Skew Index Rises Sharply

One of our readers pointed out to us last week that the recent strong rise in the so-called CBOE SKEW index should also be counted among the various divergences that make the stock market's current advance suspect. Skew  measures the perceived tail risk of the market via the pricing of out-of-the-money options. Generally, a rise in skew indicates that 'crash protection' is in demand among institutional investors (institutional/professional investors are the biggest traders in SPX options). The basic idea is similar to the CSFB 'fear index' or the Ansbacher index (which compares the premiums paid on equidistant calls and puts).

A unusual move in the skew index (which historically oscillates approximately between a value of 100 and 150) is especially interesting when it diverges strongly from the VIX, which measures at the money and close to the money front month SPX option premiums.

Basically what a 'low VIX/high skew' combination is saying is: 'the market overall is complacent, but big investors perceive far more tail risk than usually' (it is exactly the other way around when the VIX is high and SKEW is low). In other words, a surprising increase in realized volatility may not be too far away. Below is a chart showing the current SKEW/VIX combination.



SKEW vs VIXSKEW is rising strongly, even as the VIX is very low – click to enlarge.



Next is a long term chart which we have taken from the CBOE website. This chart looks a bit 'crowded', but it shows that the current level of the SKEW index is historically on the high side:



SKEW_indexSKEW vs. VIX, long term. As can be seen, the perception of increased tail risk can be 'early', but it is definitely a warning sign.



And lastly, here is a chart showing two divergences between VIX and SPX – a bullish and a (potentially) bearish one:



VIX-SPX divergencesThe VIX and the SPX – two divergences (lower high in VIX vs. lower low in SPX at the 2011 low, and currently a higher low in VIX vs. a higher high in SPX) – click to enlarge.



So here we have some additional evidence that the risk-reward equation in the stock market has recently shifted toward 'risk'. Once again, these are not precise timing signals – as the longer term chart of the SKEW index shows, investors are at times too early worrying about growing tail risk. On the other hand, it is definitely a 'heads-up', and lead and lag times are bound to vary. This is to say, we cannot state apodictically that they are once again 'too early' or how long exactly the lead time of the rise in the SPX options skew will actually turn out to be before the market gets into trouble this time.




Charts by: BarCharts, StockCharts, CBOE




Emigrate While You Can... Learn More




Dear Readers!

You may have noticed that our so-called “semiannual” funding drive, which started sometime in the summer if memory serves, has seamlessly segued into the winter. In fact, the year is almost over! We assure you this is not merely evidence of our chutzpa; rather, it is indicative of the fact that ad income still needs to be supplemented in order to support upkeep of the site. Naturally, the traditional benefits that can be spontaneously triggered by donations to this site remain operative regardless of the season - ranging from a boost to general well-being/happiness (inter alia featuring improved sleep & appetite), children including you in their songs, up to the likely allotment of privileges in the afterlife, etc., etc., but the Christmas season is probably an especially propitious time to cross our palms with silver. A special thank you to all readers who have already chipped in, your generosity is greatly appreciated. Regardless of that, we are honored by everybody's readership and hope we have managed to add a little value to your life.


Bitcoin address: 12vB2LeWQNjWh59tyfWw23ySqJ9kTfJifA


2 Responses to “SPX Options SKEW vs. VIX”

  • wrldtrst:

    Fair that skew is very high right now, but one shouldn’t find it odd that skew could easily blow out at a very low vol in a rising equity market. It is actually consistent with what should be expected, throw in a good year to close out in only 60 days and all the more reason to like some puts right now. I would place the forward predictive value, of this information, as it relates to future price moves at or about 0.

  • rodney:

    We patiently wait for the giant sucking sound that’s coming.

Your comment:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Most read in the last 20 days:

  • India’s Experiments with COVID-19
      Shooting from the Hip [ed. note: the tweets linked below mainly show videos from various lockdown phases]   Reminiscent of his demonetization effort in 2016, on 24th March 2020, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appeared on TV and declared an immediate nationwide curfew. No one was to be allowed to leave wherever he or she happened to be. All flights, trains (after 167 years of continual operation) and road transportation came to a complete, shrieking...

Support Acting Man

Austrian Theory and Investment


The Review Insider


Dog Blow

THE GOLD CARTEL: Government Intervention on Gold, the Mega Bubble in Paper and What This Means for Your Future

Realtime Charts


Gold in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Gold in EUR:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Silver in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



Platinum in USD:

[Most Recent Quotes from]



USD - Index:

[Most Recent USD from]


Mish Talk

    Buy Silver Now!
    Buy Gold Now!