Unlocking Success: Discovering The Best Indicator For Option Trading

Jeremy BiberdorfBy: Jeremy Biberdorf

July 4, 2024July 4, 2024

Options trading is a complex game, with its ties to underlying assets and a whole mix of factors to keep an eye on. A slight shift in the market can mean a big hit to your investment, sometimes all of your capital can vanish just like that.

To manage this volatility and complexity, traders like us rely on specific indicators. These aren’t just any tools; they’re the backbone of successful strategies, helping us spot buying signals, set the right stop-losses, and figure out market trends. I’ve found these indicators incredibly useful in my own trading, and they’re widely favored among successful traders for their ability to read the market.

In this piece, I’ll dive into some of the most effective indicators for options trading. I’ll also touch on some of the software and tools that help us use these indicators to spot opportunities in real time.

Ultimately, the best indicator for option trading will come down to what strategies you use. By understanding all of the top indicators, you will be better equipped for a successful trading career in options. Stick with me, and let’s decode these indicators together, to see how they can work best in the fast-paced world of options trading.

Best Indicator For Option Trading: Relative Strength Index (RSI)

As I just mentioned, there is no one size fits all “best indicator for option trading”, but one of the most important indicators that can’t be ignored is the Relative Strength Index. The Relative Strength Index (RSI) is a critical tool in my trading arsenal, especially when I’m looking at options for individual stocks.

Created by J. Welles Wilder, this momentum oscillator not only measures the velocity and magnitude of price movements but also helps in identifying overbought and oversold conditions within a market. This makes it an indispensable part of technical analysis.

RSI values stretch from 0 to 100. A reading above 70 usually flags an overbought condition suggesting a potential sell signal, while a value below 30 might indicate an oversold condition, hinting at a possible buy signal. This ability to gauge the speed and change of price actions allows traders to pinpoint the right moments for entry and exit, optimizing the timing of their trades.

What I find particularly useful about the RSI is its effectiveness with individual stocks compared to indices. Stocks tend to move through overbought and oversold zones more frequently than indices, which is why the RSI is more practical for options trading on high-beta, highly liquid stocks.

These stocks are ideal for short-term trading strategies based on RSI readings because they provide clearer signals and more frequent trading opportunities. This makes RSI one of the few indicators that offer nearly accurate insights into market conditions, greatly aiding in decision-making processes for options trading.

Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands, created by John Bollinger in the 1980s, are a go-to tool for assessing market volatility, something every options trader needs to keep an eye on. These bands are pretty clever; they widen when market volatility increases and tighten when it decreases, helping us spot potential buying or selling opportunities.

Here’s how they work: You have three lines that form the Bollinger Bands. The middle line is a simple moving average, usually over 20 days, and the two outer lines are standard deviations of this average. What’s great is that you can adjust these settings to fit your trading style or the specific timeframe you’re looking at.

When the price hits or crosses the upper band, it might be time to think about selling, as the market could be overbought. Conversely, if the price drops to the lower band, the market might be oversold, indicating a potential buying opportunity.

There’s also something called the “Bollinger Bounce,” where prices tend to rebound off these bands, especially in a stable market, this can be a handy tip for spotting reversals.

Overall, Bollinger Bands help us decide when to buy or sell options by showing us the levels of market volatility and giving clues about overbought or oversold conditions. It’s a practical, flexible tool that helps tune our strategies to market behavior.

Open Interest (OI)

Open interest (OI) is a vital metric in options trading, representing the total number of active, unsettled contracts. It’s different from trading volume, which counts all contracts traded; open interest only counts those that are still open, not yet settled or closed.

Understanding open interest can offer insights into the market’s strength or weakness. For instance, if open interest and prices are both rising, it suggests that new money is coming into the market, reinforcing the current trend as likely to continue, this is seen as a bullish sign.

However, if prices are rising but open interest is falling, it could mean the market is starting to weaken, despite the price increase.

Conversely, if both prices and open interest are falling, the market is viewed as weakening. But, if prices fall while open interest rises, this typically signals a strengthening bearish trend, suggesting that the downturn is expected to persist.

For us options traders, high open interest means more liquidity and generally tighter bid-ask spreads, which can lead to better trade execution. This makes high OI contracts attractive for trading, especially for those of us looking to capitalize on short-term price movements and trends.

Additionally, sharp increases or decreases in open interest can indicate upcoming major market movements, offering potential trading opportunities. Understanding these nuances will help you  navigate the options market more effectively

Put-Call Ratio (PCR) Indicator

Put-Call Ratio (PCR) Indicator

The Put Call Ratio (PCR) is an essential indicator for gauging market sentiment. I find it invaluable for interpreting how other traders are viewing the market. PCR is calculated by dividing the number of traded put options by the number of traded call options.

This simple metric can reveal whether the market sentiment is leaning towards bullishness or bearishness.

