$1.25 billion in ETH options expire on Nov. 26 and bulls are better positioned above $4,200.

Ether (ETH) investors have no reason to complain after the 344% gains accumulated in 2021 until Nov. 24. Still, analysts fear that the $4,000 resistance test on Nov. 19 is forming a descending channel that aims at $3,600 by mid-December, an 18% correction from the current $4,400 price.

Despite outperforming Bitcoin (BTC) by 16% in the past month alone and the ETH/BTC pair climbing to 10-week highs, Ether seems to be struggling with its own success.

Ether/USD price on Bitstamp. Source: TradingView

Users continue to complain about Ethereum gas fees, averaging over $45 over the past three weeks. However problematic that can be, it leaves no doubt that the largest decentralized finance (DeFi) and nonfungible tokens (NFT) markets continue to thrive on Ethereum.

Increasing regulatory uncertainties in the United States remain a decisive limiting factor for Ether's rally. On Nov. 24, the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, clarified that the crypto panel in the public meeting scheduled for Dec. 2 would focus on the regulatory framework.

Not even the one million ETH burned since the implementation of EIP-1559 in August was enough to keep Ether's price at all-time highs. As the network emits about 5.4 million ETH per year, Ether remains an inflationary asset. Still, Ether's price increased by 16% vs. Bitcoin since Oct. 25, partially reflecting that impact.

Bullish calls dominate Friday's ETH options expiry

Despite the 10% correction to $4,400 since the $4,850 all-time high on Nov. 10, the Ether call (buy) options vastly dominate Friday's expiry.

Ether options aggregate open interest for Nov. 26. Source: Coinglass

The green area representing the $820 million call (buy) options is the lion's share of Nov. 26 expiry. Compared to the $440 million puts (sell) instruments, there's an 87% difference.

Nevertheless, the 1.87 call-to-put ratio should not be taken literally, as the recent ETH drop will likely wipe out 77% of the bullish bets. For instance, if Ether's price remains below $4,400 at 8:00 am UTC on Nov. 26, only $165 million worth of those call (buy) options will be available at the expiry.

In other words, what good is holding the right to buy Ether at $4,400 or $4,600 if it's trading below that price?

Bears need sub-$4,200 ETH to balance the scales

Below are the three most likely scenarios based on the current price action. The number of option contracts available on Nov. 26 for bulls (call) and bear (put) instruments vary depending on the expiry ETH price. The imbalance favoring each side constitutes the theoretical profit:

  • Below $4,100: 15,400 calls vs. 15,200 puts. The result is balanced.
  • Between $4,200 and $4,500: 38,400 calls vs. 8,800 puts. The net result is $130 million favoring the call (buy) instruments.
  • Above $4,500: 50,200 calls vs. 2,300 puts. The net result favors the call (bull) instruments by $215 million.

This crude estimate considers call options being used in bullish bets and put options exclusively in neutral-to-bearish trades. Still, this oversimplification disregards more complex investment strategies.

For example, a trader could have sold a put option, effectively gaining a positive exposure to Ether above a specific price. But unfortunately, there's no easy way to estimate this effect.

Both sides have incentives to move price

Bears need a 7.5% move from $4,400 down to sub-$4,100 to balance the scales and avoid a $130 million loss. On the other hand, bulls need a 2.3% price increase to $4,500 to boost their profits by $85 million.

Traders must consider that the amount of effort a seller needs to pressure the price is immense and usually ineffective during bullish markets. Currently, options market incentives are balanced, favoring the $4,200 to $4,500 price range, entitling bulls to a $130 million profit on Friday, Nov. 26.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph. Every investment and trading move involves risk. You should conduct your own research when making a decision.

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