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Exercising Options

Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors.
Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Certain requirements must be met to trade options. Before engaging in the purchase or sale of options, investors should understand the nature of and extent of their rights and obligations and be aware of the risks involved in investing with options. Please read the options disclosure document titled "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options (PDF)" before considering any option transaction. You may also call the Investment Center at 877.653.4732 for a copy. A separate client agreement is needed. Multi-leg option orders are charged one base commission per order, plus a per-contract charge.
The holder of an American-style option can exercise their right to buy (in the case of a call) or to sell (in the case of a put) the underlying shares of stock at any time. The holder of a European-style option can only exercise their right at expiration. Both contract styles can be closed on the option's market at any time.
They first must direct their brokerage firm to submit an exercise notice to the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC). For an option holder to ensure that they exercise the option on that particular day, the holder must notify his brokerage firm before that day’s cut-off time for accepting exercise instructions.
The brokerage firm notifies OCC that an option holder wishes to exercise an option. OCC then randomly assigns the exercise notice to a clearing member. For an investor, this is generally his brokerage firm chosen at random from a total pool of such firms. The firm must then assign one of its customers who has written (and not covered) that particular option.
Assignment to a customer is either random or on a first-in-first-out basis. This depends on the firm’s method. Merrill handles assignment on a random basis when the OCC assigns an exercise notice.

Submitting Exercise or Do-Not-Exercise Instructions:

  • All Instructions must be called in and are only applicable to long positions
  • Do-Not-Exercise instructions can only be submitted the day of expiration up through market close
  • Exercise instructions can be submitted at any time until expiration
  • Merrill may take action at any time to close out positions that may not be able to be supported if exercised/assigned. It is extremely important to monitor your open options positions and be aware of your risk exposure.

Assignment

Select to close help pop-up An option is at the money if the strike price of the option is equal to the market price of the underlying security.
Select to close help pop-up A call option is out of the money if the strike price is greater than the market price of the underlying security. A put option is out of the money if the strike price is less than the market price of the underlying security.
The holder of an American-style option contract can exercise the option at any time before expiration. Therefore, an option writer may be assigned an exercise notice on an open short option position at any time before expiration. If an option writer is short an option that expires in-the-money, they should expect assignment on that contract, though assignment is not guaranteed as some long in-the-money option holders may elect not to exercise in-the-money options. In fact, some option writers are assigned on short contracts when they expire exactly at-the-moneyHover to view help pop-upSelect to view help pop-upAn option is at the money if the strike price of the option is equal to the market price of the underlying security. or even out-of-the moneyHover to view help pop-upSelect to view help pop-upA call option is out of the money if the strike price is greater than the market price of the underlying security. A put option is out of the money if the strike price is less than the market price of the underlying security.. This occurrence is usually not predictable.
To avoid assignment on a written option contract on a given day, the position must be closed out before that day's market close. Once assignment is received, an investor has no alternative but to fulfill assignment obligations per the terms of the contract.
There is generally no exercise or assignment activity on options that expire out-of-the-money. Owners usually let them expire with no value. Although this is not always the case as post-market underlying moves may lead to out-of-the-money options being exercised and in-the-money options not being exercised.
For illustrative purposes only.

What's the Net?

When an investor exercises a call option, the net price paid for the underlying stock on a per share basis is the sum of the call's strike price plus the premium paid for the call. Likewise, when an investor who has written a call contract is assigned an exercise notice on that call, the net price received on per share basis is the sum of the call's strike price plus the premium received from the call's initial sale.
When an investor exercises a put option, the net price received for the underlying stock on per share basis is the sum of the put's strike price less the premium paid for the put. Likewise, when an investor who has written a put contract is assigned an exercise notice on that put, the net price paid for the underlying stock on per share basis is the sum of the put's strike price less the premium received from the put's initial sale.

Automatic Exercise/ Assignment

If the client holds long in his or her account U.S. equity options contracts that are in-the-money by $.01 or more at expiration, they will be automatically exercised upon expiration unless contrary instructions are submitted prior to the applicable exercise cutoff times. For more details, refer to the Merrill Options Agreement.
If the client holds long in his or her account index options contracts that are greater than or equal to $.01 in-the-money as determined by the Options Clearing Corporation at the close of business prior to expiration date, and the Firm does not receive exercise instructions from the client on the business day prior to expiration, auto-exercise may occur.

