SteadyOptions is an options trading forum where you can find solutions from top options traders. TRY IT FREE!

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

The Options Greeks: Is it Greek to You?


Trading options without an understanding of the Greeks is like flying a plane without the ability to read instruments. Unfortunately, many traders do not know how to read the Greeks when trading. This puts them at risk of a fatal error, much like a pilot would experience flying in bad weather without the benefit of a panel of instruments at his or her disposal.

In this article, I will try to describe how to use the options Greeks to your advantage.

 

The Basics

 

greeks.jpg

 

First, a quick reminder for those less familiar with the Greeks.

 

The Delta is the rate of change of the price of the option with respect to its underlying price. The delta of an option ranges in value from 0 to 1 for calls (0 to -1 for puts) and reflects the increase or decrease in the price of the option in response to a 1 point movement of the underlying asset price. In dollar terms, the delta is from $0 to +$100 for calls ($0 to -$100 for puts).

 

Delta can be viewed as a percentage probability an option will wind up in-the-money at expiration. Therefore, an at-the-money option would have a .50 Delta or 50% chance of being in-the-money at expiration. Deep-in-the-money options will have a much larger Delta or much higher probability of expiring in-the-money.

 

The Theta is a measurement of the option's time decay. The theta measures the rate at which options lose their value, specifically the time value, as the expiration draws nearer. Generally expressed as a negative number, the theta of an option reflects the amount by which the option's value will decrease every day. When you buy options, the theta is your enemy. When you sell them, the theta is your friend.

 

Option sellers use theta to their advantage, collecting time decay every day. The same is true of credit spreads, which are really selling strategies. Calendar spreads involve buying a longer-dated option and selling a nearer-dated option, taking advantage of the fact that options expire faster as they approach expiration.

 

The Vega is a measure of the impact of changes in the Implied Volatility on the option price. Specifically, the vega of an option expresses the change in the price of the option for every 1% change in the Implied Volatility. Options tend to be more expensive when volatility is higher. When you buy options, the vega is your friend. When you sell them, the vega is your enemy.

 

Short premium positions like Iron Condors or Butterflies will be negatively impacted by an increase in implied volatility, which generally occurs with downside market moves. When entering Iron Condors or Butterflies, it makes sense to start with a slightly short delta bias. If the market stays flat or goes up, the short premium will come in and our position benefits. However, if the market goes down, the short vega position will go against us - this is where the short delta hedge will help.

 

The Gamma is a measure of the rate of change of its delta. The gamma of an option is expressed as a percentage and reflects the change in the delta in response to a one point movement of the underlying stock price. When you buy options, the gamma is your friend. When you sell them, the gamma is your enemy.

 

Selling options with close expiration will give you higher positive theta per day but higher negative gamma. That means that a sharp move of the underlying will cause much higher loss. So if the underlying doesn't move, then theta will kick off and you will just earn money with every passing day. But if it does move, the loss will become very large very quickly. You should never ignore negative gamma.

 

Example

 

Lets analyze the Greeks using one of our recent trades as an example:

 

Buy to open 4 ORCL July 17 2015 44 put
Buy to open 4 ORCL July 17 2015 44 call
Price: $2.66 debit

 

6bea6e16180386226f7c993ee91fdea0.png

 

This trade is called a straddle option strategy. It is a neutral strategy in options trading that involves the simultaneously buying of a put and a call on the same underlying, strike and expiration. A straddle is vega positive, gamma positive and theta negative trade. That means that all other factors equal, the straddle will lose money every day due to the time decay, and the loss will accelerate as we get closer to expiration.

 

With the stock sitting at $44, the trade is almost delta neutral. Lets see how other Greeks impact this trade.

 

The theta is your worst enemy as we get closer to expiration. This trade had 44 days to expiration, so the negative theta is relatively small ($3 or 1% of the straddle price). As we get closer to expiration, the negative theta becomes larger and the impact on the trade is more severe.

 

The gamma is your best friend as we get closer to expiration. That means that the stock move will benefit the trade more as time passes.

 

The vega is your friend. If you buy options when IV is low and it goes higher, the trade starts making money even if the stock doesn't move. This is the thesis behind our pre-earnings straddles.

 

Make them Work For You

 

If you expect a big move, go with closer expiration. But if the move doesn't materialize, you will start losing money much faster, unless the IV starts to rise. It basically becomes a "theta against gamma" fight. When you expect an increase in IV (before earnings for example), it's a "theta against vega" fight, and the large gamma is the added bonus.

 

When you are net "short" options, the opposite is true. For example, Iron Condor is a vega negative and theta positive trade. That means that it benefits from the decline in Implied Volatility (IV) and the time decay. If you initiate the trade when IV is high and IV is declining during the life of the trade, the trade wins twice: from the declining IV and the time passage.

 

However, it is also gamma negative and the gamma accelerates as we get closer to expiration. This is the reason why I don't like holding the Iron Condor trades till expiration. Any big move of the underlying will cause big losses due to a large negative gamma.

 

The gamma risk is often overlooked by many Condor traders. Many traders initiate the Iron Condor trades only 3-4 weeks before expiration to take advantage of a large and accelerating positive theta. They hold those trades till expiration, completely ignoring the large negative gamma and are very surprised when a big move accelerates the losses. Don't make that mistake.

