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Archive for the ‘Stock Options Strategies’ Category

A Short Summary of the Greeks

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Academics have developed a number of mathematical measures to get a better handle on stock option prices.  They call them the Greeks, even though some of the measures really don’t exist as Greek words, but sound they should.

Several subscribers have written to say that the Greeks totally befuddle them.  This little report is my attempt to summarize them in 100 words or less (for each Greek, that is).  I hope it might make them a little less confusing to you.

Terry

 A Short Summary of the Greeks

Delta is the number of cents an option will go up if the stock goes up by $1.00.  If you multiply the delta of an option by the number of options you own, you get a figure that represents the equivalent number of shares of stock you own.  If you own 10 options that carry a delta of 60, you own the equivalent of 600 shares of stock.  (If the stock goes up by $1, your positions will increase by $600 in value, just as if you owned 600 shares of the stock).

Your Net Delta Position is the sum total of all the delta values of the options you own, less the delta values of the options you are short (i.e., sold to someone else).  The closer that your Net Delta Position is to zero, the less you will be affected by changes in the price of the stock.  Generally, your goal is to remain delta neutral (i.e., as close to zero as possible).  However, if the market is rising quickly, you want to maintain a reasonably positive net delta value rather than zero.

What is reasonable?  How far is up?  Why is a mouse when it spins? Imponderable questions, all.  (I put this paragraph here to let you know that if you think the Greeks are confusing, it could be worse.  You could really go crazy if you tried to understand some questions).

Gamma is a number that tells you how much your delta will change if the stock goes up by $1.00.  So if you have a net delta position of 600 (meaning you will be $600 richer if the stock goes up $1), and your net gamma is –800, you know that once the stock has gone up that dollar, you will be short the equivalent of 200 shares of stock, and wishing that the stock would fall.  Gamma helps you know the extent, if any, of the upside protection you possess.

Theta is the amount that an option will fall in value in a single day.  If the price of the stock remains flat, all options decay in value every day.  Theta tells you how much. The heart of the 10K Strategy is that we own long-term calls which carry a low theta value, and we sell to someone else short-term calls which carry a higher theta value.  Our profit comes in the difference between these two decay rates.

The ultimate goal of the 10K Strategy is to maximize the position Theta value while maintaining a low net Delta value and a low net Gamma value to protect against adverse stock price changes.  

How to Make 40% With a Single Options Trade on a Blue Chip Stock

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Every once in a while, market volatility soars. The most popular measure of volatility is VIX, the so-called “fear index’ which is the average volatility of options on SPY (the S&P 500 tracking stock). By the way, SPY weekly options are not included in the calculation of VIX, something which tends to understate the value when something specific like today’s election is an important reason affecting the current level of volatility.

Today I would like to share with you a trade I recommended to paying subscribers to Terry’s Tips last week. We could close it out today for a 27% profit after commissions in one week, but most of us are hanging onto our positions for another couple of weeks because we still believe the spread will result in 75% gain for three weeks when the market settles down after today’s election.

I hope you can learn something from this latest way to benefit from an elevated volatility level in the market.

Terry

How to Make 40% With a Single Options Trade on a Blue Chip Stock

As much as you might like, you can’t actually buy (or sell short) VIX, so there is no direct way to bet whether volatility will go up or down with this popular measure. However, you can buy and sell puts and calls on VIX, and execute spreads just as long as both long and short sides of the spread are in the same expiration series.

You are not allowed to buy calendar or diagonal spreads with VIX options since each expiration series is a distinct series not connected to other series. If you could buy calendars, the prices would look exceptional. There are times when you could actually buy a calendar spread at a credit, but unfortunately, they don’t allow such trades.

Vertical spreads are fair game, however, and make interesting plays if you have a feel for which way you think volatility is headed. Last week, we had a time when VIX was higher than it has been for some time, pushed up by election uncertainties, the Fed’s next interest rate increase, and the recent 9-day consecutive drop in market prices. When VIX was over 22, we sent out a special trade idea based on the likelihood that once the election is over, VIX might retreat. For the last few years, the most popular range for VIX to hang out has been in the 12-14 area. Obviously, this is a lot lower than last’s week’s 22-23 range.

If you look at a chart of VIX, you will see that it has moved above 20 on only 7 occasions over the past three years, and the great majority of time, it quickly retreated to a much lower level. Only once did it remain over 20 for more than a couple of weeks or so. Back in 2008, VIX moved up to astronomical levels and stayed there for several months, but if you recall those days, with the implosion of Lehman Bros., Long Term Capital, and bank bailouts all around, there was serious fears that our entire financial system might soon collapse. This time around, it seemed like the most fearful consideration was the American election, and specifically that Donald Trump might win and market uncertainty would surely soar even further. This does not feel like the cataclysmic possibilities that we were facing in 2008.

