For almost every stock or index whose options trade on an exchange, puts are more costly than calls. When comparing options whose strike prices are equally far out of the money OTM , the puts carry a higher premium than the calls.
They also have a higher Delta. This is the result of a volatility skew. Let's see how this works with a typical example. Of course, this favors the bullish investor who can buy single options at a relatively favorable price. On the other hand, the bearish investor who wants to own single options must pay a penalty when buying put options. In a normal, rational universe, this situation would never occur, and those options listed above would trade at prices that were much nearer to each other.
Sure, interest rates affect option prices calls cost more when rates are higher , but with interest rates near zero, that is not a factor for today's trader. As the strike price declines, implied volatility increases.
Since options have been trading on an exchange , market observers noticed one hugely important situation: Even though markets were bullish overall, and the market always rebounded to new highs at some future time, when the market did decline, those declines were on average more sudden and more severe than the advances. Let's examine this phenomenon from a practical perspective: The person who prefers to always own some OTM call options may have had some winning trades over the years.
However, that success came about only when the market moved substantially higher over a short time. Most of the time those OTM options expired worthless. Overall, owning inexpensive, far OTM call options proved to be a losing proposition. And that is why owning far OTM options is not a good strategy for most investors. Despite the fact that owners of far OTM put options saw their options expire worthless far more often than call owners did, occasionally, the market fell so quickly that the price of those OTM options soared.
And they soared for two reasons. First, the market fell, making puts more valuable. However, equally as important and in October proved to be far more important , option prices increased because frightened investors were so anxious to own put options to protect the assets in their portfolios, that they did not care or more likely, didn't understand how to price options and paid egregious prices for those options.
That 'need to buy puts at any price' is the major factor that created the volatility skew. The bottom line is that buyers of far OTM put options occasionally earned a very large profit -- often enough to keep the dream alive. But the owners of far OTM call options did not. Some investors still maintain supply of puts as protection against a disaster, while others do so with the expectation of collecting the jackpot one day. Of course, in the aftermath, there were no such thing as inexpensive puts -- due to the huge demand for put options.
However, as markets settled down, and the decline ended, overall option premium returned to the "new normal. Because of the way that option values are calculated , the most efficient method for the market makers to increase the bid and ask prices for any option is to raise the estimated future volatility for that option.
This proved to be an efficient method for pricing options. Updated November 14, One other factor plays a role: The further out of the money the put option is -- the larger the implied volatility.
That drives prices even higher.More...