Investors are rushing to buy bullish call options on a gold exchange-traded fund, reflecting a bet that the haven asset could continue to rally as stocks tumble around the world.
The SPDR Gold Trust , which trades under the symbol “GLD,” has surged 13% so far in 2016, as investors continue to worry about the pace of global economic growth. The S&P 500 has dropped 10% in the same period.
A call option grants the right to buy shares of the underlying stock or ETF at a certain price, called the strike, by a specific time. A put option confers the right to sell.
And the enthusiasm for the gold ETF’s call options has pushed a metric called skew deep into negative territory, underscoring the unusually strong demand for these options, according to Credit Suisse. Skew measures the cost of bearish puts to bullish calls. The metric tends to be positive for stock indexes and exchange-traded funds because of the persistent demand for protection through put options, said Mandy Xu, equity derivatives strategist at Credit Suisse.
But right now, the skew is negative to a degree that’s only happened twice in the last five years, according to the bank. Simply put, “GLD calls are really expensive,” she added.
The most traded option for the Gold Trust ETF on Monday was a call that grants the right to buy at $117 by February expiration, according to options-data provider Trade Alert. It rose 2.1% to $114.63 in recent action.
The same phenomenon is happening in other havens, such as Treasurys. Skew on the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF is also negative, according to Trade Alert. It has advanced nearly 9% this year.
“It shows the degree of risk aversion in the market,” said Ms. Xu.