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Monthly $1.9B Ethereum futures and options expiry will determine if ETH hits $3K soon

28 May 2021


Ethereum bulls may have flipped $2,400 back to support, but Friday’s ETH options and futures expiry will determine if traders press the pedal for $3,000. The May 28 futures and options expiry could be a turning point for Ether (ETH), as the cryptocurrency rebounded 60% from its $1,730 low on May 23. Even though the open interest stands at $6.2 billion, only 16% is set to expire on Friday, as most of the action takes place on perpetual and June contracts.

One must account for the options expiry, as it could present an imbalance of forces. This feature is not true for futures markets, where longs (buyers) and shorts (sellers) are matched at all times. Options are divided into two independent segments: call (buy) options, which are most commonly used for neutral-to-bullish strategies, and neutral-to-bearish put (sell) options.

Therefore, while Ether futures longs and shorts are matched at all times, options markets provide a clear picture of whichever side takes the advantage.

Ether’s futures open interest was drastically reduced after the correction

The relentless drop initiated after the $4,380 all-time high on May 12 took 11 days, and the price eventually bottomed at $1,730. However, the low prices did not last long, and Ether quickly reestablished support at $2,400. The open interest on futures was reduced by 54% to $5.2 billion as leverage longs were liquidated and short-sellers took profits.

As for the $980 million in Ether futures set to expire on Friday, crypto exchange Huobi takes the lead with $300 million in open interest. CME closely follows it; however, CME traders traditionally roll over most of the positions over the past couple of trading days, so this number could be greatly reduced as we approach the deadline.

At first glance, options favor neutral-to-bullish call options

For the May 28 expiry, there are 189,000 call (buy) Ether options stacked against 153,900 put (sell) options. This initial analysis gives the neutral-to-bullish calls a 23% advantage. However, one must account for the fact that a right to buy Ether at $3,200 or higher in less than 16 hours isn't particularly desirable right now. The same can be said for the ultra-bearish put options at $2,300 and lower. To correctly analyze the potential pressure from Friday's expiry, one should exclude both extremes.

Notice how $3,000 is a decisive level for bulls as there are 30,700 call options stacked there versus 15,000 put options. This means that if bears manage to keep Ether below that price, the neutral-to-bullish call options amount to 54,500 ETH, equivalent to $150 million.

Meanwhile, the neutral-to-bearish put options at $3,000 and above total 52,700 ETH, which is $145 million in open interest. This results in a balanced force from the options expiry.

Bulls have little incentive to push the price above $3,000

If bulls decide to display strength, pushing the price above $3,000, the difference will shift by 45,700 ETH contracts, worth $125 million. Albeit significant, it's probably not enough to make the price higher.

Futures traders have been less than optimistic after the recent heavy liquidations reported by Cointelegraph on May 24. Regarding options, pressures from calls and puts seem balanced at the present level and should present no surprise on Friday.

Huobi, OKEx and Deribit expiries take place on May 28 at 8:00 am UTC. The CME futures and options happen a little later during the day at 3:00 pm UTC.


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