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What is short selling?

If you expect that a security will depreciate, you can sell it on the market without owning it, and, if your expectations prove to be right, you can buy it for less before “covering” your position – keeping the difference in profit. Short selling is done with the help of a brokerage/custodian, who will lend you the security so that you can sell it, and they will charge interest on the loaned amount until you actually purchase the security to “cover” your loan. Continue reading...

Learn Options Trading

Options are contracts used by investors to take a speculative position – or a hedge – based on expected future price movements of the underlying securities. An option is a contract which can be exercised if the price of an underlying security moves favorably. An option will be written or sold short by one investor and bought by another. It will name the strike price at which the security can be bought or sold before the expiration of the contract. Continue reading...

What are the basics of options?

Options are contracts used by investors to take a speculative position – or a hedge – based on expected future price movements of the underlying securities. Many investors are scared when they heard the word "option" and perceive it as a risky, speculative investment. Options certainly can be risky, but they don’t have to be. In fact, certain options strategies are far more conservative than many available investments in the marketplace. Continue reading...

What is a put option?

A put option gives the owner of the option/contract the right to sell a stock at the strike price named in the contract. One kind of option is a put. A Put is a right to sell a particular asset (usually a stock) at a certain price (called the “strike price”) within a specified time-frame. The owner of the put contract doesn’t need to own the underlying stock. If the price of the stock drops below the strike price in the put, the owner of the put contract can buy the stock at the lower market price and immediately sell it at the higher strike price in the put contract. That is a speculative way to use a Put contract. Continue reading...

What is a naked put?

A naked put is when a put option contract writer or short-seller does not have the resources (shares of the security) on hand to cover the position if the option is exercised. Put options are contracts between two people who have been put together with the help of an options exchange or clearinghouse.One of them will be the “writer” who sells the put on a certain underlying stock with a certain strike price and expiration date. Continue reading...

What is a protective put?

A protective put is an option contract that hedges against losses in a long stock position, by allowing the investor to sell the underlying security at a specific price. Sometime investors will seek to limit possible losses in a stock that they hold by purchasing a put option at a price below the current market price. This allows the investor to sell their stock at a set price if it takes a dive for any reason. Let’s assume that you have 100 shares of company ABC, which is trading at $100/share. Continue reading...

What is a call option?

A call option is a type of contract that allows the holder of the contract to purchase an underlying stock at a specific price, even if the market price goes higher. A call option contract gives the owner of the contract the right to purchase a particular asset, which is typically a stock, at a strike price designated in the contract during a certain period of time. For example, if the stock of company ABC is trading at $100/share, you might purchase the right to buy it at $90/share for a $12/share premium. Continue reading...

What is a naked call?

A naked call is a type of option contract where the seller of a call does not own the underlying security, thereby exposing them to unlimited risk. Investors have the ability to “write” or sell options contracts as well as to buy them. The seller of a call option has opened a position in which the buyer is given the right to buy 100 shares of a stock at the strike price named in the contract. The seller – along with all other sellers of calls for that security – are the ones who must cover and close the open positions if the call owners exercise their options. Continue reading...

What is a covered call?

A covered call is when the writer or seller of a call option either owns the underlying security, or has a guaranteed way to obtain it. Investors are able to open a position for another investor to take. An example of this would be selling a call option. The seller, or “writer,” of the contract is obligated to fulfill the contractual obligation outlined in the call, namely to deliver 100 shares of the underlying stock to the owner of the call option in exchange for the strike price listed in the call contract. Continue reading...

Should I use options in my portfolio?

Options can be a valuable tool in portfolio management, but investors should be well-versed in how options work, and the risks involved, before actively engaging in options trading. Options can provide you a hedge, or provide the potential for unlimited gains or losses. They can also give you a relatively conservative income stream. Proper use of options can be highly profitable, but requires some level of expertise and a watchful eye. Continue reading...

What are option strategies?

