James Bush

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Options Data Web Scraper: Python

Mar. 20, 2021

The world of finance holds some of richest sources of data. Unfortunately, they often lie behind a paywall. For options data, the only free and readily available source is Yahoo Finance (YF). By building a web scraper, I was able to access and collate options data from YF efficiently. Prior to 2019, YF had an official API, but it has since been shuttered. While there is an unofficial YF API, for this project I wanted to obtain the YF data by scraping it directly from the user-facing page. There are Python libraries specifically tuned for the task of web scraping (e.g., Scrapy). But, this project explores building a web scraper from scratch.

As a learning exercise, this approach offers dissection of a highly-trafficked web property and and the opportunity to use several powerful Python libraries in concert. For learning Python, this project is a step up in difficulty from the toy projects in beginner and intermediate Python MOOC courses. It also has real-world usefulness: the finished product will download, organize, and save a .csv of options trading data for a user-specified ticker symbol and number of expirations directly from YF. The data it obtains can be used in a variety of other analyses and projects (e.g., making a heatmap).

What you'll need:

The scraper is written in Python and uses Pandas and BeautifulSoup to parse HTML data and organize it into a .csv file. Some additional features rely on the TQDM module and the standard modules in Python (Time, Datetime, and Requests). So, make sure you have the following ready to go:

Python 3.7+ installation – Time, Datetime and Requests are built-in.

Pandas, BeautifulSoup (bs4), and TQDM - If you're working with a recent distribution of Anaconda, these come installed. Otherwise, install them with pip.

Firefox – The inspector (Shift+Ctrl+C) makes identifying various parts of the HTML/CSS much easier.

Read the robots.txt and TOS - Before building any web scraper, you’ll want to make sure you are respecting the resource. Navigate to YF’s instructions for automated collection of its resources here.

Create a virtual environment:

If you don't have it installed, Anaconda is recommended as a package management platform (download). This is especially true with all the dependencies that come with doing data visualization-type projects. With Anaconda installed, open a terminal and create a virtual environment.

conda create --name myenv

If you don't specify a path for the environment, a prompt will ask if you wish to use the default path. If so, input yes. Then, activate the vitrual environment.

conda activate myenv

The terminal window should then display the virtual environment as active.

Python File

Create a Python file in your editor of choice. In the first lines, we'll import requests to obtain the HTML, Pandas to create dataframes for arranging our data, Time for throttling requests, BeautifulSoup for parsing HTML, Datetime for labeling, and TQDM to show a status bar while the program is downloading data.

import requests
import pandas as pd
import time as tm
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup as bs
from datetime import datetime as dt
from tqdm import tqdm

Following imports, we will create four functions: one to obtain user inputs and set the initial request URL, a second to obtain and parse the HTML, and a third to create the individual and combined dataframes, and a fourth function to assemble the dataframes and write them to a consolidated .csv file. Before getting any further with the code, we'll look at a few preliminaries.

Inspect the Yahoo Finance Page

The base URL for any request for options data to Yahoo Finance is straightforward. For example, for the SPY ETF, it is: https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/SPY/options?p=SPY. Pasting that URL into Firefox will bring us to the main options page for the ticker symbol. The rendered page displays the current trading data for the immediately following expiration, which is usually a day or two out from the current date. In the upper left hand corner of the main page, we see a drop-down box. Clicking the box reveals links to all of the following expirations. We’ll want the next expiration and as many following expirations as the user may specify (e.g., 25 expirations). But since these can’t all be loaded on one page, getting all of them takes a bit more effort.

One issue we notice is that not all options contracts are written with standard set of expiration dates. One security may have 10 expirations, another may have 25. Those may be set to different date intervals, so we need a dynamic way to identify what the expirations are for a given security. Our scraper will need to catalog each of those expirations and sequentially access each depending on the date and URL. Let’s look again at the YF page.

If we now click on one of the expiration dates from the drop-down, it will take the browser to a URL that contains some additional useful information. For example, the URL for the March 26, 2021 expiration of SPY is:


The date numbers appended to the end are a Unix timestamp. So, we note that every forward expiration is set with a Unix timestamp for the expiration date—this helps. If we open the inspector again and Ctrl+F one of the timestamps, we note that deeply embedded in the HTML is a series of expirations that from the menu. So, to get all forward expires, we’ll parse the page with BeautifulSoup and extract each Unix timestamp, convert the timestamps to URLs, then sequentially request each URL.

