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Options Trading

Living in Interesting, Volatile Market Times

Options Trading TradeKing

Dan Passarelli considers how an old Chinese saying relates to the current turbulent market

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“May you live in interesting times” is an ancient Chinese curse. In the last few weeks we've seen neck snapping and wild changes in volatility, which makes me think we qualify for living in what these philosophers would call interesting times.

For those who are unfamiliar with the impact of volatility on option trades, suffice it to say that the current market poses unique challenges. As I write, the volatility environment has experienced remarkable volatility - and no, that's not a typo. While the concept of the volatility of the volatility may seem arcane, it has huge impact on the behavior of option positions.

Remember that option premium, while quoted as a single bid/ask spread, in reality consists of the sum of the extrinsic and intrinsic premiums. While the intrinsic premium may vary wildly in such markets as we currently are experiencing, it is a straightforward and transparent calculation. Intrinsic value depends solely on the current market price of the underlying and the strike price under consideration.

The extrinsic premium is not so straightforward and is impacted by several factors, the most important of which are the time to expiration and implied volatility or IV. The time to expiration is clearly defined by anyone with a calendar, or perhaps a stopwatch currently, and represents another transparent variable.

The situation is much more interesting in the world of IV. This is where current unprecedented directional movements impact option prices most dramatically. The situation is rendered even more complex by the fact that the IV changes are occurring in both directions; it is not simply a trending volatility environment. The volatility of the volatility has increased dramatically.

Traders must be cautious when establishing new positions and monitor the vega of the position assiduously. (Vega is the options Greek that measures the theoretical impact of changes in IV on your options price. Brian Overby's video What is Vega? gives you a good primer if you're unfamiliar.) You may want to consider structured positions such as vertical spreads to reduce vega exposure. At the very least, you'll want to stay on top of the net vega levels of your options positions. You can find that info in your TradeKing account under Account > Holdings - Options View. 


Dan Passarelli
Founder, MarketTaker Mentoring
TradeKing All-Star Commentator

The Greeks represent the consensus of the marketplace as to how the option will react to changes in certain variables associated with the pricing of an option contract. Vega represents the consensus of the marketplace as to the amount a theoretical option's price will change for a corresponding one-unit (point) change the implied volatility of the option contract. Finally, implied volatility represents the consensus of the marketplace as to the future level of stock price volatility or probability of reaching a specific price point. However, there is no guarantee that any of these forecasts will be correct.

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Multiple leg options strategies involve  additional risks and multiple commissions, and may result in complex tax treatments. Please consult a tax professional prior to implementing these strategies.

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Any strategies discussed and examples using actual securities and price data are for educational and illustrative purposes only and do not imply a recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell a particular security or to engage in any particular investment strategy. In reading content in the Trader Network, you may gain ideas about when, where, and how to invest your money. Although you may discover new ideas or rationale that may be compelling, you must ultimately decide whether or not to put your own money at risk. Consider the following when making an investment decision: your financial and tax situation, your risk profile, and transaction costs. 

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