When the PCR is above 1, it indicates a bearish market sentiment. This higher ratio suggests that traders are buying more puts than calls, possibly preparing for or speculating on a decline in the underlying asset. Reasons for such a trend could include expected negative news, unfavorable macroeconomic conditions, or bearish technical analysis patterns that hint at a possible downturn.

Conversely, a PCR below 1 points to a bullish sentiment, where calls outnumber puts. This scenario usually arises when traders anticipate positive developments, such as strong earnings reports or favorable economic data, which might drive an increase in the asset’s price.

Some traders often use PCR as a contrarian indicator. An extremely high PCR might suggest that the market is too pessimistic, possibly signaling a good buying opportunity if we anticipate a reversal. Similarly, an extremely low PCR could indicate that the market is overly optimistic, which might be a cue to consider selling due to potential market corrections.

Tracking the changes in the PCR rather than its absolute value can help you detect shifts in market sentiment. This approach is especially useful in deciding when to go against the prevailing market trends, aiming to capitalize on expected reversals. The PCR, thus, is not just a measure of current sentiment but a predictive tool that can suggest impending changes in market direction based on the actions of other market participants.

Money Flow Index (MFI)

The Money Flow Index (MFI) is an insightful momentum indicator, which uniquely combines price and volume data to gauge trading pressure. Known as the volume-weighted RSI, this indicator not only considers price changes but integrates volume, providing a more comprehensive view of market dynamics.

Operating on a scale from 0 to 100, the MFI helps identify whether an asset is overbought or oversold. Typically, a reading above 80 suggests that the asset is overbought, while a reading below 20 indicates that it is oversold. However, for more conservative trading approaches, thresholds of 90 for overbought and 10 for oversold are also employed to confirm these conditions.

What makes the MFI particularly valuable in successful trading strategies is its effectiveness in spotting divergences, an essential signal for predicting trend reversals. For instance, if the MFI is rising but the price of the asset is falling or remains flat, it often precedes a potential increase in the asset’s price. This divergence can be a powerful leading indicator of an upcoming change in the trend.

Due to its reliance on volume data, the MFI is more suitable for stock-based options trading rather than index-based trading. This makes it ideal for strategies involving longer-duration trades where volume plays a significant role in confirming price movements. By integrating the MFI into your analysis, you can better understand and anticipate market movements, enhancing your decision-making process.

How To Use The Best Option Trading Indicators To Profit

Now that you have an understanding of the top indicators used for option trading, you need to understand how to use them. As you can see from the charts above, spotting opportunities with the naked eye can be quite difficult.

Luckily, technology can help us process this information and let us know when the above indicators are pointing towards trading opportunities. Here are two of the most popular option signal providers available:


Barchart, established in 1995, has become a go-to online market research platform known for its accuracy, reliability, and consistency in delivering market data and analytics. I find Barchart.com extremely valuable for its wide array of trading tools and features, especially its stock and advanced options screeners, which are a boon for conducting technical studies. The platform offers an extensive range of data fields, making it easy for traders like myself to delve deep into market analysis.

The variety of screeners available is impressive. From basic stock screeners to more advanced, customizable options for stocks, options, and ETFs, Barchart caters to traders of all levels. The ability to customize these screeners allows you to tailor your searches and better align them with your trading strategies.

Check out my full Barchart review to dig into these benefits further.


TradingView is a crucial tool for options traders, offering advanced charting tools and a vibrant community for sharing trading strategies and insights. It provides both web and mobile access, making it ideal for traders on the go.

The platform allows for quick technical analysis with customizable views, basic users get a single chart, while premium users can view up to eight charts simultaneously, each customizable with various indicators and time frames.

Pro and Premium subscribers enjoy additional features like exporting data and setting custom time intervals, and the desktop version supports multi-monitor setups, crucial for detailed market analysis. This blend of community insight and technical flexibility makes TradingView an invaluable asset for serious options traders.

To learn more, you can read my comprehensive TradingView review.

My Final Thoughts On The Best Option Trading Indicators

Navigating the intricate world of options trading necessitates a deep understanding of various market indicators. Tools like the Relative Strength Index (RSI), Bollinger Bands, Open Interest, Put-Call Ratio (PCR), and the Money Flow Index (MFI) provide invaluable insights into market conditions.

These indicators help identify overbought and oversold levels, gauge market sentiment, and predict potential trend reversals, making them essential for crafting effective trading strategies.

By leveraging platforms like Barchart and TradingView, traders can utilize these indicators to spot real-time trading opportunities and make informed decisions.

Whether you’re a novice looking to understand market dynamics or an experienced trader aiming to refine your strategies, mastering these indicators and tools can significantly enhance your trading prowess in the volatile options market.

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Jeremy Biberdorf
Jeremy Biberdorf

About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. He's a father of 2 beautiful girls, a dog owner, a long-time online entrepreneur and an investing enthusiast.

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