Complete Guide To Corporate Finance

AAA

Risk Management And Options - Hedging With Options

There are two main reasons why an investor would use options: to speculate and to hedge.

Speculation
You can think of speculation as betting on the movement of a security. The advantage of options is that you aren't limited to making a profit only when the market goes up. Because of the versatility of options, you can also make money when the market goes down or even sideways.

Speculation is the territory in which the big money is made - and lost. The use of options in this manner is the reason options have the reputation of being risky. This is because when you buy an option, you have to be correct in determining not only the direction of the stock's movement, but also the magnitude and the timing of this movement. To succeed, you must correctly predict whether a stock will go up or down, and how much the price will change as well as the time frame it will take for all this to happen. And don't forget commissions! The combinations of these factors means the odds are stacked against you.

So why do people speculate with options if the odds are so skewed? Aside from versatility, it's all about using leverage. When you are controlling 100 shares with one contract, it doesn't take much of a price movement to generate substantial profits.

Hedging
The other function of options is hedging. Think of this as an insurance policy; just as you insure your house or car, options can be used to insure your investments against a downturn. Critics of options say that if you are so unsure of your stock pick that you need a hedge, you shouldn't make the investment. On the other hand, there is no doubt that hedging strategies can be useful, especially for large institutions. Even the individual investor can benefit. Imagine that you wanted to take advantage of technology stocks and their upside, but you also wanted to limit any losses. By using options, you would be able to restrict your downside while enjoying the full upside in a cost-effective way.

Hedging is often considered an advanced investing strategy, but the principles of hedging are fairly simple. Read on for a basic grasp of how this strategy works and how it is used. (For more advanced coverage of this subject, read out How Companies Use Derivatives To Hedge Risk.)

Everyday Hedges
Most people have, whether they know it or not, engaged in hedging. For example, when you take out insurance to minimize the risk that an injury will erase your income or you buy life insurance to support your family in the case of your death, this is a hedge.

You pay money in monthly sums for the coverage provided by an insurance company. Although the textbook definition of hedging is an investment taken out to limit the risk of another investment, insurance is an example of a real-world hedge.

Hedging by the Book
Hedging, in the Wall Street sense of the word, is best illustrated by example. Imagine that you want to invest in the budding industry of bungee cord manufacturing. You know of a company called Plummet that is revolutionizing the materials and designs to make cords that are twice as good as its nearest competitor, Drop, so you think that Plummet's share value will rise over the next month.

Unfortunately, the bungee cord manufacturing industry is always susceptible to sudden changes in regulations and safety standards, meaning it is quite volatile. This is called industry risk. Despite this, you believe in this company - you just want to find a way to reduce the industry risk. In this case, you are going to hedge by going long on Plummet while shorting its competitor, Drop. The value of the shares involved will be $1,000 for each company.

If the industry as a whole goes up, you make a profit on Plummet, but lose on Drop – hopefully for a modest overall gain. If the industry takes a hit, for example if someone dies bungee jumping, you lose money on Plummet but make money on Drop.

Basically, your overall profit (the profit from going long on Plummet) is minimized in favor of less industry risk. This is sometimes called a pairs trade and it helps investors gain a foothold in volatile industries or find companies in sectors that have some kind of systematic risk. (To learn more, read the
Short Selling tutorial and When To Short A Stock.)

Expansion
Hedging has grown to encompass all areas of finance and business. For example, a corporation may choose to build a factory in another country that it exports its product to in order to hedge against currency risk. An investor can hedge his or her long position with put options or a short seller can hedge a position though call options. Futures contracts and other derivatives can be hedged with synthetic instruments.

Basically, every investment has some form of a hedge. Besides protecting an investor from various types of risk, it is believed that hedging makes the market run more efficiently.

One clear example of this is when an investor purchases put options on a stock to minimize downside risk. Suppose that an investor has 100 shares in a company and that the company's stock has made a strong move from $25 to $50 over the last year. The investor still likes the stock and its prospects looking forward but is concerned about the correction that could accompany such a strong move.

Instead of selling the shares, the investor can buy a single put option, which gives him or her the right to sell 100 shares of the company at the exercise price before the expiry date. If the investor buys the put option with an exercise price of $50 and an expiry day three months in the future, he or she will be able to guarantee a sale price of $50 no matter what happens to the stock over the next three months. The investor simply pays the option premium, which essentially provides some insurance from downside risk. (To learn more, read
Prices Plunging? Buy A Put!)

Hedging, whether in your portfolio, your business or anywhere else, is about decreasing or transferring risk. It is a valid strategy that can help protect your portfolio, home and business from uncertainty. As with any risk/reward tradeoff, hedging results in lower returns than if you "bet the farm" on a volatile investment, but it lowers the risk of losing your shirt. (For related reading, see Practical And Affordable Hedging Strategies and Hedging With ETFs: A Cost-Effective Alternative.)

Option Valuation
Related Articles
  1. Fundamental Analysis

    What Causes Inflation in the United States

    Inflation is the main catalyst behind U.S monetary policy. But what causes this phenomenon of sustained rising prices? Read on to find out.
  2. Term

    What are Non-GAAP Earnings?

    Non-GAAP earnings are a company’s earnings that are not reported according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
  3. Fundamental Analysis

    Calculating Return on Net Assets

    Return on net assets measures a company’s financial performance.
  4. Economics

    Understanding Cost of Revenue

    The cost of revenue is the total costs a business incurs to manufacture and deliver a product or service.
  5. Economics

    Explaining Carrying Cost of Inventory

    The carrying cost of inventory is the cost a business pays for holding goods in stock.
  6. Fundamental Analysis

    Is India the Next Emerging Markets Superstar?

    With a shift towards manufacturing and services, India could be the next emerging market superstar. Here, we provide a detailed breakdown of its GDP.
  7. Investing

    How To Calculate Minority Interest

    Minority interest calculations require the use of minority shareholders’ percentage ownership of a subsidiary, after controlling interest is acquired.
  8. Term

    Estimating with Subjective Probability

    Subjective probability is someone’s estimation that an event will occur.
  9. Economics

    Explaining Replacement Cost

    The replacement cost is the cost you’d have to pay to replace an asset with a similar asset at the present time and value.
  10. Economics

    How Does National Income Accounting Work?

    National income accounting is an economic term describing the system used by a country to gather data and determine aggregate economic activity.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Operating Cost

    Expenses associated with the maintenance and administration of ...
  2. Trade Credit

    An agreement where a customer can purchase goods on account (without ...
  3. Normal Profit

    An economic condition occurring when the difference between a ...
  4. Cost Accounting

    A type of accounting process that aims to capture a company's ...
  5. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s ...
  6. Supply

    A fundamental economic concept that describes the total amount ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What should I study in school to prepare for a career in corporate finance?

    Depending on which area you want to specialize in, corporate finance can be one of the most competitive fields in business. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Why would a company issue preference shares instead of common shares?

    Preference shares, or preferred stock, act as a hybrid between common shares and bond issues. As with any produced good or ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the difference between cost of debt capital and cost of equity?

    In corporate finance, capital – the money a business uses to fund operations – comes from two sources: debt and equity. While ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between gross profit, operating profit and net income?

    The terms profit and income are often used interchangeably in day-to-day life. In corporate finance, however, these terms ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!