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Gamma

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.

What is Gamma?

Gamma represents the rate of change between an option's Delta and the underlying asset's price. Higher Gamma values indicate that the Delta could change dramatically with even very small price changes in the underlying stock or fund.
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 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.
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.
For illustrative purposes only.
Select to close help pop-up The amount of the option premium that is attributable to the amount of time remaining until the expiration of the option contract.
Select to close help pop-up The amount by which an option total premium exceeds its intrinsic value.
Select to close help pop-up The amount by which an option is in-the-money.
Select to close help pop-up An option is near the money when the strike price is relatively close to the market price.
For options that are near-the-moneyHover to view help pop-upSelect to view help pop-upAn option is near the money when the strike price is relatively close to the market price., Gamma increases as expiry approaches as time valueHover to view help pop-upSelect to view help pop-upThe amount of the option premium that is attributable to the amount of time remaining until the expiration of the option contract. is depleting and the option loses its extrinsic valueHover to view help pop-upSelect to view help pop-upThe amount by which an option total premium exceeds its intrinsic value. and retains its intrinsic valueHover to view help pop-upSelect to view help pop-upThe amount by which an option is in-the-money.. Gamma measures Delta and Delta measures intrinsic value. At expiration, options mainly price in their intrinsic value Therefore, close to expiration the Delta can have large, sudden moves between close to 0 (out-of-the-money) and close to 1 or -1 (in-the-money), which gets reflected in a very high Gamma. Essentially, higher Gamma means a higher change in Delta, which indicates a higher movement in the option's value when the stock moves $1.00 all else equal.
Gamma is a positive value for long positions and a negative value for short positions — regardless if the contract is a call or a put.

How is Gamma used?

The Stability of Delta

Gamma can be used to measure the stability or the instability of Delta. A higher Gamma is an indication of a greater potential change in Delta which equates to an instability of Delta. Essentially, when utilizing Delta for the probability of being in-the-money at expiration, Gamma can help determine the stability of the probability Delta provides.

Long Options and Gamma

As Gamma is a measure of the movement of Delta and Delta is the measure of the option's sensitivity to the underlying, Gamma can help indicate a potential acceleration in changes in the option's value. A higher Gamma indicates accelerated option value changes when the stock moves up or down by $1.00. This will in return, accelerate profits for a long position and also accelerate losses.

Short Options and Gamma

Higher Gamma can increase risk for option sellers as the option experiences accelerated movement. This is because options can experience drastic profit and loss swings and a higher Gamma indicates accelerated movement of the underlying. A short un-covered option has increased risk — a higher Gamma increases this risk as the stock can accelerate movement in either direction creating a loss very quickly.

What are other factors to consider?

Gamma goes to 0 when Delta has reached 0 (out-of-the-money) or +1 / -1 (in-the-money) at expiration. In other words, a Delta of 0 at expiration means the option is worthless as the market price is more favorable than the strike price. A Delta of +1 or -1 at expiration means the option is worth executing as the strike price is more favorable than the market.
Deep in-the-money options have a Delta that is already extremely close to +1 or -1 and Gamma is less prominent, this is why Gamma is typically higher for at-the-money options.
As Gamma increases, the cost of owning an option over time (Theta) decreases. Theta measures the expected rate of decline of an option's value over time. This is prevalent as options lose their time value as they approach expiration.
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.
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.

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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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