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Understanding IV Rank in Options Trading

Updated: Feb 9

When it comes to options trading, volatility is a fundamental factor that affects an option's price. Implied Volatility (IV) and IV Rank are two essential tools investors use to understand the market's expectation of future volatility and thereby inform their trading strategies. This article will explore the concept of IV Rank, illustrating its relevance with practical examples to help both novice and experienced investors make informed decisions.

Understanding Implied Volatility (IV)

Before delving into IV Rank, it's important to understand Implied Volatility (IV). IV is a component of an option's price that represents the market's expected volatility of the underlying asset over the life of the option. A higher IV suggests the market anticipates greater price swings, while a lower IV indicates expectations of relatively stable prices. Investors use IV to price options; a high IV translates to a higher option price and vice versa.

What is IV Rank?

While IV gives us an idea of the current market expectation of future volatility, IV Rank helps place this expectation in historical context. IV Rank is a statistical measure that tells us where the current IV stands relative to its past values for a given period, usually one year. In other words, IV Rank expresses the current IV as a percentage of its highest and lowest values over the past year.

The IV Rank is calculated as follows: IV Rank = (Current IV - Lowest IV) / (Highest IV - Lowest IV)

The resulting figure is expressed as a percentage, ranging from 0% to 100%. A higher IV Rank (close to 100%) suggests that the current IV is near its highest level over the past year, whereas a lower IV Rank (close to 0%) indicates that the current IV is near its lowest level.

Why is IV Rank Important?

IV Rank provides critical information about how expensive or cheap an option is compared to its historical price levels. It gives a normalized view of IV across different securities and time, making it a valuable tool for comparative analysis and strategy planning. For example, if a stock has a current IV of 30% and an IV Rank of 70%, it means the stock's IV is relatively high compared to where it has been in the past year. Conversely, if a stock has the same IV of 30% but an IV Rank of 20%, it means the stock's IV is relatively low compared to its historical levels. Traders often use IV Rank to decide when to implement different options strategies. High IV Rank values might favor selling strategies (like writing covered calls or selling puts), as options are expensive and selling them can yield high premiums. On the other hand, low IV Rank values might favor buying strategies (like buying calls or puts) since options are cheaper.

Practical Examples

To illustrate the use of IV Rank in options trading, let's look at two hypothetical examples:

Stock A has an IV Rank of 85%. This indicates that the options prices are near their highest levels compared to the past year, as the market anticipates significant price movement. As an options writer, you might consider selling options on Stock A to benefit from the high premiums. As a buyer, however, you might consider waiting for the IV Rank to drop, assuming you expect it to revert to mean levels.

Stock B has an IV Rank of 15%. This suggests that the options prices are comparatively low, and the market is expecting relatively stable prices. If you are an options buyer, you might find it attractive to buy options now, expecting that IV might increase, which would raise the options prices. As an options writer, you might prefer to wait for IV to increase to benefit from higher premiums.

IV Rank is a powerful tool for investors, providing a comparative and historical perspective on Implied Volatility and options pricing. By understanding IV Rank, traders can better evaluate the relative expensiveness or cheapness of options and develop more informed trading strategies. However, like any other tool, IV Rank should be used in conjunction with other aspects of market analysis to optimize investment decisions.

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