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American Options: Definition, How It Works, Types, Advantages, and Disadvantages

American Options: Definition, How It Works, Types, Advantages, and Disadvantages

An American option is a type of option contract that offers traders the flexibility of exercising option rights at any time before or on the expiration date. American options provide investors with a freedom, which opens up more methods for them to profit from the price movements of an underlying asset when the situation is favourable.

An American options contract is made when both buyer and seller agree on the terms of the option contract. The option buyer has the right but not the obligation to exercise the option contract. This is why the option buyer pays the option premium to the option seller for acquiring the option contract. This premium represents the cost of obtaining the right to exercise the option contract.

American Option, are great when it comes to the flexibility they provide to traders and they are also easier to trade. But somecertain trading strategies are difficult to deploy when using these contracts. For example, Calendar Spreads, Multi-Leg Strategies and hedging strategies used in long-term option trading..

What are American Options?

American Options also called American-style option are option contracts that allow an investor to exercise his or her option rights from the day they purchase the contract until the option expires. An American Option contract allows investors to book their profits as soon as the underlying asset moves in their favour. Traders also use this flexibility to take advantage of the dividend announcements of stocks.

Majorityost of the exchange-traded options on single stocks are American Option contracts. The freedom these contracts offer does come with a cost, as these contracts are expensive compared to European Options.

American weekly options contracts expire on Friday, and the monthly contracts expire on the third Friday of the month.

How American Options Work?

American Options work by allowing traders to have the right to buy and sell an underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before its expiration date. American Options works by giving flexibility to traders and investors. Here are five points that will help you understand the whole mechanism of American Options. 

An American Option contract is created when an option buyer pays the premium to an option seller for the right to exercise the contract. This contract includes the type of option (Call or Put), the strike price, the underlying asset, and the premium.

An American option contract holder can exercise his or her rights anytime before the expiration date. A trader waits for the underlying asset to move in his or her favour before exercising the contract.

A trader has to notify the exchange at the time of exercising an option contract. An exchange then continues with the process of exercising the option contract. They buy the underlying asset at the strike price for a call option contract, and they sell the underlying asset at the strike price for a put option contract.

An option holder can decide whether to sell, stay, or further trade in the underlying asset after exercising the contract.An option holder risks losing the premium paid if he or she does not exercise the contract on or before expiry.

This is the total mechanics behind how American Option contracts are traded. These mechanics provide investors with the flexibility to deploy a  varietyvarious trading strategies using American Options. The mechanics of American Options are a bit different compared to European Options, as they are limited.

What are the two Main Types of American Options?

There are two main types of American Options 1.American Call Option and 2. American Put Option. Both of these types represent opposite directions of the market, and as a result, traders use them for different purposes. Let us understand them in more detail. 

  1. American Call Options

An American Call Option is a contract that gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy the underlying asset at a predetermined price (strike price) anytime before the expiration date. Traders buy call options when they expect the price of the underlying asset, like a stock, to go up. This allows them to profit from the upside movement in the asset’s price.

An American Call Option contract is usually exercised when it is deep in the money. Meaning, the asset’s price is much higher than the strike price of the option contract.

Here is an example of how a trader earns money from exercising his/her optionthis.

Let’s say you buy an American Call Option from XYZ Company Ltd. for Rs. 50. The shares of XYZ Company, in the next 10 days, rose to Rs. 60 per share. Then you can exercise your option contract and buy the shares of XYZ Company Ltd. at Rs.50, making a profit of Rs.10 per share.

  1. American Put Options 

An American Put Option contract gives its buyer the right but not the obligation to sell its underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before the expiry day. A trader buys an American Put Option when he or she expects the underlying asset to fall.

An American Put Option contract is usually exercised when it is deep in the money. Meaning, the asset’s price is much lower than the strike price of the option contract. 

Here is an example of how a trader can profit by buying an American Put Option.following this strategy. 

Let’s say you buy an American Put Option from XYZ Company Ltd. at Rs.50. The shares of XYZ Company fell to Rs. 40 per share in the coming days. You can exercise your option contract and sell the shares of XYZ Company Ltd. at Rs. 50 in this case, making a profit of Rs.10 per share. 

What are the Advantages of American Options?

