Basic Strategies

 

The versatility of index options stems from the variety of strategies available to the investor. The following examples explain most basic uses of index options. These examples are based on hypothetical situations and should only be considered as examples of potential trading approaches.

Other strategies used with equity options, such as spreads and straddles, can be employed with index options. For more detailed explanations, contact OIC Investor Services, your brokerage firm or the exchanges where index options are traded.

Note: For purposes of illustration, we have omitted commission and transaction costs, tax considerations and the costs involved in margin accounts from examples. These factors affect a strategy’s potential outcome, so always check with your brokerage firm and tax advisor before entering into any strategies. For illustrative purposes, the following examples show the index option positions held until expiration. The premiums are intended to be reasonable, but in reality, will not necessarily exist at or prior to expiration for a similar option.

Strategy 1 - Buying Index Calls

Market Outlook: Bullish over the short term.

Goal: Positioning to profit from an increase in the level of the underlying index.

  • You are anticipating an advance in the broad market or market sector measured by the underlying index in the near future.
  • You want to take an aggressive position that can provide a great deal of leverage.
  • You make this decision aware of the possibility that you may lose the entire premium you pay for the option.

An index call option gives the purchaser the right to participate in underlying index gains above a predetermined strike price until the option expires. The purchaser of an index call option has unlimited profit potential tied to the strength of advances in the underlying index.

Scenario

Assume that XYZ symbolizes the underlying index that interests you and it is currently at a level of 200. You decide to purchase a 6-month XYZ 205 call for a quoted price of $4.75 per contract. Your net cost for this call is $475 ($4.75 x 100 multiplier). You are risking $475 if the underlying index level is not above the strike price of 205 when the XYZ call expires.

The break-even point (BEP) at expiration is an XYZ index level of 209.75 (strike price 205 + premium paid $4.75) because the call will be worth its intrinsic value of $4.75, which is what you originally paid for it. The higher the XYZ index settlement value is above the break-even point at expiration, the greater your profit.

Possible Outcomes at Expiration

1. XYZ index level above the break-even point (209.75):

If at expiration XYZ index has advanced to 215, the XYZ 205 call will be worth its intrinsic value of $10 (settlement value 215 - strike price 205). Your net profit in this case would be $525 (settlement amount $1000 received from exercise - net cost of call $475).

Buy XYZ index 205 Call at $4.75 with index at 200 net cost for call = $475
Level of XYZ index at expiration XYZ index declines to 198 (below strike) XYZ index advances to 207 (between strike and BEP) XYZ index advances to 215 (above BEP)
Move in level of index down 2 pts. up 7 pts. up 15 pts.
Value of call at expiration
(per contract)
0 (out-of-the-money) $2 $10
Less premium paid for call $4.75 $4.75 $4.75
Net profit/loss*
(per contract x 100)
–$475 –$275 $525

*Exclusive of commissions, transaction costs and taxes.

2. XYZ index level between strike price (205) and break-even point (209.75):

If at expiration XYZ index has advanced to 207, the XYZ 205 call will be worth its intrinsic value of $2.00 (settlement value 207 - strike price 205). You could exercise the option and receive the settlement amount of $200 ($2.00 intrinsic value x 100 multiplier). This amount would be less than the net amount paid for the call ($475), but it would offset some of that cost. The net loss in this case would be $275 (net cost of call $475 - settlement amount $200 received from exercise). This loss represents a little more than half of your initial investment.

3. XYZ index level below strike price (205):

If at expiration XYZ index has declined to 198, the call would have no value because it is out-of-the-money. You will have lost all of your initial investment, a net of $475. The net premium paid for an index option represents the maximum loss for an option purchaser.

Note: No matter how far XYZ declines below the strike price, the loss will not exceed $475.

Strategy 2 - Buying Index Puts

Market Outlook: Bearish over the short term.

Goal: Positioning to profit from a decrease in the level of the underlying index.

  • You are anticipating a decline in the broad market or market sector measured by the underlying index in the near future. You want to take an aggressive position that can provide a great deal of leverage.  
  • You make this decision aware of the possibility that you may lose the entire premium paid for the option.

An index put option provides the purchaser the right to participate in underlying index declines below a predetermined strike price until the option expires. The purchaser of an index put option has substantial profit potential tied to the degree of declines in the underlying index.

Scenario

Assume that XYZ symbolizes an underlying index that interests you and it is currently at a level of 200. You decide to purchase a 6-month XYZ 195 put for a quoted price of $3.90 per contract. Your net cost for this call is $390 ($3.90 x 100 multiplier). You are risking $390 if the underlying index level is not below the strike price of 195 when the XYZ put expires.

The break-even point (BEP) at expiration is an XYZ index level of 191.10 (strike price 195 - premium paid $3.90) because the put will be worth its intrinsic value of $3.90, which is what you originally paid for it. The lower the XYZ index settlement value is below the break-even point at expiration, the greater your profit.

Possible Outcomes at Expiration

1. XYZ index level below the break-even point (191.10):

If at expiration XYZ index has declined to 185, the XYZ 195 put will be worth its intrinsic value of $10 (strike price 195 - settlement value 185). Your net profit in this case would be $610 (settlement amount $1000 received from exercise - net cost of put $390).

2. XYZ index level between strike price (195) and break-even point (191.10):

If at expiration XYZ index has declined to 193, the XYZ 195 put will be worth its intrinsic value of $2.00 (strike price 195 - settlement value 193). You could exercise the option and receive the settlement amount of $200 ($2.00 intrinsic value x 100 multiplier). This amount would be less than the net amount paid for the put ($390), but it would offset some of that cost. The net loss in this case would be $190 (net cost of put $390 - settlement amount $200 received from exercise). This loss represents a little less than half of your initial investment.

3. XYZ index level above strike price (195):

If at expiration XYZ index has advanced to 202, the put would have no value because it is out-of-the-money. You will have lost all of your initial investment, a net of $390. The net premium paid for an index option represents the maximum loss for an option purchaser.

Note: No matter how far XYZ advances above the strike price, the loss will not exceed $390.

Buy XYZ index 195 Put at $3.90 with index at 200 net cost for put = $390
Level of XYZ index at expiration XYZ index advances to 202 (above strike) XYZ index declines to 193 (between strike and BEP) XYZ index declines to 185 (below BEP)
Move in level of index up 2 pts. down 7 pts. down 15 pts.
Value of put at expiration (per contract) 0 (out-of-the-money) $2 $10
Less premium paid for put $3.90 $3.90 $3.90
Net profit/loss* (per contract x 100) –$390 –$190 $610
13 Ratings
Talk to Options Professionals

Questions about anything options-related?
Call or chat with an options
professional now.

Call 1-888-OPTIONS
Speak to an Options Professional!
Chat with Options Professionals

Questions about anything options-related?
Chat with an options professional now.

Start Live Chat
Email Options Professionals

Questions about anything options-related?
Email an options professional now.

options@theocc.com

REGISTER FOR THE OPTIONS
EDUCATION PROGRAM

  • Free, unbiased options education
  • Learn in-person and online
  • Advance at your own pace