The VanEck Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX), the largest Russia exchange traded fund trading in the U.S., is down nearly 3% year-to-date, but that is not stopping some traders from making bullish bets on the big Russia fund.
President Donald Trump has acted more friendly toward Russia and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Consequently, market observers are speculating that the Trump administration could be more willing to roll back sanctions placed on Russia in response to its actions against Ukraine.
Alternatives to RSX, also the most heavily traded Russia ETF, include the iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF (NYSEArca: ERUS), SPDR S&P Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RBL) and the VanEck Vectors Russia Small-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: RSXJ).
“Call buying has been unusually popular on the VanEck Vectors Russia ETF (RSX) in recent weeks. At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the exchange-traded fund’s (ETF) 10-day call/put volume ratio stands at a top-heavy 9.22, and ranks just 4 percentage points from a 52-week peak. In fact, call open interest on RSX shares is docked in the 84th percentile of its annual range, with 191,205 contracts currently open,” according to Schaeffer’s Investment Research.
Crude oil has played a significant role in Russian markets as many state-owned oil producers rank among the largest holdings among Russian country-specific ETFs. With energy being the largest sector weight in RSX and Russia being one of the world’s largest non-OPEC producers, it is arguably encouraging that the ETF is down just modestly this year amid oil’s struggles.
“The May 20 call has also been active in recent weeks, with the major options exchanges confirming buy-to-open activity. In other words, call buyers expect RSX to be sitting above $20 at next Friday’s close, when the front-month options expire,” according to Schaeffer’s. “Amid this increased attention toward long calls, however, near-term RSX puts have rarely been cheaper, relative to calls. Specifically, the ETF’s 30-day implied volatility skew of 9.4% ranks lower than 85% of all comparable readings taken over the past year.”
More aggressive traders have also turned to the Direxion Daily Russia Bull 3x Shares (NYSE: RUSL), which attempts to deliver triple the daily returns of the same index tracked by RSX. The Direxion Daily Russia Bear 3x Shares (NYSEArca: RUSS) looks to deliver triple the daily inverse returns of that index on a daily basis.