Option Chain: What Is It & How To Read It

The options chain provides essential metrics that are vital for making well-informed trading choices. However, beginners may find the data presented in a chain quite overwhelming due to its complexity and the specific terminology.

In this article, we will delve deep into the concept of an option chain, explain how to read and how to read and use it.

What is an Option Chain?

An option chain, synonymous with an options matrix, serves as a comprehensive catalog of all available contracts, encompassing both puts and calls, pertinent to a specific security.

This tool proves indispensable for traders and investors alike, offering a meticulously organized presentation of the option contracts. The matrix is complete with details such as their respective prices, strike prices, and expiry dates. These details are critical to estimate imminent market movement, probability of profit and loss, etc.

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Key Takeaways

  • An option chain is a presentation of all available derivatives, both calls and puts, for a particular asset, security, or commodity.
  • It entails all the necessary information, that is open interest (OI), volume, premium, implied volatility etc. for calls as well as puts.
  • The option chain is valuable for analyzing market dynamics and spotting potential trading prospects.
  • Accessing an option chain is straightforward and can be done through various online platforms and brokerage accounts.

Option Chain Explained

An option chain, also known as an options matrix, is a complete table that consolidates all available contracts, both calls and puts, for a specific asset, security, or commodity. This table is meticulously structured, with calls typically listed on the left-hand side and puts on the right-hand side. The center of the table is reserved for strikes, which are the predetermined prices at which a contract holder can either buy (call) or sell (put) the base asset or security.

Source: Nasdaq

The option chain is a treasure trove of information for traders and investors. Typically, it provides such basic data as the strike, expiry date, and the current value of the contract, also referred to as the premium. Some platforms may provide such additional data as open interest (OI) or delta.

The premium, or the cost associated with acquiring the contract, is influenced by a myriad of factors. They include the price of the base security, the strike, and the time remaining until the expiry.

To illustrate, let's consider a hypothetical stock XYZ with a current market value of $50. For instance, a trader is interested in purchasing a call with a strike of $55, set to expire in one month. They would refer to the option chain to find the specific contract and assess the premium, which might be $2. This premium reflects the cost of the contract and is influenced by the stock's current market value in relation to the strike, as well as the time remaining until expiration.


Let's consider a practical example to illustrate how a trader can utilize an option chain. Suppose a trader is interested in trading contracts for a stock, say Apple Inc. (AAPL). The trader would start by accessing the option chain for AAPL, which will display a list of all available contracts, both calls and puts, for the stock.

Upon viewing the option chain, the trader will observe various exercise prices down the center of the table, with corresponding calls on the left and puts on the right. Each contract will have its own set of data, including the current premium, OI, volume, bid and ask prices.

For instance, if the trader notices a particular call with a strike of $150 has a high OI and volume. It could indicate that many traders are anticipating the price of AAPL to rise above $150 before the option's expiry date. Conversely, if a put with a strike of $145 has a high volume and OI, it could suggest that traders are expecting the price of AAPL to fall below $145.

Furthermore, the trader can analyze the bid and ask prices to gauge the liquidity of the contract. A narrow bid-ask spread generally indicates a more liquid option, which is preferable as it allows the trader to enter and exit positions more easily.

By carefully analyzing the data presented in the option chain, the market participant can gain valuable insights into the market's sentiment and potential price movements of AAPL. This information can then be used to make best trading decisions. For instance, whether to buy a call if the trader believes the price of AAPL will rise, or purchase a put if the trader anticipates a decline in the stock's price.

How To Read The Options Chain Chart?

In general, an option chain is not so hard to understand. The confusing part comes when you actually try to extract some useful information from it. Part of the confusion is that option chains may have different layouts. If you go to Yahoo, for instance, the calls are above puts by default:

Source: Yahoo Finance
Source: Yahoo Finance

On the other hand, you will notice that the layout of the Marketwatch has call and put contracts side-by-side:

Source: BigCharts

Puts and Calls

A fundamental distinction exists between puts and calls. Calls confer upon the holder the right, though not the obligation, to purchase a security at a predetermined price. In contrast, puts grant the holder the right, albeit not the obligation, to sell a security at a predetermined price. This distinction is of paramount importance to traders, as it significantly influences their trading strategy and potential profit margins.


Source: Projectfinance

The strikes, listed down the center of the chart, are the linchpin that connects calls and puts. These figures represent the predetermined prices at which the underlying stock will exchange hands upon the exercise of the contract, serving as the cornerstone of options trading.


Adjacent to each strike price, you will find essential data for each option, including the premium (last price), which is the cost of acquiring the option contract. The last price represents the price per share of the contract in the last completed transaction before the current trading session or at the time of viewing the option chain.

Moreover, the chart displays the bid and ask prices, representing the prices at which buyers are willing to purchase and sellers are willing to sell the option, respectively.

Open Interest and Volume

The volume and open interest are also listed, providing insights into the quantity of contracts traded in a day and the total number of contracts outstanding, respectively.

To effectively read an options chain chart, start by identifying the security you are interested in. Next, locate the strike price that aligns with your trading strategy. Assess the premium, bid, and ask prices, as well as the volume and open interest, to gauge market sentiment and possible price movements. This comprehensive analysis will empower you to make informed trading decisions.

