Put Option

Definition

The term put option refers to a financial contract that gives the investor the right to sell a security at a specified price before the agreement expires.  A put option is not an obligation to sell the security; it merely provides the holder with the right to sell it.

Explanation

Also referred to as simply a put, a put option is an arrangement between two parties that provides the holder with the right to sell an agreed-to number of securities at a specified price, and within a given timeframe.  Put options typically involve securities such as stocks and bonds, as well as commodities.

The seller of a put option is referred to as the writer; they are obligated to buy the securities from the holder of the put option if they exercise their right.  The buyer of a put pays a fee, known as a premium, to own the right to exercise their option.  Every put option has at least three important features the buyer needs to be familiar with:

  • Premium:  this is the cost the buyer of the put pays to hold the option.  It is also the price received by the writer.
  • Strike Price:  also known as the exercise price, this is the cost of the security if the holder of the put decides to exercise their right to sell it.
  • Expiry Date:  this is the date the option expires if the holder decides they don't want to exercise their right to sell the security.

A put option that is in-the-money has real value to the investor.  This happens when the strike price is above the current market price of the underlying security.  Generally, the buyer of a put option is bearish on the security, since they believe the price of the security will decrease over time.  The writer of the put option has a bullish view.  They write the option because they believe the price of the security will increase over time.

Example

Company ABC's stock is currently trading at $10.00 per share.  An investor believes this stock is overvalued, so they purchase a put option for 100 shares of stock with a strike price of $10.00, expiring in one month.  The premium was $0.50 per share, so the investor paid $0.50 x 100 shares, or $50.00, for the put option.
Three weeks later, the price of Company ABC's stock decreases to $8.00 and the holder of the put decides to exercise their right to sell 100 shares of stock.  The holder immediately buys the stock for $8.00 (if it is a naked put) and sells it for $10.00.  The profit realized by the investor in this example would be:

= Market Price of Stock - Purchase Price - Premium
= $10.00 x 100 shares - $8.00 x 100 shares - $50
= $1,000 - $800 - $50, or $150

Related Terms

call option, naked call, covered call, naked put