The key to using options to increase your stock market profits is that you must be able to correctly predict both the direction that the stock will move, and the approximate time frame in which the move will take place. If you miscalculate on either of these values, you will either break even, or loose. On the other hand, if you are correct, your profits may well exceed three times the amount you would have made with just a straight investment in the stock.
An option gives the owner the right but not the obligation to purchase something. More specifically, stock options are financial instruments that come in four varieties: Long or Short positions on a Put or Call.
Long means a person purchases a Put or a Call. Short means a person sells or “writes” a Put or Call. Option writing is a more advanced topic so this course will focus on the more common long or option buying and the following descriptions assume all positions are long.
A Put is the instrument that profits when the underlying stock declines in price. When the stock goes down, the value of a Put goes up. A Call is the reverse of a Put. The value of a Call goes up when the stock increases in price.
As you can see, if you expect the stock price to go up, you buy a call. If you expect the price to go down, you buy a put. There are two more parts to an option that need to be covered. First is the expiration date.
All options have a date in which they expire or become worthless. Remember that an option gives the owner the right to purchase something. This right is for a limited amount of time. Depending on the stock, different options might be available for several consecutive months into the future, or there may be a couple of months skipped. The specific day of the month that an option expires is always the third Friday of the month, unless it is a holiday, in which case the expiration is on Thursday.
The second element is the strike price. This is the price that the option will be exercised at. Again an option is the right to buy something, and the price at which something is bought is the strike or exercised price. Depending upon the option, these prices may be incremented by $2.50 up to $10.
This all adds up to a lot of choices when it comes to buying an option. Calls or puts plus different expiration months, and multiple strike prices within each month is a lot of different decisions.
With the abundance of choices, the number of contracts traded for a specific option can be small for a stock that is not particularly popular in the news. This fact my limit your trading opportunities or may result in a large price spread between the bid and ask prices.
If you can identify certain situations that will influence the stock price within a defined time period, you may be able to use stock options to triple your returns. Many investors have found such patterns and are making excellent profits by carefully selecting the right stock options.