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FX options

September 6, 2022
Understanding forex options: options explained

A forex option is a derivative — in other words, its value is derived according to data taken from the forex market, including the real-time currency exchange rates and the forecasted changes. When traders use FX options derivatives, they are entering into a contract that enables them to buy a currency at a predetermined rate and at a pre-agreed date in the future. Because these derivatives deal in currencies on the foreign exchange market, they are sometimes referred to as currency options.

There is no obligation to complete the transaction once the contract reaches its date of maturity. Instead, traders have the option to complete the transaction if they so wish and if the transaction remains in line with their strategy. This gives the option derivative its name. 

If the trader decides they do not want to go through with the transaction, they would only lose the amount they paid to purchase the derivative — which is known as the FX option premium. While this limits the amount of risk the trader is exposed to, it should be noted that the cost of an option’s premium can be high, and so trading should be approached with caution and with a foundation of research.

When traders open FX option contracts, they are able to customise the agreement. This is because options are not standardised and sold via the exchange but are instead traded on an over-the-counter (OTC) basis through brokers. Traders can choose the contract duration and exchange price based on their own needs, as well as on the current spot trading currency value — the exchange price will be fixed for the full term of the contract.

FX options and pips

While the exchange rate is fixed for the duration of the contract, the real exchange rate will be subject to fluctuations. This is how traders decide whether or not to execute the trade once the contract reaches the point of maturity. Traders will examine these rate changes as they learn how to trade forex.

For example, if the exchange rate remains the same, the trader will lose only the cost of their premium. If the exchange rate falls, the trader will lose more money if they decide to execute the transaction, and so they may decide to turn down the option and lose only the premium cost. 

If the exchange rate rises, beyond the set rate and exceeds the premium cost, the trader will have made a profit. If the exchange rate rises but does not cover the premium cost, the trader has made a small loss. Some traders may decide to execute the transaction even at a loss if they expect the rate to rise again in the future — this requires careful forecasting.

But how are these rate movements measured? Rate movements are measured using pips in FX, and traders will need to be aware of these pip fluctuations while they trade. A single pip is a movement at the fourth decimal place of a currency value in most cases, and at the second decimal place to quote currencies of smaller denominations, such as the Japanese yen.

The differences between forex options and other derivatives

Other than the currency option, there are other derivatives available, and traders will need to familiarise themselves with the differences as they learn forex trading techniques.

  • FX futures and options

Both FX futures and FX options are opened for a set period of time and dictated by a contract. Futures are standardised and sold via an exchange, and the trade must be completed according to the terms of the contract. This is different from the FX option, where traders are not obliged to complete the transaction at the end of the options contract.

  • FX forwards and options

In a fundamental sense, the difference between FX forwards and options is explained according to the obligation to execute the transaction. Forward trades must be completed according to the contract, while an options trade does not necessarily have to be completed. Forwards are different from futures in that they are sold over the counter (OTC) via a forex broker and can be customised to meet the needs of the trader.

  • FX swaps and options

Forex swaps involve the exchange of a set amount of one currency for an equivalent amount of another currency. Interest is paid on the currency values, and the exchange is generally reversed at the end of the swap period. This is inherently different from an options contract, as funds are exchanged — either nominal or actually changing hands — at the beginning of the swap agreement, while any trading on an option contract is executed at the end.

The benefits of FX options trading

Through proper research, traders can unlock the many benefits of forex options. Take a look at some of the most important.

Reduced risk compared to other derivatives

There is always a risk when trading in the forex market, but FX options provide a way to limit this risk. As there is no obligation to complete the trade once the contract reaches maturity, there is no danger that users will be stuck with an unsuitable trade. Instead, they can simply choose not to execute the transaction, and absorb the premium cost of the trade as a loss. This is very different from other forms of derivatives, such as FX forwards and futures, which will need to be executed, increasing the risk to the trader.

Useful for hedging 

One of the most common use cases for options in forex is hedging. When traders open a currency position in the forex market, there is always the risk that the currency pair value does not move in the direction the trader anticipated. This can result in a significant loss, particularly at higher levels of leverage. Leverage in FX essentially means borrowing capital that is used to supplement the trader’s own reserves, allowing control over a far more valuable position. With increased leverage comes increased opportunity for profit, as well as increased risk.

To mitigate this risk, traders may decide to hedge their position. A hedge is a trade in the inverse direction to the open position. So, if the position falls when it was expected to rise, a trade in the opposite direction can recoup some or all of the losses. 

Options are useful in this regard, as there is no obligation to complete the transaction. If their original position was successful, the trader may decide to abandon the options contract and cover the premium cost with their profits. If the position is unsuccessful, they can decide to execute the option to protect themselves. Traders should remain aware that even with a hedging strategy in place, there are no guarantees in the forex market.

The opportunity to profit from future movements in the market

FX options give traders the opportunity to profit from future movements in the forex market. By analysing past performance and by staying engaged with geo-political and economic developments, traders can forecast which way they believe the market is heading in. With this forecast, they can open up options trades that could potentially be profitable — without needing to commit to the trade in the same way they would with a future or forward contract. Even with the most rigorous approach to forecasting, there is no guarantee that the market will move in the expected direction.

Customisability for traders

Traders can customise their FX options contract. This means they can tailor the agreement to meet their own specific needs and requirements. In this sense, options are similar to OTC forwards but different from standardised FX futures.

Develop your forex options trading strategy at VT Markets

Here at VT Markets, we are committed to providing traders with the tools, features and interface they need to develop their trading strategy and work towards their longer-term targets. This includes features that support FX options trading. 

Whether you are just starting out on your forex journey or you are looking to expand your trading skills with new capabilities, the VT Markets platform can help you do precisely this. Set up your demo account and practice using VT Market’s tools and features in a completely risk-free environment. Then, move on to a full trading account and execute trades for real. 

Want to learn more? Reach out to our team directly.

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At VT Markets, we provide an award-winning, industry-leading platform to help traders of any levels reach their goals and secure their rewards. With our client-first approach, low trading costs, and leverage of up to 500:1, we help them make the most of the market. The combination of the best tools and a trader-friendly experience makes VT Markets the right broker for you. Open a demo account today and contact us to learn more!