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Options

Stock markets by their very nature are fickle. While fortunes can be made in a jiffy more often than not the scenario is the reverse. Investing in stocks has two sides to it - a) Unlimited profit potential from any upside (remember Infosys, HFCL etc) or b) a downside which could make you a pauper.

Derivative products are structured precisely for this reason -- to curtail the risk exposure of an investor. Index futures and stock options are instruments that enable you to hedge your portfolio or open positions in the market. Option contracts allow you to run your profits while restricting your downside risk.

Apart from risk containment, options can be used for speculation and investors can create a wide range of potential profit scenarios.

We have seen in the Derivatives School how index futures can be used to protect oneself from volatility or market risk. Here we will try and understand some basic concepts of options.

What are options?

Some people remain puzzled by options. The truth is that most people have been using options for some time, because options are built into everything from mortgages to insurance.

An option is a contract, which gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation to buy or sell shares of the underlying security at a specific price on or before a specific date.

‘Option’, as the word suggests, is a choice given to the investor to either honour the contract; or if he chooses not to walk away from the contract.

To begin, there are two kinds of options: Call Options and Put Options.

A Call Option is an option to buy a stock at a specific price on or before a certain date. In this way, Call options are like security deposits. If, for example, you wanted to rent a certain property, and left a security deposit for it, the money would be used to insure that you could, in fact, rent that property at the price agreed upon when you returned. If you never returned, you would give up your security deposit, but you would have no other liability. Call options usually increase in value as the value of the underlying instrument rises.

When you buy a Call option, the price you pay for it, called the option premium, secures your right to buy that certain stock at a specified price called the strike price. If you decide not to use the option to buy the stock, and you are not obligated to, your only cost is the option premium.

Put Options are options to sell a stock at a specific price on or before a certain date. In this way, Put options are like insurance policies

If you buy a new car, and then buy auto insurance on the car, you pay a premium and are, hence, protected if the asset is damaged in an accident. If this happens, you can use your policy to regain the insured value of the car. In this way, the put option gains in value as the value of the underlying instrument decreases. If all goes well and the insurance is not needed, the insurance company keeps your premium in return for taking on the risk.

With a Put Option, you can "insure" a stock by fixing a selling price. If something happens which causes the stock price to fall, and thus, "damages" your asset, you can exercise your option and sell it at its "insured" price level. If the price of your stock goes up, and there is no "damage," then you do not need to use the insurance, and, once again, your only cost is the premium. This is the primary function of listed options, to allow investors ways to manage risk.

Technically, an option is a contract between two parties. The buyer receives a privilege for which he pays a premium. The seller accepts an obligation for which he receives a fee.

We will dwelve further into the mechanics of call/put options in subsequent lessons.

Call option

An option is a contract between two parties giving the taker (buyer) the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a parcel of shares at a predetermined price possibly on, or before a predetermined date. To acquire this right the taker pays a premium to the writer (seller) of the contract.

There are two types of options:

  • Call Options
  • Put Options
Call option

Call options give the taker the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying shares at a predetermined price, on or before a predetermined date.

Illustration 1:

Raj purchases 1 Satyam Computer (SATCOM) AUG 150 Call --Premium 8

This contract allows Raj to buy 100 shares of SATCOM at Rs 150 per share at any time between the current date and the end of next August. For this privilege, Raj pays a fee of Rs 800 (Rs eight a share for 100 shares).

The buyer of a call has purchased the right to buy and for that he pays a premium.

Now let us see how one can profit from buying an option.

Sam purchases a December call option at Rs 40 for a premium of Rs 15. That is he has purchased the right to buy that share for Rs 40 in December. If the stock rises above Rs 55 (40+15) he will break even and he will start making a profit. Suppose the stock does not rise and instead falls he will choose not to exercise the option and forego the premium of Rs 15 and thus limiting his loss to Rs 15.

Let us take another example of a call option on the Nifty to understand the concept better.

Nifty is at 1310. The following are Nifty options traded at following quotes.

A trader is of the view that the index will go up to 1400 in Jan 2002 but does not want to take the risk of prices going down. Therefore, he buys 10 options of Jan contracts at 1345. He pays a premium for buying calls (the right to buy the contract) for 500*10= Rs 5,000/-.

In Jan 2002 the Nifty index goes up to 1365. He sells the options or exercises the option and takes the difference in spot index price which is (1365-1345) * 200 (market lot) = 4000 per contract. Total profit = 40,000/- (4,000*10).

He had paid Rs 5,000/- premium for buying the call option. So he earns by buying call option is Rs 35,000/- (40,000-5000).

If the index falls below 1345 the trader will not exercise his right and will opt to forego his premium of Rs 5,000. So, in the event the index falls further his loss is limited to the premium he paid upfront, but the profit potential is unlimited.

Call Options-Long & Short Positions

When you expect prices to rise, then you take a long position by buying calls. You are bullish.

When you expect prices to fall, then you take a short position by selling calls. You are bearish.

Put Options

A Put Option gives the holder of the right to sell a specific number of shares of an agreed security at a fixed price for a period of time.

eg: Sam purchases 1 INFTEC (Infosys Technologies) AUG 3500 Put --Premium 200

This contract allows Sam to sell 100 shares INFTEC at Rs 3500 per share at any time between the current date and the end of August. To have this privilege, Sam pays a premium of Rs 20,000 (Rs 200 a share for 100 shares).

The buyer of a put has purchased a right to sell. The owner of a put option has the right to sell.

Illustration 2: Raj is of the view that the a stock is overpriced and will fall in future, but he does not want to take the risk in the event of price rising so purchases a put option at Rs 70 on ‘X’. By purchasing the put option Raj has the right to sell the stock at Rs 70 but he has to pay a fee of Rs 15 (premium).

So he will breakeven only after the stock falls below Rs 55 (70-15) and will start making profit if the stock falls below Rs 55.

Illustration 3:

An investor on Dec 15 is of the view that Wipro is overpriced and will fall in future but does not want to take the risk in the event the prices rise. So he purchases a Put option on Wipro.

Quotes are as under:

Spot Rs 1040

Jan Put at 1050 Rs 10

Jan Put at 1070 Rs 30

He purchases 1000 Wipro Put at strike price 1070 at Put price of Rs 30/-. He pays Rs 30,000/- as Put premium.

His position in following price position is discussed below.

1. Jan Spot price of Wipro = 1020

2. Jan Spot price of Wipro = 1080

In the first situation the investor is having the right to sell 1000 Wipro shares at Rs 1,070/- the price of which is Rs 1020/-. By exercising the option he earns Rs (1070-1020) = Rs 50 per Put, which totals Rs 50,000/-. His net income is Rs (50000-30000) = Rs 20,000.

In the second price situation, the price is more in the spot market, so the investor will not sell at a lower price by exercising the Put. He will have to allow the Put option to expire unexercised. He looses the premium paid Rs 30,000

Put Options-Long & Short Positions

When you expect prices to fall, then you take a long position by buying Puts. You are bearish.

When you expect prices to rise, then you take a short position by selling Puts. You are bullish.

SUMMARY:

Option styles

Settlement of options is based on the expiry date. However, there are three basic styles of options you will encounter which affect settlement. The styles have geographical names, which have nothing to do with the location where a contract is agreed! The styles are:

European: These options give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying instrument only on the expiry date. This means that the option cannot be exercised early.Settlement is based on a particular strike price at expiration. Currently, in India index and stock options are European in nature.

eg: Sam purchases 1 NIFTY AUG 1110 Call --Premium 20. The exchange will settle the contract on the last Thursday of August. Since there are no shares for the underlying, the contract is cash settled.

American: These options give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying instrument on or before the expiry date. This means that the option can be exercised early.Settlement is based on a particular strike price at expiration.

Options in stocks that have been recently launched in the Indian market are "American Options".

eg: Sam purchases 1 ACC SEP 145 Call --Premium 12

Here Sam can close the contract any time from the current date till the expiration date, which is the last Thursday of September.

