Some bitcoin options traders are making outlandish wagers, betting on a rally to a six-figure price by year end even as the cryptocurrency continues to struggle following last month's 35% drop.
According to data provided by Laevitas, the dominant cryptocurrency options exchange Deribit saw a total of 425 bitcoin call option contracts, with a strike price of $200,000 and an expiration date of Dec. 31, change hands on Thursday. That strike price is roughly five times the current level.
A call option is a derivative contract that gives the purchaser the right but not the obligation to buy the underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before a specific date. Theoretically, buying a call at the $200,000 strike expiring on Dec. 31 is a bet that the cryptocurrency will end the year above that level.
While the trade size is relatively small compared with similar gambles that CoinDesk has covered in the past, the wagers are still interesting for several reasons. To begin with, the $200,000 call options represent a long-term bet, with an expiration date a full six months away.
And because the options are so far out-of-the-money (strike well above the spot market price), they are extremely cheap, currently trading at 0.018 BTC ($698) on Deribit.
That makes the options the equivalent of a lottery ticket: Buyers stand to lose just $698 per lot if the market doesn't move higher until Dec. 31. But the option would theoretically gain significant value if the bullish mood returns to the market.
Such low-risk gambles are commonly observed during bull runs. For instance, traders piled into the $80,000 call option in March, when bitcoin was on a strong upward trajectory and trading at highs above $50,000.
Bitcoin rose to an all-time high of nearly $65,000 in April, but the price has since tumbled and now appears to be consolidating under $40,000. At press time, the largest cryptocurrency was changing hands at around $37,500.
Recently, the market has been filled with doom and gloom. However, of all the options listed on Deribit, the $100,000 call is the most popular, with an expiry-wide open interest of 9,000.
The chart also shows a small build-up of open interest in the $300,000 and $400,000 calls.
Broadly speaking, however, the options market has a bearish bias, highlighting persistent fears of a more profound decline. The one-, three- and six-month put-call skews are currently returning positive values, indicating that puts (bearish bets) are fetching higher prices (demand) than calls.
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