You know something isn’t quite right in financial markets when you start reading articles in mainstream newspapers about newly minted millionaires who made their fortunes day trading.
Right on cue, the NY Times recently ran a story about a former logistics manager at Target, who has become a multi-millionaire day trading volatility.
If you’ve wondered why markets are so calm and why volatility has been so subdued, this piece offers some insight.
Each morning, at the market’s open, Seth M. Golden, a former logistics manager at a Target store, fires up the computer in his home office in northern Florida and does what he has done for years: Put on bets that Wall Street’s index of volatility, the VIX, will keep falling.
It has been a lucrative strategy as the so-called fear gauge has been, outside of the occasional spike, largely fearless — confounding experts by sloping persistently downward and in the process making Mr. Golden a multimillionaire.
Now, a new generation of day traders, deploying an expanding array of opaque, high-risk, high-return trading vehicles concocted by Wall Street, are pouring into one of the market’s most arcane corners, making bets on whether the VIX — otherwise known as the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index — will rise or fall.
Just as the frenetic buying of tech stocks by day traders in 1999 and 2000 came to be seen as a major factor behind the boom and bust, market experts say that traders like Mr. Golden who persistently short the VIX have distorted the market.
Now, he is starting a hedge fund dedicated to wagering against the VIX. Investors, he says, have been pounding on his door to get in early, offering him $100 million for starters.
That is a lot of money for a onetime Target manager.
“Yes, it is a crowded trade,” Mr. Golden acknowledged. “But I don’t worry about crowds — I just worry what the next existential shock might be.”
There have been many disturbing trends during this bull market, but what you just read takes the cake.
Jeremy Jones, CFA
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