Bitcoin Options Open Interest Tops $14B as ProShares ETF ‘BITO’ Goes Live

A pickup in options activity ahead of bitcoin’s ETF listing signifies increased participation by sophisticated investors.

AccessTimeIconOct 20, 2021 at 10:03 a.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:43 p.m. UTC
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Investor interest in the bitcoin options market increased, with the cryptocurrency nearing record highs in the lead up to Tuesday’s launch of the first-ever U.S.-based bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund (ETF).

Bybt data shows the cumulative dollar value of bitcoin options contracts open on major exchanges rose to $14 billion on Tuesday, hitting the highest point since April. The tally was a whisker away from the peak of $14.68 billion reached on March 24.

Open interest, or the number of contracts traded but not squared off with an offsetting position, rose to a six-month high of 229,220 BTC.

Bitcoin reached a record UTC close above $64,000 on Tuesday as the ProShares’ ETF made an impressive debut on the New York Stock Exchange, registering a trading volume of $1 billion.

Hopes the U.S. would approve a futures-based ETF strengthened late last month after Securities Exchange and Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler reiterated support for the structured product. Since then, the price of bitcoin has rallied over 40%, and options open interest has increased by 50%.

The pickup in options activity in the days leading up to the SEC’s decision on ETF proposal signifies increased participation by sophisticated investors and market maturity.

“An extremely rare occurrence for Bitcoin is the Event-driven trade, observed as Futures ETF deadlines approached and then approved. Options are a perfect tool to employ in these scenarios,” Deribit Insights tweeted. Deribit is the world’s largest crypto options exchange, accounting for more than 80% of open interest and trading volume in bitcoin and ether options markets.

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 gives the right to sell. A call buyer is implicitly bullish on the market, while a put buyer is bearish.

Bitcoin's options open interest in BTC terms (bybt)

Seasoned traders often use both calls and options when the outcome of a binary event (a trigger for a big move), is uncertain, but a move in either direction is expected. However, flows have been predominantly bullish ahead of the ProShares’ ETF listing, with traders piling into out-of-the-money or higher strike call options, as blockchain data analytics firm Glassnode mentioned in its weekly report published Monday.

“The favored options contracts appear to be call options with strike prices above $100,000, with a typical open interest of $250 million to $350 million for call options expiring at the end of the year. The open interest in call options dwarfs that in put options, aligning with the overall bullish market sentiment,” Glassnode said.

Over-the-counter tech platform Paradigm recently registered continuous buying of topside calls and call spread strategies at strikes between $70,000 to $120,000. Trades facilitated by Paradigm are automatically executed, margined and cleared at Deribit.

The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy Fund saw a trading volume of $1 billion on Tuesday, becoming the second-most heavily traded new ETF on record, according to Bloomberg data.

“Volumes were pretty much right on the screws where the “ETF Nerds” had been predicting – about $1 billion,” David Nadig, chief investment officer and director of research of ETF Trends, said in a Twitter response. “The nature of that volume seems to be [coming from] the small lot, implying retail investors, speculators and high-frequency traders rather than large institutional allocations.”

According to Bloomberg analysts, Valkyrie’s futures-based bitcoin ETF may commence trading later this week.

The launch of futures-based ETFs could have a positive impact on the derivatives market. “CME options are currently a very small part of the whole crypto options market. Perhaps we could see some growth and development in CME options as a result,” QCP Capital said in its Telegram channel last week.

On Tuesday, the CME accounted for 2.7% of the global bitcoin options open interest of 229,220 BTC.


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Omkar Godbole

Omkar Godbole is a Co-Managing Editor on CoinDesk's Markets team.

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