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Perpetual futures contracts are gaining a lot of interest from not only cryptocurrency enthusiasts but also traders and members of traditional finance. Since 2017 when perpetual futures contracts were first launched, the derivatives market has evolved introducing options, ETFs and index trading based on cryptocurrencies. We have also seen the big traditional finance players like CME, Cboe and ICE taking part in this innovative and attractive world of cryptocurrency derivatives trading.
With the growing popularity of cryptocurrency derivatives products, especially perpetual futures contracts together with options trending as well, some traders may wonder what Perpetual Options may look like.
As always, let's begin by understanding what options are.
What are Options?
Options are financial derivatives instruments where the value comes from the underlying assets such as stocks or cryptocurrencies. The buyer of the option contract is offered the choice to buy or sell the underlying asset at a pre-specified price and date. In contrast to futures, options contract holders give the right but not the obligation to buy or sell the underlying asset at the agreed price and date.
Options are split into two types.
- Call Option : Gives the contract holder the right to 'buy' the underlying asset at the preset price and time.
- Put Option : Gives the contract holder the right to 'sell' the underlying asset at the preset price and time.
One of the main differences between futures and options is that to buy the option, traders must pay for the premium. In the case of options, the rights are measured and priced as a premium. Something to note is that the premium always varies and this premium is what makes the options trading market.
Another thing to keep in mind is that options have a strike price which is the price set at which a derivative contract can be bought or sold at the exercise date. For example, a call option for 1 BTC with a 30 day expiry and strike price of $10,000 means the buyer of this call option has the right to purchase 1 BTC at $10,000 in 30 days time. Furthermore, there are variations in options on when you can exercise this contract. The two main types are the American and European options.
- American Options : Exercisable any time before the expiration date.
- European Options : Exercisable only at the expiration or exercise date.
Do Perpetual Options really exist?
Well.. There can be two sides to this question. Theoretically, it definitely could exist and many academics in the financial space are continuing research and studies on this topic. On a practical note, no registered options exchanges whether traditional or crypto have perpetual options listed. If this market place does exist, it would be likely to occur in the OTC(Over-The-Counter) market.
The main reason this exotic financial instrument faces difficulty is the pricing of the premium. American options are often priced with the binomial or trinomial tree model where it predicts its possible outcomes depending on the different exercise prices. All these are assumed to have some sort of exercise price.
However, for perpetual options, as it comes from the word "perpetual", it may never be exercised, making it difficult to have a good pricing model that can take into consideration the different types of predictions. In previous research, the martingale models were often used however would be very difficult to bring to the practical options trading, especially bitcoin options.
To help your understanding, I will set an example. Let's say the current BTC price is US$10,000 and you decide to buy a perpetual call option for US$1,000 with exercise price of $10,000. If the price of bitcoin does not go over the break even price of US$11,000 for the next 10 years or even 100 years, there is no reason to exercise this right. Let's say after 200 years the bitcoin price finally reached US$11,500, then this means the seller of the call option must have the underlying asset readily available for however long it may be until the exercise date of this contract. It is unrealistic to measure this in a single premium, thus making it difficult to compose a market place for this trade.
This doesn't mean it is impossible for perpetual bitcoin options to be released. An innovative financial instrument that is tweaked from the theoretical perpetual options model may be created. While options are mostly used to hedge against the price rise or fall, the options market is currently not as liquid as the perpetual futures markets.
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