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DOOMSM Reference Guide

  • Deep Out-Of-The-Money Put OptionsSM

A credit derivative market alternative

DOOM Quick Reference Guide
Chicago Board Options Exchange - March 2009

Quick Reference Guide

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The State of the Credit Derivative Market

Doom: A credit derivative market alternativeAs the credit crisis lingers into 2009, credit derivatives have come under increased scrutiny. Credit default swaps have been indentified as a culprit due to counterparty issues, lack of transparency, insufficient collateral requirements, and inefficient trade processing. Extensive measures have been taken to alleviate these problems. Various legislative efforts have been initiated and several exchanges are working to enact proposals that would alleviate counterparty concerns and increase transparency. However, exchanges and legislators have been unable to deliver timely solutions, for a myriad of reasons. These delays have prolonged the credit freeze, perpetuating the clog in the credit cycle that is preventing economic recovery from unfolding.

Meanwhile, a viable, liquid alternative to CDS exists that more investors should consider. Specifically, the alternative exists in the listed equity options market. Deep Out-Ofthe- Money put options (DOOMSM Options) possess many of the same protective characteristics as CDS, but they do not come along with all of the baggage. DOOM Options are centrally cleared through the Options Clearing Corporation. They are fully transparent with easy-to-access bids and offers. And they are operational efficient with T+1 settlement, thus avoiding the onerous trade backlogs that have been plaguing the CDS market.

Why DOOM Options?

DOOM Options track CDS spreads closely, especially in times of severe credit deterioration, the moments when credit protection is most necessary. DOOMs and CDS track well because they both contain components that measure investor sentiment. CBOE's VIX is a measure of stock implied volatility and is widely known as "the investor fear gauge". As equity investors become more concerned about decreasing share prices, they tend to be more aggressive in obtaining downside protection, thus pushing up implied volatilities and, consequently, VIX. Similarly, as credit investors become concerned about a firm's ability to repay its debts, they demand greater yield for their risk, resulting in credit spread widening.

DOOM Options Chart

Several examples over the past year demonstrate the close relationship between DOOM Options and Credit Default Swaps. Indeed, the following examples indicate that:

  • DOOM Options behave almost identically to CDS, especially in times of severe credit deterioration
  • It is sometimes cheaper to obtain protection via DOOM Options instead of CDS
  • Credit deterioration is sometimes recognized sooner in DOOM Option markets

Moreover, DOOM Options are:

  • Centrally cleared through the Options Clearing Corporation
  • Completely transparent
  • Traded in a securities account (no ISDA documentation required)

Example 1, Lehman: DOOM Options track CDS especially well in times of severe credit deterioration

Several academic studies have been conducted examining linkages between CDS spreads and equity options. Most notably, Dr. Peter Carr (Head of Quantitative Financial Research at Bloomberg) concluded in a 2007 paper entitled Simple Robust Linkages Between CDS and Equity Options, that "...default probabilities can be directly expressed in terms of American bear put spreads..."

As bankruptcy became increasingly likely at the beginning of September, 2008, Lehman's CDS spread and the January 2009 25.0 / 15.0 put spread behaved almost identically:

Doom Options Chart


Example 2, Visteon: It is sometimes more capital efficient to hedge credit risk with DOOM Options, as compared to CDS

Assuming a particular recovery rate and that share prices go to zero upon bankruptcy, the same payoff of a CDS can be replicated with DOOM Options. On May 16, 2008, imagine an investor looking for $1 million worth of protection for the next several months on Visteon. VC stock was trading at $4.75, its 5-year CDS was 1137 bps, and the December 2008 2.5 put had a mid-market price of $0.275.

Assuming a 40% recovery rate, the CDS would pay $600,000 in the event of default. Assuming VC goes to zero in the event of default, the investor would need to purchase 2,400 2.5 struck puts to obtain a $600,000 payoff. The cost of the listed equity option position would be $66,000. The cost of the CDS position over the same time frame would be $66,325. (CDS costs calculated using today's convention of a 'running spread'. However, OTC practice will soon change to trading in points upfront + a fi xed running spread, thereby making the VC CDS trade even more costly at the onset).

Doom Options Chart


Example 3, Ford: Sometimes DOOM Options indicate problems within a reference entity sooner than CDS.

The Ford December 2008 5.0 / 3.0 put spread appears to have anticipated further credit deterioration much sooner than Ford's CDS. Between September 30, 2008 and October 9, 2008, the Ford December 2008 5.0 / 3.0 put spread more than doubled. During the same time frame, its CDS did not widen as drastically. In fact, Ford's CDS spread did not experience severe widening until November:

Doom Options Chart

CFLEXThere is an abundant supply of available strikes and maturities in reference entities where there is heavy credit trading. However, some market participants may fi nd that they cannot construct a suitable DOOM strategy. Fortunately, CBOE has developed CFLEX, an easy-to-use, internet-based system that allows market participants to customize contract terms like strike prices and maturity dates. Trades conducted via CFLEX are centrally cleared

For more information about CFLEX, visit:

John Angelos
Director - Credit Derivatives
Chicago Board Options Exchange
400 S. LaSalle
Chicago, IL 60605
(312) 786-7063

Below is a list of some of the most heavily-traded reference entities in the CDS market that also have listed equity options and Credit Event Binary Options (CEBOs). This list is far from exhaustive but provides a sample of listed derivatives as an alternative to CDS. Since credit trades tend to be longer-term in nature, only names with January 2012 expiries were included. The yellow highlighted names designate entities that also have listed CEBOs.

Reference Entity Ticker Symbol Lowest Strike
Put Available
Prices @ 2/11/2011
Equity CEBO Stock Value CDS Spread
Alcoa AA 2.5 $17.42 163.45
The AES Corp AES 2.5 12.45 315.10
Assured Guaranty AGO 2.5 15.21 696.71
AK Steel Corp AKS AKSC 2.5 15.85 472.01
Amkor Technology Inc AMKR 1 7.48 383.46
AMR Corp AMR 2 7.34 803.48
American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings AXL AXLC 2.5 14.69 398.42
Bank of America BAC 2.5 14.82 140.72
Beazer Homes USA Inc BZH 1 5.18 502.14
Citigroup C 1 4.89 130.74
Chiquita Brands Internation CQB 2.5 16.43 510.11
Dell Inc DELL 2.5 13.89 97.48
Dean Foods Co DF 2.5 9.96 701.74
Eastman Kodak Company EK 1 3.62 931.10
Ford Motor Company F 2.5 16.46 100.00
K Hovnanian Enterprises HOV HOVC 2.5 4.49 951.71
JetBlue Airways JBLU 1 6.08 603.41
Liz Claiborne LIZ 1 5.53 669.73
Louisiana-Pacific LPX 2.5 11.24 194.64
MBIA MBI MBID 1 11.32 789.18
Owens-Illinois OI 15 31.05 304.10
Radian Group RDN 2.5 8.00 541.43
iStar Financial Inc SFI 2.5 8.94 582.64
Seagate Technology Holdings STX 2.5 14.39 327.70
USG Corp USG 2.5 19.10 571.33
Xerox XRX 2.5 10.95 120.71
CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)