What’s The Risk of Trading Binary Options

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What Risks Are There When Trading With Binary Options?

While there are ways to reduce the risk that is taken on by most financial traders, the truth is that all investments come with at least some form of risk – and this includes trading in binary options. Therefore, investors in this arena are well advised to carefully research the types of risk that can be involved, and only then to proceed in ways that will ensure that risk will be kept to the minimum amount possible.

Types of Risks that Can Be Faced with Trading Binary Options

Although there is no way to completely remove all of the risk in any type of investment, having an acute awareness of the potential risks that may be present can help in reducing some of the uncertainty for traders. This alone can help traders to focus more on the actual investment at hand, knowing where certain pitfalls may lie.
Some of the potential risks that traders may face in the binary options market can include:

Market Risk

Similar to other investments, the trading of binary options can involve overall market risk. In nearly all cases markets can – and oftentimes do – move in various directions without ample warning. Although there are ways to predict potential market movements, even the most thorough of analyses cannot always accurately pinpoint exactly which direction the market will take.

Fixed/Capped Profit Amount

Another risk that binary options traders need to be aware of is fixed profits. In the case of these investments, both losses and gains are capped – meaning that there is no unlimited upside potential with these investments. On the positive side, however, losses are also capped.

Extremely Precise Profit and Loss Points

In addition, unlike many other investment vehicles, binary options are measured by the slightest tick. This means that oftentimes the value for this type of option may be determined by as many as three or four decimal points. With binary option trading, even 0.0001 points may mean the difference between a trader being on the profit or loss side of the investment.

Illiquid

Binary options are also not considered to be a “liquid” type of investment. Therefore, because these vehicles are not able to be exercised at will, traders must wait until the options expiry date before he or she can take their profits or losses.

No Ownership in the Underlying Assets

Because binary options are simply a wager on the direction of an underlying asset, traders are not actually investing in the ownership of any type of tangible asset. While some are comfortable with this type of investing, others may see it as a potential risk.

Sparse Regulation

One of the biggest risks when trading in binary options is the fact that the OTC markets are currently not regulated. This means that even though most binary option trading platforms are as they appear, there is a chance that traders may run into some forms of unscrupulous practices.

How to control risk trading Binary Options

There are several ways to limit your risk trading binary options which many profitable traders employ and are the basis of a solid trading strategy. The first of these is to choose a binary options broker that will enable you to manage your risk effectively, including one which offers both a protection rate and features to limit losses. A ‘protection rate’ is the percentage that a broker offers to pay back to the trader for those binary options closing out of the money. This is usually between 5-15% and is a good way to ensure that even out of the money trades do not result in a total loss of the investment.

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The other features offered by brokers which binary options traders can use to reduce risk are ‘close early’ and ‘rollover’ features. In situations where the options appear hopelessly out of the money, t hese provide traders a choice to either close the position early, for a smaller loss of extend the expiry time in hope that the trade recovers. Although using these are not ideal and may also result in losses, including these risk management strategies in a long-term trading plan will certainly reduce total losses over time.

Possibly the most important element of controlling risk in binary options trading is to limit your initial exposure and to trade only with money which can be lost. Many professional traders use the ’2% rule’ which only allows them to risk a maximum of 2% of their trading account on any single trade. Although this may seem like a small amount to begin with, buiding up over time an account value can grow substantially using this small piece of advice.

Do the Advantages of Trading Binary Options Outweigh the Risks?

While there are some risks to be aware of when trading binary options, these financial vehicles can present a number of great benefits as well. In fact, one of the biggest benefits to binary options actually involves that fact that a traders’ risk is known from the beginning of the investment.

This means that it is known by a trader exactly how much he or she stands to gain or to lose prior to even making their investment. Therefore, even though a trader’s gains are fixed, so are the potential losses – and this can make it possible to move forward with the investment without the need to take on an undetermined amount of financial exposure.

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RISK WARNING: YOUR CAPITAL MIGHT BE AT RISK

Binary Option

What is a Binary Option?

