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Equity Options

Can investors/speculators use equity options to boost return through buying and selling leverage (calls), and/or buying and selling insurance (puts)? If so, which strategies work best? These blog entries relate to trading equity options.

Actual Index Options Trading Results

What kinds of returns do options traders actually achieve? In their January 2009 paper entitled “Investor Trading Behavior and Performances: Evidence from Taiwan Stock Index Options”, Bing Han, Yi-Tsung Lee and Yu-Jane Liu examine trading behavior and net returns for all traders of Taiwan stock index options. Using the complete record of transactions, orders and quotes for Taiwan stock index options during 2002-2005 (involving 238,303 individual investors, 1,076 domestic institutions, 50 foreign institutions and 29 market makers), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Collaring a Broad Equity ETF for Stable Returns?

Does a long options collar effectively hedge a broad equity exchange-traded fund (ETF), protecting against the downside while capturing a reasonable upside? In their April 2008 paper entitled “Collaring the Cube: Protection Options for a QQQ ETF Portfolio”, Edward Szado and Hossein Kazemi examine the risk-return characteristics of a passive (mechanical, no market timing) long collar strategy on the Powershares QQQ trust ETF (QQQQ), including transaction costs. A collar consists of a put option position to protect an underlying long equity position, combined with covered call options on the same underlying to fund the puts (thereby limiting upside potential). The authors consider 27 different collar combinations by varying moneyness of the puts and calls (5% out-of-the-money, 2% out-of-the-money and at-the-money) and the initial time to maturity of the puts (one, three and six months). Initial time to maturity for calls is always one month. Using daily closing prices for QQQQ and the selected put and call options over the period March 1999 to March 2008 (108 months), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Correlation Variability as Driver of the Volatility Risk Premium

Correlations among asset returns vary over time, introducing risk to the benefits of diversification. Intervals of extraordinarily high correlation amplify marketwide volatility and are disruptive to asset allocation policies. Does the risk of such correlation shocks explain the volatility risk premium associated with marketwide (equity index) options? In the July 2008 version of their paper entitled “The Price of Correlation Risk: Evidence from Equity Options”, Joost Driessen, Pascal Maenhout and Grigory Vilkov examine how correlation shocks affect the returns of options for a broad stock index and of options for its individual component stocks. Using daily returns for the S&P 100 index, its components and associated options over the period 1996-2003, they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Why of the Volatility Risk Premium

Why does the volatility of the stock market as implied by the prices of equity index options generally exceed actual (realized) volatility, thereby indicating large returns for sellers of index options? Is the reward of selling such options commensurate with the risk? In the June 2008 version of his paper entitled “The Volatility Premium”, Bjorn Eraker models the volatility risk premium based on the long-run effects of small (normal diffusion) and large (non-normal jumps) shocks to volatility. Using daily returns for the S&P 500 index and daily levels of the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) over the period 1990-2007, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Effect of Stock Market Momentum on Index Options Prices

Do stock index option prices incorporate stock market price momentum, an expectation of continuation of a recent market trend? In their 2004 journal article entitled “Index Option Prices and Stock Market Momentum”, Kaushik Amin, Joshua Coval and Nejat Seyhun test the dependence of broad equity market index option prices on past market returns. Using price data for S&P 100 index (OEX) options for the period 1983-1995, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Volatility Premium and the Four Factors

Does the volatility risk premium, the difference between options-implied volatility and future realized (actual) volatility, vary systematically with the four most widely used equity risk factors (market, size, book-to-market and momentum)? In other words, might the four factors point to pockets of underpriced or overpriced options? In their November 2008 paper entitled “Implied and Realized Volatility in the Cross-Section of Equity Options”, Manuel Ammann, David Skovmand and Michael Verhofen investigate the factor dependence of the volatility premium for U.S. equities. Using a sample of all U.S. equity at-the-money call options 91 days from expiration over the period January 1996 through April 2006, along with associated stock price and firm fundamentals data, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Returns for Call Options on Individual Stocks

Are out-of-the-money (OTM) call options a good way to speculate on spikes in the price of underlying stocks? In other words, are such options reliably underpriced or overpriced? In her August 2008 paper entitled “Stock Option Returns: A Puzzle”, Sophie Xiaoyan Ni investigates one-month returns for call options on individual stocks that do not have an ex-dividend day prior to expiration. Using expiration date option price data for a broad sample of qualifying stocks during January 1996 through June 2005, she concludes that: Keep Reading

Smirking Because They Know Something?

Does the degree to which out-of-the-money (OTM) put options are “overpriced” imply future returns for associated stocks? In other words, are options traders especially well-informed? In their March 2008 paper entitled “What Does Individual Option Volatility Smirk Tell Us about Future Equity Returns?”, Xiaoyan Zhang, Rui Zhao and Yuhang Xing test whether option prices for individual stocks contain important information for the underlying equities. They focus on the predictive power of volatility smirks, the difference between the implied volatilities of OTM put options and at-the-money (ATM) call options. Using daily option and underlying stock price data for all firms with listed options during 1996-2005, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Extracting Disaster from Index Option Prices

Does the “overpricing” of out-of-the-money (OTM) stock index put options imply an investor estimate of the likelihood and size of economic disasters and stock market crashes? In his June 2008 paper entitled “How Bad Will the Potential Economic Disasters Be? Evidences From S&P 500 Index Options Data”, Du Du estimates the the frequency and magnitude of U.S. economic disasters as implied by S&P 500 index option data within a model involving rare sharp drops in consumption and consumption habit formation. In his model, consumption drops induce stock market crashes via: (1) commensurate declines in dividends, and (2) elevated investor risk aversion. Using S&P 500 index option data for the period 4/4/88-6/30/05 and contemporaneous economic data, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Do Informed Traders Tip Their Hands Via Option Purchases?

Do traders with solid information about firm prospects use equity options to get leverage and avoid short selling constraints? Two recent papers address this question by testing the predictive power of distortions in out-of-the money option prices for individual stocks. In their December 2007 paper entitled “Deviations from Put-Call Parity and Stock Return Predictability”, Martijn Cremers and David Weinbaum examine the power of relatively expensive options to predict returns for individual stocks. In a similar March 2008 paper entitled “What Does Individual Option Volatility Smirk Tell Us about Future Equity Returns?”, Xiaoyan Zhang, Rui Zhao and Yuhang Xing focus on relatively expensive put options as indicators of bad news and poor future returns for individual stocks. Using options pricing and associated stock return data over the period 1996-2005, these two studies conclude that: Keep Reading

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