The level of activity in the ether options market is picking up as traders speculate on the impact of Ethereum's London hard fork. The bulk of the activity is concentrated in the higher strike, longer duration calls, or bullish bets.
Data provided by Switzerland-based Laevitas shows ether volumes on Deribit, the largest crypto options exchange, have increased by more than 50,000 ETH to 153,000 ETH ($424 million) in the past 24 hours. That takes it to the highest level since the end of May. On Deribit, one ether options contract represents 1 ETH.
Activity at the over-the-counter (OTC) platform Paradigm has also doubled to 42% of the global market share in the past 24 hours, co-founder Anand Gomes told CoinDesk in a Telegram chat. "London hard fork is driving this activity, it's mostly institutional," Gomes said.
Deribit and Paradigm introduced an institution-focused block-trading service two years ago. Trades facilitated by Paradigm are automatically executed, margined and cleared at Deribit.
Overall, call options have registered higher activity than puts, and the most popular options have been calls expiring March 2022 with strike prices of $50,000 and $40,000.
A call option gives the purchaser the right but not the obligation to buy the underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before a specific date. That means call options offer insurance against bullish moves while puts offer insurance against a price drop.
The data show 12,790 contracts of the $50,000 call expiring in March have changed hands in the past 24 hours. The $40,000 call has seen a volume of 12,520.
Most of the volume came through Paradigm, where someone, mostly an institution, traded 12,500 contracts of $40,000 and $50,000 calls.
"There was a flurry of call buying and put selling after the London fork," said Darius Sit, CEO of Singapore-based QCP Capital. "Of particular note was large buying interest in tail strike calls such as a $40,000/$50,000 ETH bull call spreads that were traded with us. A total of 12,500x contracts were traded. We had to take a second look at the screen to make sure those were ETH strikes and not BTC!"
A bull call spread involves buying call options at, below or above the spot market price and selling an equal number of calls with the same expiry at a higher strike price.
In this case, the market participant took the bull call spread by purchasing 12,500 contracts of the March expiry $40,000 call and simultaneously selling 12,500 contracts of the $50,000 call. QCP Capital was the market maker.
The bull call spread is a limited-risk, limited-reward strategy designed to benefit from an increase in the price of an asset. The maximum profit is earned if the asset expires at or above the short call's strike price, that is $50,000 in this case, on the settlement day. Ether is currently trading near $2,750, and would need to surge 1,718% to hit $50,000. The maximum loss is limited to the net premium paid while setting the strategy.
The bullish mood is also evident from the negative one-week, one-, three- and six-month put-call skews, which measure the cost of puts relative to calls.
The data show investors are buying the narrative that the London hard fork implemented on Thursday will curb supply growth over time, yielding a price rally.