An Essential Options Trading Guide

   Maximum Gain Maximum Loss
 Call Buyer Unlimited Premium
 Put Buyer Limited Premium

Using Long Calls

Because the name indicates, going long on a call involves buying call options, betting that the value of the underlying asset will increase with time. For instance, suppose a trader purchases a contract with 100 call options for a stock that is currently trading at $10. Each option is priced at $2. Subsequently, the full investment within the contract is $200. The trader will recoup her costs when the stock’s price reaches $12.

Thereafter, the stock’s gains are profits for her. There aren’t any upper bounds on the stock’s price, and it could actually go all the best way as much as $100,000 and even further. A $1 increase within the stock’s price doubles the trader’s profits because each option is price $2. Subsequently, a protracted call guarantees unlimited gains. If the stock goes in the alternative price direction (i.e., its price goes down as a substitute of up), then the choices expire worthless and the trader loses only $200. Long calls are useful strategies for investors once they are reasonably certain a given stock’s price will increase.    

Writing Covered Calls

In a brief call, the trader is on the alternative side of the trade (i.e., they sell a call option as opposed to purchasing one), betting that the value of a stock will decrease in a certain time-frame. Since it is a unadorned call, a brief call can have unlimited gains because if the value goes the trader’s way, then they might rake in money from call buyers.

But writing a call without owning actual stock also can mean significant losses for the trader because, if the value doesn’t go within the planned direction, then they’d should spend a substantial sum to buy and deliver the stock at inflated prices.

A covered call limits their losses. In a covered call, the trader already owns the underlying asset. Subsequently, they don’t have to purchase the asset if its price goes in the wrong way. Thus, a covered call limits losses and gains because the utmost profit is restricted to the quantity of premiums collected. Covered calls writers should buy back the choices once they are near in the cash. Experienced traders use covered calls to generate income from their stock holdings and balance out tax gains comprised of other trades.      

Long Puts

A protracted put is comparable to a protracted call except that the trader will buy puts, betting that the underlying stock’s price will decrease. Suppose a trader purchases a one 10-strike put option (representing the best to sell 100 shares at $10) for a stock trading at $20. Each option is priced at a premium of $2. Subsequently, the full investment within the contract is $200. The trader will recoup those costs when the stock’s price falls to $8 ($10 strike – $2 premium).

Thereafter, the stock’s losses mean profits for the trader. But these profits are capped since the stock’s price cannot fall below zero. The losses are also capped since the trader can let the choices expire worthless if prices move in the wrong way. Subsequently, the utmost losses that the trader will experience are limited to the premium amounts paid. Long puts are useful for investors once they are reasonably certain that a stock’s price will move of their desired direction.

Short Puts

In a brief put, the trader will write an option betting on a price increase and sell it to buyers. On this case, the utmost gains for a trader are limited to the premium amount collected. Nevertheless, the utmost losses will be unlimited because she’s going to should buy the underlying asset to satisfy her obligations if buyers resolve to exercise their option.

Despite the prospect of unlimited losses, a brief put is usually a useful strategy if the trader within reason certain that the value will increase. The trader should buy back the choice when its price is near being in the cash and generates income through the premium collected.


The only options position is a long call (or put) by itself. This position profits if the value of the underlying rises (falls), and your downside is restricted to the lack of the choice premium spent.

When you concurrently buy a call and put option with the identical strike and expiration, you’ve created a straddle. This position pays off if the underlying price rises or falls dramatically; nonetheless, if the value stays relatively stable, you lose premium on each the decision and the put. You’ll enter this strategy if you happen to expect a big move within the stock but aren’t sure during which direction.

Mainly, you would like the stock to have a move outside of a spread. An identical strategy betting on an outsized move within the securities while you expect high volatility (uncertainty) is to purchase a call and buy a put with different strikes and the identical expiration—often known as a strangle. A strangle requires larger price moves in either direction to profit but can be cheaper than a straddle.

Then again, being short a straddle or a strangle (selling each options) would benefit from a market that doesn’t move much.


