Not All VIX Tracker ETF/ETN Products Created Equal

As you see with most market sell-offs, volatility is returning and growing in value. The most commonly measured value for volatility is the CBOE Volatility Index, or “the VIX,” to track the implied volatility of S&P 500 index options. While this is also called the “Fear Index,” the long and short of the matter is that the more the VIX rises, the more selling pressure that is generally seen in the stock market.

Investors have seen volatility rise of late. It turns out that there are exchange traded funds (ETFs) and exchange traded notes (ETNs) that track the VIX. We generally do not evaluate the leveraged exchange traded products because they are effectively using derivatives on top of derivatives. Still, it turns out that not all ETFs are created equal when it comes to tracking the VIX.

With such a large stock market sell-off on Tuesday, 24/7 Wall St. wanted to review each of the three top exchange traded products that track against the VIX — and the VIX was last seen up almost 18%, or 3.59, at 23.76.

When VIX readings get above 20.0, they have been considered entering oversold territory. That being said, the VIX went back above 30 and even over 40 during the sell-off wave in August, and it was above 30 at the start of September.

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iPath S&P 500 VIX ST Futures ETN (NYSEMKT: VXX) saw its shares jump 8.3% to $24.96, in its 52-week trading range of $15.48 to $44.60. The range on the day so far is $23.83 to $25.01. In Tuesday’s session, nearly 54 million shares have moved, compared to the average daily volume of 74.24 million.

The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETNs are designed to provide exposure to the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index Total Return. The ETNs are riskier than ordinary unsecured debt securities and have no principal protection — and they are unsecured debt obligations of Barclays Bank.

ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures (NYSEMKT: VIXY) saw its shares rise by 8.1% to $16.57. The range on the day is $15.88 to $16.65, compared to the 52-week trading range of $10.32 to $29.68. So far nearly 4 million shares have moved on the day, just above the average daily volume of 2.76 million shares.

ProShares VIX Short-Term Futures seeks investment results that track the performance of the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index. The S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index and VIXY can be expected to perform differently than the VIX.

iPath S&P 500 VIX MT Futures ETN (NYSEMKT: VXZ) is another VIX exchange traded product, but it has been less volatile. The VXZ saw its shares increase only 3.1% to $12.76, with only 132,000 shares moving on the day so far. The average daily volume is 590,000. The range on the day is $12.41 to $12.77, compared to the 52-week trading range of $10.08 to $15.45.

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