Options Traders Bet on Bigger Declines for Russia ETF

With oil prices dropping below $60 per barrel for the first time since 2009, it is not surprising that the the Market Vectors Russia ETF (NYSEArca: RSX) is off more than 4% and trading at its lowest levels since April 2009.

Nor is it surprising that RSX, an ETF that tracks equities in the largest non-OPEC oil-producing country in the world, is down 33% over the past 90 days, a decline that almost exactly mirrors that of the United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) over the same period.

What may be surprising to some investors is just how far some options traders are betting RSX will fall. Street One Financial Vice President Paul Weisbruch told ETF Trends earlier Thursday that his firm has seen brisk buying of January $12 puts on RSX. RSX is the largest Russia ETF and the one with the most robust options market.

“It was only several weeks back where we heard several “dip buying” calls out there in RSX when it was in the low 20’s on the street, and one has to wonder if the recent plunge just continues with reckless abandon. We have not seen option strikes this low trade in the product before this week actually. RSX as a fund has seen about $22 million flow out via redemption activity in the month of December thus far,” said Weisbruch.

To put just ominous buying of RSX $12 puts is into context, the ETF currently trades around $16.40, meaning it needs to fall another 27% to bring those puts into the money. RSX is already down 43% this year and Russian stocks were among the emerging world’s worst performers last month as oil prices tumbled. [Oil Crushed These Country ETFs in November]