Time / Diagonal Spreads – Buyer Risk / Reward

Like most trades, time spreads have a maximum loss for the

buyer. As a buyer, you can only lose what you have spent. If you

paid $ 1.00 for the spread then your maximum potential loss is

that $ 1.00. If you bought the spread for $ 2.00, then $ 2.00 is

the maximum potential loss.

The buyer of a time spread will be purchasing the out-month

option while selling the nearer month option of the same strike

in a one-to-one ratio. Since the out-month option will have more

time until expiration than the nearer month option, the

out-month option will cost more. This means the buyer will be

putting out money (debit spread) which makes sense. The buyer

can only lose the amount of money they spend to purchase the

spread. Thus the buyer's maximum risk is the cost of the spread.

The buyer can profit in several ways. First and foremost, being

a time spread, the buyer can profit by the passage of time.

Options are wasting assets. So as the nearer month option decays

away more quickly than the outer-month option, the spread widens

(increases in value) and the buyer sees a profit.

Second, implied volatility can increase. As implied volatility

increases, the out-month option, which the buyer is long,

increases in value more quickly (due to its higher vega) than

the nearer month option which the buyer is short. This will

force the spread to widen or increase in value, which again is

profitable for the buyer.

Third, the buyer can make money due to stock price movement. As

stated before, a time spread's value is at its maximum when the

stock price and the spreads strike price are identical

(at-the-money). You could have an increase in value if you owned

an out-of-the-money or in-the-money time spread, and the stock

moved either up or down toward your strike. As the stock moves

closer to your strike, the spread will expand and increase in

value creating a profit for you, the buyer.

The buyer's risks are clearly the opposite of the rewards. You

can not stop or reverse time so the buyer of the spread can

never be hurt by time.

Implied density, however, can decrease as easily as it can

increase. A decrease in implied corruption will decrease the

value of the out-month option (which the buyer is long) faster

than it will decrease the value of the nearer month option

(which the buyer is short) due to the higher vega of the

out-month option. This will narrow the spread thereby creating a

loss for the buyer.

In the same way that stock movement in the right direction can

be profitable for the buyer of a time spread, stock movement in

the wrong direction can be costly. As the stock moves away from

the spread's strike, the spread decrees in value. That will

create a loss for the buyer of the spread.