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How to Succeed with Binary Options Trading 2020
Welcome to the largest expert guide to binary options and binary trading online. BinaryOptions.net has educated traders globally since 2020 and all our articles are written by professionals who make a living in the finance industry and online trading. We have close to a thousand articles and reviews to guide you to be a more profitable trader in 2020 no matter what your current experience level is. If you wish to discuss trading or brokers with other traders, we also have the world’s largest forum with over 20 000 members and lots of daily activity. Read on to get started trading today!
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What is a Binary Option and How Do You Make Money?
A binary option is a fast and extremely simple financial instrument which allows investors to speculate on whether the price of an asset will go up or down in the future, for example the stock price of Google, the price of Bitcoin, the USD/GBP exchange rate, or the price of gold. The time span can be as little as 60 seconds, making it possible to trade hundreds of times per day across any global market.
Before you place a trade you know exactly how much you stand to gain if your prediction is correct, usually 70-95% – if you invest $100 you will receive a credit of $170 – $195 on a successful trade. This makes risk management and trading decisions much more simple. The outcome is always a Yes or No answer – you either win it all or you lose it all – hence it being a “binary” option. The risk and reward is known in advance and this structured payoff is one of the attractions.
Exchange traded binaries are also now available, meaning traders are not trading against the broker.
To get started trading you first need a regulated broker account (or licensed). Pick one from the recommended brokers list, where only brokers that have shown themselves to be trustworthy are included. The top broker has been selected as the best choice for most traders.
If you are completely new to binary options you can open a demo account with most brokers, to try out their platform and see what it’s like to trade before you deposit real money.
Introduction Video – How to Trade Binary Options
These videos will introduce you to the concept of binary options and how trading works. If you want to know even more details, please read this whole page and follow the links to all the more in-depth articles. Binary trading does not have to be complicated, but as with any topic you can educate yourself to be an expert and perfect your skills.
The most common type of binary option is the simple “Up/Down” trade. There are however, different types of option. The one common factor, is that the outcome will have a “binary” result (Yes or No). Here are some of the types available:
- Up/Down or High/Low – The basic and most common binary option. Will a price finish higher or lower than the current price a the time of expiry.
- In/Out, Range or Boundary – This option sets a “high” figure and “low” figure. Traders predict whether the price will finish within, or outside, of these levels (or ‘boundaries’).
- Touch/No Touch – These have set levels, higher or lower than the current price. The trader has to predict whether the actual price will ‘touch’ those levels at any point between the time of the trade an expiry.
Note with a touch option, that the trade can close before the expiry time – if the price level is touched before the option expires, then the “Touch” option will payout immediately, regardless of whether the price moves away from the touch level afterwards.
- Ladder – These options behave like a normal Up/Down trade, but rather than using the current strike price, the ladder will have preset price levels (‘laddered’ progressively up or down).These can often be some way from the current strike price.As these options generally need a significant price move, payouts will often go beyond 100% – but both sides of the trade may not be available.
How to Trade – Step by Step Guide
Below is a step by step guide to placing a binary trade:
- Choose a broker – Use our broker reviews and comparison tools to find the best binary trading site for you.
- Select the asset or market to trade – Assets lists are huge, and cover Commodities, Stocks, Cryptocurrency, Forex or Indices. The price of oil, or the Apple stock price, for example.
- Select the expiry time – Options can expire anywhere between 30 seconds up to a year.
- Set the size of the trade – Remember 100% of the investment is at risk so consider the trade amount carefully.
- Click Call / Put or Buy / Sell – Will the asset value rise or fall? Some broker label buttons differently.
- Check and confirm the trade – Many brokers give traders a chance to ensure the details are correct before confirming the trade.
Choose a Broker
Options fraud has been a significant problem in the past. Fraudulent and unlicensed operators exploited binary options as a new exotic derivative. These firms are thankfully disappearing as regulators have finally begun to act, but traders still need to look for regulated brokers.
Note! Don’t EVER trade with a broker or use a service that’s on our blacklist and scams page, stick with the ones we recommend here on the site. Here are some shortcuts to pages that can help you determine which broker is right for you:
Top Binary Options Broker 2020!
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- Compare all brokers – if you want to compare the features and offers of all recommended brokers.
- Bonuses and Offers – if you want to make sure you get extra money to trade with, or other promotions and offers.
- Low minimum deposit brokers – if you want to trade for real without having to deposit large sums of money.
- Demo Accounts – if you want to try a trading platform “for real” without depositing money at all.
- Halal Brokers – if you are one of the growing number of Muslim traders.
The number and diversity of assets you can trade varies from broker to broker. Most brokers provide options on popular assets such as major forex pairs including the EUR/USD, USD/JPY and GBP/USD, as well as major stock indices such as the FTSE, S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial. Commodities including gold, silver, oil are also generally offered.
Individual stocks and equities are also tradable through many binary brokers. Not every stock will be available though, but generally you can choose from about 25 to 100 popular stocks, such as Google and Apple. These lists are growing all the time as demand dictates.
The asset lists are always listed clearly on every trading platform, and most brokers make their full asset lists available on their website. This information is also available within our reviews, including currency pairs.
