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Understanding "Delta" The Marketing Term

A basic understanding of marketing tools is critical for any farmer. Options should be at the top of the list. Often, options are misunderstood and not used properly. One element of an option is called delta. Delta is simply a fraction; it explains the change in option value when there is a change to the price of the underlying futures contract. As an example, if the futures moves 10 cents and option changes value by 5 cents, the delta is 5 divided by 10, or 50%.

Buyers of options who do not understand delta may be disappointed when their option is not changing value as fast as they think it should. In most of these cases, this is the basic misunderstanding of delta and expectations. For example, if December corn futures are trading at $5.00 and you purchased a $5.00 put or call, you can't expect this option to begin to move penny for penny with futures. The only exception is when the option is at, or at least very near, to its expiration date and is in the money.

The delta for an at-the-money put option is 50%. Therefore, if corn prices were to drop to $4.50, the option will gain half of the drop ($.25). In fact, the option will gain a little more than $.25 as delta becomes a higher number. In this example, the put would become what is termed deeper in-the-money. As an option becomes deeper in-the-money, delta increases. Therefore, a $.50 drop in corn futures would actually reflect an increasing delta (if bought when at the money) and an increasing rate of change in delta.

So how can you calculate the value of your option? From the date of purchase until expiration, there is a certain time window. Over time, delta for at-the-money or out-of-the-money options begins to slowly decline simply because there is less time or chance for the option to gain value. The easiest method to try and determine your option value is to look at the expiration date and determine where, in fact, your option is relative to futures. In our above example, your breakeven cost at expiration date is the strike price ($5.00) less $.35, or $4.65. Futures below $4.65 would represent a return above the cost. (Note: We are using no commission and/or fees in the example.) Prior to expiration, by using delta, you will have a high level of confidence in how your option will change in value for a give change in futures.

To use options successfully, it's really a matter of the right expectation. By understanding delta, you will have the right expectation, which eliminates surprises. The details of options can be confusing. Don't let this stop you from using them as the appropriate marketing tool when the time calls for you to do so. Ask the right questions of the right people. Strong conversations with those who can help implement strategy should alleviate concerns or confusion. Options should be viewed as another tool in your marketing toolbox.


If you have questions or comments, or would like help implementing strategy for the year ahead, please contact Bryan Doherty at 1-800-TOP-FARM ext. 129.


Futures trading is not for everyone. The risk of loss in trading is substantial. Therefore, carefully consider whether such trading is suitable for you in light of your financial condition. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.


Futures and options trading involve significant risk of loss and may not be suitable for everyone. Therefore, carefully consider

whether such trading is suitable for you in light of your financial condition. Hypothetical performance results have many inherent

limitations. No representation is being made that any account will or is likely to achieve profits or losses similar to those shown. No

representation is being made that scenario planning, strategy or discipline will guarantee success or profits. The data contained

herein is believed to be drawn from reliable sources but cannot be guaranteed. Reproduction of this information without prior

written permission is prohibited. This material has been prepared by a sales or trading employee or agent of Stewart-Peterson and

is, or is in the nature of, a solicitation. Any decisions you may make to buy, sell or hold a futures or options position on such

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refers to Stewart-Peterson Group Inc. and Stewart-Peterson Inc. Stewart-Peterson Group Inc. is registered with the Commodity

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