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What is VXX? Easy Guide

In the complex world of finance, understanding the tools available can provide investors with an edge. Among these tools, VXX holds a unique place. 

Officially known as the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN, VXX offers a way for investors to gain exposure to market volatility. 

This article delves into what is VXX, function, and intricacies of VXX, aiming to equip investors with the knowledge to navigate its uses and risks.

What is VXX?

At its core, VXX is an Exchange Traded Note (ETN), tracking the VIX, the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index. Unlike stocks or mutual funds, VXX is designed to mimic the performance of VIX futures, providing a measure of market volatility. 

While both ETFs and ETNs are traded on stock exchanges, VXX, as an ETN, carries different risk factors, including the credit risk of the issuer.

Market volatility is crucial in financial markets, serving as a measure of risk and uncertainty. Understanding this aspect can help investors make informed decisions, particularly in turbulent times.

What is VXX? Detailed Guide

The History of VXX

Launched in 2009, VXX provided a direct way for investors to trade volatility. Over time, its relevance has fluctuated with market conditions. 

Notably, in 2018, the original VXX was phased out and replaced with VXXB, which continues under the VXX ticker. 

Its historical performance offers insights into its behavior during various market events, highlighting its nature as a short-term investment vehicle rather than a long-term hold.

How Does VXX Work?

VXX is linked to VIX futures, not the VIX index itself. This detail is crucial for understanding its behavior. VIX futures represent the market’s expectation of 30-day forward-looking volatility. 

VXX’s price movements depend on these futures, subject to the conditions of contango and backwardation. In contango, futures prices are higher than spot prices, which can lead to a loss for VXX holders as it rolls over to more expensive contracts. Backwardation, less common, plays favorably for VXX.

Reasons Investors Turn To VXX

Investors look to VXX for several reasons. Primarily, it’s utilized as a hedge against market downturns, given its tendency to increase in value when markets are turbulent. 

Others may speculate on rises in volatility itself or use VXX to diversify their portfolio. Each motivation requires a clear understanding of VXX’s nature and risks.

Risks Associated with VXX

The risks of VXX are notable. Its value can decay over time due to contango, and it’s inherently volatile, subject to sudden swings unrelated to the broader market. 

Its complexity and high-risk profile mean VXX is unsuitable for inexperienced investors or as a long-term investment.

Investment Strategies Involving VXX

Investors employing VXX generally engage in short-term strategies. Its use in day trading and as a hedge in broader portfolios are common practices. 

Given the high risk and potential for loss, these strategies require a deep understanding of VXX and the broader market.

How to Trade or Invest in VXX

Trading VXX involves standard platforms where stocks and ETNs are bought and sold. Interested investors should consider liquidity, trading hours, and tax implications. 

Due to its unique nature, trading VXX responsibly calls for diligent research and possibly consultation with a financial advisor.

Alternatives to VXX

The market offers other volatility products, such as VIXY, UVXY, and the now-retired TVIX. 

These alternatives each have their own set of features, risks, and considerations. Comparing these can help investors find the right fit for their volatility exposure needs.

trading VXX

Practical Tips for Trading VXX

When trading VXX, the ability to navigate its volatility is fundamental. Here are some practical tips for engaging with this unique ETN:

Understand the Product: Before trading, ensure you fully comprehend how VXX functions, its linkage to VIX futures, and the effects of contango and backwardation on its pricing. A deep understanding is crucial for making informed decisions.

Set Clear Entry and Exit Points: Establish your entry and exit criteria before executing any trades. Given VXX’s volatility, it’s essential to have predefined points at which you’ll cut losses or take profits to avoid emotional decision-making.

Use Stop-Loss Orders: To manage risk effectively, employ stop-loss orders. These can help limit potential losses by automatically selling the ETN when it reaches a certain price.

Monitor Market Conditions Closely: Stay informed about broader market trends and volatility indicators. Significant market events can lead to rapid changes in VXX’s value, so timely information can be crucial for decision-making.

Allocate Wisely: VXX should only represent a portion of your diversified portfolio given its high-risk nature. Carefully consider how much of your capital is exposed to volatility.

Avoid Holding Long-Term: Due to the risk of decay over time, especially in contango conditions, VXX is generally better suited for short-term trading strategies.

Stay Educated and Adapt: Continuously educate yourself on market conditions and VXX’s performance. Being flexible and ready to adapt your strategy in response to new information can enhance your trading effectiveness.

Adhering to these tips can help mitigate some of the risks associated with trading VXX while capitalizing on its unique properties to potentially benefit from market volatility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is VXX a good long-term investment?

The article should explain why VXX is generally not considered a good long-term investment due to decay over time.

How does VXX react to market crashes or downturns?

Discuss VXX’s typical behavior during heightened market volatility and its role as a potential hedge.

What happens to VXX when the market is stable or in an uptrend?

Explanation of VXX’s performance during calm and bullish market conditions.

Can VXX go to zero?

Address the potential risks of VXX going very low or being at risk of discontinuation and what that means for investors.

How is VXX different from buying options to hedge against volatility?

Compare VXX with options as tools for volatility hedging, including ease of use, accessibility, and risk profiles.


VXX provides a fascinating if volatile opportunity for investors interested in market volatility. With its linkage to VIX futures, unique risks, and potential for rapid changes in value, it demands a well-considered approach. 

Understanding VXX fully is critical for anyone looking to incorporate it into their investment strategies.