Options Chain

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Optional chaining

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The optional chaining operator ?. permits reading the value of a property located deep within a chain of connected objects without having to expressly validate that each reference in the chain is valid. The ?. operator functions similarly to the . chaining operator, except that instead of causing an error if a reference is nullish ( null or undefined ), the expression short-circuits with a return value of undefined . When used with function calls, it returns undefined if the given function does not exist.

This results in shorter and simpler expressions when accessing chained properties when the possibility exists that a reference may be missing. It can also be helpful while exploring the content of an object when there’s no known guarantee as to which properties are required.

The source for this interactive example is stored in a GitHub repository. If you’d like to contribute to the interactive examples project, please clone https://github.com/mdn/interactive-examples and send us a pull request.



The optional chaining operator provides a way to simplify accessing values through connected objects when it’s possible that a reference or function may be undefined or null .

For example, consider an object obj which has a nested structure. Without optional chaining, looking up a deeply-nested subproperty requires validating the references in between, such as:

The value of obj.first is confirmed to be non- null (and non- undefined ) before then accessing the value of obj.first.second . This prevents the error that would occur if you simply accessed obj.first.second directly without testing obj.first .

With the optional chaining operator ( ?. ), however, you don’t have to explicitly test and short-circuit based on the state of obj.first before trying to access obj.first.second :

By using the ?. operator instead of just . , JavaScript knows to implicitly check to be sure obj.first is not null or undefined before attempting to access obj.first.second . If obj.first is null or undefined , the expression automatically short-circuits, returning undefined .

This is equivalent to the following, except that the temporary variable is in fact not created:

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Optional chaining with function calls

You can use optional chaining when attempting to call a method which may not exist. This can be helpful, for example, when using an API in which a method might be unavailable, either due to the age of the implementation or because of a feature which isn’t available on the user’s device.

Using optional chaining with function calls causes the expression to automatically return undefined instead of throwing an exception if the method isn’t found:

Note: If there is a property with such a name and which is not a function, using ?. will still raise a TypeError exception ( x.y is not a function ).

Dealing with optional callbacks or event handlers

If you use callbacks or fetch methods from an object with a destructuring assignment, you may have non-existent values that you cannot call as functions unless you have tested their existence. Using ?. , you can avoid this extra test:

Optional chaining with expressions

You can also use the optional chaining operator when accessing properties with an expression using the bracket notation of the property accessor:

Optional chaining not valid on the left-hand side of an assignment

Array item access with optional chaining


Basic example

This example looks for the value of the name property for the member bar in a map when there is no such member. The result is therefore undefined .

Short-circuiting evaluation

When using optional chaining with expressions, if the left operand is null or undefined , the expression will not be evaluated. For instance:

Stacking the optional chaining operator

With nested structures, it is possible to use optional chaining multiple times:

Combining with the nullish coalescing operator

The nullish coalescing operator may be used after optional chaining in order to build a default value when none was found:

Options Tables & Options Chains

Most online brokers will display the information that investors are looking for, such as prices, in the form of a table. The exact format of the table, and the way the relevant details are displayed, will largely depend on what financial instrument is involved. For example, tables displaying stocks will look very different from tables displaying futures. The way these tables look may also vary from one broker to the next, although the information included will usually be very similar.

Any table that a broker uses to list the various information that pertains to options contracts is known simply as an options table. A more commonly used term is options chain. This is actually a type of options table, but it’s what brokers typically use to list options and their details.

These chains come in a variety of different formats, some of which are fairly basic and some of which contain a lot of detail. Traders may prefer to study one particular type of chain or they may look at a number of different types of chains, depending on what information they are trying to find and what sort of trade they are planning.

The range of options chains might vary at different online brokers, but there are few that are particularly common. On this page we provide details of three of the most widely used formats, as follows:

  • Basic Options Chain
  • Options Pricer
  • Options Strategy Chain

Basic Options Chain

The most basic options chain is the one that a lot of options traders would probably use the most. It’s certainly the most useful for beginner traders, and for those traders that use straightforward trading strategies that involve simply buying call options and/or put options with a view to selling them for a profit.

Chains of this type display call options and put options relating to the same underlying security on the same screen, with varying strike prices. Although there’s no standard format for these, they will typically list call options on the left hand side and put options on the right hand side. There will be a variety of columns, with each one containing relevant information to each of the listed contracts.

