What another record in options trading volume says about the stock market

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The CBOE equity put-call ratio, which is a reflection of options trading volume, surged to its latest record high of the year, reflecting traders’ growing reliance on options during a volatile year, market strategists said.

The gauge is a measure of trading volume in options tied to individual stocks and exchange-traded funds, as Callie Cox, an equity strategist at eToro, explained.

“Nevertheless, [people] were trading a LOT of equity puts yesterday. Put volume on single stocks and ETF was 2.1 million, the most on record,” Cox added in a tweet. Readers can find Cox’s entire thread below.

The equity put-call ratio has risen to notable highs several times already this year, including once ahead of a major options expiration day in November, as MarketWatch reported at the time.

U.S. stocks were trading sharply lower on Thursday as the S&P 500
Dow Jones Industrial Average

and Nasdaq Composite

erased all of their gains from the prior session — the best day for stocks in three weeks — and then some.

During a phone call with MarketWatch, Cox pointed out that some of the most actively traded options contracts on Wednesday included a smattering of technology giants and an exchange-traded fund that tracks the Nasdaq Composite: they included Apple Inc.
Alphabet Inc.
Amazon.com Inc.

and the Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1

Traders typically use options to speculate on movements in stocks, or to hedge their positions, market strategists told MarketWatch.

Equity traders can buy or sell “calls,” which are a contract that gives the holder the right — but not the obligation — to buy a certain stock, exchange-traded fund, or index-linked futures, at a given price, known as the “strike price.”

If the strike price of the call option is lower than where the stock, ETF or index futures is trading in the market, then the contract is said to be “in the money” and traders can typically exercise or sell it for a profit, as long as the difference between the strike and the current market value is greater than what the trader paid for the option.

A “put” is a different type of option that gives traders the right, but not the obligation, to sell a given stock, ETF or index futures at the option’s strike price. Like futures and swaps, options are a financial derivative, meaning their value is based on the value of the underlying stock, index, ETF, or another asset or currency pair.


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