What is Strike Price in Option Trading: From Basics to Advanced

Jeremy BiberdorfBy: Jeremy Biberdorf

July 5, 2024July 5, 2024

When you’re diving into the world of options trading, one term you’ll encounter right off the bat is “strike price.” This crucial element, also known as the exercise price, is the set price at which you can buy (call) or sell (put) the underlying asset specified in an options contract.

Whether it’s stocks, commodities, or any financial asset, understanding the strike price is fundamental. The strike price not only defines your potential buying or selling price but also plays a pivotal role in your trading strategy.

It influences how an options trade will unfold, especially in relation to the current market price of the asset. Each option trade involves this key decision: selecting the right strike price alongside the appropriate expiration time.

It’s a balance of understanding market dynamics and your own risk tolerance, as the strike price sets the benchmark for the profitability and feasibility of your trade. This article will explain all you need to know about the strike price and how it relates to option trading. If you prefer to learn via video, consider the tutorial below:

What is Strike Price in Option Trading: A Deeper Exploration

Strike price, also referred to as the exercise price, is the predetermined price at which an option holder has the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell the underlying asset. This asset could be anything from a stock, commodity, index, to a currency, depending on the specifics of the option.

The strike price is fundamental to an options contract, acting as the cornerstone for determining whether to exercise the option. For call options, this price is where you can buy the underlying security; for put options, it’s where you can sell it. Understanding the strike price is vital because it directly influences the potential profitability of an option.

Options are described as being either in-the-money (ITM) or out-of-the-money (OTM) based on their strike price in relation to the current market price of the underlying asset. For call options, if the strike price is below the current stock price, the option is ITM—it has intrinsic value because exercising the option would be cheaper than buying the stock at the market price.

Conversely, put options are ITM when their strike price is above the current stock price, allowing the holder to sell the stock at a higher price than the market offers.

On the flip side, OTM options are those where the exercise would not be economically beneficial under current market conditions. For calls, this means the strike price is above the current stock price; for puts, it’s below. These options may not have intrinsic value but can still hold extrinsic value, reflecting factors like time until expiration or underlying price volatility.

The role of the strike price in trading options is pivotal, as it determines an option’s moneyness, which in turn affects decisions on whether to exercise the option, let it expire, or close it out early. Traders must keep a keen eye on how strike prices compare to current market prices to manage their options effectively and maximize potential returns or minimize losses.

This understanding is crucial, whether you’re a seasoned trader weighing the benefits of a potential options strategy, like the options wheel strategy, or a beginner investor getting to grips with the basics of option trading.

Understanding the Strike Price Through Examples

I will better help you understand how strike prices work in option trading with some hypothetical company examples. Think of the strike price as the agreed-upon price within an options contract where you can either buy or sell the underlying stock, depending on the type of option you hold.

Example 1: Call Option

Imagine you’re eyeing a call option for BlueTech Corp, currently trading at $150 per share.

  • Strike Price: $160
  • Type of Option: Call Option
  • Premium: $5 per option

Here’s the scenario: You buy a call option with a strike price of $160. This setup gives you the right to purchase shares of BlueTech at $160 before the option expires. If BlueTech’s share price climbs to $170, your option is “in-the-money” (ITM) because the current market price of $170 is higher than your strike price of $160. You could then exercise your option to buy at $160 and sell immediately at $170, making a $10 profit per share, minus the $5 premium, netting you $5 per share in profit.

Example 2: Put Option

Next, consider a put option for GreenMotors Co., which is trading at $800 per share.

  • Strike Price: $750
  • Type of Option: Put Option
  • Premium: $30 per option

In this case, you hold a put option with a strike price of $750, granting you the right to sell shares at $750 each before the option’s expiration. If GreenMotors’ stock price dips to $700, your option becomes “in-the-money” because the current price ($700) is below the strike price ($750).

You could exercise the option to sell at $750 and potentially buy back the shares at $700. This move would earn you a profit of $50 per share, but after subtracting the $30 premium, your net gain would be $20 per share.

Example 3: Out-of-the-Money (OTM) Option

Now, let’s look at a call option for StreamFlix Entertainment, with the stock currently at $500.

