Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thin value bets- flattening VIX delta

 Another poker metaphor, the thin value bet:  you might have top pair/ two pair on a potential straight or flush board, get checked to on the river and make a small 'value' bet in position.  If the opponent has nothing, they probably fold and you get no value, they could also be trapping with a big hand and giving you the rope to hang yourself with.  They could even call with a better 'hand that can't call' like a pair with better kicker.  The key case and point of this VIX trade is when they call with a slightly worse hand, and pay you off with the 'thin value.'

I think it was Phil Galfond who said 'if your thin value bets never get called, then you aren't thin value betting enough.'  This is where I'm starting from in this trade idea: yes we are adding some risk, but over thousands of hands (or trades), we are trying to boost expected value/yield/pot odds/whatever metaphor you're on.

This goes back to a post I made recently with VIX still in the 9s, I was examining the max monthly SVXY up moves for the product's history, looking to kind of bet on the decay 'cap' given the mechanics of /VX rolling to spot:
My finding was that with spot VIX under 10, SVXY never had a monthly gain topping 15%, which is coincidentally right around where the option chain ends on a lot of cycles.  (Almost like they are trying to tell us something).  That being said, the last strike is usually at the 15% mark, but with no strike after that, you can't create a spread to reduce buying power reduction, and for SVXY nosebleeds the liquidity/spreads are horrible so you would have to probably hold til expiration and take the hit either way.  (And obviously this 9 handle soft cap trend might not continue going forward)
On the BPR point, I was again looking at SVXY calls today and even though I have a couple hundred long deltas, it looked like there was no BPR offset (on Tastyworks at least), so a 150 short call was like 20k bpr.  (this was around the 15% mark if you are reading this in the distant future).

In the search for yield I went back into the more liquid VXX to look at the numbers with us now in the 11 handle:
Obviously there are more 15% breaches when you go from 9 to the 11 handle, but when looking further at the roll yield/roll premium/contango (/VX to spot, whatever you want to call it) for some of these days, the front month difference was more pronounced than now with usually over $1-1.50 between spot and /VX for ~30 days.
Here is one such day from the above spreadsheet where 1 month from this date VXX lost ~20%

Given the current term structure, the roll yield has been around $1 or less for the average 30 days, so that lowers the mechanical chance of an insane 15% breaching run.

Given all this I bit the bullet on VXX Feb 23 23.5/22.5 short put spreads for .12c credit, this being my thin value bet. (on 1/25/18)  Given the data its a marginal ish trade (right on the 15% decay edge and the %ROI takes a hit due to commissions at the low total premium levels unless you have some insane volume with a specific broker), but is effectively flattening my total short VIX delta at a credit.  If I have all this short VIX delta, I'm at least tickled to try to squeeze a few more drops out.

Historically I've been more scared of the VIX downside than upside (or reverse for SVXY) because with spikes it will come back but if you are long VIX it might never come back, and the only adjustment when it aggressively grinds against you is to move up your short VIX strikes and add more risk for incoming spikes.  All that being said- if this is breached,
1. it is statistically unusual, and
2. the majority of the short VIX portfolio is going to be hitting max profit way sooner and compounding as I keep rolling up and out.

Again, this is a complement to the short VIX portfolio, I am still negative delta on VIX, and the max loss to the VIX downside is only ~1/15 of my VIX spike risk.  I'm just dipping the toe in the water, so this is possibly something to leg further into.
Additionally, if you care about macro factors such as the lower dollar index and increasing bond yields and think the heavy decay of 2017 with VIX in the 11 handle might not continue with these changing conditions, this might be a reasonable idea.

Overall, this is basically a very skewed iron condor structure, but more entry specific in that we're only adding the 'long' VIX deltas with a specific futures structure and won't statically keep it on if there is a VIX spike, and the max risk is still heavily skewed to the VIX spiking side, so even a max loss on the VIX downside is still OK yield for the year.

Any thoughts friends?

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