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Ethereum bears look to score on Friday’s $340M weekly ETH options expiry

01 Oct 2021


Derivatives data shows bears have sufficient incentives to keep ETH price below $3,000 heading into the $340 million options expiry on Oct. 1. Ether (ETH) price has seen quite a bit of volatility lately and to the surprise of many traders, the $4,000 level continues to present considerable resistance. Currently, the price is respecting the upward channel, which started in August. But every time the support is tested, the risk of an aggressive correction increases. With that in mind, the $340 million options expiry on Oct. 1 will likely be dominated by neutral-to-bearish put options. 

Bulls placed larger bets for the expiry but it appears that they were too optimistic for Oct. 1, so their $215 million call (buy) options are getting closer with the looming approach of the expiry date. It’s possible that Ether could be a victim of its own success because the demand for decentralized finance (DeFi) applications and the minting of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) continue to clog the network. This has caused the average gas fee to surpass $20 over the past ten days.

Notice above how OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, represents over 20% of the entire Ethereum network’s gas use in the past 24 hours. When analyzing the incredible demand for blockchain transactions, Polygon's co-founder, Sandeep Nailwal, says it is a matter of time before Ethereum overtakes Bitcoin as the dominant layer-1 protocol.

However, negative news continues to emerge as the fourth-largest Ethereum mining pool will shut down operations in China, citing "regulatory policies." Furthermore, SparkPool, the second-largest Ether mining pool, will also cease operations this month. As for the $340 million options expiry on Oct. 1, bulls need to push the price above $3,000 to avoid significant bearish pressure.

As noted above, bulls were caught by surprise because the call (buy) instruments were placed at $2,900 or higher. Consequently, if Ether remains below that price on Sept. 17, only $1.4 million worth of neutral-to-bullish call options will be activated on the expiry. his means that a $3,000 put option becomes worthless if Ether remains below that price at 8:00 am UTC on Oct. 1.

Bulls placed more bets, but there's a catch

The 1.74 call-to-put ratio represents the slight difference between the $215 million worth of call (buy) options versus the $125 million put (sell) options. Although favoring bulls, this broader view needs a more detailed analysis because some of those bets are implausible considering the current $2,800 price. Below are the four most likely scenarios for Ether price. The imbalance favoring either side represents the theoretical profit from the expiry.

Depending on the expiry price, the quantity of calls (buy) and puts (sell) contracts becoming active varies:

This raw estimate considers call options being exclusively used in bullish strategies and put options in neutral-to-bearish trades. However, investors might have used more complex strategies that typically involve different expiry dates.

Bulls are wrecked one way or another

Bears have absolute control of Oct. 1's expiry and they have sufficient incentive to keep pressuring the price below $2,800. However, one must consider that during negative price trends, like now for Ether, a seller might cause a 2% negative move by placing large offers and making aggressive sales.

On the other hand, bulls need a 7% positive price swing taking Ether above $3,000 to balance the options expiry on Oct. 1. It is impossible to calculate how much a trader needs to spend to drive the market that way, although it seems a colossal task.

If no surprises come before Oct. 1, Ether's price should keep trading below $2,800.


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