CBOE VIX Options Volume Surges

CBOE VIX® option volume for March is averaging well over 700K contracts as realized volatility for the index stabilizes near 95% and traders marvel at the 50% retracement in the index from the 30 handle highs of February 11th.  Nearly 10M VIX contracts have traded in the first 18 days of the month, with calls leading puts 8:3, suggesting total monthly volume may top 15M contracts for the first time in six months. Large call spreads are driving much of the volume, including ratio spreads that resemble massive trades from last year that were repeatedly rolled and ultimately exited for gains as volatility peaked in the August correction.  Notable blocks this month include 360K contracts near the close Thursday as the June 17-23 1×2 call spread was opened for a penny, initiator buying 240K 23 calls. Highest volume was March 2nd when a trader rolled nearly 80K of the March 23-30 1x2s into May for even money.  In addition, volume was boosted by rolling activity around Wednesday’s 3.53 million contract expiration, the largest expiration since December.  The return of the 1×2 flow has been welcomed by the crowd, and may help open interest levels regain the 10M peak levels seen last year.