The expiry time is the point at which a trade is closed and settled. The only exception is where a ‘Touch’ option has hit a preset level prior to expiry. The expiry for any given trade can range from 30 seconds, up to a year. While binaries initially started with very short expiries, demand has ensured there is now a broad range of expiry times available. Some brokers even give traders the flexibility to set their own specific expiry time.
Expiries are generally grouped into three categories:
- Short Term / Turbo – These are normally classed as any expiry under 5 minutes
- Normal – These would range from 5 minutes, up to ‘end of day’ expiries which expire when the local market for that asset closes.
- Long term – Any expiry beyond the end of the day would be considered long term. The longest expiry might be 12 months.
While slow to react to binary options initially, regulators around the world are now starting to regulate the industry and make their presence felt. The major regulators currently include:
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – UK regulator
- Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySec) – Cyprus Regulator, often ‘passported’ throughout the EU, under MiFID
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – US regulator
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
There are also regulators operating in Malta and the Isle of Man. Many other authorities are now taking a keen a interest in binaries specifically, notably in Europe where domestic regulators are keen to bolster the CySec regulation.
Unregulated brokers still operate, and while some are trustworthy, a lack of regulation is a clear warning sign for potential new customers.
Recently, ESMA (European Securities and Markets Authority) moved to ban the sale and marketing of binary options in the EU. The ban however, only applies to brokers regulated in the EU. This leaves traders two choices to keep trading: Firstly, they can trade with an unregulated firm – this is extremely high risk and not advisable. Some unregulated firms are responsible and honest, but many are not.
The second choice is to use a firm regulated by bodies outside of the EU. ASIC in Australia are a strong regulator – but they will not be implementing a ban. This means ASIC regulated firms can still accept EU traders. See our broker lists for regulated or trusted brokers in your region.
There is also a third option. Traders who register as ‘professional’ are exempt from the new ban. The ban is only designed to protect ‘retail’ investors. A professional trader can continue trading at EU regulated brokers such as IQ Option. To be classed as professional, an account holder must meet two of these three criteria:
- Open 10 or more trades per quarter, of €150 or more.
- Have assets of €500,000 or more
- Have worked for two years in a financial firm and have experience of financial products.
Strategies and Guides
We have a lot of detailed guides and strategy articles for both general education and specialized trading techniques. Below are a few to get you started if you want to learn the basic before you start trading. From Martingale to Rainbow, you can find plenty more on the strategy page.
Signals and Other Services
For further reading on signals and reviews of different services go to the signals page.
If you are totally new to the trading scene then watch this great video by Professor Shiller of Yale University who introduces the main ideas of options:
Education for beginners:
Types of Trades
How to Set Up a Trade
The ability to trade the different types of binary options can be achieved by understanding certain concepts such as strike price or price barrier, settlement, and expiration date. All trades have dates at which they expire.
When the trade expires, the behaviour of the price action according to the type selected will determine if it’s in profit (in the money) or in a loss position (out-of-the-money). In addition, the price targets are key levels that the trader sets as benchmarks to determine outcomes. We will see the application of price targets when we explain the different types.
There are three types of trades. Each of these has different variations. These are:
Let us take them one after the other.
Also called the Up/Down binary trade, the essence is to predict if the market price of the asset will end up higher or lower than the strike price (the selected target price) before the expiration. If the trader expects the price to go up (the “Up” or “High” trade), he purchases a call option. If he expects the price to head downwards (“Low” or “Down”), he purchases a put option. Expiry times can be as low as 5 minutes.
Please note: some brokers classify Up/Down as a different types, where a trader purchases a call option if he expects the price to rise beyond the current price, or purchases a put option if he expects the price to fall below current prices. You may see this as a Rise/Fall type on some trading platforms.
The In/Out type, also called the “tunnel trade” or the “boundary trade”, is used to trade price consolidations (“in”) and breakouts (“out”). How does it work? First, the trader sets two price targets to form a price range. He then purchases an option to predict if the price will stay within the price range/tunnel until expiration (In) or if the price will breakout of the price range in either direction (Out).
The best way to use the tunnel binaries is to use the pivot points of the asset. If you are familiar with pivot points in forex, then you should be able to trade this type.
This type is predicated on the price action touching a price barrier or not. A “Touch” option is a type where the trader purchases a contract that will deliver profit if the market price of the asset purchased touches the set target price at least once before expiry. If the price action does not touch the price target (the strike price) before expiry, the trade will end up as a loss.
A “No Touch” is the exact opposite of the Touch. Here you are betting on the price action of the underlying asset not touching the strike price before the expiration.
There are variations of this type where we have the Double Touch and Double No Touch. Here the trader can set two price targets and purchase a contract that bets on the price touching both targets before expiration (Double Touch) or not touching both targets before expiration (Double No Touch). Normally you would only employ the Double Touch trade when there is intense market volatility and prices are expected to take out several price levels.
Some brokers offer all three types, while others offer two, and there are those that offer only one variety. In addition, some brokers also put restrictions on how expiration dates are set. In order to get the best of the different types, traders are advised to shop around for brokers who will give them maximum flexibility in terms of types and expiration times that can be set.
Trading via your mobile has been made very easy as all major brokers provide fully developed mobile trading apps. Most trading platforms have been designed with mobile device users in mind. So the mobile version will be very similar, if not the same, as the full web version on the traditional websites.
