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Archive for June, 2012

Back-Testing the 10K Classic Options Strategy

Monday, June 25th, 2012

This week I would like to share a report I sent to paying subscribers this week.  It is a back test of a portfolio we set up just a month ago to carry out the precise strategy outlined in my book, Making 36%: Duffer’s Guide to Breaking Par in the Market Every Year in Good Years and Bad (the revised 2012 edition is the 5th printing).  I believe it gives a definitive answer to the question “Do calendar spreads really work?”

Back-Testing the 10K Classic Options Strategy

The originally-stated goal of the 10K Classic portfolio was to deliver consistent 3% monthly gains and never have a losing month.  This portfolio uses S&P 500 tracking stock (SPY) as the underlying, and uses true deep in-the-money LEAPS as the long side (a full 19 months out to start) and Weekly short calls at several strikes both above the stock price (usually 2 out of 5 to start the week) and below the stock price (usually 3 out of 5 to start the week).  We generally do not make any adjustment trades until Thursday when some calls might be rolled to the next Weekly series at a different strike to make the portfolio more neutral net delta.

I wanted to see what would happen if we made absolutely no adjustments to the 10K Classic during the week based on the risk profile graph of the $9800 portfolio on June 15, 2012 and the weekly price changes for SPY that had taken place over the past 100 weeks.  Here are the results:

This table groups the weekly price changes in dollars into 19 groups and multiplies the number of occurrences in each group by the loss or gain that would have occurred with that price change according to the risk profile graph displayed with the thinkorswim software.  I reduced the indicated gain or loss by $50 each week to account for commission costs and transaction costs (we typically buy back out-of-the-money expiring calls for $3 or so, or pay a small premium when rolling over in-the-money calls).  Of course, VIX was relatively high on this date (about 22), so the gains might be less if VIX were appreciably lower.

In 76% of the weeks, a gain would have been made and in 24% of the weeks, a loss would have resulted. In the gaining weeks, the average gain was $284 and the in the losing weeks, the average loss was $445.   On an average of once a year (1 week out of each 50), a greater-than-15% loss would have occurred if no adjustments were made.

The bottom line is most encouraging.  It says that the portfolio would earn 100% over two years if those positions were in place and no adjustments were made during the week.  In order to carry out a strategy of making no adjustments, however, we would have to be willing to tolerate a weekly loss of about $1400 once every year.  

Since about two weeks a year, very large weekly losses might occur (averaging about $1000), it seems best to slightly alter our goal of never having a losing month.  When we encounter one of these weeks, the other 3 weeks of the month might not always do well enough to cover that large a loss.  Our new goal will to never have a losing month as long as the stock does not fluctuate more than $7 in one week during the month.  The more important 3%-a-month goal will continue to be in place. 

The first month for the portfolio (up 5.1%) is certainly an encouraging start, especially with the volatility that we experienced during that time period. 

The originally-stated goal of the 10K Classic portfolio was to deliver consistent 3% monthly gains and never have a losing month.  This portfolio uses S&P 500 tracking stock (SPY) as the underlying, and uses true deep in-the-money LEAPS as the long side (a full 19 months out to start) and Weekly short calls at several strikes both above the stock price (usually 2 out of 5 to start the week) and below the stock price (usually 3 out of 5 to start the week).  We generally do not make any adjustment trades until Thursday when some calls might be rolled to the next Weekly series at a different strike to make the portfolio more neutral net delta.

I wanted to see what would happen if we made absolutely no adjustments to the 10K Classic during the week based on the risk profile graph of the $9800 portfolio on June 15, 2012 and the weekly price changes for SPY that had taken place over the past 100 weeks.  Here are the results:

This table groups the weekly price changes in dollars into 19 groups and multiplies the number of occurrences in each group by the loss or gain that would have occurred with that price change according to the risk profile graph displayed with the thinkorswim software.  I reduced the indicated gain or loss by $50 each week to account for commission costs and transaction costs (we typically buy back out-of-the-money expiring calls for $3 or so, or pay a small premium when rolling over in-the-money calls).  Of course, VIX was relatively high on this date (about 22), so the gains might be less if VIX were appreciably lower.

In 76% of the weeks, a gain would have been made and in 24% of the weeks, a loss would have resulted. In the gaining weeks, the average gain was $284 and the in the losing weeks, the average loss was $445.   On an average of once a year (1 week out of each 50), a greater-than-15% loss would have occurred if no adjustments were made.

The bottom line is most encouraging.  It says that the portfolio would earn 100% over two years if those positions were in place and no adjustments were made during the week.  In order to carry out a strategy of making no adjustments, however, we would have to be willing to tolerate a weekly loss of about $1400 once every year.  

