We document empirically that the returns from shorting out-of-the-money S&P 500 put options are concentrated in the few days preceding their expiration. Back-month options generate almost no returns, and front-month options do so only towards the end of the option cycle. The concentration of the option premium at the end of the cycle reflects changes in options’ risk characteristics. Specifically, options’ convexity risk increases sharply close to maturity, making them more sensitive to jumps in the underlying price. By contrast, volatility risk plays a smaller role close to maturity. Our results imply that speculators wishing to harvest the put option premium should short front-month options only during the last days of the cycle, while investors wishing to protect against downside risk should use back-month options to reduce hedging costs.
Keywords: Option Returns, Out-Of-The-Money Put Options, Market Timing
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