After nearly two months of slow and steady gains, volatility has returned to global markets with a vengeance in recent weeks amid the Federal Reserve dashing hopes of a lengthy policy easing cycle, U.S. President Donald Trump suddenly imposing fresh tariffs on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China's yuan currency falling below the key 7 RMB threshold – an event that prompted the United States to declare China a currency manipulator. Wall Street's large-cap stock proxy S&P 500 Index logged its eight consecutive intraday range of more than 1% Friday – its longest streak of large daily swings since a month-long period of volatility ended in early January.
Turbulent trading conditions show no signs of abating this week either. Key Chinese economic data – including retail sales, industrial input, and fixed asset investment – will provide further insight as to what impact the bruising trade war is having on the world's second-largest economy. Meanwhile, U.S. inflation figures due out Tuesday could give clues on the future direction of interest rates.
Those who expect heightened volatility to persist should consider trading these three exchange-traded products (ETPs) that broadly track the performance of the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX). Let's take a close look at the specifics of each ETP and run through several trading ideas.
iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX)
With a $985.83 million asset base, the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) aims to deliver similar returns to the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index. Traders should be aware that the fund provides exposure to near-month futures contracts, not to the VIX index or its spot level. VXX initially launched as VXXB – the "Series B" replacement for the original VXX that matured in January. The ETN charges a competitive management fee of 0.89%, while a narrow 0.04% average spread and daily dollar volume liquidity of over $650,000 make the fund suitable for short-term traders. VXX is down more than 40% year to date (YTD) but has surged 17% in the past month as of Aug. 12, 2019.
The VXX share price tracked steadily lower between January and July before rallying above a six-month downtrend line in early August as volatility reared its head across global markets amid escalating trade tensions. A recent pullback to the trendline, which now acts as support, provides a high-probability entry point for swing traders. Those who take a long position should place a stop-loss order beneath the April swing low at $24.86 and target a move to overhead resistance at $32.
ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (UVXY)
Launched in 2018, the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (UVXY) seeks to provide 1.5 times daily exposure to the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index. The underlying index consists of first- and second-month VIX futures contracts with a weighted average maturity of one month. Nearly 10.5 million shares change hands daily, and a 0.04% spread helps to minimizes slippage. Although the fund has a pricey expense ratio of 1.65%, it won't overly affect short-term tactical trading plays. As of Aug. 12, 2019, UVXY controls assets under management (AUM) of $567.24 million and is trading down nearly 60% on the year. The fund has rebounded 24.60% in the past month.
A "death cross" appeared on the UVXY chart in mid-March, giving a valid sell signal. Price continued drifting lower until a bout of volatility in the S&P 500 caused the fund to break out above the 50-day simple moving average (SMA) and a significant trendline earlier this month. Above-average volume accompanied the move, indicating significant buying pressure that may trigger further upside. Traders who buy last week's minor pullback to the initial breakout point should anticipate a move to the $45 level, where the price encounters resistance from a horizontal line and the 200-day SMA. Implement risk management by cutting losses if the fund fails to hold above $30.
VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN (TVIX)
The VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term ETN (TVIX) seeks to replicate twice the returns of the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures index. TVIX is similar to the first two funds but provides slightly more leveraged exposure to first- and second-month VIX futures positions. The fund suits those who want an aggressive bet capturing near-term volatility. Fees and trading costs sit in line with UVXY. The ETN has an expense ratio of 1.65%, turns over roughly 22 million shares most days, and keeps a tight average spread of 0.06%. Traders should be aware that Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) may decide to halt creation units if the bank cannot effectively hedge its position in TVIX. As of Aug. 12, 2019, the ETN has a YTD return of -72% but has fared better over the past month, gaining 27.47%.
The bears have remained in complete control of TVIX for the past seven months. However, a change in sentiment occurred in early August after the price jumped above several areas of resistance. After retracing slightly last week, the fund now finds a confluence of support from a downtrend line extending back to December and the 50-day SMA. Those who take a trade should aim to book profits at the crucial $35 resistance level. Protect downside with a stop positioned under either the Aug. 1 low at $13.85 or Aug. 2 low at $17.15, depending on risk tolerance.