Breaking Down a $1M SPY Bet on Fed Day

A short-term trader may be looking for the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) to top $195 by week's end

by Josh Selway

Published on Jan 27, 2016 at 3:32 PM
Updated on Jan 27, 2016 at 3:38 PM

Didn't someone once say, "Never trade the Fed," or did I just make that up? I probably just made it up. Regardless, someone out there certainly doesn't feel the same way. Early Wednesday morning, ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) policy decision, a large bullish bet crossed on the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), the exchange-traded fund (ETF) that roughly tracks the broad-market barometer S&P 500 Index (SPX)

To get more specific, a trader bought to open a multi-exchange sweep of 62,500 weekly 195-strike calls, as confirmed by data from the International Securities Exchange (ISE) and Trade-Alert. With the contracts priced at 16 cents each, the transaction put the trader back $1 million (premium paid * number of contracts purchased * 100 SPY shares per contract).

At last check, SPY was off 1.6% at $187.20, tracking an afternoon retreat in stocks following the latest Fed announcement. Conversely, gold prices have ticked higher.

The options market is pricing in slightly elevated volatility expectations for SPY. Specifically, the ETF's 30-day at-the-money implied volatility stands at 22.0%, in the 92nd percentile of its annual range -- narrowly outpacing SPY's 30-day historical volatility of 20.6%.

On the charts, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust's (SPY) current position is certainly worth monitoring. Not only is the 190 strike home to heavy put open interest in the front-month February series, but it also sits right above the all-important, historically significant moving average our Senior V.P. of Research Todd Salamone has been watching all week. 

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