What are Options Payoffs?

Overview

The optionality characteristic of options results in a non-linear payoff for options. In simple words, it means that the losses for the buyer of an option are limited, however the profits are potentially unlimited. For a writer (seller), the payoff is exactly the opposite. His profits are limited to the option premium, however his losses are potentially unlimited. These nonlinear payoffs are fascinating as they lend themselves to be used to generate various payoffs by using combinations of options and the underlying. We look here at the six basic options payoffs (pay close attention to these pay-offs, since all the strategies in the book are derived out of these basic payoffs).

  • Payoff profile of buyer of asset: Long asset

In this basic position, an investor buys the underlying asset, ABC Ltd. shares for instance, for Rs. 2220, and sells it at a future date at an unknown price, St. Once it is purchased, the investor is said to be “long” the asset.

  • Payoff profile of seller of asset: Short asset

In this basic position, an investor shorts the underlying asset, ABC Ltd. shares for instance, for Rs. 2220, and buys it back at a future date at an unknown price, St. Once it is sold, the investor is said to be “short” the asset.

  • Payoff profile for buyer of call options: Long call

A call option gives the buyer the right to buy the underlying asset at the strike price specified in the option. The profit/loss that the buyer makes on the option depends on the spot price of the underlying. If upon expiration, the spot price exceeds the strike price, he makes a profit. Higher the spot price, more is the profit he makes. If the spot price of the underlying is less than the strike price, he lets his option expire un-exercised. His loss in this case is the premium he paid for buying the option.

  • Payoff profile for writer (seller) of call options: Short call

A call option gives the buyer the right to buy the underlying asset at the strike price specified in the option. For selling the option, the writer of the option charges a premium. The profit/loss that the buyer makes on the option depends on the spot price of the underlying. Whatever is the buyer’s profit is the seller’s loss. If upon expiration, the spot price exceeds the strike price, the buyer will exercise the option on the writer. Hence as the spot price increases the writer of the option starts making losses. Higher the spot price, more is the loss he makes. If upon expiration the spot price of the underlying is less than the strike price, the buyer lets his option expire un-exercised and the writer gets to keep the premium.

  • Payoff profile for buyer of put options: Long put

A put option gives the buyer the right to sell the underlying asset at the strike price specified in the option. The profit/loss that the buyer makes on the option depends on the spot price of the underlying. If upon expiration, the spot price is below the strike price, he makes a profit. Lower the spot price, more is the profit he makes. If the spot price of the underlying is higher than the strike price, he lets his option expire un-exercised. His loss in this case is the premium he paid for buying the option.

  • Payoff profile for writer (seller) of put options: Short put

A put option gives the buyer the right to sell the underlying asset at the strike price specified in the option. For selling the option, the writer of the option charges a premium. The profit/loss that the buyer makes on the option depends on the spot price of the underlying. Whatever is the buyer’s profit is the seller’s loss. If upon expiration, the spot price happens to be below the strike price, the buyer will exercise the option on the writer. If upon expiration the spot price of the underlying is more than the strike price, the buyer lets his option un-exercised and the writer gets to keep the premium.

Was this article helpful?