Introduction to Options Volatility

The Importance of Options Volatility

Implementing options trading strategies requires a deep understanding of options volatility. By considering factors like implied volatility, volatility skew, and market conditions, traders can make informed decisions and create effective trading strategies.

Options volatility is influenced by various factors such as stock price changes, supply and demand dynamics, and the overall level of market volatility. Traders can use volatility models and surfaces to analyze and predict future volatility, helping them make profitable trading decisions.

However, trading options based on volatility also comes with risks. The standardized options market can expose traders to potential losses, and volatility-related price changes can impact the value of options. Careful risk management and a thorough understanding of options volatility are essential for successful options trading.

Overall, options volatility plays a crucial role in options pricing and trading strategies. By studying and understanding the various facets of options volatility, traders can enhance their ability to navigate the options market and maximize their returns.

How is options volatility calculated and measured?

Standard deviation and its role in measuring volatility

Standard deviation is a statistical measure that quantifies the amount of variation or dispersion in a set of data. In options trading, standard deviation is often used to measure volatility. It is calculated as the square root of the variance of the stock’s daily returns. Higher standard deviation implies higher volatility.

Thus stocks that fluctuate more on daily basis over a certain time period have higher volatility and the options are more expensive.  A good way to think about volatility is an analogy with the weather.  If you live in Florida and the hurricane season was more intense last year, then you would expect to pay more for your home insurance this year.  By more intense, we mean more frequent and intense hurricanes.  Thus, the same with stock options, if a certain stock let’s say Tesla fluctuated (moved in price) more than an electric utility company, Tesla options would be more expensive.

Realized volatility vs. implied volatility

Realized volatility is the historical volatility of the underlying stock, calculated based on past price movements. Implied volatility, on the other hand, is derived from options prices and reflects the market’s expectations for future volatility. Traders can compare implied volatility with historical volatility to identify potential discrepancies and trading opportunities.

Thus, traders have two volatilities that they can use to estimate if the option is expensive or cheap.  Implied volatility is the price of the option based on future expectations at the moment, while historical volatility is the realized or actual volatility of the stock in the past. Note that volatility is not based on the direction of the stock but simply how often and how much a stock fluctuates regardless of direction.

Predicting future volatility using historical data

Traders often analyze historical volatility patterns to predict future volatility. By examining past price movements, traders can identify trends and patterns that may repeat in the future. However, it is important to note that historical volatility is not always indicative of future volatility, and other factors should be considered when predicting future volatility.

In practice, you need forward looking measures of volatility even though historical volatility is used as a relative measure to put things into context.  Because the future is uncertain, you should be careful in using any past data to predict the future in general.

What is options volatility and why is it important?

Understanding implied volatility

As mentioned, options volatility refers to the degree of variation or fluctuation in the price of options. It is a measure of the market’s perception of the future volatility of the underlying asset. Implied volatility, specifically, is the estimated volatility of the stock implied by the price of the option. It is an important factor in determining the price of options as it reflects the market’s expectations for future price movements.

For example, the implied volatility could be higher than historical because option traders see an event (earnings, regulatory risk, rumors, bankruptcy, mergers, geopolitical risk, etc.) thus the implied volatility is higher based on consensus market expectations.

One way to make money in options, is to have a better forecast of future volatility than what the market expects.  The market may be complacent about the risks and the implied volatility is low.  Thus, this presents an opportunity for an astute trader who forecasts a higher volatility than the market.

Volatility skew and its impact on option prices

Volatility skew is the difference in implied volatility between options with the same expiration date but different strike prices. It indicates a market bias towards either higher or lower volatility for certain strike prices. This skew can have a significant impact on option prices, with options at different strike prices often having different implied volatilities.

Thus, by looking at the volatility skew a trader might be able to find cheaper options by just choosing a different strike price with lower implied volatility for example.

Volatility smile and its implications

Volatility smile refers to the graphical representation of implied volatility against the strike price of options. It shows that options with different strike prices may have different implied volatilities. The presence of a volatility smile implies that options investors are willing to pay more for protection against extreme price movements.

What this means is that put options that further out-of-the money are more expensive in implied volatility terms.  Think of this as an extreme event insurance policy.  The sellers of these put options want more premium since even though extreme events might have a lower chance of occurring based on mathematical models, in reality they do happen.  Then the sellers of options like insurance companies to use an analogy, have a big payout.

The reason we have a volatility smile is due to the 1987 stock market crash.  This extreme event moved the market by 20 standard deviations in statistical terms with mathematical models putting the odds of this happening as extremely low.  It did happen, thus option sellers now place a higher probability far out-of-the-money put options.  Thus very cheap insurance became more expensive just in case another event like the 1987 stock market crash occurs.

How does options volatility affect trading strategies?

Using implied volatility in options trading

Implied volatility is a crucial input in options pricing models. Traders can use it to estimate the fair value of options and assess whether they are overpriced or underpriced. By comparing the implied volatility of an option with its historical volatility, traders can gain insights into potential mispricing and develop trading strategies accordingly.

In addition, a trader should have their own forecast of volatility and this could be higher or lower than the implied volatility of the option.  Therefore, if they have a higher forecast than the current implied volatility, the option is cheap and they should buy it for example.

Hedging strategies for managing volatility

Options can be used as hedging tools to manage volatility risk. For example, a trader holding a portfolio of stocks may purchase put options to protect against a potential decline in the stock market. By doing so, the trader can limit their downside risk in case of adverse market movements.

Utilizing volatility models and surfaces

Volatility models and surfaces provide traders with a framework for analyzing and predicting future volatility. By studying historical volatility patterns and market dynamics, traders can identify potential trends and opportunities. These models and surfaces help traders make informed decisions about which options to trade and how to manage their positions.

What factors influence options volatility?

Market volatility and its impact

Market volatility refers to the overall level of price fluctuation in the market. Higher market volatility generally leads to higher options volatility as investors become more uncertain about future price movements. Traders need to be aware of market volatility conditions and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Relationship between stock price and option volatility

The relationship between the stock price and option volatility is complex. Generally, when the price of the underlying stock increases, options volatility tends to decrease. Conversely, when the stock price decreases, options volatility tends to increase. This relationship is known as the volatility-stock price correlation.

A reason why option volatility tends to decrease as the underlying stock price increases is that the increase may have been priced into implied volatility beforehand.   Let’s say the market oversold a particular stock and it went down in price by a lot.  The implied volatility would have gone up anyways, but the market believes that it has little risk of going down further and now thinks that it will rebound.  Then the implied volatility of calls will go up since that matches market expectations.  Thus, when you buy that call you are buying it at a higher implied volatility (more expensive) and depending on how far it moves up (direction) you will gain but you might gain less since the implied volatility of the option decreases.   Remember that after direction, the implied volatility is the second most important factor in the pricing of that option.

In short, implied volatility is the consensus market expectation therefore behavioral aspects are part of expectations.  An option trader needs to also incorporate market sentiment when forecasting their own estimate of future volatility.  You can still make the trade since the directional aspect (you are right an upwards move) is more of a factor than the volatility decreasing for that call option provided the move upwards is high enough.

Role of supply and demand in determining volatility

Supply and demand dynamics also play a crucial role in determining options volatility. When there is a high demand for options, the implied volatility tends to increase. Conversely, when the supply of options exceeds the demand, implied volatility tends to decrease. Traders should monitor changes in supply and demand to anticipate potential shifts in options volatility.