Option strategies are implemented by investment professionals to profit from the price movement of an underlying strategy, and can also be used as a hedge against losses or to preserve profits. Various option strategies have been developed over the years to take advantage of the behavior of the underlying assets. Some of these are designed to be conservative, and others are intended to be aggressive. Sometimes these strategies are known by epic-sounding names such as Iron Butterfly and Iron Condor. Continue reading...

What is a straddle?

Straddles are options strategies that use both a call and put on the same underlying asset at the same strike price and expiration. The Straddle strategy involves either buying a call and a put with the same strike price and expiration, or selling a call and a put with the same strike price and expiration. The former is known as a Long Straddle, and the latter is known as a Short Straddle. Long straddles profit from significant price movement in either direction on the underlying asset. Continue reading...

What is a covered straddle?

A covered straddle is a bullish options strategy, where the investors write the same number of puts and calls with the same expiration and strike price on a security owned by the investor. If an investor owns a stock and is bullish about where it’s price is headed, they may use a covered straddle strategy to provide them the ability to buy more shares at a set price (the call option portion of the straddle) while also giving them the option to sell the security at the same price (the put portion of the straddle). Continue reading...

What is a time spread?

A ‘Time Spread,’ also called a Calendar Spread or a Horizontal Spread, involves the use of multiple options of the same type (either all calls or all puts), with the same strike price but different expiration dates. Generally traders will sell a near-term option (take a short position) and buy a far-term option (take a long position). The strategy is virtually identical whether calls or puts are used. Continue reading...

What is a vertical spread?

A Vertical Spread involves the strategy of buying and selling an equal number of options on the same underlying security with the same expiration date, but different strike prices. Vertical Spreads can be both bullish and bearish, depending on your view of the underlying security. If you use calls, you are constructing a Vertical Bull Spread, and if you’re using puts, you’re constructing a Vertical Bear Spread. Continue reading...

What is a bull call spread?

A bull call spread is a vertical spread that buys and sells calls in a way that benefits from upward price movement but limits the risk of the short position. Using calls options of the same expiration date but different prices, a bull call spread seeks to maximize profits for moderate price movements upward. A long position is taken in a call contract (meaning it is bought and held) that has a strike price near the current market price of the security or is at least lower than the other call contract used in this strategy. Continue reading...

What is a bull put spread?

A bull put spread is used when an investor thinks the price of a security is set to rise modestly. The strategy involves buying one put option on the security while simultaneously selling another put option at a higher strike price. A Bull Put Spread is usually a vertical spread, meaning the two options used have the same expiration date (and different prices). The lower-strike put option is bought and held long, while the higher-strike option is sold short. The short position sold will be at or just below the current market price for the security, and the long position will be at a lower strike price than the short position. Continue reading...

What is a call time spread?

A time spread using call options is a strategy that buys and sells the same number of options with the same strike prices, but different expirations. Time spreads are sometimes called calendar spreads or horizontal spreads. They make money based on the time decay of the options being shorted. Two calls are used: one is shorted and one is purchased, and both have the same strike price and same underlying security. Continue reading...

What is a put time spread?

A put time spread is an options strategy that has the investor implementing a short put and a long put at the same strike price, but with different expirations. Time spreads can also be called calendar spreads or horizontal spreads. A put time spread will use two put contracts on the same underlying security but with different expiration dates. One of the puts will be sold short, and one will be held long (this is the nature of spreads). Continue reading...

What is a ratio call spread?

Ratio call spreads are options strategies where the investor combines purchased calls and short calls at the same expiration but with different strike prices. A Ratio Call Spread starts off as a delta-neutral strategy, which means that even if you have two long calls and one short call, the sensitivity of your overall position to move in the underlying is equal whether it moves up or down by small amounts. Continue reading...

What is a ratio put spread?

A ratio put spread uses multiple put contracts in a certain ratio that makes them start off delta-neutral. Ratio put spreads are similar to regular spreads, but instead of using the same number of put contracts sold short as are held long, ratio spreads are set up with more of one than the other, in a ratio such as 2:1 or 3:2. The short contracts will have different strike prices than the long contracts. Continue reading...

What is a bear call spread?