Spreads use two or more options positions of the identical class. They mix having a market opinion (speculation) with limiting losses (hedging). Spreads often limit potential upside as well. Yet these strategies can still be desirable since they typically cost less in comparison to a single options leg. There are lots of varieties of spreads and variations on each. Here, we just discuss a few of the basics.

Vertical spreads involve selling one choice to buy one other. Generally, the second option is similar type and same expiration but a special strike. A bull call spread, or bull call vertical spread, is created by buying a call and concurrently selling one other call with the next strike price and the identical expiration. The spread is profitable if the underlying asset increases in price, however the upside is restricted attributable to the short call strike. The profit, nonetheless, is that selling the upper strike call reduces the fee of shopping for the lower one. Similarly, a bear put spread, or bear put vertical spread, involves buying a put and selling a second put with a lower strike and the identical expiration. When you buy and sell options with different expirations, it’s often known as a calendar spread or time spread.

A butterfly spread consists of options at three strikes, equally spaced apart, wherein all options are of the identical type (either all calls or all puts) and have the identical expiration. In a protracted butterfly, the center strike option is sold and the skin strikes are bought in a ratio of 1:2:1 (buy one, sell two, buy one). If this ratio doesn’t hold, it is not any longer a butterfly. The skin strikes are commonly known as the wings of the butterfly, and the within strike because the body. The worth of a butterfly can never fall below zero. Closely related to the butterfly is the condor—the difference is that the center options aren’t at the identical strike price.


Combos are trades constructed with each a call and a put. There may be a special style of combination often known as a “synthetic.” The purpose of an artificial is to create an options position that behaves like an underlying asset but without actually controlling the asset. Why not only buy the stock? Possibly some legal or regulatory reason restricts you from owning it. But you could be allowed to create an artificial position using options. As an illustration, if you happen to buy an equal amount of calls as you sell puts at the identical strike and expiration, you have got created an artificial long position within the underlying.

Boxes are one other example of using options on this technique to create an artificial loan, an options spread that effectively behave like a zero-coupon bond until it expires.

American vs. European Options

American options will be exercised at any time between the date of purchase and the expiration date. European options are different from American options in that they will only be exercised at the tip of their lives on their expiration date.

The excellence between American and European options has nothing to do with geography, only with early exercise. Many options on stock indexes are of the European type. Because the best to exercise early has some value, an American option typically carries the next premium than an otherwise similar European option. It is because the early exercise feature is desirable and commands a premium.

There are also exotic options, that are exotic because there is likely to be a variation on the payoff profiles from the plain vanilla options. Or they will turn into totally different products all along with “optionality” embedded in them. For instance, binary options have a straightforward payoff structure that is decided if the payoff event happens whatever the degree.

Other varieties of exotic options include knock-out, knock-in, barrier options, lookback options, Asian options, and Bermuda options. Again, exotic options are typically for skilled derivatives traders.

Short-Term Options vs. Long-Term Options

Options may also be categorized by their duration. Short-term options are people who generally expire inside a yr. Long-term options with expirations greater than a yr are classified as long-term equity anticipation securities, or LEAPs. LEAPs are similar to regular options except that they’ve longer durations.

 Short-Term Options Long-Term Options LEAPs
Time value and extrinsic value of short-term options decay rapidly attributable to their short durations. Time value doesn’t decay as rapidly for long-term options because they’ve an extended duration. Time value decay is minimal for a comparatively long period since the expiration date is a protracted time away.  
The essential risk component in holding short-term options is the short duration. The essential component of holding long-term options is the usage of leverage, which might magnify losses, to conduct the trade. The essential component of risk in holding LEAPs is an inaccurate assessment of a stock’s future value.
They’re fairly low cost to buy. They’re dearer in comparison with short-term options. They’re generally underpriced since it is difficult to estimate the performance of a stock far out in the longer term.
They’re generally used during catalyst events for the underlying stock’s price, reminiscent of an earnings announcement or a serious news development. They’re generally used as a proxy for holding shares in an organization and with a watch toward an expiration date. LEAPs expire in January and investors purchase them to hedge long-term positions in a given security.
They will be American- or European-style options. They will be American- or European-style options. They’re American-style options only.
They’re taxed at a short-term capital gains rate. They’re taxed at a long-term capital gains rate.   They’re taxed at a long-term capital gains rate.

