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In finance, a straddle is an investment strategy involving the purchase or sale of particular option derivatives that allows the holder to profit based on how much the price of the underlying security moves, regardless of the direction of price movement. The purchase of particular option derivatives is known as a long straddle, while the sale of the option derivatives is known as a short straddle.
A long straddle involves going long, i.e., purchasing, both a call option and a put option on some stock, interest rate, index or other underlying. The two options are bought at the same strike price and expire at the same time. The owner of a long straddle makes a profit if the underlying price moves a long way from the strike price, either above or below. Thus, an investor may take a long straddle position if he thinks the market is highly volatile, but does not know in which direction it is going to move. This position is a limited risk, since the most a purchaser may lose is the cost of both options. At the same time, there is unlimited profit potential.
For example, company XYZ is set to release its quarterly financial results in two weeks. A trader believes that the release of these results will cause a large movement in the price of XYZ's stock, but does not know whether the price will go up or down. He can enter into a long straddle, where he gets a profit no matter which way the price of XYZ stock moves, if the price changes enough either way. If the price goes up enough, he uses the call option and ignores the put option. If the price goes down, he uses the put option and ignores the call option. If the price does not change enough, he loses money, up to the total amount paid for the two options. The risk is limited by the total premium paid for the options, as opposed to the short straddle where the risk is virtually unlimited.
If the stock is sufficiently volatile and option duration is long, the trader could profit from both options. This would require the stock to move both below the put option's strike price and above the call option's strike price at different times before the expiry date.
A short straddle is a non-directional options trading strategy that involves simultaneously selling a put and a call of the same underlying security, strike price and expiration date. The profit is limited to the premiums of the put and call, but it is risky because if the underlying security's price goes very high up or very low down, the potential losses are virtually unlimited, yet it depends on the type of purchase vehicle used (differ in risk %). The deal breaks even if the intrinsic value of the put or the call equals the sum of the premiums of the put and call. This strategy is called "nondirectional" because the short straddle profits when the underlying security changes little in price before the expiration of the straddle. The short straddle can also be classified as a credit spread because the sale of the short straddle results in a credit of the premiums of the put and call.
A short straddle position is highly risky, because the potential loss is unlimited due to the sale of the call and the put options which expose the investor to unlimited losses (on the call) or losses equal to the strike price (on the put), whereas profitability is limited to the premium gained by the initial sale of the options. The Collar is a more conservative "opposite" that limits gains and losses.