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Perpetual Options (XPO): Definition, Applications, and Pricing

Last updated 03/23/2024 by

Alessandra Nicole

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Perpetual options, known as XPOs, are non-standard financial derivatives lacking fixed expiration dates or exercise limitations. They offer perpetual exercising rights similar to American options but are primarily traded in over-the-counter (OTC) markets due to limited liquidity. Despite their advantages in eliminating expiration risk, pricing perpetual options poses challenges, requiring alternative approaches like the Martingale model. This comprehensive guide explores the features, advantages, pricing mechanisms, and practical applications of perpetual options in the finance industry.

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What is a perpetual option (XPO)?

A perpetual option, often referred to as an XPO, is an exotic financial instrument characterized by its lack of fixed maturity dates and exercise restrictions. Unlike standard options, which expire on specific dates, perpetual options can be exercised at any time, offering holders ongoing opportunities to act based on market conditions. While resembling American options in flexibility, perpetual options are non-standard derivatives, predominantly traded in over-the-counter (OTC) markets due to their unique features.

Understanding perpetual options (XPOs)

Features and classification

Perpetual options exhibit unique features distinguishing them from traditional options. They lack predetermined expiration dates, granting holders perpetual exercising rights akin to American options. Despite their classification as exotic derivatives, perpetual options share similarities with plain vanilla options, except for the absence of expiration dates. However, trading perpetual options presents challenges due to limited liquidity and availability, primarily confined to specialized OTC platforms.

Advantages and disadvantages

Perpetual options offer certain advantages over traditional options, such as the elimination of expiration risk and greater flexibility in timing trades. Unlike standard options, which lose value as expiration approaches, perpetual options maintain their intrinsic value indefinitely, enabling holders to hold positions without time constraints. However, challenges arise in pricing perpetual options, as traditional valuation models may not be directly applicable, and specialized knowledge is required to navigate the complexities of OTC trading platforms.

Example and application

Perpetual call option on gold

Consider a hypothetical scenario involving a perpetual call option on the price of gold. In this example, the option grants the holder the right to purchase gold at a predetermined price without a fixed expiration date. While traditional options have finite lifespans, perpetual options enable investors to maintain positions indefinitely, providing opportunities to capitalize on long-term market trends. However, the perpetual nature of these options complicates pricing and trading, necessitating specialized knowledge and analysis.

Pricing a perpetual option

Challenges and approaches

Pricing perpetual options presents unique challenges due to their perpetual nature. Unlike traditional options, which can be priced using established models like the Black-Scholes-Merton model, perpetual options require alternative approaches. Academic research has proposed various models, including the Martingale model, to estimate the value of perpetual options. These models consider factors such as optimal exercise barriers and underlying asset dynamics to derive fair prices for perpetual options.
Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Elimination of expiration risk
  • Greater flexibility in timing trades
  • Potential for strategic advantage
  • Complex pricing mechanisms
  • Limited availability and liquidity
  • Restricted trading platforms

Frequently asked questions

Are perpetual options actively traded on registered options exchanges?

No, perpetual options are primarily traded in over-the-counter (OTC) markets rather than on registered options exchanges. Their limited liquidity and availability restrict their trading activity to specialized OTC platforms, making them less accessible to retail investors.

How do investors price perpetual options?

Pricing perpetual options involves complex modeling techniques due to their perpetual nature. While traditional options can be priced using established models like Black-Scholes-Merton, perpetual options require alternative approaches such as the Martingale model. These models consider factors such as optimal exercise barriers and underlying asset dynamics to derive fair prices for perpetual options.

Key takeaways

  • Perpetual options, or XPOs, lack fixed expiration dates, offering perpetual exercising rights similar to American options.
  • While advantageous in eliminating expiration risk, perpetual options face challenges in pricing and are primarily traded in over-the-counter (OTC) markets.
  • Pricing perpetual options requires alternative approaches, such as the Martingale model, due to their perpetual nature.

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