© Reuters.

By April Joyner

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Trading volume in U.S. equity options hit a new record on Friday, according to data from options analytics provider Trade Alert.

More than 49.5 million contracts traded during the session, Trade Alert said. Friday marked the expiration of monthly options contracts, which often results in heavier-than-usual volume.

This year, some 416 million U.S. equity options contracts have already traded over 10 sessions. That’s equal to the total options volumes over the first four months of 2004, Trade Alert founder Henry Schwartz wrote in a note.

Options volume has ballooned over the past year as the derivatives become more popular with investors. In 2020, trading volume set an annual record, at 7.47 billion options contracts, according to the Options Clearing Corporation.

The growing popularity of options among retail investors has contributed to the surge in volume. In particular, retail investors have piled into call options on individual stocks – used to position for gains in the underlying shares – as U.S. equities have climbed sharply in the wake of their sell-off last March.

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