How to Use Volatility in Your Investment Strategy


Volatility refers to the degree of variation in an asset’s price over time and can significantly impact an investor’s portfolio. Market volatility may be caused by economic events, company news, market sentiment, and supply and demand imbalances.

If you’ve ever tried investing or even just read a few articles on the topic, you’ve probably heard of the term “volatility.” And while it can be a source of risk, volatility can also present opportunities for those who know how to navigate it.

In this article, we’ll provide a beginner’s guide to understanding volatility and how investors can use it to their advantage. We’ll also cover what causes volatility, how to measure it, and ways to incorporate it into your investment strategy.

What does volatility mean in investing?

Volatility is a statistical measure of the dispersion of returns for a given security or market index. It measures the level of risk associated with a particular investment. For example, if the stock price of a company fluctuates significantly over a short period of time, it’s considered to be highly volatile.

Different investment vehicles have different “levels” of volatility. For instance, cryptocurrency is notoriously volatile, meaning the prices for different cryptocurrencies drastically change throughout the day. Individual stocks can also be volatile, though not as much as cryptocurrencies. Generally, the most stable investments are those comprised of baskets of securities, like exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds.

When you first start investing, consider your risk tolerance level. If you want high risk in order to realize high rewards, you may be in a more volatile market. If, on the other hand, you’re more risk-averse, you’ll probably want to look for a less volatile investment vehicle. To get a better idea of what you’re looking for, try speaking with an investment advisor.

What is good volatility?

For some investors, high volatility may be desirable if it presents opportunities for potentially higher returns. Others, however, may prefer low volatility if the goal is to preserve capital and generate more stable returns. In general, a good level of volatility is one that aligns with the investor’s goals and risk tolerance.

What causes volatility?

Various factors can cause volatility including market sentiment, economic news, and company news. Understanding these factors can help investors anticipate and navigate volatility in the market.

Market sentiment

Market sentiment refers to the overall mood or attitude of investors toward the market, which political events, social trends, and global economic conditions may influence. When investors are optimistic about the market, they may be more willing to take on riskier investments, causing prices to rise. Conversely, when investors are pessimistic, they may be more likely to sell off their holdings, causing prices to fall.

For instance, a major political event, such as an election or Brexit, can cause investors to react with either optimism or pessimism, leading to fluctuations in the market.

Economic news

Economic news, such as changes in interest rates, inflation, and GDP, can also impact volatility. For example, if the Federal Reserve announces an interest rate hike, investors may sell off their investments in anticipation of potentially lower profits. Similarly, if a country’s GDP growth slows, it can lead to decreased investor confidence and a drop in stock prices.

This was observed during the 2008 financial crisis, which was caused by a combination of factors, including the collapse of the housing market and a global credit crunch.

Company news

News related to specific companies, such as earnings reports or mergers and acquisitions, can also impact volatility. Positive news can lead to an increase in stock prices, while negative news can cause prices to drop.

When Tesla announced better-than-expected earnings in 2020, for example, its stock price rose by over 16% in a single day.

Measuring volatility

There are several metrics used to measure volatility, each with its own advantages and limitations.

Standard Deviation

Standard deviation is a statistical measure of the degree of variation of a set of data from its average. In finance, it’s commonly used to measure the volatility of an asset’s price over a certain period. This metric is useful for understanding the historical volatility of an asset and can be used to estimate future volatility.

For instance, a higher standard deviation indicates greater volatility and more risk. However, a stock with a low standard deviation may be less volatile and carry less risk.


Beta is a measure of an asset’s sensitivity to market movements. A beta of 1 indicates that the asset’s price moves in line with the overall market, while a beta greater than 1 indicates higher volatility than the market. Following this pattern, a beta of less than 1 indicates lower volatility than the market.

This metric is useful for comparing the volatility of different assets within a portfolio.

Volatility Index

The volatility index, or VIX, is a measure of the expected volatility of the S&P 500 index over the next 30 days. It’s often referred to as the “fear index” because it tends to rise during times of market stress.

A high VIX may indicate that investors expect the market to be more volatile in the near future. A low VIX, however, may indicate that the market is expected to be less volatile.

Using volatility in your investment strategy

While volatility can be a source of risk, it can also present opportunities for investors who know how to navigate it. Here are some ways to incorporate volatility into your investment strategy.

  • Diversification. One of the most effective ways to manage risk and navigate volatility is through diversification. By investing in a variety of assets across different sectors and geographies, investors can reduce their exposure to individual risks and market volatility.
  • Dollar-cost averaging. Dollar-cost averaging is a strategy in which investors invest a fixed amount of money at regular intervals, regardless of market conditions. This approach can help reduce the impact of short-term volatility and allow investors to take advantage of buying opportunities during market downturns.
  • Stop-loss orders. A stop-loss order is an order to sell an asset if its price falls below a certain level. This approach can help limit losses in the event of a sudden market downturn.
  • Option strategies. Investors can also use options to manage volatility. For example, buying put options can help protect against downside risk, while selling call options can generate income in a flat or declining market.

Remember that managing volatility is not about eliminating risk altogether, but rather about managing risk in a way that allows you to achieve your investment objectives. By staying informed, disciplined, and patient, you can make the most of volatility in the market and achieve your long-term financial goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Volatility refers to the degree of variation or fluctuation in the price or value of a financial instrument over time.
  • Causes of volatility include economic events, company news, market sentiment, and supply and demand imbalances.
  • Investors can measure volatility using standard deviation and the volatility index.
  • Investors can incorporate volatility into their investment strategy by diversifying their portfolio, using dollar-cost averaging, and exploring option strategies.
View Article Sources
  1. Government Size and Output Volatility: Should We Forsake Automatic Stabilization? — International Monetary Fund
  2. Public Expenditure and Consumption Volatility — World Bank Group
  3. Economic events and the volatility of government bill rates — PLOS One