‘Big Short’ Michael Burry Bets Against Stocks Using SPY, QQQ Options

Short-seller bought put contracts against $1.62 billion in shares, filing says.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barr
Edited by: Lisa Barr

Michael Burry, who made hundreds of millions of dollars betting against home loan securities in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, placed massive bets against the stock market using ETF options. 

The subject of “The Big Short” and his firm Scion Asset Management purchased put options contracts against 2 million SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) shares and 2 million Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) according to an Aug. 14 regulatory filing.

Put options are a bet that an asset will fall in value. The contracts give the buyer the option to sell a stock at a set price in a certain time frame.  

The options contracts were against a total of $1.62 billion in stock—$886.6 million in SPY and $738.8 million in QQQ. The prices of both exchange-traded funds rose today: SPY, the world’s biggest ETF, has gained 17% this year, and QQQ, the fifth largest ETF according to etf.com data, has gained 38%. 

As stocks surge this year—the Nasdaq had its best first half in 40 years in 2023—experts have warned against ruling out a recession. Investors are bidding up stocks, betting in favor of a so-called soft landing—where the economy doesn’t contract after 11 interest rate hikes over the past year and a half. 

At the same time, many investors missed out on the big stock market move in this year’s first half, as they plowed money into safer fixed income investments over concerns of a recession that hasn’t materialized despite repeated warnings. 

Michael Burry Buys SPY, QQQ Options 

Scion’s investments were disclosed in a 13F filing, which includes holdings as of June 30, the end of the second quarter. No mention is made regarding whether or not he has executed or exited his positions. QQQ has lost about 1% since the quarter ended, and SPY is little changed.  

The filing didn’t list the put options’ value, strike price or expiry date. 

SPY had $638.5 million in outflows in the first half of the year, although that has more than reversed, with $1.58 billion flowing in since the end of the second quarter.  


Contact Ron Day at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @RonDayETF  

Ron Day is deputy managing editor at etf.com. He covered business and financial news at Bloomberg News for 20 years, was senior editor at ESG news outlet Karma Impact, and covered general news at several New Jersey daily papers. Day's freelance work has been published in AARP.com, Investopedia.com and BigThink.com.