What are Options

Explore the basics of call and put options, strike price, and expiration date.
What are options?
3 mins
18 August 2023

An Option, categorized as a derivative, derives its value from an underlying instrument's value. This underlying instrument could be stocks, currencies, indices, commodities, or other securities. The essence of options lies in affording the purchaser the choice, though not the obligation, to execute a transaction involving an underlying asset at a predefined price on a specified future date.

While options trading can be a highly rewarding, it is essential to comprehend their intricacies thoroughly. In this article, we delve into the fundamentals of options, and emphasizing their significance.

Features of an options contract

Here are the key features of an options contract:

  1. Strike Price: The strike price, also known as the exercise price, is the predetermined price at which the underlying asset can be bought (for call options) or sold (for put options) by the holder of the option. It's a fixed reference point for determining potential profits or losses.
  2. Expiration Date: Every options contract has a specified expiration date, beyond which the contract becomes invalid.
  3. Contract Size: Options contracts are typically standardized in terms of their contract size, which specifies the quantity of the underlying asset covered by a single contract. For example, one options contract might cover 100 shares as the underlying stock.
  4. Premium: Options trading involves a payment known as "premium", which is required by the contract holder to obtain the right to execute trading activity. If the holder opts not to exercise their right, the premium amount is forfeited. Typically, the premium is subtracted from the overall payoff before the balance is released to the investor.
  5. Intrinsic Value and Time Value: The price of an options contract is composed of two main components: intrinsic value and time value. Intrinsic value is the difference between the current market price of the underlying asset and the strike price. Time value is the additional premium above intrinsic value, accounting for factors like time remaining until expiration and market volatility.
  6. Hedging: Options serve multiple purposes. They can also be used for hedging, where they act as insurance against potential losses in the underlying asset.

Additional read: How to do Nifty intraday option trading

Types of Options

Call Option:

A call option gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying asset at a predetermined price (strike price) before or on the expiration date. Call options are typically used when an investor expects the price of the underlying asset to rise. By purchasing a call option, the investor locks in a price at which they can buy the asset, regardless of its actual market price on the expiration date. If the market price is higher than the strike price, the call option holder can profit by buying the asset at a discount.

Call option example:

Imagine an investor is closely following the performance of ABC Electronics, whose stock is currently trading at Rs. 150 per share. The investor believes that the stock's price will rise significantly in the coming months due to an upcoming product launch. To capitalize on this anticipated price increase, the investor purchases a call option for ABC Electronics with a strike price of Rs. 160 and an expiration date three months from now.

As predicted, the stock's price indeed climbs to Rs. 180 per share by the expiration date. Thanks to the call option, the investor can exercise their right to buy the stock at the pre-agreed strike price of Rs. 160, even though the market price is higher. This allows the investor to acquire the stock at a lower price than its current market value, resulting in a potential profit.

Put Option:

A put option grants the holder the right, but not the obligation, to sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price (strike price) before or on the expiration date. Put options are commonly used when an investor anticipates a decline in the price of the underlying asset. Buying a put option allows the investor to sell the asset at a higher price than the market price, thus protecting themselves from potential losses.

Put option example:

Consider a scenario where an investor has been monitoring the performance of XYZ Pharma, a pharmaceutical company, whose stock is currently trading at Rs. 200 per share. The investor is concerned about potential market volatility and believes that the stock's price might decrease due to regulatory uncertainties.

To safeguard against potential losses, the investor buys a put option for XYZ Pharma with a strike price of Rs. 190 and an expiration date six months from now. As anticipated, the stock's price experiences a downturn, dropping to Rs. 170 per share by the expiration date.

By exercising the put option, the investor can sell the stock at the higher strike price of Rs. 190, even though the market price has fallen. This provides a buffer against losses that would have been incurred if the investor had sold the stock in the open market at the lower price of Rs. 170.

In both scenarios, the options provide a strategic advantage to the investors, allowing them to benefit from their market predictions while mitigating potential risks.

How Options Work

Options function serve as tools for investors to capitalize on price movements while managing risk. Call options allow buying at a specified price, while put options permit selling at a predetermined price. These instruments provide flexibility to profit from both upward and downward market trends.
Options are often used for hedging and income generation through premiums.

Understanding How Options Are Priced

Options pricing involves complex factors. The premium paid or received for an option consists of intrinsic value (the difference between current asset price and strike price) and extrinsic value (affected by time to expiration, market volatility, and interest rates). The Black-Scholes model and other methodologies aid in pricing. High volatility increases option prices, as potential for market movement rises. Closer expiration dates diminish extrinsic value. Pricing is an intricate balance of these components.

Advantages of Options

Advantages

Description

Diversification

Options enable diversification strategies, reducing reliance on a single investment avenue.

Leverage

Investors can control a larger asset quantity for a fraction of its price, amplifying potential returns.

Hedging

Options offer protection against market downturns, minimizing losses in portfolios.


Disadvantages of Options

Disadvantages

Description

Risk of Loss

Options trading carries the risk of losing the entire investment, particularly when predictions are incorrect.

Complexity

The intricate nature of options necessitates a thorough understanding; novice investors might make uninformed decisions.

Time Sensitivity

Expiration dates limit the lifespan of options, requiring investors to accurately predict price movements within a timeframe.


Conclusion

Investors considering options trading should evaluate the consequences associated with it based on their risk appetite and investment style. While options offer opportunities for profit making and risk mitigation, they require a deep understanding of market dynamics and strategy implementation. Beginners are encouraged to seek education, utilize virtual trading to practice, and consider professional guidance to navigate the complexities of options trading effectively. Making informed decisions aligns with an investor's risk tolerance and long-term financial objectives.

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Investment in the securities involves risks, investor should consult his own advisors/consultant to determine the merits and risks of investment.

Frequently asked questions

Is it possible for beginners to trade options?

Yes, beginners can trade options, but it's important to approach it with caution. Options trading involves complexities beyond traditional stock trading, including various strategies, pricing components, and risk factors. It's advisable for beginners to educate themselves thoroughly, consider virtual trading platforms, and seek guidance from experienced professionals or educational resources.

What do you mean by an option in trading?

In trading, an option is a financial contract that gives its holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call option) or sell (put option) an underlying asset at a predetermined price within a specified timeframe. Options provide investors with flexibility to profit from price movements without owning the actual asset. They're often used for speculation, hedging, and income generation.

Is options trading good for profit making?

Options trading offers the potential for significant profits, but it also entails higher risks. Profits can be substantial due to leverage, and options allow investors to profit from both rising and falling markets. However, predicting price movements accurately is essential, as incorrect predictions can lead to losses. Options trading requires careful strategy, risk management, and an understanding of market dynamics.

Is options trading better than stock trading?

Options and stock trading serve different purposes and cater to different risk appetites. Stock trading involves owning shares of a company, while options offer flexibility without the need to own the underlying asset. Options can provide leverage and diverse strategies, but they're also more complex and riskier. The choice between options and stock trading depends on an investor's goals, risk tolerance, and level of expertise.

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