Thursday, September 26, 2013

4 Reasons Binary Options Trading Is Great for Newbies

binary options
binary options (Photo credit: opportplanet)
Those who are less accustomed to the rules of the trading world might find talks about binary options as foreign as an unknown language. However, as most expert brokers will be quick to explain, understanding binary options is not at all that difficult. In fact, they are considered perfect for newbie traders: though they do come with significant risk, they are also a major source of profit – and, the best thing about them – they are no-strings attached. If you’re thinking of giving binary options trading a go, here are the four basics that you need to know about.

1. A bit of history about binary options

Since we live in a pre-eminently digital era nowadays, many people tend to assume that binary options have always been digitally traded. This, however, is not true – for a long time, they were available over the counter, and could be purchased directly from the institution that issued them. Back then, though they were considered financial instruments, they were part of the exotic options category. They could not be traded on a liquid market and, more often than not, they were offered as part of more complex options contracts.

Since 2008, binary options have been traded on specialized websites and this has also given rise to the emergence of numerous websites explaining how to do binary trading online. It’s worth bearing in mind that online traded binary options are non-exchange-traded (more on that in the following section, which explains the difference between the various types of binary options). Current estimates (as of August this year) say there are over 200 websites up and running online at the moment and they are trading roughly 125 different kinds of underlying assets. Non exchange-traded binary options became regulated as financial instruments in Cyprus, as of May 2012, and in Malta, as of March 2013. In the United States, trading is legal, but not regulated.

2. Types of binary options

There are several criteria according to which binary options can be classified, but perhaps the most important distinction is the one made according to the way in which these options are traded. The categories, in this respect, are two: exchange traded and non-exchange-traded binary options. If getting into the technical details sounds daunting, then let’s put it this way: if you’re trading binary options online, you are taking part in a non-exchange trade. This class of binary options has a pre-determined expiration date, which needs to be attained in order for the owner of the options to buy, sell, or trade them in any way. They also come with a pre-established rate for profit (or loss), which is one and the same, irrespective of the difference between the options’ stake price and the value of the underlying assets.

Exchange traded binary options have been available in the United States since May 2008, when they were first introduced by the American Stock Exchange, also referred to as Amex. The Chicago Board Options Exchange followed suit the next month. These European binary options, which operate according to the cash-or-nothing principle, have been standardized. As such, the owners of the options can trade them with continuous quotations, i.e. a way of knowing what the price of the options and the assets has been historically, up to a certain point. 

3. Binary options trading basics

In order to best understand how the process of trading binary options goes, let’s focus on an actual example. Trading starts with a market watch for one or several assets in which one would be potentially interested to trade. 

For the purpose of this example, let’s say it is one of the indexes offered by the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the S&P 500. When the trader decides to invest, the index is sitting at 1175, and the trader believes that, according to their observations, it is going to rise. Binary options are then purchased through a broker, which will offer a strike price on that binary option and a time frame for it. 

In this example, let’s say that expiration comes at the end of the trading day – although binary options can come with just about any expiration frame, be it half a minute, several hours, or several days. Since the trader believes the price is going to increase, they buy a call option; the opposite, when one believes the price is going to fall, is to buy a put option. 

In this case, the payout is 80 per cent for the option ending the trading day ‘in the money’ (above the current index), and the loss is 95 per cent for an ‘out of the money’ situation (if the price should fall). The trader invests $100 and, at the end of the day, finds that the index has gone up. They have just earned $80 – but it is true that, had their predictions gone awry, they would have lost $95.

Before deciding to purchase binary options from any particular broker, it is wise to inquire carefully about their conditions. Sometimes the price taken into account is the last quote on a particular index, but in other cases it is calculated according to the (bid+ask)/2 formula. Also, it may happen that the price has stagnated on expiry. In this case, most brokers will choose to return the buyer’s investment in full. One rule that is largely applied across brokers is to forbid traders from selling their options or choosing to leave the trade before the expiration time is up.

4. Risk management for binary options

Of course, any one trader may choose to manage their risks in any way they see fit. However, binary options are largely regarded as a safe financial instrument, particularly because, unlike vanilla options, the trader knows exactly how much they stand to lose or gain from each trade. It’s also important to understand that, when trading binary options, the margin by which the price varies on a particular asset is irrelevant. All the trader needs to do is estimate whether it will rise or fall. Lastly, most brokers will charge no fees or commissions to binary options traders – this is a very attractive specific condition for beginner traders, who will want to give trading a go, but without having to pay for their one-off chance.


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