Choice Merchants and the 2020 Presidential Election


The yr 2020 has been one in every of extremes. As people, governments, and industries deal with the direct and oblique results of COVID-19, world securities markets are bracing for a high-stakes US presidential election that might differ dramatically from its current predecessors.

What can buyers, asset managers, and merchants reeling from the unprecedented volatility of February and March anticipate heading into the ultimate months of 2020?

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Indexes supply an environment friendly solution to gauge the market, and listed index-based derivatives can present a basis for evaluation within the type of market costs, implied volatility, open positions, and possibility circulation sentiment.

Broad-based index choices are sometimes utilized by portfolio managers and merchants for exact changes of danger and publicity. Market-makers and liquidity suppliers play a vital function within the course of, risking capital and adjusting costs in response to produce, demand, and expectations of future market habits. In america, liquidity is best within the S&P 500 Index choices (SPX) on Cboe™, the place roughly 1.2 million contracts, or $5 billion in premium, change palms on a mean day — surging to triple these ranges on the busiest days.

The distinctive options of SPX choices, mixed with the basic traits of listed choices, yield precious perception into expectations and positioning forward of great occasions just like the 2020 US presidential election.

Costs and Volatility

In idea, correct valuation of choices is a perform of the underlying worth, time to expiration, strike, rates of interest, dividends, and volatility. Whereas all inputs are topic to some extent of uncertainty, volatility receives probably the most consideration in observe as a result of a extreme mis-estimation of volatility may end up in sudden buying and selling outcomes.

When possibility costs, the midmarket degree of implied volatility at any given time signifies the market expectation of the magnitude of each day returns over the period of the choice. Many possibility merchants “suppose” in volatility relatively than worth phrases, which permits a straightforward comparability throughout merchandise and intervals of time.

Implied volatilities of interpolated at-the-money SPX choices on 1 September 2020 and 1 September 2016 present dramatically totally different expectations. In 2016, 90-day choices, which included the 8 November election, had been buying and selling with 13% implied volatility, about 2 factors above the short-term choices. Though a slight election “bump” is seen within the information, the 2016 possibility costs mirrored a comparatively easy time period construction of implied volatility, which rose to 17% within the two-year expiries.

This yr, whereas short-term implied volatility stays elevated close to 20%, the uncertainty surrounding the election time period is notably increased with implied volatility close to 24%. The time period construction additionally shows a chronic “hump,” extending one other 90 days to the 180-day time period, or late February 2021, which suggests an extended interval of bigger worth variations than 2016.


SPX ATM Implied Volatility: 1 September 2016 vs. 1 September 2020

Chart depicting SPX ATM Implied Volatility: 1 September 2016 vs. 1 September 2020

Computation of ahead volatility from these implied volatilities offers one other perspective on market expectations, isolating the anticipated volatility for particular person intervals of time sooner or later. For 2020, the 60- to 90-day ahead interval implied volatility stands out as a excessive level close to 29%, with a reversion towards the 23% vary over the next three months. Against this, 2016 ahead volatility was comparatively flat, close to 15% into the second quarter of 2017, which turned out to be effectively above the surprisingly low realized volatility of 2017, close to 9%.


SPX ATM Ahead Volatility

Chart showing SPX ATM Forward Volatility

SPX Realized Volatility (20d) and Index Stage

Chart depicting

Based mostly on present SPX choices costs, market strikes are anticipated to develop bigger into the autumn, peak close to election day on 3 November, and persist a number of months after. In worth phrases, the transfer from present 20% volatility to 29% will probably be felt as frequent (one commonplace deviation) each day strikes widen from 1.25% to 1.8%.

Open Curiosity

Chart depicting SPX ATM Implied Volatility: 1 September 2016 vs. 1 September 2020

All SPX choices trades are cleared by the Choices Clearing Company (OCC), which publishes internet excellent contracts for every listed possibility each day. As positions are opened and adjusted over time, the open curiosity modifications, offering transparency into the holdings of market individuals. Open curiosity may be considered on the underlying, time period, and strike ranges. On the highest degree, mixture SPX open curiosity on 1 September stood close to 14 million contracts and represented $4.9 trillion in notional worth.


