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Introduction to Options Trading Strategies: Strangle

Updated: Feb 18

The world of options trading offers investors various strategies to limit risk and maximize returns. A popular and often-used strategy is the strangle, which can help an investor profit from large movements in a stock's price, regardless of the direction. This article aims to explore the strangle strategy in options trading, providing in-depth analysis and real-life examples.

Strangle Strategy Explained

In options trading, a strangle is an investment strategy where the investor buys an out-of-the-money (OTM) call option (an option to buy assets, usually shares, at a specific price) and an out-of-the-money put option (an option to sell assets at a specific price) with the same expiration date but different strike prices. The name 'strangle' comes from the fact that the investor is bracketing the market, just as one might strangle something with their hands. This strategy is typically used when an investor expects a significant move in the share price but is unsure of the direction. The profit is made from the volatility or large price swings in the underlying asset.

Understanding the Positions

  • Out-of-the-Money Call Option: This is an option where the strike price (the price at which the shares can be bought) is higher than the market price of the underlying stock. Here, the investor is anticipating the stock price to rise above the strike price before the expiration date.

  • Out-of-the-Money Put Option: In contrast, an out-of-the-money put option has a strike price that is below the market price of the underlying stock. The investor using this option expects the stock price to drop below the strike price before expiration.

Profit and Loss with a Strangle

The maximum loss with a strangle strategy is limited to the net premium paid for the options (the cost of the call option plus the cost of the put option). The loss occurs if the price of the underlying asset remains between the strike prices of the call and put at the time of expiration, rendering both options worthless. Profit, on the other hand, is theoretically unlimited on the upside while limited on the downside (since the price of a stock cannot fall below zero). The investor would start making a profit if the stock's price moves beyond the break-even points, calculated as:

  • Upside break-even point = Strike price of the call option + Net premium paid

  • Downside break-even point = Strike price of the put option - Net premium paid

Real-Life Example of a Strangle

Let's consider a real-world example. Assume company XYZ is trading at $50 in June. An investor believes that the company's upcoming earnings report, due in July, will cause significant movement in the stock price but isn't sure whether it will go up or down. The investor decides to implement a strangle strategy. They buy a July $55 call for $2 and a July $45 put for $1. The net premium paid is, therefore, $3 ($2 + $1). In this case, the upside break-even point would be $58 ($55 + $3), and the downside break-even point would be $42 ($45 - $3). If, at expiration, the stock is anywhere between $42 and $58, both options would expire worthless, and the investor would lose the $3 premium paid. However, if the stock price either rises above $58 or falls below $42, the investor begins to see profits. The strangle strategy's beauty lies in its capacity to benefit from significant price movements, with losses limited to the initial premium paid. However, it's essential to note that this strategy requires a considerable price move in the underlying stock, which may not always happen.

The strangle strategy in options trading offers an effective way for investors to leverage significant price movements, whether upwards or downwards. However, it comes with its risks, the most significant being the total loss of the premium paid if the price of the underlying stock fails to move outside the range defined by the call and put options' strike prices. Moreover, it requires a deep understanding of options trading and the ability to anticipate market volatility accurately. If the predicted volatility or large price swing does not occur, the investor will lose the investment made in purchasing the options. For this reason, strangles and other similar options strategies are generally not recommended for beginner investors. While the potential returns of a strangle can be very attractive, it's important to remember that the potential for significant returns often comes with a high level of risk. Investors considering the use of a strangle or any options strategy should fully understand the risks involved and consider seeking the advice of a financial advisor or doing thorough research before proceeding.

A strangle is an advanced options strategy that profits from significant movements in the price of the underlying stock. It's an effective strategy to utilize during periods of expected high volatility, especially when the market direction is uncertain. However, the strangle strategy requires careful planning, precise execution, and a keen understanding of the market dynamics and options trading. With these in place, an investor can use the strangle strategy to navigate and profit from the complex world of options trading.

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