April 02, 2009

Covered Call Strategy

Last time i discussed the Straddle strategy which can be used in a volatile market condition. Today we discuss about Covered Call; a strategy to adopt when you anticipate some upside potential for the stock but at the same time wish to protect from the downside loss.

A Covered Call is nothing but a combination of short (sell) call option and long (buy) stock.For e.g. you bought a stock at 100$ and sold an option on the same stock for 10$ (this is the commission called as option premium). This option expires 1 month later with exercise price of 105$ (this means you promise to sell the stock at 105$ to the option buyer 1 month later). Lets assume this is a European option (exercise possible only at maturity).

Consider 2 scenarios for the Stock price 1 month later:

Scenario 1 : Stock price is 90$
You loose (100-90) = 10$
Commission earned by selling the option = 10$
Your Net Profit = 10-10=0$

The option will remain unexercised (it wont make sense for the option holder to buy the stock at 105$ when its market price is 90$)

Scenario 2 : Stock Price is 107$
Commission earned by selling the option = 10$
The option would be excercised. i.e. You have to sell the stock at 105$. but since you bought it at 100$, your gain is 5$
Your Net profit = 10+5 = 15$

In both the above scenarios, your loss is minimized and gain maximized.

The above example is quite simple without considering trading costs, etc which would reduce the pay-off. Also, one can argue that if the stock price shoots to say 130$ or is pulled down to say 80$ then your entire commission is lost and you make a net loss. So this strategy is better when market anticipates a lower volatility in the short term.It can also be argued that the option premium can be re-invested at a risk-free rate thereby increasing your gains.

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