  • Strike Price: $550
  • Type of Option: Call Option
  • Premium: $10 per option

If you opt for a call option at a strike price of $550, you need StreamFlix’s stock price to exceed $550 before your option expires to gain value. If the stock price stays below $550, your option remains “out-of-the-money.” Buying at $550 when the market price is lower doesn’t make sense; thus, the option would likely expire worthless, leading you to lose the $10 premium paid.

These scenarios highlight how crucial the strike price is in options trading. Whether you’re making a profit or not depends significantly on how well you choose your strike prices relative to expected market movements and the current stock price. The ability to predict and act on these price movements effectively is key to mastering options trading.

What Determines Strike Price And How To Determine If The Strike Price Is Good

When diving into the world of options trading, selecting the appropriate strike price for your option contract is crucial. This strike price, or exercise price, is what determines whether your option is a profitable move or not, relative to the spot prices of the underlying asset at any given time.

But what specific factors determine the strike price, let’s get into it.

Factors Influencing the Strike Price Selection

  1. Current Market Price: The choice of strike price is heavily influenced by the current price of the underlying asset. Option traders often look at the closest strike price around the current trading price of the asset to determine the potential outcomes of their option strategy.
  2. Time to Expiration: Options are time-sensitive instruments. The time horizon until expiration can greatly impact the option’s price, commonly known as the option premium. Longer time frames give the underlying asset more opportunity to reach the strike price, potentially increasing the value of an option.
  3. Volatility of the Underlying Asset: The expected price movement or volatility of the stock affects how the strike price is set. Higher volatility typically leads to higher premiums because there’s a greater chance that the option will end up in-the-money (ITM).

Risk Considerations When Determining The Strike Price Value

Your approach to picking a strike price should align with your risk tolerance and trading strategy. What do I mean by this, let me break it down:

  • Risk and Reward: Trading options allows you to speculate on the direction the stock price will take before the option expires. The choice between opting for ITM, ATM, or OTM options should reflect your comfort with risk and desired reward. ITM options are less risky compared to OTM options, which, while cheaper, carry a higher risk of expiring worthless.
  • Time Decay: An essential factor to consider is the time decay, especially as the expiration date approaches. Options lose value over time, which can impact the profitability of trading strategies, particularly in American-style options which can be exercised at any time up to expiration.

Option Styles and Their Impact

There are two main styles of options, American-style and European-style. I must note that American style options are traded on exchange, like the NYSE, and European-style options are typically traded over the counter (OTC). Here are how they work:

  • American-Style Options: These options offer flexibility, allowing the holder to exercise the option at any point up to and including the day of expiration. This can be particularly useful if the market price reaches the strike price well before expiration.
  • European-Style Options: Conversely, these options can only be exercised on the expiration day itself, requiring a more precise alignment of market price and strike price at the end of the option term.

Strike Price vs Spot Price: What is The Difference?

The strike price and spot price are not the same thing. In options trading, the strike price is the predetermined rate at which an option can be exercised, focusing on future price expectations. It’s fixed when the option contract is established and dictates whether the option will be profitable when exercised.

Conversely, the spot price represents the current market price of an asset for immediate delivery. It fluctuates based on real-time market conditions.

The difference between the strike and spot prices heavily influences the option’s premium, the cost to purchase the option.

Strike Price in Option Trading: My Final Thoughts

Wrapping up, getting the hang of strike prices in options trading is a must for any trader looking to tap into this market. Remember, the strike price is your agreed-upon price for executing a trade on the underlying asset, whether you’re aiming to buy low with a call option or sell high with a put.

This price, combined with the current market price, influences whether your option will be in-the-money or out-of-the-money at expiration. Making the right call on your strike price, factoring in market dynamics and your own risk assessment, can significantly swing the profitability of your trades.

So, take the time to understand how strike prices work, it could make all the difference in your trading success!

Jeremy Biberdorf
Jeremy Biberdorf

About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. He's a father of 2 beautiful girls, a dog owner, a long-time online entrepreneur and an investing enthusiast.

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