News & Analysis

Understanding Call Options in Options Trading

7 August 2021 By GO Markets


In the intricate realm of financial markets, options trading stands as a dynamic and multifaceted approach to profiting from market dynamics. Among the diverse range of options instruments, the call option emerges as a fundamental tool. In this article, we will delve into the concept of call options, examining their definition, mechanics, and significance in the context of options trading.

A call option fundamentally operates as a financial contract, conferring a valuable right upon the holder. This right, however, is not accompanied by any obligation to purchase a predetermined quantity of an underlying asset at a specific price known as the strike price, within a predetermined timeframe known as the expiration date. This underlying asset can encompass a wide array of financial instruments, including but not limited to stocks, bonds, commodities, or currencies.

The primary attraction of call options stems from their potential for substantial leverage. In contrast to direct ownership of the underlying asset, which necessitates the full market price, obtaining a call option requires the payment of a premium. This premium constitutes only a fraction of the actual asset cost, thereby allowing traders to control a more substantial position size with a relatively modest upfront investment. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that leverage can magnify both gains and losses, underscoring the critical importance of prudent risk management when trading call options.

To comprehend the concept of call options fully, one must dissect their key components. At the core of a call option lies several essential elements:

Underlying Asset: Call options derive their value from an underlying asset. This asset could encompass anything from stocks to indices, commodities, or other financial instruments.

Strike Price: The strike price serves as the anchor point for a call option. It represents the price at which the call option holder can exercise their right to purchase the underlying asset. Importantly, the strike price remains constant throughout the option’s lifespan.

Expiration Date: Every call option carries a predetermined expiration date. Beyond this date, the option becomes void if not exercised. These options can have varying expiration periods, ranging from a matter of days to several months or even longer.

Premium: To acquire a call option, the buyer must pay a premium to the seller, also known as the option writer. The premium serves as the cost of obtaining the right to buy the underlying asset at the strike price.

To illustrate the mechanics of a call option, consider the following example:

Suppose an investor believes that XYZ Company’s stock, currently trading at $50 per share, will experience an upswing in the next three months. They decide to purchase a call option on XYZ with a strike price of $55 and a premium of $3. This call option grants the investor the right to buy 100 shares of XYZ Company at $55 per share at any point before the option’s expiration date, set three months from the present.

Now, let’s explore two possible scenarios:

Scenario 1 – The Stock Price Rises:
Should the price of XYZ Company’s stock surge to $60 per share before the option’s expiration, the call option holder can opt to exercise their option. This allows them to purchase 100 shares of XYZ at the agreed-upon strike price of $55 per share, despite the current market price of $60. This transaction yields a profit of $5 per share ($60 – $55), minus the initial premium of $3. The investor ultimately realizes a net gain of $2 per share ($5 – $3), amounting to a total profit of $200 ($2 x 100).

Scenario 2 – The Stock Price Stays Below the Strike Price:
Conversely, if XYZ Company’s stock price remains at or below the $55 strike price, or even declines, the call option holder is under no obligation to exercise the option. In such cases, the option expires worthless, and the maximum loss for the investor is limited to the premium paid, which in this instance amounts to $300 ($3 x 100).

It is essential to note that not all call options are exercised. In fact, many call options expire without being exercised, especially when the underlying asset does not move favorably or when exercising the option would result in a loss exceeding the premium paid. The decision to exercise or not to exercise a call option lies entirely with the option holder, adding a layer of flexibility to this financial instrument.

Call options find utility across a spectrum of investment strategies. Beyond speculative trading, they can serve as effective hedging tools. For instance, an equity investor concerned about a potential market downturn might purchase call options on an index to offset potential losses in their portfolio. This strategy allows them to profit from the call options if the market experiences an upswing while limiting their losses if it takes a downturn.

In conclusion, call options represent a pivotal component of options trading, offering traders and investors a powerful mechanism to capitalize on upward price movements in various assets. By grasping the fundamental elements of call options, including the underlying asset, strike price, expiration date, and premium, individuals can make informed decisions and implement strategies to align with their financial goals. However, it’s imperative to bear in mind that options trading involves inherent risks, necessitating proper education and risk management strategies before venturing into these markets.

Disclaimer: Articles are from GO Markets analysts and contributors and are based on their independent analysis or personal experiences. Views, opinions or trading styles expressed are their own, and should not be taken as either representative of or shared by GO Markets. Advice, if any, is of a ‘general’ nature and not based on your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Consider how appropriate the advice, if any, is to your objectives, financial situation and needs, before acting on the advice. If the advice relates to acquiring a particular financial product, you should obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) for that product before making any decisions.