Whether you believe the market will go up, down or sideways, there is an option strategy for you.
More and more investors are using options in their trading as a way to beat the market. In fact, the number of options contracts traded has quadrupled over the past 10 years. Whether that’s because of market volatility or in spite of it, options can provide staying power.
Plus, options are flexible. You don’t need a lot of money to get started. And it’s a lot easier than you might think.
One of the key advantages with options is that you can make money in any market direction. You can make money if a stock goes up, down or sideways. And with some strategies, you can even be wrong on a stock’s direction and still make money with an option.
Of course that doesn’t mean you can just close your eyes and pick anything. But it does mean that you can make money in virtually any market condition – even when you’re unsure what the market will do.
Another advantage with options is leverage. You can get started in options with only a fraction of the money you would normally need for the actual stock. And many option strategies come with a guaranteed limited risk.
It’s these advantages, and more, that can make options a perfect addition to someone’s portfolio.
What’s interesting, however, is that even though the popularity of options has soared, they are still not as well known or understood as stocks. But they should be.
If you’re bullish on a stock, you can buy a call option and make money as it goes up.
Momentum stocks and Aggressive Growth stocks are probably the best kinds of stocks to use for this. These are stocks that are on the move with some of the most explosive upside potential.
When buying call options, you need to be right on the direction of the trade as well as the time allotted for it to move. Add in a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), and these are some of the likeliest candidates to profit with this strategy.
If you’re bearish, you can buy a put option and make money as the price goes lower. Look for stocks trading at excessive valuations. Focus in on the ones with downward earnings estimate revisions. And if they are below their major moving averages like the 50-day and 200-day moving average, even better.
With put options, direction and time are important as well. Stocks with a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) or Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell) will typically underperform the market over the short-term, which is perfect for this strategy.
Big Move in Either Direction
If you believe a big move could occur in either direction, but you’re not sure which way, you can make money with a straddle or a strangle. This entails buying both a call and a put at the same time.
One of the best times to use this strategy is before an earnings announcement or an important event. And some of the best stocks for this option strategy are high beta stocks. These are stocks that can move big, and that’s exactly what you want to see happen with this kind of strategy.
Once again, in order for a stock to make a big move, there usually needs to be a catalyst. One of the most reliable catalysts out there for big moves (up or down) is earnings reports. If you also take a look at the stock’s ‘earnings uncertainty’, you have the potential for the kind of volatility to make a strategy like this work.
Slower, Moderate Move
If you’re expecting a stock to go up or down, but you expect the move to be moderate or slower, then spreads are a great strategy for this.
For example, a bull call spread involves buying a nearby strike and selling a farther out one. If the stock goes up, but slowly, the nearby call you bought should increase in value, in spite of some time decay loss. But the call option you wrote will benefit from time decay, thus making the spread more profitable than had you only purchased a call.
Value style stocks and even Growth and Income stocks can produce some good picks for a bull call spread strategy. Stocks expected to move higher, but maybe not with a big splash. Zacks Rank #2s (Buys) and Zacks Rank #3s (Holds) are good stocks to consider for this strategy.
The Option is Yours
These are just some of the ways to profit with options. And there are many more. As you can see, options give the investor numerous ways to make money in the market — and in any direction. And you don’t always have to wait for the next bull market to make money. And a down or sideways market can be just as profitable.
Want to take advantage of these and other profit opportunities? I invite you to look at our Zacks Options Trader. It takes the guesswork out of options trading by doing all the research for you and presenting it in plain language with easy-to-understand signals.
Whether you’re new to options trading or a seasoned pro — we’ll walk you through each trade step-by-step as we present our unique perspective on some of the most popular options strategies, as well as others that some people may never have even heard about.
This portfolio has been extremely productive. During bullish July alone, we closed out 17 double-digit gains and already added three more in August. No need to stop profiting now, but if the market turns we see the correction as yet another profit opportunity.
Click here to learn more about Options Trader. 
Thanks and good trading.
Vice President, Zacks Investment Research
Kevin Matras is our world-class research expert who has developed more than 30 market-beating strategies using the Zacks Rank. He also directs our service that combines the Zacks Rank with the best options strategies for today’s uncertain market, Zacks Options Trader.
Zacks Investment Research