Options Education

Let's Talk About Pin Risk


It's expiration week and once again our email is full of questionsabout pin risk. If you're one of the many people who have asked us about this subject, or if you're just curious what all the fuss is about, then this article is for you.

The Bane
Pin risk has been the bane of options traders for decades. Like themythical werewolf of old, this rough beast rears its ugly head once a month to wreak havoc among the unwary.

Unfortunately, pin risk is not triggered bythe rise of the full moon and silver bullets will do nothing to stop it. Instead, you will have to rely on clever position management (and a dash of luck) if you want to protect yourself against this potentiallydevastating phenomenon.


What Is Pin Risk?
Before we go any further, we should define a few terms:
  • Pinned - When the underlying closes at or near the strike price of an option, it is said to have pinned on that strike.
  • Pin Risk - The risk that option sellers face when the underlying pins on a strike.

Why Is It So Dangerous?
Pin risk involves a high degree of uncertainty. During expiration week,an experienced options trader only has to glance at his position tounderstand how his risk will change after expiration. A quick rundownof each strike will show him which options are in-the-money and whichoptions will expire worthless. He can then plan for any post-expirationchanges to his risk profile.

But what if the underlying is hovering near a strike on expiration day?Suddenly, the entire risk profile of his position changes. Let's take alook at an example:

Example 1
XYZ stock closes at $35 on expiration day. You are short 50 front-month 35 calls. What should you do?

If the stock had closed at $36, then your decision would be simple. Thecalls would be automatically assigned and you would have a shortposition of 5000 shares. This foreknowledge makes it easy to plan aheadand hedge the risk posed by this short position.

However, when the stock closes at or near a strike, there is much moreuncertainty and therefore much more risk. With the stock at $35, youessentially have three choices.
  • Do nothing and hope that you aren't assigned on your calls. - The risks associated with this strategy are obvious. In a worst case scenario, all of your short calls could be assigned, leaving you with a naked short position of 5000 shares. This position would then have to be carried until the following Monday before it could be covered.
  • Hedge part of your position and hope for the best - This is the choice of most traders. It is impossible to accurately predict the behavior of your fellow market participants. They may decide to exercise options that are only $.01 in-the-money or choose not to exercise options that are far more valuable.  The best that you can hope for is to make a reasonable estimate of how many contracts will be assigned and hedge accordingly. As a rule of thumb, many traders choose to hedge half of their position, cutting their overall risk exposure by 50%.
  • Hedge the entire position and hope that you are assigned on all 50 contracts - This can be just as dangerous as doing nothing. If you end up not being assigned on any of your contracts, then you will have created a naked long position of 5000 shares.

Note: Pin risk is not limited to short call positions. It alsoapplies to short put positions, with the obvious caveat that anyassignment will create a long position in the underlying instead of a shortposition.

Continued In Part Two...
"

About Mark S. Longo


Mark S. Longo is the founder of The Options Insider Inc. - a firm dedicated to providing free options information, education, news and analysis for options users. Whether it's on TheOptionsInsider.com, a leading online options destination; through Options Insider Radio, the world's only radio network for options users; or through a growing number of newsletters and live events, Mr. Longo continues to provide new ways to spread the word about options.Mr. Longo's analysis of the options market has appeared in a wide variety of domestic and international publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Reuters, Futures Magazine, and more. As one of the few industry commentators with practical options experience, he has developed a substantial following among industry veterans and newcomers looking for insight into this complex market.Mr. Longo began his career as an options trader on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

Author's web site: http://www.theoptionsinsider.com


View Mark S. Longo's post archive >

Advertisement Continue reading

The Options News RundownAudio

Your source for the most important news and information from the world of options.

The Options Insider Radio NetworkAudio

All of our radio programs in one convenient place.

Options Insider RadioAudio

The original options podcast. Features interviews with leading options figures.

The Option BlockAudio

This high-octane program features education, analysis, strategies and unusual activity.

Volatility ViewsAudio

The premier radio program for volatility traders.

The Long And Short Of Futures OptionsAudio

Your source for futures options information.

The Advisor's OptionAudio

Arming advisors with the info necessary to manage risk.

Options Boot CampAudio

Get into peak options trading shape.

Options Insider Special EventsAudio

Compelling panel & special event recordings from the options world.

OIC's Wide World of OptionsAudio

A dynamic mix of current events, investor resources, & strategy insights.

The Futures Options RoundtableAudio

Futures Options Analysis, Education, Strategies and More...

Trading Tech TalkAudio

We break down all the amazing technology that takes your trades from the click of a mouse to the clearinghouse.

Options Playbook RadioAudio

Break down cutting-edge options strategies and learn how to incorporate them into your portfolio

Options OdditiesAudio

We track all the unusual options trading activity on Options Oddities.

x

The Options Insider Radio Network

The Options News Rundown

Your source for the most important news and information from the world of options.

The Options News Rundown

The Options Insider Radio Network

All of our radio programs in one convenient place.

The Options Insider Radio Network

Options Insider Radio

The original options podcast. Features interviews with leading options figures.

Options Insider Radio

The Option Block

This high-octane program features education, analysis, strategies and unusual activity.

The Option Block

Volatility Views

The premier radio program for volatility traders.

Volatility Views

The Long And Short Of Futures Options

Your source for futures options information.

The Long And Short Of Futures Options

The Advisor's Option

Arming advisors with the info necessary to manage risk.

The Advisor's Option

Options Boot Camp

Get into peak options trading shape.

Options Boot Camp

Options Insider Special Events

Compelling panel & special event recordings from the options world.

Options Insider Special Events

OIC's Wide World of Options

A dynamic mix of current events, investor resources, & strategy insights.

OIC's Wide World of Options

The Futures Options Roundtable

Futures Options Analysis, Education, Strategies and More...

The Futures Options Roundtable

Trading Tech Talk

We break down all the amazing technology that takes your trades from the click of a mouse to the clearinghouse.

Trading Tech Talk

Options Playbook Radio

Break down cutting-edge options strategies and learn how to incorporate them into your portfolio

Options Playbook Radio

Options Oddities

We track all the unusual options trading activity on Options Oddities.

Options Oddities

Google+