What drives index options exposures?

Timothy Johnson, Mo Liang, Yun Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper documents the history of aggregate positions in US index options and investigates the driving factors behind use of this class of derivatives. We construct several measures of the magnitude of the market and characterize their level, trend, and covariates. Measured in terms of volatility exposure, the market is economically small, but it embeds a significant latent exposure to large price changes. Out-of-the-money puts are the dominant component of open positions. Variation in options use is well described by a stochastic trend driven by equity market activity and a significant negative response to increases in risk. Using a rich collection of uncertainty proxies, we distinguish distinct responses to exogenous macroeconomic risk, risk aversion, differences of opinion, and disaster risk. The results are consistent with the view that the primary function of index options is the transfer of unspanned crash risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-593
Number of pages33
JournalReview of Finance
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • Derivatives risk
  • Index options
  • Quantities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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