That is actually a normal volatility curve or "smile" - so named because of its shape. Options centered around ATM (or the center of the smile) tend to have the lowest IV and the far OTM options have the highest IV. When the market is volatile, liquid and there is plenty of uncertainty on both the upside and downside, you can get a very pronounced smile (a lot of skew) in both directions. Other markets are more one-sided and the smile becomes a smirk or a Dick Cheney grin, i.e. slanted to one side (really high IV in puts or calls, but not both)
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Here is a vol curve for Mar Nat Gas (American style) as of Thursday's close. The stupid nickle strikes clutter things up, and there are a couple of sub $2.00 outliers that force the graph to be compressed, but the steep curve is still obvious and fairly normal for an environment like this.
We haven't seen 80% IV in OTM corn or soybean options in a while, but ATM options can easily get up to 40-45% during an uncertain summer and the OTMs might be 60% or so.
This is "drought season" for NG.
Last edited by CafeGrande; January 17th, 2014 at 03:54 PM.
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I also see lowest inventory levels about same and in past inventory has dropped below 1 trillion levels though it was before changed production scene. We never ran out of gas however many have run out of holding power for existing short positions.
Technically, lack of bullish price movement to very bullish fundamentals can be interpreted as bulls running out of breath and my personal take is that market may very likely reverse around 4.6 to 4.7 levels in next week or two at most.
In past four years, all NG bullish movements has been about 80 cents to dollar and has taken at least 4-5 weeks. Considering that NG prices are less likely to exceed above 5.3 level before March Options expiry - another about five week period.
Couple the above facts with the potential rapid time decay of any calls above 5.50 levels now - I think holding short calls positions makes sense and likely to be profitable provided one can hang on....
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It's extreme over an 18-mo time frame because IV hasn't been this high since Aug/Sep 2012. Historically, though, it's still kind of mild - during the financial crisis of 2008, hurricanes, NG hedge fund blow ups - ATM IV reached 80% and who knows how high OTM options were.
Right now, the month with the highest ATM IV is March (it's about 45%, down from a 53% intraday peak on Thurs). As noted in the chart, ATM IV drops off in Apr, May, Jun.
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Very different markets.
Crude is an international market, where localized events that cause volatility are dampened by the larger world fundamentals. NatGas is a domestic market, with virtually no import and export, and at this point very finite storage. Shocks to the NatGas systems can have significant and long lasting implications.