SteadyOptions is an options trading forum where you can find solutions from top options traders. Join Us!

We’ve all been there… researching options strategies and unable to find the answers we’re looking for. SteadyOptions has your solution.

Expiration Surprises to Avoid


Unless buying or selling options with a distant expiration date (LEAPS), each trader understands that the value of an option portfolio becomes increasingly volatile as the time to options expiration decreases. It is important to be aware of specific situations that may crush (or expand) the value of your positions. 

Here are six situations that should be of special concern when expiration day draws nigh.

 

1) Position Size

 

When trading options, the most effective method for controlling risk is paying attention to position size (number of options or spreads bought/sold). Smaller size translates into less profit and less reward. However, successful traders understand: minimizing losses is the key to success.

 

When options expiration approaches, an option's value can change dramatically. The effect of time is far less on longer-term options.

 

Gamma measures the rate at which an option's delta changes. When gamma is high – and it increases as expiration approaches – delta can move from near zero (OTM option) to almost 100 (ITM option) quickly.

 

Option owners can earn a bunch of money in a hurry, and option shorts can get hammered. However, those short-lived options often become worthless. These are the conflicting dreams of option sellers and buyers.

 

The point is that having a position in ATM (or not far OTM) options is treacherous, and reducing the size of your position is a healthy and simple method for reducing risk.

 

Consider reducing position size when playing the higher risk/higher reward game of trading options near expiration.

 

2) Margin Calls

 

Receiving an unexpected margin call is one of those unpleasant experiences that traders must avoid. At best, margin calls are inconvenient. Most margin calls result in a monetary loss, even if it's only from extra commissions. Think of it as punishment for not being prepared

 

When you hold any ITM short option position, there is the possibility of being assigned (and converting an option position to stock) an exercise notice. Early exercise is unlikely unless the option is deep ITM. However, you already know that any option that finishes ITM is subject to automatic exercise.

 

Exiting the trade prior to expiration makes it likely (there is still the chance of being assigned before you exit) that you can avoid the margin call.

 

Most put sellers (conservatively) sell puts only when cash secured. That means: cash to buy shares is already in the account. When cash is available, there is no margin call.

 

Those who write call options are subject to the same assignment risk. If the trader is covered, there is no problem. Upon assignment, the shares already owned are sold to honor the option seller's obligations.

 

When you receive a margin call, many brokers (no warning) sell enough securities (to generate cash) to meet that call. Other brokers automatically repurchase your short options (with no advance warning) before expiration arrives.

 

Bottom line: When you cannot meet the margin requirement, do not hold a position that is subject to early exercise. And never hold that position through expiration (when assignment is guaranteed). Find a way to exit the trade to avoid possible margin calls. For clarity: If margin is not a problem, none of this applies to you.

 

forex-options-expiration.png

 

3) Increased Volatility

 

Pay attention to volatility – both volatility of the underlying stock or index as well as the implied volatility of the options themselves.

 

For option owners volatility is your friend. The fact that stocks are more volatile is enough to raise implied volatility, and that in turn increases the value of your options – sometimes by more than its daily time decay.

 

If you get lucky twice, and the volatile market moves your way, the option's price may increase many-fold. That's nirvana for option owners.

 

However, if you are looking at increased market volatility from the perspective of an option seller, volatility translates into fear. Whether a trader has naked short options (essentially unlimited risk) or short spreads (limited loss potential), he/she must recognize that the market (the underlying asset) can undergo a large, rapid price change.

 

Options that seemed safely out of the money and a 'sure thing' to expire worthless are suddenly in the money and trading at hundreds (or thousands) of dollars apiece. When an index moves 5% in one day (as it did frequently during late 2008), SPX options that were 40 points OTM in the morning were 10 points ITM by day's end. When that happens with an increase in implied volatility, losses (and gains) can be staggering.

 

There is good reason for the shorts to be afraid. One good risk management technique is to buy back those shorts – whenever you get a chance to do so at a low price. Remaining short, with the hope of collecting every last penny of premium, is a high risk game.

 

4) Reward vs. Risk

 

Expiration plays come with higher risk and higher reward. That's the nature of the game. In return for paying a relatively low price for an option, buyers have but a short time for the market to do its magic. Otherwise the option disappears into oblivion.

 

Most new traders believe they are locked into the trade once it has been made. Not true. You should consider selling those options any time that you no longer believe they can make money.

 

Don't sell them for a tiny premium, such as $0.05. For that price, take your chances.  But when real cash is at stake, perhaps when the option is priced near $1, then it's a difficult choice: hold vs. sell.  Make a reasoned decision.

 

Although it seems to be an obvious warning, when buying options near expiration day, please be aware of what must occur to earn a profit. Then consider the likelihood of that happening.

 

The same warning applies to option sellers. Time may be short, but when the unlikely occurs, the loss can wipe out years of profits. When there's just too little premium, cover the short position and leave the last bit of cash on the table. 