Uses of Option Chain

The option chain is not merely a list of available derivatives; it is a comprehensive tool that provides a wealth of information to traders and investors. A complete option chain analysis will empower you to make the best trading decisions.

Assessing Market Sentiment

One of the primary uses of the option matrix is to assess market sentiment. By analyzing the OI and volume of specific contracts, traders can gauge the prevailing sentiment in the market. For instance, a high volume of call contracts might indicate a positive market outlook, while a high volume of puts might suggest a negative sentiment.

Source: Analyticsvidhya

Identifying Support and Resistance Levels

Furthermore, the option chain allows traders to identify potential support and resistance levels. By examining the strikes with the highest open interest, traders can determine the price levels at which the security is likely to face support or resistance.

  • Support Level:

Look for the strike with a high amount of open interest in puts. Some platforms, such as YahooFinance allow sorting the contracts by the open interest. Thus, you will easily find the highest interest. A high OI in puts at a particular strike indicates that many traders believe the stock price will not fall below this level, making it a potential support level.

Source: Yahoo
  • Resistance Level:

Look for the strike with a high amount of open interest in calls.

A high open interest in calls at a particular strike indicates that many traders believe the stock price will not rise above this level, making it a potential resistance level.

Source: Yahoo Finance

Options Pricing

In addition to market analysis, the option matrix is also used for options pricing. The bid and ask prices for each contract allow traders to assess its liquidity and determine its fair market value.

Moreover, the option chain can be used to identify optimal trading scenarios. By analyzing the implied volatility of different contracts, market participants can identify those that are underpriced or overpriced relative to their historical volatility. This can provide martket participants with an edge in the market and potentially lead to profitable trading prospects.

Trading Strategy

When engaging in options trading, investors can employ various strategies such as long calls, long puts, covered calls, and protective puts, each tailored to different market conditions and trader expectations. The option chain aids traders in selecting the most suitable strategy by providing vital information such as strike, expiry dates, and contracts premiums.

For instance, a trader anticipating an uptrend in a security's price may opt for a long call strategy, purchasing calls with the expectation that the security's price will surpass the strike before expiration. The option chain facilitates this decision by displaying the available calls and their respective premiums, allowing the trader to assess the potential profitability of the trade.

Conversely, a trader expecting a downturn in the market may employ a long put strategy, acquiring puts in anticipation of the security's price falling below the exercise price. The option matrix, once again, proves invaluable by presenting the available puts and their premiums, aiding the trader in evaluating the trade's potential success.

How to Access an Option Chain

Accessing an option chain is a straightforward process that can be accomplished through various online platforms and brokerage accounts. Some examples of such platforms within the traditional finance include YahooFinance and NASDAQ.

The data for cryptocurrencies can be found on Deribit. Traders simply need to choose the ticker symbol of the security they are interested in, and the corresponding option chain will be displayed.

Source: Deribit

When selecting a platform or broker, traders should consider factors such as user interface, available data, and any associated costs. Some platforms may offer more comprehensive option chain data, including historical volatility and Greeks (Delta, Gamma, Theta, Vega, and Rho), which can be valuable for more advanced trading strategies. Additionally, some brokers may offer educational resources and tools to help traders analyze the data and make best decisions.


To summarize, the option chain is as a vital instrument for both traders and investors alike. It presents a structured and complete list of all the available contracts pertinent to a specific security/asset.

This wealth of information is pivotal in conducting a thorough market analysis, ultimately guiding traders and investors in making well-informed and strategic decisions that are aligned with their investment objectives and risk tolerance.

The option chain, therefore, stands as a cornerstone in the realm of trading and investing, significantly contributing to the empowerment of market participants in their pursuit of financial success.


How Does an Option Chain Work?

An option lists all contracts for a specific security, including the strike, expiry date, and the price of the contract. Understanding option chain is crucial for traders as it helps them analyze the market and make informed decisions.

What are Calls and Puts?

Calls are contracts that give the holder the right to buy a security at a specified price, while puts give the right to sell a security at a specified price. This is a crucial distinction for traders as it affects their trading strategy.

How to Read Option Chain?

Reading an option chain requires a good comprehension of the different components that make up the chart. The chart is divided into two sections: calls and puts, with calls on the left and puts on the right. Traders can use this data to analyze the market and make best decisions.

What Is the Relevance of an Option Chain?

The relevance of an option chain lies in its ability to provide a comprehensive display of all contracts for a specific security. This is crucial for traders as it helps them understand the market's sentiment and potential price fluctuations.

Why Is the Option Chain Important for Crypto Traders?

The option chain is a crucial tool for cryptocurrency traders because it offers a complex view of the available derivatives for a specific crypto, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. By examining the option chain, traders can acquire a comprehension of market sentiment and possible price fluctuations.

*This communication is intended as strictly informational, and nothing herein constitutes an offer or a recommendation to buy, sell, or retain any specific product, security or investment, or to utilise or refrain from utilising any particular service. The use of the products and services referred to herein may be subject to certain limitations in specific jurisdictions. This communication does not constitute and shall under no circumstances be deemed to constitute investment advice. This communication is not intended to constitute a public offering of securities within the meaning of any applicable legislation.