VIX Options and Futures FAQs

VIX - CBOE Volatility Index  

1. What exactly is the VIX?

In 1993, the Chicago Board Options Exchange® (CBOE®) introduced the CBOE Volatility Index®, VIX®, and it quickly became the benchmark for stock market volatility. It is widely followed and has been cited in hundreds of news articles in the Wall Street Journal, Barron's and other leading financial publications. Since volatility often signifies financial turmoil, VIX is often referred to as the "investor fear gauge".

VIX measures market expectation of near term volatility conveyed by stock index option prices. The original VIX was constructed using the implied volatilities of eight different OEX option series so that, at any given time, it represented the implied volatility of a hypothetical at-the-money OEX option with exactly 30 days to expiration.

The New VIX still measures the market's expectation of 30-day volatility, but in a way that conforms to the latest thinking and research among industry practitioners. The New VIX is based on S&P 500 index option prices and incorporates information from the volatility "skew" by using a wider range of strike prices rather than just at-the-money series.

2. Why is the VIX called the "investor fear gauge"?

VIX is based on real-time option prices, which reflect investors' consensus view of future expected stock market volatility. During periods of financial stress, which are often accompanied by steep market declines, option prices - and VIX - tend to rise. The greater the fear, the higher the VIX level. As investor fear subsides, option prices tend to decline, which in turn causes VIX to decline. It is important to note, however, that past performance does not necessarily indicate future results.

3. How is VIX being changed?

Three important changes are being made to update and improve VIX:

  1. The New VIX is calculated using a wide range of strike prices in order to incorporate information from the volatility skew. The original VIX used only at-the-money options.
  2. The New VIX uses a newly developed formula to derive expected volatility directly from the prices of a weighted strip of options. The original VIX extracted implied volatility from an option-pricing model.
  3. The New VIX uses options on the S&P 500 Index, which is the primary U.S. stock market benchmark. The original VIX was based on S&P 100 Index (OEX) option prices.

4. Why is the CBOE making changes to the VIX?

CBOE is changing VIX to provide a more precise and robust measure of expected market volatility and to create a viable underlying index for tradable volatility products.

  • The New VIX calculation reflects the way financial theorists, risk managers and volatility traders think about - and trade - volatility. As such, the New VIX calculation more closely conforms to industry practice than the original VIX methodology. It is simpler, yet it yields a more robust measure of expected volatility. The New VIX is more robust because it pools information from option prices over a wide range of strike prices thereby capturing the whole volatility skew, rather than just the volatility implied by at-the-money options. The New VIX is simpler because it uses a formula that derives the market expectation of volatility directly from index option prices rather than an algorithm that involves backing implied volatilities out of an option-pricing model.
  • The changes also increase the practical appeal of VIX. As noted previously, the New VIX is calculated using options on the S&P 500 index, the widely recognized benchmark for U.S. equities, and the reference point for the performance of many stock funds, with over $800 billion in indexed assets. In addition, the S&P 500 is the domestic index most often used in over-the-counter volatility trading.
  • This powerful calculation supplies a script for replicating the New VIX with a static portfolio of S&P 500 options. This critical fact lays the foundation for tradable products based on the New VIX, critical because it facilitates hedging and arbitrage of VIX derivatives. CBOE has announced plans to list VIX futures and options in Q4 2003, pending regulatory approval. These will be the first of an entire family of volatility products.

5. What remains the same about VIX?

Despite the changes, the fundamental nature of VIX remains the same. The New VIX still uses index option prices to measure the market's expectation of near-term stock market volatility. The New VIX still uses a weighted average of options with a constant maturity of 30 days to expiration. Finally, the New VIX will still be calculated continuously in real-time throughout the trading day.

6. What impact will these changes have on VIX levels and the way the VIX responds to market moves?

As a result of the changes being made to the VIX methodology, the New VIX value will be different than the original VIX, although this difference should be small. The New VIX behaves very much like the original in that it tends to increase during stock market declines and decrease when the market advances. This historic tendency does not imply future results will be similar.

7. What will happen to the original VIX?

CBOE will continue to calculate and maintain the original VIX based on the S&P 100 (OEX) index option prices without interruption. However, the ticker symbol will change. Real-time OEX volatility values will continue to be disseminated under the new ticker symbol - "VXO".

8. Does this mean that all of the historical VIX prices are going to be discarded?

No. Perhaps the most valuable feature of VIX is the existence of historical prices from 1986 to the present. This extensive data set provides investors with a useful perspective of how option prices have behaved in response to a variety of market conditions. CBOE plans to preserve this valuable data, and add to it going forward, with VXO prices. The data will still be available on CBOE's website.

CBOE has created an historical record for the New VIX so that investors can gain a better understanding of how the new VIX would have behaved in different markets and do their own side-by-side comparisons. In addition, CBOE will soon make available a historical file of intra-day VIX prices.

9. I'm used to a range of VIX trading between 20 and 50. What is the new range?

The following table provides an annual comparison of the range of closing prices for the New VIX and the original VIX.

10. How can I get historical data and other information on the New VIX?

Historical data, performance charts and other useful information can be found on the CBOE website.

11. Does this affect VXN (CBOE NASDAQ 100 Volatility Index)?

Yes. The same formula and methodology used to calculate the New VIX will be applied to VXN as well. Historical prices for VXN using the new calculation can be found on the CBOE website at - The New VXN calculation will continue to use Nasdaq-100 index option prices.

12. When will the changes to the VIX and VXN calculation take place?

CBOE will begin calculation and dissemination of the New VIX, and the New VXN, on Monday, September 22. At that same time, CBOE will begin to disseminate the original OEX-based VIX under the new ticker symbol VXO.

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