What Is an Expiration Date? (Derivatives)
An expiration date in derivatives is the last day that derivative contracts, such as options or futures, are valid. On or before this day, investors will have already decided what to do with their expiring position.
- The expiration date for derivatives is the final date on which the derivative is valid. After that time, the contract has expired.
- Depending on the type of derivative, the expiration date can result in different outcomes.
- Option owners can choose to exercise the option (and realize profits or losses) or let it expire worthless.
- Futures contract owners can choose to roll over the contract to a future date or close their position and take delivery of the asset or commodity.
Basics of Expiration Dates
Expiration dates, and what they represent, vary based on the derivative being traded. The expiration date for listed stock options in the United States is normally the third Friday of the contract month or the month that the contract expires. On months that the Friday falls on a holiday, the expiration date is on Thursday immediately before the third Friday. Once an options or futures contract passes its expiration date, the contract is invalid. The last day to trade equity options is the Friday prior to expiry.1 Therefore, traders must decide what to do with their options by this last trading day.
Expiration and Option Value
In general, the longer a stock has to expire, the more time it has to reach its strike price and thus the more time value it has.
This is why the expiration date is so important to options traders. The concept of time is at the heart of what gives options their value. After the put or call expires, the time value does not exist. In other words, once the derivative expires the investor does not retain any rights that go along with owning the call or put.
Expiration and Futures Value
Futures are different than options in that even an out-of-the-money futures contract (losing position) holds value after expiry. For example, an oil contract represents barrels of oil. If a trader holds that contract until expiry, it is because they either want to buy (they bought the contract) or sell (they sold the contract) the oil that the contract represents. Therefore, the futures contract does not expire worthlessly, and the parties involved are liable to each other to fulfill their end of the contract. Those that don’t want to be liable to fulfill the contract must roll or close their positions on or before the last trading day.
Futures traders holding the expiring contract must close it on or before expiration, often called the “final trading day,” to realize their profit or loss. Alternatively, they can hold the contract and ask their broker to buy/sell the underlying asset that the contract represents. Retail traders don’t typically do this, but businesses do. For example, an oil producer using futures contracts to sell oil can choose to sell their tanker. Futures traders can also “roll” their position. This is a closing of their current trade, and an immediate reinstitution of the trade-in a contract that is further out from expiry.