An American Option Contract is an effective trading instrument as it offers a number ofmultiple advantages. The following are the three main advantages of an American Call Option Contract. 

  1. Adaptive to market changes:

One of the biggest advantages that an American Options contract offers is its exercise flexibility. This flexibility of exercising on or before the expiry lets an option holder react quickly to sudden changes in the markets.

  1. Helps in capturing dividends:

An American Option contract enables its holders to capture the dividend of any underlying stock even if the holder exercises the contract before the ex-dividend date.

  1. Diversification:

Investors can use American Options to gain exposure to the overall market without actually buying any stocks. This method of diversification can help traders reduce risk while investing for the long term.

American Option contracts are versatile. A trader, however, should always remember that these trading instruments carry immense risk with them and one should not use them unless they are experienced.

What are the Disadvantages of American Options?

An American Option Contract is an effective instrument, but it does have its disadvantages. The following are the three main disadvantages of an American Option Contract.

  1. Expensive:

American Option contracts are expensive when compared with European Options. This is because of the flexibility in exercising American Option contracts, which leads to higher profit opportunities.

  1. Difficulties in managing risk:

Managing risk while trading with American Options is complicated due to the potential for early exercise and assignment. A trader has to continuously monitor his or her positions while trading with American Options.

  1. Premium loss:

A trader using American Options is susceptible to the total premium loss if he/she does not exercise the contract before its expiration date. This cost is not recoverable even if the option expires out of the money.

American Options are valuable instruments in the markets, but they have their own complexities when it comes to timing and risk management. A detailed trading plan is crucial for a trader using these contracts in the live market.

How Do American Options Differ from European Options?

American Options greatly differ from European Options in terms of exercising flexibility. There are many more elements in which American Options differ from European Options. The main difference between American and European options is in when you can exercise them. With American options, you can exercise your right to buy or sell the underlying asset at any point before the expiration date. But European options are more restrictive – you can only exercise them right on the expiration date itself, no earlier.

So American options give investors more flexibility since you don’t have to wait for the expiration date to take action on the contract. You can exercise whenever is optimal based on how the asset’s price is moving. But this flexibility comes at a cost – American options have higher premiums because of the added early exercise rights.

How does the early exercise feature of American options impact their pricing?

The early exercise feature of American Options does impact their pricing. Early exercising affects three things in American Options.

Exercising the option contract early enhances the intrinsic value of American Options. The increase in the intrinsic value is a result of the option holder’s ability to book immediate profits by taking advantage of market conditions.

The early exercise of American call/put option contracts can cause these contracts to be priced highly compared to European Options. Especially, when the market is above the strike price in the case of a call option and when the market is below the strike price in the case of a put option.

Traders are more susceptible to exercising their rights quickly when the markets are volatile. This action of exercising early at a time of volatility can also have an impact on the pricing dynamics of an American Option contract.

Traders should also know that the interaction between time and intrinsic value can be complicated and also affected by other factors like market conditions, interest rates, and the time remaining until expiration. Traders and investors should consider these factors before making trading decisions.

What factors influence the decision to exercise an American option early?

There are some factors that influence the decision to exercise American Options early. Here are three factors that play a crucial role in the decision ofto exercisinge an American Option contract earlier than its expiration datey.

  1. Market outlook:

One of the most important factors in exercising options early is the option holder’s view of the current market condition. A trader can consider booking profits earlier if they think that the stock has given a good rally in a very short span.

  1. Dividends and interest rates:

American call option holders can exercise their contracts earlier if the underlying stock company has declared the payment of their dividend. The current rate of interest also has an impact on the cost of holding an option contract. This can also influence a trader’s decision to exercise the option’s contract early.

  1. Market volatility:

Rapid price changes in the underlying stock of an option contract can have an impact on a trader’s decision. Higher market volatility makes exercising an option contract more appealing.

The decision to exercise an American option contract early is a result of market factors, option-related attributes, and the personal outlook of the market. Option traders consider these factors and then make a decision that aligns with their trading plan.

When to Exercise Early with American Options?

Traders exercise their option contracts early in some special situations. A trader can consider exercising the American Option early in order to capture dividend payments, when the market is highly volatile or when the option has gone In-The-Money near its expiration date.

