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Market Insights / Commentary

Volatility and volumes: February at TradeStation

By David Russell

If two words summed February, they would be “volatility” and “volume.”

Both spiked across the market. CBOE’s fear gauge, the VIX volatility index, shot to its highest level in over two years as key indexes tanked. Not surprisingly, volumes surged in key symbols traders know and love — especially the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and Apple (AAPL).

Let’s take a look at what customers were doing here at TradeStation. Transactions in SPY more than doubled this month compared with January. That’s pretty huge when you consider four fewer sessions are included in the data set. But in the big scheme of things it’s pretty similar to overall volume in SPY across the broader market.

Smart-phone giant AAPL took the No. 2 spot, edging out Silicon Valley neighbor Nvidia (NVDA). Also in the realm of tech: (AMZN) moved into TradeStation’s top 10, and Netflix (NFLX) dropped out.

Two major volatility products climbed the rankings as well. ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term (UVXY) was the third-busiest symbol last month, up from seventh in January. iPath S&P 500 VIX (VXX) catapulted from No. 17 to No. 5 . (AMZN) and Nasdaq-100 tracking PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ) returned to the top 10, while, while General Electric (GE) dropped off. Here’s a complete rundown of our busiest symbols in February, through Tuesday’s close:

  1. SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY): The most popular product remained at the top spot.
  2. Apple (AAPL): The smart-phone maker moved up from No. 4 in January.
  3. ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term (UVXY): The market-inverse instrument rose from seventh the previous month.
  4. Nvidia (NVDA): The chip maker slipped from No. 2.
  5. iPath S&P 500 VIX (VXX): The market-inverse instrument rose from the 17th spot in January.
  6. PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ): The Nasdaq-100 tracking fund was No. 11 in January.
  7. (AMZN): The e-commerce juggernaut jumped from No. 15 in January.
  8. Facebook (FB): The social-media giant slid from the fourth spot.
  9. ProShares UltraPro QQQ (TQQQ): The leveraged instrument slipped from the sixth spot.
  10. Alibaba (BABA): The Chinese e-commerce giant edged down from No. 9 to No. 10.

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