 

5) Option Greeks – Delta and Gamma

 

The Options Greeks are used to measure risk. Once measured, it is up to the trader to decide whether risk is acceptable or must be reduced. It's important to understand the greeks of your position and how they change when the underlying moves. It's not necessary to spend hours studying the data. Use the greeks to get a look at the big picture and decide whether your position is ok as is, should be adjusted, or closed.

 

As has already been mentioned, delta and gamma change more rapidly near expiration (if the option is anywhere near the money). Stay alert to these changes.

 

6) News Events

 

When news is released, the underlying stock often undergoes a substantial change in price. If you have a position, or are considering opening a new position, be certain that you know whether news is pending. Such news is most often a quarterly earnings report.

 

If you are a risk avoider, don't hold short options with negative gamma in the face of earnings releases.

 

Summary

 

Expiration is an exciting time for traders who are either long or short options. If you want to play in that arena, understand what you are doing. If you are a more conservative trader, it's easy to exit all trades before options expiration draws too near.

 

Related articles:

Want to learn more?

 

Start Your Free Trial

 

What Is SteadyOptions?

Full Trading Plan

Complete Portfolio Approach

Diversified Options Strategies

Exclusive Community Forum

Steady And Consistent Gains

High Quality Education

Risk Management, Portfolio Size

Performance based on real fills

Subscribe

Non-directional Options Strategies

10-15 trade Ideas Per Month

Targets 5-7% Monthly Net Return

Visit our Education Center

Recent Articles

Articles

  • Long Straddle Options Strategy: The Ultimate Guide

    A long straddle is an options spread that involves the simultaneous purchase of a put and a call at the same strike price and expiration date. It’s a long-options, market-neutral strategy with limited risk and unlimited profit potential.

    By Pat Crawley,

    • 0 comments
    • 225 views
  • Ready to Invest? Here's How to Get Started with Online Trading

    I am struggling with making the decision to get started.  How much money do I need to be efficient and effective following your instructions?  What software and where to find it?  I could really benefit from extra income but I am also in a position where I can't really afford to lose much so there is some doubt/fear.  But, your information and attitude felt right to me so I reached out.

    By Karl Domm,

    • 0 comments
    • 191 views
  • The Importance  of Proactive Hedging in Options Trading

    Investing in the stock market can be a daunting task for even the most experienced investors. With the constant fluctuations and volatility of the market, it can be difficult to predict the future direction of the market. This is where options trading comes into play.

    By Karl Domm,

    • 0 comments
    • 296 views
  • The Silent Bank Run

    Long before Silicon Valley Bank failed, the banking sector was experiencing a silent bank run. Unlike the Great Depression, where lines of people clamoring for their money were blocks long, this silent bank run, as its name portends, has been out of sight until recently. There are a couple of reasons for this. 

    By Michael Lebowitz,

    • 0 comments
    • 225 views
  • High Probability Strategy: A Holy Grail of Options Trading?

    A lot of options traders consider a 90% probability strategy a Holy Grail of trading. After all, if you can win 90% of the time, you should be able to grow your account very quickly, right? Well, not only this is not necessarily true, but in fact, a Winning Ratio alone tells you nothing about your chances to be profitable.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 234 views
  • The 10 Best Options Trading Books

    Options trading can be challenging. I look at it as a journey, a long term investment, which is no different that graduating from University. And like University, you need to do a lot of reading, along with a lot of practicing. Fortunately, there are a lot of books out there that can be of tremendous help in this journey.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 351 views
  • OptionNET Explorer (ONE) Software

    OptionNET Explorer (ONE) is a complete options trading and analysis software platform that enables the user to backtest complex options trading strategies, analyze their results and monitor them in real-time, all from within a single, user friendly environment. 

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 337 views
  • Delta Hedging Your Options Strategies

    All traders begin with an introduction to call and put options.  However, it's rare (apart from short puts) that an experienced trader would use these contracts by themselves. Instead, we primarily trade options spreads. There are many benefits to spreads. The variety of spreads are targeted to various market criteria and market environments.

    By Drew Hilleshiem,

    • 0 comments
    • 9,283 views
  • What Happened to SFO Magazine (SFOMag)? Stocks, Options and Futures Magazine

    Remember SFO Magazine? Traders like Jack Schwager and Brett Steenbarger used to write for the publication before its swift shutdown in 2012. What happened. SFO (Stocks, Futures, and Options) magazine was a monthly financial magazine focused on trading and investing in stocks, futures, and options markets.

    By Pat Crawley,

    • 0 comments
    • 1,153 views
  • How to Use the Finest Covered Call Strategy

    Investing in the stock market can be a great way to grow your wealth over time. However, it can also be a volatile and unpredictable place, with sudden swings in stock prices causing anxiety for even the most experienced investors. This is where the covered call strategy comes in - a popular options trading strategy that can help manage portfolio volatility.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 859 views

  Report Article

We want to hear from you!


There are no comments to display.



Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account. It's easy and free!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

Options Trading Blogs Expertido