Early Exercise/Assignment

For call contracts, owners might exercise early to own the underlying stock to receive a dividend.
It is extremely important to realize that assignment of exercise notices can occur early, days or weeks in advance of expiration day. Investors should expect this as expiration nears with a call considerably in-the-money and a sizeable dividend payment approaching. Call writers should be aware of dividend dates and the possibility of early assignment.
When puts become deep in-the-money, most professional option traders exercise before expiration. Therefore, investors with short positions in deep in-the-money puts should be prepared for the possibility of early assignment on these contracts.
Content licensed from the Options Industry Council is intended to educate investors about U.S. exchange-listed options issued by The Options Clearing Corporation, and shall not be construed as furnishing investment advice or being a recommendation, solicitation or offer to buy or sell any option or any other security. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors.

Content licensed from the Options Industry Council. All Rights Reserved. OIC or its affiliates shall not be responsible for content contained on Merrill's Website, or other Company Materials not provided by OIC. OIC education can be accessed at the OIC web site popup.

Without the Jargon

The purchaser of an American-style option owns the right to exercise (buy or sell the underlying security at the predefined price) at any time up until the expiration date. The seller of the option is obligated to meet the terms of the contract.
However, it does not always make sense to exercise the option. For example, the purchaser holds 1 ABC 100 Call that is trading at a premium of $8.00. This contract gives the buyer the right to buy 100 shares of ABC at $100.00 per share at any time before expiration. If ABC is priced on the market at $105.00 – the contract will have value of $5.00 (this is also known as the in-the-money value). This is a logical value as the purchaser can exercise their rights and buy ABC at $100 and immediately sell on the market at $105.00. However in this example, the premium is $8.00 – therefore, it is more advantageous to close the option and collect $8.00/ share rather than exercising and collecting $5.00/share.
Select to close help pop-up A call option is in the money if the strike price is less than the market price of the underlying security. A put option is in-the-money if the strike price is greater than the market price of the underlying security.
Information not provided by the Options Industry Council
Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. Certain requirements must be met to trade options. Before engaging in the purchase or sale of options, investors should understand the nature of and extent of their rights and obligations and be aware of the risks involved in investing with options. Please read the options disclosure document titled "Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options (PDF)" before considering any option transaction. You may also call the Investment Center at 877.653.4732 for a copy. A separate client agreement is needed. Multi-leg option orders are charged one base commission per order, plus a per-contract charge.
View definitions for investment terms in our Glossary.
The material was provided by a third party not affiliated with Merrill or any of its affiliates and is for information and educational purposes only. The opinions and views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Merrill or any of its affiliates. Any assumptions, opinions and estimates are as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. Past performance does not guarantee future results. The information contained in this material does not constitute advice on the tax consequences of making any particular investment decision. This material does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs and is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security, financial instrument, or strategy. Before acting on any recommendation in this material, you should consider whether it is in your best interest based on your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice.
For purposes of all the computations discussed in this article, commissions, fees and margin interest and taxes, have not been included in the examples. These costs obviously will impact the outcome of any stock or option transaction. Any strategies discussed, including examples using actual securities and price data, are strictly for illustrative and educational purposes only and are not to be construed as an endorsement, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell securities. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.
This material is being provided for informational purposes only. Nothing herein is or should be construed as investment, legal or tax advice, a recommendation of any kind, a solicitation of clients, or an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to invest in options. The information herein has been obtained from third-party sources and, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified and its accuracy or completeness cannot be guaranteed.

Supporting documentation for any claims, comparisons, recommendations, statistics or other technical data will be furnished on request.
Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.
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Investing in securities involves risks, and there is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities.

Asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing do not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.
Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax, or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.

This material is not intended as a recommendation, offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or investment strategy. Merrill offers a broad range of brokerage, investment advisory (including financial planning) and other services. Additional information is available in our Client Relationship Summary (PDF).

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