Oil Options Volatility Changes Little as Budget Talks Stalled

Crude options volatility was little changed as underlying futures edged lower while the market waited to see if a U.S. budget deal can be struck this year.

Implied volatility for at-the-money options expiring in February, a measure of expected price swings in futures and a gauge of options prices, was 25.1 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 3:20 p.m., up from 24.96 percent yesterday.

February-delivery crude oil declined 11 cents to settle at $90.87 a barrel on the Nymex.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the U.S. budget dispute probably won’t be resolved before Jan. 1. Reid, a Democrat, blamed the impasse on House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans. The two sides have failed to reach a consensus on how to avert more than $600 billion in automatic spending cuts and tax increases, scheduled to take effect in five days.

The most active options in electronic trading today were February $85 puts, which fell 5 cents to 52 cents a barrel on volume of 1,567 contracts at 3:22 p.m. February $80 puts were the second-most active, with 1,222 lots exchanged as they declined 3 cents to 16 cents a barrel.

Bets that prices would fall, or puts, accounted for 64 percent of electronic trading volume.

The exchange distributes real-time data for electronic trading and releases information the next business day on open-outcry volume, where the bulk of options activity occurs.

In the previous session, bullish bets accounted for 61 percent of the 74,223 contracts traded.

February $102 calls were the most active options yesterday with 4,047 contracts changing hands. They rose 3 cents to 10 cents a barrel. February $98 calls increased 13 cents to 28 cents a barrel on 3,670 lots.

Open interest was highest for February $105 calls with 37,305 contracts. Next were February $110 calls at 26,148 lots and March $70 puts at 25,906.

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