This is the trade we suggested, based on our assumption that Donald Trump would probably not prevail and not much different would happen out of Washington going forward:

BTO 1 VIX 23Nov16 21 call (VIX161123C21)
STO 1 VIX 23Nov16 15 call (VIX161123C15) for a credit of $2.60 (selling a vertical)

This spread involves an investment (and maximum risk) of $342.50. There is a $600 maintenance requirement (the difference between the strike prices) from which the $260 received less $2.50 commission or $257.50 must be deducted. If VIX closes at any number below 15 on November 23, both calls would expire worthless and this spread would make $257.50 on the maximum risk of $342.50, or 75%.

Maybe 3 weeks was not a long enough time to expect VIX to plummet back to 15. An argument could be made that it would be better to wait until after the Fed’s December rate decision has been made, and place this same spread in the 20Jan17 series. The price (and potential gain) would be about the same (I have sold this same spread in that series in my personal account as well). Of course, you have to wait 2 ½ months for it to come about, but 75% is a sweet number to dream about collecting in such a short time.

Since we placed the above spreads a week ago, VIX has fallen from 23 to a little over 18 today (apparently when the FBI exonerated Hillary, it looked less likely that Trump would win). It only needs to fall a little over 3 more points after the election today to deliver 75% to us on November 23rd. We like our chances here. Some subscribers are taking their gains today, just in case Mr. Trump gets elected. They can buy the spread back today for $1.65, well below the $2.60 they collected from selling it. I am personally holding out for the bigger potential gain.

Option Idea Which Must Be Executed Before Market Closes November 1st

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Option Idea Which Must Be Executed Before Market Closes November 1st

I am sorry to send you a second email message today, but I need to hurry because it will disappear tomorrow.  It involves Gilead Sciences (GILD)

Gilead (GILD) announces earnings on Tuesday, November 1st after the close.  The post-announcement options are extremely expensive.  Implied Volatility (IV) for the 04Nov16 series is 60 compared to 34 for the 16Dec16 series which expires six weeks later.  The company has fallen 32% from its 52-week high and pays a dividend of 2.5% and has a p/e of only 6.4 which should provide some level of support. Expectations are for lower sales and earnings.  These facts support the idea that a big drop in stock price is unlikely after the announcement.  This trade will make money if the stock is flat or goes up by any amount (a maintenance requirement of $400 per spread, less the amount of the credit, will result):

Buy To Open 1 GILD 16Dec16 70 put (GILD161216P70)

Sell To Open 1 GILD 04Nov16 74 put (GILD161104P74) for a credit of $.25  (buying a diagonal)

We bought 5 contracts of exact spread today in our portfolio that trades on earnings announcements.  It will make a maximum gain if the stock closes on Friday exactly at $74.  Any price higher than that will also result in a profit.  The stock should be able to fall about $2 before any loss should appear on the downside.

This is the risk profile graph for this spread, assuming that IV for the 16Dec16 series falls by 5 after the announcement:

GILD Risk Profile Graph Oct 31 2016

GILD Risk Profile Graph Oct 31 2016

The theoretical risk of this investment is $375 (the $400 maintenance requirement less the $25 received).  However, since we plan to close the spread on Friday and there will still be 6 weeks of remaining life for the 16Dec16 70 put, the actual risk is far less than $375.  That is the amount that you will tie up in your account for this week, however.

You can see that if the stock is flat or moderately higher on Friday, you will make a profit of about $100 on your $475 investment, or about 25%.  Not bad for a week.

If the stock falls by more than $2, the graph indicates that a loss would result.  Since we believe the low valuation and the high dividend rate both provide a solid support level for the stock, we don’t believe the stock will fall by very much, and we feel good about making this investment.

 Lowest Subscription Price Ever

As a Halloween special, we are offering the lowest subscription price than we have ever offered – our full package, including several valuable case study reports, my White Paper, which explains my favorite option strategies in detail, and shows you exactly how to carry them out on your own, a 14-day options tutorial program which will give you a solid background on option trading, and two months of our Saturday Reports full of tradable option ideas.  All this for a one-time fee of $39.95, less than half the cost of the White Paper alone ($79.95).

For this lowest-price-ever $39.95 offer, click here, enter Special Code HWN16 (or HWN16P for Premium Service – $79.95).

