Options are contracts that give the bearer the right—but not the obligation—to either buy or sell an amount of some underlying asset at a predetermined price at or before the contract expires.
Options are powerful because they can enhance an individual’s portfolio. They do this through added income, protection, and even leverage. Depending on the situation, there is usually an option scenario appropriate for an investor’s goal. A popular example would be using options as an effective hedge against a declining stock market to limit downside losses.
Options can also generate recurring income. Additionally, they are often used for speculative purposes, such as wagering on the direction of a stock.
There is no free lunch with stocks and bonds. Options are no different. Options trading involves certain risks that the investor must be aware of before making a trade. This is why, when trading options with a broker, you usually see a disclaimer similar to the following:
Options involve risks and are not suitable for everyone. Options trading can be speculative in nature and carry a substantial risk of loss.
Options as Derivatives
Options belong to the larger group of securities known as derivatives. A derivative's price is dependent on or derived from the price of something else. Options are derivatives of financial securities—their value depends on the price of some other asset. Examples of derivatives include calls, puts, futures, forwards, swaps, and mortgage-backed securities, among others.
Call and Put Options
Options are a type of derivative security. An option is a derivative because its price is intrinsically linked to the price of something else. If you buy an options contract, it grants you the right but not the obligation to buy or sell an underlying asset at a set price on or before a certain date.
A call option gives the holder the right to buy a stock and a put option gives the holder the right to sell a stock. Think of a call option as a down payment on a future purchase.
Call Option Example
A potential homeowner sees a new development going up. That person may want the right to purchase a home in the future but will only want to exercise that right after certain developments around the area are built.
The potential homebuyer would benefit from the option of buying or not. Imagine they can buy a call option from the developer to buy the home at say $400,000 at any point in the next three years. Well, they can— it's known as a nonrefundable deposit. Naturally, the developer wouldn’t grant such an option for free. The potential homebuyer needs to contribute a down payment to lock in that right.
With respect to an option, this cost is known as the premium. It is the price of the option contract. In our home example, the deposit might be $20,000 that the buyer pays the developer. Let’s say two years have passed, and now the developments are built and zoning has been approved. The homebuyer exercises the option and buys the home for $400,000 because that is the contract purchased.
The market value of that home may have doubled to $800,000. But because the down payment locked in a predetermined price, the buyer pays $400,000. Now, in an alternate scenario, say the zoning approval doesn’t come through until year four. This is one year past the expiration of this option. Now the homebuyer must pay the market price because the contract has expired. In either case, the developer keeps the original $20,000 collected.
Put Option Example
Now, think of a put option as an insurance policy. If you own your home, you are likely familiar with the process of purchasing homeowner’s insurance. A homeowner buys a homeowner’s policy to protect their home from damage. They pay an amount called a premium for a certain amount of time, let’s say a year. The policy has a face value and gives the insurance holder protection in the event the home is damaged.
What if, instead of a home, your asset was a stock or index investment? Similarly, if an investor wants insurance on their S&P 500 index portfolio, they can purchase put options. An investor may fear that a bear market is near and may be unwilling to lose more than 10% of their long position in the S&P 500 index. If the S&P 500 is currently trading at $2,500, they can purchase a put option giving them the right to sell the index at $2,250, for example, at any point in the next two years.
If in six months the market crashes by 20% (500 points on the index), they have made 250 points by being able to sell the index at $2,250 when it is trading at $2,000—a combined loss of just 10%. In fact, even if the market drops to zero, the loss would only be 10% if this put option is held. Again, purchasing the option will carry a cost (the premium), and if the market doesn’t drop during that period, the maximum loss on the option is just the premium spent.
Equity Options values are comprised of two elements:
Time Value - (is based on the underlying asset's expected volatility and time until the option's expiration.)
Intrinsic Value - (is a measure of an option's profitability based on the strike price versus the stock's price in the market.)
Equity Options have an inherited risk as they have an expiration. The closer you approach the expiration date, the Option contract depreciates in Time value exponentially.
Option Greeks are used to measure the risk of an option and to gauge an option’s sensitivity to the variables that make up that risk — The variables are represented by the Greek letters Delta, Gamma, Theta, Vega, and Rho.
Understanding Option Chains
Understanding Implied Volatility
Understanding Open Interest
How to Enter an Options Trade
Understanding the Different Levels of Option Trading
OPTION SPREAD STRATEGIES
How to consistently make money trading Options.
GO TO Technical Analysis & Research
GO TO Market Overview
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