Options trading provides a wide array of strategies for traders to take advantage of market opportunities. Among these strategies, the bull call spread and the bear put spread are popular choices for traders with moderate bullish or bearish views on a particular asset. In this article, we will explore the mechanics of these two strategies, their potential outcomes, and how they can be implemented effectively.
The Bull Call Spread
The bull call spread is a combination trade that involves two legs: a long call option and a short call option. The primary leg is the long call, where the trader buys a call option for a specific strike price. Simultaneously, the trader writes (sells) a call option with a higher strike price, which constitutes the second leg of the spread.
Let’s take an example to understand this better. Suppose the U.S. dollar ETF (symbol UP) is currently priced at $20, and you expect its price to rise moderately. You decide to execute a bull call spread using the following options:
- Buy a call option with a strike price of $21, expiring in March 2022, at a cost of $65.
- Write (sell) a call option with a strike price of $22, expiring in March 2022, receiving $45.
The net cost of the spread is $20 ($65 – $45), which is also the maximum potential loss for the trader. The bull call spread is considered a moderately bullish strategy, offering limited risk while capping the profit potential at the difference between the two strike prices.
Outcomes of the Bull Call Spread
There are three possible outcomes for the bull call spread:
- UP goes down or sideways: If the price of UP remains stagnant or decreases, both legs of the spread lose value. If UP’s price doesn’t reach the $21 strike price, both options may expire worthless. In this scenario, it’s essential to consider closing the trade before expiration to recoup some value and minimize losses.
- UP reaches the spread’s range: If UP’s price rises and reaches $21, the long call option becomes profitable, while the short call option remains out of the money. At this point, traders may consider closing the entire spread to secure a profit.
- UP goes up past the spread’s range: If UP’s price surges above the $21-$22 price range, the profit remains capped at the spread’s difference ($1 in this case) regardless of how high UP rises. Traders can lock in their profit by closing the spread at any point.
The Bear Put Spread
The bear put spread is a strategy used by traders who hold a moderate bearish outlook on an asset. It involves two legs: a long put option and a short put option. The long put is bought for a specific strike price, while the short put is written (sold) for a lower strike price.
Suppose UP is trading at $20, and you expect its price to decline. To execute a bear put spread, you might use the following options:
- Buy a put option with a strike price of $19, expiring in March 2022, at a cost of $50.
- Write (sell) a put option with a strike price of $18, expiring in March 2022, receiving $35.
The net cost of the spread is $15 ($50 – $35), which is also the maximum potential loss for the trader. The bear put spread is considered a moderately bearish strategy, offering limited risk while capping the profit potential at the difference between the two strike prices.
Outcomes of the Bear Put Spread
There are three possible outcomes for the bear put spread:
- UP’s price goes up or moves sideways: If UP’s price remains stable or increases, both legs of the spread lose value. If UP doesn’t approach the $19 strike price, the spread won’t be profitable, and both options may expire worthless.
- UP declines to the spread’s range: If UP’s price goes down and reaches the $19 level, the long put option becomes profitable. Traders may consider closing the spread and locking in a profit.
- UP declines past the spread’s range: If UP’s price falls below the $19-$18 price range, the maximum potential profit is achieved, which is the difference between the two strike prices ($1 in this case). Traders may close the spread quickly to secure the profit.
The bull call spread and the bear put spread are versatile options strategies that allow traders to implement their market views while managing risk effectively. By understanding the mechanics and potential outcomes of these spreads, traders can make informed decisions and enhance their options trading strategies. As with any trading strategy, it’s crucial to have a clear exit strategy and closely monitor the trades to maximize potential profits and minimize losses.