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What Are Call and Put Options?

Views 2836Jul 8, 2024
Call Vs Put Options: What

Options trading can be an intricate yet potentially rewarding aspect of investment. Options traders should have a solid grasp of calls and puts, two essential types of options that play a significant role in trading. Let's delve into the world of options trading, understand what calls and puts are, how they work, and explore their benefits and risks.

What are options?

Options are financial instruments that offer the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call option) or sell (put option) an underlying asset at a predetermined price within a specified time frame. Conversely, the seller of an option holds the obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract if the buyer chooses to exercise their right.

call and put options

Call options

Call options provide the holder with the right to purchase the underlying asset at a predetermined price, known as the strike price, before the expiration date. On the other hand, the seller of a call option bears the obligation to sell the asset at the strike price if the buyer decides to exercise the option.

For instance, let's say you sell a call option for Company X with a strike price of $50 and an expiration date in three months. If the stock price of Company X rises above $50 within the specified time frame and the buyer exercises the option, you must sell the stock at $50, regardless of its current market price.

Put options

In options trading, a put option provides the holder with the right to sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price before the expiration date. For the seller of a put option, there is an obligation to purchase the asset at the agreed-upon strike price if the buyer chooses to exercise the option.

For instance, imagine you sell a put option for Company X with a strike price of $50 and an expiration date in three months. If the stock price falls below $50 within the specified time frame and the buyer decides to exercise the option, you, as the seller, are obligated to buy the stock at $50 per share, irrespective of its current market value.

The difference between calls and puts

The primary differentiation between call and put options lies in the direction of price speculation. Call options are commonly employed by investors anticipating a rise in the underlying asset's price, offering them the opportunity to buy the asset at a predetermined price. Conversely, put options are favored by those expecting a decline in price, granting them the right to sell the asset at a predetermined price. While call options provide bullish positions for buyers, enabling them to profit from upward market movements, put options offer bearish positions for buyers, allowing them to benefit from downward market trends.

Call Options

Put Options

Buy-side perspective

  • Used by investors expecting the underlying asset’s price to rise.

  • Provide bullish positions.

  • Can Potentially profit when the underlying asset’s price exceeds the strike price.

  • Limited theoretical risk (premium paid) with potentially unlimited max profit potential.

  • Perform well in rising markets.

Sell-side perspective

  • Seek to generate income.

  • Offer an opportunity to collect premiums.

  • Profit if the underlying asset's price stays below the strike price.

  • Limited profit potential with potentially unlimited risk.

  • Perform well in stable or declining markets.

Buy-side perspective

  • Favored by investors anticipating a decline in the underlying asset’s price.

  • Offer bearish positions.

  • Can Potentially profit when the underlying asset’s price falls below the strike price.

  • Limited theoretical risk (premium paid) with a significant max profit potential.

  • Perform well in falling markets or during periods of volatility.

Sell-side perspective

  • Seek to generate income.

  • Offer an opportunity to collect premiums.

  • Profit if the underlying asset's price stays above the strike price.

  • Limited profit potential with potentially significant risk.

  • Perform well in stable or rising markets.

Direction of speculation

  • Call options: Employed by investors who foresee the underlying asset's price increasing, granting them the right to purchase the asset at a predetermined price. Sellers of call options, on the other hand, anticipate the asset's price to remain stable or decrease, obligating them to potentially sell the asset if the option is exercised.

  • Put options: Preferred by investors who predict a decrease in the underlying asset's price, giving them the right to sell the asset at a predetermined price. Sellers of put options, conversely, anticipate the asset's price to remain stable or increase, potentially obligating them to purchase the asset if the option is exercised.

Market position

  • Call options: Typically represent bullish positions for buyers, allowing them to profit from upward market movements. However, for sellers, especially with covered call strategies, they may adopt a neutral or even bearish position depending on their outlook.

  • Put options: Generally offer bearish positions for buyers, enabling them to benefit from downward market trends. Conversely, for sellers, especially with cash-secured put strategies, they may take a neutral or even bullish stance depending on their outlook.

Profit mechanism

  • Call options: Buyers may profit from upward market movements, while sellers' potential max profit is the premium received. Sellers prefer the underlying price below the strike price to avoid exercise. They profit if the underlying price stays below the breakeven price, which is the strike price plus the premium.

  • Put options: Buyers benefit from downward trends, while sellers' potential max profit is the premium received. Sellers prefer the underlying price above the strike price to avoid exercise. They profit if the underlying price stays above the breakeven price, which is the strike price minus the premium.

Risk profile

  • Call options: Buyers typically face limited theoretical risk (premium paid) with unlimited max profit potential. However, sellers, especially with naked call strategies, can encounter unlimited risk.

  • Put options: Buyers usually have limited theoretical risk (premium paid) with potential for a significant max gain. Yet, sellers, particularly with uncovered put strategies, may face significant risk.

Market conditions

  • Call options: Perform well in rising markets; buyers can profit from price increases while sellers are less likely to face assignment in declining markets, as out-of-the-money options are unlikely to be exercised by holders.

