Trading Options Versus Trading Contracts for Difference (CFDs)
I am commonly asked which derivative is the best. Is a CFD better than an option or a futures contract? There is
no simple answer to this question because the derivatives are all different. Some strategies that can be
implemented with options or futures cannot be implemented with CFDs, but despite this CFDs are a fantastic
instrument to trade.
An option is the right to buy or sell a set number of shares (usually 100 in the US and 1000 in Australia) on or
before a set date. Note that with options you have the right to buy or sell meaning you are under no
obligation to do this. When trading in CFDs both the buyer and seller have an obligation to settle the difference
in cash at the end of the transaction. The CFD trader can choose the size of their position down to as little as 1
For options, you pay out a small premium, which gives you access to the movement in the share for a set time. If
you are right, you receive a large amount of cash back. If you are wrong, you forfeit the small premium. CFDs
are a much less complicated derivative than options. Trading CFDs is just like trading the underlying share.
CFDs have no expiry date, no time decay and no complex pricing methodology.
In the options market, you can choose to write options. Because of this it is possible to combine options to
create different strategies that cannot be created with CFDs. There is no equivalent to writing options with
CFDs provide a wide choice of instruments to trade. It is possible to trade more than 500 Australian shares,
international shares from the United States, Europe and Asia. In addition to this, you can trade indices around the
world, commodities, currencies and even sectors. No other derivative available today allows this much choice. In
Australia, options are limited to just 80 shares.
Two types of options can be traded, either a call or a put. Buy a call if you believe that the share is going up
and buy a put if you believe the share is going down. If you are correct on the direction of the movement, you can
make a significant profit. If you are wrong, you may lose the premium that you paid. CFDs provide the
ability to trade both long and short with ease. To make a short sale, push sell on your trading platform before you
push buy. There are no complex rules to follow or different instruments to choose. CFDs are very simple to
understand and trade.
Option pricing is extremely complex and not for the faint hearted. It is affected by the share price,
exercise price (strike price), volatility, time, dividends and interest rates. The pricing of CFDs is very
simple because it matches the underlying instrument, making a CFD simple to understand and begin trading. There are
no complex pricing models to learn: if the share moves $1, so does the CFD.
When trading options, risk is limited to the initial investment, while CFDs carry theoretically unlimited risk.
It is vitally important that a CFD trader manages their risk to ensure their survival in the CFD market.
I am unable to say whether CFDs are the right instrument for you to trade. I personally believe they are a truly
flexible trading instrument, which offers a wide degree of flexibility and choice to the active trader.
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