Today, many options are created in a standardized form and traded through clearing houses on regulated options exchanges , while other over-the-counter options are written as bilateral, customized contracts between a single buyer and seller, one or both of which may be a dealer or market-maker. Options are part of a larger class of financial instruments known as derivative products , or simply, derivatives. A financial option is a contract between two counterparties with the terms of the option specified in a term sheet.
Option contracts may be quite complicated; however, at minimum, they usually contain the following specifications: . Exchange-traded options also called "listed options" are a class of exchange-traded derivatives. Exchange-traded options have standardized contracts, and are settled through a clearing house with fulfillment guaranteed by the Options Clearing Corporation OCC. Since the contracts are standardized, accurate pricing models are often available.
Exchange-traded options include:  . Over-the-counter options OTC options, also called "dealer options" are traded between two private parties, and are not listed on an exchange. The terms of an OTC option are unrestricted and may be individually tailored to meet any business need. In general, the option writer is a well-capitalized institution in order to prevent the credit risk. Option types commonly traded over the counter include:. By avoiding an exchange, users of OTC options can narrowly tailor the terms of the option contract to suit individual business requirements. In addition, OTC option transactions generally do not need to be advertised to the market and face little or no regulatory requirements.
However, OTC counterparties must establish credit lines with each other, and conform to each other's clearing and settlement procedures. With few exceptions,  there are no secondary markets for employee stock options. These must either be exercised by the original grantee or allowed to expire. The most common way to trade options is via standardized options contracts that are listed by various futures and options exchanges.
By publishing continuous, live markets for option prices, an exchange enables independent parties to engage in price discovery and execute transactions. As an intermediary to both sides of the transaction, the benefits the exchange provides to the transaction include:. These trades are described from the point of view of a speculator. If they are combined with other positions, they can also be used in hedging. An option contract in US markets usually represents shares of the underlying security.
A trader who expects a stock's price to increase can buy a call option to purchase the stock at a fixed price " strike price " at a later date, rather than purchase the stock outright. The cash outlay on the option is the premium. The trader would have no obligation to buy the stock, but only has the right to do so at or before the expiration date. The risk of loss would be limited to the premium paid, unlike the possible loss had the stock been bought outright. The holder of an American-style call option can sell the option holding at any time until the expiration date, and would consider doing so when the stock's spot price is above the exercise price, especially if the holder expects the price of the option to drop.
By selling the option early in that situation, the trader can realise an immediate profit. Alternatively, the trader can exercise the option — for example, if there is no secondary market for the options — and then sell the stock, realising a profit. A trader would make a profit if the spot price of the shares rises by more than the premium. For example, if the exercise price is and premium paid is 10, then if the spot price of rises to only the transaction is break-even; an increase in stock price above produces a profit. If the stock price at expiration is lower than the exercise price, the holder of the options at that time will let the call contract expire and only lose the premium or the price paid on transfer.
A trader who expects a stock's price to decrease can buy a put option to sell the stock at a fixed price "strike price" at a later date. The trader is under no obligation to sell the stock, but has the right to do so at or before the expiration date. If the stock price at expiration is below the exercise price by more than the premium paid, the trader makes a profit. If the stock price at expiration is above the exercise price, the trader lets the put contract expire, and only loses the premium paid.
In the transaction, the premium also plays a role as it enhances the break-even point. For example, if the exercise price is , the premium paid is 10, then a spot price of to 90 is not profitable. The trader makes a profit only if the spot price is below The trader exercising a put option on a stock, does not need to own the underlying asset, because most stocks can be shorted.
A trader who expects a stock's price to decrease can sell the stock short or instead sell, or "write", a call. The trader selling a call has an obligation to sell the stock to the call buyer at a fixed price "strike price". If the seller does not own the stock when the option is exercised, they are obligated to purchase the stock in the market at the prevailing market price.
If the stock price decreases, the seller of the call call writer makes a profit in the amount of the premium.
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If the stock price increases over the strike price by more than the amount of the premium, the seller loses money, with the potential loss being unlimited. A trader who expects a stock's price to increase can buy the stock or instead sell, or "write", a put. The trader selling a put has an obligation to buy the stock from the put buyer at a fixed price "strike price". If the stock price at expiration is above the strike price, the seller of the put put writer makes a profit in the amount of the premium. If the stock price at expiration is below the strike price by more than the amount of the premium, the trader loses money, with the potential loss being up to the strike price minus the premium.