 If you are ready to commit for a longer time period, you can save even more with our half-price offer on our Premium service for an entire year.  This special offer includes everything in our basic service, and in addition, real-time trade alerts and full access to all of our portfolios so that you can Auto-Trade or follow any or all of them.  We have several levels of our Premium service, but this is the maximum level since it includes full access to all nine portfolios which are available for Auto-Trade.  A year’s subscription to this maximum level would cost $1080.  With this half-price offer, the cost for a full year would be only $540.  Use the Special Code MAX16P.

 This is a time-limited offer.  You must order by midnight tonight, October 31, 2016.  That’s when the half-price offer expires, and you will have to go back to the same old investment strategy that you have had limited success with for so long (if you are like most investors).

This is the perfect time to give you and your family the perfect Halloween treat that is designed to deliver higher financial returns for the rest of your investing life.

I look forward to helping you survive Halloween by sharing this valuable investment information with you at the lowest price ever. It may take you a little homework, but I am sure you will end up thinking it was well worth the investment.

Happy trading.

Terry

P.S.  If you would have any questions about this offer or Terry’s Tips, please call Seth Allen, our Senior Vice President at 800-803-4595.  Or make this investment in yourself at the lowest price ever offered in our 15 years of publication – only $39.95 for our entire package.  Get it here using Special Code HWN16 (or HWN16P for Premium Service – $79.95).   Do it today, before you forget and lose out.  This offer expires at midnight tonight, October 31, 2016.

 

Halloween Special Expires at Midnight Tonight

Monday, October 31st, 2016

Halloween Special Expires at Midnight Tonight

I want to send you a copy of the October 29, 2016 Saturday Report, the weekly email sent to paying subscribers to Terry’s Tips.  This report details how our 13 actual portfolios perform each week.    Last week was a down one for the market (SPY lost 0.7%), and many of our portfolios experienced a similar loss.  Others did considerably better.

The portfolio based on Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) gained 25% while the stock rose 1.7%.  The portfolio based on Facebook (FB) gained 8.7% even though FB fell by 0.6% last week.  This portfolio was started with $6000 one year and three weeks ago, and is now worth $13,449, a gain of 124%.

One of our portfolios invests in companies which are about to announce earnings, and closes out the positions on the Friday after the announcement.  Last week, we closed out our spreads in Mastercard (MA) which had been put on only a week and a half earlier.  We enjoyed a gain of 34.3% (after commissions, as is the case for all of these portfolios).

Finally, we have a portfolio that is designed as protection against a market crash or correction.  While SPY fell only 0.6%, this bearish portfolio picked up 13.6% (admittedly, this was an unusually positive result which rarely occurs to this extent, but sometimes we are a little lucky).

Watching how these portfolios unfold over time in the Saturday Report is a wonderful (and easy) way to learn the intricacies of option trading.  You can get started today by coming on board at our half-off Halloween Special which expires at midnight tonight. I will personally send you the October 29th Saturday Report so you can start immediately.

Most of these portfolios employ what we call the 10K Strategy.  It involves selling short-term options on individual stocks and using longer-term (or LEAPS) as collateral.  It is sort of like writing calls, except that you don’t have to put up all that cash to buy 100 or 1000 shares of the stock.  The 10K Strategy is sort of like writing calls on steroids.  It is an amazingly simple strategy that really works with the one proviso that you select a stock that stays flat or moves higher over time.

Lowest Subscription Price Ever

As a Halloween special, we are offering the lowest subscription price than we have ever offered – our full package, including several valuable case study reports, my White Paper, which explains my favorite option strategies in detail, and shows you exactly how to carry them out on your own, a 14-day options tutorial program which will give you a solid background on option trading, and two months of our Saturday Reports full of tradable option ideas.  All this for a one-time fee of $39.95, less than half the cost of the White Paper alone ($79.95).

For this lowest-price-ever $39.95 offer, click here, enter Special Code HWN16 (or HWN16P for Premium Service – $79.95).

 If you are ready to commit for a longer time period, you can save even more with our half-price offer on our Premium service for an entire year.  This special offer includes everything in our basic service, and in addition, real-time trade alerts and full access to all of our portfolios so that you can Auto-Trade or follow any or all of them.  We have several levels of our Premium service, but this is the maximum level since it includes full access to all nine portfolios which are available for Auto-Trade.  A year’s subscription to this maximum level would cost $1080.  With this half-price offer, the cost for a full year would be only $540.  Use the Special Code MAX16P.

 This is a time-limited offer.  You must order by midnight tonight, October 31, 2016.  That’s when the half-price offer expires, and you will have to go back to the same old investment strategy that you have had limited success with for so long (if you are like most investors).

This is the perfect time to give you and your family the perfect Halloween treat that is designed to deliver higher financial returns for the rest of your investing life.

I look forward to helping you survive Halloween by sharing this valuable investment information with you at the lowest price ever. It may take you a little homework, but I am sure you will end up thinking it was well worth the investment.

