The textbook definition of an option is as follows: The right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a specified asset at a predetermined price over a predetermined time.
Buying a Put
Buying a put is a bearish strategy that requires a price drop in the underlying instrument (stock or ETF). Nonetheless, the most critical factor in trading puts profitably is an ability to predict the future price moves of the underlying instrument.
The investment return on a put is the profit or loss divided by the initial investment. The formula is the following:
Return = (profit or loss)/initial investment
For example, if you buy a S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) option for $4 and sell it for $6, for a profit of $2, your return on investment is 50% (2 divided by 4 equals 0.5, or 50 percent). Annualizing the return will give you another perspective on the return. If this particular trade covered 3 month from beginning to end, you would have made a 200 percent annualized return.
However, in most cases, the return on investment is not the major criterion of buying a put. The main reason for buying is leverage. You can gain large percentage gains with a small investment. The low price of puts makes discussions of rates of return almost meaningless when examined on a trade by trade basis. Many of your trades may make 200 percent, but your losses may be 100 percent. These are large percentages simply because the initial investment is so low.
Selling a Put
Selling a put is a bullish strategy. Put sellers want the price of the underlying stock or ETF to rise so they may buy back the put at a lower price or simply let the instrument expire worthless. The ideal situation for a put seller is for the price of the stock or ETF to move above the put’s strike price at expiration, thus rendering the put worthless. The put seller will have captured all of the premium as profit.
What jumped out at me after the Fed announcement wasn’t so much the overall market as what happened to bank stocks after the meeting.
In the spirit of March Madness, I hope to teach you some "investment bracketology" – how to approach the market with a statistical advantage using options.
Most of the time, we probably shouldn’t be buying or selling anything. This concept underlines the success of my conservative investing approach.
This strategy has been successfully used by options professionals for years to protect hard-earned profits.
I want you to think about the last stock you purchased. Now think about why you chose to buy stock in that company.