If you’re involved in options trading, understanding the ‘sell to close’ strategy is essential. This article explores the concept comprehensively, including its applications, strategies, and real-life examples. Learn how to use ‘sell to close’ effectively and make informed decisions in the world of finance.
What is sell to close?
If you’re involved in options trading, you’ve likely encountered the term “sell to close.” But what exactly does it mean? In simple terms, “sell to close” is an order placed to exit an existing trade, where the trader already owns the options contract. This action effectively closes the position.
Sell to close is primarily used to exit a long position that was initially established with a “buy to open” order. It’s an essential concept in options trading, and it can also be found in equity and fixed-income trading, albeit less frequently, to indicate the sale that closes an existing long position.
Sell to close involves closing out a position by selling the options contract. In options trading, traders acquire both short and long positions through contracts they purchase. Once a trader owns a contract, there are three ways to deal with it:
- The option is out of the money (OTM) and will expire worthless.
- The option is in the money (ITM) and can be exercised for the underlying asset or settled for the price difference.
- The option can be sold to close the position. This sell-to-close order can be executed whether the option is ITM, OTM, or at the money (ATM).
Traders typically use the sell-to-close order when they want to exit an open long position. For example:
- If a trader owns call options and no longer wants to hold a long bullish position on the underlying asset, they can sell to close the call options.
- If a trader owns put options and wishes to exit a long bearish position on the underlying asset, they can sell to close the put options.
Example of selling to close
Let’s illustrate the concept of selling to close with an example:
Imagine a trader initiates a long position by placing a “buy to open” order for a call option on Company A when the stock is priced at $175.00. This call option has a strike price of $170.00 and an expiration date 90 days in the future, with a premium of $7.50 per share. At this point, the option has $5.00 of intrinsic value and $2.50 of extrinsic value.
As time passes and the value of Company A’s stock fluctuates, the call option’s value will also vary. Whether the trader makes a profit or incurs a loss depends on how the value changes over time. The trader can only realize these profits or losses by using a sell-to-close order to exit the position.
Three possible outcomes of selling to close
When a trader employs a sell-to-close order for a long option, there are three potential outcomes:
Sell to Close for a Profit
If the price of the underlying asset rises significantly, offsetting the time decay that the option experiences (particularly as it approaches expiration), the value of the call option increases. In this scenario, the trader can execute a sell-to-close order for a profit.
For instance, if Company A’s stock price rises from $175.00 to $180.00 by expiration, increasing the call option’s value from $7.50 to $10.00, the trader can sell to close the call option position for a profit of $2.50 ($10.00 current value – $7.50 purchase price = $2.50 profit).
Sell to Close at Break-Even
If the price of the underlying asset increases just enough to offset the time decay, the call option’s value remains unchanged. In this scenario, the trader can sell to close the long call option at break-even.
For example, if Company A’s stock price rises from $175.00 to $177.50 by expiration, keeping the call option’s value at $7.50, the trader can sell to close the position at break-even ($7.50 current value – $7.50 purchase price = $0.00 profit).
Sell to Close for a Loss
If the price of the underlying asset doesn’t increase enough to offset the time decay, the call option’s value declines. In this case, the trader can sell to close the long call option at a loss.
Suppose Company A’s stock price only rises from $175.00 to $176.00 by expiration, reducing the call option’s value to $6.00. The trader can then sell to close the position at a loss of $1.50 ($6.00 current value – $7.50 purchase price = $1.50 loss).
Pros and cons of using sell to close
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider when using the sell-to-close strategy.
- Allows you to realize profits when the option is in the money.
- Provides an exit strategy for long positions.
- Allows for flexibility in managing your options portfolio.
- Potential for losses if the option is out of the money.
- May involve transaction costs, impacting overall returns.
- Requires a good understanding of options trading strategies.
Frequently asked questions
Is ‘sell to close’ applicable only to options trading?
No, while ‘sell to close’ is commonly associated with options trading, it can also be used in equity and fixed-income trading to close out existing long positions. It offers a versatile exit strategy in various financial markets.
Are there specific scenarios where selling to close is more advantageous?
Yes, selling to close is particularly advantageous when you want to lock in profits from an options trade or when you anticipate a significant change in market conditions that might affect your position. It’s a strategic move to manage risk and maximize gains.
What is the role of intrinsic and extrinsic value in sell-to-close decisions?
Intrinsic value represents the difference between the option’s strike price and the current market price of the underlying asset. Extrinsic value, on the other hand, is the remaining value of the option premium. When deciding to sell to close, traders consider both values. For example, if an option is deep in the money, it may have high intrinsic value, making it more attractive for selling to close for a profit.
Are there any tax implications associated with selling to close?
Yes, selling to close can have tax implications, particularly when realizing gains or losses. Depending on your country’s tax regulations, profits from selling to close may be subject to capital gains tax. It’s essential to consult with a tax advisor to understand the tax implications in your specific situation.
Can ‘sell to close’ be used for long-term investing?
‘Sell to close’ is typically associated with shorter-term trading strategies. Long-term investors tend to focus on buying and holding assets rather than actively using sell to close orders. However, in certain situations, long-term investors may use this strategy to adjust their portfolios or take advantage of market conditions.
- Sell to close is an options trading strategy used to exit an existing long position by selling the options contract.
- Traders employ sell-to-close orders to realize profits when options are in the money, manage open positions, or cut losses.
- Understanding the potential outcomes of using sell-to-close is crucial for effective options trading.
- ‘Sell to close’ can be applied beyond options trading and has tax implications that should be considered.
View Article Sources
- Investor Bulletin: An Introduction to Options – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- Closing Price – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- Types of Orders – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
- Buy To Open Vs. Buy to Close: How Does It Work? – SuperMoney
- What Does Clear to Close Mean? – SuperMoney