Happy trading.

Terry

P.S.  If you would have any questions about this offer or Terry’s Tips, please call Seth Allen, our Senior Vice President at 800-803-4595.  Or make this investment in yourself at the lowest price ever offered in our 15 years of publication – only $39.95 for our entire package.  Get it here using Special Code HWN16 (or HWN16P for Premium Service – $79.95).   Do it today, before you forget and lose out.  This offer expires at midnight tonight, October 31, 2016.

 

 

Halloween Special – Lowest Subscription Price Ever

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Halloween Special – Lowest Subscription Price Ever

Why must Halloween be only for the kids? You got them all dressed up in cute little costumes and trekked around the neighborhood in hopes of bringing home a full basket of cavity-inducing treats and smiles all around.

But how about a treat for yourself? You may soon have some big dental bills to pay. What if you wanted to learn how to dramatically improve your investment results? Don’t you deserve a little something to help make that possible?

What better Halloween treat for yourself than a subscription to Terry’s Tips at the lowest price ever? You will learn exactly how we have set up and carried out an options strategy that doubled the starting portfolio value (usually $5000) of five individual investment accounts which traded Costco (COST), Apple (AAPL), Nike (NKE), Starbucks (SBUX), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), including all commissions. These portfolios took between 7 and 17 months to double their starting value, and every single portfolio managed to accomplish that goal.

One year and one week ago, we set up another portfolio to trade Facebook (FB) options, this time starting with $6000. It has now gained over 97% in value. We expect that in the next week or two, it will surge above $12,000 and accomplish the same milestone that the other five portfolios did.

Many subscribers to Terry’s Tips have followed along with these portfolios since the beginning, having all their trades made for them through the Auto-Trade program at thinkorswim. Others have followed our trades on their own at another broker. Regardless of where they traded, they are all happy campers right now.

We have made these gains with what we call the 10K Strategy. It involves selling short-term options on individual stocks and using longer-term (or LEAPS) as collateral. It is sort of like writing calls, except that you don’t have to put up all that cash to buy 100 or 1000 shares of the stock. The 10K Strategy is sort of like writing calls on steroids. It is an amazingly simple strategy that really works with the one proviso that you select a stock that stays flat or moves higher over time.

How else in today’s investment world of near-zero dividend yields can you expect to make these kinds of returns? Find out exactly how to do it by buying yourself a Halloween treat for yourself and your family. They will love you for it.

Lowest Subscription Price Ever

As a Halloween special, we are offering the lowest subscription price than we have ever offered – our full package, including all the free reports, my White Paper, which explains my favorite option strategies in detail, and shows you exactly how to carry them out on your own, a 14-day options tutorial program which will give you a solid background on option trading, and two months of our weekly newsletter full of tradable option ideas. All this for a one-time fee of $39.95, less than half the cost of the White Paper alone ($79.95).

For this lowest-price-ever $39.95 offer, click here, enter Special Code HWN16 (or HWN16P for Premium Service – $79.95).

If you are ready to commit for a longer time period, you can save even more with our half-price offer on our Premium service for an entire year. This special offer includes everything in our basic service, and in addition, real-time trade alerts and full access to all 9 of our current actual portfolios so that you can Auto-Trade or follow any or all of them. We have several levels of our Premium service, but this is the maximum level since it includes full access to all nine portfolios. A year’s subscription to this maximum level would cost $1080. With this half-price offer, the cost for a full year would be only $540. Use the Special Code MAX16P.

This is a time-limited offer. You must order by Monday, October 31, 2016. That’s when the half-price offer expires, and you will have to go back to the same old investment strategy that you have had limited success with for so long (if you are like most investors).

This is the perfect time to give you and your family the perfect Halloween treat that is designed to deliver higher financial returns for the rest of your investing life.

I look forward to helping you get the school year started off right by sharing this valuable investment information with you at the lowest price ever. It may take you a little homework, but I am sure you will end up thinking it was well worth the investment.

Happy trading.

Terry

P.S. If you would have any questions about this offer or Terry’s Tips, please call Seth Allen, our Senior Vice President at 800-803-4595. Or make this investment in yourself at the lowest price ever offered in our 15 years of publication – only $39.95 for our entire package. Get it here using Special Code HWN16 (or HWN16P for Premium Service – $79.95). Do it today, before you forget and lose out. This offer expires on Monday, October 31, 2016.

 

How to Make 40% With a Single Options Trade on a Blue Chip Stock

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Bernie Madoff got billions of dollars from investors by offering 12% a year. Today I would like to share an investment which should deliver more than triple that return. I doubt if it gets Madoff-like money flowing into it, but maybe some of you will try it along with me. Nothing is 100% guaranteed, but the historical price action for this conservative stock shows that this options spread would make over 40% a whopping 98% of the time.

