Understanding Dispersion: A Simple Guide to Profit from Inefficiencies in Volatility


Dispersion is a concept that has gained attention in the world of finance as investors look for ways to take advantage of inefficiencies in the market. In simple terms, dispersion refers to the difference between the implied volatility of an index and the realized volatility of its individual components, or single stocks. This difference creates opportunities for investors to profit from the underpricing of single stock volatility relative to index volatility.

The reason behind this difference in volatility is the demand for index options, which tends to be higher than the demand for single-stock options. This results in a higher implied volatility for indices compared to single stocks. Dispersion trading strategies aim to exploit this inefficiency by taking long positions in single stock options and short positions in index options.

Dispersion is a concept that offers investors the opportunity to profit from market inefficiencies by exploiting the difference between index and single stock volatilities. By understanding the Correlation Risk Premium and using dispersion trading strategies, investors can potentially benefit from this unique market phenomenon. As with all investment strategies, it’s essential to carefully consider the implementation options and understand the limitations of historical performance data.

What is the correlation premium?

The Correlation Risk Premium refers to the extra return that investors can potentially earn by taking on the risk of changes in the correlation between different assets, such as stocks. In other words, it’s the compensation for bearing the uncertainty of how closely the prices of different assets will move together.

When investors are worried about the correlation between assets increasing, they are more likely to buy protection in the form of index options, which leads to higher demand and higher implied volatility for these options. On the other hand, single stock options may have lower implied volatility due to lesser demand. This difference in implied volatilities between index options and single stock options results in the Correlation Risk Premium.

Investors who are willing to take on this correlation risk can potentially profit from it by implementing dispersion strategies that exploit the difference in implied volatilities between index and single stock options.

If the correlation is low what dispersion strategy should be implemented?

When correlation is low, it means that individual stocks are moving more independently of each other and the index. In this scenario, a dispersion strategy can be implemented by taking advantage of these differences in stock movements. Here’s how you can implement a dispersion strategy in a low-correlation environment:

  1. Go long on single stock options: Since stocks are moving more independently, there is potential for higher volatility in individual stocks. You can buy (go long) options, such as straddles or strangles, on single stocks that you believe will experience significant price movements. This way, you can profit from the increase in volatility of these individual stocks.
  2. Go short on index options: With low correlation, the overall index may experience lower volatility. You can sell (go short) index options, such as straddles or strangles, on the index itself. This allows you to collect the premium from selling these options, as the index is expected to have smaller price movements.

It is important to note that such a strategy is taking on the risk of changes in correlations between individual stocks and the index. It’s essential to carefully analyze the market conditions, potential risks, and rewards before implementing any dispersion strategy.