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Archive for November, 2011

A Smart Way to Hedge Your Investments (With Options)

Monday, November 28th, 2011

For the last month or so, the European debt crisis has crushed the U.S. stock market.  Will fears of a global melt-down continue to depress our markets, or will we enjoy a Santa Claus rally next month?

The answer is that no one really knows.  We can all wager a bet as to which way the market will go, but it really is no more than a guess.  We all know the market moves both ways, but we never know which way it will move next.

I believe that some of everyone’s investment portfolio should be in a hedge that protects against the market moving down.  Most people are quite eager to buy stocks or mutual funds, but very few set up a hedge in case they are wrong.  Today I would like to discuss exactly how that hedge might be set up.

A Smart Way to Hedge Your Investments (With Options)

Let’s say you have accumulated a nest egg of $25,000 which you have wisely placed most of it in an index fund (I say wise because index funds, over time, consistently outperform every other kind of mutual fund investment).

Now let’s assume that you are super-smart, and have decided to take $5000 (20% of your total investment portfolio) and placed it in an investment which will prosper if the market should fall.  In my opinion, that hedge should be an options portfolio much like an actual portfolio we carry out for Terry’s Tips subscribers.  We call it the 10K Bear.

Four weeks ago, the market (the S&P 500 tracking stock, SPY) was at $128.60.  Last Friday, SPY closed at $116.34, a drop of $12.26, or 9.5%.  Presumably, your index fund lost exactly that amount.  On your $20,000 investment, you have lost $1900 over those 4 weeks.

Now let’s check out how well your 10K Bear portfolio has held up.  Our actual portfolio (which many subscribers mirror on their own or have thinkorswim make the trades for them through their Auto-Trade program) gained 80% after commissions.  If you had invested $5000 (20% of your total investment portfolio) in the 10K Bear, you would have gained $4000 over those 4 weeks while the market tanked.

Bottom line, if you had invested 20% of your money in the 10K Bear and 80% of your money in an index fund, you would have a net gain of over 20% for the period rather than a loss of 9.5%.  In fact, if you had only put 10% of your funds in our bearish options portfolio, you would have broken even for the period rather than losing 9.5%.

Here is how the 10K Bear should perform this week (ending Friday, December 2).  The portfolio is currently worth $6730 but we will withdraw money again next week so that subscribers can mirror the portfolio with close to $5000:

The P/L Day column in the lower right-hand corner shows the expected gain if the stock closes as the Stk Price (left-hand corner column).  You can see that an average gain of about 13% will come if the stock stays flat or falls by as much as $3.  It can go $2 higher and a profit will still be made.  Only if the stock goes up by more than $2 ½ should a loss result (assuming no adjustments are made).

If the stock fluctuates more than $2 in either direction early in the week, we would probably make an adjustment which would shift the above curve in the direction that the stock has moved.  This adjustment would usually reduce the maximum possible gain for the week but would increase the chances that a good gain would result.  Above all, we do our best to avoid a loss of any amount.

How is this portfolio set up?  It consists of owning SPY puts which expire in January or February 2012 and selling Weekly puts (at lower strike prices) that expire this Friday, December 2nd.   If the stock holds steady, the decay rate of our Weekly puts is greater than our longer-term long puts, and the portfolio gains from the difference in decay rates.

If the stock falls, since the long puts are at higher strike prices, they increase in value at a greater rate than the short puts do, and even larger gains are possible.  If the stock falls too much, at some point the long and short put positions go up at essentially the same rate (and we would make an adjustment by rolling down some of our short puts to even lower strikes).

This may seem a little complicated to you right now, but it is a very simple strategy once you watch it unfold in the real world for a few weeks.  Many subscribers mirror our portfolio on their own until they have confidence that they understand it sufficiently to carry it out on their own (and we are delighted to have an ex-subscriber who is making big bucks and will say nice things about us).  

For an investment of only $79.95 (subscribe here), you can learn all the details of a hedge that could have turned the losses you incurred over the last month into gains which were twice as great as those losses. (This price includes weekly updates on the 10K Bear and 7 other portfolios for two months.)  Of course, that investment gets you a whole lot more than the details on this bearish hedge.  But even if there were nothing else, it is a huge bargain that you should be able to use for the rest of your life to increase your annual gains year after year (especially in those times when the market falls, as it will).

Testing A Statistical Rule of Thumb

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Last week was the worst week for the market in over two months.  How did your stocks fare?  A week ago, I showed you the risk profile graph for our 10K Bear portfolio.  It spelled out what would happen at the various possible ending prices of SPY on Friday.  This portfolio gained 27.7% (after paying commissions) last week.  It has now gained 47% over the last 3 weeks while the stock has fallen 6%.

Our Boomer’s Revenge portfolio (which takes a neutral position on the market) enjoyed an expiration month where SPY fluctuated all over the place but ended up just about where it started.  That is the ideal thing for us.  This portfolio gained 45% in one month after commissions.

Where, besides options, can you make gains like this when the market is flat (or goes down)?  Most investors would be happy with 40% gains for a two-year period.  We did it in one month.

