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Since options lose 2/3 of their time value in the second half of their lifespan, it makes sense to be aware of when an option was issued. What are ways of figuring out when ES futures options have been and will be issued?

An ad-hoc way of doing this would be to bring up a yearly chart, which would indicate when data started becoming available. I did that for some ES FOP Dec18'15 options, and data became available on Jan 27 or 28, 2015. That's 3.75 quarters back (why weren't these options issued in Dec 2014?). Same for Mar'16 options - apparently issued in Apr 2015; Jun '16 options - no data prior to 7/1/2015.

On the other hand, data for Nov20'15 options became available around 7/21 - 7/23, so only one quarter back. Are there two cycles at play here?

But then again, for Oct16 '15 - data became available on 5/19/2015. That's ~5 months before expiration. This is confusing.

What is the general formula, and when are new options being issued?

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These options are not "issued" in the same way, say, employee stock options are "issued". Instead, the expiration months already exist indefinitely into the future, and in a sense options at all expirations already exist.

The data series therefore start showing prints when market interest in a given expiration date starts up. This is of course highly variable and depends on the business needs and psychology of market participants.

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Look at the contract specification pages, e.g. E-mini S&P 500 Options Contract Specs (mirror):

  • Listed Contracts: Four months in the March Quarterly Cycle (Mar, Jun, Sep, Dec)
  • Strike Price Listing Procedures:

    • At all multiples of 25 index points within ±50% of Exercise Price Reference, centered on previous day’s settlement price of the underlying futures
    • At all multiples of 10 index points within ±20% of Exercise Price Reference, centered on previous day’s settlement price of the underlying futures
    • Once the option’s underlying futures contract becomes second nearest to delivery, at all multiples of 5 index points within ±10% of Exercise Price Reference, centered on previous day’s settlement price of the underlying futures

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It does not really matter when an option was issued. All that matters is the time remaining until expiration.

Suppose there are two exchanges, one issues the options 12 months before expiration, the other 6 months before expiration. Then for the last 6 months, two options with identical strike trade at the same price, by arbitrage. It does not matter that one is "older" (has been trading for longer) than the other one.

The idea that "options lose 2/3 of their time value in the second half of their lifespan" is because $\sqrt{\frac{1}2{}}= 0.7 $ but does not imply it is "good" to own options that have been recently issued.

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