American style options tend to be more expensive than European style because they offer greater flexibility to the buyer.

eg: Wipro JUL 1300 refers to one series and trades take place at different premiums

All calls are of the same option type. Similarly, all puts are of the same option type. Options of the same type that are also in the same class are said to be of the same class. Options of the same class and with the same exercise price and the same expiration date are said to be of the same series

Concepts

Important Terms

(Strike price, In-the-money, Out-of-the-Money, At-the-Money, Covered call and Covered Put)

Strike price: The Strike Price denotes the price at which the buyer of the option has a right to purchase or sell the underlying. Five different strike prices will be available at any point of time. The strike price interval will be of 20. If the index is currently at 1,410, the strike prices available will be 1,370, 1,390, 1,410, 1,430, 1,450. The strike price is also called Exercise Price. This price is fixed by the exchange for the entire duration of the option depending on the movement of the underlying stock or index in the cash market.

In-the-money: A Call Option is said to be "In-the-Money" if the strike price is less than the market price of the underlying stock. A Put Option is In-The-Money when the strike price is greater than the market price.

eg: Raj purchases 1 SATCOM AUG 190 Call --Premium 10

In the above example, the option is "in-the-money", till the market price of SATCOM is ruling above the strike price of Rs 190, which is the price at which Raj would like to buy 100 shares anytime before the end of August.

Similary, if Raj had purchased a Put at the same strike price, the option would have been "in-the- money", if the market price of SATCOM was lower than Rs 190 per share.

Out-of-the-Money: A Call Option is said to be "Out-of-the-Money" if the strike price is greater than the market price of the stock. A Put option is Out-Of-Money if the strike price is less than the market price.

eg: Sam purchases 1 INFTEC AUG 3500 Call --Premium 150

In the above example, the option is "out-of- the- money", if the market price of INFTEC is ruling below the strike price of Rs 3500, which is the price at which SAM would like to buy 100 shares anytime before the end of August.

Similary, if Sam had purchased a Put at the same strike price, the option would have been "out-of-the-money", if the market price of INFTEC was above Rs 3500 per share.

At-the-Money: The option with strike price equal to that of the market price of the stock is considered as being "At-the-Money" or Near-the-Money.

eg: Raj purchases 1 ACC AUG 150 Call or Put--Premium 10

In the above case, if the market price of ACC is ruling at Rs 150, which is equal to the strike price, then the option is said to be "at-the-money".

If the index is currently at 1,410, the strike prices available will be 1,370, 1,390, 1,410, 1,430, 1,450. The strike prices for a call option that are greater than the underlying (Nifty or Sensex) are said to be out-of-the-money in this case 1430 and 1450 considering that the underlying is at 1410. Similarly in-the-money strike prices will be 1,370 and 1,390, which are lower than the underlying of 1,410.

At these prices one can take either a positive or negative view on the markets i.e. both call and put options will be available. Therefore, for a single series 10 options (5 calls and 5 puts) will be available and considering that there are three series a total number of 30 options will be available to take positions in.

Covered Call Option

Covered option helps the writer to minimize his loss. In a covered call option, the writer of the call option takes a corresponding long position in the stock in the cash market; this will cover his loss in his option position if there is a sharp increase in price of the stock. Further, he is able to bring down his average cost of acquisition in the cash market (which will be the cost of acquisition less the option premium collected).

eg: Raj believes that HLL has hit rock bottom at the level of Rs.182 and it will move in a narrow range. He can take a long position in HLL shares and at the same time write a call option with a strike price of 185 and collect a premium of Rs.5 per share. This will bring down the effective cost of HLL shares to 177 (182-5). If the price stays below 185 till expiry, the call option will not be exercised and the writer will keep the Rs.5 he collected as premium. If the price goes above 185 and the Option is exercised, the writer can deliver the shares acquired in the cash market.

Covered Put Option

Similarly, a writer of a Put Option can create a covered position by selling the underlying security (if it is already owned). The effective selling price will increase by the premium amount (if the option is not exercised at maturity). Here again, the investor is not in a position to take advantage of any sharp increase in the price of the asset as the underlying asset has already been sold. If there is a sharp decline in the price of the underlying asset, the option will be exercised and the investor will be left only with the premium amount. The loss in the option exercised will be equal to the gain in the short position of the asset.

Pricing of options

Options are used as risk management tools and the valuation or pricing of the instruments is a careful balance of market factors.

There are four major factors affecting the Option premium:

  • Price of Underlying
  • Time to Expiry
  • Exercise Price Time to Maturity
  • Volatility of the Underlying

And two less important factors:

  • Short-Term Interest Rates
  • Dividends

Review of Options Pricing Factors

The Intrinsic Value of an Option

The intrinsic value of an option is defined as the amount by which an option is in-the-money, or the immediate exercise value of the option when the underlying position is marked-to-market.

For a call option: Intrinsic Value = Spot Price - Strike Price

For a put option: Intrinsic Value = Strike Price - Spot Price

The intrinsic value of an option must be positive or zero. It cannot be negative. For a call option, the strike price must be less than the price of the underlying asset for the call to have an intrinsic value greater than 0. For a put option, the strike price must be greater than the underlying asset price for it to have intrinsic value.

Price of underlying

The premium is affected by the price movements in the underlying instrument. For Call options - the right to buy the underlying at a fixed strike price - as the underlying price rises so does its premium. As the underlying price falls so does the cost of the option premium. For Put options - the right to sell the underlying at a fixed strike price - as the underlying price rises, the premium falls; as the underlying price falls the premium cost rises.

The following chart summarises the above for Calls and Puts.

The Time Value of an Option

Generally, the longer the time remaining until an option’s expiration, the higher its premium will be. This is because the longer an option’s lifetime, greater is the possibility that the underlying share price might move so as to make the option in-the-money. All other factors affecting an option’s price remaining the same, the time value portion of an option’s premium will decrease (or decay) with the passage of time.

Note: This time decay increases rapidly in the last several weeks of an option’s life. When an option expires in-the-money, it is generally worth only its intrinsic value.

Volatility

Volatility is the tendency of the underlying security’s market price to fluctuate either up or down. It reflects a price change’s magnitude; it does not imply a bias toward price movement in one direction or the other. Thus, it is a major factor in determining an option’s premium. The higher the volatility of the underlying stock, the higher the premium because there is a greater possibility that the option will move in-the-money. Generally, as the volatility of an under-lying stock increases, the premiums of both calls and puts overlying that stock increase, and vice versa.

Higher volatility = Higher premium
Lower volatility = Lower premium

Interest rates

In general interest rates have the least influence on options and equate approximately to the cost of carry of a futures contract. If the size of the options contract is very large, then this factor may take on some importance. All other factors being equal as interest rates rise, premium costs fall and vice versa. The relationship can be thought of as an opportunity cost. In order to buy an option, the buyer must either borrow funds or use funds on deposit. Either way the buyer incurs an interest rate cost. If interest rates are rising, then the opportunity cost of buying options increases and to compensate the buyer premium costs fall. Why should the buyer be compensated? Because the option writer receiving the premium can place the funds on deposit and receive more interest than was previously anticipated. The situation is reversed when interest rates fall - premiums rise. This time it is the writer who needs to be compensated.

How do we measure the impact of change in each of these pricing determinants on option premium we shall learn in the next module

Greeks

The options premium is determined by the three factors mentioned earlier - intrinsic value, time value and volatility. But there are more sophisticated tools used to measure the potential variations of options premiums. They are as follows:

  • Delta
  • Gamma
  • Vega
  • Rho

Delta

Delta is the measure of an option’s sensitivity to changes in the price of the underlying asset. Therefore, its is the degree to which an option price will move given a change in the underlying stock or index price, all else being equal.

               Change in option premium
Delta = -------------------------------------
               Change in underlyingprice


For example, an option with a delta of 0.5 will move Rs 5 for every change of Rs 10 in the underlying stock or index.

Illustration:

A trader is considering buying a Call option on a futures contract, which has a price of Rs 19. The premium for the Call option with a strike price of Rs 19 is 0.80. The delta for this option is +0.5. This means that if the price of the underlying futures contract rises to Rs 20 - a rise of Re 1 - then the premium will increase by 0.5 x 1.00 = 0.50. The new option premium will be 0.80 + 0.50 = Rs 1.30.

