Spotlight on Oil

Unrest in the Saudi Arabian political sphere over the weekend drove oil up more than 3% in Monday’s trading session with Brent above $64 and WTI above $57 – highs not seen since summer 2015. After nearly a year and a half of rangebound trading, global geopolitical uncertainty seems to be giving an already bullish market the confidence to run.

ATM volatility predictably jumped as well with a larger jump in WTI than in Brent:

And here are the vol curves compared to a week ago:

For non-oil traders, here’s a short breakdown of Brent vs WTI:

Brent – light sweet crude oil extracted from one of four oil fields in the North Sea. Typically refined in Northwest Europe. Contracts are listed on the ICE.
WTI – light(er) sweet(er) crude oil produced in the United States, price settled at Cushing, Oklahoma. Typically refined in the midwest and gulf coast regions. Contracts are listed on the NYMEX (part of CMEGroup).

(Both contracts are quoted in USD. Contract sizes are 1,000 barrels with a tick ($0.01) worth $10.)

Oil and Gold Update

Friday’s 3% drop in crude oil definitively broke below $50/barrel with open interest for WTI (as reported in the COT Report) at all time highs. Headlines cite lessening concerns regarding Tropical Storm Nate and oversupply issues. Volatility remains subdued though ahead of OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report on Weds followed by the IEA’s report on Thurs.

The WTI COT Report also shows that Producers – who have a natural bias to be short – haven’t been net short this little since Jan 2015 (AKA their net position, while still short, is the longest it’s been in awhile). In Brent, the Money Mangers’ net position is the shortest it’s been in our data’s history (dating back to 2008).

Funny trade in gold on Friday as well – expiring over a year from now the following trade was blocked – all new positioning:

– 7,500 Dec18 2000 calls @ 3
– 7,500 Dec18 2600 calls @ 0.15
– 15,000 Dec18 3000 calls @ 0.1

The sizes make it look like a call spread stupid (the 2000-3000 call spread WITH the 2600-3000 call spread) for when the SHTF – but that far out both in strike and expiry, who knows.

QuikStrike In The News

QuikStrike got a mention in the WSJ’s article “How Traders Are Making Money as Oil Prices Go Nowhere” [paywall] by Stephanie Yang. In the article she points out that oil traders have been focused on mean-reverting (rangebound) strategies in this low-volatility environment.

She notes: “Recently, traders have been fixated on the $45-to-$55 range, where options positions are the most concentrated, according to data provider QuikStrike.” You can see this for yourself by going to Market Reports –> OI & Volume Heat Map (or OI & Settle Detail if you want a specific expiry). Paid versions can generate PDF links like this one to send to colleagues or clients.

Happy trading.

A Survey of Wartime Volatility

This (US) holiday weekend brings headlines from North Korea – the sabers have been rattled and markets are on edge – so we decided to put together a long dated history of volatility in relation to historical events for you to ponder.

A Brief History of Volatility

WARNING: READ THE METHODOLOGY CAREFULLY. THE VOLATILITY SHOWN BELOW IS NOT ANALOGOUS TO TRADABLE SECURITIES. The VIX index, started in 1993, is shown in turquoise for comparison. “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”
The data above is based off of Robert Shiller’s monthly analysis of S&P returns. It’s the annualized (realized) volatility of the monthly data (and therefore does not incorporate the severity of single day events). Recessions are highlighted in red and selected wars are highlighted in green. Historical dates are marked with dotted lines and labeled.

As you can see realized vol spikes much more dramatically during economic crises than wartime events (perhaps an obvious observation, but an interesting one to keep in mind in the given environment). That being said, volatility can be low after a dramatic, wealth destroying sell offs, so here are the YoY returns:
Something to ponder. Thoughts and feedback are always welcome. Enjoy the rest of the holiday.


Cross Asset Class Volatility Update

In the last few weeks volatility has returned to financial headlines with a vengeance leaving traders checking under their beds for asset bubbles and causing “panic” when VIX traded with a 17-handle for the first time since November 2016. So what’s really playing out in markets?

* note that the volatilities shown are calculated using industry standards based on the type of asset; for example, absolute levels cannot be compared between rates and metals.


In rates space historical volatility (orange) has picked up but implieds (blue) are lackadaisical. FV/5-yr, TY/10-yr, and US/bond, 30-day constant maturity series are shown respectively below:


Here’s a longer dated TY history:


Gold vol has actually found a bid (with silver and palladium following suit):

While platinum, thus far, is flat:


Natural Gas implied volatility is the lowest it’s been since 2014:

Although oil is off the lows of the year:


Vol has come back down in grains after an exciting month although wheat could be picking up again:


And last but not least, E-mini S&P500 vol has caught a bid:

For a little perspective of where we are currently, here’s a 5-year history of a few constant maturity series:

Like all things, low vol environments eventually come to an end, but low vol by itself doesn’t “trigger”  eruptions. Claiming that vol can uptick ahead of an event isn’t exactly going out on a limb. But I’m sure they’ll tell you they told you so next week.