Brokers will cater for both iOS and Android devices, and produce versions for each. Downloads are quick, and traders can sign up via the mobile site as well. Our reviews contain more detail about each brokers mobile app, but most are fully aware that this is a growing area of trading. Traders want to react immediately to news events and market updates, so brokers provide the tools for clients to trade wherever they are.
What Does Binary Options Mean?
“Binary options” means, put very simply, a trade where the outcome is a ‘binary’ Yes/No answer. These options pay a fixed amount if they win (known as “in the money”), but the entire investment is lost, if the binary trade loses. So, in short, they are a form of fixed return financial options.
How Does a Stock Trade Work?
Steps to trade a stock via a binary option;
- Select the stock or equity.
- Identify the desired expiry time (The time the option will end).
- Enter the size of the trade or investment
- Decide if the value will rise or fall and place a put or call
The steps above will be the same at every single broker. More layers of complexity can be added, but when trading equities the simple Up/Down trade type remains the most popular.
Put and Call Options
Call and Put are simply the terms given to buying or selling an option. If a trader thinks the underlying price will go up in value, they can open a call. But where they expect the price to go down, they can place a put trade.
Different trading platforms label their trading buttons different, some even switch between Buy/Sell and Call/Put. Others drop the phrases put and call altogether. Almost every trading platform will make it absolutely clear which direction a trader is opening an option in.
Are Binary Options a Scam?
As a financial investment tool they in themselves not a scam, but there are brokers, trading robots and signal providers that are untrustworthy and dishonest.
The point is not to write off the concept of binary options, based solely on a handful of dishonest brokers. The image of these financial instruments has suffered as a result of these operators, but regulators are slowly starting to prosecute and fine the offenders and the industry is being cleaned up. Our forum is a great place to raise awareness of any wrongdoing.
These simple checks can help anyone avoid the scams:
- Marketing promising huge returns. This is clear warning sign. Binaries are a high risk / high reward tool – they are not a “make money online” scheme and should not be sold as such. Operators making such claims are very likely to be untrustworthy.
- Know the broker. Some operators will ‘funnel’ new customer to a broker they partner with, so the person has no idea who their account is with. A trader should know the broker they are going to trade with! These funnels often fall into the “get rich quick” marketing discussed earlier.
- Cold Calls. Professional brokers will not make cold calls – they do not market themselves in that way. Cold calls will often be from unregulated brokers interested only in getting an initial deposit. Proceed extremely carefully if joining a company that got in contact this way. This would include email contact as well – any form of contact out of the blue.
- Terms and Conditions. When taking a bonus or offer, read the full terms and conditions. Some will include locking in an initial deposit (in addition to the bonus funds) until a high volume of trades have been made. The first deposit is the trader’s cash – legitimate brokers would not claim it as theirs before any trading. Some brokers also offer the option of cancelling a bonus if it does not fit the needs of the trader.
- Do not let anyone trade for you. Avoid allowing any “account manager” to trade for you. There is a clear conflict of interest, but these employees of the broker will encourage traders to make large deposits, and take greater risks . Traders should not let anyone trade on their behalf.
Which Are The Best Trading Strategies?
Binary trading strategies are unique to each trade. We have a strategy section, and there are ideas that traders can experiment with. Technical analysis is of use to some traders, combined with charts, indicators and price action research. Money management is essential to ensure risk management is applied to all trading. Different styles will suit different traders and strategies will also evolve and change.
There is no single “best” strategy. Traders need to ask questions of their investing aims and risk appetite and then learn what works for them.
Are Binary Options Gambling?
This will depend entirely on the habits of the trader. With no strategy or research, then any short term investment is going to win or lose based only on luck. Conversely, a trader making a well researched trade will ensure they have done all they can to avoid relying on good fortune.
Binary options can be used to gamble, but they can also be used to make trades based on value and expected profits. So the answer to the question will come down to the trader.
Advantages of Binary Trading
The main benefit of binaries is the clarity of risk and reward and the structure of the trade.
Minimal Financial Risk
If you have traded forex or its more volatile cousins, crude oil or spot metals such as gold or silver, you will have probably learnt one thing: these markets carry a lot of risk and it is very easy to be blown off the market. Things like leverage and margin, news events, slippages and price re-quotes, etc can all affect a trade negatively. The situation is different in binary options trading. There is no leverage to contend with, and phenomena such as slippage and price re-quotes have no effect on binary option trade outcomes. This reduces the risk in binary option trading to the barest minimum.
The binary options market allows traders to trade financial instruments spread across the currency and commodity markets as well as indices and bonds. This flexibility is unparalleled, and gives traders with the knowledge of how to trade these markets, a one-stop shop to trade all these instruments.
A binary trade outcome is based on just one parameter: direction. The trader is essentially betting on whether a financial asset will end up in a particular direction. In addition, the trader is at liberty to determine when the trade ends, by setting an expiry date. This gives a trade that initially started badly the opportunity to end well. This is not the case with other markets. For example, control of losses can only be achieved using a stop loss. Otherwise, a trader has to endure a drawdown if a trade takes an adverse turn in order to give it room to turn profitable. The simple point being made here is that in binary options, the trader has less to worry about than if he were to trade other markets.