We take the position that we have no idea which way the market will move in the short run.  However, if we really could guess its direction, we could make extraordinary gains.  Today I want to check out one statistical rule of thumb that some people believe might give us an idea of short-term market direction.

Testing A Statistical Rule of Thumb

We have always held the position that we had no idea which way the stock was headed in the short run (but over time, it has gone up about 10% a year, so we should lean a bit in the upside direction).  This assumption seems to have served us well over the years. 

However, a time-tested rule of thumb in the world of statistics is that for almost any curve of economic activity, the direction of the change in the next period is more than twice as likely to be in the same direction as the direction of the change in the last period.  This rule of thumb supposedly applies to all time periods, whether they are daily, weekly, monthly, or annually.

For sure, if you examined a moving average curve for a stock or index, every subsequent change is almost always in the same direction as the last change.  Very rarely does the curve hit a bottom or top and reverse direction.

I wondered if we could use this rule of thumb to predict the direction the market might be headed based on what it did in the previous month.  If more than twice the time, the change was in the same direction, we could benefit considerably by setting up risk profile graphs which had more room for the stock to move in that particular direction.  If this statistical rule of thumb held true, maybe we should change our basic assumptions and the strategy as well.

To check out the idea with SPY, I checked the monthly changes in SPY over the last 10 years.  In exactly 60 of the months, the stock moved in the same direction that it had in the previous month.  In exactly 60 of the months, it moved in the opposite direction that it had in the previous month.   A perfect tie.

 The only conclusion that we could make from these numbers is that our original assumption that we just don’t know is probably about as good as we are likely to get.  The statisticians are not always right when it comes to the real world, at least when it comes to monthly fluctuations of SPY.

Follow-Up on Last Week’s 10K Bear Portfolio

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Last week I discussed our 10K Bear portfolio, the one that is designed to do best when the market falls.  Today I would like to expand that discussion and report on how well the portfolio did last week when there was extreme volatility (SPY fell over 4% on Wednesday but managed a gain of about 1% for the week).

Once again, I hope you will spend a few minutes studying the graph below.  If you can see what will happen in the next few days (ending Friday, November 18th), you will have a much better understanding of why I believe that options offer more potential than just about any other investment you can make.

I hope you will make a 5-minute investment in yourself and study the graph carefully.

Follow-Up on Last Week’s 10K Bear Portfolio: 

Most people own stocks or mutual funds that do best when the market moves higher.  How do they make out when the market moves lower?  Presumably, their portfolio value goes down.  Maybe they don’t feel so badly because all of their friends have also suffered a loss as well.

But if you’re anything like me, you hate to lose money, even if all my friends are losing at the same time.

Doesn’t it make sense that some of your money should be invested in something that does best when the market moves lower?  It’s called hedging.  Hedge funds do it all the time.  They even have named themselves after the idea.

We have set up a portfolio that is designed to do to just that.  We call it the 10K Bear portfolio.  Many Terry’s Tips subscribers (myself included) duplicate the trades made in this portfolio in their own account through the Auto-Trade program at TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim.  Others copy the trades on their own in their account.

The neat thing about this portfolio is that it can make gains even if the stock goes up.  How many investments make gains when the stock moves in the opposite direction that you are betting on?  Therein lies the magic of options trading.

Two weeks ago, the S&P 500 (“the market”), SPY, fell 2.4%.  Our 10K Bear portfolio gained a whopping 24% for the week.  Last week, SPY rose $1.18, about 1%, and our portfolio gained 5.8%.  I call that having your cake and eating it too. 

Obviously, this portfolio does not make money every single week, regardless of what the market does.  But it almost always makes gains if the market stays flat or falls moderately, and also can make smaller gains if the market moves just slightly higher.  At the beginning of each week, we create a risk profile graph like the one below so we know exactly how the portfolio will perform at the various stock prices where it might end up on Friday.

The 10K Bear is a portfolio currently worth about $4200.  We own puts at several different strike prices (between $124 and $128).  These puts will expire on the third Friday in January of 2012.  Against these long puts we have sold Weekly puts which will expire on November 18, 2011.  These Weekly puts are at lower strike prices (from $122 to $126).

The Weekly puts that we have sold have higher decay rates than the January puts that we own (all options fall in value, or decay, every day the underlying stock remains flat).  This means that every day that the market does not fluctuate, our portfolio value grows larger.   That is the neat thing about a properly-designed options portfolio.  You can make gains even if you are wrong.  When you buy stock, the only way you make money is if the stock moves higher.  With options, you can make substantial gains even if the market stays absolutely flat (or moves moderately either up or down).

Here is the risk profile graph for our 10K Bear portfolio.  It shows how much the portfolio will gain or lose at the possible ending stock prices this Friday.

The second column from the right (under P/L Day) gives the dollar loss or gain at the three selected prices in the first column (Stk Price), and you can estimate the losses or gains from the graph curve at other possible stock prices.  At last Friday’s close, SPY was trading at $126.66.

