Saturday, November 2, 2013

5 Tips For Trading Stock Options

New York - "GREED STREET or Wall Street.....
You're ready for the exciting world of stock options, but you need some strategies to check out. Thankfully, the Internet is full of advice from traders. Unfortunately, not all of that advice is sound. Some traders are merely mimicking what they've seen other traders do. 
Others are newbies themselves. Still others are offering advice while secretly trying to sell you their proprietary software. While trading in stock options is an advanced strategy, you don't have to over-complicate things. Find yourself a good broker using a site like BrokerStance. Then, start with some basic strategies. 


The Covered Call


A covered call is a basic options strategy. Also called a "buy-write strategy," you purchase the underlying assets outright. Then, you simultaneously write or sell an option on those same assets. So, for example, if you wanted to buy 1,000 shares of General Electric, you would also write the option on GE. The volume of assets (the number of shares) should be equal to the number of shares controlled by the option. 

So, continuing the example, if you had purchased 1,000 shares of GE, you would also want to make sure the option allowed you to sell 1,000 shares of GE. Investors often use this strategy when they have a short-term position and a neutral view of the stock they're buying. You would use this strategy to generate income from the call premium (from writing the option). You would also use this strategy to protect yourself from a potential decline in the underlying stock's asset value. 

Since investors always make money with this strategy, they're attracted to it. However, it is possible to under perform the underlying stock, making it a less profitable strategy than, say, investing directly in the stock and forgetting the option contract. 


The Married Pull


A married pull is where an investor buys or owns a particular stock, and then simultaneously buys a put option for an equivalent number of shares in that stock. Typically, this strategy is used when you believe the underlying stock will decline in value and you want to protect yourself from short-term losses. It basically creates a sort of insurance policy against losses by establishing a "floor" on losses. 

This is a more conservative strategy and depends on you being bearish on the underlying asset. You are taking a defensive stance in your portfolio. The goal isn't necessarily to make money but to avoid losses. 


A Protective Collar


A protective collar strategy is used when you've already made a lot of money and you want to preserve your gains. To pull this off, you need to purchase out-of-the-money put options on the underlying asset and write an out-of-the-money call option at the same time. The effect? Even if your shares decline in price, the put options protect you and you get to keep the gains you've earned. 

Like the married pull, this is a more defensive strategy. You've already done the hard work of figuring out which stocks to buy, and you've made money. You just want to keep from losing it if the stock turns sour quickly. It buys you some time to get out of the asset if execution is slow (i.e. if the stock is thinly traded) or if you think there's new news about the company that will cause an immediate, short-term, reversal on the price. 


A Long Straddle


The long straddle is used when you want the potential for unlimited gains but want to limit your losses to the cost of the options contracts. To implement this strategy, you must purchase a call and a put option with the same strike price. The option is on the same underlying asset. So, in effect, you are "straddling" both sides of the stock. You have the right to both buy and sell that underlying asset. This strategy works best when you think the underlying asset is volatile and will move, but you're not sure which way it will move. 


A Long Strangle


By adopting a long strangle (as opposed to a long straddle), you are essentially trying to do the same thing as with the straddle, but you're buying the options contracts at different strike prices and you're also buying them out-of-the-money (meaning that they're not immediately profitable when you buy them). 

The call option strike price is typically higher than the put option strike price. Use this strategy when you think the underlying stock will make a huge move, but you're unsure of which way it will move. Like the straddle, losses are limited to the cost of the contracts. The upside potential is unlimited. 

Jarryd Harden enjoys sharing his know how on trading stock options. His articles mainly appear on investment blogs.


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