Specifically, one does not need to own the underlying stock in order to sell it. Contracts similar to options have been used since ancient times. The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
A call option would normally be exercised only when the strike price is below the market value of the underlying asset, while a put option would normally be exercised only when the strike price is above the market value. When an option is exercised, the cost to the buyer of the asset acquired is the strike price plus the premium, if any. When the option expiration date passes without the option being exercised, then the option expires and the buyer would forfeit the premium to the seller.
In any case, the premium is income to the seller, and normally a capital loss to the buyer. The owner of an option may on-sell the option to a third party in a secondary market , in either an over-the-counter transaction or on an options exchange , depending on the option. The market price of an American-style option normally closely follows that of the underlying stock, being the difference between the market price of the stock and the strike price of the option. The actual market price of the option may vary depending on a number of factors, such as a significant option holder may need to sell the option as the expiry date is approaching and does not have the financial resources to exercise the option, or a buyer in the market is trying to amass a large option holding.
The ownership of an option does not generally entitle the holder to any rights associated with the underlying asset, such as voting rights or any income from the underlying asset, such as a dividend. Contracts similar to options have been used since ancient times. On a certain occasion, it was predicted that the season's olive harvest would be larger than usual, and during the off-season, he acquired the right to use a number of olive presses the following spring.
When spring came and the olive harvest was larger than expected he exercised his options and then rented the presses out at a much higher price than he paid for his 'option'.
In London, puts and "refusals" calls first became well-known trading instruments in the s during the reign of William and Mary. Their exercise price was fixed at a rounded-off market price on the day or week that the option was bought, and the expiry date was generally three months after purchase.
They were not traded in secondary markets. In the real estate market, call options have long been used to assemble large parcels of land from separate owners; e.
Many choices, or embedded options, have traditionally been included in bond contracts. For example, many bonds are convertible into common stock at the buyer's option, or may be called bought back at specified prices at the issuer's option. Mortgage borrowers have long had the option to repay the loan early, which corresponds to a callable bond option. Options contracts have been known for decades. The Chicago Board Options Exchange was established in , which set up a regime using standardized forms and terms and trade through a guaranteed clearing house.
Trading activity and academic interest has increased since then. Today, many options are created in a standardized form and traded through clearing houses on regulated options exchanges , while other over-the-counter options are written as bilateral, customized contracts between a single buyer and seller, one or both of which may be a dealer or market-maker.
Options are part of a larger class of financial instruments known as derivative products , or simply, derivatives. A financial option is a contract between two counterparties with the terms of the option specified in a term sheet. Option contracts may be quite complicated; however, at minimum, they usually contain the following specifications: Exchange-traded options also called "listed options" are a class of exchange-traded derivatives.
Exchange-traded options have standardized contracts, and are settled through a clearing house with fulfillment guaranteed by the Options Clearing Corporation OCC.
Since the contracts are standardized, accurate pricing models are often available. Over-the-counter options OTC options, also called "dealer options" are traded between two private parties, and are not listed on an exchange. The terms of an OTC option are unrestricted and may be individually tailored to meet any business need.
In general, the option writer is a well-capitalized institution in order to prevent the credit risk. Option types commonly traded over the counter include:. By avoiding an exchange, users of OTC options can narrowly tailor the terms of the option contract to suit individual business requirements. In addition, OTC option transactions generally do not need to be advertised to the market and face little or no regulatory requirements.
However, OTC counterparties must establish credit lines with each other, and conform to each other's clearing and settlement procedures. With few exceptions,  there are no secondary markets for employee stock options.
These must either be exercised by the original grantee or allowed to expire. The most common way to trade options is via standardized options contracts that are listed by various futures and options exchanges.
By publishing continuous, live markets for option prices, an exchange enables independent parties to engage in price discovery and execute transactions. As an intermediary to both sides of the transaction, the benefits the exchange provides to the transaction include:. These trades are described from the point of view of a speculator. If they are combined with other positions, they can also be used in hedging.
An option contract in US markets usually represents shares of the underlying security. A trader who expects a stock's price to increase can buy a call option to purchase the stock at a fixed price " strike price " at a later date, rather than purchase the stock outright. The cash outlay on the option is the premium. The trader would have no obligation to buy the stock, but only has the right to do so at or before the expiration date. The risk of loss would be limited to the premium paid, unlike the possible loss had the stock been bought outright.
The holder of an American-style call option can sell his option holding at any time until the expiration date, and would consider doing so when the stock's spot price is above the exercise price, especially if he expects the price of the option to drop.
By selling the option early in that situation, the trader can realise an immediate profit. Alternatively, he can exercise the option — for example, if there is no secondary market for the options — and then sell the stock, realising a profit. A trader would make a profit if the spot price of the shares rises by more than the premium. For example, if the exercise price is and premium paid is 10, then if the spot price of rises to only the transaction is break-even; an increase in stock price above produces a profit.
If the stock price at expiration is lower than the exercise price, the holder of the options at that time will let the call contract expire and only lose the premium or the price paid on transfer.
