How to Chart Volatility for Stock Options

by James Highland ; Updated July 27, 2017

Stock options are publicly traded contracts that allow the option holder to buy or sell stock at a pre-set price at any time before the contract expires. As the stock price fluctuates, the option changes value based on the relationship of the contract price to the stock price. Options are highly volatile instruments, and understanding their potential price fluctuations is key to successfully trading them. The mathematics involved in calculating a contract's volatility is exceptionally complicated, but you can easily chart volatility for stock options using special option software. Such programs let you visualize the potential price extremes of an option based on expectations of the contract's stock.

Step 1

Chart volatility for stock options using the Volatility Charts software available online with TradeKing. This stock options website features stock option analysis software in addition to broker access to stock option contracts. The charting features are free upon sign-up. The Volatility Charts let you graphically display discrepancies between a stock's historical volatility and implied volatility, which are the two key measures of volatility when analyzing stock options. Historical volatility is an analysis of a stock's prior price fluctuations. Implied volatility shows how option prices reflect what market participants expect of the stock's future volatility. These Volatility Charts are easy to access after entering the ticker symbol for the stock.

Step 2

Create a "SpreadHacker" chart using the ThinkOrSwim software platform. This software is free after registration and includes many analytical features for researching stock options. The SpreadHacker tool calculates implied volatility, and optionally combines this information with other stock option characteristics, such as strategy probability and real-time price analysis. You can then use this information to find a stock option trading position that suits your investment goals. Hundreds of different stock options trade on most stocks. SpreadHacker lets you categorize the options based on their implied volatility so you can study the possibilities more quickly.

Step 3

Download the free Stock Volatility Calculator software for Excel. This spreadsheet application includes pre-written formulas to calculate a stock's historical and realized volatility, as well as statistical deviations of the stock's price movements. Unlike more comprehensive software, this program does not incorporate this information into a dedicated interface for stock option analysis. Thus, this program is best suited for veteran traders with a strong knowledge of option behavior. Experts can make informed decisions based solely on these raw calculations and will know how to use this program's data with other software to find good stock option strategies.

Warnings

  • Stock option trading is among the most risky and most complicated styles of investing in the financial markets. Never trade stock options with money you cannot afford to lose, as their excessive volatility makes losses large and common.

About the Author

James Highland started writing professionally in 1998. He has written for the New York Institute of Finance and Chron.com. He has an extensive background in financial investing and has taught computer programming courses for two New York companies. He has a Bachelor of Arts in film production from Indiana University.

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