  • Put options: Perform well in falling markets or volatility; buyers can profit from declines, while sellers may face obligations in declining markets. It's worth noting that sellers are less likely to face assignment if the underlying stock is increasing, as out-of-the-money (OTM) options typically wouldn't be exercised by the holder under such circumstances.

Understanding these differences is crucial for investors to effectively utilize call and put options in their investment strategies.

How does buying a call option work?

When you buy a call option, you pay a premium to the seller. If the underlying asset's price rises above the strike price plus the initial premium paid before the expiration date, you can exercise your option and profit from the price difference. However, if the price remains below the strike price, you may choose not to exercise the option, limiting your loss to the premium paid. An investor might also consider selling the call before expiration and realize any profits or losses on that trade depending on if the option is worth more or less than your initial purchase price.

Example:

Suppose you buy a call option for Company Y with a strike price of $100 and pay a premium of $5 per share. If, before the expiration date, the stock price of Company Y rises to $110 per share, you can exercise your option and buy the shares at $100 each, even though the market price is $110. After deducting the premium paid, your net profit per share would be $5.

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How does buying a put option work?

Similarly, purchasing a put option involves paying a premium. If the underlying asset's price falls below the strike price plus the initial premium paid before the expiration date, you can exercise your option and sell the asset at the predetermined price, thereby profiting from the price difference. Conversely, if the price stays above the strike price, you may opt not to exercise the option, limiting your loss to the premium paid. An investor might also consider selling the put before expiration and realize any profits or losses on that trade depending on if the option is worth more or less than your initial purchase price.

Example:

Continuing with the example of Company Y, if the stock price falls to $90 per share before the expiration date, you can exercise your put option and sell the shares at $100 each, regardless of the market price being $90. After deducting the premium paid, your net profit per share would be $5.

Risks of call and put options

Options trading presents inherent risks for both buyers and sellers. For option buyers, the primary risk lies in losing the entire premium paid if market movements don't align with their expectations. Conversely, option sellers face the risk of being obligated to fulfill the terms of the contract if the market moves unfavorably, potentially resulting in losses beyond the premium received.

These losses can vary significantly, ranging from the unlimited loss potential for naked call writers to being assigned at prices unfavorable to their positions. Naked call writers, in particular, are exposed to theoretically unlimited losses if the underlying asset's price rises significantly. Additionally, assignment at unfavorable prices can lead to substantial losses for sellers, especially if the market experiences sharp movements against their positions.

Additionally, options come with expiration dates, causing their value to diminish over time. If the anticipated price movement fails to materialize within the specified period, both buyers and sellers may risk experiencing a total loss of investment. While options trading has the potential to offer significant rewards, it's essential for participants to carefully consider and manage these risks.

Risk mitigation strategies:

  • Diversification: Spread your investments across different assets to reduce the impact of adverse price movements.

  • Stop-loss orders: Set predetermined price levels to automatically place orders to sell your options if the market moves against your position, limiting potential losses.

  • Option spreads: Combine multiple options positions to create spread strategies that may help reduce risk exposure.

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Applications of options: Calls and puts

Options provide various strategies for investors to manage risk and potentially capitalize on market opportunities.

  • Hedging – Buying puts: Investors can use put options to help protect their investment portfolios from potential downside risk. By purchasing put options on their existing holdings, investors can avoid losses below the put's strike price if the market experiences a decline. However, buying protective puts can be a costly strategy.

  • Speculation – Buy calls or sell puts: Traders can speculate on the price movement of an underlying asset by buying call options or selling put options. This strategy allows investors to  potentially profit from anticipated price increases without owning the underlying asset.

  • Speculation – Sell calls or buy puts on bearish securities: On the other hand, traders can potentially profit from anticipated price decreases by selling call options or buying put options. This strategy enables investors to benefit from declining prices without short-selling the underlying asset. However, it's important to remember that a naked call (short calls) have unlimited loss potential, since there is no limit to how high the stock's price could rise. The investor would need to buy at the market price to cover assignment.

FAQ about calls and puts

Which option is best?

The decision between a call and a put option hinges on various factors, including your role as either a buyer or seller in the market and your specific investment strategy. If you're aiming for potential profit from an anticipated increase in the underlying asset's price, opting for a call option might align with your objectives. Conversely, if your analysis suggests a potential downturn in the asset's value, choosing a put option could offer a strategic advantage. It's essential to carefully assess your market outlook and investment goals before deciding which option best suits your needs.

What are CE and PE?

CE stands for 'call option' and PE stands for 'put option'. These are commonly used abbreviations in options trading to differentiate between call and put options.

Understanding call and put options is essential for any investor looking to diversify their portfolio and manage risk effectively. By grasping the fundamentals of options trading and employing appropriate strategies, investors can potentially enhance their investment outcomes and navigate the dynamic financial markets with greater confidence.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement of any specific investment or investment strategy. Options trading entails significant risk and is not appropriate for all investors. Certain complex options strategies carry additional risk. It is important that investors read  Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before engaging in any options trading strategies.

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