Options may also be distinguished by when their expiration date falls. Sets of options now expire weekly on each Friday, at the tip of the month, and even every day. Index and ETF options also sometimes offer quarterly expiries.

Reading Options Tables

Increasingly traders are finding option data through online sources. Though each source has its own format for presenting the information, the important thing components of an options table (or options chain) generally include the next variables:

  • Volume (VLM) simply tells you the way many contracts of a selected option were traded in the course of the latest session.
  • The “bid” price is the most recent price level at which a market participant wishes to purchase a selected option.
  • The “ask” price is the most recent price offered by a market participant to sell a selected option.
  • Implied Bid Volatility (IMPL BID VOL) will be considered the longer term uncertainty of price direction and speed. This value is calculated by an option-pricing model reminiscent of the Black-Scholes model and represents the extent of expected future volatility based on the present price of the choice.
  • An Open Interest (OPTN OP) number indicates the full variety of contracts of a selected option which were opened. Open interest decreases as open trades are closed.
  • Delta will be considered a probability. As an illustration, a 30-delta option has roughly a 30% likelihood of expiring in the cash. Delta also measures the choice’s sensitivity to immediate price changes within the underlying. The value of a 30-delta option will change by 30 cents if the underlying security changes its price by $1.
  • Gamma is the speed the choice for moving in or out of the cash. Gamma may also be considered the movement of the delta.
  • Vega is a Greek value that indicates the quantity by which the value of the choice can be expected to vary based on a one-point change in implied volatility.
  • Theta is the Greek value that indicates how much value an option will lose with the passage of sooner or later’s time.
  • The “strike price” is the value at which the customer of the choice should buy or sell the underlying security in the event that they decide to exercise the choice.

Call Option Chain for Apple Inc. (AAPL).


Options Risks: The “Greeks”

Because options prices will be modeled mathematically with a model reminiscent of the Black-Scholes model, lots of the risks related to options may also be modeled and understood. This particular feature of options actually makes them arguably less dangerous than other asset classes, or no less than allows the risks related to options to be understood and evaluated. Individual risks have been assigned Greek letter names, and are sometimes referred to easily as “the Greeks.”

The essential Greeks include:

  • Delta: option’s price sensitivity to cost changes within the underlying
  • Gamma: option’s delta sensitivity to cost changes within the underlying
  • Theta: time decay, or option’s price sensitivity to the passage of time
  • Vega: option’s price sensitivity to changes in volatility
  • Rho: option’s price sensitivity to rate of interest changes

What Does Exercising an Option Mean?

Exercising an option means executing the contract and buying or selling the underlying asset on the stated price.

Is Trading Options Higher Than Stocks?

Options trading is usually used to hedge stock positions, but traders also can use options to invest on price movements. For instance, a trader might hedge an existing bet made on the value increase of an underlying security by purchasing put options. Nevertheless, options contracts, especially short options positions, carry different risks than stocks and so are sometimes intended for more experienced traders.

What Is the Difference Between American Options and European Options?

American options will be exercised anytime before expiration, but European options will be exercised only on the stated expiry date.

How Is Risk Measured With Options?

The danger content of options is measured using 4 different dimensions often known as “the Greeks.” These include the Delta, Theta, Gamma, and Vega.

What Are the three Vital Characteristics of Options?

The three necessary characteristics of options are as follows:

  • Strike price: That is the value at which an option will be exercised. 
  • Expiration date: That is the date at which an option expires and becomes worthless.
  • Option premium: That is the value at which an option is purchased.  

How Are Options Taxed?

Call and put options are generally taxed based on their holding duration. They incur capital gains taxes. Beyond that, the specifics of taxed options rely upon their holding period and whether or not they are naked or covered.

The Bottom Line

Options do not need to be obscure while you grasp their basic concepts. Options can provide opportunities when used accurately and will be harmful when used incorrectly.

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