You can see that if the stock is absolutely the same at the close next Friday, the portfolio will gain $470, or just over 10%.  If the stock falls moderately, by $2, and ends up at $124.66, the gain should be $970, or about 20%.  (Both these numbers will be reduced slightly from commissions and trading costs when the Weeklys are bought back next Friday and replaced with Weeklys that expire on November 25th.)

The stock can go up as high as $128 before a loss should result.  In other words, the portfolio makes excellent money if the stock stays flat, even more money if the market falls moderately, and it also can gain if the market goes up (as long as the rise is not too great).

Where else can you invest your money and expect these kinds of returns?  If you know of anything that can offer even remotely as great as these gains, please send the details along to me.  If you like, I would share them with my subscribers so we all could benefit.

Why are you waiting any longer before you learn the details of how you can start making money using the 10K Strategy that is the basis of the 8 actual portfolios that we carry out (and you can easily duplicate in your own account, either on your own or through the Auto-Trade program at thinkorswim)?

Give yourself (and your loved ones) an early Christmas gift, and increase your earning potential exponentially by subscribing today.  Do it right here.

A Bearish Option Portfolio That Can Gain Even if the Market Doesn’t Fall

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Where should you place your investment dollars in this time of uncertainty?  There are no easy answers. 

The stock market is not an comfortable place to be.  Through the first ten months of 2011 (in what many have considered to be a good year for the market), it has gained about 2%.  It is lower today than it was three years ago.  Bonds do not yield enough to make much of a difference, and CD rates are pathetic.  Foreign stocks have not done appreciably better than domestic stocks.  And real estate has been a great way to lose money big time.

I believe that our SPY portfolios offer greater potential for monetary returns than any investment alternative out there.  (SPY is the tracking stock for the S&P 500 stock index, so you are trading on the entire market rather than an individual stock.)

Today I would like to share with you the risk profile graph of one of our SPY portfolios – this one is called the 10K Bear.  It is positioned to do best if the market falls.  It can serve as a hedge against your other investments which presumably do best if the market moves higher.

I hope you will spend a few minutes studying the graph below.  If you can see what will happen in the next few days (ending Friday, November 11th), you will have a much better understanding of why I believe that options offer more potential than just about any other investment you can make.

I hope you will make a 5-minute investment in yourself and study the graph carefully.

A Bearish Option Portfolio That Can Gain Even if the Market Doesn’t Fall:

 
The 10K Bear is a portfolio currently worth about $4000.  We own puts at several different strike prices (between $124 and $128).  These puts will expire on the third Friday in January of 2012.  Against these long puts we have sold Weekly puts which will expire on November 11, 2011.  These Weekly puts are at lower strike prices (from $121 to $125).

The Weekly puts that we have sold have higher decay rates than the January puts that we own (all options fall in value, or decay, every day the underlying stock remains flat).  This means that every day that the market does not fluctuate, our portfolio value grows larger.   That is the neat thing about a properly-designed options portfolio.  You can make gains even if you are wrong.  When you buy stock, the only way you make money is if the stock moves higher.  With options, you can make substantial gains even if the market stays absolutely flat (or moves moderately either up or down).

Here is the risk profile graph for our 10K Bear portfolio.  It shows how much the portfolio will gain or lose at the possible ending stock prices this Friday.

The second column from the right (under P/L Day) gives the dollar loss or gain at the three selected prices in the first column (Stk Price), and you can estimate the losses or gains from the graph curve at other possible stock prices.  At last Friday’s close, SPY was trading at $125.75.

You can see that if the stock is absolutely the same at the close next Friday, the portfolio will gain $901, or about 22% on the $4000 portfolio value.  If the stock falls moderately, by $2, and ends up at $123.75, the gain should be $1,337, or about 33%.  (Both these numbers will be reduced slightly from commissions and trading costs when the Weeklys are bought back next Friday and replaced with Weeklys that expire on November 18th.)

The stock can go up as high as $129 before a loss should result.  In other words, the portfolio makes excellent money if the stock stays flat, even more money if the market falls moderately, and it also can gain if the market goes up (as long as the rise is not too great).

Where else can you invest your money and expect these kinds of returns?  If you know of anything that can offer even remotely as great as these gains, please send the details along to me.  If you like, I would share them with my subscribers so we all could benefit.

Last week, the market was weak.  SPY fell $3.12.  Our 10K Bear portfolio gained 24% (after commissions and roll-over costs).  That is more than most stock investments make in several years.  We did it in a single week.

Why are you waiting any longer before you learn the details of how you can start making money using the 10K Strategy that is the basis of the 8 actual portfolios that we carry out (and you can easily duplicate in your own account, either on your own or through the Auto-Trade program at thinkorswim)?

Give yourself (and your loved ones) an early Christmas gift, and increase your earning potential exponentially by subscribing today.  Do it right here.

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Success Stories

I have been trading the equity markets with many different strategies for over 40 years. Terry Allen's strategies have been the most consistent money makers for me. I used them during the 2008 melt-down, to earn over 50% annualized return, while all my neighbors were crying about their losses.

~ John Collins