What Are Puts In Trading? An Introduction

Key Takeaways

  • Puts serve as insurance against losses in declining markets, allowing investors to hedge their portfolios and limit downside risk.

  • Investors can use puts to speculate on downward price movements, potentially profiting from market declines without selling their underlying assets.

  • Traders must understand concepts like in-the-money, out-of-the-money, and at-the-money puts, as well as the impact of time decay on option values, to effectively leverage puts in trading strategies.

In the dynamic world of trading, grasping financial instruments like puts is paramount for investors. Puts, a fundamental aspect of options trading, offer unique strategies to navigate market uncertainties. So, what are puts, how do they work and what potential benefits do they offer? Let’s dive in.

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Read More: Trading Strategies 101: How to Develop, Test, and Execute a Trading Plan

What are Puts?

In options trading, “puts” denote contracts granting the holder the right, without obligation, to sell a specified amount of an underlying asset, such as stocks, at a predetermined price within a set timeframe. This designated price is the strike price, and the window for exercising the option is the expiration date. Puts are commonly used by investors anticipating a decline in the underlying asset’s value.

Why Investors Use Puts

Investors employ put options for diverse strategic purposes. Primarily, puts can act as insurance against potential losses in a declining market, safeguarding portfolios from adverse movements. Additionally, puts serve speculative roles, allowing investors to profit from anticipated downward price movements. Astute investors can potentially leverage puts to amplify gains in bearish markets.

How Do Puts Work in Practice?

In practical terms, understanding puts or put options involves envisioning real trading scenarios. Suppose an investor owns 100 shares of Company A’s stock. Apprehensive about a possible market downturn yet reluctant to sell, they take the decision to buy put options with a strike price of $60, expiring in a month.

Scenario 1: Market Decline

If the market experiences a downturn, reducing Company A’s stock price to $50 per share, the investor can exercise the put options. By doing so, they sell their shares at the predetermined $60 strike price, limiting losses despite the market’s decline.

Scenario 2: Market Stability or Increase

On the other hand, if the market remains stable or even rises, the investor might opt not to exercise the put options. In this case, their loss is confined to the premium paid for the options, allowing participation in potential gains while retaining downside protection.

Key Considerations for Traders

For traders venturing into puts, understanding terms like “in-the-money” (ITM), “out-of-the-money” (OTM), and “at-the-money” (ATM) is crucial. ITM puts have favorable exercise prices, while OTM puts have unfavorable prices for immediate exercise. ATM puts closely align with the current market price.

Furthermore, comprehending time decay is vital. Time decay refers to the gradual reduction in the value of an option as it approaches its expiration date. As the expiration date nears, the value of the put option diminishes, eroding its premium. This phenomenon highlights the importance of timing in options trading. Traders need to be mindful of the time remaining until the option’s expiration, as the rate of decay accelerates closer to the expiration date.


In conclusion, comprehending “what are puts” in trading equips investors with a powerful tool. Puts can provide flexibility, protection, and profit potential in diverse market conditions. By mastering the mechanics and strategic applications of puts, traders can potentially make better informed decisions, managing risks and capitalizing on market fluctuations effectively.

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Jeff Sekinger

Founder & CEO, Nurp LLC

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