Stock Options Trading Basics

What are Options?

Definition: An option contract is an agreement between two parties to buy/sell an asset (stock or futures contract as an example) at a fixed price and fixed date in the future.

It is called an option because the buyer is not obliged to carry out the transaction. If, over the life of the contract, the asset value decreases, the buyer can simply elect not to exercise his/her right to buy/sell the asset.

An option is a contract giving the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an underlying asset (a stock or index) at a specific price on or before a certain date.

An option is a derivative. That is, its value is derived from something else. In the case of a stock option, its value is based on the underlying stock (equity). In the case of an index option, its value is based on the underlying index (equity).

An option is a security, just like a stock or bond, and constitutes a binding contract with strictly defined terms and properties.

There are two types of option contracts - Call options and Put options. A Call option gives the buyer the right to buy the underlying asset, while a Put option gives the buyer the right to sell the underlying asset.

A Call option is an option to buy a stock at a specific price on or before a certain date. In this way, Call options are like security deposits.

If, for example, you wanted to rent a certain property, and left a security deposit for it, the money would be used to insure that you could, in fact, rent that property at the price agreed upon when you returned.

If you never returned, you would give up your security deposit, but you would have no other liability. Call options usually increase in value as the value of the underlying instrument increases.

When you buy a Call option, the price you pay for it, called the option premium, secures your right to buy that certain stock at a specified price, called the strike price.

If you decide not to use the option to buy the stock, and you are not obligated to, your only cost is the option premium.

Put options are options to sell a stock at a specific price on or before a certain date. In this way, Put options are like insurance policies.

If you buy a new car, and then buy auto insurance on the car, you pay a premium and are, hence, protected if the asset is damaged in an accident. If this happens, you can use your policy to regain the insured value of the car. In this way, the put option gains in value as the value of the underlying instrument decreases.

If all goes well and the insurance is not needed, the insurance company keeps your premium in return for taking on the risk.

With a Put option, you can "insure" a stock by fixing a selling price.

If something happens which causes the stock price to fall, and thus, "damages" your asset, you can exercise your option and sell it at its "insured" price level.

If the price of your stock goes up, and there is no "damage," then you do not need to use the insurance, and, once again, your only cost is the premium.

This is the primary function of listed options, to allow investors ways to manage risk.

A simple example: Peter buys a Call option contract from Sarah. The contract states that Peter will buy 100 Microsoft shares from Sarah on the 5th May for $25. The current share price for Microsoft is $30.

Note: this is an example of a Call option as it gives Peter the right to buy the underlying asset.

If the share price of Microsoft is trading above $25 on the 5th May, then Peter will exercise the option and Sarah will have to sell him Microsoft shares for $25. With Microsoft trading anywhere above $25 Peter can make an instant profit by taking the shares from Sarah at the agreed price of $25 and then selling the shares on the open market for whatever the current share price is and making a profit.

The $25 value, which is stated in the agreement, is referred to as the Exercise (or Strike) Price. This is the price at which the asset will be exchanged.

The date (in this case 5th May) is known as the Expiry (or Maturity) Date. This date is the deadline for the option contract. At this date, the option buyer is to decide if a transaction of the underlying asset is to occur.
Outcomes: Let's imagine that at the expiration date, Microsoft is trading at $30, then Peter will buy the shares from Sarah at the agreed $25 and then he can sell them back on the open market for $30 and make an instant $5.

Alternatively, if Microsoft is trading at $20, then buying the shares from Sarah at $25 is too expensive as he can buy them on the open market for $20 and save $5. In this situation, Peter would choose not to exercise his right to buy the shares and let the options contract expire worthless. His only loss would be the amount that he paid to Sarah when he bought the contract, which is called the Option Premium - more on that a little later. Sarah would, however, keep the option premium received from Peter as her profit.

In the real world of exchange traded options, transactions don't really take place between two people like I've explained above. The process of Novation actually removes the identity of who is on the other side of the trade. You simply Buy or Sell an option contract from the exchange without knowing who is on the other side.


Sources and Additional Information:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

3-column blogger templates(available in 4 different styles)