Friday, October 31st, 2014

Selling Call Options without Owning Stock

 

Options traders often profit from selling call options without owning stock. In this variety of uncovered options trading the trader believes that the price of the equity underlying the options contract will remain the same or fall in price. The trader receives a premium for selling the call contract. This is his profit so long as the buyer does not exercise the contract. If the price of the equity rises sufficiently the trader will exercise the option in order to buy the equity. When this happens the seller needs to purchase the stock at the current market price. However, he will sell it to the buyer at the strike price of the contract. He will lose money on the difference. In such a case of selling call options without owning stock the loss for the seller is the difference between the market price and the strike price plus fees and commissions. If the equity rises significantly in price the trader can lose a lot of money when selling call options without owning stock. That having been said, sellers of options tend to make more money than buyers of options over the long term.

Call Contracts in Options Trading

A call option is a financial contract between two parties. The buyer of the call option has the right, but is under no obligation to buy an agreed quantity of a particular equity from the seller at a specified time called the expiration date for a set price called the strike price. Unlike the buyer, the seller of a call option is obliged to sell the equity whether he has it in his possession or not. The buyer pays a fee to the seller for the rights inherent in the contract. When an options seller does not possess the equity in question he needs to have money in a margin account sufficient to cover his losses. When trading European style options the contract can only be executed on expiration. In American style options trading the buyer can exercise the contract at any time during the course of the contract.

Choosing Options to Sell

In selling call options without owning stock it is wise to choose stable stocks or stocks likely to fall in value. Traders often consult the VIX. This is a weighted measure of options on the S&P 500 index. It measures out of the money calls and puts. The VIX uses a mathematical formula to produce its number. This is a measure of volatility but not necessarily a predictor or market direction. A trader wishing to make money selling call options without owning stock will prefer a low VIX number. A buyer will obviously prefer the opposite. As in trading stocks directly an options trader should consult both stock fundamentals and technical measures of market sentiment before buying or selling options contract. And, as in all trading it is wise to sit out any and all trades which you do not understand. Options help buyers hedge risks but the entity that provides the insurance in these situations in the options seller.

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