CBOE Special Feature -- OEX: The Original Index Option Contract

Russell Rhoads is an instructor with The Options Institute at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He is a financial author and editor having contributed to multiple magazines and edited several books for Wiley publishing. In 2008 he wrote Candlestick Charting For Dummies and is the author of Option Spread Trading: A Comprehensive Guide to Strategies and Tactics. Russell also wrote Trading VIX Derivatives: Trading and Hedging Strategies using VIX Futures, Options and Exchange-Traded Notes. In addition to his duties for the CBOE, he instructs a graduate level options course at the University of Illinois - Chicago and acts as an instructor for the Options Industry Council.

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Russell: Many of those new to options may be surprised to hear that at one time the king of index option contracts was the S&P 100 (OEX) Index. Introduced by the CBOE in 1983, the OEX was the original index option contract. Long before the focus of the index option world was on the S&P 500 (SPX and SPXPM) series, the OEX ruled the index world with hundreds of traders vying for position in the OEX pit. Back in the day, OEX options were considered so innovative that full books were written on how to trade these innovative products. Today, almost 30 years later, index options are a mainstay of the financial markets.

Although the SPX and SPXPM arenas garner a good portion on market attention, the OEX is still a viable option contract with several market makers posting electronic quotes as well as participating in open outcry orders throughout the day. The spreads are comparable to the SPX products, but there is a difference that some traders may find attractive. The OEX quote is usually about half the size of the SPX quote. For instance on March 6, the S&P 100 quote is about 610 while the S&P 500 quote is 1345. The result is a lower dollar amount when trading an OEX contract versus an SPX contract.

Although the quote is different, the SPX and OEX are highly correlated indexes. The OEX is comprised of 100 of the largest U.S. companies while the SPX is an index of the 500 largest public companies. Even though the OEX is made up of only 100 companies, the index actually represents over 50% of the equity market value in the U.S. and a very large portion of the value of the S&P 500 as well. The result is correlation between the two indexes of well over 90%. The chart below shows the SPX and OEX price performance for 2011.


A few weeks ago on Options Profits, I discussed the difference between SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and SPX options, with one major difference being that notional value of 1 SPX option contact is the same as that of 10 SPY option contracts. For some that is attractive while others that may be a bit intimidating. If the large notional value of the SPX or SPXPM contracts is a bit much for you, a consideration may always be taking a look at OEX options as an index alternative to trading SPY options. The ratio is roughly 5 SPY options to 1 OEX option contract.

In addition to the SPX and OEX pricing moving in lockstep, the implied volatility of both option series tends to move together as well. Before 1993 the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) was actually calculated using OEX options. In 1993, the calculation was revised with one of the changes being a focus on SPX option contracts. The 'old VIX', using OEX option contracts, continues to be quoted with the symbol VXO. The chart below shows the relationship between the VIX and VXO in 2011.

This relationship is pretty normal for these two volatility related indexes where they closely move together. Keep in mind that the VXO represents OEX volatility and the VIX represents SPX volatility. As both move very closely together, it can be assumed OEX and SPX option contracts also tend to have similar trading characteristics.

So if the larger notional value of index options, along with some of the other benefits are intriguing, but the SPX size is a bit overwhelming, try the OEX options on for size. The index is highly correlated to the SPX and SPY so an outlook for the S&P 500 would probably apply to the S&P 100 as well. Also, historically the pricing action of OEX and SPX options has shared very similar implied volatility characteristics. The result is option pricing that will mirror trading SPX, SPXPM, or SPY options. Considering index options? Take a look at the OEX, it may be the right size for you.

This complimentary article from Options Profits was originally published on March 7 at 6:14am EST. Don't risk missing over 40 options trade ideas every week and exclusive commentary from over 10 experts. Click here for more information and a 14-Day Free Trial.

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At the time of publication Russell Rhoads held no positions in the stocks or issues mentioned. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Prior to buying or selling an option, a person must receive a copy of Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options. Copies are available from your broker, by calling 1-888-OPTIONS, or from The Options Clearing Corporation at www.theocc.com. Commissions, fees, margin interest and taxes have not been included in the examples used in this article. These costs will impact the outcome of all transactions and must be considered prior to entering into any transactions. Investors should consult with their tax advisors to determine how the profit and loss on any particular option strategy will be taxed. Tax laws and regulations change from time to time and may be subject to varying interpretations. CBOE® and Chicago Board Options Exchange® are registered trademarks and SPX is a service mark of CBOE. C2, C2 Options Exchange and SPXpm are service marks of C2 Options Exchange, Incorporated (C2). S&P® and S&P 500® are trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services, LLC and have been licensed for use by CBOE and C2. SPXpm is not sponsored, endorsed, sold or promoted by Standard & Poor's, and Standard & Poor's makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in SPXpm. Copyright © 2012 Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated. All rights reserved.