1998 Was Greatest Year Ever For Equity Options Trading

ChicagoJanuary 7, 1999

For the sixth consecutive year, investors in equity options have driven volume into record territory. The Options Industry Council (OIC) announced today that trading volume in 1998 at the nation's options exchanges reached 329,641,875 contracts, a 21% increase from the previous high in 1997 when 272,998,701 contracts exchanged hands.

Equity options trading volume has risen 209% since the OIC was formed in 1992. December trading volume reached 30,493,649 contracts, up 29% from the 23,689,262 contracts traded in the same period last year.

Paul Stevens, the OIC President, said: "The record performance in 1998 was a direct result of options users looking for sensible growth opportunities and stability in a market that was in and out of record territory for most of the year, due to concerns over corporate profits, the Washington scandal, and the instability of Asian economies and emerging markets."

Industry-wide open interest, the total number of options contracts not yet exercised or allowed to expire, stood at 36,141,208 contracts at its monthly peak on December 18. Open interest is one indication of longer-term investing in equity options. Average daily volume for the month was 1,386,075 contracts.

An equity option is the right but not the obligation to either buy or sell 100 shares of stock at a predetermined price (strike price) on or before a fixed date (expiration date).

The OIC, which includes the American Stock Exchange, Chicago Board Options Exchange, Pacific Exchange, Philadelphia Stock Exchange and The Options Clearing Corporation, has an extensive educational program. The program, aimed at current and potential investors and their brokers, includes a web site at www.optionscentral.com, two instructional videos: "How To Optimize Your Stock Portfolio With Options" and "Investing with LEAPS" available at 800/952-8665, and free evening seminars throughout the continental United States and Canada.

Interactive educational software, "The Options Toolbox," is now available for free to seminar attendees and can be downloaded from OIC's web site. A print and broadcast advertising campaign has resulted in more than 250,000 inquiries seeking literature and videotapes.

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