Terry

How to Make 40% With a Single Options Trade on a Blue Chip Stock

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) is a $70 billion multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886. It is truly a “blue chip” stock which pays a 2.7% dividend and raises it almost every year.

JNJ has been a favorite underlying stock for us at Terry’s Tips. Early in November 2015 we started what we call the JNJ Jamboree portfolio with $5000 to trade our 10K Strategy using JNJ as the underlying. JNJ was trading at $102. Nine months later, the stock had climbed to $125, a 22.5% gain. Our JNJ Jamboree portfolio did more than four times better, making 100%. We declared a 2-for-1 portfolio split and removed $5000 from the portfolio so subscribers who were following it could either be fully playing with profits or have double the number of units that they started with.

Terry’s Tips subscribers can either follow our actual portfolios on their own or have trades executed automatically for them through the Auto-Trade service offered by thinkorswim.

This week, with JNJ trading just over $120, we made a trade using JNJ options that would expire on January 19, 2018, a full 15 months from now. This trade would make a guaranteed profit of over 40% if JNJ closed at any price higher than $115 on that date. In order to check what history might tell us about this stock, we took a look at the 10-year graph of JNJ to see how many times the stock fell by more than $5 per share in any 15-month period. Here is that graph:

JNJ Historical Pricing Chart Oct 2016

JNJ Historical Pricing Chart Oct 2016

You can see that that there is one spot on the graph where the stock was lower 15 months later than it was at the beginning, and that was the time period starting just before the crash in August 2008. Over the ten years, you would have theoretically had 120 opportunities to make a similar 15-month bet to the one we are suggesting, and you would have only lost money in 3 of those months. You would have had a winner with 98% of these hypothetical trades.

This week, with JNJ trading at just over $120, we bought the following spread:

Buy to Open 10 JNJ 19Jan18 115 puts (JNJ180119P115)
Sell to Open 10 JNJ 19Jan18 120 puts (JNJ180119P120) for a credit of $1.80 (selling a vertical)

This spread put $1800 in our account ($1775 after commissions) and a maintenance requirement of $5000 would be established (no interest payable on this amount, but it would be cash set aside that could not be used for buying other equities). After deducting the $1775 we received from the $5000, we ended up with a net investment of $3225. This is the maximum loss that would result if the stock ended up below $115 in 15 months.

If the stock were at any price above $120 on January 19, 2018, both options would expire worthless and we would keep the entire $1775, making a 55% profit on our original investment. Annualized, that works out to be 44% a year after commissions, and the historical information says you would earn this 98% of the time. If you make this amount 98 times and lose 100% twice, your average annualized gain would be 41%.

Admittedly, this is a pretty unexciting investment because you have to sit and wait for more than a year for it to be over with. But where else in this world of near-zero interest rates are you going to find something that has a 98% chance of making 44% a year? It seems to me that at least some of your investment portfolio should contain at least a little money that might secure such an extraordinary high return.

We should take a look at the magnitude of these possible gains and compare them with expectations of a traditional investment. To think that you could make 41% a year on your money is truly bizarre. It really sounds too good to be true. But that is what the spread would have earned if you had been able to place it every month for the past 120 months.

We made a similar investment in a Terry’s Tips portfolio early this year. We placed the following trade on JNJ on January 4, 2016. JNJ was trading just over $102 at the time:

Buy to Open 10 JNJ Jan-17 95 puts (JNJ170120P95)
Sell to Open 10 JNJ Jan-17 100 puts (JNJ170120P100) for a credit of $2.13 (selling a vertical)

With this trade we were betting that in one year. JNJ would be trading at some price over $100. If this happened, both put options would expire worthless on January 20, 2017 and we could keep the $2130 we collected from the spread ($2105 after commissions). This trade involved a maintenance requirement of $2895 which if the maximum loss that could result (if JNJ closed below $95 on that date) and also the amount of the money invested. This works out to a 73% gain for the year. With three months to go before these options expire, JNJ is now trading around $120. Our bet looks awfully good right now. We could buy back the spread for $170 which would result in a gain of $1935 after commissions, or 66%.

This spread was quite similar to the one we are suggesting today, but it was a little more risky because it did not allow for the stock to drop at all to make the maximum gain. Taking that extra risk allowed for the maximum profit to be much higher.