 

One possible strategy is to combine vega positive and theta positive trades with vega positive and theta negative ones. This is what we do at SteadyOptions. A Calendar spread is an example of vega positive theta positive trade. When combined with a straddle trades which are vega positive theta negative, a balance portfolio can be created.

 

Conclusion: when you trade options, use the Greeks to your advantage. When they fight, you should win. Like in a real life, always know who is your friend and who is your enemy.

 

The following videos give a short introduction of the options Greeks:

 

 

Related articles:


We invite you to join us and learn how we trade our options strategies. We discuss all our trades including the Greeks on our forum.

 

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

Try It Free

Non-directional Options Strategies

10-15 trade Ideas Per Month

Targets 5-7% Monthly Net Return

Visit our Education Center

Recent Articles

Articles

  • The Power of Selling Options on Futures

    It’s no secret that selling far out of the money options, as opposed to buying them, is a trading strategy with a high probability of success. Low-delta options have a proclivity to expire worthless. The dramatic downward moves required to make low-delta options profitable don’t happen all of the time.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 71 views
  • How to Control Losses and Protect Profits

    One of the requirements when developing a trading method is that traders have to fully describe how to start and settle trades. However, when they are forced to describe how to adjust and manage the size of their positions, few traders have a concrete answer.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 248 views
  • How to Avoid Emotional Mistakes in Trading

    There are some psychological dangers in the market that you should know about. It is important that you know how to deal with your emotions and what steps you must take to achieve your investment goals. Therefore, you must equip yourself with the right tools to be able to implement your operations in a profitable way in the long run.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 350 views
  • Volatility Skew

    'Volatility skew' is one of those topics that many traders ignore.  It's not something that was understood in the early days (1973 +), when options began trading on an exchange. According to Wikipedia: "equity options traded in American markets did not show a volatility smile before the crash of 1987, but began showing one afterward."

    By MarkWolfinger,

    • 0 comments
    • 422 views
  • Can Options Assignment Cause Margin Call?

    I've had three emails in the past month on people being assigned on positions and receiving margin calls, and generally not knowing what happened. I advise everyone to completely research and become familiar with the exercise/assignment aspect of option trading. If you don't you can find your entire account blown out over a weekend.

    By cwelsh,

    • 6 comments
    • 5,541 views
  • Calculating ROI on Credit Spreads

    The trigger to this article was a discussion I had with someone on Reddit. There is a common misconception about calculating gains on trades that require margin, like credit spreads and short options (naked puts/calls, strangles or straddles). I believe it is important to explain how to do it properly.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 841 views
  • Learning to Win by Learning to Lose

    It does not matter how good your trading system is - you will not win 100% of the time! A fact! The way you deal with this fact will go a long way toward determining how big a winner you become. In fact, after so many years spent in the financial arena, I have absolutely no doubts in my  mind that one of the most essential keys to winning is learning how to lose.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 579 views
  • Should You Leg Into Iron Condor?

    The wings of an iron condor options trading strategy consist of two vertical credit spreads; i.e., a bull put spread and a bear call spread. The process of "Legging In" offers the promise of higher yields and enhanced probabilities of options trade success, but the question is whether it is worth the risk.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 2,541 views
  • Should You Add to a Losing Trade?

    I'm sure most traders are familiar with this situation. You find a good setup, watch it for a while, then enter a trade, and it goes down right after you entered. Should you double down and add to your losing trade, or should you cut the loss and exit? That depends who you ask.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 1,706 views
  • Top 5 Options Trading Myths

    There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about options trading. Many traders refrain from trading options because they consider it too risky. The only dangerous part of options trading is the risk-insensitive trader who buys and sells options with little or no understanding of just what can go wrong.

    By Kim,

    • 0 comments
    • 1,119 views

SteveKFL, 4REAL, Kim and 1 other like this


We want to hear from you!


Kim, great explanation about the Greeks. Was reading about Greeks on Investopedia after you discussed the recent impact from Theta outpacing Vega with regard to the FDX trade. Unfortunately Theta won, but now from this article, at least I better understand the relationships. Thanks.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good article,

"One possible strategy is to combine vega negative and theta positive trades with vega positive and theta negative ones."

Can you go into that more?

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

My $0.02 is for those who are mathematically inclined, you can get a pretty good explanation of the greeks as components in the Black-Scholes model in Hull's or Sinclair's "Volatility Trading". Although I've forgotten the line-by-line derivation of BSM, the derivation helped me understand intuitively what each greek represent. 

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good article, "One possible strategy is to combine vega negative and theta positive trades with vega positive and theta negative ones." Can you go into that more?

Example of vega negative and theta positive trade is butterfly. Example of vega positive and theta negative trade is straddle. So combining them will give a nice diversification. If the markets don't move, the fly will profit. If they do, straddle will produce nice gains. Together they balance each other.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kim, great explanation. After being a member for more than a year now, I finally start to understand what do you mean by "running a balanced portfolio with Greeks hedging each other". Having couple gamma positive trades when the markets make a big move can make a huge difference.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Absolutely. 

I don't believe that you can succeed in the long term by trading just bunch of credit spreads or iron condors. You really need to understand how to use mix of strategies that hedge and balance each other.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Your content will need to be approved by a moderator

Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Add a comment...

×   You have pasted content with formatting.   Remove formatting

  Only 75 emoticons maximum are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

Loading...