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Options Traders Fear Index Fund Fall

Even as the Russell 2000 turned around Monday morning from its lower opening along with the other major indexes, the options action was in the puts.

The IWM exchange traded fund, which tracks the small-cap Russell, is roughly flat on the day but reached as high as $35.64 this morning after hitting six-year lows of $34.32 on Friday. The ETF was as low as $32.30 back in October 2002. Shares were above $75 as recently as mid-September.

The unusual options activity this morning is in the April puts. While the March options are not very active, April has traded almost twice the 20-day average. Most of that volume is in the April 31 puts, where more than 30,000 contracts have been purchased, most of them for $1.15. The open interest at that strike is much smaller at 2,569 contracts, indicating that these are new positions, according to OptionMonster's tracking systems.

This could be outright bearish, or a protective position. Either way, the buying indicates that some continue to worry about the IWM falling.

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Chris McKhann is an analyst and writer for OptionMonster.

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