Clifton Green

Retail Option Traders and the Implied Volatility Surface

Retail investors dominate option trading in recent years. Individuals are net purchasers of options, particularly call, short-dated, and out-of-the-money options, although they tend to write long-dated puts. Retail brokerage outages are associated with reduced implied volatility overall, and the effect is stronger for options purchased by retail investors. In contrast, implied volatility increases for long-dated options during outages, consistent with reduced retail writing activity. The findings highlight the importance of retail demand pressure on the implied volatility surface and suggest that retail trading can have important effects on the implied volatility term structure, moneyness curve, and call-put spread.