Traders are showing increased interest in call options linked to popular U.S. equity exchange-traded funds (ETFs) as U.S. stocks experience a rally following the release of Tuesday's consumer-price index. This surge in call options could potentially drive stock prices even higher in the coming days, according to options-market strategists.
On Friday, options tied to a total of $2.4 trillion in stocks, ETFs, and equity indexes are set to expire. This information comes from data compiled by Rocky Fishman, founder of Asym50, a provider of analytics for the U.S. options market.
A chart from analysts at Goldman Sachs Group illustrates the significant increase in call buying associated with well-known index-tracking ETFs this week. As a result, the ratio of outstanding calls to puts for the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), Invesco QQQ ETF (QQQ), and iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) has decreased as traders abandon put options and instead focus on call options. On Wall Street, this ratio is commonly referred to as "skew."
Goldman's data reveals that the skew for calls linked to IWM, which tracks the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks, has reached its lowest recorded level. This suggests an unprecedented level of bullish sentiment towards an overlooked segment of the market.
Brent Kochuba, founder of SpotGamma, a provider of options-market data and analytics, finds the shift in small-cap skew to be particularly intriguing.
Approximately one-third of IWM call options are set to expire on Friday. Whether the momentum that has driven small-cap stocks higher over the past two weeks will continue depends on whether traders choose to roll over their positions or not.
The spike in demand for small-cap options could also indicate that more traders are looking to invest in these stocks, hoping that they will keep rising. As certain areas of the U.S. market, which have underperformed compared to Big Tech throughout the year, begin to catch up, this trend seems likely to continue.
It is important to note that call options represent bullish bets on an underlying security or index, while put options represent the opposite. Options can be used for speculative purposes or to hedge an investor's portfolio.