Bitcoin Options Investors Are Starting to Hedge Against Potential Price Pullback

The one-month implied volatility, which is influenced by the demand for call and put options, jumped from roughly 55% to a four-month high of 70.5% in the past two days, suggesting increased expectations for price turbulence over the next four weeks.

AccessTimeIconNov 19, 2020 at 5:23 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:32 a.m. UTC
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Bitcoin's options market data shows investors are beginning to position for a temporary retreat from the cryptocurrency's steep bull run.

The one-month implied volatility, which is influenced by the demand for call and put options, jumped from roughly 55% to a four-month high of 70.5% in the past two days, suggesting increased expectations for price turbulence over the next four weeks.

Bitcoin implied volatility
Bitcoin implied volatility

The one-month gauge is currently seen at 65%. Implied volatility metrics for longer durations have also recovered from recent lows.

Alongside that, the negative spread between the cost of puts (bearish bets) and calls (bullish bets) has eased, as evidenced by the recovery in the one-, three- and six-month put-call skews. Notably, the one-month gauge bounced from -27% to -14%, according to data source Skew.

These numbers indicate increased demand for put options – a sign of investors hedging against a potential price pullback. While call buying can and does cause a rise in implied volatility metrics, in this case, the put-call skew has recovered alongside the pick up in volatility, suggesting a rise in demand for puts.

Validating that assessment is the tweet by Deribit Insights, which says institutions have bought put options. That does not necessarily imply a bearish bias but could be a hedging strategy against a long or bullish position in the spot market.

Options are derivative contracts that give the purchaser the right but not the obligation to buy or sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before a specific date. A call option gives the right to buy, and the put option represents the right to sell. Implied volatility, a key component in calculating the price of an option, is the expected standard deviation of returns over a selected period and is expressed in annualized terms.

Bitcoin put-call skews
Bitcoin put-call skews

Fears of a deeper drawdown in bitcoin's price and demand for puts looks to have been fueled by the volatile price action seen in the past 36 hours. Bitcoin rose as high as $18,358 during Wednesday's Asian trading hours only to make a quick retreat to $17,200. That has seen volatility spike and the put-call skew rise, as traders hedge their bullish sentiment with puts, according to Shaun Fernando, head of risk and product at cryptocurrency exchange Deribit.

The renewed interest in the put options comes following bitcoin's recent vertical rally from $10,000 to above $18,000. The cryptocurrency has seen multiple corrections of more than 20% in the previous bull markets. This time, a bull market correction has remained elusive, possibly due to a supply deficit in the market.

However, the uptrend may now lose some momentum, according to technical studies.

Bitcoin daily chart
Bitcoin daily chart

Both the long upper wick attached to Wednesday's indecisive candle and the above-50 reading on the relative strength index indicate bull fatigue. "The cryptocurrency may face some selling pressure if the prices end (UTC) Thursday below lows near $17,100 seen Wednesday," Patrick Heusser, a senior cryptocurrency trader at Zurich-based Crypto Broker AG, told CoinDesk.

The broader trend remains constructive with the three- and six-month put-call skews reporting negative values and macro factors aligned in favor of scarce assets like bitcoin.

At press time, the cryptocurrency was trading at $17,977, according to The CoinDesk 20.

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