Barclay’s iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term ETN (VXX) and iPath S&P 500 VIX Medium Term ETN (VXZ) are scheduled to mature after a volatile 10 year run with a final redemption date of January 30, 2019. ETN’s differ from ETFs as they are basically debt instruments with set maturity dates when the instrument expires and its “principal” or NAV is redistributed back to the long note holders versus an ETF which is a portfolio of assets with no defined maturity date.
With the S&P 500 index down 8.76% in October we would expect the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) to increase dramatically, and it didn’t disappoint, rising 75.17%.
Trading in the “Fear Index,” which measures the implied volatility of near term S&P 500 option premiums, can be done via futures, options or ETPs. The most popular VIX ETP being the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX) with a market cap of $929 million and short interest of $1.62 billion.
As markets and sectors declined, the use of ETFs as hedges increased substantially in October with ETF short interest increasing by $11.7 billion, to $176.5 billion, a 7.1% increase in size. There is a large concentration of short interest in a handful of ETFs, with the top twenty-five most shorted ETFs making up 75% of total short interest or $131.8 billion. Total short interest in these top twenty-five ETFs grew by $12.1 billion over the last month.