Unusual Stock Options Activity

Intrinio
4 min readJan 5

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Intrinio provides unusual options for the US market as a data feed via API. In this article you will learn what unusual options are, how Intrinio defines unusual options activity, how to access unusual options activty, and why you might want to get them from Intrinio.‍

If you are unfamiliar with options contracts such as puts and calls, start here.‍

What is unusual options activity?‍

Unusual options activity occurs when options contracts begin trading in a pattern that is different than normal. This difference can be defined in any number of ways, but typical definitions include higher trade volume than normal, large trades being split into smaller lots, or trades being split across exchanges.‍

What constitutes unusual activity is subjective. Traders and data providers can create their own definitions of how large a trade must be before it is unusual or how much volume must deviate from the average before it is labeled as unusual.‍

The key thing to remember is that unusual options activity is an indicator that something weird is happening with the stock and traders should pay attention.‍

Unusual options activity could mean there was significant news about a stock, such as earnings being reported, and so traders are reacting to the news. It could also mean that institutional investors with lots of money and inside information know something about a company and are moving to take advantage of that knowledge.‍

If a trader has access to unusual options activity they don’t know what will happen with the stock but they do know where to focus their attention.‍

How does Intrinio Define Unusual Options Activity

‍Intrinio tracks four kids of unusual options activity: Sweeps, Blocks, Large Trades, and Volume.‍

An options sweep is a market order split across all exchanges to take advantage of the best prices for a given option contract on each individual exchange. Sweeps are sophisticated trades and can indicate that a more advanced investor or firm is at work. Stock exchanges tag these trades which allows Intrinio to define sweeps as they occur.‍

An options block trade is a large, privately negotiated option order executed off the public option exchange. Intrinio defines blocks as trades without an exchange, meaning they occurred without an exchange to facilitate them. This is unusual and typically occurs when institutional investors want to keep the trade secret or cannot execute the trade on public markets due to volume or price constrains.‍

A large trade is a big ol trade! Intrinio defines this as any options order over $100,000 in value. These trades require a buyer and a seller, so they don’t provide any information on which way the stock is moving. They do, however, confirm that two investors, the buyer and the seller, are willing to put up a large amount of money and there could be some serious volatility coming for the security.‍

Volume is unusual when the number of contracts trading for a security goes above the average. Intrinio doesn’t define how far above average the volume needs to be but it provides the data needed to calculate the average volume and to set a threshold when volume becomes unusual. This allows users to decide for themselves if they will use their own threshold or an industry standard such as 5x average volume.‍

How can you access Unusual Options Activity?‍

If you are an individual trader looking to incorporate unusual options activity into your investment process, there are companies such as Cheddar Flow and Flow Algo that will sell a terminal solution for less than $100/mo.‍

If you are business that wants to provide unusual options activity to your own end users, you can purchase an API solution from Intrinio for between $800/mo and $1,600/mo.‍

For that price, Intrinio will provide access to the underlying stock price, options chain, and unusual options in either REST or WebSocket API format. You can read the API documentation here or contact our team here to get set up with a free trial.‍

Why should you get Unusual Options Data From Intrinio?

‍If you need unusual options activity via API, either for a highly technical individual investing strategy or for your own customers, Intrinio has a solution that isn’t available from other providers. You can take data from Intrinio’s API and integrate it into your application, then show it to your own end users, without breaking the bank.‍

Intrinio doesn’t charge extra for redistribution or display. The exchanges where the data originates do have fees if you are displaying options data but if you get unusual options data from Intrinio they will help you minimize the exchange costs.‍

They can do this by providing a 15-min delayed solution as well as a real time solution. You can upgrade from the delayed API to the real time API without extra coding work so you only use the more expensive real time data when you must.‍

Intrinio also works with your team to make sure you are compliant with the exchanges reporting and licensing requirements. This can be a confusing, time consuming portion of the integration and if you get it wrong it can result in big headaches.

Another good reason to get unusual options activity from Intrinio is that our feeds are designed to save you money in two ways. The first is by processing as much of the data on Intrinio’s servers as possible. One of the biggest costs in using options data is the server. Intrinio filters out useless data, calculates derived data, and optimizes the delivery to save you money on servers. The second way is by reducing your dev costs. Unusual options activity comes over Intrinio’s API which includes SDKs, documentation, and developer support so that your expensive technical team spends less time on the integration.

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Intrinio

High-quality financial data. Tools built for developers. First-class, US-based support. Data doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.

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