By Gary, on December 8th, 2011
A call option, often simply labeled a “call”, is a financial contract between two parties, the buyer and the seller of this type of option. The buyer of the call option has the right, but not the obligation to buy an agreed quantity of a particular commodity or financial instrument (the underlying) from the seller of the option at a certain time (the expiration date) for a certain price (the strike price). The seller (or “writer”) is obligated to sell the commodity or financial instrument should the buyer so decide. The buyer pays a fee (called a premium) for this right.
The buyer of a call option purchases it in the hope that the price of the underlying instrument will rise in the future. The seller of the option either expects that it will not, or is willing to give up some of the upside (profit) from a price rise in return for the premium (paid immediately) and retaining the opportunity to make a gain up to the strike price (see below for examples).
Call options can be purchased on many financial instruments other than stock in a corporation. Options can be purchased on futures on interest rates, for example (see interest rate cap), and on commodities like gold or crude oil. A trade able call option should not be confused with either Incentive stock options or with a warrant. An incentive stock option, the option to buy stock in a particular company, is a right granted by a corporation to a particular person (typically executives) to purchase treasury stock. When an incentive stock option is exercised, new shares are issued. Incentive stock options are not traded on the open market. In contrast, when a call option is exercised, the underlying asset is transferred from one owner to another.
The Put: ²
A put or put option is a contract between two parties to exchange an asset, the underlying, at a specified price, the strike, by a predetermined date, the expiry or maturity. One party, the buyer of the put, has the right, but not an obligation, to sell the asset at the strike price by the future date, while the other party, the seller, has the obligation to buy the asset at the strike price if the buyer exercises the option.
The most obvious use of a put is as a type of insurance. In the protective put strategy, the investor buys enough puts to cover their holdings of the underlying so that if a drastic downward movement of the underlying’s price occurs, they have the option to sell the holdings at the strike price. Another use is for speculation: an investor can take a short position in the underlying without trading in it directly.
Puts may also be combined with other derivatives as part of more complex investment strategies, and in particular, may be useful for hedging.
- The Call Option
- The Put Option