One of the greatest advantages of options trading is its extreme flexibility in both the initial construction of positions and in the ability to adjust a position to match the new outlook of the underlying. The trader who limits his or her world to that of simply trading equities and ETF’s can only deal in terms of short or long. A change in an outlook often requires starting a new position or exiting the old one. The options trader can usually accommodate the newly developed thesis much more fluidly, often with minor adjustments on the position in order to achieve the right fit with the new outlook.
One concept with which the trader needs to be familiar in order to construct the necessary adjustments is that of the synthetic relationships. Most options traders neglect to familiarize themselves with the concept when learning to trade options. This concept arises from the fact that appropriately structured option positions are virtually indistinguishable in function from the corresponding long or short equity/ETF position. One approach to remembering the relationships is to memorize all of the relationships. I find remembering the mathematical formula and modifying as needed to be much more useful and easier.
For those who remember high school algebra, the fundamental equation expressing this relationship is S=C-P. The variables are defined as S=stock, C=call, and P=put. This equation states that stock is equivalent to a long call and a short put.
Using high school algebra to formulate this equation, the various equivalency relationships can easily be determined. Remember that we can maintain the validity of the equation by performing the same action to each of the two sides. This fundamental algebraic adjustment allows us, for example, to derive the structure of a short stock position by multiplying each side by -1 and maintain the equality relationship. In this case (S)*-1 =(C-P)*-1 or –S=P-C; short stock equals long put and short call.
Such synthetic positions are frequently used to establish positions or to modify existing positions either in whole or part. You might have hated algebra when you were in school, but applying some of the formulas can help an options trader exponentially!
If you want to learn to trade here’s a really useful option strategy that all traders should know. Let’s take a look at an option strategy that involves the selling of a put, often referred to as an uncovered put write or a naked put write. A naked put write is when a trader sells a put that is not part of a spread. This strategy is generally considered to be a bullish-to-neutral strategy.
The maximum profit is the premium received for the put. The maximum profit is achieved when the underlying stock is greater than or equal to the strike price of the sold put. Though this allows for a lot of room for error (The stock can be anywhere above the strike at expiration), note that the maximum loss is unlimited and occurs when the price of the underlying stock is less than the strike price of the sold put less the premium received. So, executing this trade in the right situation is essential. To calculate breakeven, subtract the premium received from the sold put’s strike price.
For our example we will use Apple (AAPL). Apple just recently announced earnings and the stock dropped over $50. For this example we will assume the stock is trading around $460 a share. A trader sells the March 435 put, which carries a bid price of $10.00 (rounded to make the math a bit easier). Should AAPL stock be trading above $435 a share at expiration, the March 435 contract will expire worthless and the trader will keep the premium collected. (Do not forget to take any commissions the trader may pay from the equation.) All is good, right? Well, what if the stock falls even more after earnings?
If AAPL falls another $50 to $410 at expiration, the put would expire in-the-money and would have to be purchased back to avoid assignment. This could cost the trader a rather hefty sum. Assigning values, our investor collected $10 in premium. The 420 put expired with $25 in intrinsic value. The trader loses the $25, less the $10 premium collected results in a loss of $15, or $1,500 of actual cash.
Why Sell Naked Puts?
We have already discussed the profit potential of selling naked puts, but there is another reason to do so – owning the stock. Selling naked puts is a good way to purchase at a specific price by choosing a strike near said target price. Should the stock price drop below the put strike and the puts are assigned, the trader buys the stock at the strike price minus the option premium received. Again, should the put not reach the strike price, the premium is pocketed at expiration.
Moneyness isn’t a word, is it? Dan uses it often and he even has a section about it in his books. It won’t be found on spell-check, but moneyness is a very important term when it comes to learning to trade options. There are three degrees, if you will, of moneyness for an option, at-the-money (ATM), in-the-money (ITM) and out-of-the-money (OTM). Let’s take a look at each of these terms, using tech behemoth Apple (AAPL) as an example. At the time of writing, Apple was hovering around the $520 level, so let’s define the moneyness of Apple options using $520 as the price.
An at-the-money AAPL option is a call or a put option that has a strike price about equal to $520. The ATM options (in Apple’s case the 520-strike put or call) have only time value (a factor that decreases as the option’s expiration date approaches, also referred to as time decay). These options are greatly influenced by the underlying stock’s volatility and the passage of time.
An option that is in-the-money is one that has intrinsic value. A call option is ITM if the strike price is below the underlying stock’s current trading price. In the case of AAPL, ITM options include the 515 strike and every strike below that. One will notice that option positions that are deeper ITM have higher premiums. In fact, the further in-the-money, the deeper the premium.
A put option is considered ITM when the strike price is above the current trading price of the underlying. For our example, an ITM AAPL put carries a strike price of 525 or higher. As with call options, puts that are deeper ITM carry a greater premium. For example, a January AAPL 530 put has a premium of $14.20 compared to a price of $11.10 for a January 525 put.
If an option expires ITM, it will be automatically exercised or assigned. For example, if a trader owned a AAPL 515 call and AAPL closed at $520 at expiration, the call would be automatically exercised, resulting in a purchase of 100 shares of AAPL at $515 a share.
An option is out-of-the-money when it has no intrinsic value. Calls are OTM when their strike price is higher than the market price of the underlying, and puts are OTM when their strike price is lower than the stock’s current market value. Since the OTM option has no intrinsic value, it holds only time value. OTM options are cheaper than ITM options because there is a greater likelihood of them expiring worthless.
If this is the case, why purchase OTM options? If you have little investing capital, an OTM option carries a lower premium; but you are paying less because there is a higher possibility that the option expires worthless. OTM options are attractive because OTM calls can see their premium increase quickly. Of course, OTM options could see their premium decrease quickly as well. Remember that OTM options can log the highest percentage gain on the same move in the underlying, in comparison to ATM or ITM options.
Perhaps the most easily understood of the options price influences is the price of the underlying. All stock traders are familiar with the impact of the underlying stock price alone on their trades. The technical and fundamental analyses of the underlying stock price action are well beyond the scope of this discussion, but it is sufficient to say it is one of the three pricing factors and probably the most familiar to traders learning to trade.
The price influence, time, is easily understood; in part because it is the only one of the forces restricted to unidirectional movement. The main reason that time impacts option positions significantly is a result of the existence of time (extrinsic) premium. Depending on the risk profile of the option strategy established, the passage of time can impact the trade either negatively or positively.
The third price influence is perhaps the most important. It is without question the most neglected and overlooked component: implied volatility. Implied volatility taken together with time defines the magnitude of the extrinsic option premium. The value of implied volatility is generally inversely correlated to price of the underlying and represents the aggregate trader’s view of the future volatility of the underlying. Because implied volatility responds to the subjective view of future volatility, values can ebb and flow as a result of upcoming events expected to impact price (e.g. earnings, FDA decisions, etc.).
New traders beginning to become familiar with the world of options trading should spend a fair amount of time learning the impact of each of these options pricing influences. The options markets can be ruthlessly unforgiving to those who choose to ignore them.
Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Before trading options, please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Option (ODD) which can be obtained from your broker; by calling (888) OPTIONS; or from The Options Clearing Corporation, One North Wacker Drive, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60606. The content on this site is intended to be educational and/or informative in nature. No statement on this site is intended to be a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any security or to provide trading or investment advice. Traders and investors considering options should consult a professional tax advisor as to how taxes may affect the outcome of contemplated options transactions.