Diagonal Spread vs. Calendar Spread: Key Differences

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Options trading is not an easy task, but with effective strategies, traders can manage risks and actively seek gains. Diagonal spreads and calendar spreads are two such strategies that investors must consider.

Diagonal spreads and calendar spreads are two known options trading strategies. Despite their similarities, they have key differences that traders should understand before using them. Once the Demat account is opened, one can start trading. Nevertheless, investors and traders must learn techniques that enhance their chances of earning better returns on their trades. The key in trading is to minimise the risks and maximise returns.


The article talks about the differences between diagonal spreads and calendar spreads:

  • What is a diagonal spread?
  • What is a calendar spread?
  • Differences Between Diagonal Spreads and Calendar Spreads

What is a Diagonal Spread?

In advanced options trading strategies, a diagonal spread is used when two options contracts differ in their strike prices and dates of expiry. To understand diagonal spreads consider the following aspects of this trading tactic:

Diagonal Spread Structure

The strategy of the diagonal spread involves purchasing a longer-term option contract and selling a shorter-term option contract with different strike prices. Both transactions must be conducted simultaneously. This strategy aims to establish a position that maximizes potential upside related to the underlying asset while mitigating the original cost.

Conditions for Use

In options trading strategies, diagonal spreads can be considered when traders estimate a steady rise in the underlying asset’s price and wish to capitalize on the brief period of the shorter-term option. By using this strategy, traders can potentially profit from the rise in the asset’s price or the time decay in the short-term options contract.

What is a Calendar Spread?

Calendar spreads, also known as time spreads or horizontal spreads, involve two options contracts with identical strike prices but different expiration dates. Here are some important aspects of calendar spreads:

Calendar Spread Structure

When implementing this strategy, a trader sells a near-term option contract and buys a longer-term option contract on the same underlying asset, both having the same strike price. The goal is to benefit from the time decay differential between the two contracts.

Conditions for Use

This strategy is often considered in low-volatility or stable market conditions. It is particularly effective when the underlying asset’s price is expected to remain relatively stable over time. The calendar spread aims to capitalize on the time decay (theta) inherent in options contracts, with the expectation that the near-term option will depreciate faster than the longer-term option, potentially leading to profits. Additionally, changes in volatility can also affect the profitability of this strategy.

Differences Between Diagonal Spreads and Calendar Spreads

Diagonal spreads and calendar spreads are both strategies to maximise profits and minimise losses in options trading. In this, they are similar, but they differ in terms of the following parameters:

  • Framework

Diagonal spreads are used when two options are bought simultaneously with different strike prices and different dates of expiry. Calendar spreads are used when two options contracts with identical strike prices and different dates of expiry are executed.

  • Use

The diagonal spread is considered when traders expect a stable rise in the price of the underlying asset in an options contract. Hence, this can be used in markets that are steadily rising. The calendar spread is used when traders expect low volatility or stable market conditions.

  • Ease of Execution

The calendar spread strategy is considered less complicated to use as it deals with options contracts with the same strike prices. The diagonal spread is considered potentially more complex as it involves options contracts with different strike prices that may require certain adjustments and a more in-depth understanding of options contracts.

Different Strategies, Different Trades

While getting involved with futures and options trading contracts, traders must be aware of their full understanding of these contracts and how they can potentially avoid risk. Since every trader aims to avert loss and make profits, trading strategies like calendar spreads and diagonal spreads have to be executed with care and prior assessment of a trader’s financial goals and requirements.

Disclaimer: Investments in the securities market are subject to market risk, read all related documents carefully before investing.

This content is for educational purposes only. Securities quoted are exemplary and not recommendatory.

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