Retail Traders Love 0DTE Options... But Should They?
34 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2023
Date Written: March 30, 2023
Our study is the first to investigate the implications of trading in options that expire on the same day - so-called "0DTE" options. Almost the entire growth of trading in S&P 500 index options can be traced back to demand for 0DTE options. We use recent exchange-related developments to identify option trades that originate from retail investors, and find that more than 75% of their trades in S&P 500 options today are in 0DTE contracts. While retail investors benefit from significant price improvements, such as lower effective spread, they experience losses on average: Between February 2021 and February 2023, retail investors lost $184,000 on the average day; since the introduction of a daily expiration calendar in May of 2022, this number has grown to average losses of $358,000 per day. We find that retail investors correctly take the expensiveness of 0DTE options into account when placing their orders, but that the substantial spreads charged by market makers lead to significant losses. Our study is a cautionary tale against unrestricted access to highly complex trading vehicles by investors who lack sufficient financial education.
Keywords: Retail Trading, Options, WallStreetBets, Payment for Order Flow, 0DTE
JEL Classification: G4, G5, G12, D4
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