Definition: Put-call ratio (PCR) is an indicator commonly used to determine the mood of the options market. Being a contrarian indicator, the ratio looks at options buildup, helps traders understand whether a recent fall or rise in the market is excessive and if the time has come to take a contrarian call. The ratio is calculated either on the basis of options trading volumes or on the basis of options contracts on a given day or period.
The put-call ratio is a popular tool specifically designed to help individual investors gauge the overall sentiment (mood) of the market. The ratio is calculated by dividing the number of traded put options by the number of traded call options. As this ratio increases, it can be interpreted to mean that investors are putting their money into put options rather than call options. An increase in traded put options signals that investors are either starting to speculate that the market will move lower, or starting to hedge their portfolios in case of a sell-off.
Why should you pay attention to this? An increasing ratio is a clear indication that investors are starting to move toward instruments that gain when prices decline rather than when they rise. Since the number of call options is found in the denominator of the ratio, a reduction in the number of traded calls will result in an increase in the value of the ratio. This is significant because the market is indicating that it is starting to dampen its bullish outlook. The put-call ratio is primarily used by traders as a contrarian indicator when the values reach relatively extreme levels. This means that many traders will consider a large ratio a sign of a buying opportunity because they believe that the market holds an unjustly bearish outlook and that it will soon adjust, when those with short positions start looking for places to cover. There is no magic number that indicates that the market has created a bottom or a top, but generally traders will anticipate this by looking for spikes in the ratio or for when the ratio reaches levels that are outside of the normal trading range. One way to calculate PCR is by dividing the number of open interest in a Put contract by the number of open interest in Call option at the same strike price and expiry date on any given day. PCR (OI) = Put open interest on a given day/Call open interest on the same day It can also be calculated by dividing put trading volume by call trading volume on a given day. PCR (Volume) = Put trading volume/call trading volume PCR for marketwide positions can also be calculated by taking total number of OI for all open Call options and for all open Put options in a given series. Description: A PCR ratio below 1 suggests that traders are buying more Call options than Put options. It signals that most market participants are betting on a likely bullish trend going forward. For contrarians, it is a signal to go against the wind. On the flip side, if the ratio is higher than 1, it suggests traders are buying more Puts than Calls. Unlike Call options, Put options are not initiated just for directional call. They are bought also to hedge against any decline in the market. The market sentiment is deemed excessively bearish when the PCR is at a relatively high level. But for contrarian investors, it suggests that the market may soon bottom out. On the other hand, when the ratio falls to a relatively low level, it is deemed excessively bullish. For contrarians, it would suggest a market top is in the making. The PCR can be calculated for indices, individual stocks and for the derivative segment as a whole.