A bear call spread seeks to make money on the sale of call options but does not believe the underlying security will increase. A Bear Call Spread strategy is utilized when one believes that the price of the underlying stock will go down (but not significantly) in the near future. It entails selling a call short at a lower price than you buy a long call, which is done to realize a net credit at the outset. Continue reading...

What is a bear put spread?

A bear put spread involves the use of two puts, one sold and one bought, at different strike prices, with the intention of profiting from declines in the underlying stock. A Bear Put Spread uses two put contracts, one long and one short, in such a way to achieve a maximum profit from modest downward movements in the underlying stock. A long put is purchased a strike price nearer the money that the short put contract. Continue reading...

How are option prices computed?

Option prices are decided by the buyers and sellers in the marketplace, but are tied closely to the amount of risk inherent in the agreed upon expiration date and strike price. Option prices change as the market factors in the relevant information. The main factor is the strike price. The closer an option’s strike price is to the actual market price of a security, the higher it’s price will be. Once it’s in-the-money, it has inherent value that makes it essentially the same price as the market security that underlies it. The expiration date of the contract is also a factor because if the expiration date is closing in, and the strike price is not quite close enough to the market price of the underlying asset, there is little chance that the option will be useful. Continue reading...

What is the Black-Scholes formula?

The Black-Scholes formula is a formula and market model for explaining or determining the price of European-style options. It was developed in 1973 by two world-renowned economists, Fischer Black and Myron Scholes, and it led to a Nobel Prize in 1997. As opposed to the American-style of options, which can be exercised at any time, European-style options can only be exercised on their expiration date, they are not exposed to dividends, and they have no commission structure to consider. Some are content to use Black-Scholes for quick applications to American-style, but It is not as accurate as it should be. Continue reading...

What is 'buying on margin' and margin trading?

A margin trade is one where the trader uses other securities or cash as collateral, for a transaction in which he or she has not purchased the security outright. The broker acts as a lender. If your broker approves you for a margin account, you have the ability to purchase new securities “on margin” by using your current holdings as collateral, or by depositing 50% (or more depending on the broker) of the market price of the security into the margin account. Continue reading...

What is buying power?

With regards to Margin Trading, ‘Buying Power’ is a term used to describe how much additional leverage you have given the excess equity in your account. When your broker or custodian authorizes buying on margin, the purchasing power of your assets can become substantial. Instead of just owning $10,000 worth of stock, you might be able to leverage that to buy $10,000 more, therefore having $20,000 of long exposure even though you only have $10,000. Continue reading...

What is a short position in options trading?

Taking a short position is selling a security that you don’t own because you anticipate that its value is set to fall. In simple terms, an investor that takes a short position is betting against it. “Shorting” is the opposite of being “long” in a security, where being “long” means to actually own it and to wait for it to appreciate. When you contact your broker or custodian to take a short position on a security, you essentially sell shares you don’t own, and then after a period, you have to return those shares to the custodian. Continue reading...

What is a long position in options trading?

To be “long” means to own a security, and to essentially be bullish on it. A long position is to own a security and to expect it to appreciate. When people buy stocks, they are “long” those stocks. Listening to fund managers giving market commentary, you may hear them say they are “long” on China or Industrials or Apple Inc., and this means that even though they may have hedged their position with some “short” sales, their outlook for those markets is optimistic and their bullish bets outweigh their bearish ones. Continue reading...

What does 'short covering' mean?

When a security is sold “short,” it means that the investor did not own the security, to begin with, and the broker can require that the investor return the shares in what’s known as ‘short covering.’ Covering a short position means to acquire the securities which were sold short, and returning them to the custodian/broker that facilitated the short sale. Imagine a shopkeeper who allows a customer to lock-in a certain price for a widget, even though the shopkeeper does not have the widget in inventory. Continue reading...

What does 'call option' mean?

If you own a Call Option, you have the right (not the obligation) to purchase a security at an agreed-upon price from the seller of the option. Buying a call option means you are bullish on the security. For example, an investor may buy an August 2017 call on stock XYZ for $50/share (strike price). This means that the owner of this call option has the ability to buy XYZ on the expiration date (August) for $50/share. Continue reading...