Greater Control of Trades
Traders have better control of trades in binaries. For example, if a trader wants to buy a contract, he knows in advance, what he stands to gain and what he will lose if the trade is out-of-the-money. This is not the case with other markets. For example, when a trader sets a pending order in the forex market to trade a high-impact news event, there is no assurance that his trade will be filled at the entry price or that a losing trade will be closed out at the exit stop loss.
The payouts per trade are usually higher in binaries than with other forms of trading. Some brokers offer payouts of up to 80% on a trade. This is achievable without jeopardising the account. In other markets, such payouts can only occur if a trader disregards all rules of money management and exposes a large amount of trading capital to the market, hoping for one big payout (which never occurs in most cases).
In order to trade the highly volatile forex or commodities markets, a trader has to have a reasonable amount of money as trading capital. For instance, trading gold, a commodity with an intra-day volatility of up to 10,000 pips in times of high volatility, requires trading capital in tens of thousands of dollars. However, binary options has much lower entry requirements, as some brokers allow people to start trading with as low as $10.
Disadvantages of Binary Trading
Reduced Trading Odds for Sure-Banker Trades
The payouts for binary options trades are drastically reduced when the odds for that trade succeeding are very high. While it is true that some trades offer as much as 85% payouts per trade, such high payouts are possible only when a trade is made with the expiry date set at some distance away from the date of the trade. Of course in such situations, the trades are more unpredictable.
Lack of Good Trading Tools
Some brokers do not offer truly helpful trading tools such as charts and features for technical analysis to their clients. Experienced traders can get around this by sourcing for these tools elsewhere; inexperienced traders who are new to the market are not as fortunate. This is changing for the better though, as operators mature and become aware of the need for these tools to attract traders.
Limitations on Risk Management
Unlike in forex where traders can get accounts that allow them to trade mini- and micro-lots on small account sizes, many binary option brokers set a trading floor; minimum amounts which a trader can trade in the market. This makes it easier to lose too much capital when trading binaries. As an illustration, a forex broker may allow you to open an account with $200 and trade micro-lots, which allows a trader to expose only acceptable amounts of his capital to the market. However, you will be hard put finding many binary brokers that will allow you to trade below $50, even with a $200 account. In this situation, four losing trades will blow the account.
Cost of Losing Trades
Unlike in other markets where the risk/reward ratio can be controlled and set to give an edge to winning trades, the odds of binary options tilt the risk-reward ratio in favour of losing trades.
When trading a market like the forex or commodities market, it is possible to close a trade with minimal losses and open another profitable one, if a repeat analysis of the trade reveals the first trade to have been a mistake. Where binaries are traded on an exchange, this is mitigated however.
Spot Forex vs Binary Trading
These are two different alternatives, traded with two different psychologies, but both can make sense as investment tools. One is more TIME centric and the other is more PRICE centric. They both work in time/price but the focus you will find from one to the other is an interesting split. Spot forex traders might overlook time as a factor in their trading which is a very very big mistake. The successful binary trader has a more balanced view of time/price, which simply makes him a more well rounded trader. Binaries by their nature force one to exit a position within a given time frame win or lose which instills a greater focus on discipline and risk management. In forex trading this lack of discipline is the #1 cause for failure to most traders as they will simply hold losing positions for longer periods of time and cut winning positions in shorter periods of time. In binary options that is not possible as time expires your trade ends win or lose. Below are some examples of how this works.
Above is a trade made on the EUR/USD buying in an under 10 minute window of price and time. As a binary trader this focus will naturally make you better than the below example, where a spot forex trader who focuses on price while ignoring the time element ends up in trouble. This psychology of being able to focus on limits and the dual axis will aid you in becoming a better trader overall.
The very advantage of spot trading is its very same failure – the expansion of profits exponentially from 1 point in price. This is to say that if you enter a position that you believe will increase in value and the price does not increase yet accelerates to the downside, the normal tendency for most spot traders is to wait it out or worse add to the losing positions as they figure it will come back. The acceleration in time to the opposite desired direction causes most spot traders to be trapped in unfavourable positions, all because they do not plan time into their reasoning, and this leads to a complete lack of trading discipline.
The nature of binary options force one to have a more complete mindset of trading off both Y = Price Range and X = Time Range as limits are applied. They will simply make you a better overall trader from the start. Conversely on the flip side, they by their nature require a greater win rate as each bet means a 70-90% gain vs a 100% loss. So your win rate needs to be on average 54%-58% to break even. This imbalance causes many traders to overtrade or revenge trade which is just as bad as holding/adding to losing positions as a spot forex trader. To successfully trade you need to practice money management and emotional control.
In conclusion, when starting out as a trader, binaries might offer a better foundation to learn trading. The simple reasoning is that the focus on TIME/PRICE combined is like looking both ways when crossing the street. The average spot forex trader only looks at price, which means he is only looking in one direction before crossing the street. Learning to trade taking both time and price into consideration should aid in making one a much overall trader.
Essential Options Trading Guide
Options trading may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s easy to understand if you know a few key points. Investor portfolios are usually constructed with several asset classes. These may be stocks, bonds, ETFs, and even mutual funds. Options are another asset class, and when used correctly, they offer many advantages that trading stocks and ETFs alone cannot.
