What Is Strike Price In Options Trading

what is strike price in options trading

In the intricate world of options trading, understanding the concept of strike price is akin to holding a key that unlocks the door to strategic investment decisions. This pivotal price point not only delineates the threshold at which an option becomes profitable but also serves as a beacon, guiding traders through the tumultuous seas of market volatility towards potential gains or losses. Whether you’re contemplating the acquisition of a call option, with visions of purchasing an asset below its soaring market value, or considering a put option as a safeguard to sell above a plummeting market price, the strike price stands at the heart of your trading strategy.

What is Strike Price?

strike price on options chain

The strike price (exercise price) is the predetermined price at which an option holder has the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying asset by the expiry date of the options contract.

Call Options – Strike Price

With a call option, you have the right to buy the underlying asset at the strike price by the expiry date.

If the asset’s price rises above the strike price, you can exercise the option and buy it at a lower price than the market price, making a profit. However, if the price falls below the strike price, the option expires worthless.

Put Options – Strike Price

With a put option, you have the right to sell the underlying asset at the strike price by the expiry date.

If the asset’s price falls below the strike price, you can exercise the option and sell it at a higher price than the market price, making a profit. Conversely, if the price rises above the strike price, the option expires worthless.

How the Strike Price of an Option is Determined

The determination of an option’s strike price depends on a few different factors, but it generally falls into two categories:

Listed Options

  • Exchange-defined criteria: Stock exchanges like the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) establish specific criteria for setting strike prices.
  • These criteria typically involve increments based on the underlying asset’s price:
    • Below $25: Increments of $2.50
    • $25 to $200: Increments of $5
    • Above $200: Increments of $10
    • Strikes can be wider for less liquid assets.
  • Market demand: Exchanges may also add new strike prices based on market demand and trading activity. If there’s enough interest from investors, they can petition for specific strike prices to be listed.

ESO: Employee Stock Options

  • Fair market value (FMV): Companies typically base the strike price on the fair market value of their shares. This means:
    • Public companies: Use the current market price as their FMV.
    • Private companies: Need to determine the FMV through methods like 409A valuations, considering factors like funding rounds and comparable companies.
  • Incentive considerations: Companies often aim for a strike price that balances incentivizing employees without diluting existing shareholders’ value excessively.
  • Negotiation: In some cases, strike prices for ESOs can be negotiated between the company and the employee, especially for senior positions.

Hypothetical Example: AAPL Strike Price

Suppose Apple’s stock is currently trading at $150.

When selecting a strike price for an option, investors might consider various factors such as current stock price, market volatility, and their own investment strategy.

For instance:

  • If an investor is bullish on Apple and expects the price to go up, they might choose a call option with a strike price slightly above the current price, say $160. This means they’re betting that Apple’s stock will exceed $160 by the option’s expiration date.
  • If someone is bearish, expecting the price to drop, they might select a put option with a strike price slightly below the current price, like $140, betting that the stock will fall below this level.
Option TypeStrike PriceCurrent AAPL PriceInvestor ExpectationPremiumPotential Outcome
Call$160$150Bullish (Price to increase)HigherProfit if AAPL > $160 before expiration
Put$140$150Bearish (Price to decrease)HigherProfit if AAPL < $140 before expiration

The choice of strike price is crucial as it influences the risk and potential return of the option.

A strike price close to the current stock price might have a higher premium but offers more sensitivity to stock price movements, while strike prices further from the current stock price might be cheaper but require a larger move in the stock to be profitable.

Selecting the Wrong Strike Price

For both call and put option buyers, selecting a strike price that’s too far from the current market price can lead to losing the entire premium invested. This risk escalates with strike prices that are more out of the money.

Consequences

  • For buyers:
    • Loss of premium: If the option expires worthless (below the strike price for calls, above for puts), you lose the entire premium paid. This loss tends to be higher with options further “out of the money” (OTM).
    • Missed out on profits: Even if the price moves in the predicted direction, it might not reach your specific strike price, limiting your profit potential.
  • For sellers:
    • Early assignment: If the option goes “in the money” (ITM) before expiry, the buyer can exercise it, forcing you to buy/sell the underlying asset at the strike price, potentially locking in an unfavorable price.
    • Lower premium income: Selling OTM options offers higher upfront premiums, but also carries higher risk of assignment if the price moves unexpectedly.