Another note before getting down to writing the rest of scraper: we need to be able to separate the data from the different parts of the tables on the page we want, versus everything else. Our scraper will need to download all of the columns for Contract Name, Last Trade Date, Strike, Last Price, Bid, Ask, Volume, Open Interest, and Implied Volatility. The Firefox inspector is useful here. We see in the inspector that each of these columns is identified in the HTML with a class label. For example, class "data-col2 Ta(end) Px(10px)" gives us the column containing strike price. With this information, we can use BeautifulSoup to parse the HTML and extract only the data within each column.

Request and Parse HTML

Using the information we gathered, let’s set up the initial request/parse function to take user input, grab and parse the initial URL and all forward URLs.

We’ll create a function called setup_info(): that takes no parameters. It will request user input for the ticker, number of expirations, and a file path where the user wants the .csv to be saved. It will request the initial page and invoke BeautifulSoup to parse the main page HTML and create a list of forward expirations. The function will return a list of URLs for each expiration up to the number requested. Here, we will search the html for the Unix timestamp dates with .find("expirationDates") and a bit of string slicing, then save them into a list.

      def setup_info():
        Intro and request input desired ticker and number of expirations;
        set request URL; request main ticker page; parse all forward expiration
        URLs from main page; prompt download in progress.

        ticker = input("Enter ticker symbol: ")
        main_url = "https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/"+ticker+"/options"
        num_exps = int(input("\nEnter the number of expirations to pull (e.g, 15 = 30days, 25 = 6mos; max is 34]: "))
        file_path = input("\nEnter a file path for your download: ")
        soup = bs(requests.get(main_url).content, 'html.parser')
        print("\nPlease wait while options data downloads...\n")
        exp_dates_lst = list((str(soup)[(int(str(soup).find("expirationDates")) + 18):(int(str(soup).find("expirationDates")) + 414)]).split(",")) #Change 1 #Note this assumes there are the same number of expiration dates always.

        return [[(main_url+"?date="+date) for date in exp_dates_lst[0:num_exps]],num_exps,file_path]

Get HTML for Tables

A second function will use Beautiful Soup to parse the HTML for each page in our URL list. It will place these into separate call and put tables and attach an expiration date, which is converted from the Unix timestamp in the URL. It will return the call table and put table HTML.

    def get_table_html(url):
      Pull html from URL; parse w/ BeautifulSoup; return 'call' & 'put'
      table html and expiration date.

      soup = bs(requests.get(url).content, 'html.parser')
      call_table_html = soup.find(class_="calls W(100%) Pos(r) Bd(0) Pt(0) list-options")
      put_table_html = soup.find(class_="puts W(100%) Pos(r) list-options")
      exp_date = dt.utcfromtimestamp((int(url[-10:]))).strftime('%Y-%m-%d')

      return call_table_html, put_table_html, exp_date

Convert HTML to “Call” and “Put” Dataframes

The third function is called html_to_df(): and takes three parameters: 1) the relevant table’s HTML, 2) option type (call or put), and 3) expiration date. It will create a Pandas dataframe based upon several columns within the HTML: Contract Name, Last Trade Date, Strike, Last Price, Bid, Ask, Volume, Open Interest, and Implied Volatility. The class identifiers for each column are set out in the “soup_list” variable. We then iterate through each column in the list and extract the column text and append these into a sub-list. The function returnsa Pandas dataframe with the columns we have requested and the data within each.

    def html_to_df(table_html, option_type, exp_date):
      For each expiration (an HTML table), take table_html, option_type, exp_date;
      parse table from html; load strike, bid, ask, vol, OI, and last trade
      columns into Pandas dataframe.