A binary option is a financial product where the buyer receives a payout or loses their investment, based on if the option expires in the money. Binary options depend on the outcome of a “yes or no” proposition, hence the name “binary.” Binary options have an expiry date and/or time. At the time of expiry, the price of the underlying asset must be on the correct side of the strike price (based on the trade taken) for the trader to make a profit.

A binary option automatically exercises, meaning the gain or loss on the trade is automatically credited or debited to the trader’s account when the option expires.

Binary Options Outside the US

Basics of a Binary Option

A binary option may be as simple as whether the share price of ABC will be above $25 on April 22, 2020, at 10:45 a.m. The trader makes a decision, either yes (it will be higher) or no (it will be lower).

Let’s say the trader thinks the price will be trading above $25, on that date and time, and is willing to bet $100 on it. If ABC shares trade above $25 at that date and time, the trader receives a payout per the terms agreed. For example, if the payout was 70%, the binary broker credits the trader’s account with $70.

If the price trades below $25 at that date and time, the trader was wrong and loses their $100 investment in the trade.

Key Takeaways

  • Binary options depend on the outcome of a “yes or no” proposition.
  • Traders receive a payout if the binary option expires in the money and incur a loss if it expires out of the money.
  • Binary options set a fixed payout and loss amount.
  • Binary options don’t allow traders to take a position in the underlying security.
  • Most binary options trading occurs outside the United States.

Difference Between Binary and Vanilla Options

A vanilla American option gives the holder the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specified price before the expiration date of the option. A European option is the same, except traders can only exercise that right on the expiration date. Vanilla options, or just “options,” provide the buyer with potential ownership of the underlying asset. When buying these options, traders have fixed risk, but profits vary depending on how far the price of the underlying asset moves.

Binary options differ in that they don’t provide the possibility of taking a position in the underlying asset. Binary options typically specify a fixed maximum payout, while maximum risk is limited to the amount invested in the option. Movement in the underlying asset doesn’t affect the payout received or loss incurred.

The profit or loss depends on whether the price of the underlying is on the correct side of the strike price. Some binary options can be closed before expiration, although this typically reduces the payout received (if the option is in the money).

Binary Options and Regulation

Binary options occasionally trade on platforms regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulatory agencies, but most binary options trading occurs outside the United States and may not be regulated. Unregulated binary options brokers don’t have to meet a particular standard; therefore, investors should be wary of the potential for fraud. Conversely, vanilla options trade on regulated U.S. exchanges and are subject to greater oversight.

Real World Binary Options Example

Nadex is a regulated binary options exchange in the United States. Nadex binary options are based on a “yes or no” proposition and allow traders to exit before expiry. The binary option’s entry price indicates the potential profit or loss, with all options expiring worth $100 or $0.

Let’s assume stock Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) is currently trading at $64.75. A binary option has a strike price of $65 and expires tomorrow at 12 p.m. The trader can buy the option for $40. If the price of the stock finishes above $65, the option expires in the money and is worth $100. The trader makes $60 ($100 – $40).

If the option expires and the price of the Colgate is below $65 (out of the money), the trader loses the $40 they put into the option. The potential profit and loss, combined, always equals $100 with a Nadex binary option.

If the trader wanted to make a more significant investment, he or she could change the number of options traded. For example, selecting three contracts, in this case, would up the risk to $120, and increase the profit potential to $180.

Non-Nadex binary options are similar, except they typically aren’t regulated in the United States, often can’t be exited before expiry, usually have fixed percentage payout for wins (whereas Nadex payouts fluctuate based on the price paid for the option) and may not trade in $100 increments.

Don’t Gamble On Binary Options

There are lots of ways to lose your money in this world but here’s one I hadn’t encountered before: binary option Web sites. They have become popular over the past few years with new ones appearing all the time: anyoption.com, bulloption.com, spotoption.com, binaryoption.com, etc. etc.

The sites appeal to the same type of people who play poker online. But they somehow have an aura of being more respectable because they represent themselves as offering a form of investing. Don’t kid yourself. These are gambling sites, pure and simple. It’s probably just a matter of time before regulators move in on them.

