What is a 'Bear Spread'

A bear spread is an option strategy seeking maximum profit when the price of the underlying security declines. The strategy involves the simultaneous purchase and sale of options; puts or calls can be used. A higher strike price is purchased and a lower strike price is sold. The options should have the same expiration date.

BREAKING DOWN 'Bear Spread'

A bear spread is also a trading strategy used by futures traders who intend to profit from the decline in commodity prices while limiting potentially damaging losses. In an options bear spread, the options position makes money if the underlying goes down and loses if the underlying rises in price. A futures bear spread is created through the simultaneous purchase and sale of two of the same or closely related futures contracts. This is accomplished in the agricultural commodity markets by selling a future and offsetting it by purchasing a similar contract with an extended delivery date.

Bear Put Spread Example

Assume an investor is bearish on stock XYZ when it is trading at $50 per share and believes the stock price will decrease over the next week. The investor purchases 10 put options with a strike price of $55 and writes 10 put options with a strike price of $45, which expire the next week for a combined total of $3,500. Therefore, the investor's maximum loss is the amount paid to implement the position, and the maximum profit is limited to the strike price of the long put less the strike price of the short put and the net premium paid. Assuming options have a contract size of 100, the maximum profit of the position is $6,500, or ($55 * 10 * 100) - ($45 * 10 * 100) - $3,500. In this bear put spread, the maximum profit is achieved if stock XYZ trades below the strike price of the short put, or $45. The breakeven point of a bear put spread is equivalent to the strike price of the long put option less the net premium paid.

Futures Bear Spread

Assume an investor is bearish on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (S&P 500) when it traded at 2,000. The investor believes the S&P 500 will fall in the short term but rebound over the long term. Therefore, the investor creates a bear spread by selling short one S&P 500 futures contract expiring in six months for 1,995, and simultaneously purchases one S&P 500 futures contract expiring the next year for 1,997.

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