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Understanding the S&P 500 VEQTOR Index

It is unfortunate that there are not more mutual funds or ETF’s that directly enhance long equity positions with option overlays. I have covered the enhanced Sharpe ratios (risk-adjusted returns) that often accompany these strategies.  I was surprised to find out that Direxion is going to bring the S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR Index to the mainstream retail investor packaged nicely in a simple ETF.  As a follow-up to my readers’ requests when I first described the strategy’s performance, I want to take a closer look at just how the index makes systematic calls on implied volatility and how it has achieved such stellar returns.

The S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR Index (Volatility EQuity Target Return) represents an investment in the broad equity market with a dynamically rebalanced volatility allocation.   The strategy gains its volatility overlay through the use of short-term VIX futures.  The premise of the strategy is that the VIX has a correlation with the S&P 500 of about -73%.  When the S&P 500 falls sharply, the VIX spikes and then slowly  reverts to a long-term mean.  Under the simplest strategy, a fixed allocation to VIX futures will reduce the volatility of the long equity portfolio by providing a positive offset when the equity market corrects.  This would increase the risk-adjusted returns of the portfolio by reducing the tails of the portfolio’s return distribution.  If the idea is taken one step further, then we can introduce a tactical allocation in volatility wherein the investor can capture the gains from a volatility spike by reducing the allocation to volatility under the assumption that it will eventually revert to the mean.

The S&P 500 VEQTOR Index has the following characteristics:

  • Daily rebalancing mechanism
  • Dynamic long exposure to equities and implied volatility which are based on the realized volatility trend and environment
  • Stop-loss

In order to determine the implied volatility trend, the index uses the following scheme which requires 10 consecutive daily indicators:

  • Uptrend: 5-day Average Implied Volatility > 20-day Average Implied Volatility
  • Downtrend: 5-day Average Implied Volatility < 20-day Average Implied Volatility
  • No Trend: Neither

With our trends established, we can look at the respective allocations:

Dynamic VEQTOR Strategy Allocation Algorithm

Realized Volatility Environment*Implied Volatility DowntrendNo Implied Volatility TrendImplied Volatility Uptrend
Less than 10%97.5%/2.5%97.5%/2.5%90%/10%
10% to 20%97.5%/2.5%90%/10%85%/15%
20% to 35%90%/10%85%/15%75%/25%
35% to 45%85%/15%75%/25%60%/40%
Greater than 45%75%/25%60%/40%60%/40%

*The realized volatility environment is determined using the last 22 trading days.

The last piece of the puzzle is the stop-loss feature.  Every day, the 5-business day performance of the excess return strategy is evaluated.  If there is a loss greater or equal to 2%, both equity and volatility allocations are moved to 100% cash position at the close of the following business day.  The strategy will allocate back into equity and volatility once the 5-business day loss is less than 2%.

After a long-winded explanation – just how did it do?

Not a bad strategy at all...

I challenge you all to use this as a guideline for starting your own long vol / long equity strategy.  I think there is a lot of promise in these types of strategies as tools for individuals and fund managers.

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10 Responses

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  1. KIRK says


  2. mybestfunds says

    Thanks for posting. I greatly appreciate you describing this very interesting strategy to be delivered as a new ETF choice, and as you suggest, a strategy for us all. Keep up the great work.

  3. jadoube says

    Notice that the great majority of the strategy’s alpha came during the 2007/2009 bear market.

    Sorry, but I’m not persuaded until I see a longer and more rigorous test.

  4. Rick says

    That is a very interesting strategy… I will be checking out that ETF when it comes out.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and experience on this blog, I really appreciate your insights!

  5. Hunter Hsu says

    Aewsome, words can not express what I feel now

  6. Philip says

    I almost guarantee that it would have done quite poorly during the 90’s, and that its underperformance during the 90’s cancel out the overperformance made during the 2000’s. Also the parameters in the indicator scheme seem tuned for the 2007-2009 bust. I suspect it would have handled the 1987 crash pretty poorly.

  7. Johnni Nielsen says

    The VQT has under-performed the SPY recently, which would be expected during a strong up-trend. My instinct tells me this product will have a much better return profile in the long run. Considering Barclay Capital has also launched some innovative new Leveraged/Inverse leveraged products recently, I really hope they will get success.
    However why not combine both the VQT and the SPY in a Dynamic Core-Satellite risk-budgeting setting whereby we allocate the more stable VQT in the Core portfolio, and let the SPY allocation in the Satellite portfolio be a mechanical function of P/L through a multiplier. This should further tilt the return distribution to investors favor.
    From the index methodology I see that there is also a S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR X Index.
    ***SNIP From Index Methodology
    “The S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR X Index is a companion index designed to be held by an investor already holding an S&P 500 Index-like portfolio. Since the investor already has long exposure to an equity portfolio, VEQTOR X dynamically allocates long exposure in the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index and short exposure in the S&P 500. Combining VEQTOR X with an S&P 500-like holding can potentially achieve similar-type performance to the S&P 500 Dynamic VEQTOR Index.”

  8. Henry says

    A backtest of the Veqtor index shows it significantly underperformed buy and hold in the 90ies. Veqtor looks like a marketing pitch based on a simple datamining exercise in the years 2000. Very disapointing

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Weekend Reading – World Beta – Engineering Targeted Returns and Risk linked to this post on July 30, 2010

    […] from VIX and More, SurlyTrader, S&P Fact Sheet, and Index […]

  2. Protecting Your Equities | SurlyTrader linked to this post on December 8, 2011

    […] Both of these strategies would be trumped by the dynamic VEQTOR allocation strategy, but that will be left for the interested readers to study. […]

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