What Affects Equity Option Prices?

Option pricing is based on a variety of factors.

There are seven main components that affect the premium of an option. These are:

  1. The current price of the underlying financial instrument.
  2. The strike price of the option in comparison to the current market price (intrinsic value).
  3. The type of option (put or call).
  4. The amount of time remaining until expiration (time value).
  5. The current risk-free interest rate.
  6. The volatility of the underlying financial instrument.
  7. The dividend rate, if any, of the underlying financial instrument.

Each of these factors plays a unique part in the price of an option. In most cases, the first 4 are pretty easy to figure out. The rest are often forgotten or overlooked. However, although they may be a little confusing, each is Important. For example, when it comes to trading with options, reviewing volatility levels can help traders determine the right options strategy to employ.

In addition, it is noteworthy to assess the current risk-free interest rate and whether or not a particular stock is prone to the release of dividends. Higher interest rates can increase option premiums, while lower interest rates can lead to a decrease in option premiums. Dividends act in a similar way, increasing and decreasing an option premium as they increase or decrease the price of the underlying asset. Also, if a stock were to pay a dividend, a short seller would be responsible for that payment. This means that a short seller in securities not only has unlimited risk of the stock price rising, but also is responsible for the dividends paid out.


Volatility is one of the most Important factors in an option’s price. It measures the amount by which an underlying asset is expected to fluctuate in a given period of time. It significantly impacts the price of an option’s premium and heavily contributes to an option’s time value. In basic terms, volatility can be viewed as the speed of change in the market, although you may prefer to think of it as market confusion. The more confused a market is, the better chance an option has of ending up in-the-money. A stable market moves slowly. Volatility measures the speed of change in the price of the underlying instrument or the option. The higher the volatility, the more chance an option has of becoming profitable by expiration. That’s why volatility is a primary determinant in the valuation of options’ premiums. There are options strategies that can be used to take advantage of either scenario.


Options strategies must be applied in specific market conditions to be money-makers. Liquidity is one of these market conditions. Liquidity is the ease with which a market can be traded. A plentiful number of buyers and sellers boosts the volume of trading producing a liquid market. Liquidity allows traders to get their orders filled easily as well as to quickly exit a position.

The best way to discover which markets have liquidity is to actually visit an exchange. The pits where you see absolute chaos are markets with liquidity. As long as there are plenty of floor traders screaming and yelling out orders as if their lives depended on it, you will probably have no problem getting in and out of a trade. However, I tend to avoid the pits where the floor traders are falling asleep as they read the newspapers. These are obviously illiquid markets and it would not be a wise move to place an options-based trade there.

If you don’t have the ability to actually visit an exchange, you can still check out the liquidity of a market by reviewing the market’s volume to see how many shares have been bought and sold in one day. As a rule of thumb, I choose markets that trade at least 300,000 shares a day, although one million shares a day is even better. It is also vital to ascertain whether or not trading volume is increasing or decreasing. This kind of volume movement is studied to indicate turning points in market price action. You can also monitor liquidity by monitoring the buying and selling of block trades-orders of 5,000 shares at a time-by institutional traders.


Long-term Equity Anticipation Products (leaps) are options that don’t expire for at least 9 months and can have expiration 2 or 3 years out. Once an option’s expiration gets closer than 9 months, they become plain options again with an entirely new ticker symbol. Be this as it may, leaps are in every way an option. Their expirations are a long way off and that makes them prime candidates for long-term plays and secure bets for shorter-term trades.

For traders with a traditional buy and hold orientation, options usually carry with them the stigma of being short-term trading tools with tax consequences. leaps, by the very nature of their long-term expiration dates, help to overcome this stigma. It isn’t unusual for leaps traders to hold a position for more than a year. Plus, leaps have the added benefit of giving a trader significantly more time to be right about a market move.