A naked call strategy is defined as an option strategy where a trader sells (writes) call options without owning the underlying stock. Some option traders may refer to this strategy as an “uncovered call” or “short call.”
The goal of the naked call is for the trader to collect premiums if the option expires worthless. A trader could sell an out-of-the-money (OTM) naked call each month and pocket premiums, provided the stock price either stays flat or drops. This process could continue as long as the stock remains below the strike price. For those interested in learning all the ins and outs of naked calls and possibly safer alternatives, please visit the Learn To Trade section of our website.
The maximum gain for selling a naked call is limited to the premium received for the call option. With that being said, the loss potential is unlimited – as the stock can rise indefinitely in theory. If the underlying stock’s price is above the strike price at expiration, it will result in the trader having to sell the stock at the strike price (which will be lower than the market price or current price).
A loss on the trade can occur if the stock price rises. If the price of the underlying stock is greater than the short call’s strike price plus the premium received at expiration, the option should probably be bought back to close the trade. If not, when the option is assigned and a short-stock position is acquired, further losses are possible. On the flip side, the maximum profit is achieved when the underlying stock is less than or equal to the strike price of the sold call at its expiration.
For this specific example, we will take a look at Apple (AAPL) – which is trading right around $440 at the time of this writing. A June 445 call carries a bid price of 7.50. If the stock remains below the strike price (445) by expiration, the call expires worthless and the call seller keeps the $7.50 in premium (less any commissions). The problem is if the stock rallies through the strike price at expiration, the call will be assigned, resulting in a short sale of 100 shares at $445. With the stock at $470, that would represent a loss of $25 a share, or $2,500. Subtract the $750 received in premium and the total loss comes to $1,750.
With unlimited loss potential, the naked call is considered one of the riskiest option strategies. A, perhaps, safer way to structure a trade with a similar risk profile is to sell a call credit spread. Selling a call spread will be discussed in future posts.
Senior Options Instructor