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The options market offers a vast array of strategies for traders to navigate market movements and potentially generate profits. Among the key tools in an options trader's arsenal is the Put-Call Ratio (PCR). This seemingly simple ratio packs a powerful punch, providing valuable insights into market sentiment and potential underlying stock price movements.

This blog delves deep into the world of PCRs, equipping you with the knowledge to effectively utilise them in your options trading strategies. We'll explore the following aspects:

  • Understanding the PCR: What it is and How it's Calculated
  • Interpreting the PCR: Unveiling Market Sentiment
  • PCR in Action: Applying it to Trading Strategies
  • Limitations of the PCR: What it Doesn't Tell You
  • Conclusion: Mastering the PCR for Informed Options Trading

What is PCR?

The Put-Call Ratio (PCR) is a statistical indicator that compares the trading volume of put options to call options for a specific underlying security (stock, ETF, etc.) within a given timeframe (usually a day or a week). Here's the formula:

PCR = Put Option Volume / Call Option Volume

For example, if during a trading day, there were 1000 put option contracts and 500 call option contracts traded for a particular stock, the PCR would be 2 (1000 puts / 500 calls).

How does PCR help in options trading?

The PCR serves as a gauge of market sentiment towards the underlying security. Here's how to interpret different PCR values:

  • PCR < 1 (Bullish Bias): A PCR below 1 indicates that there is a higher volume of call options being traded compared to put options. This suggests a generally bullish sentiment in the market, with traders anticipating a price increase in the underlying security.
  • PCR = 1 (Neutral Bias): A PCR of 1 signifies a balanced market sentiment. The put and call volumes are roughly equal, indicating that traders are hedging their bets or unsure of the future price direction.
  • PCR > 1 (Bearish Bias): A PCR exceeding 1 suggests a higher volume of put options compared to call options. This reflects a generally bearish sentiment, with traders anticipating a price decline in the underlying security.

How to apply PCR to trading strategies?

The PCR can be a valuable tool for options traders to develop informed strategies. Here are some ways to incorporate it:

  • Identifying Potential Trends: A sustained PCR above 1 (bearish) or below 1 (bullish) can signal a potential trend in the underlying security price. This information can be used to consider buying calls during a bullish PCR or puts during a bearish PCR.
  • Confirmation of Other Indicators: The PCR can be used alongside other technical indicators like moving averages or relative strength index (RSI) to confirm a trading signal. For instance, a PCR below 1 combined with a bullish RSI reading can strengthen the case for a call option purchase.
  • Gauging Volatility: A significant change in the PCR can indicate a shift in market sentiment and potential volatility. A sudden spike in the PCR (more puts being traded) might suggest rising fear and increased volatility, potentially leading to short-term price swings.

Limitations of PCR

While valuable, the PCR has limitations to consider:

  • Open Interest vs. Volume: The PCR only considers the volume of options traded, not the open interest (existing positions). A high open interest in puts, even with low put volume on a particular day, can still indicate underlying bearish sentiment.
  • Short-Term Indicator: The PCR is primarily a short-term indicator reflecting immediate market sentiment. It might not predict long-term price movements accurately.
  • Underlying Factors: The PCR doesn't account for factors like upcoming earnings reports, news events, or interest rate changes that can significantly impact the underlying security price.

PCR for different underlying assets

While the core interpretation of the PCR remains consistent across different underlying assets (stocks, ETFs, indices), there are some nuances to consider:

  • Stock-Specific PCR vs. Index PCR: The PCR for a single stock is highly influenced by company-specific news and events. The PCR for an index, on the other hand, reflects the sentiment towards the broader market sector or the overall economy.
  • Volatility of Underlying Asset: The PCR can be more volatile for options on stocks with higher historical volatility. This is because traders might be more inclined to use options to hedge or speculate on larger price swings.
  • Liquidity of Options: Options for less liquid underlying assets might have lower trading volumes, leading to a less reliable PCR reading. It's generally advisable to focus on the PCR for actively traded options contracts.

Additional considerations

  • Expiry Cycle: The PCR can fluctuate throughout the options expiry cycle. For instance, the PCR might be higher closer to earnings announcements due to increased uncertainty, even if the overall market sentiment remains bullish.
  • Unusual Options Activity: Spikes in put or call buying can significantly impact the PCR. Investigate the reason behind such activity before solely relying on the PCR for your trading decisions.

By incorporating these advanced concepts, you can leverage the PCR to develop more nuanced and potentially more profitable options trading strategies. Remember, the PCR is a valuable tool, but it should be used in conjunction with other technical and fundamental analysis techniques for optimal results.


The Put-Call Ratio offers a powerful lens into market sentiment and potential price movements for underlying assets. By understanding its calculation, interpretation, and limitations, coupled with the insights on time skew and application across different assets, you can elevate your options trading game to a whole new level. Remember, consistent research, practice, and proper risk management are crucial for success in the options market.

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