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An FX option foreign exchange option or currency option is a financial derivative that gives the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a currency pair at a set price called the strike price on a specified date called the expiry date. FX options are, for the most part, fundamentally driven by the same factors that drive the underlying currency pairs, such as interest rates, inflation expectations, geopolitics and macroeconomic data such as unemployment, GDP, consumer and business confidence surveys.
There are two styles of options; European and American. The European-style option can only be exercised on the expiry date. The American-style option can be exercised at the strike price, any time before the expiry date. FX option traders can use the 'Greeks' Delta, Gamma, Theta, Rhio and Vega to judge the risks and rewards of the options price, in the same way as you would equity options.
The risk for an option buyer is limited to the cost of buying the option, called the 'premium'. An option buyer has theoretically unlimited profit potential. Conversely, for an option seller the risk is potentially unlimited, but the profit is fixed at the premium received.
FX option contracts are typically traded through the over-the-counter OTC market so are fully customisable and can expire at any time. In the spot options market, when you buy a 'call', you also buy a 'put' simultaneously. FX options are also available through regulated exchanges which are options on FX futures, in which case it is simply a call or a put. These offer a multitude of expirations and quoting options with standardised maturities. When traded on an exchange, FX options are typically available in ten currency pairs, all involving the US dollar, and are cash settled in dollars.
One of the most common reasons for using FX options is for short-term hedges of spot FX or foreign stock market positions. There are many bullish, bearish and even neutral strategies that can be implemented with options contracts. Spread strategies that are used in equity options can also be used with FX options, including vertical spreads, straddles, condors and butterflies. An FX option can either be bought or sold.
If you are bullish on the base currency then you should buy calls or sell puts, conversely if you are bearish you should buy puts or sell calls.
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