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I am wondering about studies regarding the uncanny options pricing into public company's earnings reports.

The phenomenon being that the price of a straddle before earnings costs near exactly the positive or negative move that the stock makes after the earnings is released to be unprofitable or breakeven

It is curious because for example, the stock will frequently move 5% in either direction after earnings, but nobody knows which direction, the options aren't priced for a 2% move down and a 5% move up, they are priced for a 5% move up or down. You can look at the price of the straddles before earnings to determine how much the stock may move in either direction.

Is the stock price after the earnings release related to a hedging strategy that large market participants must do? Has anyone done any real study on this and compared to issues that don't have active options contracts? I've "heard" that it is a reaction to things said in the earnings call and I've heard a lot of things, but this doesn't explain the predictive nature of the options

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1 Answer 1

You discuss the behavior of stock prices after an earnings announcement. There is a significant amount of academic research on this topic (called post-earnings-announcement drift). It basically finds that stock prices tend to move sharply initially, but continue to gradually follow in the same direction as the initial move for several weeks thereafter. I'm not sure if this behavior can necessarily be connected to options markets. For instance, there is research into the size of the PEAD when firms have options on their stock and when they don't. The stocks that have options tend to move to the "correct" price faster than the ones without options.

As for the direction of the stock price move, markets typically look to whether the firm beats estimates or not. If the firm beats estimates, then the stock price rises, and vice-versa. Hence, it is not unrealistic to expect stocks to either go up or down sharply following earnings.

When you say that options aren't priced for a 2% move down and a 5% move up, that's like saying the implied volatility curve is not as skewed before earnings announcements. Normally, implied volatility will have a skew/smile as a result of out of the money put contracts being expensive (people are buying protection to hedge themselves against a decline in prices). This presentation: http://users.iems.northwestern.edu/~armbruster/2007msande444/presentation4.pdf suggests that there is no clear pattern of the behavior of implied volatility before and after earnings announcements. If there were movement, it could be informed trading in anticipation of a better/worse earnings release and call, or it could be due to a broader change in market risk appetites, or it could just be noise trading.

Nevertheless, there's a lot of research related to options pricing around earnings, such as:







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this was very useful, but I am referring to how options price the initial sharp move so well. for instance the price of a straddle before an earnings announcement prices in a 7% move in the stock (before the straddle will become profitable after IV crush). Immediately after earnings release the stock pops near exactly 7% in either direction. Why does this happen with such frequency and accuracy –  CQM Jul 31 '12 at 23:38
I don't think it always happens: either the stock moves or it doesn't. Periods around earnings announcements are known to be volatile, in either direction, and options markets price these events in. –  John Aug 1 '12 at 17:29
thats true, I just remembered that the option pricing is based on the volatility from previous earnings events –  CQM Aug 1 '12 at 19:15

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