Fidelity Halts Investor Purchases of Three VIX-Focused ETFs

Updated on
  • Goal is to protect customers from outsized risks, firm says
  • Customers are being allowed to sell out of positions

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Better late than never.

Three days after the implosion of an exchange-traded note betting on low volatility, Fidelity Investments said it had moved to protect investors from these products.

The fund giant is halting customer purchases of three volatility-focused exchange traded funds, Robert Beauregard, a company spokesman, said in an email. They are: ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures (SVXY), VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term ETN (XIV), and the VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Medium Term ETN (ZIV).

The ban started Feb. 6, Beauregard said. The firm didn’t issue the news publicly until Friday. “We are allowing customers to sell out of existing positions,” he said.

Representatives for TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. and Charles Schwab Corp. said Friday that customers can still trade SVXY. Ameritrade, however, is holding a 100 percent margin requirement for those purchases, spokeswoman Kim Hillyer said.

Brokerage firms including E-Trade have moved to protect customers as global markets have plunged and volatility has surged. The fallout from the implosion of a vast array of arcane bets against stock-market volatility mounted this week. Credit Suisse Group AG moved to liquidate one investment product and more than a dozen others were halted after their values sunk toward zero.

SVXY is down 91 percent since last Friday, XIV plunged 96 percent and ZIV fell 27 percent.

The Financial Times earlier reported on the Fidelity’s decision.

Fidelity said customers who want to buy funds that borrow money to increase their returns must sign an agreement that lays out the risks of the products and acknowledge that they have a “most aggressive” risk tolerance.

— With assistance by Ben Steverman

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