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Options Trading Strategies, Basic Concepts

Aug 18, 2007
When venturing into the options market, the best way to get the lay of the land is to be acquainted with at least some of the more elementary concepts. These will aid the new investor in successfully executing basic trading strategies.

Two basic terms, the call and the put, are the epicenter of the trading strategies. To buy a call confers the right, not the obligation, to buy at a price that is pre set. Conversely, puts give the buyer the right to sell at a pre set price. Options are both sold and bought, meaning that the seller grants the buyer the right and takes on an obligation to fulfill the other side of the trade.

The variations to this maneuver include:

Long Calls
The long call is the easiest to understand and is the most basic concept. MSFT (Microsoft) traded at $28 with June 31 options that were to expire on the third Friday of June. The strike price was $31, meaning that it was pre set so if exercised it had to be bought at that price.

Short (Naked) Calls
When the writer, the person selling the option, does not own the underlying stock and the option is exercised, then he or she is obligated to sell. Under those circumstances, that action is considered a naked call. Because the person is on the selling side of the contract, his position is considered to be short.

The short call status incurs the most profit by the amount of the premium if the market price of the underlying asset decreases. When the price exceeds the strike price by more than the premium, then the short position takes a loss.

Long Put
When a trader anticipates that the future market price of an asset, such as a stock, will fall before the expiration date is able to sell the stock at a fixed price. The buyer, put buyer, is not obligated to sell the stock, but he or she does have the right.

If the market price does drop below the strike price before the option expires and the decrease is more than the premium paid, then the seller profits. If the price increases or fails to drop enough to cover the premium then the trader will allow the contract to expire worthless.

Short Put
When a trader speculates that the future market price will rise, they can sell the right to sell an asset at the predetermined price.

If the asset's market price increases, the short put position incurs a profit that is equal to the amount of the premium. This amount excludes any transaction costs and commissions. However, if the price drops below the strike price by more than the premium amount then the writer loses the money.

There are several trading strategies that are basic to the market. These strategies employ the characteristics of four basic trading positions. These strategies have one of several outcomes: pure profit plays, speculating on gaining a profit or creating a combination of speculation and hedging.

When positions move in opposite directions, it is called hedging. Hedging bears a profit less that sheer speculation, but they do compensate by offloading a certain degree of the risk.

Bull spreads and bear spreads are common strategies that can help the trader manipulate the market, depending on the market emotion. Bull spreads utilize a long call with a low strike price and combine it with a short call at a higher strike price and a short put with a higher strike price. On the other hand, bear spreads use a short call with a low strike price and a long call with a high strike price. Alternatively, the short put can be used with a low strike price and a long put can be used with a higher strike price.

There is a great deal of software on the market that can aid in these types of trades. Options trading software can offer users concrete demonstrations of the how these strategies work. They show how they behave under different assumptions regarding future prices, volume and other factors, combined with various expiration dates and strike prices to show how these different scenarios can result in a profit or a loss.
About the Author
Visit 123OnlineTrading.com - Options, Stocks, Forex to find books, tips and advice about online options trading . Besides a large selection of free educational articles you can also find powerful books about online trading in general.

Other Resources:
123OnlineStockTrading.com - Stock Trading Links
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