Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Call Volume Spikes in SPXU

Since my ongoing discussion of SPXU seems to have generated considerable interest in the SPX pair of triple ETFs (SPXU is the -3x ETF and UPRO is the +3x ETF), I thought this morning’s surge in call activity in SPXU should be noted.

As the chart below from shows, the 20,000+ calls traded in SPXU during the first two hours of trading suggests some large bets on the SPX are now making their way into the triple ETF options arena. This should come as no surprise, as my recent Triple ETF Options Landscape confirmed large volumes of options trading in several triple ETF pairs, including financials (FAS and FAZ), small caps (TNA and TZA), large caps (BGU and BGZ) and emerging markets (EDC and EDZ.)

Today’s big SPXU transaction was for 20,961 December 75 calls, which appear to have been transacted at the ask price, suggesting some buying interest in the -3x ETF.

Whether this transaction is a speculative play or of the hedging variety cannot be determined, but given all the issues associated with price decay due to compounding, I find it interesting that the options are five months out.


Disclosure: Long SPXU at time of writing.


Eric said...

That Dec expiration is odd. I could see Dec expiration Puts on either UPRO or SPXU because they're more likely to feed on themselves over time. Look at FAS/FAZ, both in the $5-10 range before the reverse split.

Anonymous said...

time to sell.


ahab said...

seems like they would have had a slight advantage buying UPRO puts instead with the inherent decay in the 3x underlying

Bill Luby said...

I agree with all the above comments.

Of course, regarding it being time to sell, keeping the market in the red for a full session seems a lot like trying to hold a helium balloon under water for 6 1/2 hours...

Good trading, all.


Anonymous said...


You have been subtly discourging people from selling ever since July 13. What's your motive? Seems you have become one of "them", just like Jim Cramer, whom used to be respected but now is almost universally scorned.

Be honest, Bill. That's why we loved you in the first place. Don't lose our trust.

Justin said...

1. Saying it "decays" is misleading. Because of the compounding effect, these ETFs will decay vs. the benchmark over the long term in a mean-reverting environment, but will actually *outperform* in a trending environment. (in response to ahab and Eric)

2. I see 16k open interest in the Dec 115 line. I have to think this was someone taking the long side of a big call spread...the volume in this thing is miniscule, I'm not sure I believe that there's two people trading this in such size as this. $2-$6 for a $40...not bad, actually, if you really firmly believe we're crashing between now and Dec.

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