Facebook Surge Fails To Stimulate Options Market

Terry Flanagan

While overall options trading volumes remains down, Facebook options have been popular in their first week of trading.

Facebook options volume exploded on its first day of trading on May 29, with about 365,000 contracts changing hands on the opening day. Market observers assert that it was the best ever first day of options trading. It has been averaging nearly 300,000 contracts per day in the week or so since.

“There has been remarkable volumes, everyone has an opinion on where Facebook is going and so you see a lot of activity,” said William Lefkowitz, options strategist for vFinance Investments, a brokerage firm.

By comparison, Google options trade an average of 76,400 contracts a day and professional networking website LinkedIn averages 40,200. Social games firm Zynga, from which Facebook derived about 15% of its revenue in the first quarter, averages 37,600 options traded daily, according to Trade Alert data.

Put options have been outnumbering call Facebook options as there is a growing lack of market confidence developing over the social networking site’s financial prospects going forward.

After reaching a lot of about 14 earlier in March, the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s Volatility Index has risen to year-to-date highs, trading at about 25 as of midday on June 5. Investors continue to look to Europe for volatility cues, as the euro currency teeters on the brink of collapse. Political uncertainty in the U.S. has also been on the mind of many investors.

Similar to what has been seen in the equities space, the offering of Facebook options has not given a surge in overall trading volumes many market participants had hoped for. Overall options trading volume jumped about 20% on May 29 to 12 million contracts, the first day Facebook options traded, climbing up slightly every day with 21 million contracts by June 1. However, this was more likely attributable to normal options volume fluctuations, as a similar weekly trend can be seen even prior to the offering of Facebook options. Volume once again fell about a third to 14 million contracts on June 4.

“After the opening day, things have quietened down,” said Jason Stamer, manager of business development at MEB Options, an institutional commissioned brokerage firm with offices in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

On May 18, Facebook’s initial public offering day, 8.9 billion equities shares were traded, 25% more than the 7.1 billion shares traded on average during the whole month of May before returning to normal year-to-date levels, according to data from exchange operator Bats Global Markets.

While market observers were hoping for the trading of Facebook stock to revitalize the markets, some say the key to long term growth in options is more fundamental.

We’re continuing to educate the trading groups that are just trading equities as to what they can do with options,” said Stamer. “Education is key to this game; we want to educate investors that options are a great hedging and risk management tool.”

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