Far out-of-the-money calls will have a delta very close to zero, as the change in underlying price is not likely to make them valuable or cheap. An at-the-money call would have a delta of 0.5 and a deeply in-the-money call would have a delta close to 1.

While Call deltas are positive, Put deltas are negative, reflecting the fact that the put option price and the underlying stock price are inversely related. This is because if you buy a put your view is bearish and expect the stock price to go down. However, if the stock price moves up it is contrary to your view therefore, the value of the option decreases. The put delta equals the call delta minus 1.

It may be noted that if delta of your position is positive, you desire the underlying asset to rise in price. On the contrary, if delta is negative, you want the underlying asset’s price to fall.

Uses: The knowledge of delta is of vital importance for option traders because this parameter is heavily used in margining and risk management strategies. The delta is often called the hedge ratio. e.g. if you have a portfolio of ‘n’ shares of a stock then ‘n’ divided by the delta gives you the number of calls you would need to be short (i.e. need to write) to create a riskless hedge – i.e. a portfolio which would be worth the same whether the stock price rose by a very small amount or fell by a very small amount.

In such a "delta neutral" portfolio any gain in the value of the shares held due to a rise in the share price would be exactly offset by a loss on the value of the calls written, and vice versa.

Note that as the delta changes with the stock price and time to expiration the number of shares would need to be continually adjusted to maintain the hedge. How quickly the delta changes with the stock price is given by gamma, which we shall learn subsequently.

Gamma

This is the rate at which the delta value of an option increases or decreases as a result of a move in the price of the underlying instrument.

                 Change in an option delta
Gamma = -------------------------------------
                 Change in underlying price

For example, if a Call option has a delta of 0.50 and a gamma of 0.05, then a rise of ±1 in the underlying means the delta will move to 0.55 for a price rise and 0.45 for a price fall. Gamma is rather like the rate of change in the speed of a car - its acceleration - in moving from a standstill, up to its cruising speed, and braking back to a standstill. Gamma is greatest for an ATM (at-the-money) option (cruising) and falls to zero as an option moves deeply ITM (in-the-money ) and OTM (out-of-the-money) (standstill).

If you are hedging a portfolio using the delta-hedge technique described under "Delta", then you will want to keep gamma as small as possible as the smaller it is the less often you will have to adjust the hedge to maintain a delta neutral position. If gamma is too large a small change in stock price could wreck your hedge. Adjusting gamma, however, can be tricky and is generally done using options -- unlike delta, it can't be done by buying or selling the underlying asset as the gamma of the underlying asset is, by definition, always zero so more or less of it won't affect the gamma of the total portfolio.

Theta

It is a measure of an option’s sensitivity to time decay. Theta is the change in option price given a one-day decrease in time to expiration. It is a measure of time decay (or time shrunk). Theta is generally used to gain an idea of how time decay is affecting your portfolio.

               Change in an option premium
Theta = --------------------------------------
               Change in time to expiry

Theta is usually negative for an option as with a decrease in time, the option value decreases. This is due to the fact that the uncertainty element in the price decreases.

Assume an option has a premium of 3 and a theta of 0.06. After one day it will decline to 2.94, the second day to 2.88 and so on. Naturally other factors, such as changes in value of the underlying stock will alter the premium. Theta is only concerned with the time value. Unfortunately, we cannot predict with accuracy the change’s in stock market’s value, but we can measure exactly the time remaining until expiration.

Vega

This is a measure of the sensitivity of an option price to changes in market volatility. It is the change of an option premium for a given change - typically 1% - in the underlying volatility.

               Change in an option premium
Vega = -----------------------------------------
               Change in volatility

If for example, XYZ stock has a volatility factor of 30% and the current premium is 3, a vega of .08 would indicate that the premium would increase to 3.08 if the volatility factor increased by 1% to 31%. As the stock becomes more volatile the changes in premium will increase in the same proportion. Vega measures the sensitivity of the premium to these changes in volatility.

What practical use is the vega to a trader? If a trader maintains a delta neutral position, then it is possible to trade options purely in terms of volatility - the trader is not exposed to changes in underlying prices.

Rho

The change in option price given a one percentage point change in the risk-free interest rate. Rho measures the change in an option’s price per unit increase - typically 1% - in the cost of funding the underlying.

               Change in an option premium
Rho = ---------------------------------------------------
               Change in cost of funding underlying
Example:

Assume the value of Rho is 14.10. If the risk free interest rates go up by 1% the price of the option will move by Rs 0.14109. To put this in another way: if the risk-free interest rate changes by a small amount, then the option value should change by 14.10 times that amount. For example, if the risk-free interest rate increased by 0.01 (from 10% to 11%), the option value would change by 14.10*0.01 = 0.14. For a put option the relationship is inverse. If the interest rate goes up the option value decreases and therefore, Rho for a put option is negative. In general Rho tends to be small except for long-dated options.

Options Pricing Models

There are various option pricing models which traders use to arrive at the right value of the option. Some of the most popular models have been enumerated below.

The Binomial Pricing Model

The binomial model is an options pricing model which was developed by William Sharpe in 1978. Today, one finds a large variety of pricing models which differ according to their hypotheses or the underlying instruments upon which they are based (stock options, currency options, options on interest rates).

The Black & Scholes Model

The Black & Scholes model was published in 1973 by Fisher Black and Myron Scholes. It is one of the most popular options pricing models. It is noted for its relative simplicity and its fast mode of calculation: unlike the binomial model, it does not rely on calculation by iteration.

The intention of this section is to introduce you to the basic premises upon which this pricing model rests. A complete coverage of this topic is material for an advanced course

The Black-Scholes model is used to calculate a theoretical call price (ignoring dividends paid during the life of the option) using the five key determinants of an option's price: stock price, strike price, volatility, time to expiration, and short-term (risk free) interest rate.

The original formula for calculating the theoretical option price (OP) is as follows:

Where:
The variables are:
S = stock price
X = strike price
t = time remaining until expiration, expressed as a percent of a year
r = current continuously compounded risk-free interest rate
v = annual volatility of stock price (the standard deviation of the short-term returns over one year).
ln = natural logarithm
N(x) = standard normal cumulative distribution function
e = the exponential function

Lognormal distribution: The model is based on a lognormal distribution of stock prices, as opposed to a normal, or bell-shaped, distribution. The lognormal distribution allows for a stock price distribution of between zero and infinity (ie no negative prices) and has an upward bias (representing the fact that a stock price can only drop 100 per cent but can rise by more than 100 per cent).

Risk-neutral valuation: The expected rate of return of the stock (ie the expected rate of growth of the underlying asset which equals the risk free rate plus a risk premium) is notone of the variables in the Black-Scholes model (or any other model for option valuation). The important implication is that the price of an option is completely independent of the expected growth of the underlying asset. Thus, while any two investors may strongly disagree on the rate of return they expect on a stock they will, given agreement to the assumptions of volatility and the risk free rate, always agree on the fair price of the option on that underlying asset.

The key concept underlying the valuation of all derivatives -- the fact that price of an option is independent of the risk preferences of investors -- is called risk-neutral valuation. It means that all derivatives can be valued by assuming that the return from their underlying assets is the risk free rate.

Limitation: Dividends are ignored in the basic Black-Scholes formula, but there are a number of widely used adaptations to the original formula, which I use in my models, which enable it to handle both discrete and continuous dividends accurately.

However, despite these adaptations the Black-Scholes model has one major limitation: it cannot be used to accurately price options with an American-style exercise as it only calculates the option price at one point in time -- at expiration. It does not consider the steps along the way where there could be the possibility of early exercise of an American option.

As all exchange traded equity options have American-style exercise (ie they can be exercised at any time as opposed to European options which can only be exercised at expiration) this is a significant limitation.

The exception to this is an American call on a non-dividend paying asset. In this case the call is always worth the same as its European equivalent as there is never any advantage in exercising early.

Advantage: The main advantage of the Black-Scholes model is speed -- it lets you calculate a very large number of option prices in a very short time. Since, high accuracy is not critical for American option pricing (eg when animating a chart to show the effects of time decay) using Black-Scholes is a good option. But, the option of using the binomial model is also advisable for the relatively few pricing and profitability numbers where accuracy may be important and speed is irrelevant. You can experiment with the Black-Scholes model using on-line options pricing calculator.

