Covered Calls & Buy Write Strategies

A covered call is a financial market transaction in which the seller of call options owns the corresponding amount of the underlying instrument, such as shares of a stock or other securities. If a trader buys the underlying instrument at the same time the trader sells the call, the strategy is often called a "buy-write" strategy. In equilibrium, the strategy has the same payoffs as writing a put option.

The long position in the underlying instrument is said to provide the "cover" as the shares can be delivered to the buyer of the call if the buyer decides to exercise.

Writing (i.e. selling) a call generates income in the form of the premium paid by the option buyer. And if the stock price remains stable or increases, then the writer will be able to keep this income as a profit, even though the profit may have been higher if no call were written. The risk of stock ownership is not eliminated. If the stock price declines, then the net position will likely lose money.

Since in equilibrium the payoffs on the covered call position is the same as a short put position, the price (or premium) should be the same as the premium of the short put or naked put.

Investors have used exchange-listed options to engage in buy-write strategies since the 1970s, and descriptive articles were published in the The Journal of Portfolio Management in 1978 by Henry Pounds and in 1980 by Yates and Kopprasch (see references section below). However, prior to 2002 there was no major benchmark for buy-write strategies. To help in the development of the CBOE S&P 500 BuyWrite Index (ticker BXM), the Chicago Board Options Exchange commissioned Professor Robert Whaley of Vanderbilt University to compile and analyze relevant data from the time period from June 1988 through December 2001. In April 2002, the index was announced with the publication of "Return and Risk of CBOE Buy-Write Monthly Index" in Journal of Derivatives (Winter 2002). The BXM Index is designed to show the hypothetical performance of a strategy in which an investor buys a portfolio of the S&P 500 stocks, and also sells (or writes) covered call options on the S&P 500 Index.

The Figure above shows a 3-Dimensional plot of expiry value versus stock price for FCX on expiry saturday versus the option purchased. Please take a few moments to study the chart making careful note of the yaxis which represents the option purchased in the format of (Strike Price)-(Days to Expiry), e.g. 70-10 would be 70 dollars and 10 days to expiry, and 85-101 would be an 85 dollar strike price with 101 days to expiry.The Figure above shows a 3-Dimensional plot of expiry value versus stock price for FCX on expiry saturday versus the option purchased. Please take a few moments to study the chart making careful note of the yaxis which represents the option purchased in the format of (Strike Price)-(Days to Expiry), e.g. 70-10 would be 70 dollars and 10 days to expiry, and 85-101 would be an 85 dollar strike price with 101 days to expiry.

 
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