How to Read an Options Table - dummies

By Paul Mladjenovic

Whether you’re currently in an option or you’re looking at getting into an option, you need to be able to read an options table like the one in shown here. Options tables are actually easier to read than the stock tables.

A Sample Options Table
Column 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Option Symbol/Option Type Last Net Change Bid Ask Vol. Open Interest
MMC160318C5000 2.5 0.25 2.75 3 454 2156

Here’s how to make sense of the table:

  • Option Symbol/Option Type: Column 1 usually identifies the option: what type, the company, or the security. Here, you see the option symbol for a call option of MMC with a strike price of $50 expiring March 18, 2016. Here is a breakdown of the symbol MMC:

    • MMC: Stock symbol

    • 16 03 18: Expiration date (Year-Month-Day)

    • C: Type of option (C = call, P = put)

    • 5000: Strike price without decimal point (5000 is $50.00)

  • Last: Column 2 shows the price of the most recent trade that went through (in this case, $2.50).

  • Net Change: Column 3 is how much the last price changed since the closing price of the previous day (here, 25 cents).

  • Bid and Ask: Columns 4 and 5 are Bid and Ask. When you’re buying an option, you usually pay the ask price. When you’re selling, or writing, an option, you usually receive the bid amount.

    When you’re buying an option (looking at the ask price), make sure that the spread (or difference) between bid and ask is not great; otherwise, you’ll overpay for the option. The difference should be no more than 5 to 10 percent, and some options pros think even that is too great. High bid/ask spreads tend to happen with low-volume activity.

  • Vol. (Volume): Column 6 tells you how many contracts have traded during that market day’s trading session.

  • Open Interest: Column 7 is the total number of outstanding option contracts that are still open.

You can find options quotes at the CBOE site. CBOE also offers a key so you can follow and understand every element in the table, along with tutorials on how to read the options table.