The Binomial Model

The binomial model breaks down the time to expiration into potentially a very large number of time intervals, or steps. A tree of stock prices is initially produced working forward from the present to expiration. At each step it is assumed that the stock price will move up or down by an amount calculated using volatility and time to expiration. This produces a binomial distribution, or recombining tree, of underlying stock prices. The tree represents all the possible paths that the stock price could take during the life of the option.

At the end of the tree -- ie at expiration of the option -- all the terminal option prices for each of the final possible stock prices are known as they simply equal their intrinsic values.

Next the option prices at each step of the tree are calculated working back from expiration to the present. The option prices at each step are used to derive the option prices at the next step of the tree using risk neutral valuation based on the probabilities of the stock prices moving up or down, the risk free rate and the time interval of each step. Any adjustments to stock prices (at an ex-dividend date) or option prices (as a result of early exercise of American options) are worked into the calculations at the required point in time. At the top of the tree you are left with one option price.

Advantage: The big advantage the binomial model has over the Black-Scholes model is that it can be used to accurately price American options. This is because, with the binomial model it's possible to check at every point in an option's life (ie at every step of the binomial tree) for the possibility of early exercise (eg where, due to eg a dividend, or a put being deeply in the money the option price at that point is less than the its intrinsic value).

Where an early exercise point is found it is assumed that the option holder would elect to exercise and the option price can be adjusted to equal the intrinsic value at that point. This then flows into the calculations higher up the tree and so on.

Limitation: As mentioned before the main disadvantage of the binomial model is its relatively slow speed. It's great for half a dozen calculations at a time but even with today's fastest PCs it's not a practical solution for the calculation of thousands of prices in a few seconds which is what's required for the production of the animated charts in my strategy evaluation model.

Bull Market Strategies
Calls in a Bullish Strategy Puts in a Bullish Strategy
Bullish Call Spread Strategies Bullish Put Spread Strategies
Calls in a Bullish Strategy
An investor with a bullish market outlook should buy call options. If you expect the market price of the underlying asset to rise, then you would rather have the right to purchase at a specified price and sell later at a higher price than have the obligation to deliver later at a higher price.
The investor's profit potential buying a call option is unlimited. The investor's profit is the the market price less the exercise price less the premium. The greater the increase in price of the underlying, the greater the investor's profit.
The investor's potential loss is limited. Even if the market takes a drastic decline in price levels, the holder of a call is under no obligation to exercise the option. He may let the option expire worthless.
The investor breaks even when the market price equals the exercise price plus the premium. An increase in volatility will increase the value of your call and increase your return. Because of the increased likelihood that the option will become in- the-money, an increase in the underlying volatility (before expiration), will increase the value of a long options position. As an option holder, your return will also increase.
A simple example will illustrate the above:
Suppose there is a call option with a strike price of Rs 2000 and the option premium is Rs 100. The option will be exercised only if the value of the underlying is greater than Rs 2000 (the strike price). If the buyer exercises the call at Rs 2200 then his gain will be Rs 200. However, this would not be his actual gain for that he will have to deduct the Rs 200 (premium) he has paid.
The profit can be derived as follows
Profit = Market price - Exercise price - Premium
Profit = Market price - Strike price - Premium.
2200 - 2000 - 100 = Rs 100
 
Puts in a Bullish Strategy
An investor with a bullish market outlook can also go short on a Put option. Basically, an investor anticipating a bull market could write Put options. If the market price increases and puts become out-of-the-money, investors with long put positions will let their options expire worthless.
By writing Puts, profit potential is limited. A Put writer profits when the price of the underlying asset increases and the option expires worthless. The maximum profit is limited to the premium received.
However, the potential loss is unlimited. Because a short put position holder has an obligation to purchase if exercised. He will be exposed to potentially large losses if the market moves against his position and declines.
The break-even point occurs when the market price equals the exercise price: minus the premium. At any price less than the exercise price minus the premium, the investor loses money on the transaction. At higher prices, his option is profitable.
An increase in volatility will increase the value of your put and decrease your return. As an option writer, the higher price you will be forced to pay in order to buy back the option at a later date , lower is the return.
 
Bullish Call Spread Strategies
A vertical call spread is the simultaneous purchase and sale of identical call options but with different exercise prices.
To "buy a call spread" is to purchase a call with a lower exercise price and to write a call with a higher exercise price. The trader pays a net premium for the position.
To "sell a call spread" is the opposite, here the trader buys a call with a higher exercise price and writes a call with a lower exercise price, receiving a net premium for the position.
An investor with a bullish market outlook should buy a call spread. The "Bull Call Spread" allows the investor to participate to a limited extent in a bull market, while at the same time limiting risk exposure.
To put on a bull spread, the trader needs to buy the lower strike call and sell the higher strike call. The combination of these two options will result in a bought spread. The cost of Putting on this position will be the difference between the premium paid for the low strike call and the premium received for the high strike call.
The investor's profit potential is limited. When both calls are in-the-money, both will be exercised and the maximum profit will be realised. The investor delivers on his short call and receives a higher price than he is paid for receiving delivery on his long call.
The investors's potential loss is limited. At the most, the investor can lose is the net premium. He pays a higher premium for the lower exercise price call than he receives for writing the higher exercise price call.
The investor breaks even when the market price equals the lower exercise price plus the net premium. At the most, an investor can lose is the net premium paid. To recover the premium, the market price must be as great as the lower exercise price plus the net premium.
An example of a Bullish call spread:
Let's assume that the cash price of a scrip is Rs 100 and you buy a November call option with a strike price of Rs 90 and pay a premium of Rs 14. At the same time you sell another November call option on a scrip with a strike price of Rs 110 and receive a premium of Rs 4. Here you are buying a lower strike price option and selling a higher strike price option. This would result in a net outflow of Rs 10 at the time of establishing the spread.
Now let us look at the fundamental reason for this position. Since this is a bullish strategy, the first position established in the spread is the long lower strike price call option with unlimited profit potential. At the same time to reduce the cost of puchase of the long position a short position at a higher call strike price is established. While this not only reduces the outflow in terms of premium but his profit potential as well as risk is limited. Based on the above figures the maximum profit, maximum loss and breakeven point of this spread would be as follows:
Maximum profit = Higher strike price - Lower strike price - Net premium paid
= 110 - 90 - 10 = 10
Maximum Loss = Lower strike premium - Higher strike premium
= 14 - 4 = 10
Breakeven Price = Lower strike price + Net premium paid
= 90 + 10 = 100
 
Bullish Put Spread Strategies
A vertical Put spread is the simultaneous purchase and sale of identical Put options but with different exercise prices.
To "buy a put spread" is to purchase a Put with a higher exercise price and to write a Put with a lower exercise price. The trader pays a net premium for the position.
To "sell a put spread" is the opposite: the trader buys a Put with a lower exercise price and writes a put with a higher exercise price, receiving a net premium for the position.
An investor with a bullish market outlook should sell a Put spread. The "vertical bull put spread" allows the investor to participate to a limited extent in a bull market, while at the same time limiting risk exposure.
To put on a bull spread, a trader sells the higher strike put and buys the lower strike put.
The bull spread can be created by buying the lower strike and selling the higher strike of either calls or put. The difference between the premiums paid and received makes up one leg of the spread.
The investor's profit potential is limited. When the market price reaches or exceeds the higher exercise price, both options will be out-of-the-money and will expire worthless. The trader will realize his maximum profit, the net premium
The investor's potential loss is also limited. If the market falls, the options will be in-the-money. The puts will offset one another, but at different exercise prices.
The investor breaks-even when the market price equals the lower exercise price less the net premium. The investor achieves maximum profit i.e the premium received, when the market price moves up beyond the higher exercise price (both puts are then worthless).
An example of a bullish put spread.
Lets us assume that the cash price of the scrip is Rs 100. You now buy a November put option on a scrip with a strike price of Rs 90 at a premium of Rs 5 and sell a put option with a strike price of Rs 110 at a premium of Rs 15.
The first position is a short put at a higher strike price. This has resulted in some inflow in terms of premium. But here the trader is worried about risk and so caps his risk by buying another put option at the lower strike price. As such, a part of the premium received goes off and the ultimate position has limited risk and limited profit potential. Based on the above figures the maximum profit, maximum loss and breakeven point of this spread would be as follows:
Maximum profit = Net option premium income or net credit
= 15 - 5 = 10
Maximum loss = Higher strike price - Lower strike price - Net premium received
= 110 - 90 - 10 = 10
Breakeven Price = Higher Strike price - Net premium income
= 110 - 10 = 100
Bear Market Strategies
Puts in a Bearish Strategy Calls in a Bearish Strategy
Bearish Put Spread Strategies Bearish Call Spread Strategies
Puts in a Bearish Strategy
When you purchase a put you are long and want the market to fall. A put option is a bearish position. It will increase in value if the market falls. An investor with a bearish market outlook shall buy put options. By purchasing put options, the trader has the right to choose whether to sell the underlying asset at the exercise price. In a falling market, this choice is preferable to being obligated to buy the underlying at a price higher.
An investor's profit potential is practically unlimited. The higher the fall in price of the underlying asset, higher the profits.
The investor's potential loss is limited. If the price of the underlying asset rises instead of falling as the investor has anticipated, he may let the option expire worthless. At the most, he may lose the premium for the option.
The trader's breakeven point is the exercise price minus the premium. To profit, the market price must be below the exercise price. Since the trader has paid a premium he must recover the premium he paid for the option.
An increase in volatility will increase the value of your put and increase your return. An increase in volatility will make it more likely that the price of the underlying instrument will move. This increases the value of the option.
 
