The Equity Strategy Workshop is a collection of discussion pieces followed by interactive worksheets. The workshop is designed to assist individuals in learning how options work and in understanding various options strategies. These discussions and materials are for educational purposes only and are not intended to provide investment advice. Investment decisions should not be made based upon worksheet outcomes.
Access to, or delivery of a copy of, the Options Disclosure Document must accompany this worksheet.
After listing situations in
which buying calls can be a useful investment tool, this segment
outlines the mechanics of call buying and uses a hypothetical example to
illustrate possible outcomes.
You will then have a chance to reinforce your knowledge by using the interactive worksheets in the Buy Call Worksheet area at the bottom of this page. In addition to an on-line worksheet applet, it contains a FAQ section, important options-related materials, plus downloadable versions of the worksheet.
Who Should Consider Buying Calls?
An investor who is very bullish on a particular stock.
An investor who would like to take advantage of what purchasing options offers: leverage with a limited dollar risk.
An investor who anticipates a rise in the value of a particular stock but does not want to commit all of the capital needed to purchase the stock.
Buying a call is a simple option strategy and one that is often used. Although buying calls may not be suitable for everyone, it allows the investor the opportunity to profit from an upward move in the underlying stock while having very little capital at risk compared to the amount needed to own the stock.
Buying a call gives the owner the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying stock at a specified price (the strike price) within a specific period of time. The risk for the call buyer is limited to the premium paid for the call (the price of the call) plus commissions. The profit potential is unlimited as the underlying stock rises above the breakeven price (strike price plus the premium paid for the call plus commissions.) The value of the call tends to increase as the price of the underlying stock rises. This gain will increasingly reflect a rise in the value of the underlying stock when the market price moves above the option's strike price.
How to Buy a Call to Participate in the Upward Movement of a Stock While Limiting Your Downside Risk
In this example ZYX is trading at 44 1/4. Instead of spending $22,125 for 500 shares of ZYX stock, an investor could purchase a six-month call with a 45 strike price for 3 3/8. By purchasing a six month call with a 45 strike for 3 3/8, the investor is saying that he anticipates ZYX will rise above the strike of 45 (which is where ZYX can be purchased no matter how high ZYX has risen) + 3 3/8 (the option premium), or 48 3/8, by expiration. Each call represents 100 shares of stock, so 5 calls could be bought in place of 500 shares of stock. The cost of 5 calls at 3 3/8 is $1,687.50 (5 calls x 3 3/8 x $100). Instead of spending $22,125 on stock, only $1,687.50 is needed for the purchase of the 5 calls. The balance of $20,437.50 could then be invested in short-term instruments. This investor has unlimited profit potential as ZYX rises above 48 3/8. The risk for the option buyer is limited to the premium paid, which in this example is $1,687.50. Commissions and taxes have not been taken into consideration in these examples, although they can have a significant affect on the investor's returns.
Buying 5 ZYX 6-Month 45 Calls at 3 3/8 vs. Buying 500 Shares ZYX @ 44 1/4. We will discuss three possible scenarios at expiration.
I. ZYX is above 48 3/8 by expiration.
If ZYX is at 51 at expiration, the option will be worth the difference between the strike and the current price of the stock:
$51 (current price)
-45 (strike price)
$6 (current option value)
The option could be sold and a 77% return would be earned on the initial investment.
$6(current option value)
$3 3/8 (premium paid for option)
$2 5/8 (profit, if option sold)
The 5 calls could also be exercised and 500 shares of ZYX would be purchased for $45 per share even though the stock is trading at $51 per share. The right to buy the stock at 45 cost 3 3/8 so the breakeven on the stock position in ZYX is 48 3/8 plus commissions.
Had the stock been purchased at 44 1/4 (a cost of $22,125), and it rose to 51, it would now be worth $25,500. This would be a 15.3% increase in value over the original cost of $22,125. But, the call buyer spent only $1,687.50 and earned 77% on his options.
II. - ZYX is between 45 and 48 3/8 at expiration
The investor's option will still hold some value if the underlying is between 45 and 48 3/8 (breakeven), but not enough to breakeven on the position. The option can still be sold to recoup some of the cost.
For example, ZYX is at 47 on the last day of trading, usually the third Friday of the expiration month. The option can be sold to close out the position through the last trading day of the call. ZYX did rise in value, but not as much as anticipated. The option that cost 3 3/8 is now worth 2 points. Instead of letting the option expire, you can sell the call and recoup some of your losses.