Chart showing SPX Open Interest 2016 vs. 2020

Specializing in contracts that expire after the 2016 and 2020 elections reveals similarities in total configuration, with 2020 contract totals 16% above these of 2016, and the biggest positions held in December when year-end hedges are frequent. In comparison with 2016, 2020 SPX open curiosity is considerably increased within the January and March phrases, according to positioning for a unstable interval extending effectively into 2021.


SPX Choice Open Curiosity


In notional phrases, 2020 post-election open curiosity stands out with whole ranges close to $20 billion, 88% above 2016, outpacing the 62.4% development within the underlying and reflecting a bigger scale use of the contracts at the moment.


SPX Choice Curiosity: Notional Worth

Chart depicting SPX Option Interest: Notional Value

Strike-level open curiosity gives a more in-depth take a look at the timing and market ranges managers are centered on, in addition to notional quantities concerned, topic to the understanding that multi-leg spreads, which compose practically 70% of SPX choices quantity, should be thought-about.


SPX Open Curiosity by Strike, 1 September 2020 – OI>5k, Chosen Phrases


As of 1 September, positions over 5,000 contracts span a broad vary of draw back strikes, with notably giant positions close to 160,000 contracts on the 2500 and 3000 strike, representing roughly 30% and 15% draw back publicity, respectively, from the S&P 500 Index closing worth that day.

Order Movement

Choice order circulation may give one other view on market dynamics. On the primary degree, order circulation evaluation contextualizes buying and selling exercise to establish if the customer or vendor initiated the commerce, primarily based on methods equivalent to side-of-market modeling, comparability of commerce worth to theoretical worth, and worth and implied volatility affect. With added evaluation to interpret multi-leg trades and algorithmic executions, order circulation evaluation helps establish the main focus and expectations of market individuals for intervals of curiosity.

SPX order circulation in post-election contracts over the previous three months is dominated by December places, which isn’t uncommon given the recognition of the product for hedging portfolios. Essentially the most energetic contract, Dec 2500 places, is without doubt one of the largest blocks of open curiosity right this moment, offering a hedge struck 29% under spot.


Most Lively Inventory Choices, Mixture, SPX, 1 June to 1 September 2020

Chart of most active stock options on the SPX

A pattern of the biggest outright trades with expiration dates after the election reveals a persistent bias to places, according to the long-term put/name ratio of the product close to 3:2. One of many largest blocks was opened in June, when 10,000 12/31 expiry 2500 strike places had been purchased for $90, a $90 million premium commerce with a strike 20% out of the cash which will hedge a place of $3.1 billion notional worth.


Chart of Top SPX Spreads, 1 June 2020 to 1 September 2020

Amongst complicated orders, places made up seven of the highest 10 non-complex trades over the interval, led by a put unfold collar on 1 September, which offers a possible achieve of $225 million within the occasion of transfer down 20% to 2850 in alternate for the upside danger on the 3800 (+7%) strike.


Chart of Top SPX Trades and Sweeps from 1 June to 1 September 2020

Whereas correct prediction of market habits stays elusive, index choices present a data-driven window into the collective expectations of merchants, portfolio managers, and buyers. Based mostly on the 1 September information, merchants anticipate volatility to extend as 3 November approaches adopted by a sustained interval of volatility increased than that seen for many of the previous decade. Whereas the preponderance of draw back strikes just isn’t uncommon, the notional worth related to positions expiring after the election is considerably bigger than the earlier cycle. This displays a mix of year-end hedges and longer-term positions supposed to guard portfolios and mirror the views of managers.

That is the second installment of a sequence from the Index Business Affiliation (IIA). Cboe is a member of the IIA and helps the Affiliation’s objectives of independence, transparency, and competitors of index suppliers.

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All posts are the opinion of the writer. As such, they shouldn’t be construed as funding recommendation, nor do the opinions expressed essentially mirror the views of CFA Institute or the writer’s employer.

Picture credit score: ©Getty Photographs / photovs

Henry Schwartz

Henry Schwartz is senior director and head of product intelligence at Cboe World Markets’ Data Options Group. A veteran of fairness derivatives markets, Schwartz got here to Cboe following the event and the alternate operator’s subsequent acquisition of Commerce Alert, an choices order circulation tracker he based that makes use of expertise to reinforce transparency in choices market making and buying and selling. Previous to founding Commerce Alert, he held index buying and selling roles on desks throughout a number of main funding banks.



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