Wed. Dec 2nd, 2020


Real Simple

Risk Models Rewritten by Traders after Oil’s Plunge below Zero


For the first time in history, the oil’s fall below zero has not sent shockwaves all throughout the industry. It has also broken the models that different traders depend on to calculate the risks associated with it.

The implications had been massive and by allowing for the chances of sub-zero prices, this seems to have made certain positions riskier. This is usually done by exposing to different banks and traders to probably significant for the losses and triggering a rush to recalibrate that has worsened wild swings in the markets.

Richard Fullarton, founder of Matilda Capital Management, who has more than two decades of experience in oil trading signals said, “Standard pricing models used for options on futures and swaps can’t cope with negative numbers.” “It’s a huge issue for banks if they cannot produce risk metrics correctly.”

Particularly, the focus has been put on different options that banks generally sell to oil producers who are looking to hedge against a sharp decline in the prices. There are effective ways to work out the price of options such as the famed Black-Scholes model that mainly work on the assumption that oil prices cannot reach below zero.


Suppose, a bank had sold out a put option that gave clients the opportunity to sell oil at $20 a barrel. This would be confident that it cannot lose more than $20 a barrel on the respective deal.

After the assumption is thrown out, there won’t be a cap on the probable loses with sudden decline in the price of live oil trading signals which is now never ending. This is a major problem for the banks and traders who are taking part in the biggest hedge of the sector. Mexico’s yearly sovereign hedge includes the country buying puts on several millions of barrels of its crude.

Wild Gyrations

Rewriting the risk models that are combined together with a surge in volatility means calculations of “value-at-risk,” the statistical metric many banks and trading houses that calculated the chances of losses seem to be skyrocketing.

Several ways are there to amend models for the probability of negative rates. It is usually something that bond traders have emerged in the recent years as more number of countries is targeting negative rates of interest throughout the world.

Yet, the speed at which oil has rocked to sub-zero prices has already left the traders in shock and also contributed to wild gyrations. For example – bid-ask spreads have broadened greatly which is an indication fewer traders will take up additional risk in the options market.

The bid-ask spread for $20 that had been put for June WTI was almost $3 at different times on Tuesday when compared with 15 cents only during the last week. Various brokers and traders have said that they had been quoted bid-ask spreads that were several times greater than the normal ones.

CME Group Inc. said on late Tuesday that the clearing house will be changing the options pricing and valuation model to Bachelier. This is a type of a model named after the popular French mathematician who will be adjusting negative prices in the underlying futures and enable for the listing of options contracts with negative strikes for a specific set of energy products and crude oil. The change has been effective Wednesday and will remain in place till further notice.

According to the company, ICE Brent options contracts will be in need of a switch in the models that will enable technical trading signals of negative strikes in case there is some demand to do so.

There has been a great surge in the interest rates in 50-cent puts for June WTI — which seems to be traded as high as $3.90 on Tuesday. This clearly denotes that the traders are already working on the assumption that June WTI futures might turn out to be negative.

Michael Corley, the president of Mercatus Energy Advisors has said, “From a market maker perspective, particularly those sitting at a flow trading desk or a major, their assumption, especially if you’re young and haven’t experienced any major market events, the assumption is that $0 was always the minimum.” “That’s not the case anymore.”