October 27, 2011

Option Delta and Apple (AAPL)

Filed under: Options Education — Tags: , , — Dan Passarelli @ 9:22 am

Option Delta and Apple ( AAPL )
Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) sure is making a lot of news lately, what with the company’s earnings report and the introduction of the new Apple iPhone 4S. One may expect the Apple iPhone 4S to push the stock higher (after this dip), but some may believe the rebound will be still short-lived. Perhaps a smart move is to purchase a short-term, out-of-the-money option on the equity – let’s look for an option with a delta greater than 20 on Apple and see how the option could play out.

Option Delta and the Trade
First, let’s define option delta before we go into the option play. Option delta is a ratio that compares a stock’s change in price to the corresponding price change in said stock’s option. For this example, we are going to use the Apple November 425 call that has about an option delta of 23 percent.

What does the 23 percent mean? Let’s convert the option delta into dollars to see. This percentage means that this particular Apple option will gain or lose value just like 23 percent of 100 shares of Apple as the price changes. Look at the definition this way if it is easier, for every $1 Apple advances; the call option will increase 23 cents attributable to delta. So, Apple is currently trading at around $405 (rounded for simplicity) and we have purchased the 425 call. We need the call to advance past $425 in order (which is not out of the) for the option to be in-the-money, but can we benefit from a rally that falls short of $425?

The Benefit of Option Delta
Apple is a major momentum stock, just look at what happens after good news – more often than not the stock rallies. In fact, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that the stock often moves quite a bit. Look at 2009 when Apple dropped as low as the 78 region in late January then rallied to finish the year above $210. That is a major gain.

Playing the November 425 call affords a trader the chance to make money in the case that the stock rallies. If the stock hits $425, that means it has moved 20 points. Take the 20 points and multiply that by 23 cents (option delta of .23) and you have a move of $4.60 in the call (20 X 0.23).

By looking at the option delta, we were able to have clear expectations for option profit based on stock movement. Does this mean that playing the delta is a fool-proof to analyze an option? No. There are other important pricing factors that affect the value of an option, too. Time (theta), volatility (vega) and more also play an important role. Delta is just one of the greeks that can be taken into account when looking for the right option to purchase. Make sure to do your homework so you can enter the option game prepared to succeed.

October 20, 2011

What’s the Delta of That Happening?

It was standard trader lingo on the trading floor. “What’s your delta of making it

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to the party tonight?” “What’s the delta the broker comes back and buys more of these?” “I’m about 90 delta I’m going to dump Sheila tonight”. I probably used the word delta in this context every single day of my life when I hung out with mostly all traders—as did, well, mostly every one I hung out with.

It’s the “traders’ definition” of delta—that is, delta is the likelihood of an option expiring in-the-money. Though this definition actually has a few mathematical shortcomings, making it not entirely technically correct, every professional option trader I know thinks about delta this way. And, in turn most traders borrow the concept of delta being the likelihood of success to adopt into their every-day speech.

The idea is every option has an associated delta figure attached to it. Like, at the time of this writing, the Exxon ( XOM ) November 82.5 calls have a 0.25 delta. Yes. That means that they change in value 25 percent like the underlying stock. But it also is interpreted by traders to mean that the XOM November 82.5 calls have a 25-percent chance of expiring in-the-money.

This practical use of delta helps guide traders’ expectations and helps them make better trading decisions by factoring probability into their decision-making process. I encourage traders to think about option delta this way. You should start today. I’m 100 delta that you’ll be glad you did.

October 13, 2011

Options Gamma and You

Filed under: Options Education — Tags: , , , , , — Dan Passarelli @ 11:30 am

The trifecta of option greeks are delta, theta and vega. But the next most important greek is gamma. Options gamma is a one of the so-called second-order options greeks. It is, if you will, a derivative of a derivative. Specifically, it is the rate of change of an option’s delta relative to a change in the underlying security.

Using options gamma can quickly become very mathematical and tedious for novice option traders. But, for newbies to option trading, here’s what you need to know:

When you buy options you get positive gamma. That means your deltas always change in your favor. You get longer deltas as the market rises; and you get short deltas as the market falls. For a simple trade like a long call, that means you make money at an increasing rate as the stock rises and lose money at a decreasing rate as

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the stock falls. Positive gamma is a good thing.

When you sell options you get negative gamma. That means your deltas always change to your detriment. You get shorter deltas as the market rises; and you get longer deltas as the market falls. Here again, for a simple trade like a short call, that means you lose money at an increasing rate as the stock rises and make money at a decreasing rate as the stock falls. Negative gamma is a bad thing.

Start by understanding options gamma from this simplistic perspective. Then, later, worry about working in the math.

October 6, 2011

Analyzing Options With Volume and Open Interest

Volume and open interest are two very important options data that can help traders understand what is going on in the options market. it is an important part of any trader’s options education. Volume and open interest helps traders make better decisions, and can make them more profitable traders. But to be able to use volume and open interest data, traders must understand exactly what each represents. Let’s take a close look at volume and open interest.

Volume and Open Interest

Volume and open interest are two distinctly different things. Volume is the number of contracts traded in a day. Each day volume starts over at zero. Open interest is the number of contracts that have been created—that are open. Open interest is an on-going, running total.

Volume and Open interest Example

Imagine it is the day after expiration and a new contract month, the November expiration cycle, is listed for option class XYZ. A trader, Retail Joe, logs into his online retail trading account from home. Retail Joe enters a buy order to buy 10 November 65 calls. The order is routed to the exchange and executes with Mark Etmaker, a market maker on one of the U.S. options exchanges.

Because this is the first day these contracts were made available to trade, open interest was zero at the start of the day. Volume is always zero at the start of the day. After the trade is made, both open interest and volume increased: Retail Joe is long 10, and on the other side of the trade, Mark Etmaker is short 10. Therefore:

Volume: 10

Open interest: 10

Now imagine that later that day, a third party trades

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in the November 65 call series. Tina Trader decides to sell 10 calls (maybe as part of a covered call). It just so happens that Mark Etmaker is the market maker who buys the calls from Tina. Notice what happens with volume and open interest.

Volume: 20

Open interest: 10

Because the trade happened the same day, the trade increases volume by the number of contracts traded. But a new contract wasn’t created; it just changed hands. Now, the two parties to the call are Joe and Tina; Mark Etmaker is flat. Therefore, open interest remains the same.

The next morning, volume and open interest is:

Volume: 0

Open interest: 10

Volume starts anew and open interest continues on.

Now, imagine that (coincidentally) Joe decides to sell the 10-lot to close and Tina just so happens to buy hers back at the same time; they trade with each other. Now, both Joe and Tina have no calls—they are flat. Now volume and open interest is:

Volume: 10

Open interest: 0

Ten contracts changed hands; so volume is 10. And the existing contract was closed; so open interest is zero.