Options trading involves risk, just like all investments, and should be only undertaken with money you can truly afford to lose. But sometimes, options investments can offer superior potential gains while involving a lower degree of risk. In the spread we outlined today, the stock can fall by as much as $5 over a 15-month time span, and a 55% gain will still materialize. If you had just bought the stock instead and it went down, you would lose money. Sometimes, option trading gets a bad reputation for being too risky. Hopefully, you can see why it doesn’t necessarily work out that way all of the time.

Calendar Spreads Tweak #5 (Like Writing Calls on Steroids)

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Lots of people like the idea of writing calls. They buy stock and then sell someone else the right to repurchase their shares (usually at a higher price) by selling a call against their shares. If the stock does not go up by the time that the call expires, they keep the proceeds from the sale of the call. It is sort of like a recurring dividend.

If writing calls appeals to you, today’s discussion of an option strategy is right up your alley. This strategy is like writing calls on steroids.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #5 (Like Writing Calls on Steroids)

When you set up a calendar spread, you buy an option (usually a call) which has a longer life than the same-strike call that you sell to someone else. Your expected profit comes from the well-known fact that the longer-term call decays at a lower rate than the shorter-term call you sell to someone else. As long as the stock does not fluctuate a whole lot, you are guaranteed to make a gain as time unfolds.

If you are dealing with a stock you think is headed higher, you might write an out-of-the-money call (where the strike price is higher than the current price of the stock). If you are right and the stock moves up to that strike price or above, you might lose your stock through exercise of the call, but you would be selling it at that higher price and also keeping the proceeds of your call sale.

With options, you can approximate this risk profile by buying a calendar spread at a strike which is higher than the current price of the stock. If the stock moves up to that strike price as you wait out the time for the call you sold to expire, the value of the call you own will rise and you will also keep the proceeds from the call you sold. Your long call will not go up as much as your stock would have gone up (perhaps only 60% or 70% as much), but this is a small concern considering that you have to put up such a small amount of money to buy the call compared to buying 100 shares of stock. Most of the time, you can expect that your return on investment with the calendar spread to be considerably greater than the return you would enjoy from writing calls against shares of stock.

The tweak we are discussing today concerns what you do when the call you have sold expires. On that (expiration) day, if the call is out of the money (at a strike which is higher than the price of the stock), it will expire worthless and you get to keep the money you originally sold the call for, just like it would be if you owned the stock and wrote a call against it. You would then be in a position where you could sell another call with a further-out expiration date and collect money for it, or sell your original call and no longer own a calendar spread.

If the call on expiration day is in the money (i.e., at a strike price which is lower than the price of the stock), the owner of that call will likely exercise his option and ask for your stock. However, right up until the last few minutes of trading on expiration day, there is usually a small time premium remaining in the call he or she owns, and it would be more profitable for him or her to sell the call on the market rather than exercising it.

As the owner of an in-the-money calendar spread on expiration day, you could merely sell the spread (buying back the call you originally sold and selling the call you bought), making the trade as a sale of a calendar spread. As an alternative, you could buy back the expiring call and sell another call which has a longer lifetime. This would be selling a calendar spread as well, but the date of the call you sold would probably be not as far out in the distance as the call you originally bought. At the end of the day, you would still own that original call and you would be short a call which has some remaining life before it expires.

You can see that this tweak is much like what you could do if you were in the business of writing calls. Another similarity is that you might want to sell a new call which is at a higher (or lower) strike. You could do this with either the call-writing strategy or the calendar-spread (call-writing on steroids) strategy. If you replace an expiring call with a new short call at a different strike price, you would be selling what is called a diagonal spread and you would end up owning a diagonal spread as well. A diagonal spread is exactly the same as a calendar spread except that the strike price of the long call you own is different from the call that you sold to someone else.

One limitation of the options strategy is that if you want to sell a lower-strike call than you originally did, your broker would charge you with a maintenance requirement of $100 for every dollar difference between the strike of your long call and the strike of the call you sold. There is no interest charged on this amount (like a margin loan would involve), but that amount is set aside in your account and can’t be used to buy other shares or options. If you sold a call at a strike which was $2 lower than the strike price of your long call (creating a maintenance requirement of $200), and you were able to sell that call for $2.50 ($250), you would collect more cash than the amount of the maintenance requirement, so you would still end up with more cash than what you started with before selling the new call.

This all may seem a little complicated, but once you do it a few times, it will seem quite simple and easy. And from my experience, profitable most of the time as well, far more profitable than writing calls against stock you own.

Happy trading.

IBM Pre-Announcement Play

Friday, September 30th, 2016

IBM announces earnings on October 17, less than three weeks from now. I would like to share with you a strategy I used today to take advantage of the extremely high option prices which exist for the option series that expires on October 21, four days after the announcement. I feel fairly confident I will eventually make over 100% on one or both of these trades before the long side expires in six months.