Until that happens, they seem to be doing great business. A Google search for binary option Web sites produced 870,000 hits with promotions like “earn up to 75 per cent every hour” and “81 per cent profit in one hour or less, trade all major markets”. You can buy these options, which are also known as all-or-nothing options, digital options, or Fixed Return Options (FROs), on stocks, commodities, indexes, foreign exchange, and other derivatives.

In fact, you can place a bet (which is what it really amounts to) on just about anything that is publicly traded, depending on which Web site you use (some offer a wider range of choices than others). Some sites provide free guides to binary option trading to get you started.

I was alerted to this phenomenon by a reader who sent me this email:

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“My dad has recently gotten involved with trading binary options online. The basic premise for the site he uses is at a specific time, say 1:25 p.m., you can put down perhaps $100 that XYZ stock will either increase or decrease in price within five minutesby 1:30 p.m. If you are wrong, you get $15 back. If you are right, you win about $70.

“I’ve proven to him that, mathematically, the site has an edge and you must be right 55% of the time in order for your bet to have a neutral expected value. I am also a professional online poker player by trade so I have an extensive understanding of probability, the online gambling markets, and how these sites work.

The problem is he feels he is at a great advantage, citing his ability to read a bunch of charts, follow news, etc. He is a smart man, a former lawyer, and has been following stocks for years, but I feel that he may be overestimating himself here. I’ve looked into online binary options trading a bit and it seems to me that the consensus is that very few people outside of professional traders can beat the trading sites consistently for good money. My dad is up $2,500 or so betting $100 and $50. The best I could do is to warn him about statistical variance affecting his perceived ability and that short-term volatility along with the inherent disadvantage will make consistent winning incredibly hard.

“I’m looking for a way to definitively convince him to stop and that his edge isn’t as great as it seems. I tried talking to him multiple times about the subject but I’m not as knowledgeable about the field and ultimately that becomes my shortcoming when trying to convince him why he shouldn’t continue to be involved with this. Any help would certainly be appreciated.”

I found this correspondence especially fascinating because the writer is a professional online poker player — a gambler by trade. Yet here he is trying to convince his dad that online gambling is a bad thing. I agree, it is. But it’s understandable if the father is skeptical about advice from a son who does the same sort of thing, albeit in a different form.

But that’s for them to sort out. What intrigued me was to discover that binary option trading has become a kind of pseudo investing sub-culture. I went to the site our reader says his dad uses and did some research. It describes binary options as “an exciting new type of investment” — note the use of the word “investment”.

“When a binary option is purchased on our platform, a contract is created that gives the buyer (known here as the investor) the right to buy an underlying asset at a fixed price, within a specified time frame with us, the seller,” the Web site explains. The option must be held until maturity (even if that is five minutes away); unlike regular options it cannot be sold before then.

These sites promote themselves as offering controlled risk (you can’t lose more than a specified amount), low cost, big gains if you guess right, and ease of use — you can trade from home whenever markets are open and set up an account with a credit card.

So what arguments would I use to convince dad to quit? For starters, this sort of thing can quickly become addictive, especially to market junkies. Although the amounts bet may be small, the total can quickly add up if many trades are done in a day. It wouldn’t take long for things to get out of hand.

Second, no one, no matter how knowledgeable, can consistently predict what a stock or commodity will do within a short time frame. Will Apple (AAPL) shares go up or down in the next 10 minutes? Unless there has just been some major announcement from the company, there is no way to even guess at that.

Third, the house definitely has an edge. This particular Web site pays $71 for each successful $100 “trade.” If you lose, you get back $15. Let’s say you make 1,000 “trades” and win 545 of them. Your profit is $38,695. But your 455 losses will cost you $38,675. In other words, you must win 54.5% of the time just to break even.

Finally, these Web sites are unregulated. No securities commission is protecting people’s interests. This is a financial Wild West.

If people want to gamble, that’s their choice. But let’s not confuse that with investing. Binary options are a crapshoot, pure and simple.

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