Quadruple Witching

MoneyBestPal Team
A term used in financial markets to describe the simultaneous expiration of four different types of financial instruments.
Image: Moneybestpal.com

Main Findings

  • Quadruple Witching is a term used in financial markets to describe the simultaneous expiration of four different types of financial instruments: stock options, index options, single-stock futures, and stock index futures.
  • The name “witching” stems from the assumption that the simultaneous expiration of these products might create volatility and unpredictability in the markets, perhaps causing investors to endure “witching hour” stress.
  • Before the quadruple witching, traders and investors frequently modify their positions to prevent possible market disruptions.

Triple witching, commonly misconstrued as quadruple witching, refers to a quarterly market event where four (historically) or three (currently) types of derivative contracts expire simultaneously.

  • Stock index futures: Contracts that obligate the buyer to purchase or the seller to sell a specific stock index at a predetermined price and future date.
  • Stock index options: Contracts granting the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a specific stock index at a predetermined price by a certain date.
  • Stock options: Contracts granting the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell individual stocks at a predetermined price by a certain date.
Historically, single-stock futures, contracts to buy or sell individual stocks at a set price in the future, also expired on these days. However, their discontinuation in 2020 renders the term "quadruple witching" outdated.

Triple witching days occur four times a year, always on the third Friday of March, June, September, and December. These dates fall near the end of each calendar quarter, leading to an increased concentration of contract expirations.

Why Does Triple Witching Matter?

The convergence of multiple contract expirations on triple witching days can significantly impact market dynamics for several reasons:

  • Increased Trading Volume: As contracts approach expiration, traders engage in various activities to manage their positions. This includes closing out expiring contracts, rolling them to new contracts with later expiration dates, or adjusting portfolio hedges. This flurry of activity leads to a surge in trading volume, particularly during the last trading hour (known as the "witching hour").
  • Potential for Volatility: The concentrated activity surrounding triple witching can amplify market movements. This is because large orders executed close to expiration can create temporary imbalances in supply and demand, leading to price swings that may not reflect underlying fundamentals. However, it's important to note that research hasn't conclusively demonstrated a consistent and significant increase in overall market volatility on triple witching days.
  • Psychological Impact: The perception of increased volatility and uncertainty surrounding triple witching can influence investor behavior, leading to short-term risk aversion or opportunistic trading strategies. This underscores the importance of understanding the event's potential impact but avoiding knee-jerk reactions based solely on historical anecdotes or psychological biases.

Formulas and Calculations

While there's no single formula specifically for "quadruple witching," various metrics and calculations help assess its potential impact:

  • Open Interest: This metric reflects the number of outstanding unexpired contracts for each derivative type. High open interest indicates potentially larger volumes of contracts expiring on the triple witching day, suggesting a greater potential for amplified activity.
  • Implied Volatility: Options contracts embed an estimate of future price volatility. Analyzing changes in implied volatility around triple witching can provide insights into market participants' expectations regarding potential price movements.
  • Technical Analysis: Technical indicators, such as volume oscillators and price charts, can help identify potential support and resistance levels that might be tested during periods of increased trading activity associated with triple witching.
  • Remember: These metrics and calculations should be used in conjunction with fundamental analysis and a comprehensive understanding of market dynamics to make informed investment decisions.

How to Calculate the Potential Impact of Triple Witching

Quantifying the exact impact of triple witching is challenging due to complex market dynamics and the interplay of various factors. However, here are some approaches:

  • Historical Analysis: Examining historical data on trading volume, volatility, and market returns around past triple witching events can provide insights into potential patterns and ranges of impact. However, past performance is not a guarantee of future results, and caution is necessary when extrapolating historical trends.
  • Modeling and Simulation: Sophisticated quantitative models can simulate market behavior under different assumptions about trading activity and volatility on triple witching days. These models can provide valuable insights, but their accuracy depends on the quality of underlying assumptions and data.
  • Expert Opinions: Consulting with experienced market participants and financial professionals can offer valuable insights into the potential impact of triple witching based on their understanding of market dynamics and historical experience. However, it's crucial to consider diverse perspectives and avoid relying solely on individual viewpoints.
  • Important to remember: These approaches offer estimates and should not be interpreted as definitive predictions. Careful analysis and risk management remain important aspects of investing in the stock market.

Examples of Triple Witching's Impact

While the impact of triple witching varies depending on market conditions and other factors, here are some historical examples:

  • March 20, 2020: The first triple witching day after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak coincided with a significant market decline. However, it's challenging to isolate the specific impact of triple witching from the broader market panic triggered by the pandemic.
  • June 19, 2020: This triple witching day saw a surge in trading volume, but market volatility remained relatively muted. This suggests that increased activity doesn't necessarily translate to significant volatility spikes.
  • September 18, 2020: This triple witching day witnessed a mild increase in volatility and a slight market decline. However, attributing these movements solely to triple witching is difficult without considering other concurrent economic and market events.
These examples highlight the complexity of isolating the specific impact of triple witching and the importance of considering broader market context and fundamental factors.

Limitations of Understanding Triple Witching

It's crucial to acknowledge the limitations of understanding and predicting the impact of triple witching:

  • Difficult to Isolate: The event often coincides with other market events like economic data releases or earnings reports, making it challenging to isolate its specific influence.
  • Limited Historical Data: Since single-stock futures are no longer traded, historical data on "quadruple witching" is less relevant and may not accurately reflect the current market dynamics of "triple witching."
  • Self-fulfilling Prophecy: The anticipation of increased volatility surrounding triple witching can sometimes lead to investor behavior that actually creates volatility, making it difficult to disentangle the cause and effect.


Triple witching (historically known as quadruple witching) is a market event with the potential to impact trading volume and volatility. While increased activity often occurs during these days, the magnitude and direction of the impact remain difficult to predict with certainty. 

Investors and market participants should approach triple witching with a balanced perspective, considering its potential influence but avoiding overreliance on historical anecdotes or psychological biases. A combination of fundamental analysis, technical indicators, and historical data analysis can offer valuable insights, but careful risk management and a focus on long-term investment strategies remain paramount.



Quadruple Witching often leads to increased market volatility due to the simultaneous expiration of different types of derivatives contracts. This can result in higher trading volumes and fluctuations in stock prices.

Quadruple Witching can increase liquidity in the market because of the high volume of trades. However, this is often a temporary effect as it occurs only on the days when these contracts expire.

Yes, Quadruple Witching can impact an individual stock’s price. If a large number of options or futures contracts for a particular stock are due to expire, it can result in significant buying or selling of that stock, which can affect its price.

While Quadruple Witching can cause short-term market volatility, it generally has little impact on long-term investors. These investors typically focus on long-term trends and fundamentals rather than short-term market fluctuations.

Traders can prepare for Quadruple Witching by being aware of the increased volatility and potential for higher trading volumes. They may also want to review their positions in advance and be prepared for potential price swings.