Buying Option Contracts
American-style options allow the buyer of a contract to exercise at any time during the life of the contract, whereas European-style options can be exercised only during a specified period just prior to expiration. For an investor selling American-style options, one of the risks is that the investor may be called upon at any time during the contract's term to fulfill its obligations. That is, as long as a short options position remains open, the seller may be subject to "assignment" on any day equity markets are open.
buying option contracts
An option assignment represents the seller's obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or buying the underlying security at the exercise price. This obligation is triggered when the buyer of an option contract exercises their right to buy or sell the underlying security.
To ensure fairness in the distribution of American-style and European-style option assignments, the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC), which is the options industry clearing house, has an established process to randomly assign exercise notices to firms with an account that has a short option position. Once a firm receives an assignment, it then assigns this notice to one of its customers who has a short option contract of the same series. This short option contract is selected from a pool of such customers, either at random or by some other procedure specific to the brokerage firm.
While an option seller will always have some level of uncertainty, being assigned may be a somewhat predictable event. Only about 7% of options positions are typically exercised, but that does not imply that investors can expect to be assigned on only 7% of their short positions. Investors may have some, all or none of their short positions assigned.
And while the majority of American-style options exercises (and assignments) happen on or near the contract's expiration, a long options holder can exercise their right at any time, even if the underlying security is halted for trading. Someone may exercise their options early based upon a significant price movement in the underlying security or if shares become difficult to borrow as the result of a pending corporate action such as a buyout or takeover.
Note: European-style options can only be exercised during a specified period just prior to expiration. In U.S. markets, the majority of options on commodity and index futures are European-style, while options on stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETF) are American-style. So, while SPDR S&P 500, or SPY options, which are options tied to an ETF that tracks the S&P 500, are American-style options, S&P 500 Index options, or SPX options, which are tied to S&P 500 futures contracts, are European-style options.
An investor who is assigned on a short option position is required to meet the terms of the written option contract upon receiving notification of the assignment. In the case of a short equity call, the seller of the option must deliver stock at the strike price and in return receives cash. An investor who doesn't already own the shares will need to acquire and deliver shares in return for cash in the amount of the strike price, multiplied by 100, since each contract represents 100 shares. In the case of a short equity put, the seller of the option is required to purchase the stock at the strike price.
It is normal to see an account balance fluctuate after opening a short option position. Investors who have questions or concerns or who do not understand reported trade balances and assets valuations should contact their brokerage firm immediately for an explanation. Please keep in mind that short option positions can incur substantial risk in certain situations.
For example, say XYZ stock is trading at $40 and an investor sells 10 contracts for XYZ July 50 calls at $1.00, collecting a premium of $1,000, since each contract represents 100 shares ($1.00 premium x 10 contracts x 100 shares). Consider what happens if XYZ stock increases to $60, the call is exercised by the option holder and the investor is assigned. Should the investor not own the stock, they must now acquire and deliver 1,000 shares of XYZ at a price of $50 per share. Given the current stock price of $60, the investor's short stock position would result in an unrealized loss of $9,000 (a $10,000 loss from delivering shares $10 below current stock price minus the $1,000 premium collected earlier).
American-style option holders have the right to exercise their options position prior to expiration regardless of whether the options are in-, at- or out-of-the-money. Investors can be assigned if any market participant holding calls or puts of the same series submits an exercise notice to their brokerage firm. When one leg is assigned, subsequent action may be required, which could include closing or adjusting the remaining position to avoid potential capital or margin implications resulting from the assignment. These actions may not be attractive and may result in a loss or a less-than-ideal gain.
If an investor's short option is assigned, the investor will be required to perform in accordance with their obligation to purchase or deliver the underlying security, regardless of the overall risk of their position when taking into account other options that may be owned as part of the overall multi-leg strategy. If the investor owns an option that serves to limit the risk of the overall spread position, it is up to the investor to exercise that option or to take other action to limit risk.
Note: In either example, the short put position may be assigned prior to expiration at the discretion of the option holder. Investors can check with their brokerage firm regarding their option exercise procedures and cut-off times.
For options-specific questions, you may contact OCC's Investor Education team at [email protected], via chat on OptionsEducation.org or subscribe to the OIC newsletter. If you have questions about options trading in your brokerage account, we encourage you to contact your brokerage firm. If after doing so you have not resolved the issue or have additional concerns, you can contact FINRA.
Important Note: Futures and options transactions are intended for sophisticated investors and are complex, carry a high degree of risk, and are not suitable for all investors. For more information, please read the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options and the Risk Disclosure Statement for Futures and Options prior to applying for an account. You can also view the E*TRADE Futures LLC Financial Information and Disclosure Documents.
The tools available on Power E*TRADE are not designed to yield variable results specific to your individual financial situation, risk tolerance, or investment goals, and none of the tools should be relied upon in any way to determine the suitability of an investment for you. Before buying or selling any investment, you should carefully consider your individual financial situation, investment objectives, risk tolerance, and liquidity needs, and consult licensed financial and tax professionals to determine for yourself whether the investment is suitable for you.
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Consolidation is not right for everyone, so you should carefully consider your options. Before deciding whether to retain assets in a retirement plan account through a former employer, roll them over to a qualified retirement plan account through a new employer (if one is available and rollovers are permitted), or roll them over to an IRA, an investor should consider all his or her options and the various factors including, but not limited to, the differences in investment options, fees and expenses, services, the exceptions to the early withdrawal penalties, protection from creditors and legal judgments, required minimum distributions, the tax treatment of employer stock (if held in the qualified retirement plan account), and the availability of plan loans (i.e., loans are not permitted from IRAs, and the availability of loans from a qualified retirement plan will depend on the terms of the plan). For additional information, view the FINRA Website.
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Rent-to-own contracts are very appealing to prospective first-time home buyers who need more time to build up their credit scores or save for a down payment. Lease purchase agreements are arguably the most legally binding of the various rent-to-own options.
A lease purchase agreement in real estate is a rent-to-own contract between a tenant and a landlord for the former to purchase the property at a later point in time. The renter pays the seller an option fee at an agreed-upon purchase price, giving them exclusive rights to buy the property. 041b061a72