Calls in a Bearish Strategy
Another option for a bearish investor is to go short on a call with the intent to purchase it back in the future. By selling a call, you have a net short position and needs to be bought back before expiration and cancel out your position.
For this an investor needs to write a call option. If the market price falls, long call holders will let their out-of-the-money options expire worthless, because they could purchase the underlying asset at the lower market price.
The investor's profit potential is limited because the trader's maximum profit is limited to the premium received for writing the option.
Here the loss potential is unlimited because a short call position holder has an obligation to sell if exercised, he will be exposed to potentially large losses if the market rises against his position.
The investor breaks even when the market price equals the exercise price: plus the premium. At any price greater than the exercise price plus the premium, the trader is losing money. When the market price equals the exercise price plus the premium, the trader breaks even.
An increase in volatility will increase the value of your call and decrease your return.
When the option writer has to buy back the option in order to cancel out his position, he will be forced to pay a higher price due to the increased value of the calls.
 
Bearish Put Spread Strategies
A vertical put spread is the simultaneous purchase and sale of identical put options but with different exercise prices.
To "buy a put spread" is to purchase a put with a higher exercise price and to write a put with a lower exercise price. The trader pays a net premium for the position.
To "sell a put spread" is the opposite. The trader buys a put with a lower exercise price and writes a put with a higher exercise price, receiving a net premium for the position.
To put on a bear put spread you buy the higher strike put and sell the lower strike put.
You sell the lower strike and buy the higher strike of either calls or puts to set up a bear spread.
An investor with a bearish market outlook should: buy a put spread. The "Bear Put Spread" allows the investor to participate to a limited extent in a bear market, while at the same time limiting risk exposure.
The investor's profit potential is limited. When the market price falls to or below the lower exercise price, both options will be in-the-money and the trader will realize his maximum profit when he recovers the net premium paid for the options.
The investor's potential loss is limited. The trader has offsetting positions at different exercise prices. If the market rises rather than falls, the options will be out-of-the-money and expire worthless. Since the trader has paid a net premium
The investor breaks even when the market price equals the higher exercise price less the net premium. For the strategy to be profitable, the market price must fall. When the market price falls to the high exercise price less the net premium, the trader breaks even. When the market falls beyond this point, the trader profits.
An example of a bearish put spread.
Lets assume that the cash price of the scrip is Rs 100. You buy a November put option on a scrip with a strike price of Rs 110 at a premium of Rs 15 and sell a put option with a strike price of Rs 90 at a premium of Rs 5.
In this bearish position the put is taken as long on a higher strike price put with the outgo of some premium. This position has huge profit potential on downside. If the trader may recover a part of the premium paid by him by writing a lower strike price put option. The resulting position is a mildly bearish position with limited risk and limited profit profile. Though the trader has reduced the cost of taking a bearish position, he has also capped the profit portential as well. The maximum profit, maximum loss and breakeven point of this spread would be as follows:
Maximum profit = Higher strike price option - Lower strike price option - Net premium paid
= 110 - 90 - 10 = 10
Maximum loss = Net premium paid
= 15 - 5 = 10
Breakeven Price = Higher strike price - Net premium paid
= 110 - 10 = 100
 
Bearish Call Spread Strategies
A vertical call spread is the simultaneous purchase and sale of identical call options but with different exercise prices.
To "buy a call spread" is to purchase a call with a lower exercise price and to write a call with a higher exercise price. The trader pays a net premium for the position.
To "sell a call spread" is the opposite: the trader buys a call with a higher exercise price and writes a call with a lower exercise price, receiving a net premium for the position.
To put on a bear call spread you sell the lower strike call and buy the higher strike call. An investor sells the lower strike and buys the higher strike of either calls or puts to put on a bear spread.
An investor with a bearish market outlook should: sell a call spread. The "Bear Call Spread" allows the investor to participate to a limited extent in a bear market, while at the same time limiting risk exposure.
The investor's profit potential is limited. When the market price falls to the lower exercise price, both out-of-the-money options will expire worthless. The maximum profit that the trader can realize is the net premium: The premium he receives for the call at the higher exercise price.
Here the investor's potential loss is limited. If the market rises, the options will offset one another. At any price greater than the high exercise price, the maximum loss will equal high exercise price minus low exercise price minus net premium.
The investor breaks even when the market price equals the lower exercise price plus the net premium. The strategy becomes profitable as the market price declines. Since the trader is receiving a net premium, the market price does not have to fall as low as the lower exercise price to breakeven.
An example of a bearish call spread.
Let us assume that the cash price of the scrip is Rs 100. You now buy a November call option on a scrip with a strike price of Rs 110 at a premium of Rs 5 and sell a call option with a strike price of Rs 90 at a premium of Rs 15.
In this spread you have to buy a higher strike price call option and sell a lower strike price option. As the low strike price option is more expensive than the higher strike price option, it is a net credit startegy. The final position is left with limited risk and limited profit. The maximum profit, maximum loss and breakeven point of this spread would be as follows:
Maximum profit = Net premium received
= 15 - 5 = 10
Maximum loss = Higher strike price option - Lower strike price option - Net premium received
= 110 - 90 - 10 = 10
Breakeven Price = Lower strike price + Net premium paid
= 90 + 10 = 100
Volatile Market Strategies
Straddles in a Volatile Market Outlook
Volatile market trading strategies are appropriate when the trader believes the market will move but does not have an opinion on the direction of movement of the market. As long as there is significant movement upwards or downwards, these strategies offer profit opportunities. A trader need not be bullish or bearish. He must simply be of the opinion that the market is volatile.

  • A straddle is the simultaneous purchase (or sale) of two identical options, one a call and the other a put.
  • To "buy a straddle" is to purchase a call and a put with the same exercise price and expiration date
  • To "sell a straddle" is the opposite: the trader sells a call and a put with the same exercise price and expiration date.
A trader, viewing a market as volatile, should buy option straddles. A "straddle purchase" allows the trader to profit from either a bull market or from a bear market.
Here the investor's profit potential is unlimited. If the market is volatile, the trader can profit from an up- or downward movement by exercising the appropriate option while letting the other option expire worthless. (Bull market, exercise the call; bear market, the put.)
While the investor's potential loss is limited. If the price of the underlying asset remains stable instead of either rising or falling as the trader anticipated, the most he will lose is the premium he paid for the options.
In this case the trader has long two positions and thus, two breakeven points. One is for the call, which is exercise price plus the premiums paid, and the other for the put, which is exercise price minus the premiums paid.
 
