Trading volume records in bitcoin’s options market were smashed on Monday as investors scrambled to hedge their positions amid the sell-off.

Major exchanges – Deribit, LedgerX, Bakkt, OKEx, CME – registered total trading volume of $198 million, surpassing the previous record high of $171.3 million reached on Feb. 11, according to crypto derivatives research firm Skew Markets.

global-options-volume
Bitcoin Options Volume
Source: Skew

Deribit, the world’s biggest crypto options exchange by volume, contributed nearly 86 percent, or $170 million, of the total trading volume on Monday. Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) traded $2.1 million, while Intercontinental Exchange’s (ICE’s) Bakkt did not trade any contracts. Bakkt last registered activity on Feb. 27 and prior to that on Feb. 12.

An option contract is a derivative based on the value of an underlying instrument that gives the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the specified amount of an underlying asset on or before the expiration date. A call option gives the holder a right to buy, while the put option gives the holder the right to sell.

“Derivatives trading activity tends to increase when a large spot move occurs, which was triggered yesterday by an extraordinary sell-off in risk assets globally,” Skew CEO and co-founder Emmanuel Goh told CoinDesk. 

Bitcoin (BTC) was trading above $9,000 on Friday and looked set for stronger gains over the weekend. However, the cryptocurrency fell sharply from $9,900 to $9,000 on Sunday, possibly due to liquidations by alleged PlusToken scammers and declined further to a two-month low of $7,640 on Monday. 

The rapid price drop was accompanied by a sell-off in the traditional markets and likely fueled demand for options. 

“The sell-off has provided an ample amount of opportunities for both shorter-term traders and longer-term investors alike to acquire bitcoin and other assets at a significant discount to where prices stood just two weeks ago. Options are one effective way of taking advantage of these opportunities.” Justin Gillespie, CEO of Titus Investment Advisors and bitcoin trader told CoinDesk. 

Volumes have been rising right from the start of the year. For example, Deribit has witnessed an average daily volume of nearly $100 million over the past four weeks compared to $50 million in the period from December through January.

deribit-options-volume
Deribit Bitcoin Options Volume
Source: Skew

“There’s been an explosion of interest from investors, intraday traders, and miners in BTC options on Deribit the past few months,” Su Zhu, CEO of Three Arrows Capital, told CoinDesk. 

Zhu added the recent record volume reflects the growing importance of options flow on Deribit in bitcoin price setting. Back in mid-January, Zhu tweeted predicting a surge in options trading volume. 

Open interest rises

As bitcoin’s price dropped, the global open interest – the sum of all options contracts that have not expired, been exercised or physically delivered – rose to $841 million on Monday from Sunday’s $798 million, according to Skew Markets. 

global-options-open-interest
Total Bitcoin Options Open Interest
Source: Skew

The open positions surged from $250 million to $950 million in the first six weeks of the year and has remained elevated ever since, a sign of increased institutional participation in the bitcoin market. 

Looking ahead, bitcoin’s option market could continue to register strong volumes because of uncertainty is likely to stay high ahead of the May 2020 reward halving, the coronavirus pandemic and the prospects of an all-out oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. 

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