Volatility expected as $490M in ETH options expire shortly after the Ethereum Merge

The outcome of the Ethereum Merge will be a primary price drive that dictates whether ETH bears profit from this week’s $490 million options expiry.

Given the current state of the wider crypto market, some traders might be surprised to learn that Ether (ETH) has been trading in an ascending trend for the past 17 days. While the entire cryptocurrency market experienced a 10% decline on Sept. 13, Ether price held firm near the $1,570 support level.

Ether/USD price index. Source: TradingView

In less than 12 hours the Ethereum network is scheduled to undergo its largest ever upgrade and the possibility of extreme volatility should not be ignored. The transition to a Proof-of-Stake network will be a game changer for multiple reasons, including a 98.5% cut in energy use and reduced coin inflation.

During an upgrade, there is always the risk of multiple malfunctions, especially in more complex systems like the Ethereum Virtual Machine processing. Even if the upgrade has been relatively smooth on previous testnet versions, it is impossible to predict the outcome of the decentralized applications and second-layer solutions plugged into Ethereum’s ecosystem.

That is precisely why the $490 million Ether options expiry on Aug. 16 will put a lot of price pressure on both sides, even though bulls seem slightly better positioned as Ether nears $1,600.

Most bearish bets are placed below $1,600

Ether’s failure to break the $2,000 resistance on Aug. 14 and its subsequent plunge to $1,420 on Aug. 29 gave the bears the signal to expect continuation of the downtrend. That becomes evident as only 12% of the put (sell) options for Sept. 16 have been placed above $1,600. Thus, Ether bulls are better positioned for the expiry of $490 million weekly options.

Ether options aggregate open interest for Sept. 16. Source: CoinGlass

A broader view using the 1.06 call-to-put ratio shows a relatively balanced situation with bullish bets (calls) open interest at $252 million versus the $238 million put (sell) options. Nevertheless, as Ether currently stands near $1,600, both sides have similar odds of moving the needle.

If Ether price remains below $1,600 at 8:00 am UTC on Sept. 16, only $27 million worth of these call (buy) options will be available. This difference happens because there is no use in the right to buy Ether at $1,600 or $1,700 if it trades below that level on expiry.

Bears could pocket a $100 million profit

Below are the four most likely scenarios based on the current price action. The number of options contracts available on Sept. 16 for call (bull) and put (bear) instruments varies, depending on the expiry price. The imbalance favoring each side constitutes the theoretical profit:

  • Between $1,400 and $1,500: 33,000 calls vs. 2,600 puts. The net result favors bears by $100 million.
  • Between $1,500 and $1,700: 29,600 calls vs. 29,000 puts. The net result is balanced between bulls and bears.
  • Between $1,700 and $1,800: 49,200 calls vs. 3,800 puts. The net result favors bulls by $80 million.
  • Between $1,800 and $1,900: 81,400 calls vs. 700 puts. Bulls increase their gains to $145 million.

This crude estimate considers the call options used in bullish bets and the put options exclusively in neutral-to-bearish trades. Even so, this oversimplification disregards more complex investment strategies.

Macroeconomic turmoil might have helped ETH bears

Ether bulls need to sustain the price above $1,500 on Sept. 16 to balance the scales and avoid a potential $100 million loss. However, Ether bulls were unlucky on Sept. 12 after the United States stock markets fell by $1.6 trillion on Sept. 13 due to a hotter-than-expected inflation report.

There’s absolutely no way to predict the outcome of Ethereum Merge, let alone its price impact. However, analysis suggests these three indicators should be watched by traders during the Merge event.

One can never guess the consequences of unexpected delays or even the positive impact of a smooth transition because investors could have priced in the Merge in advance, triggering a “sell the news” event. Consequently, both bulls and bears still have a shot on the Sept. 16 weekly options expiry.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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