LEAPS® & Cycles

What are cycles? How are cycles affected when LEAPS® are listed?

The exchanges list options on a given security according to one of the following expiration cycles:

  Q-1 Q-2 Q-3 Q-4
Cycle 1 January April July October
Cycle 2 February May August November
Cycle 3 March June September December

At any given time, there are at least four different expiration months trading on a particular security. All stocks & ETFs will have options listed for at least the two near-term expiration months along with two months from their expiration quarterly cycle. Recent exchange rules now allow for the listing of additional months beyond just four available expirations, so there are deviations from standard listing procedures.

The table below illustrates the standard months listed for each cycle throughout the year, beginning on the first day of the year. The most recently listed months are boldfaced.

At start of calendar year, exchanges list the following months:

Cycle 1 January February April July
Cycle 2 January February May August
Cycle 3 January February March June

After January expires, exchanges add September to Cycle 3 and March to Cycles 1 & 2:

Cycle 1 February March April July
Cycle 2 February March May August
Cycle 3 February March June September

After February expires, exchanges add October to Cycle 1 and April to Cycles 2 & 3:

Cycle 1 March April July October
Cycle 2 March April May August
Cycle 3 March April June September
After March expires, exchanges add November to Cycle 2 and May to Cycles 1 & 3:

Cycle 1 April May July October
Cycle 2 April May August November
Cycle 3 April May June September

After April expires, exchanges add December to Cycle 3 and June to Cycles 1 & 2:

Cycle 1 May June July October
Cycle 2 May June August November
Cycle 3 May June September December

After May expires, exchanges add January to Cycle 1 and July to Cycles 2 & 3:

Cycle 1 June July October January
Cycle 2 June July August November
Cycle 3 June July September December

After June expires, exchanges add February to Cycle 2 and August to Cycles 1 & 3.

Cycle 1 July August October January
Cycle 2 July August November February
Cycle 3 July August September December

After July expires, exchanges add March to Cycle 3 and September to Cycles 1 & 2.

Cycle 1 August September October January
Cycle 2 August September November February
Cycle 3 August September December March

After August expires, exchanges add April to Cycle 1 and October to Cycles 2 & 3.

Cycle 1 September October January April
Cycle 2 September October November February
Cycle 3 September October December March

After September expires, exchanges add May to Cycle 2 and November to Cycles 1 & 3.

Cycle 1 October November January April
Cycle 2 October November February May
Cycle 3 October November December March

After October expires, exchanges add June to Cycle 3 December to Cycles 1 & 2.

Cycle 1 November December January April
Cycle 2 November December February May
Cycle 3 November December March June

After November expires, exchanges add July to Cycle 1 and January to Cycles 2 & 3.

Cycle 1 December January April July
Cycle 2 December January February May
Cycle 3 December January March June

After December expires, exchanges add August to Cycle 2 and February to Cycles 1 & 3.

Cycle 1 January February April July
Cycle 2 January February May August
Cycle 3 January February March June

While any security may have a unique expiration cycle, the follow approach will generally determine the specific expiration cycle for your target security. Pull up a chain of its options, match the third and fourth expiration months with the relevant table above and identify the corresponding cycle.

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Where can I find information and strategies based on LEAPS® options?

Find delayed quotes for LEAPS® here on our site under Quotes. Once you have entered a symbol and selected "Detail Options Chains," choose "LEAPS only" in the "Expiration" dropdown menu.

The Getting Started tab has a whole section dedicated to the discussion of LEAPS®. Also, under the Strategies and Advanced Concepts section, find a discussion of various strategies involving options.

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Do some brokers recognize LEAPS® securities as stocks and allow writing of covered calls against LEAPS®, even in retirement accounts?

Many brokerages do not allow short stock positions in retirement accounts under any circumstances. Buying a long-term call and selling short-term calls against it is a popular strategy called a calendar spread. While this hedges the written calls, brokerage firms do not consider them to be covered. In the event of assignment, because of the one-day lag between exercise and assignment, using the long-term call to close out the position requires being short the stock for a day.

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Can you tell me how LEAPS® option contracts are treated in the event of a spin-off? Will I receive LEAPS® for the new corporation? Or, will I be compensated in some other way for the reduced value of the options that will now amount to a smaller corporation with a lower stock price and consequently a lower value for its LEAPS®?

If a company announces an upcoming spin-off, we may not yet know the terms of a possible adjustment. Although we may not know the exact adjustment, it is safe to assume that existing option contracts may be adjusted to avoid diluting an option holders' potential equity. For more information on how this type of corporate action is treated please see Chapter III of the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options.

You may also review how various corporate actions affect option contracts in OIC's Contract Adjustments course here.

Four things you can do to locate information regarding adjusted contracts due to splits, mergers and spin-offs include:

  • OCC's website offers contract adjustment memos with detailed information on how outstanding option contracts will be adjusted due to a corporate action.
  • To receive notification for future adjustment memos, you may sign up to receive emails at the OCC Subscription Center at http://www.theocc.com/webapps/subscription-center.
  • Check with your brokerage firm before placing the option trade.
  • Call OIC's Investor Services at 1-888-OPTIONS for further explanation on information memos.
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When are the exchanges going to list 2017 LEAPS®?

2017 LEAPS will be rolled out over a three month period.

Cycle 1: Monday, September 15th, 2014: January 2017 LEAPS® listed

Cycle 2: Monday, October 13th, 2014: January 2017 LEAPS® listed

Cycle 3: Monday, November 17th, 2014: January 2017 LEAPS® listed

To view the 2014 Options Expiration Calendar with LEAPS listing dates click here.

To view the 2014 Options Expiration Calendar with LEAPS listing dates click here.

Click here to view an online version of OCC's expiration calendar.

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Why do the exchanges list LEAPS® later in the year than in years past? Why do the exchanges list fewer LEAPS® than in years past?

In September 2008, the U.S. options exchanges and OCC received Securities and Exchange Commission approval to standardize many of the listing criteria found in the Options Listing Procedure Plan (OLPP). Due to listing of many one-point strikes (16, 17, 18, 19, etc.) as well as other products, such as quarterly and weekly options, the options exchanges decided to list LEAPS® only on products that have a 3 month average daily volume of at least 1,000 contracts.

The relevant language related to this topic has been excerpted below and can be found on Page 8 of the OLPP (link to the OLPP can be found below):

(e) With regard to the listing of new January Long-term Equity AnticiPation ("LEAP") series on equity option classes, options on Exchange Traded Funds ("ETF"), or options on Trust Issued Receipts ("TIR"), the Series Selecting Exchange and any other exchange that lists and trades the same option class shall not add new LEAP series on that option class:
(i) Earlier than September (which is 28 months before the expiration), for an option class on the January expiration cycle;
(ii) Earlier than October (which is 27 months before expiration), for an option class on the February expiration cycle; and
(iii) Earlier than November (which is 26 months before expiration), for an option class on the March expiration cycle.

Exchanges that list and trade the same equity option class, ETF option class, or TIR option class are authorized to jointly determine and coordinate with OCC on the date of introduction of new LEAP series for that option class consistent with the above paragraph.
(f) The Series Selecting Exchange shall not list new LEAP series on equity option classes, options on ETFs, or options on TIRs in a new expiration year if the national average daily contract volume, excluding LEAP and FLEX series, for that options class during the preceding three calendar months is less than 1,000 contracts, unless the new LEAP series has an expiration year that has already been listed on another exchange for that option class. The preceding volume threshold does not apply during the first six months an equity option class, option on an ETF, or option on a TIR is listed on any exchange.

To read additional information on the OLPP, click here.

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