On Friday afternoon, while the VIX was jumping as stocks were sliding, and well ahead of Monday's brief but systemic ETF failure which led to a VIX explosion, marketwide halts and a 1000 point Dow Jones collapse, we pointed out a disturbing event: someone was aggressively buying insurance against a market catastrophe by loading up on all the VIX September 50 calls they could get their hands on. In fact as of lunch time, some 625 calls had been purchased at a price of about a dime.
This is what we said last Friday:
"what would be far scarier is if whoever is suddenly offering a nickel for the VIX Sept 50 calls actually knows something. Because if he "does", that would suggest a market move 'Straight out of Lehman.'"
Fast forward to Monday, when we had a market move that was, drumroll, Straight out of Lehman indeed, and shockingly, the VIX 50 calls, which were bought when the VIX was trading at half that value, were briefly in the money!
And, as the chart below shows, in this case betting on the end of the world was perhaps the most profitable trade of the year: purchased on the offer at 10 cents, the calls traded as high as $2.50 one trading day later, a 2,400% return in one day. We tried to do an XIRR analysis what that return would look like annualized but Excel simply Reffed out.
Even if the buyer had not sold, and held on to yesterday's closing price of $0.95, the return of 850% would put 100% of all hedge funds to shame.
It appears that sometimes betting on the end of the financial world not only pays off, but could be the trade of a lifetime... just be sure there is a market on the other side, to close it out.