Buying Stock versus Stock Option Trading

By: Sam Perdue

There is quite a difference between buying stocks outright and purchasing stock options. When you purchase an option, you are betting on the direction of the market. However, option trading has very different characteristics than purchasing shares and there is a lot of terminology and tricks of the trade that a new trader should learn in order to successfully trade options.

There are two types of options - calls and puts. Purchasing a call option means that you have the right (however, not the obligation) to purchase the stock at the strike price at any time before your option expires. When you purchase put option, you have the right (however, again not the obligation) to sell the stock at the strike price any time before the expiry date of the option. A call option is purchased when you expect the price of the stock to inflate, a put option when you expect the price to deflate.

The main difference between buying stocks compared to options is that when you purchase a stock, you own a piece of the company whereas when you purchase a stock option, you simply have a contract that allows you to buy and sell the stock at a specific price before the option expires. There are always two sides for every option transaction - a buyer and a seller so for each option, either call or put that you purchase, there is someone selling it.

Stock option trading can be compared to betting on the racetrack where you are betting against other people. Buying stocks is compared to gambling in the casino, where you bet against the house. Trading options is a 'zero-sum game', which means that the option buyers gain equals the sellers loss and vice versa - they are mirror images of each other so there is no positive or negative cost involved.

Stock option trading can be a very lucrative game and many traders use options as part of their larger strategy based on a selection of stocks. It's important that if you want to begin stock option trading that you understand the ins and outs of the market, the stocks and stock option trading before leaping in head first. There's a lot to do with option trading and you can be quite successful if you take the time to learn these skills as well as research the company and stock history of the stock and company that you are looking to purchase stock option in.

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