What does it mean to 'exercise an option?'

An options contract does not affect the underlying securities until the option is exercised, meaning that the option or buy or sell the security is utilized. Many options trades do not directly touch the underlying securities – investors worldwide make plenty of money buying and selling the options contracts themselves. Options have time-value inherent in them based on how the underlying securities are priced and when the options expire, and traders will speculate on when and if someone might actually “exercise the option,” and thereby use the rights of the contract holder to buy or sell the underlying securities. The contract names the strike price at which the holder of a call option can buy a security; or, for a put option, the price at which the holder can sell the security. Continue reading...

What is an 'expiration date' in reference to option trading?

An ‘expiration date’ refers to the time when an option contract must either be acted upon by the owner (buying or selling the security in question) or left to expire. With derivatives such as options and futures, there will be an expiry, or expiration date in the contract, after which they expire worthlessly. Most options contracts will expire in 3, 6 or 9 months from when they are generated, and they all share the same expiration day of the month on their contracts in the United States, which is the 3rd Friday of the month at 4 PM. Continue reading...

What does notional value mean?

Notional Value is used in futures, options, and forex markets to describe the total value of the principal of a contract or transaction, especially when either none or only part of that value has actually been exchanged. Notional value is used most often in interest rate swaps and futures contracts, and is "notional" because either no principal changed hands at the beginning of the contract (such as in an interest rate swap), or only a small payment was used to buy a larger position (such as in a futures contract). Continue reading...

What does nominal value mean?

The nominal value is the original stated value of a security or asset before it undergoes time value calculations that may change its market value. The nominal value is also known as face value when it refers to the value stated on a bond or other issued security. Taking accrued interest or time value into account for issued securities will give you the market value, but the nominal value will not change. Continue reading...

What does open interest mean?

Open interest is a measurement of the outstanding open positions in a derivative security. Strong open interest means the derivative will have high liquidity. Open Interest is not the same thing as Trading Volume, but it does give an indication of liquidity and activity in a derivative. Open Interest is the number of open positions for a derivative, like an option. The Options Clearing Corporation tallies up the ‘open interest’ numbers, but they are not posted until the morning following the count. Open Interest isn't necessarily indicative of a bullish or bearish forecast for the underlying security, but it does generally mean that the option will have high liquidity and that a seller will be able to find a buyer. Continue reading...

What does out of the money (OTM) mean?

If an option on an underlying security does not have a strike price giving the option holder the ability to exercise the option for a profit (based on the current market price of the underlying security) that option is “Out of The Money.” An option is Out Of The Money (OTM) if it isn’t profitable for the option holder to exercise it. Options have a strike price that contractually defines the amount which will be paid for the underlying security if the option is exercised. Continue reading...

What is a strangle?

A strangle is an options strategy which is profitable if the price of the underlying security swings either up or down because the investor has purchased a call and a put just out of the money on either side of the current price of the underlying. To execute a strangle an investor chooses an underlying security which he or she anticipates will experience some price volatility around a given expiration date for options, but is not sure which way it will go, so a call and a put are both purchased. Continue reading...

What is a strike price?

A strike price names the price of the underlying security in options or derivative contract at which the underlying security will trade at settlement if it is exercised. In a call option, for example, the option would name a strike price, and if the current market price of the underlying security was more than the strike price, an investor who held the call contract would invoke his right to purchase the stock from the issuer/seller of the option at the strike price, which, remember is lower than the prevailing market price in this example, and the investor can turn around and sell it in the market at or near its most recent, and higher, price, for a profit. Continue reading...

What is a bear straddle?

A Bear Straddle is another name for a short straddle, in which the investor writes (goes short) on both a call and a put, for the same strike price and expiration, on the same underlying stock. A short straddle can be called a bearish position because the investor believes that the underlying will basically hibernate until expiration. As long as the price of the underlying remains close to the strike price, the investor can make a profit, with the maximum profit being the premium collected from the sale of the options which have expired worthless. Continue reading...