Since about two weeks a year, very large weekly losses might occur (averaging about $1000), it seems best to slightly alter our goal of never having a losing month.  When we encounter one of these weeks, the other 3 weeks of the month might not always do well enough to cover that large a loss.  Our new goal will to never have a losing month as long as the stock does not fluctuate more than $7 in one week during the month.  The more important 3%-a-month goal will continue to be in place. 

The first month for the portfolio (up 5.1%) is certainly an encouraging start, especially with the volatility that we experienced during that time period.

If the market knocks you down, try laughing instead of crying

Monday, June 18th, 2012

This week I would like to share some humorous market definitions.

In case you missed it last week, we are keeping open our offer of the 2012 ebook version of Making 36% for only $2.99. This is your chance to learn everything you need to know about options (ok, maybe almost everything) for a lower price than ever before.  Order here and use the code [this code is no longer valid].  The order form will say that you will receive the 2011 paperback edition but if you use the [this code is no longer valid] code, you will receive the 2012 ebook instead. (The revised 2012 paperback edition will be available next week if you would prefer to wait and get the hard copy at the regular price).

Even if you have purchased an earlier edition of my book, you might want to see the new version.  Two new important strategies are spelled out for the first time – the 10K STUDD (Short Term Ultra Double Diagonal) and the Calendar Twist (a new approach to placing calendar spreads).  Either strategy might change everything you ever thought about trading options.

If the market knocks you down, try laughing instead of crying–

Some Market Definitions:

CEO –Chief Embezzlement Officer.

CFO– Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET — A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

BEAR MARKET — A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewellery, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING — The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO — The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

STANDARD & POOR — Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST — Idiot who just downgraded your stock.

STOCK SPLIT — When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER — A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION — The day after you buy stocks.

OUT OF THE MONEY –   When your checking account’s overdraft hits bottom.
CASH FLOW– The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

YAHOO — What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

WINDOWS — What you jump out of when you’re the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR — Past year investor who’s now locked up in a nuthouse.

PROFIT — An archaic word no longer in use.

Andy’s Market Report 6/17/12

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

June options expiration is behind us and it ended in the bulls favor. The S&P 500 just came off the best week of 2012, only to have another rally this past week of 1.3%. But, that does not mean we can rest on our laurels because now we have what could be the biggest event of the summer upon us – the Greek elections.

European leaders have basically pleaded with Greece to reject the leftist SYRIZA party as the party promises to reject what would certainly be punishing terms from the 130 billion euro bailout offered by the EU.

The bailout will not be renegotiated, warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country’s wealth is vital to shoring up its weaker partners in the bloc.

But many in Greece and beyond state that Greece’s lenders are bluffing when they threaten to turn off the funds if Athens reneges on the terms of the bailout – tax hikes, job losses and pay cuts that have helped condemn the country to five years of record-breaking recession.

So, the question is how will the outcome on Sunday affect the U.S. markets? The answer is easy….no one knows.

The only certainty is the gap from 6/6 in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) has yet to close. A move back to $129.36 would close the gap.

Moreover, the DOW just pushed above its 50-day moving average. A continuation of that trend has proven positive over the next 6 months, but a failure as seen by an almost immediate push back below the 50-day has been rather volatile for the market.

According to Jason Goepfert of Sentimentrader.com, “when the Dow was lower after it rose above its 50- day moving average, then the next six months were positive 55% of the time”. But the swings ranged from up 22.7% to lower -15.8%. I think we could see much of the same as we enter the summer doldrums. Low- volume allows for widely vacillating markets and that is exactly what we tend to see during the months of July, August and part of September.

As for the short-term direction of the market, most of the major indices are nearing a short-term overbought state. This means that a pullback (1-3 days) is anticipated. Furthermore, the day following options expiration, particularly a triple witching event is historically bearish. However, with the Greece election Sunday I think all of the historical precedents should be tossed aside.

If we do see a push higher at the open Monday I would not be surprised to see an immediate sell-off. Remember, things aren’t so great in the U.S. economy right now. I am amazed how the poor jobs report reported only a few weeks ago has been forgotten.

The best thing you can do right now, stay nimble. Expect volatility and don’t be surprised by a nice “summer doldrums” sell-off.

How to Make a Portfolio of Calendar Spreads Either Bearish or Bullish

Monday, June 11th, 2012

I am pleased to offer the 2012 ebook version of Making 36% for only $2.99. This is your chance to learn everything you need to know about options (ok, maybe almost everything) for a lower price than ever before.  Order here and use the code [this code is no longer valid].  The order form will say that you will receive the 2011 paperback edition but if you use the [this code is no longer valid] code, you will receive the 2012 ebook instead. (The revised 2012 paperback edition will be available in about two weeks if you would prefer to wait and get the hard copy at the regular price).