Even though the format and the information included can vary at different brokers, you can expect most basic options chains to have columns containing the following information:

Options Symbol: This is essentially the name of the option, and each option has its own symbol. It’s an indication of the underlying security, the expiration month, and the strike price. A good understanding of these symbols used to be quite important when trading options, but given that it’s so easy to see the relevant information using chains, it isn’t really that important anymore. When placing an order using an online broker you don’t have to enter the symbol of the contract you wish to trade, you simply click on the relevant contract.

Expiration Date: The expiration date of a contract can be displayed in one of the columns. However, it’s actually more common to show all the contracts with the same underlying security and same expiration date on one page, meaning that a column for the expiration date is unnecessary.

Strike Price: The strike price is usually displayed in the middle column of a basic chain, with call options and put options with the same strike price being displayed on the same row. As already mentioned, you can expect to see calls on the left and puts on the right.

Bid Price: The bid price is displayed to show you at what price you can sell the contract. Most options contracts are bought and sold in lots of 100, so you would usually multiply this price by 100 to get the actual price you would need to pay.

Ask Price: The ask price is displayed to show you at what price you can buy the contract, and the same rule regarding lots of 100 applies. The difference between the bid price and the ask price is the bid ask spread, and some chains will also display the size of the spread. The size of the bid ask spread will give you an idea of the liquidity of the option because, generally speaking, the smaller the spread the more liquid it is.

Last Price: The last price shows you the last price at which the contract was transacted at. This isn’t a particularly relevant piece of information in options trading, because the last transaction could have been some time ago, or before a significant change in the price of the underlying security. The bid price and the ask price are much more accurate indicators of the current market value.

Volume: This piece of information shows how many of the option has been bought and sold during the current trading day. Volume is another good indicator of liquidity, because higher volume typically means higher liquidity.

Open Interest: Open interest relates to the number of open positions involving the option i.e. the number of contracts that have been written but that haven’tt yet been expired, exercised, or bought back by the writer. This is also useful for determining liquidity as high open interest will usually mean high liquidity.

Options Pricer

An options pricer is useful for looking at how market conditions may have an impact on the price of an option you are considering trading. They typically contain the same information as basic chains, with the addition of the five options Greeks. The options Greeks: Delta, Gamma, Theta, Vega, and Rho are used to measure price sensitivity in relation to changes in the price of the underlying security, volatility, time decay, and interest rate. This is a quite complex subject matter in its own right, and for a pricer to be of any use to you, you really need to fully understand the options Greeks and how to interpret them.

Because pricers contain more information than basic chain, they will typically display only calls or only puts on the screen. To compare calls to puts using a pricer you would need to switch between two separate tables.

Pricers are usually interactive and enable you to adjust certain variables in order to get a theoretical value of an option. What this means in practice is that you can get an estimate of what a contract may be worth under specific circumstances. You can make adjustments to variables that may affect the value of a contract, such as the number of days until expiration or the price of the underlying security. The pricer will then calculate a theoretical value of what the contract might be worth in those circumstances.

For example, if you felt that the underlying security would be trading at $25 with 20 days to expiration, then you could input those variables and then see what the various contracts would theoretically be worth in those circumstances. Obviously there is no guarantee that the theoretical value will be accurate, but it can certainly be a useful guide.

Once you know how to use pricers effectively, they can be very useful indeed. The fact that you can see all the relevant options Greeks can help you assess all the various risk parameters of any given contract before entering a trade. However, you do need a reasonably advanced knowledge and be able to use your own knowledge and opinions of current and future market conditions. It’s fair to say the beginner traders would be better suited to using basic chains until a decent amount of experience can be gained.

Options Strategy Chain

Options strategy chains are incredibly useful to traders that use any of the more advanced trading strategies. There are a number of standardized strategies that involve entering multiple positions, or legs, that are effectively combined into one position and planning such positions can involve a fair amount of work. You need to calculate the relevant cost of taking the position, the margin requirements, and other factors.

Many online brokers allow you to view strategy chains for most of these standardized strategies and these chains effectively do a number of the calculations for you and display some very helpful information.

For example, you might be planning to create a butterfly spread, which involves three separate trades. By looking at an strategy chain for a butterfly spread you would be able to view quotes and other information for each individual trade. As the butterfly spread is a debit spread (meaning there is an upfront cost involved) you will also be able to see the net cost of creating the spread. If you were creating a credit spread (meaning you received an upfront payment but would be exposed to potential losses), you would be able to see the margin needed for creating the spread.