Terry

IBM Pre-Announcement Play

One of my favorite option strategies is to buy one or more calendar spreads on a company that will be announcing earnings in a few weeks. The option series which expires directly after the announcement experiences an elevated Implied Volatility (IV) relative to all the other option series. A high IV means that those options are relatively expensive compared to all the other options that are trading on that stock.

IV for the post-announcement series soars because of the well-known tendency for stock prices to fluctuate far more than usual once the announcement is made. It may go up if investors are pleased with the company’s earnings, sales, or outlook, or it may tumble because investors were expecting more. While there is some historical evidence that the stock usually moves in the opposite direction that it did in the week or two leading up to the announcement, it is not compelling enough to always bet that way.

IBM has risen about $5 over the last week, but it is trading about equal to where it was two weeks ago, so there is no indication right now as to what might happen after the announcement.

IBM has fluctuated by just under 4% on average over the last few announcement events. That would make an average of $6 either way. I really have no idea which way it might go after this announcement, but it has been hanging out around it/s current level (just under $160) for a while, so I am planning to place my bet around that number

In the week leading up to the announcement, IV for the post-announcement series almost always soars, and the stock often moves higher as well, pushed higher by investors who are expecting good news to be forthcoming. For that reason, I like to buy calendar spreads at a strike slightly above the current price of the stock in hopes that the stock will move toward that strike as we wait for the announcement day. Remember, calendar spreads make the greatest gain when the stock is exactly at the strike price on the day when the short side of the spread expires.

This is the trade I placed today when IBM was at $159 (of course, you may choose any quantity you are comfortable with, but this is what each spread cost me):

Buy To Open 1 IBM 21Apr17 160 call (IBM170421C160)
Sell To Open 1 IBM 21Oct16 160 call (IBM161021C160) for a debit of $4.71 (buying a calendar)
Each spread cost me $471 plus $2.50 (the commission rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim), for a total of $473.50. I sold the 21Oct16 160 call for $354. In order to get all my $473.50 back once October 21st rolls around, I will have 25 opportunities to sell a one-week call (if I wish). Right now, a 160 call with one week of remaining life could be sold for about $.90. If I were to sell one of these weeklies on 6 occasions, I would get my entire investment back and still have 19 more opportunities to sell a weekly call.

Another way of moving forward would to sell new calls with a month of remaining life when the 21Oct16 calls expire. If IBM is around $160 at that time, a one-month call could be sold for about $2.00. It would take three such sales to get all of my initial investment back, and I would have three more opportunities to sell a one-month call with all the proceeds being pure profit.

Before the 21Apr17 calls expire, another earnings announcement will come around (about 3 ½ months from now). If IBM is trading anywhere near $160 at that time, I should be able to sell a 160 call with 3 weeks of remaining life for about $354, just like I sold one today. That alone would get about 75% of my initial investment back.

In any event, over the six-months that I might own the 21Apr17 calls, I will have many chances to sell new calls and hopefully collect much more time premium than I initially shelled out for the calendar spread. There may be times when I have to buy back expiring calls because they are in the money, but I should be able to sell further-out short-term calls at the same strike for a nice credit and whittle down my initial investment.
I also made this trade today:

Buy To Open 1 IBM 21Apr17 160 call (IBM170421C160)
Sell To Open 1 IBM 14Oct16 160 call (IBM161014C160) for a debit of $6.65 (buying a calendar)

This is the same calendar spread as the first one, but the sell side is the 14Oct16 series which expires a week before the announcement date week. If IV for the 21Oct16 series does escalate from its present 25 (as it should), I might be able to sell calls with a week of remaining life for a higher price than is available right now. I might end up with paying less than $473.50 for the original spread which sold the post-announcement 21Oct16 calls.

Calendar Spreads Tweak #4

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Today I would like to discuss how you can use calendar spreads for a short-term strategy based around the date when a stock goes ex-dividend. I will tell you exactly how I used this strategy a week ago when SPY paid its quarterly dividend.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #4

Four times a year, SPY pays a dividend to owners of record on the third Friday of March, June, September, and December. The current dividend is about $1.09. Each of these events presents a unique opportunity to make some money by buying calendar spreads using puts to take advantage of the huge time premium in the puts in the days leading up to the dividend day.

Since the stock goes down by the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend day, the option market prices the amount of the dividend into the option prices. Check out the situation for SPY on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, two days before an expected $1.09 dividend would be payable. At the time of these prices, SPY was trading just about $213.70.