Even if you have purchased an earlier edition of my book, you might want to see the new version.  Two new important strategies are spelled out for the first time – the 10K STUDD (Short Term Ultra Double Diagonal) and the Calendar Twist (a new approach to placing calendar spreads).  Either strategy might change everything you ever thought about trading options.

How to Make a Portfolio of Calendar Spreads Either Bearish or Bullish:

At Terry’s Tips, we use an options strategy that consists of owning calendar (or diagonal) spreads at many different strike prices, both above and below the stock price.  Six of the eight actual portfolios we carry out use SPY as the underlying so we are betting on the market as a whole rather than any individual stock.

We typically start out each week or month with a slightly bullish posture since the market has historically moved higher more times than it has fallen.  In option terms, this is called being positive net delta.  Starting in May and extending through August, we usually start out with a slightly bearish posture (negative net delta) in deference to the “sell in May” adage.

Any calendar spread makes its maximum gain if the stock ends up on expiration day exactly at the strike price of the calendar spread.  As the market moves either up or down, adding new spreads at different strikes is essentially placing a new bet at the new strike price.  In other words, you hope the market will move toward that strike.

If the market moves higher, we add new calendar spreads at a strike which is higher than the stock price (and vice versa if the market moves lower).  New spreads at strikes higher than the stock price are bullish bets and new spreads at strikes below the stock price are bearish bets.

If the market moves higher when we are positive net delta, we should make gains because of our positive delta condition (in addition to decay gains that should take place regardless of what the market does).  If the market moves lower when we are positive net delta, we would lose portfolio value because of the bullish delta condition, but some or all of these losses would be offset by the daily gains we enjoy from theta (the net daily decay of all the options).

Another variable affects calendar spread portfolio values.  Option prices (VIX) may rise or fall in general.  VIX typically falls with a rising market and moves higher when the market tanks.  While not as important as the net delta value, lower VIX levels tend to depress calendar spread portfolio values (and rising VIX levels tend to improve calendar spread portfolio values).

Once again, trading options is more complicated than trading stock, but can be considerably more interesting, challenging, and ultimately profitable than the simple purchase of stock or mutual funds.

Option Prices and VIX

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Last week was a bad one for the market.  Friday’s 2.5% drop was the worst day in all of 2012.  Many Terry’s Tips subscribers did just fine because of our 10K Bear portfolio which gained 23.4% for the week.  Over the past five weeks while the market has fallen 8.7%, this bearish options portfolio has gained a whopping 135%.  Once again, options offer opportunities that conventional investments just can’t deliver.

Today I would like to talk about an important options measure called VIX.

Option Prices and VIX

VIX is a measure of the average Implied Volatility of SPY, the tracking stock of the S&P 500.  It is often referred to as the “fear index.”  When investors get scared, they often buy put options and/or sell call options to protect themselves against a big market drop.  When this happens, VIX (and option prices in general) usually moves higher.

VIX almost always moves in the opposite direction of the market.  If the market moves higher, VIX usually moves lower, and vice versa.

On Friday, VIX closed at 26.66, driven higher by the big drop in stock values.  VIX is essentially the percentage change that the market is expected to fluctuate in a year.  The mean average of VIX is about 20, far less than it is today.  Quite often, when there is a sideways market with little volatility, VIX hangs out as low as 16.

Today’s high VIX number means that option prices are high.  It is the perfect situation for our strategy of selling short-term premium.  We love a high VIX.

When VIX moves higher, not only is it possible to collect more premium decay each week or month, but the entire portfolio made up of calendar spreads is likely to move higher as well.  This occurs because the long side of our calendar spreads (the options with more remaining life and therefore the ones with a higher absolute value) increase in value by more than the short-term options that we are short. 

If an option trading at $6.00 goes up 10%, the option will be worth $.60 more, while a short option covered by that longer-term $6.00 option might be trading at $.90, and it might only go up by $.09.  If you had 10 of those spreads in place, your portfolio would increase in value by $510 just because of the higher option prices that result when VIX moves higher.

Trading options is far more complicated than most investments.  If you are just buying stock or mutual funds, you don’t even have to know about VIX.  But we believe that there is a big payoff for making a little effort to learn about the extraordinary possible returns that an options portfolio can deliver if it is properly constructed.

Making 36%

Making 36% — A Duffer's Guide to Breaking Par in the Market Every Year in Good Years and Bad

This book may not improve your golf game, but it might change your financial situation so that you will have more time for the greens and fairways (and sometimes the woods).

Learn why Dr. Allen believes that the 10K Strategy is less risky than owning stocks or mutual funds, and why it is especially appropriate for your IRA.

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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