After building out Merrill’s mortgage trading floor basically from scratch, then moving to the buyside at Pimco, several weeks ago Harley Bassman, more familiar to many traders as the “Convexity Maven” – a legend in the realm of derivatives (he helped design the MOVE Index, better known as the VIX for government bonds) – decided to retire (roughly one year after his shocking suggestion that the Fed should devalue the dollar by buying gold).
But that did not mean he would stop writing, and just a few days after exiting the front door at 650 Newport Center Drive in Newport Beach for the last time, Bassman wrote his first full article as a “free man”, in which the topic was, not surprisingly, derivatives and specifically the recent collapse in vol – and convexity – what prompted it, but most importantly and what everyone wants to know: what threshold would be sufficient to finally launch the next “critical mass” market move (i.e. crash) and, just as importantly, what could catalyze it.
He answer all of the above in his latest fascinating note.
Bassman’s full thoughts below:
“Rambling near the Edge”
Last month I attended the EQD (Equity Derivatives) Conference in Las Vegas. Diverse speakers opined upon a variety of topics, but a common theme was noting the near record low of both Implied and Realized Volatility in the financial markets. But despite the VIX kissing its nadir, realized volatility has plumbed even lower depths, and thus it was reported that strategies that engaged in selling Equity Volatility had both superior returns as well as the loftiest Information (Sharpe) Ratios among the dozens of strategies offered.
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