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A Word on Straddles as Neutral Strategies

 

Although long and short straddles differ in their response to market movement, we have chosen to list both as neutral strategies. In a pure sense, the short straddle is a neutral strategy because it achieves maximum profit in a market that moves sideways. In contrast, the long straddle benefits from market movement in either direction. However, since a $10 move in either direction will have the same impact on profit, the trader doesn't necessarily have a preference which way the market moves. In this sense, the trader is neutral about market direction--as long as movement occurs.

 

Long Straddles

Have you ever had the feeling that a stock was about to make a big move, but you weren't sure which way? For stockholders, this is exactly the kind of scenario that creates ulcers. For option traders, these feelings in the stomach are the butterflies of opportunity. By simultaneously buying the same number of puts and calls at the current stock price, option traders can capitalize on large moves in either direction.

Here's how this works. Let's imagine a stock is trading around $80 per share. To prepare for a big move in either direction, you would buy both the 80 calls and the 80 puts. If the stock drops to $50 by expiration, the puts will be worth $30 and the calls will be worth $0. If the stock gaps up to $110, the calls will be worth $30 and the puts will be worth $0.

The greatest risk in this case is that the stock remains at $80 where both options expire worthless.

Here's what the trade might look like:

 

Long Straddle

Buy

1 80 Call @ $7.50

$750

Buy

1 80 Put @ $7.00

$700

 
At these prices, every straddle will cost about 14.50. Since you are buying two options, a call and a put, you might get a slightly better price than the offer for each individual option. But, to keep it simple, we'll assume the prices listed above are the best available for the straddle. The 14.50 or $1,450 you pay for the straddle will also be the most you can lose if the price remains close to $80. Since the position profits from big moves in either direction, it has both an up- and a downside breakeven point calculated as follows:

 

 

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