Strangles in a Volatile Market Outlook
A strangle is similar to a straddle, except that the call and the put have different exercise prices. Usually, both the call and the put are out-of-the-money.
To "buy a strangle" is to purchase a call and a put with the same expiration date, but different exercise prices.
To "sell a strangle" is to write a call and a put with the same expiration date, but different exercise prices.
A trader, viewing a market as volatile, should buy strangles. A "strangle purchase" allows the trader to profit from either a bull or bear market. Because the options are typically out-of-the-money, the market must move to a greater degree than a straddle purchase to be profitable.
The trader's profit potential is unlimited. If the market is volatile, the trader can profit from an up- or downward movement by exercising the appropriate option, and letting the other expire worthless. (In a bull market, exercise the call; in a bear market, the put).
The investor's potential loss is limited. Should the price of the underlying remain stable, the most the trader would lose is the premium he paid for the options. Here the loss potential is also very minimal because, the more the options are out-of-the-money, the lesser the premiums.
Here the trader has two long positions and thus, two breakeven points. One for the call, which breakevens when the market price equal the high exercise price plus the premium paid, and for the put, when the market price equals the low exercise price minus the premium paid.
 
The Short Butterfly Call Spread
Like the volatility positions we have looked at so far, the Short Butterfly position will realize a profit if the market makes a substantial move. It also uses a combination of puts and calls to achieve its profit/loss profile - but combines them in such a manner that the maximum profit is limited.
You are short the September 40-45-50 butterfly with the underlying at 45. You: you are neutral but want the market to move in either direction.
The position is a neutral one - consisting of two short options balanced out with two long ones.
Which of these positions is a short butterfly spread? The graph on the left.
The profit loss profile of a short butterfly spread looks like two short options coming together at the center Calls.
The spread shown above was constructed by using 1 short call at a low exercise price, two long calls at a medium exercise price and 1 short call at a high exercise price.
Your potential gains or losses are: limited on both the upside and the downside.
Say you had build a short 40-45-50 butterfly. The position would yield a profit only if the market moves below 40 or above 50. The maximum loss is also limited.
 
The Call Ratio Backspread
The call ratio backspread is similar in contruction to the short butterfly call spread you looked at in the previous section. The only difference is that you omit one of the components (or legs) used to build the short butterfly when constructing a call ratio backspread.
When putting on a call ratio backspread, you are neutral but want the market to move in either direction. The call ratio backspread will lose money if the market sits. The market outlook one would have in putting on this position would be for a volatile market, with greater probability that the market will rally.
To put on a call ratio backspread, you sell one of the lower strike and buy two or more of the higher strike. By selling an expensive lower strike option and buying two less expensive high strike options, you receive an initial credit for this position. The maximum loss is then equal to the high strike price minus the low strike price minus the initial net premium received.
Your potential gains are limited on the downside and unlimited on the upside.
The profit on the downside is limited to the initial net premium received when setting up the spread. The upside profit is unlimited.
An increase in implied volatility will make your spread more profitable. Increased volatility increases a long option position's value. The greater number of long options will cause this spread to become more profitable when volatility increases.
 
The Put Ratio Backspread
In combination positions (e.g. bull spreads, butterflys, ratio spreads), one can use calls or puts to achieve similar, if not identical, profit profiles. Like its call counterpart, the put ratio backspread combines options to create a spread which has limited loss potential and a mixed profit potential.
It is created by combining long and short puts in a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. In a 3:1 spread, you would buy three puts at a low exercise price and write one put at a high exercise price. While you may, of course, extend this position out to six long and two short or nine long and three short, it is important that you respect the (in this case) 3:1 ratio in order to maintain the put ratio backspread profit/loss profile.
When you put on a put ratio backspread: are neutral but want the market to move in either direction.
Your market expectations here would be for a volatile market with a greater probability that the market will fall than rally.
How would the profit/loss profile of a put ratio backspread differ from a call ratio backspread?
Unlimited profit would be realized on the downside.
The two long puts offset the short put and result in practically unlimited profit on the bearish side of the market. The cost of the long puts is offset by the premium received for the (more expensive) short put, resulting in a net premium received.
To put on a put ratio backspread, you: buy two or more of the lower strike and sell one of the higher strike.
You sell the more expensive put and buy two or more of the cheaper put. One usually receives an initial net premium for putting on this spread. The Maximum loss is equal to: High strike price - Low strike price - Initial net premium received.
For eg if the ratio backspread is 45 days before expiration. Considering only the bearish side of the market, an increase in volatility increases profit/loss and the passage of time decreases profit/loss.
The low breakeven point indicated on the graph is equal to the lower of the two exercise prices... minus the call premiums paid, minus the net premiums received. The higher of this position's two breakeven points is simply the high exercise price minus the net premium.
Stable Market Strategies
Straddles in a Stable Market Outlook
Volatile market trading strategies are appropriate when the trader believes the market will move but does not have an opinion on the direction of movement of the market. As long as there is significant movement upwards or downwards, these strategies offer profit opportunities. A trader need not be bullish or bearish. He must simply be of the opinion that the market is volatile. This market outlook is also referred to as "neutral volatility."

  • A straddle is the simultaneous purchase (or sale) of two identical options, one a call and the other a put.
  • To "buy a straddle" is to purchase a call and a put with the same exercise price and expiration date.
  • To "sell a straddle" is the opposite: the trader sells a call and a put with the same exercise price and expiration date.
The investor's profit potential is limited. If the market remains stable, traders long out-of-the-money calls or puts will let their options expire worthless. Writers of these options will not have be called to deliver and will profit from the sum of the premiums received.
The investor's potential loss is unlimited. Should the price of the underlying rise or fall, the writer of a call or put would have to deliver, exposing himself to unlimited loss if he has to deliver on the call and practically unlimited loss if on the put.
The breakeven points occur when the market price at expiration equals the exercise price
plus the premium and minus the premium. The trader is short two positions and thus, two breakeven points; One for the call (common exercise price plus the premiums paid), and one for the put (common exercise price minus the premiums paid).

Strangles in a Stable Market Outlook
A strangle is similar to a straddle, except that the call and the put have different exercise prices. Usually, both the call and the put are out-of-the-money.
To "buy a strangle" is to purchase a call and a put with the same expiration date, but different exercise prices. Usually the call strike price is higher than the put strike price.
To "sell a strangle" is to write a call and a put with the same expiration date, but different exercise prices.
A trader, viewing a market as stable, should: write strangles.
A "strangle sale" allows the trader to profit from a stable market.
The investor's profit potential is: unlimited.
If the market remains stable, investors having out-of-the-money long put or long call positions will let their options expire worthless.
The investor's potential loss is: unlimited.
If the price of the underlying interest rises or falls instead of remaining stable as the trader anticipated, he will have to deliver on the call or the put.
The breakeven points occur when market price at expiration equals...the high exercise price plus the premium and the low exercise price minus the premium.
The trader is short two positions and thus, two breakeven points. One for the call (high exercise price plus the premiums paid), and one for the put (low exercise price minus the premiums paid).
Why would a trader choose to sell a strangle rather than a straddle?
The risk is lower with a strangle. Although the seller gives up a substantial amount of potential profit by selling a strangle rather than a straddle, he also holds less risk. Notice that the strangle requires more of a price move in both directions before it begins to lose money.
Long Butterfly Call Spread Strategy
The long butterfly call spread is a combination of a bull spread and a bear spread, utilizing calls and three different exercise prices.
A long butterfly call spread involves:

  • Buying a call with a low exercise price,
  • Writing two calls with a mid-range exercise price,
  • Buying a call with a high exercise price.
To put on the September 40-45-50 long butterfly, you: buy the 40 and 50 strike and sell two 45 strikes.
This spread is put on by purchasing one each of the outside strikes and selling two of the inside strike. To put on a short butterfly, you do just the opposite.
The investor's profit potential is limited.
Maximum profit is attained when the market price of the underlying interest equals the mid-range exercise price (if the exercise prices are symmetrical).
The investor's potential loss is: limited.
The maximum loss is limited to the net premium paid and is realized when the market price of the underlying asset is higher than the high exercise price or lower than the low exercise price.
The breakeven points occur when the market price at expiration equals ... the high exercise price minus the premium and the low exercise price plus the premium. The strategy is profitable when the market price is between the low exercise price plus the net premium and the high exercise price minus the net premium.
Key Regulations

In India we have two premier exchanges The National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) and The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) which offer options trading on stock indices as well as individual securities.