A trader who expects a stock's price to decrease can buy a put option to sell the stock at a fixed price "strike price" at a later date. The trader will be under no obligation to sell the stock, but only has the right to do so at or before the expiration date. If the stock price at expiration is below the exercise price by more than the premium paid, he will make a profit. Employee Stock Options are non standard contracts with the employer whereby the employer has the liability of delivering a certain number of shares of the employer stock, when and if the employee stock options are exercised by the employee.
Early exercises also have substantial penalties to the exercising employee. Those penalties are a part of the "fair value" of the options, called "time value" is forfeited back to the company and b an early tax liability occurs.
These two penalties overcome the merits of "diversifying" in most cases. Stock option expensing was a controversy well before the most recent set of controversies in the early s. The earliest attempts by accounting regulators to expense stock options in the early s were unsuccessful and resulted in the promulgation of FAS by the Financial Accounting Standards Board which required disclosure of stock option positions but no income statement expensing, per se.
One misunderstanding is that the expense is at the fair value of the options. This is not true. The expense is indeed based on the fair value of the options but that fair value measure does not follow the fair value rules for other items which are governed by a separate set of rules under ASC Topic In addition the fair value measure must be modified for forfeiture estimates and may be modified for other factors such as liquidity before expensing can occur.
Finally the expense of the resulting number is rarely made on the grant date but in some cases must be deferred and in other cases may be deferred over time as set forth in the revised accounting rules for these contracts known as FAS revised. Many companies use employee stock options plans to retain and attract employees,  the objective being to give employees an incentive to behave in ways that will boost the company's stock price. If the company's stock market price rises above the call price, the employee could exercise the option, pay the exercise price and would be issued with ordinary shares in the company.
The employee would experience a direct financial benefit of the difference between the market and the exercise prices. If the market price falls below the stock exercise price at the time near expiration, the employee is not obligated to exercise the option, in which case the option will lapse. Restrictions on the option, such as vesting and non-transferring, attempt to align the holder's interest with those of the business shareholders.
Another substantial reason that companies issue employee stock options as compensation is to preserve and generate cash flow. The cash flow comes when the company issues new shares and receives the exercise price and receives a tax deduction equal to the "intrinsic value" of the ESOs when exercised. Employee stock options are mostly offered to management as part of their executive compensation package.
They may also be offered to non-executive level staff, especially by businesses that are not yet profitable, insofar as they may have few other means of compensation. Alternatively, employee-type stock options can be offered to non-employees: Employee stock options are similar to exchange traded call options issued by a company with respect to its own stock.
At any time before exercise, employee stock options can be said to have two components: Any remaining "time value" component is forfeited back to the company when early exercises are made. Most top executives hold their ESOs until near expiration, thereby minimizing the penalties of early exercise. Employee stock options are non-standardized calls that are issued as a private contract between the employer and employee.
Over the course of employment, a company generally issues ESOs to an employee which can be exercised at a particular price set on the grant day, generally the company's current stock price.
Depending on the vesting schedule and the maturity of the options, the employee may elect to exercise the options at some point, obligating the company to sell the employee its stock at whatever stock price was used as the exercise price. At that point, the employee may either sell the stock, or hold on to it in the hope of further price appreciation or hedge the stock position with listed calls and puts. The employee may also hedge the employee stock options prior to exercise with exchange traded calls and puts and avoid forfeiture of a major part of the options value back to the company thereby reducing risks and delaying taxes.
Employee stock options have the following differences from standardized, exchange-traded options:. Via requisite modifications, the valuation should incorporate the features described above. Note that, having incorporated these, the value of the ESO will typically "be much less than Black—Scholes prices for corresponding market-traded options Therefore, the design of a lattice model more fully reflects the substantive characteristics of a particular employee share option or similar instrument.
Nevertheless, both a lattice model and the Black—Scholes—Merton formula , as well as other valuation techniques that meet the requirements … can provide a fair value estimate that is consistent with the measurement objective and fair-value-based method…. As above, option holders may not exercise their option prior to their vesting date, and during this time the option is effectively European in style. During other times, exercise would be allowed, and the option is effectively American there.
Given this pattern, the ESO, in total, is therefore a Bermudan option. Note that employees leaving the company prior to vesting will forfeit unvested options, which results in a decrease in the company's liability here, and this too must be incorporated into the valuation.
The option holder has the benefit of purchasing the stock at a discount from its current market value if the stock price increases prior to expiration. The amount paid for the option is the most the option buyer can lose.
If the underlying stock loses value prior to expiration, the option holder makes money. In this case, if the stock goes up instead, the cost of the option is the most the option buyer can lose. The strike price is the predetermined price at which the underlying stock can be bought or sold. Time value and volatility also play a significant role in the price of an option. High volatility increases the cost of an option, as does the amount of time until expiry.
Since more volatility and more time mean an increased chance the price could move through the strike price, this will make the options more expensive than options with lower volatility and less time till expiration. While some trader buy options, other need to write them.
The writer is on the opposite side of the trade as the buyer. The writer receives the premium for writing the option. This is their maximum profit. This could mean large losses. For example, if a trader writes a call option the option buyer has the right to buy at the strike price.
Writers can protect themselves by writing covered calls.
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