Risks in Futures Options Trading

October 11, 2009

When people speak of future option or commodity option trading, they think of the risks involved. There are risks involved when buying and selling options. When buying an option, the risk is how much you paid for the options. There is limited risk involved in buying an option. In selling futures options, there is unlimited risk involved because if the option goes “in the money” you have the potential for unlimited loss.

For example, if the underlying futures market was trading at 3.00 and I sold a 3.50 call option, this option is not yet in the money. It is “out of the money”. If the futures hits 3.50, then the option is “at the money”. Once it goes beyond 3.50, it is in the money. If I sold the commodity option and the futures eventually goes to 5.50, then it has 2.00 worth of “real value” or intrinsic value. So we can lose more than we expected. Some people only buy options for this reason.

When buying futures options though, you are paying premium and this is risk as well. The chance that you will be in the money and recover your premium payment is the risk involved. There is unlimited potential with limited risk. But the disadvantage is that the options usually expire worthless. Leverage is the reason people buy futures options. You can control  the underlying futures with a smaller investment and less risk than by buying or selling the futures contract. I am paying a premium to put this on and I am trading time as well. Meaning, I only have until the option expires to be correct, so time is a factor in futures options trading also.

Futures options sellers are trading the fact the an option will not be profitable for the option buyer before a certain time frame. Hopefully the futures option will expire worthless or lose money before the expiration of the option.

I will write about other techniques in another article. There are many ways to trade futures options. You can buy an option or sell an option or you can put on a credit spread where you do both.

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