With the VIX surging, and then quickly getting pummeled on two occasions in the past three weeks, dizzy traders could be forgiven to assume that any latent “risk off” threat, whether from North Korea or the US political front, has been taken off the table. However, a deeper look inside the vol surface reveals something very different: with increasingly more analysts and traders warning that volatility is set for a sharp return this fall, equities have already been adjusting to the increased probability of a “tail event.” However, instead of buying VIX futures, call or ETPs, they have been doing so by bidding up the price of OTM equity put options, or equivalently, by steepening the S&P 500 put skew and.
As a reminder, a put skew shows how much more expensive it is to buy deep OTM puts vs puts that are in the money or in other words, a levered bet on (or hedge against) a market crash.
And as the following chart from Bank of America shows, the S&P put skew is now at the highest level on record, making the relative price of tail hedges the highest in 13 years as traders are quietly bracing for a sharp market crash.
While not new, Bank of …