What are Options?
What Are Futures? -> What's Foreign Exchange Trading?
Options are financial instruments that convey the right, but not the obligation, to engage in a future transaction on some underlying security, or in a futures contract.
For example, buying a call option provides the right to buy a specified quantity of a security at a set strike price at some time on or before expiration, while buying a put option provides the right to sell. Upon the option holder's choice to exercise the option, the party who sold, or wrote, the option must fulfill the terms of the contract.
The theoretical value of an option can be determined by a variety of techniques. These models, which are developed by quantitative analysts, can also predict how the value of the option will change in the face of changing conditions. Hence, the risks associated with trading and owning options can be understood and managed with some degree of precision.
Exchange-traded options form an important class of options which have standardized contract features and trade on public exchanges, facilitating trading among independent parties. Over-the-counter options are traded between private parties, often well-capitalized institutions, that have negotiated separate trading and clearing arrangements with each other.
Another important class of options, particularly in the U.S., are employee stock options, which are awarded by a company to their employees as a form of incentive compensation.
Other types of options exist in many financial contracts, for example real estate options are often used to assemble large parcels of land, and prepayment options are usually included in mortgage loans. However, many of the valuation and risk management principles apply across all financial options.
The power of options lies in their versatility. They enable you to adapt or adjust your position according to any situation that arises. Options can be as speculative or as conservative as you want. This means you can do everything from protecting a position from a decline to outright betting on the movement of a market or index.
This versatility, however, does not come without its costs. Options are complex securities and can be extremely risky. This is why, when trading options, you'll see a disclaimer like the following:
Options involve risks and are not suitable for everyone. Option trading can be speculative in nature and carry substantial risk of loss. Only invest with risk capital.
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