We are having an exciting week ahead: after a steep market decline, there are plenty of market-moving releases this week: earnings galore of Tech and, on Wednesday, the FOMC.
Last Friday, 21st of January, saw one of the largest equity options expiries in history. Nearly $1.3trn in equity option notional and $3trn in option notion total (equity + index) premiums expired, according to this Zerohedge article.
Why is options expiry important? First, we have seen a massive option buying since 2020, with many retail traders trading options rather than stock.
The reason for trading options instead of stock is leverage and the high price of particular FAANG stocks. The high stock price makes it difficult for smaller accounts to purchase a whole share – they instead might have bought in the money calls, which are cheaper (and give leverage), or use neo-brokers like Robinhood, who allow the purchase of fractional shares.
On the other side of the trade are dealers writing these options (mainly calls) and have hedged (or didn’t hedge) their position.
Many small-cap names have continued to plummet to highly depressed prices. So it begs the question: have dealers hedged their short option exposure in those names?
I doubt it. Since most of these options were written into a slumping price trend, dealers would usually hedge into rising prices to protect themselves from losses.
However, hedging was unnecessary in the case of a persistent decline in such names.
If that is the case, we could see some clearing up in ultra-depressed names as calls expired worthless. Also, some accounts need to resume buying to keep their position vs. dealer selling due to expiring hedges.
However, in FAANG, we might see the opposite effect: dealers had to hedge their short exposures against a rising market and possibly dump stock, especially if there aren’t any reassuring tech earnings and outlook.
However, some of this effect possibly has happened over the past two weeks already.
To screen for ‘depressed names,’ you can use the screener pages and filter for performance and/or fundamentals.