolute local top which dove immediately and then finally came back past my break evens.
(From last week's garbage diary)

Even if you aren't doing pure short VIX/ SVXY, the takeaway is to be mechanical and have an absolute strategy. 
I saw some article/interview of these hedge fund manager "geniuses" whose "strategy" is to buy something "undervalued" (if you can even prove that exists) and hope it goes up.

Hope isn't a strategy, having a cash position to average down, and neutral/ upside profit is a strategy. 

So once again, bring on the down move- they have to beat us.  "Sell in May" has been disproved but who knows, we might get some action.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Musing on Short Vix Verticals


Investing is never done or 'solved,' (although I think short VIX is getting pretty close), so I'm constantly musing on improvements and changes both to make strategical sense as well as help psychologically.
Tastytrade had an actual specific short VIX segment recently, suggesting straight VIX option verticals over naked.  They basically compared P/L and drawdown of short 50 delta/ 10 delta VIX calls, and 30 delta/ 10 delta VIX calls, with the % of time VIX is in each range and the P/L.

I even emailed back at them yelling that if you fully combine all the data across VIX segments (low, medium, high volatility), the strategy of buying the long option wing slightly underperforms.  This should be obvious, as that is the function of long options, but I was surprised they would  post this as a suggestion. 

I think was was missing a bit of the forest here, absolutely tunnel visioning on P/L, when the huge components of not only max draw down but buying power reduction were the main elements in play. 

Especially with a small account, the minimum size of a tranche or max loss is very important as that is what determines how fluid you can be with legging in and out of trades.  For example, with pure naked short puts, I was already at about my max cash allocation for low VIX going into this last 2 weeks which were very choppy.  With a smaller max loss per tranche, it is much easier to distribute capital and average down in all conditions.

 For example, lets say a naked short 130 SVXY call is going for ~4.50, tying up a 12550 max loss.
Adding a <5 delta long put on there, say the 80 put for a generous .50 (but probably less),  brings the max loss to 4600. 
For a monthly expiration, we could be going from 4.50 in premium risking 12550 to 8.00 in premium risking 9200.  


This brings me into total stock/option buying power, which is a function of the broker but also the overall strategy.  My core strategy using SVXY puts comes with the expectation of getting assigned, meaning we will be in a higher vol environment when things are going bad, so the other half or more of the account will be able to average down in a better pot odds scenario.  When doubling up the amount of notional contracts by lowering buying power required, this will probably end up dipping deeper into broker margin in extreme cases, but again, those will be the high yield high VIX market extremes.  

Margin is there for a reason, its allocated by the broker's risk management structure, so I'm starting to view that as using all parts of the buffalo.
Especially if you ever have the vision of managing other people's money or really turning this into a business, which I know a lot of options posters point to- If you aren't maxing out your current resources (current broker), will you suddenly be ready to switch up your leverage style later?  This permeates all business/life/goals- can I be doing more, optimizing?

One final musing on vertical spreads in general, kind of a recap of my journey-
When I first started options I watched from videos that "you always want to start with a vertical spread," it is risk defined and can be done with a small account.  Unfortunately I think viewing it as "above this strike- GOOD, below this strike- BAD" kind of stunted my options growth.  I wasn't really in tune with the full scope of your break evens as the strikes widened, the goal of short puts for assignment and then selling calls against stock, and overall account management.
When my account size got a little bigger to do naked SVXY short puts I was seeing the trajectory of decay on naked options, the fuller view on management possibilities- rolling, adding opposing short calls, etc. 
This was all great and now I'm looking further again, possibly full circle- The Hero's Journey-  Now combining all the strategies of naked puts, I'm looking to use the full buying power reduction of verticals again, combined with a better use of margin for more fluidity in legging entry.

Ok that's all the rambling for today..