Watch Now

Key Concepts Options Strategies

Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before deciding to invest in options.

A Long Put Diagonal Spread is constructed by purchasing a put far out in time, and selling a near term put on a further OTM strike to reduce cost basis. The trade has only two legs, but it gives the effect of a long vertical spread in terms of directionality, and a calendar spread in terms of its positive vega. This results in a bearish position that can benefit from an increase in implied volatility. A Long Put Diagonal Spread is usually used to replicate a covered put position.

Directional Assumption: Bearish

Setup:
- Buy an in-the-money (ITM) put option in a longer-term expiration cycle (Expiration 2)
- Sell an out-of-the-money (OTM) put option in a near-term expiration cycle (Expiration 1)

The trade will be entered for a debit. It’s important that the debit paid is no more than 75% of the width of the strikes.

Example:
XYZ Stock at \$100
Purchase (Expiration 2) 110 put for \$15
Sell (Expiration 1) 90 put for \$5.00
Net debit = \$10.00 on a 20-point-wide long put diagonal spread

Ideal Implied Volatility Environment : Low

Max Profit: The exact maximum profit potential cannot be calculated due to the differing expiration cycles used. However, the profit potential can be estimated with the following formula:

Width of put strikes - net debit paid

How to Calculate Breakeven(s): The break-even cannot be calculated due to the differing expiration cycles used in the trade. As a rough estimate, the break-even area can be approximated with the following formula:

Long put strike price - net debit paid

A Long Call Diagonal Spread is constructed by purchasing a call far out in time, and selling a near term call on a further OTM strike to reduce cost basis. This trade has only two legs, but it gives the effect of a long vertical spread in terms of directionality, and a calendar spread in terms of its positive vega. This results in a bullish position that can benefit from an increase in implied volatility. A Long Call Diagonal Spread is usually used to replicate a covered call position.

Directional Assumption: Bullish

Setup:
- Buy an in-the-money (ITM) call option in a longer-term expiration cycle (Expiration 2)
- Sell an out-of-the-money (OTM) call option in a near-term expiration cycle (Expiration 1)

The trade will be entered for a debit. It’s important that the debit paid is no more than 75% of the width of the strikes.

Example:
XYZ Stock at \$100
Purchase (Expiration 2) 90 call for \$15
Sell (Expiration 1) 110 call for \$5
Net debit = \$10.00 on a 20-point-wide long call diagonal spread

Ideal Implied Volatility Environment : Low

Max Profit: The exact maximum profit potential cannot be calculated due to the differing expiration cycles used. However, the profit potential can be estimated with the following formula:
Width of call strikes - net debit paid

How to Calculate Breakeven(s): The break-even cannot be calculated due to the differing expiration cycles used in the trade. As a rough estimate, the break-even area can be approximated with the following formula:

Long call strike price + net debit paid

The setup of a diagonal spread is very important. If we have a bad setup, we can actually set ourselves up to lose money if the trade moves in our direction too fast. To ensure we have a good setup, we check the extrinsic value of our longer dated ITM option. Once we figure that value, we ensure that the near term option we sell is equal to or greater than that amount. The deeper ITM our long option is, the easier this setup is to obtain. We also ensure that the total debit paid is not more than 75% of the width of the strikes.

We never route diagonal spreads in volatility instruments. Each expiration acts as its own underlying, so our max loss is not defined.

tastytips:

When do we close Diagonal Spreads?
We generally look for 25-50% of max profit when closing diagonal spreads. Profit occurs when the long option moves further ITM and gains value, and/or if implied volatility increases.

When do we manage Diagonal Spreads?
We manage diagonal spreads when the stock price moves against our spread. In this case, we look to roll down the short option closer to the breakeven price, so that we can collect more premium and reduce our overall risk.