- An option is a contract giving the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy (in the case of a call) or sell (in the case of a put) the underlying asset at a specific price on or before a certain date.
- People use options for income, to speculate, and to hedge risk.
- Options are known as derivatives because they derive their value from an underlying asset.
- A stock option contract typically represents 100 shares of the underlying stock, but options may be written on any sort of underlying asset from bonds to currencies to commodities.
What Are Options?
Options are contracts that give the bearer the right, but not the obligation, to either buy or sell an amount of some underlying asset at a pre-determined price at or before the contract expires. Options can be purchased like most other asset classes with brokerage investment accounts.
Options are powerful because they can enhance an individual’s portfolio. They do this through added income, protection, and even leverage. Depending on the situation, there is usually an option scenario appropriate for an investor’s goal. A popular example would be using options as an effective hedge against a declining stock market to limit downside losses. Options can also be used to generate recurring income. Additionally, they are often used for speculative purposes such as wagering on the direction of a stock.
There is no free lunch with stocks and bonds. Options are no different. Options trading involves certain risks that the investor must be aware of before making a trade. This is why, when trading options with a broker, you usually see a disclaimer similar to the following:
Options involve risks and are not suitable for everyone. Options trading can be speculative in nature and carry substantial risk of loss.
Options as Derivatives
Options belong to the larger group of securities known as derivatives. A derivative’s price is dependent on or derived from the price of something else. As an example, wine is a derivative of grapes ketchup is a derivative of tomatoes, and a stock option is a derivative of a stock. Options are derivatives of financial securities—their value depends on the price of some other asset. Examples of derivatives include calls, puts, futures, forwards, swaps, and mortgage-backed securities, among others.
Call and Put Options
Options are a type of derivative security. An option is a derivative because its price is intrinsically linked to the price of something else. If you buy an options contract, it grants you the right, but not the obligation to buy or sell an underlying asset at a set price on or before a certain date.
A call option gives the holder the right to buy a stock and a put option gives the holder the right to sell a stock. Think of a call option as a down-payment for a future purpose.
Call Option Example
A potential homeowner sees a new development going up. That person may want the right to purchase a home in the future, but will only want to exercise that right once certain developments around the area are built.
The potential home buyer would benefit from the option of buying or not. Imagine they can buy a call option from the developer to buy the home at say $400,000 at any point in the next three years. Well, they can—you know it as a non-refundable deposit. Naturally, the developer wouldn’t grant such an option for free. The potential home buyer needs to contribute a down-payment to lock in that right.
With respect to an option, this cost is known as the premium. It is the price of the option contract. In our home example, the deposit might be $20,000 that the buyer pays the developer. Let’s say two years have passed, and now the developments are built and zoning has been approved. The home buyer exercises the option and buys the home for $400,000 because that is the contract purchased.
The market value of that home may have doubled to $800,000. But because the down payment locked in a pre-determined price, the buyer pays $400,000. Now, in an alternate scenario, say the zoning approval doesn’t come through until year four. This is one year past the expiration of this option. Now the home buyer must pay the market price because the contract has expired. In either case, the developer keeps the original $20,000 collected.
Call Option Basics
Put Option Example
Now, think of a put option as an insurance policy. If you own your home, you are likely familiar with purchasing homeowner’s insurance. A homeowner buys a homeowner’s policy to protect their home from damage. They pay an amount called the premium, for some amount of time, let’s say a year. The policy has a face value and gives the insurance holder protection in the event the home is damaged.
What if, instead of a home, your asset was a stock or index investment? Similarly, if an investor wants insurance on his/her S&P 500 index portfolio, they can purchase put options. An investor may fear that a bear market is near and may be unwilling to lose more than 10% of their long position in the S&P 500 index. If the S&P 500 is currently trading at $2500, he/she can purchase a put option giving the right to sell the index at $2250, for example, at any point in the next two years.
If in six months the market crashes by 20% (500 points on the index), he or she has made 250 points by being able to sell the index at $2250 when it is trading at $2000—a combined loss of just 10%. In fact, even if the market drops to zero, the loss would only be 10% if this put option is held. Again, purchasing the option will carry a cost (the premium), and if the market doesn’t drop during that period, the maximum loss on the option is just the premium spent.
Put Option Basics
Buying, Selling Calls/Puts
There are four things you can do with options:
- Buy calls
- Sell calls
- Buy puts
- Sell puts
Buying stock gives you a long position. Buying a call option gives you a potential long position in the underlying stock. Short-selling a stock gives you a short position. Selling a naked or uncovered call gives you a potential short position in the underlying stock.
Buying a put option gives you a potential short position in the underlying stock. Selling a naked, or unmarried, put gives you a potential long position in the underlying stock. Keeping these four scenarios straight is crucial.
People who buy options are called holders and those who sell options are called writers of options. Here is the important distinction between holders and writers:
- Call holders and put holders (buyers) are not obligated to buy or sell. They have the choice to exercise their rights. This limits the risk of buyers of options to only the premium spent.