      soup_lst = ["Fz(s) Ell C($linkColor)", #0 contracts
                  "data-col2 Ta(end) Px(10px)", #1 strike
                  "data-col4 Ta(end) Pstart(7px)", #2 bid
                  "data-col5 Ta(end) Pstart(7px)", #3 ask
                  "data-col8 Ta(end) Pstart(7px)", #4 vol
                  "data-col9 Ta(end) Pstart(7px)", #5 oi
                  "data-col1 Ta(end) Pstart(7px)", #6 lst trd
                  "data-col10 Ta(end) Pstart(7px) Pend(6px) Bdstartc(t)" #7 imp vol
      txt_lst = []
      for col in soup_lst:
          html = table_html.find_all(class_=col)
          txt_lst.append([i.get_text() for i in html])

      return pd.DataFrame({   "datePulled": str(dt.now().strftime("%Y-%m-%d")),
                                      "timePulled": tm.strftime("%H:%M:%S"),
                                      "contract": txt_lst[0],
                                      "type": option_type,
                                      "expiry": exp_date,
                                      "strike": txt_lst[1],
                                      "bid": txt_lst[2],get_table_html(url):
                                      "ask": txt_lst[3],
                                      "volume": txt_lst[4],
                                      "oi": txt_lst[5],
                                      "lastTrd": txt_lst[6],
                                      "impVol": txt_lst[7]

Consolidate Dataframes and Save to File

The fourth and final function, create_and_write_df(), will load the parsed data from several columns into a Pandas dataframe for each page. We've selected the contract name, expiration date, strike price, bid price, ask price, volume, open interest, and last trade. We will also add in columns for the date and time pulled for our own reference. Once each page is downloaded and parsed, a dataframe is created for the page. Each additional expiration is concatenated to the main Pandas dataframe as they are downloaded. For a bit of visual feedback, the function uses the TQDM module to provide a progress bar in the terminal on how the download is progressing. Finally, once we have obtained the final expiration, the dataframe is written to a .csv file and saved at the path specified by the user.

  def create_and_write_df():
      Take list of URLs for all forward expirations; get data through calls to
      get_table_html() and html_to_df(); concatenate dataframes; write full
      dataframe to .csv with number of expirations, and date pulled in filename
        setup = setup_info() #urls for all expiries [0], number of expiries [1], save file path [2]
        full_frames = []
        for url in tqdm(setup[0]):
            optns_tbls_html = get_table_html(url) #This will return call and put table text html as [0] and [1]
            full_frames.append(html_to_df(optns_tbls_html[0], "CALL", optns_tbls_html[2]))
            full_frames.append(html_to_df(optns_tbls_html[1], "PUT", optns_tbls_html[2]))
            tm.sleep(0.4) #Throttle requests to be nice to server / not get blocked.
        #Concatenate all dfs and write to file
        col_lst = ["datePulled","timePulled","contract", "type", "expiry","strike","bid","ask","volume","oi","lastTrd","impVol"]
        pd.concat(full_frames).to_csv (r''+setup[2]+str(dt.now().strftime("%Y-%m-%d"))+'_SPY_Options_Data_'+str(setup[1])+'_expiries.csv',mode='w', index = False, header=True,columns=col_lst)

  print("\nDownload complete!")

Observations & Recommendations

One feature I added within the create_and_write_df() function is a throttling mechanism that pauses for about a half second between each URL request. This is done with the command tm.sleep(0.4) within the “for loop” that creates each dataframe. This pauses each request for 0.4 seconds. I do not have data on what criteria Yahoo uses to initiate a ban on a automated requests, but figured that one to two requests per second (with a total of less than 35 per session) and repeating the process once or twice a day is probably not excessive. I have not been banned yet. It's important to respect the resources you draw on, especially since this is a free, user-facing resource and not an API.

Note with this implementation, there are currently no loops to repeat requests if they are unsuccessful, which would be a useful addition. Sometimes, for reasons I have not yet identified, the download process will fail to load one of the forward URLs. In these situations, I just re-run it.


This was the first Python coding project I developed that had more than trivial real-world utility. It has gone through a few revisions and I am certain there are much more elegant ways to get from point A to B with it. Because it does not repeat failed requests, it will occasionally fail and need to be re-started. That said, I tried loading it onto a Raspberry Pi and I scheduled a cronjob for it to run twice daily and download 25 expirations of SPY (and create a ~6000 row .csv) twice a day for about a month and it only missed a couple of downloads.