What is Volatility?

Volatility is a statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. In most cases, the higher the volatility, the riskier the security.

Volatility can either be measured by using the standard deviation or variance between returns from that same security or market index.

In the securities markets, volatility is often associated with big swings in either direction. For example, when the stock market rises and falls more than one percent over a sustained period of time, it is called a “volatile” market.

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Market volatility can be seen through the VIX or Volatility Index. The VIX was created by the Chicago Board Options Exchange as a measure to gauge the 30-day expected volatility of the U.S. stock market derived from real-time quote prices of S&P 500 call and put options. It is effectively a gauge of future bets investors and traders are making on the direction of the markets or individual securities. A high reading on the VIX implies a risky market.

A variable in option pricing formulas showing the extent to which the return of the underlying asset will fluctuate between now and the option’s expiration. Volatility, as expressed as a percentage coefficient within option-pricing formulas, arises from daily trading activities. How volatility is measured will affect the value of the coefficient used.

Volatility Definition