What is Max Pain?
Max pain, or the max pain price, is the strike price with the most open contract puts and calls - and the price at which the stock would cause financial losses for the largest number of option holders at expiration.
Calculating Max Pain
Max pain is a simple but time consuming calculation. Essentially, it is the sum of the outstanding put and call dollar value of each in-the-money strike price. For each in-the-money strike price for both puts and calls:
- Find the difference between stock price and strike price
- Multiply the result by open interest at that strike
- Add together the dollar value for the put and call at that strike
- Repeat for each strike price
- Find the highest value strike price. This price is equivalent to max pain price.
How can a trader benefit?
As the option expiration approaches, option writers will try to buy or sell shares of stock to drive the price toward a closing price that is profitable for them, or at least to hedge their payouts to option holders. Call writers sell shares to drive share price down and Put holders buy shares to drive share price up. The max pain strike price exists somewhere in the middle.
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