As with pricers, strategy chains are really not for beginner traders, because a fair amount of knowledge is required. They are, however, of great benefit to more experienced traders who are using complex strategies on a regular basis. Although they don’t actually provide any information that you wouldn’t be able to calculate yourself, the time saving aspect of having those calculations done for you is potentially very valuable.

Options Chain

Want to know which options to trade? Well, to know what’s out there (expiration period and strike prices) then you need to look at an options chain.

An options chain is a list of all of the available options for any given security. It’s where you’ll find quotes for puts and calls, as well as which strikes are traded and their expiration period. Some professionals call the options chain the options matrix because it resembles a matrix you’d see in mathematics. When assessing an options chain, analysts and traders usually focus on a few columns, including the “bid”, “ask”, and “last price” columns to get a better sense of current market conditions.

To become a market expert and make more money trading options, you’ll need to know how to read an options chain. Read on to learn everything you need to know, including an options chain example.

Getting Familiar With The Options Chain

Now, an options chain is found on most brokerage platforms. It tells us what is available for stocks and ETFs that are optionable. And depending on which broker you use, you can customize settings to fit your trading needs.

Check out the options chain example below.

Options Chain Example:

The image above is an options chain for the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY). Pay attention to the left-hand side, as it shows all the different expiration periods. Some ETFs like SPY have weekly, monthly and quarterly contracts.

Opening an Options Chain

Reading an options chain is less complicated than it sounds. There are a few things you should look at every time you open up an options chain.

When you open the options chain further you’re introduced to a lot more valuable information. Let’s start from left to right.

Looking at the 1 April 2020 options first we see volume, open interest, the bid/ask spread for both calls and puts. Furthermore, if you look at the 279 calls strike you’ll see that there have been 3,340 contracts traded (volume) with 2,264 contracts of open interest (outstanding contracts).

As a rule of thumb, you want to trade options that have some volume and open interest. The more traders in a particular options strike, the better the chances you’ll have to get in and out of your trade without too much slippage. That said, the bid/ask spread for the $279 calls are $2.12 by $2.15. Only $0.03 separate the bid from the ask, making this a competitive spread.

If you shift over to the right-hand side you’ll get the same information but for puts instead. If you look at the options that expire on 12 April 2020, you’ll see that they have the same strike prices as the April 1 options. That said, you can expand the options chain to include more strikes if you wanted too.

For the most part, as a rule of thumb, the farther that you go out in time on an options chain, the more expensive options will become.

Options Chain Layout: Options Greeks

There are several ways you can optimize an options chain dependent on your broker and platform. For example, the option chain above focuses on the options greeks. That said, we’ll move from left to right again and go over the information. The first option greek is Delta. The Delta of an option tells you how much the price of an option will change given a $1 move in the underlying. For example, the 279 call has a delta of $0.51. If the SPY were to gain 1 point the value of the option would rise by $0.51. On the other hand, if the SPY were to drop 1 point, then the value of those calls would decrease by $0.51.

The Gamma tells us how much change the Delta will change with every one point move in the underlying. For example, if the SPY were to move from 279 to 280, then the Delta of the 279 calls will move from $0.51 to $0.58.

The Theta tells us how much an option will depreciate for every day that passes. One thing to keep in mind is known of these Greeks are constant. That said, Theta accelerates as an option approaches expiration. Furthermore, on this day, the 279 calls will lose $0.14 in time decay.

Now, the Vega tells us how much an option will gain (or lose) for every percentage move change in implied volatility. For example, If implied volatility rises by 1% the 279 calls will gain $0.16.

Options Chain Variations

Furthermore, you can set up your options chain to look at complex strategies like spreads and straddles, like the example above. For example, the 281 straddle above is 5.55 bid by 5.60 ask. Also, the options chain above also displays the implied vol.

You can even customize your options chain to whatever features you want. Some favorite features include” last price, bid/ask, open interest volume, vega, and implied volatility.

In Summary

It takes time to get familiar with an options chain, but its worth it if you plan on trading more options. To learn more about how to become a better options trader and start making more money with trading options, pick up a free download of our e-book book for a limited time, Option Profit Accelerator.

One of the best traders anywhere, over the past 20 years Jeff’s made multi-millions trading stocks, ETFs, and options. He is renowned as an incredible trader with a deep insight and a sensitive pulse on the markets and the economy. Jeff Bishop is CEO and Co-Founder of RagingBull.com.

Even greater than his prowess as a trader is his skill and passion in teaching others how to trade and rake in profits while managing risk.

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