What we didn’t learn about the events of Oct. 15

What we didn’t learn about the events of Oct. 15

This week, the US.government released its report on the events of October 15.

I was disappointed.

The 72-page report has lots of points of interest but doesn’t come up with any definitive reason for the sharp movements in the 10-year U.S. Treasury. More disappointing than that (for me) was the report’s treatment of the events leading up to the day and specifically its very brief mention of volatility selling.

Here’s what the report said:

In addition, market participants reported that some large asset managers had maintained positions structured to profit from a continuation of the low-volatility environment that characterized much of 2014, though data to validate such claims are limited. Some market participants have speculated that a change in the distribution of certain options-specific risk factors among certain firms could have been a contributing factor. In particular, anecdotal commentary suggested that some dealers had absorbed a portion of the sizable “short volatility” position believed to have been previously maintained by large asset managers. As volatility spiked on October 15, those positions would have prompted some dealers to dynamically hedge this exposure, exacerbating the downward move in yields.

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that this is something I’ve written about before, specifically in a piece for the Financial Times entitled: “Caught on the wrong side of the ‘vol’ trade.” Unlike the Oct. 15 report, that article names a specific player who was said to have suddenly stopped selling vol.

“Pimco was a massive seller of volatility and when Gross left they started taking that position back,” says one hedge fund trader. “The Street was still thinking that short was out there. People expected the road to be there and the road wasn’t there.”

Given the debate over whether large asset managers are or are not systemically-important, it’s shame the Oct. 15 report did not dive into this particular theme a bit more.

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