- Call writers and put writers (sellers), however, are obligated to buy or sell if the option expires in-the-money (more on that below). This means that a seller may be required to make good on a promise to buy or sell. It also implies that option sellers have exposure to more, and in some cases, unlimited, risks. This means writers can lose much more than the price of the options premium.
Why Use Options
Speculation is a wager on future price direction. A speculator might think the price of a stock will go up, perhaps based on fundamental analysis or technical analysis. A speculator might buy the stock or buy a call option on the stock. Speculating with a call option—instead of buying the stock outright—is attractive to some traders since options provide leverage. An out-of-the-money call option may only cost a few dollars or even cents compared to the full price of a $100 stock.
Options were really invented for hedging purposes. Hedging with options is meant to reduce risk at a reasonable cost. Here, we can think of using options like an insurance policy. Just as you insure your house or car, options can be used to insure your investments against a downturn.
Imagine that you want to buy technology stocks. But you also want to limit losses. By using put options, you could limit your downside risk and enjoy all the upside in a cost-effective way. For short sellers, call options can be used to limit losses if wrong—especially during a short squeeze.
How Options Work
In terms of valuing option contracts, it is essentially all about determining the probabilities of future price events. The more likely something is to occur, the more expensive an option would be that profits from that event. For instance, a call value goes up as the stock (underlying) goes up. This is the key to understanding the relative value of options.
The less time there is until expiry, the less value an option will have. This is because the chances of a price move in the underlying stock diminish as we draw closer to expiry. This is why an option is a wasting asset. If you buy a one-month option that is out of the money, and the stock doesn’t move, the option becomes less valuable with each passing day. Since time is a component to the price of an option, a one-month option is going to be less valuable than a three-month option. This is because with more time available, the probability of a price move in your favor increases, and vice versa.
Accordingly, the same option strike that expires in a year will cost more than the same strike for one month. This wasting feature of options is a result of time decay. The same option will be worth less tomorrow than it is today if the price of the stock doesn’t move.
Volatility also increases the price of an option. This is because uncertainty pushes the odds of an outcome higher. If the volatility of the underlying asset increases, larger price swings increase the possibilities of substantial moves both up and down. Greater price swings will increase the chances of an event occurring. Therefore, the greater the volatility, the greater the price of the option. Options trading and volatility are intrinsically linked to each other in this way.
On most U.S. exchanges, a stock option contract is the option to buy or sell 100 shares; that’s why you must multiply the contract premium by 100 to get the total amount you’ll have to spend to buy the call.
|What happened to our option investment|
|May 1||May 21||Expiry Date|
The majority of the time, holders choose to take their profits by trading out (closing out) their position. This means that option holders sell their options in the market, and writers buy their positions back to close. Only about 10% of options are exercised, 60% are traded (closed) out, and 30% expire worthlessly.
Fluctuations in option prices can be explained by intrinsic value and extrinsic value, which is also known as time value. An option’s premium is the combination of its intrinsic value and time value. Intrinsic value is the in-the-money amount of an options contract, which, for a call option, is the amount above the strike price that the stock is trading. Time value represents the added value an investor has to pay for an option above the intrinsic value. This is the extrinsic value or time value. So, the price of the option in our example can be thought of as the following:
|Premium =||Intrinsic Value +||Time Value|
In real life, options almost always trade at some level above their intrinsic value, because the probability of an event occurring is never absolutely zero, even if it is highly unlikely.
Types of Options
American and European Options
American options can be exercised at any time between the date of purchase and the expiration date. European options are different from American options in that they can only be exercised at the end of their lives on their expiration date. The distinction between American and European options has nothing to do with geography, only with early exercise. Many options on stock indexes are of the European type. Because the right to exercise early has some value, an American option typically carries a higher premium than an otherwise identical European option. This is because the early exercise feature is desirable and commands a premium.
There are also exotic options, which are exotic because there might be a variation on the payoff profiles from the plain vanilla options. Or they can become totally different products all together with “optionality” embedded in them. For example, binary options have a simple payoff structure that is determined if the payoff event happens regardless of the degree. Other types of exotic options include knock-out, knock-in, barrier options, lookback options, Asian options, and Bermudan options. Again, exotic options are typically for professional derivatives traders.
Options Expiration & Liquidity
Options can also be categorized by their duration. Short-term options are those that expire generally within a year. Long-term options with expirations greater than a year are classified as long-term equity anticipation securities or LEAPs. LEAPS are identical to regular options, they just have longer durations.
Options can also be distinguished by when their expiration date falls. Sets of options now expire weekly on each Friday, at the end of the month, or even on a daily basis. Index and ETF options also sometimes offer quarterly expiries.
Reading Options Tables
More and more traders are finding option data through online sources. (For related reading, see “Best Online Stock Brokers for Options Trading 2020”) While each source has its own format for presenting the data, the key components generally include the following variables:
- Volume (VLM) simply tells you how many contracts of a particular option were traded during the latest session.
- The “bid” price is the latest price level at which a market participant wishes to buy a particular option.
- The “ask” price is the latest price offered by a market participant to sell a particular option.
- Implied Bid Volatility (IMPL BID VOL) can be thought of as the future uncertainty of price direction and speed. This value is calculated by an option-pricing model such as the Black-Scholes model and represents the level of expected future volatility based on the current price of the option.