3 3/8 = (Cost)
-2 = (Sale)
1 3/8 = Net loss (excluding commissions)
If just the stock had been bought and the stock rose to 47, $1,375 would have been earned while the holder of calls would have lost $687.50. However, the holder of calls would have been earning interest on $20,437.50, which would offset some of the loss in the options.
III. ZYX is at or below 45 at expiration.
ZYX is now at 40 and the option has expired worthless. The premium that was paid for the calls has been lost. However, had the stock been bought the investor would now be in a losing stock position hoping to breakeven. By purchasing a call he had limited capital at risk. Now he still has most of the money that he would have spent to buy the stock plus interest and he can make another investment decision.
If the investor had purchased ZYX at 44 1/4, and the stock did not move as he anticipated, the investor would have had two choices: sell the stock, and after commission costs, incur some losses, or hold onto it and hope that is rises over the long-term. Had he bought the options and he was wrong, the options would expire worthless and the loss would be limited to the premium paid.
For those who are very bullish on a particular stock over the near-term or long-term, buying a call might be just the strategy to use. Currently, there are short-term options listed on more than 1700 stocks and more than 200 of those stocks also have LEAPS®, Long-term Equity AnticiPation Securities, which are simply long-term stock and index options. Today's investors have a choice of short-term and long-term expirations, as well as multiple strike prices, so no matter what their outlook is, there is a call which correlates with their market opinion. The owner of a call has the opportunity to profit from a rise in the stock with very little capital at stake compared to the amount necessary to buy the underlying security. The most that a call owner can lose is the amount paid for the option, yet he has unlimited profit potential as the stock rises above the strike price.
On-line Buy Call Strategy Applet
Try the Buy Call Strategy Applet. In order to use this applet, you will need Netscape Navigator version 2.01 or newer (32 bit version only), Microsoft Internet Explorer version 3.01 or newer, or another java compatible browser. This Java-based applet allows you to "plug in" necessary variables and demonstrates some of the possible outcomes. It also offers a graphing feature to help you visualize how the strategy performs over a price range.
Download the Buy Call Strategy Pack
As a supplement to the on-line version, we also have the Buy Call Strategy Pack (self-extracting zip archive) available for download. (Look below for step-by-step instructions on how to download this file.) In addition to the Strategy Worksheet FAQ, (Frequently asked questions about the worksheets) the Buy Call Strategy Pack includes the Strategy discussion (same as above) in a text file format, the strategy worksheet, also in text file format suitable for printout, and a fully functional Microsoft Excel® spreadsheet. The spreadsheet mirrors the on-line applet, allowing you to enter and change variables, and to see the outcome graphed. The spreadsheet requires Microsoft Excel® version 5.0 or newer (or compatible) to function properly.
Equity Workshop FAQ
Please review the Equity Options Strategy Workshop FAQ for background information or as the starting point for any questions you have concerning the worksheets.
How To Download and Open the Self-Extracting Strategy Packs
- Microsoft Windows® users:
- click on the link
- save the file on your local hard disk to a temporary directory of your choice (the zip file is about 160 K)
- using File Manager or Windows® Explorer, navigate to that directory
- doubleclick on the downloaded file to activate the self-extraction process.
A WinZip dialog box will appear. It gives you a choice on where to extract the files to. Unless you specify another directory, the files will automatically be extracted to a default directory named c:\cboe that the program will create. It will also create subdirectory named index. Note: The default directory is the same for all the strategy packs, so if you download more than one, they will be grouped together in the same directory (c:\cboe\index\).
- click "unzip" to extract the files
- click "OK" (verification box)
- click "close" to close the archive extraction program.
- Start a text viewer (such as notepad.exe) to access the text files or Microsoft Excel® to open the .xls spreadsheet. Please view the readme.txt file for the most up to theminute information about the spreadsheets.
- Other operating systems:
- Self-extraction is only available to users of Microsoft Windows®. Users of other platforms should use a zip-extracting utility such as PKunzip to open and extract the archived files.
Commission, dividends, margins, taxes and other transaction charges have not been included. However, they will affect the outcome of option transactions and should be considered. The strategy discussed above is for illustrative and educational purposes only and should not be construed as an endorsement, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell any particular security.
LEAPS® and Long-term Equity AnticiPation Securities are registered trademarks of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Inc.
Excel® & Windows95® are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation, Winzip is a registered trademark of Nico-Mak Computing and PKunzip is a registered trademark of PKWARE Inc.