Determinants of Option Value

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The value of an option is determined by a number of variables relating to the underlying asset and financial markets.

1. Current Value of the Underlying Asset: Options are assets that derive value from an underlying asset. Consequently, changes in the value of the underlying asset affect the value of the options on that asset. Since calls provide the right to buy the underlying asset at a fixed price, an increase in the value of the asset will increase the value of the calls. Puts, on the other hand, become less valuable as the value of the asset increase.

2. Variance in Value of the Underlying Asset: The buyer of an option acquires the right to buy or sell the underlying asset at a fixed price. The higher the variance in the value of the underlying asset, the greater will the value of the option be1. This is true for both calls and puts. While it may seem counter-intuitive that an increase in a risk measure (variance) should increase value, options are different from other securities since buyers of options can never lose more than the price they pay for them; in fact, they have the potential to earn significant returns from large price movements.

3. Dividends Paid on the Underlying Asset: The value of the underlying asset can be expected to decrease if dividend payments are made on the asset during the life of the option. Consequently, the value of a call on the asset is a decreasing function of the size of expected dividend payments, and the value of a put is an increasing function of expected dividend payments. There is a more intuitive way of thinking about dividend payments, for call options. It is a cost of delaying exercise on in-the-money options. To see why, consider an option on a traded stock. Once a call option is in the money, i.e, the holder of the option will make a gross payoff by exercising the option, exercising the call option will provide the holder with the stock and entitle him or her to the dividends on the stock in subsequent periods. Failing to exercise the option will mean that these dividends are foregone.

4. Strike Price of Option: A key characteristic used to describe an option is the strike price. In the case of calls, where the holder acquires the right to buy at a fixed price, the value of the call will decline as the strike price increases. In the case of puts, where the holder has the right to sell at a fixed price, the value will increase as the strike price increases.

5. Time To Expiration On Option: Both calls and puts become more valuable as the time to expiration increases. This is because the longer time to expiration provides more time for the value of the underlying asset to move, increasing the value of both types of options. Additionally, in the case of a call, where the buyer has to pay a fixed price at expiration, the present value of this fixed price decreases as the life of the option increases, increasing the value of the call.

6. Riskless Interest Rate Corresponding To Life Of Option: Since the buyer of an option pays the price of the option up front, an opportunity cost is involved. This cost will depend upon the level of interest rates and the time to expiration on the option. The riskless interest rate also enters into the valuation of options when the present value of the exercise price is calculated, since the exercise price does not have to be paid (received) until expiration on calls (puts). Increases in the interest rate will increase the value of calls and reduce the value of puts.

1 Note, though, that higher variance can reduce the value of the underlying asset. As a call option becomes more in the money, the more it resembles the underlying asset. For very deep in-the-money call options, higher variance can reduce the value of the option.]

Table 5.1 below summarizes the variables and their predicted effects on call and put prices.

Table 5.1: Summary of Variables Affecting Call and Put Prices

Effect on

Factor

Call Value

Put Value

Increase in underlying asset's value

Increases

Decreases

Increase in strike price

Decreases

Increases

Increase in variance of underlying asset

Increases

Increases

Increase in time to expiration

Increases

Increases

Increase in interest rates

Increases

Decreases

Increase in dividends paid

Decreases

Increases

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