Common Mistakes

  • Being overly optimistic: Choosing a strike price that requires a very large price movement for profitability.
  • Focusing solely on premiums: While lower premiums are tempting, remember the risk of losing them entirely if the option expires worthless.
  • Ignoring time decay: As the option nears expiry, its time value (extrinsic) decreases, even if the underlying price stays put.
  • Not considering volatility: Higher volatility increases the option’s price (both premium and intrinsic value), but also makes predictions about future price movements harder.

Importance of Strike Price

Strike price is super important in options trading because it’s the price at which you can buy or sell the underlying asset. It helps determine your profit or loss potential.

Impact on Option Value

  • Intrinsic Value: The strike price directly affects the intrinsic value of an option. This is the difference between the strike price and the current market price of the underlying asset. For example, a call option with a strike price of $100 and a current market price of $120 has an intrinsic value of $20. This means you could immediately exercise the option and make a $20 profit per share.
  • Time Value: The strike price also indirectly affects the time value of an option. This is the value derived from the possibility that the underlying asset’s price could move in your favor before the expiry date. Lower strike prices generally lead to higher time value, as there’s more potential for the price to reach the strike and make the option profitable.

Determining Profitability

  • Break-even Point: The strike price determines the break-even point for your option trade. This is the price at which the underlying asset needs to be on the expiry date for you to break even, considering the premium paid. Strike prices closer to the current market price require smaller price movements for profitability, while those further away require larger movements.
  • Risk & Reward: Choosing the strike price involves a trade-off between risk and reward. Higher strike prices offer lower upfront cost (premium) but require a larger price movement to be profitable. Conversely, lower strike prices have higher premiums but offer quicker potential returns with smaller price changes.

Trading Strategies

  • Directional Bets: Strike prices help define your directional bet on the underlying asset. Whether you expect a price increase (call options) or decrease (put options), the chosen strike price reflects your prediction. Different strike prices cater to different scenarios and profit targets.
  • Hedging: When using options for hedging purposes, the strike price plays a crucial role in defining your risk protection. For example, a protective put option with a strike price slightly below the current market price can help limit potential losses if the price falls.

Conclusion

Understanding the strike price is not merely about grasping a fundamental concept; it’s about unlocking the potential to navigate the complexities of options trading with confidence and precision. Whether it’s choosing the right strike price in alignment with market volatility and investment strategy, or weighing the risk and reward of different strike positions, the insights gleaned from this exploration of strike prices equip investors with the knowledge to make informed decisions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference Between Strike Price and Exercise Price?

The terms “strike price” and “exercise price” are synonymous, both referring to the price at which an option holder can buy (call option) or sell (put option) the underlying asset. Traders and analysts use these terms interchangeably

What is the Difference Between Strike Price and Spot Price?

The strike price is the fixed price at which an option holder can exercise the option, while the spot price refers to the current market price of the underlying asset. The relationship between these two prices is crucial in determining an option’s “moneyness” and its intrinsic value.

What Are the 3 Types of Strike Prices?

Options can be categorized based on their strike prices relative to the market price of the underlying asset:

  1. In-the-Money (ITM): The strike price is favorable compared to the current market price, offering intrinsic value. For calls, this means the strike price is below the market price; for puts, it’s above.
  2. At-the-Money (ATM): The strike price is equal or very close to the market price, often resulting in the highest liquidity.
  3. Out-of-the-Money (OTM): The strike price is not favorable compared to the market price, containing no intrinsic value but potentially having extrinsic or time value

What’s the Best or Most Advantageous Strike Price?

There’s no universally “best” strike price; it depends on the trader’s risk tolerance, market outlook, and strategy. Options close to the market price (ATM) carry less risk but also lower potential returns, while those far from the market price (OTM) are riskier but can yield higher returns if the market moves significantly. Investors must balance these factors based on their individual objectives and market conditions

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