Options on stock indices are European in kind and settled only on the last of expiration of the underlying. NSE offers index options trading on the NSE Fifty index called the Nifty. While BSE offers index options on the country’s widely used index Sensex, which consists of 30 stocks.

Options on individual securities are American. The number of stock options contracts to be traded on the exchanges will be based on the list of securities as specified by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Additions/deletions in the list of securities eligible on which options contracts shall be made available shall be notified from time to time.

Underlying: Underlying for the options on individual securities contracts shall be the underlying security available for trading in the capital market segment of the exchange.

Security descriptor: The security descriptor for the options on individual securities shall be:

  • Market type - N
  • Instrument type - OPTSTK
  • Underlying - Underlying security
  • Expiry date - Date of contract expiry
  • Option type - CA/PA
  • Exercise style - American Premium Settlement method: Premium Settled; CA - Call American
  • PA - Put American.

Trading cycle: The contract cycle and availability of strike prices for options contracts on individual securities shall be as follows:
Options on individual securities contracts will have a maximum of three-month trading cycle. New contracts will be introduced on the trading day following the expiry of the near month contract.
On expiry of the near month contract, new contract shall be introduced at new strike prices for both call and put options, on the trading day following the expiry of the near month contract. (See Index futures learning centre for further reading)

Strike price intervals: The exchange shall provide a minimum of five strike prices for every option type (i.e call & put) during the trading month. There shall be two contracts in-the-money (ITM), two contracts out-of-the-money (OTM) and one contract at-the-money (ATM). The strike price interval for options on individual securities is given in the accompanying table.
New contracts with new strike prices for existing expiration date will be introduced for trading on the next working day based on the previous day's underlying close values and as and when required. In order to fix on the at-the-money strike price for options on individual securities contracts the closing underlying value shall be rounded off to the nearest multiplier of the strike price interval. The in-the-money strike price and the out-of-the-money strike price shall be based on the at-the-money strike price interval.

Expiry day: Options contracts on individual securities as well as index options shall expire on the last Thursday of the expiry month. If the last Thursday is a trading holiday, the contracts shall expire on the previous trading day.

Order type: Regular lot order, stop loss order, immediate or cancel, good till day, good till cancelled, good till date and spread order. Good till cancelled (GTC) orders shall be cancelled at the end of the period of 7 calendar days from the date of entering an order.

Permitted lot size: The value of the option contracts on individual securities shall not be less than Rs 2 lakh at the time of its introduction. The permitted lot size for the options contracts on individual securities shall be in multiples of 100 and fractions if any, shall be rounded off to the next higher multiple of 100.

Price steps: The price steps in respect of all options contracts admitted to dealings on the exchange shall be Re 0.05.

Quantity freeze: Orders which may come to the exchange as a quantity freeze shall be the lesser of the following: 1 per cent of the marketwide position limit stipulated of options on individual securities as given in (h) below or Notional value of the contract of around Rs 5 crore. In respect of such orders, which have come under quantity freeze, the member shall be required to confirm to the exchange that there is no inadvertent error in the order entry and that the order is genuine. On such confirmation, the exchange at its discretion may approve such order subject to availability of turnover/exposure limits, etc.

Base price: Base price of the options contracts on introduction of new contracts shall be the theoretical value of the options contract arrived at based on Black-Scholes model of calculation of options premiums. The base price of the contracts on subsequent trading days will be the daily close price of the options contracts. However in such of those contracts where orders could not be placed because of application of price ranges, the bases prices may be modified at the discretion of the exchange and intimated to the members.

Price ranges: There will be no day minimum/maximum price ranges applicable for the options contract. The operating ranges and day minimum/maximum ranges for options contract shall be kept at 99 per cent of the base price. In view of this the members will not be able to place orders at prices which are beyond 99 per cent of the base price. The base prices for option contracts may be modified, at the discretion of the exchange, based on the request received from trading members as mentioned above.

Exposure limits: Gross open positions of a member at any point of time shall not exceed the exposure limit as detailed hereunder:

  • Index Options: Exposure Limit shall be 33.33 times the liquid networth.
  • Option contracts on individual Securities: Exposure Limit shall be 20 times the liquid networth.

Memberwise position limit: When the open position of a Clearing Member, Trading Member or Custodial Participant exceeds 15 per cent of the total open interest of the market or Rs 100 crore, whichever is higher, in all the option contracts on the same underlying, at any time, including during trading hours.
For option contracts on individual securities, open interest shall be equivalent to the open positions multiplied by the notional value. Notional Value shall be the previous day's closing price of the underlying security or such other price as may be specified from time to time.

Market wide position limits: Market wide position limits for option contracts on individual securities shall be lower of:
*20 times the average number of shares traded daily, during the previous calendar month, in the relevant underlying security in the underlying segment of the relevant exchange or, 10 per cent of the number of shares held by non-promoters in the relevant underlying security i.e. 10 per cent of the free float in terms of the number of shares of a company.
The relevant authority shall specify the market wide position limits once every month, on the expiration day of the near month contract, which shall be applicable till the expiry of the subsequent month contract.

Exercise settlement: Exercise type shall be American and final settlement in respect of options on individual securities contracts shall be cash settled for an initial period of 6 months and as per the provisions of National Securities Clearing Corporation Ltd (NSCCL) as may be stipulated from time to time.

Reading Stock Option Tables
In India, option tables published in business newspapers and is fairly similar to the regular stock tables.
The following is the format of the options table published in Indian business news papers:
 
  • The first column shows the contract that is being traded i.e Reliance.
  • The second coloumn displays the date on which the contract will expire i.e. the expiry date is the last Thursday of the month.
  • Call options-American are depicted as 'CA' and Put options-American as 'PA'.
  • The Open, High, Low, Close columns display the traded premium rates.
Advantages of option trading

Risk management: Put options allow investors holding shares to hedge against a possible fall in their value. This can be considered similar to taking out insurance against a fall in the share price.
Time to decide: By taking a call option the purchase price for the shares is locked in. This gives the call option holder until the Expiry Day to decide whether or not to exercise the option and buy the shares. Likewise the taker of a put option has time to decide whether or not to sell the shares.

Speculation: The ease of trading in and out of an option position makes it possible to trade options with no intention of ever exercising them. If an investor expects the market to rise, they may decide to buy call options. If expecting a fall, they may decide to buy put options. Either way the holder can sell the option prior to expiry to take a profit or limit a loss. Trading options has a lower cost than shares, as there is no stamp duty payable unless and until options are exercised.

Leverage: Leverage provides the potential to make a higher return from a smaller initial outlay than investing directly. However, leverage usually involves more risks than a direct investment in the underlying shares. Trading in options can allow investors to benefit from a change in the price of the share without having to pay the full price of the share.
We can see below how one can leverage ones position by just paying the premium.

Income generation: Shareholders can earn extra income over and above dividends by writing call options against their shares. By writing an option they receive the option premium upfront. While they get to keep the option premium, there is a possibility that they could be exercised against and have to deliver their shares to the taker at the exercise price.

Strategies: By combining different options, investors can create a wide range of potential profit scenarios. To find out more about options strategies read the module on trading strategies.

Barings episode - Learnings from the market

With the introduction of index options, the derivatives market is all set to shift to a multi-product environment from a single-product market. Options like futures are leveraged products used by participants to manage the risk in the underlying market. Many people perceive options to be very risky. Debacles like the Barings episode are responsible for this misconception.
At this juncture, when options are being introduced in the Indian capital market, it would be prudent to understand what happened in the Barings case to prevent similar incidents from occurring here.