- Open Interest (OPTN OP) number indicates the total number of contracts of a particular option that have been opened. Open interest decreases as open trades are closed.
- Delta can be thought of as a probability. For instance, a 30-delta option has roughly a 30% chance of expiring in-the-money.
- Gamma (GMM) is the speed the option is moving in or out-of-the-money. Gamma can also be thought of as the movement of the delta.
- Vega is a Greek value that indicates the amount by which the price of the option would be expected to change based on a one-point change in implied volatility.
- Theta is the Greek value that indicates how much value an option will lose with the passage of one day’s time.
- The “strike price” is the price at which the buyer of the option can buy or sell the underlying security if he/she chooses to exercise the option.
Buying at the bid and selling at the ask is how market makers make their living.
The simplest options position is a long call (or put) by itself. This position profits if the price of the underlying rises (falls), and your downside is limited to loss of the option premium spent. If you simultaneously buy a call and put option with the same strike and expiration, you’ve created a straddle.
This position pays off if the underlying price rises or falls dramatically; however, if the price remains relatively stable, you lose premium on both the call and the put. You would enter this strategy if you expect a large move in the stock but are not sure which direction.
Basically, you need the stock to have a move outside of a range. A similar strategy betting on an outsized move in the securities when you expect high volatility (uncertainty) is to buy a call and buy a put with different strikes and the same expiration—known as a strangle. A strangle requires larger price moves in either direction to profit but is also less expensive than a straddle. On the other hand, being short either a straddle or a strangle (selling both options) would profit from a market that doesn’t move much.
Below is an explanation of straddles from my Options for Beginners course:
And here’s a description of strangles:
How to use Straddle Strategies
Spreads & Combinations
Spreads use two or more options positions of the same class. They combine having a market opinion (speculation) with limiting losses (hedging). Spreads often limit potential upside as well. Yet these strategies can still be desirable since they usually cost less when compared to a single options leg. Vertical spreads involve selling one option to buy another. Generally, the second option is the same type and same expiration, but a different strike.
A bull call spread, or bull call vertical spread, is created by buying a call and simultaneously selling another call with a higher strike price and the same expiration. The spread is profitable if the underlying asset increases in price, but the upside is limited due to the short call strike. The benefit, however, is that selling the higher strike call reduces the cost of buying the lower one. Similarly, a bear put spread, or bear put vertical spread, involves buying a put and selling a second put with a lower strike and the same expiration. If you buy and sell options with different expirations, it is known as a calendar spread or time spread.
Combinations are trades constructed with both a call and a put. There is a special type of combination known as a “synthetic.” The point of a synthetic is to create an options position that behaves like an underlying asset, but without actually controlling the asset. Why not just buy the stock? Maybe some legal or regulatory reason restricts you from owning it. But you may be allowed to create a synthetic position using options.
A butterfly consists of options at three strikes, equally spaced apart, where all options are of the same type (either all calls or all puts) and have the same expiration. In a long butterfly, the middle strike option is sold and the outside strikes are bought in a ratio of 1:2:1 (buy one, sell two, buy one).
If this ratio does not hold, it is not a butterfly. The outside strikes are commonly referred to as the wings of the butterfly, and the inside strike as the body. The value of a butterfly can never fall below zero. Closely related to the butterfly is the condor – the difference is that the middle options are not at the same strike price.
Because options prices can be modeled mathematically with a model such as the Black-Scholes, many of the risks associated with options can also be modeled and understood. This particular feature of options actually makes them arguably less risky than other asset classes, or at least allows the risks associated with options to be understood and evaluated. Individual risks have been assigned Greek letter names, and are sometimes referred to simply as “the Greeks.”
Below is a very basic way to begin thinking about the concepts of Greeks:
What You Need To Know About Binary Options Outside the U.S
What Do You Need To Know About Binary Options Outside the U.S?
Binary options let traders profit from price fluctuations in multiple global markets, but it’s important to understand the risks and rewards of these controversial and often-misunderstood financial instruments. Binary options bear little resemblance to traditional options, featuring different payouts, fees, and risks, as well as a unique liquidity structure and investment process.
Binary options traded outside the U.S. are also structured differently than those available on U.S. exchanges. They offer a viable alternative when speculating or hedging but only if the trader fully understands the two potential and opposing outcomes.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) summed up regulator skepticism about these exotic instruments, advising investors “to be particularly wary of non-U.S. companies that offer binary options trading platforms. These include trading applications with names that often imply an easy path to riches.”
- Binary options have a clear expiration date, time, and strike price.
- Traders profit from price fluctuations in multiple global markets using binary options, though those traded outside the U.S. are structured differently than those available on U.S. exchanges.
- Non-U.S. binary options typically have a fixed payout and risk, and are offered by individual brokers rather than directly on an exchange.
- While typical high-low binary options are the most common type of binary option, international brokers typically offer several other types of binaries as well.
Binary options outside the U.S. are an alternative for speculating or hedging but come with advantages and disadvantages. The positives include a known risk and reward, no commissions, innumerable strike prices, and expiry dates. Negatives include non-ownership of the traded asset, little regulatory oversight, and a winning payout that is usually less than the loss on losing trades.
Understanding Binary Options Outside the U.S
What Are Binary Options?
