Trading Naked Calls & Puts

By: Ron Lanieri
An option is a derivative trading product that is best used by investors as a hedging tool providing profit protection and profit enhancement. Although it is a powerful risk management tool, it can also be used effectively as a stand-alone trading vehicle.

Under the proper conditions, options do not have to be paired with stock or another option to be an effective trading tool. To successfully trade naked options, an investor must realize that certain options will fit certain scenarios and certain options will not.

One of the major misconceptions that investors have about options stems from the fact that most do not know how to trade them properly. When they lose money trading them, they feel that there is something wrong with the option. They do not understand that options are on a higher, more sophisticated level when compared to stocks.

Stock trading has fewer variables involved and is therefore easier. No one is saying that the individual investor isn't smart enough to trade options. The problem is not intelligence; it's just education and experience.

Most investors have not been properly educated in the proper use of options, and even fewer have had any real experience trading them.

One of the biggest problems investors have is this: Even if you buy a call and the stock goes up, you can still lose money. Most investors tend to buy out of the money options at a cheap price. The stock trades up a little, which is the right direction, but the option still loses money and the investor wonders why.

What the investor fails to realize is that in order for the option to be profitable the options delta must out-pace its rate of decay. Implied volatility also plays a key role if the stock does trade up while implied volatility decreases, the options delta must then outperform the decrease in volatility. Remember, when volatility increases, the price of all options goes up. When volatility decreases, the price of all options goes down.

We have categorized options in several ways. One way is by the option's strike price, and its distance from the stock price. We identified these options as either in-the-money, at-the-money, or out-of-the-money.

In our discussion about trading naked calls and puts, we will identify trading opportunities or situations that fit each of these types of options, for both calls and puts. But it is important to first review the definition of Delta before continuing.

Remember, delta tells you how much the option will move with a similar move in the stock and is given as a percentage. For example, a 33 delta option means that the option will move 33% of the movement of the stock and 70 delta option will move 70%. In-the-money options act like stock. The deeper in the money the calls are, the more they act like the stock. As the call moves deeper and deeper in the money, the calls delta approaches 100 which means it's price movement will reflect 100% of the stock's movement. (This is discussed in more detail later in The Stock Replacement Covered Call Strategy).

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