New Equity Index Contracts on QuikStrike

The FTSE Russell 2000® has returned to the CME giving futures and options traders seamless access to mid-cap equities and margin offset benefits. Weekly volume has nearly tripled since the contracts were first listed on July 10th, and all positions will need to be transferred from the ICE to the CME once September expires (details are available on the CME website).

As part of the same agreement the CME has also listed contracts on the Russell 1000 (including the Growth and Value indexes), FTSE Emerging Markets, FTSE Developed Europe, and FTSE China 50.

Contract Specifications

Newly listed contracts include:

  • E-mini Russell 2000 Index
    • Futures (symbol: RTY)
    • Options
      • quarterlies (symbol: RTO)
      • weeklies (symbol: R1E, R2E, etc.)
      • EOM (symbol: RTM)
  • E-mini Russell 2000 Growth Index futures (symbol: R2G)
  • E-mini Russell 2000 Value Index futures (symbol: R2V)

The futures expirations will coincide with standard US equity index futures on the
third Fridays of March, June, September, and December.

Open Interest in Options on the Rise

If you’re looking for the best liquidity in options, open interest is picking up in the Sep quarterly and August weekly expirations as shown in the Open Interest & Settlements (under Market Reports in the Professional editions):

Feature Highlight: Commitments of Traders Report Shows Less Longs in Silver and Yen

Did you know you can access the CFTC Commitments of Traders (COT) report in QuikStrike? Last week, for example, money managers continued to short precious metals with their first net short in silver since August of 2015:



Such a crowded short trade might be viewed as a good entry point by contrarian bulls; a situation that has played out in the last few trading sessions (note that the report is released on Fridays and reflects data from the prior Tuesday).

Similarly, leveraged short positions in JPY/USD (shorting Yen) increased 40% from the previous week to the highest absolute level of shorts since August 2015 – at the same time, this category has been shorting the USD in all other major currency pairs.



Accessing the COT Report

To access the report, login to QuikStrike. In the top menu click on “Market Reports” and then, depending on your version, click either the thumbnail with the header “COT Report” or the “Commitments of Traders” menu item.

As usual, select your product using the product menu in the upper left hand corner of the report.

You can further customize your report in the “Settings” and “History Range” drop down menus at the top of the page.


The Settings menu allows you to view data for futures, options, or both combined. You can also specify the chart type to be a bar graph (shows gross positions) or a line graph (shows net positions). Lastly, you can select the account type(s) to show in the report – note that these change in different asset classes.

History Range

The History Range menu lets you select the amount of data you wish to view; the options are 3-months, 6-months, 9-months, 1-year, 2-years, 3-years, 5-years, and all available data.

Pre-Fed Weekly Expiry Highlight

In anticipation of the Fed announcement due out tomorrow at 2PM ET (press conference at 2:30PM ET) the market is pricing a one-and-done 25bp rate hike from a target range of 0.75-1.00% to 1.00-1.25%:

For future meeting dates and additional details check out the CME’s FedWatch tool powered by QuikStrike.

Using Weekly Options to Manage Short Term Risk

For event-driven exposure with lower premiums, QuikStrike supports weekly contracts – for example, the 10-year contract WY2M7 expires after the Fed announcement at 3PM ET –


Other products with weekly options include:

  • Agriculture – corn, wheat, soybeans
  • Energy – crude oil and nat gas
  • Rates – eurodollars, 2-yrs, 5-yrs, 10-yrs, 30-yrs, and ultras
  • Metals – gold, etc.


DV01, Yield and the Deliverable Basket

QuikStrike now displays the current and settle values for yield and DV01 (dollar value of a basis point) on the Futures Information page. The four callout boxes on the following graphic highlight the new treasury specific information.

The DV01 has always been a “behind the scenes” number in QuikStrike. However, now that we are calculating this value each day, we wanted to give it the attention it deserves. As an essential part of the basis point volatility (BPV) calculation for treasuries, an accurate and up-to-date value provides users with our most accurate BPV calculation to date.

With the yield now available in QuikStrike, users have one more way to look at futures levels and/or create strategies. For instance, instead of a strangle with references to strike prices, you can create these spreads with the yield or its range it mind (by seeing the yield equivalents of each strike). It’s one more way Of using QuikStrike to build strategies or just generally think about the market.


Each night, the yield and DV01 are calculated from the current CTD (cheapest-to-deliver) given the existing basket of deliverable treasuries. This (settlement) yield and DV01 will be used to calculate new yield values as the futures move throughout the following trading day. NOTE: This yield will soon be displayed wherever a futures price or table is available. And, Pricing Sheets will have yield values for each strike.

You will also notice, in the red box, a tabbed section named Delivery Basket. Each currently active future will have a corresponding tab with a list of deliverable treasuries into that future. Each list will be ordered with the CTD at the top in ascending DV01 order.

A Term Yield tab has also been added plotting the yields by future.

Should you have any questions or suggestions or would just like to chat about QuikStrike, please let us know.