Skew in options

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By Harrison Napper October 1, 5 min read 5 min read Key Takeaways Implied volatility tends to skew toward either puts or calls Charting volatility skew can give you a visual clue about what the market might be thinking Volatility skew can indicate whether the market is fearful or complacent The prices you pay for groceries, clothes, and your home come down to supply and demand dynamics.

Not only that, but sometimes puts cost relatively more than calls.

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At other times, calls are relatively more expensive. Why Is Vol Skewed?

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But after Black Monday, traders realized they needed to protect their positions, and puts began to carry a lot more value than calls. When investors consider hedging their bullish stock positions, they commonly do so with options by buying puts or selling calls.

This drives the price of puts up and calls down, respectively. This difference in pricing among options is called the skew and under normal circumstances, puts trade at higher volatility than calls for exactly that reason—investors are offsetting some of the bullishness of their stock positions.

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Because market drops can often be precipitous, investors can look to protect their positions on the downside where volatility might be higher earnings mobile internet on the upside.

Investors want to hedge their long positions from these quick market drops by buying put options.

Why Is Vol Skewed?

They may also want to cap their max gain on stock to collect premium by selling calls against the stock. The supply and demand dynamics increases the value of puts and decreases the value of calls.

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Another reason puts are often richer is that for most investors, the risk for stocks is to the downside. The fear associated with a big drop in the markets is often a stronger motivator skew in options the euphoric feeling of a strong rally.

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Although unusual, there may be times when calls may be priced higher than their equivalent puts. This is known as a reverse skew and can occur during unusually strong upside moves. Everyone wants a piece of the action and as the markets move higher, people tend to become more risk averse. Investors may want to get rid of their hedges so they tend to sell out of their puts.

Demand for calls increases, which makes the OTM calls richer than their equivalent puts.

What Is Volatility Skew And How To Use It In Option Trading

Then compare the prices of OTM calls and puts that are equidistant from the strike price. Look at different time frames to familiarize yourself with what normal skew is likely to be. Skew Expressions: Smile or Smirk? Comparing put and call prices on the Option Chain is one way to get an idea of vol skew.

Skew Expressions: Smile or Smirk?

You can also visualize the shape of the skew. On thinkorswim: Select the Trade tab. Select Options or Futures.

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Typically, call and put volatilities that share the same strike are similar, so if you select the OTM curve, it gives a more robust picture of vol skew. You can select one expiration, all of them, or anything in between. Select all strikes or a smaller range of strikes.

Because the focus is on IV, you may want to start by plotting Impl Vol. The volatility curve is now displayed graphically see figure 1.

Volatility Skew

If the slope of skew in options calls is steeper, it implies traders are expecting an upside move. Here the skew on puts appears to be slightly steeper, suggesting the market is expecting a possible downside move in this stock.

For illustrative purposes only.

Past performance does not guarantee future results.