Amid rising political uncertainty, Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF (NYSEArca: GREK) is off 4.1% to start 2015 after shedding 40% last year. Ahead of Greek elections on Jan. 25, traders are positioning for more declines in GREK, the lone Greece ETF.
In just the last two weeks, daily put activity on GREK while those bearish options “on the Greece ETF have been unusually active with average daily volume since Dec. 29 of about 3,200 contracts, about three times the average daily volume over the last 200 days,” reports Reuters.
GREK currently trades just under $13 after tumbling nearly 18% over the past 90 days, but combined open interest in the ETFs February $11, $12 and $13 strike calls is currently less than 200 contracts, according to OptionMonster data. Conversely, open interest in GREK February $12 pus is over 10,300 contracts.
Just two years after Greece brought the Eurozone to the brink of a full-fledged crisis and stoked speculation that the common currency scheme was close to meeting its demise, Greece’s fractured political system has onlookers mulling the possibility of a Eurozone without the country. Greeks head to the polls on Jan. 25 with Prime Minister Antonis Samara warning that if the opposition Syriza party emerges victorious, a Greek default and Eurozone departure would be the end result. [Greece ETF Pricing in EMU Departure]
Fears of a “Grexit” have trickled down to other PIIGS ETFs and those fears have also been reflected in the options markets for funds such as the iShares MSCI Italy Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWI) and the iShares MSCI Spain Capped ETF (NYSEArca: EWP). [Greece Slide Hits Italy, Spain ETFs]
“The price of bearish options versus bullish ones on EWP hit a 20-month high last week, while the cost of the contracts on EWI jumped 27 percent since early December,” reported Inyoung Hwang for Bloomberg earlier this week.
On Monday, open interest in EWP’s February $32 strike puts was more than eight times the open interest in the calls with the same strike, according to Option Monster. The average put/call ratio on EWI and EWP is now over 2.3-to-1.
As for GREK, options traders have been rolling over profitable positions in anticipation of further declines for the ETF.
Recently established “February and March put positions have been rolled to from puts in December and earlier months as traders have been betting against Greece for months now,” Reuters reports, citing OptionsHawk.com.
Global X FTSE Greece 20 ETF