Combining any of the four basic kinds of option trades possibly with different exercise prices and maturities and the two basic kinds of stock trades long and short allows a variety of options strategies. Simple strategies usually combine only a few trades, while more complicated strategies can combine several. Strategies are often used to engineer a particular risk profile to movements in the underlying security. For example, buying a butterfly spread long one X1 call, short two X2 calls, and long one X3 call allows a trader to profit if the stock price on the expiration date is near the middle exercise price, X2, and does not expose the trader to a large loss.
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An iron condor is a strategy that is similar to a butterfly spread, but with different strikes for the short options — offering a larger likelihood of profit but with a lower net credit compared to the butterfly spread. Selling a straddle selling both a put and a call at the same exercise price would give a trader a greater profit than a butterfly if the final stock price is near the exercise price, but might result in a large loss.
Similar to the straddle is the strangle which is also constructed by a call and a put, but whose strikes are different, reducing the net debit of the trade, but also reducing the risk of loss in the trade. One well-known strategy is the covered call , in which a trader buys a stock or holds a previously-purchased long stock position , and sells a call. If the stock price rises above the exercise price, the call will be exercised and the trader will get a fixed profit. If the stock price falls, the call will not be exercised, and any loss incurred to the trader will be partially offset by the premium received from selling the call.
Overall, the payoffs match the payoffs from selling a put.
This relationship is known as put—call parity and offers insights for financial theory. Another very common strategy is the protective put , in which a trader buys a stock or holds a previously-purchased long stock position , and buys a put. This strategy acts as an insurance when investing on the underlying stock, hedging the investor's potential losses, but also shrinking an otherwise larger profit, if just purchasing the stock without the put. The maximum profit of a protective put is theoretically unlimited as the strategy involves being long on the underlying stock.
The maximum loss is limited to the purchase price of the underlying stock less the strike price of the put option and the premium paid. A protective put is also known as a married put. Another important class of options, particularly in the U. Other types of options exist in many financial contracts, for example real estate options are often used to assemble large parcels of land, and prepayment options are usually included in mortgage loans.
However, many of the valuation and risk management principles apply across all financial options. There are two more types of options; covered and naked. Traders and investors will buy and sell options for several reasons.
Basics of Options Valuation
Options speculation allows a trader to hold a leveraged position in an asset at a lower cost than buying shares of the asset. Investors will use options to hedge or reduce the risk exposure of their portfolio.
In some cases, the option holder can generate income when they buy call options or become an options writer. Options are also one of the most direct ways to invest in oil. For options traders , an option's daily trading volume and open interest are the two key numbers to watch in order to make the most well-informed investment decisions. American options can be exercised any time before the expiration date of the option, while European options can only be exercised on the expiration date or the exercise date.
Exercising means utilizing the right to buy or sell the underlying security. The " Greeks " is a term used in the options market to describe the different dimensions of risk involved in taking an options position, either in a particular option or a portfolio of options. These variables are called Greeks because they are typically associated with Greek symbols. Each risk variable is a result of an imperfect assumption or relationship of the option with another underlying variable.
Traders use different Greek values, such as delta, theta, and others, to assess options risk and manage option portfolios. In other words, the price sensitivity of the option relative to the underlying. Delta of a call option has a range between zero and one, while the delta of a put option has a range between zero and negative one.
For example, assume an investor is long a call option with a delta of 0.
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For options traders, delta also represents the hedge ratio for creating a delta-neutral position. For example if you purchase a standard American call option with a 0. Net delta for a portfolio of options can also be used to obtain the portfolio's hedge ration. A less common usage of an option's delta is it's current probability that it will expire in-the-money. For instance, a 0. Theta indicates the amount an option's price would decrease as the time to expiration decreases, all else equal.
For example, assume an investor is long an option with a theta of The option's price would decrease by 50 cents every day that passes, all else being equal. Theta increases when options are at-the-money, and decreases when options are in- and out-of-the money. Options closer to expiration also have accelerating time decay. Long calls and long puts will usually have negative Theta; short calls and short puts will have positive Theta.
By comparison, an instrument whose value is not eroded by time, such as a stock, would have zero Theta. This is called second-order second-derivative price sensitivity. For example, assume an investor is long one call option on hypothetical stock XYZ. The call option has a delta of 0.
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Gamma is used to determine how stable an option's delta is: higher gamma values indicate that delta could change dramatically in response to even small movements in the underlying's price.