Using the Daily Options Listings

Online trading is a natural for the options market. The ability to monitor a changing market on the basis of only a 20-minute delay is a significant advantage over telephone calls to a broker, and for an extra charge you can get real-time quotations (or as close as possible to real time) online. The Internet is also likely to be far more responsive than a broker, who may be on another line, with another client, or away from the desk when you call. For you as an options trader, even a few minutes of inaccessibility can create a lost opportunity. Of course, exceptionally heavy volume market periods translate to slowdowns, even on the Internet.

In the past, options traders depended on alert brokers, hoping they would be able to telephone them if price changes made fast decisions necessary.

Some placed stop limit orders, a cumbersome method for managing an options portfolio. And in the worst of all cases, some investors used to wait until the day after to review options listings in the newspaper. None of these antiquated methods are adequate for the modern options trader, who should be able to find a dependable online source for rapid options quotations.

Smart Investor Tip

You can make good use of online sites offering free options and stock quotes. Three sites with exceptional quotation services are (, e*trade (, and Yahoo! Finance ( You can also go directly to the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) to get detailed options quotes ( or check the major exchanges (,, and

Example of Daily Options Listing

Calls Puts
Wal-Mart (WMT) Jan Feb Mar Jan Feb Mar
45.71 45 1.35 1.85 2.50 0.50 0.80 1.20
45.71 47.50 0.28 0.65 1.00 1.90 2.15 2.40
45.71 50 0.07 0.20 0.35 4.30 4.40 4.50
45.71 52.50 0.02 0.05 0.10 6.80 6.90 7.00

Not only are you more able to work on your own through discount service brokers and without expensive and unneeded broker advice; you also need to be online to maximize your market advantage. Option pricing can change from minute to minute in many situations, and you need to be able to keep an eye on the market.

Whether you use an automated system or published options service, you also need to learn how to read options listings. A typical daily options listing from the month of May 2004 is summarized in Table above.

The details of what this table shows are:

In this example, Wal-Mart trades on the March, June, September, December (MJSD) cycle. However, in all cases, the three months following the current month always have options as well. The report was taken in December, so options are available for January, February, and March (and then for June, September, and December).

Example of LEAPS Listings

Calls Puts
Wal-Mart (WMT) Jan 08 Jan 09 Jan 08 Jan 09
45.68 45 5.10 7.30 2.75 3.70
45.68 47.50 3.70 -- 3.96 --
45.68 50 2.70 4.80 5.20 6.30
45.68 52.50 1.95 -- 7.00 --

For LEAPS, the same information is available but for longer terms. For comparable LEAPS listings, see Table above.

In this example, premium values are considerably higher for the same range of striking prices. Since there is much more time until expiration, time value is also higher for the LEAPS options. This opens up a broader range of strategic possibilities for both buyers and sellers. LEAPS contracts always expire in January each year, so as on the end of 2007, the long-term values show January expirations only. Also, the interim values for LEAPS (47.50 and 52.50) were not available for Wal-Mart two years out; thus, no current value exists for those valuations.

By Michael C. Thomsett
Michael Thomsett is a British-born American author who has written over 75 books covering investing, business and real estate topics.

Copyrighted 2020. Content published with author's permission.

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