Options – What’s are options ?

Options, a very nifty and useful financial instrument which can be traded on all sorts of exchanges. In this new series I will start from the beginning and will explain what options are and how we can use them in our portfolio’s. Ok let’s start.

An options is the right too buy or sell a product for a set period of time for a predetermined price. Most people’s only experience with an option is when they take out an option on a house. For a fixed period the buyer has the right to buy the house at the agreed upon price without the seller having the option selling the house to someone else. Most of the time this is done for the buyer figuring out finances and seeing if the house is structurally sound. These conditions enable the buyer that if one of these non binding conditions apply they don’t have too buy the house. (This is the way it’s done in the Netherlands , maybe this will differ per country. But you get the idea, I hope)

With this option comes a risk, if there is no non binding reason for the buyer getting out of the deal, they either have to buy the house or pay a 10% fine, which means 10% off the agreed upon price. So there is also an upside for the seller. He/she knows they either sell the house or get 10% in such a case.

The risk for the seller is this, in the meantime they can loose possible other buyers and when the markets are hot they might miss out on the rising prices in the period the option on their house is valid. And if the deal falls trough they can start all over again finding new buyers.

An option is comprised of a set of attributes, an end date , an underlying product (stock, house, commodities , etc) an a fixed price at which the underlying product can be bought or sold.

Trading options can be done on all sorts of (financial) markets, but most well known are stock options. Which will be the main focus of this series.

You have 2 types of options. One gives the right too buy stocks , named call options. The reverse, a right too sell stocks is called a put option. Let’s look at them with a simple example.

Call option :

An option is being noted (mostly) as, AH C20.00 21DEC2018, which is Ahold Delhaize, Call 20 Euro , 21 December 2018.

The first part is the name of the underlying stock, in this case Ahold Delhaize. Followed by the price at which the option can be exercised, 20 Euro’s in this instance. Last but not least the end date of the option. The date on which the option expires, and becomes worthless.

Also worth mentioning, 1 option will give you the rights on 100 stocks , so in this case you can buy 100 stocks Ahold at a price of 20 euro’s each, before the option expires on 21 December of 2018. A total of 2000 Euros worth of risk. Options generally end on the third Friday of each month.

Put Option :

Essentially the same principle, just another right, one too sell instead of buying. It’s presented in the same way, AH P20.00 21DEC2018, Ahold Delhaize Put, 20 Euro, 21 December 2018. This is again a right for 100 stocks, Ahold in this case again, a sell right for 20 Euro each.

Well so far we have learnt a Call gives a buy right, a put a sell right. But when there are buyers there must be sellers. Together they make the market. Buying an option will cost you a premium. As expressed in the option price you see when looking up an option on the exchange.

You can look at the option price as an insurance premium, you will pay every month on your car insurance. The insurance company is the seller of the option (insuring your car against the risk of damaging it). And you are the buyer. You cover unexpected damages and events and in return you pay a monthly fee (the premium). The insurance company now takes the risk that if you have an accident they will have to pay for the damages. You are insured against these risks for a certain amount of time (mostly a year).

The premium or price of an option is changing a lot faster then the premium of your car insurance. But the same principle applies. A seller makes a risk analysis with selling the option and gives a price too the buyer. The option buyer insures the fact he can buy or sell the underlying stocks at the price of 20 Euros, until the expiration date. The seller has too buy or sell them too the buyer at this price.

The option price is determined by the price of the underlying stock, the distance too the strike price of the option (the 20 Euro’s) and the time left in the option, i.e the number of days , hours minutes until the option becomes worthless. Other factors are interest rates, dividend payments and overall sentiment in the market.

Where do people use these options , or insurances for ? Well, that will be the next item in the series. For now just let the characteristics of options sink in.