CFDs are complex financial instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money. CFDs are complex financial instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Trading options with CFDs

Lesson 7 of 11

Selling options – some examples

Selling options – both calls and puts – may be a little more challenging to understand than buying, but it can be useful for flexibility, and particularly in hedging.

Selling a call, also known as making a short call or written call, can generate a profit when a long call (buying an option) would result in making a making a loss and vice versa.

The reason is that options are a decaying asset. Their value decays with the passage of time and they expire.

This time decay works in your favour if you are an option seller.

That’s because the less time until expiry, the less chance the option has to go in the money. The option price becomes less valuable to the holder each day – benefiting the option seller.

A short call option can therefore create a limited profit in a short time.

The option seller makes a profit as long as the underlying price is below the strike price plus the premium collected. The option buyer can profit only if the underlying price goes above the strike price, plus the premium paid.

Selling a call

This is a strategy that you might use if you were bearish about the prospects of the underlying market – you thought it would fall – or if you thought the price was likely to stay the same.

The profit/loss profile of a sold call is the mirror image of the profile of a long call.

Let’s take another example using the FTSE 100, with a strike price of 6500 and a 35-point premium, and look at the value of the sold call for different levels at expiry:

If the underlying market is above the breakeven point of 6535 at expiry, you’ll lose overall on the trade. If it expires at 6500 or below, you’ll make a profit equal to the premium.

Risk
Selling, or writing, a call option is a risky strategy. Your potential risk is unlimited, as the underlying price could theoretically increase to infinity. If the market rises rapidly, you could suddenly find yourself with a runaway, uncapped loss on your hands.

Reward
The maximum possible profit for writing an option is the premium. In our example, the seller of the call will make 35 points provided the FTSE expires at 6500 or lower. Carefully used, this means that a sell could offer a good prospect for profit.

Selling a put

You would use this strategy if you had a neutral-to-bullish outlook for a particular market – so you thought the price was likely to stay the same or to rise.

The profit/loss profile for selling a put is exactly the opposite of the profile for buying a put. Let’s look at this for a FTSE option with a strike price at 6150 and a 50-point premium.

If the FTSE is at or above 6100 on expiry, you’ll make a profit. If not, you’ll make a loss. Your maximum profit will be achieved if the FTSE is at or above 6150 on expiry.

Risk
Selling a put option involves substantial risk, although your potential loss isn’t completely unlimited, as it is when you sell a call option.

As the market price drops, the value of the put for the holder increases – which isn’t so good for the seller. The worst-case scenario occurs if the underlying asset drops to zero. This would give you a loss equal to the strike price minus the premium.

Reward
The maximum reward is the premium. In our put option example, as long as the FTSE stays at 6150 or higher, as the option seller – or writer – you’ll make all 35 points of premium.

Basic strategy Risk (max. loss) Reward (max. profit)
Sell call Unlimited Limited to premium
Sell put High – but the underlying price cannot fall below zero Limited to premium

Example

Make sure you understand the risks and rewards of selling an option by answering the following questions:

Question

Question 1

What strategy could you use if you thought the price of gold was likely to stay the same or to rise:
  • a Sell a put
  • b Sell a call

Correct

Incorrect

A. If gold maintained its value or rose, the buyer wouldn’t exercise their option and you’d keep the premium as profit.
Reveal answer

Question

Question 2

Which has the higher risk:
  • a Selling a put
  • b Selling a call

Correct

Incorrect

B. Selling a call can mean in theory that your losses are unlimited, since there’s no knowing how high the underlying market could climb. If you sell a put, your loss will be capped if the underlying market falls to zero.
Reveal answer

Lesson summary

  • Selling an option can generate a profit in situations where buying an option will result in a loss and vice versa
  • Selling is also known as making a short call or put, or writing an option
  • Selling options is a strategy focussing on the fact that options are a decaying asset. This time decay works in your favour if you are an option seller
  • You could choose to sell a put if you believed the price of the asset would stay the same or rise
  • You could choose to sell a call if you believed the price of the asset would stay the same or fall
  • If you sell a put, your risk is substantial but capped, whereas selling a call exposes you to unlimited risk
Lesson complete