Stock Options and Futures Options: What’s the Difference?

Stock options and future options can be quite challenging to discern but obviously, there is a difference between stock options and futures options, and the primary differences are in flexibility as well as overall risk.

Let’s first review what futures contracts are as opposed to stock options. Futures contracts are standardized contracts that guarantee to buy or sell a specific commodity of standard quality, at a particular date in the future. This sum will be at market price. Contracts are traded on what are called future exchanges. So right away we can tell that futures contracts are not direct like stocks or bonds. They are still considered securities, but with a different type of contract.

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Price for futures contracts is determined by what is referred to as instantaneous equilibrium, that takes into account basic supply and demand as well as competitive buy and sell orders on the market. The asset here may not necessarily be commodities; it can be anything from securities to intangible assets or even stock indexes. The future date is referred to as the delivery date. The settlement price refers to the official price of the contract at the end of a trading day.

  1. One significant difference between futures contracts and stock options is that futures give buyers an obligation to fulfill delivery according to the contract’s terms, and the obligation for the seller to deliver the asset as agreed. The only escape here is if the holder’s position is closed before the expiration date. Whereas stock options are flexible by their nature, futures contracts require obligation. Futures are known as exchange-traded derivatives, as the exchange company’s clearinghouse plays the part of counterparty on all of the futures contracts.
  2. Another major difference in these two contracts is the way in which gains are received. In options trading, a gain can be realized by exercising when the option is deep ITM, or by going to the market and taking an opposing position, or by waiting until the expiration and then collecting the difference in prices (in this case asset price and strike price). However, when it’s time to collect gains on futures positions, you will notice that these gains are “marked to market”, which means the change in the value of positions will be automatically handled at the end of every trading day.
  3. Volatility is also traded differently. With equity options volatility makes the price of the option go up, in the futures it is the opposite.
  4. Futures options also have many more strike prices than normal equity options.
  5. Volume can also vary from option to option just generally many more equity options are traded than futures options.

Grow and expand your investment strategies

If you currently limit your asset mix to traditional investments, then you’re missing out on what could be a powerful tool and opportunity for growing and protecting your net worth.

The rewards of options investing can be far greater than the potential gains of buying or selling stock. However, the risks are also greater. For those of us who love the extra challenge of option investing, it is worth every minute of time you spend.

Don’t forget to check out our blog for awesome online investing and options trading updates. Also, please browse our products and training section and learn the art of selling options.

2 Comments

  1. Eddy on January 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Can we do IC’s, Calendars etc. in the futures market as well?

    • Genius on January 26, 2010 at 6:48 pm

      I have never used option selling strategies in futures but I am sure you could. The problem though is that futures/commodities are traded a lot on the technicals unless there is a huge problem in the market. Kind of like Sugar right now. the shortage, which no one predicted, has caused it to go to record highs.

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