Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Vertical Spread - Vertical Option

When option traders or investors engage in spread strategies, many times they are working with vertical spreads.

Any spread is created when a person buys and sells call options on the same stock or buys and sells puts on the same stock.

A vertical or price spread gets it's name from the vertical movement of prices. In this options strategy, the strike prices are different but the months are the same.

Vertical vs. Horizontal

A horizontal spread is when the strike prices are the same, but the months are different. They are also called calendar spreads. A vertical strategy is the opposite. The months are the same, but the strike prices on the options are different.

The strategy behind this is to make money on the strike price difference potential or the premiums - if a premium gain was achieved. All spreads come down to premium gain vs. trading or exercising potential. Verticals can be credit or debit.

Debit Spread

When a spread is created and the investor has lost money on the premiums (more money was spent on the buy then the sell), it is a debit spread. Because money was lost on the options, the investor will lose money if the options expire worthless (which is possible). The only way a debit spread holder can profit is by the options widening or getting exercised. Widening refers to the premiums growing and the contracts becoming valuable enough to trade later on. A vertical debit spread tells the trader that these contracts need to be traded or exercised for profit.

Credit Spread

When a spread is set up and the investor has gained money on the premium, it is a credit spread. The profit here rests with the options expiring worthless and the person making the premium as their maximum gain. A vertical credit spread is a strategy that does not work if the options are exercised. The strike prices would be inverted - profit wise.


Buy 1 WEF Oct 60 Call for $500
Short 1 WEF Oct 70 Call for $200

This is a vertical or price spread because the strike prices are different. It is also a debit, because the premiums have resulted in a $300 loss. This is also a bullish spread. It is bullish because the trader needs the market to rise, hoping the options get exercised. The buy call gives him the right to buy the stock at 60 and the short call carries an obligation to sell the stock at 70. This 10 point potential gain on the stock is why someone would create a vertical debit spread. If the options expire, the maximum loss would be the $300.

Buy 1 GHF Apr 30 Call for $600
Short 1 GHF Apr 20 Call for $900

This is a price or vertical spread as well, but it is a credit spread. It is also bearish. The strike prices are not attractive to this investor, as he will suffer a 10 point loss on them - if exercised. The goal here is for the stock to decline and the vertical options to expire. Credit spreads are always bearish.

These and all spread strategies are most effective profit wise, when working them with stocks you are familiar with. Knowing the trading ranges and price habits of your stocks can make them attractive candidates for options or vertical spreads.

More on Stock Option Trading HERE

Good Luck!

Nick Hunter is the President of American Investment Training. Their website http://www.aitraining.com offers investors and brokers with education courses, trading investment information and a free financial glossary look-up.