The episode
The man behind the widely-reported debacle, Nicholas Leeson, had an established track record of being a savvy operator in the derivatives market and was the darling of the top management at the Barings headquarters in London.
As head of derivatives trading, Leeson was responsible for both the trading and clearing functions of Barings Futures Singapore (BFS), a subsidiary of London-based Barings Plc.
Leeson engaged himself in proprietary trading on the Japanese stock exchange index Nikkei 225. He operated simultaneously on the Singapore Exchange - Derivatives Trading Ltd., (SGX - DT) (erstwhile Singapore International Monetary Exchange, SIMEX), Singapore and Osaka Securities Exchange (OSE), Japan in Nikkei 225 futures and options.
A major part of Leeson's trading strategy involved the sale of options on the Nikkei 225 index futures contracts. He sold a large number of option straddles (a strategy that involves simultaneous sale of both call and put options) on Nikkei 225 index futures.
Without going into the intricacies, it may be understood that straddle results in a loss, if the market moves in either direction (up or down) drastically. His strategy amounted to a bet that the Japanese stock market would neither fall nor rise substantially.
But events took an unexpected and dramatic turn. The news of a killer earthquake in Kobe sent the Japanese stock markets tumbling. The futures on the Nikkei 225 started declining and Leeson's straddle position started incurring losses.
Desperate to make some profit from his straddles, he started supporting the index by building up extraordinarily huge long positions in Nikkei 225 futures on both exchanges - SGX - DT and OSE.
However, the Barings management was made to understand that Leeson was trying to arbitrage between the SGX-DT and OSE with the Nikkei 225 index futures.
When OSE authorities warned Leeson about his huge long positions on the exchange in Nikkei 225 futures, the trader claimed that he had built up exactly the opposite positions in the Nikkei 225 on SGX - DT. He wanted to suggest that if his positions in the Nikkei 225 at the OSE suffered losses, they would be made up by the profits by his position in the SGX - DT.
A similar impression was given to SGX - DT authorities, when they inquired about Leeson's positions. While Leeson misled both exchanges with wrong information, neither exchanges bothered to cross-check the trader's positions on the other exchanges because they were competing for the same business.
Both exchanges were more concerned about protecting their financial integrity and in doing so, allowed the continuation of the exceptionally-large positions of Leeson after securing adequate margins.
We all know the consequences. A single operator couldn't take the market in the desired direction and the market crashed drastically.
Consequently, Barings registered losses on Leeson's futures and straddle positions. But, we must note that the flames of the Leeson disaster did not singe the financial integrity of either market. This was because the markets were protected with proper margins.

The lessons
A single operator can't move the market: Leeson was trying to drive up prices by buying index futures on the Nikkei 225 but could not succeed as the market was gripped by pessimism emanating from the devastating Kobe earthquake.
The point is that, a single operator cannot change the direction of the market and it is always prudent to live with the market movement strategically. In this instance, a better strategy for Leeson would have been the dynamic management of his portfolio.
For example, with the falling value of the index, his put leg of the straddle started incurring losses (call was to expire worthless), and he had the choice to square his put options off at the pre-determined level (cut-off loss strategy).
But Leeson, instead of squaring off his short put option position, chose to support the index price by buying futures on the Nikkei 225 and failed.
Traders should have clearly defined and well-communicated position limits: Position limits mean the limits set by top management for each trader in the trading organisation. These limits are defined in various forms with regard to product, market or trader's total market exposure etc.
Any laxity on this front may result in unbearable consequences to the trading organisation. These limits should be clearly defined and well communicated to all traders in the organisation.
Meticulous monitoring of position limits is a must: We may note that Leeson, too, had position limits set by top management, but, he exceeded all of them.
This attempt at crossing limits did not come to the notice of the top brass at Barings as Leeson himself was in charge of supervising back office operations at BFS.
It is understood that he had sent fictitious reports about his trading activities to the Barings' headquarters in London. Had the top management been aware of the real situation, the disaster could probably have been avoided.
Therefore, scrupulous monitoring of the position limits is as important as setting them. The top management's job of monitoring the positions of each dealer in the dealing room may be facilitated by bifurcating the front and back office operations.
Different people should be in charge of front and back-office operations so that any exposure by dealers, over and above the limits set, can be detected immediately. It means having proper checks and balances at various levels to ensure that everyone in the organisation has the disciplinary approach and works within set limits.
In fact, trading systems should be capable enough to automatically disallow traders any increase in exposures as soon as they touch pre-determined limits.
Exchanges should compete professionally: Both the competing exchanges, SGX - DT and OSE, were unconcerned about checking Barings' position at the other exchange.
While both the exchanges were safeguarded through margins, people must appreciate the fact that the effect of a big failure like Barings goes much beyond the financial integrity of a system.
The point to be noted is that exchanges can compete, but at the same time, must co-operate and share information. It could also help in deterring efforts at price manipulation.
Big institutions are as prone to risk as individuals: One broad issue from an overall market perspective is that big institutions are as prone to incurring losses in the derivatives market as is any other individual.
Therefore, irrespective of the entity, margins should be collected by the clearing corporation/ house and/ or exchange on time. Only timely collection of margins can protect the financial integrity of the market as we have seen in the Barings case.
The above-mentioned points are relevant to trading organisations in derivatives market. They have to intelligently work in-house to avoid any mishaps like the Barings episode at any point in time.
SEBI has done a good job in the Indian derivatives market by making margins universally applicable to all categories of participants including institutions. This provision will go a long way in creating a financially-safe derivatives market in India.

Conclusion
Clearly, the failure of Barings was not a 'derivatives' failure' but a failure of management. After the investigations were through in the Barings case, the Board of Banking Supervision's report also placed responsibility on poor operational controls at Barings rather than the use of derivatives. An important lesson from the entire episode is that we all need a disciplinary and self-regulatory approach. The moment we go against this fundamental rule, this leveraged market is capable of threatening our very existence 

Source: Bombay Stock Exchange.

Glossary
American style: Type of option contract which allows the holder to exercise at any time up to and including the Expiry Day.
Annualised return: The return or profit, expressed on an annual basis, the writer of the option contract receives for buying the shares and writing that particular option.
Assignment: The random allocation of an exercise obligation to a writer. This is carried out by the exchanges.
At-the-money: When the price of the underlying security equals the exercise price of the option.
Buy and write: The simultaneous purchase of shares and sale of an equivalent number of option contracts.
Call option: An option contract that entitles the taker (buyer) to buy a fixed number of the underlying shares at a stated price on or before a fixed Expiry Day.
Class of options: Option contracts of the same type – either calls or puts - covering the same underlying security.
Delta: The rate in change of option premium due to a change in price of the underlying securities.
Derivative: An instrument which derives its value from the value of an underlying instrument (such as shares, share price indices, fixed interest securities, commodities, currencies, etc.). Warrants and options are types of derivative.
European style: Type of option contract, which allows the holder to exercise only on the Expiry Day.
Exercise price: The amount of money which must be paid by the taker (in the case of a call option) or the writer (in the case of a put option) for the transfer of each of the underlying securities upon exercise of the option.
Expiry day: The date on which all unexercised options in a particular series expire.
Hedge: A transaction, which reduces or offsets the risk of a current holding. For example, a put option may act as a hedge for a current holding in the underlying instrument.
Implied volatility: A measure of volatility assigned to a series by the current market price.
In-the-money: An option with intrinsic value.
Intrinsic value: The difference between the market value of the underlying securities and the exercise price of the option. Usually it is not less than zero. It represents the advantage the taker has over the current market price if the option is exercised.
Long-term option: An option with a term to expiry of two or three years from the date the series was first listed. (This is not available in currently in India)
Multiplier: Is used when considering index options. The strike price and premium of an index option are usually expressed in points.
Open interest: The number of outstanding contracts in a particular class or series existing in the option market. Also called the "open position".
Out-of-the-money: A call option is out-of-the-money if the market price of the underlying securities is below the exercise price of the option; a put option is out-of-the-money if the market price of the underlying securities is above the exercise price of the options.
Premium: The amount payable by the taker to the writer for entering the option. It is determined through the trading process and represents current market value.
Put option: An option contract that entitles the taker (buyer) to sell a fixed number of underlying securities at a stated price on or before a fixed Expiry Day.
Random selection: The method by which an exercise of an option is allocated to a writer in that series of option.
Series of options: All contracts of the same class having the same Expiry Day and the same exercise price.
Time value: The amount investors are willing to pay for the possibility that they could make a profit from their option position. It is influenced by time to expiry, dividends, interest rates, volatility and market expectations.
Underlying securities: The shares or other securities subject to purchase or sale upon exercise of the option.
Volatility: A measure of the expected amount of fluctuation in the price of the particular securities.
Writer: The seller of an option contract
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