Binary options are deceptively simple to understand, making them a popular choice for low-skilled traders. The most commonly traded instrument is a high-low or fixed-return option that provides access to stocks, indices, commodities, and foreign exchange.
These options have a clearly stated expiration date, time, and strike price. If a trader wagers correctly on the market’s direction and price at the time of expiration, they are paid a fixed return regardless of how much the instrument has moved since the transaction, while an incorrect wager loses the original investment.
The binary options trader buys a call when bullish on a stock, index, commodity, or currency pair, or a put on those instruments when bearish. For a call to make money, the market must trade above the strike price at the expiration time. For a put to make money, the market must trade below the strike price at the expiration time.
The broker discloses the strike price, expiration date, payout, and risk when the trade is first established. For most high-low binary options traded outside the U.S., the strike price is the current price or rate of the underlying financial product. Therefore, the trader is wagering whether the price on the expiration date will be higher or lower than the current price.
Binary Options Outside the US
Foreign Versus U.S. Binary Options
Non-U.S. binary options typically have a fixed payout and risk and are offered by individual brokers rather than directly on an exchange. These brokers profit from the difference between what they pay out on winning trades and what they collect on losing trades. While there are exceptions, these instruments are supposed to be held until expiration in an “all-or-nothing” payout structure.
Foreign brokers are not legally allowed to solicit U.S. residents unless registered with a U.S. regulatory body such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) began listing binary options for U.S. residents in 2008. The SEC regulates the CBOE, which offers investors increased protection compared to over-the-counter markets. Chicago-based Nadex also runs a binary options exchange for U.S. residents, subject to oversight by the CFTC.
These options can be traded at any time, with the rate fluctuating between one and 100, based on the current probability of the position finishing in or out of the money. There is full transparency at all times and the trader can take the profit or loss they see on their screen prior to expiration.
They can also enter as the rate fluctuates, taking advantage of varying risk-to-reward scenarios, or hold until expiration and close the position with the maximum gain or loss documented at the time of entry. Each trade requires a willing buyer and seller because U.S. binary options trade through an exchange, which makes money through a fee that matches counter-parties.
High-Low Binary Option Example
Your analysis indicates the Standard & Poor’s 500 index will rally for the rest of the trading day and you to buy an index call option. It’s currently trading at 1,800 so you’re wagering the index’s price at expiration will be above that number. Since binary options are available for many time frames—from minutes to months away—you choose an expiration time or date that supports your analysis.
You choose an option that expires in 30 minutes, paying out 70% plus your original stake if the S&P 500 is above 1,800 at that time or you lose the entire stake if the S&P 500 is below 1,800. Minimum and maximum investments vary from broker to broker.
Say you invest $100 in the call that expires in 30 minutes. The S&P 500 price at expiration determines whether you make or lose money. The price at expiration may be the last quoted price, or the (bid + ask)/2. Each binary options broker outlines their own expiration price rules.
In this case, assume the last quote on the S&P 500 before expiration was 1,802. Therefore, you make a $70 profit (or 70% of $100) and maintain your original $100 investment. If the price finished below 1,800, you would lose your original $100 investment.
If the price expires exactly on the strike price, it is common for the trader to receive her/his money back with no profit or loss, although brokers may have different rules. The profit and/or original investment is automatically added to the trader’s account when the position is closed.
Other Types of Binary Options
The example above is for a typical high-low binary option—the most common type of binary option—outside the U.S. International brokers will typically offer several other types of binaries as well.
These include “one-touch” options, where the traded instrument needs to touch the strike price just once before expiration to make money. There is a target above and below the current price, so traders can pick which target they believe will be hit before the expiration date/time.
Meanwhile, a “range” binary option allows traders to select a price range the asset will trade within until expiration. A payout is received if price stays within the range, while the investment is lost if it exits the range.
As competition in the binary options space heats up, brokers are offering additional products that boast 50% to 500% payouts. While product structures and requirements may change, the risk and reward is always known at the trade’s outset, allowing the trader to potentially make more on a position than they lose. Of course, an option offering a 500% payout will be structured in such a way that the probability of winning the payout is very low.
Unlike their U.S. counterparts, some foreign brokers allow traders to exit positions before expiration, but most do not. Exiting a trade before expiration typically results in a lower payout (specified by broker) or small loss, but the trader won’t lose their entire investment.
The Upside and Downside
Risk and reward are known in advance, offering a major advantage. There are only two outcomes: win a fixed amount or lose a fixed amount, and there are generally no commissions or fees. They’re simple to use and there’s only one decision to make: Is the underlying asset going up or down?
In addition, there are also no liquidity concerns because the trader doesn’t own the underlying asset and brokers can offer innumerable strike prices and expiration times/dates, which is an attractive feature. The trader can also access multiple asset classes anytime a market is open somewhere in the world.
On the downside, the reward is always less than the risk when playing high-low binary options. As a result, the trader must be right a high percentage of the time to cover inevitable losses.
While payout and risk fluctuate from broker to broker and instrument to instrument, one thing remains constant: losing trades cost the trader more than they can make on winning trades. Other types of binary options may provide payouts where the reward is potentially greater than the risk but the percentage of winning trades will be lower.
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