How do American options provide flexibility to investors and traders?

An American Option contract provides flexibility to investors and traders by allowing them to exercise their option rights on or before the expiration date. This flexibility helps traders and investors have more options for tackling market volatility. The freedom of exercising also helps in maximising potential profit and minimising losses when done correctly.

What are strategies for trading American options?

Traders and investors use the American Options trading strategy often. These are the 3 most commonly used American Option strategies in the market.Here are the three most commonly used American Option trading strategies.

  1. Covered call strategy:

This option strategy involves buying the underlying stock. Simultaneously, you will have to sell a call option on the same underlying stock.

This strategy is deployed when a trader wants to hold a stock for the long term and wants to profit from the temporary pullbacks in the price of a stock. This strategy helps in earning option premiums through the pullback and provides downside protection to the investor.

  1. Long straddle strategy:

This option strategy involves buying a call and a put option with the same strike price and expiration date at the same time.

Traders use this strategy when they are expecting an explosive price move in the underlying stock but are unsure of its direction. The Long straddle strategy profits from the explosive price movement, regardless of its direction.

  1. Long strangle strategy:

 The long strangle strategy involves buying a call option with a higher strike price and a put option with a lower strike price. This option strategy is similar to the long straddle, but it is cost-effective as it involves buying an Out-Of-The-Money option contract.

It is important to remember that these hedging strategies are also susceptible for losses. A trader should deploy these strategies only when he/she is experienced and does it on a regular basis.

How does volatility affect the pricing and trading of American options?

Volatility has a big impact on the pricing and trading of American Options. Volatility refers to the rate of fluctuation in the price of an underlying stock. IV or Implied volatility impacts the price and quantity of trades while trading with American Options.Here is a type of volatility that has a significant impact on the price and quantity of trades in American Options. 

Implied Volatility (IV) is a reflection of the expected price movements in the underlying assets in the future. Implied Volatility provides a predicted volatility range of an option contract over its lifespan by using mathematical formulas.

Implied volatility is higher when the market is in a downtrend, and conversely, IV is lower when the market is in an uptrend. Traders expect higher market activity whenever the Implied Volatility is high.

The prices of option contracts rise as market participants expect a huge movement in them. 

How do the underlying asset’s dividends affect the pricing and exercise decisions of American options?

The underlying asset’s dividends do affect the price and exercise decisions of American Options. Market sentiment plays a huge role and can affect the price and exercise decisions of traders. The announcement and dividend payment reflect a company’s health and management confidence. This can lead to an increase in the investors interest and drive the price of option contracts. He/she can consider exercising the option contract earlier than anticipated if the exercising decision is favourable to a trader’s trading plan. 

How is Path Dependency Related to American Options?

Path Dependency as a concept is closely related to American Options in understanding how they are evaluated. Path Dependency refers to the concept that the value of an option contract is not derived by the final price of its underlying stock at expiration but also by the path that the underlying stock took during all or part of an option’s lifespan. 

Path Dependency is closely related to American options because of its early exercise feature. This is because an option holder’s decision to exercise an option contract are  heavily influenced by the historical price movements of the underlying stock and not just its final price. 

Does American Options Allow Holders to Exercise their Rights to Include Expiration Date?

Yes, American Options allows its holders to exercise their rights on or before their expiration date. This early exercise feature is what makes American Options different from its European counterpart. American Options provides its holders with the freedom to exercise based on factors like market conditions, the declaration of dividends in the underlying stock, etc. and not just on expiration dates like European Options. 

Arjun Remesh

Head of Content

Arjun is a seasoned stock market content expert with over 7 years of experience in stock market, technical & fundamental analysis. Since 2020, he has been a key contributor to Strike platform. Arjun is an active stock market investor with his in-depth stock market analysis knowledge. Arjun is also an certified stock market researcher from Indiacharts, mentored by Rohit Srivastava.

Shivam Gaba

Reviewer of Content

Shivam is a stock market content expert with CFTe certification. He is been trading from last 8 years in indian stock market. He has a vast knowledge in technical analysis, financial market education, product management, risk assessment, derivatives trading & market Research. He won Zerodha 60-Day Challenge thrice in a row. He is being mentored by Rohit Srivastava, Indiacharts.

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