Facebook Bid Ask Puts Calls Sept 2016

Facebook Bid Ask Puts Calls Sept 2016

Note that the close-to-the-money options at the 213.5 strike show a bid of $1.11 for calls and $1.84 for puts. The slightly out-of-the-money put options are trading for nearly double the prices for those same distance-out calls. The market has priced in the fact that the stock will fall by the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend day. In this case, that day is Friday.

SPY closed at $215.28 on Thursday. Friday’s closing price was $213.37, which is $1.91 lower. However, the change for the day was indicated as -$.82. The difference ($1.09) was the size of the dividend.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to sell some of those puts that had such large premiums in them to see if there might be some opportunity there. While SPY was trading in the $213 to $216 range, I bought put calendar spreads at the 214.5, 214, 213.5, and 213 strikes, buying 21Oct16 puts at the even-strike numbers and 19Oct16 puts for the strikes ending in .5 (only even-number strikes are offered in the regular Friday 21Oct16 options). Obviously, I sold the 16Sep16 puts in each calendar spread.

Note: On August 30th, the CBOE offered a new series of SPY options that expire on Wednesday rather than Friday. The obvious reason for this offering involves the dividend situation. Investors who write calls against their SPY stock are in a real bind when they sell calls that expire on an ex-dividend Friday. First, there is very little time premium in those calls. Second, there is a serious risk that the call will be exercised by the holder to take the stock and capture the dividend. If the owner of SPY sold the series that expired on Wednesday rather than Friday, the potential problem would be avoided.

I paid an average of $2.49 including commissions for the four calendar spreads and sold them on Friday for an average of $2.88 after commissions. I sold every spread for more money that it cost (including commissions). My net gain for the two days of trading was just over 15% after commissions.

The stock fell $.82 (after accounting for the $1.09 dividend). If it had gone up by that amount, I expect that my 15% gain would also have been there. It is unclear if the gains would have been there if SPY had made a big move, say $2 or more in either direction on Friday. My rough calculations showed that there would still be a profit, but it would be less than 15%. Single-day moves of more than $2 are a little unusual, however, so it might not be much to be concerned about.

Bottom line, I am delighted with the 15% gain, and will probably try it again in three months (at the December expiration). In this world of near-zero interest rates, many investors would be happy with 15% for an entire year. I collected mine in just two days.

Trading SPY options is particularly easy because of the extreme liquidity of those options. In most cases, I was able to get an execution at the mid-point price of the calendar spread bid-ask range. I never paid $.01 more or received more than $.01 less than the mid-point price when trading these calendar spreads.

While liquidity is not as great in most options markets, it might be interesting to try this same strategy with other dividend-payers such as JNJ where the dividend is also over $1.00. I regularly share these kinds of trading opportunities with Terry’s Tips Insiders so that they can follow along in their own accounts if they wish.

Happy trading.

Calendar Spreads Tweak #2

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

This week we will continue our discussion of a popular option spread – the calendar spread which is also called a time spread or horizontal spread. We will compare the expected costs and potential returns if you select different time periods for the long and short sides of the calendar spread.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #2

First, let’s look at a typical calendar spread on Facebook (FB). Today, the stock is trading just over $130, and you might buy an at-the-money calendar spread by placing this order:

Buy To Open 1 FB 16Dec16 130 call (FB161216C130)
Sell To Open 1 FB 14Oct16 130 call (FB161014C130) for a debit of $3.75 (buying a calendar)

This spread would cost about $3.75 ($375) to buy, plus $2.50 in commissions at the rate Terry’s Tips’ subscribers pay at thinkorswim, for a total of $377.50.

When the 14Oct16 call expires on October 14, 37 days from now, this is what the risk profile graph indicates the profit or loss would be at the various possible stock prices that might exist at that time:

 

Face Book Risk Profile #1 September 2016

Face Book Risk Profile #1 September 2016

Note that the break-even range extends from about $3.50 in both directions. The loss or gain when the short call expires on October 14th is indicated in the column on the lower right titled “P/L Day.” The maximum gain is precisely at the $130 price, and it is about $150 which would result in almost a 40% gain for the month.

When this calendar spread expires on October 14th, there will be 3 months of remaining life to the 16Dec16 call that you would hold. This call will always have some value that is greater than the 16Dec16 call that is expiring on that day, no matter where FB is trading at that time. This means you can’t lose the entire $377.50 that you have invested. The closer to $130 FB is at that time, the more valuable your 16Dec16 call will be in terms of remaining time premium.

Let’s check out what the situation might be if we went further out in time and bought a calendar spread that had both sides two months later. The difference between the long and short sides of the spread will remain at three months but you will have to wait three months rather than just one month to have the spread expire and you take your losses or gains. This would be the spread that you would buy:

Buy To Open 1 FB 17Mar17 130 call (FB170317C130)
Sell To Open 1 FB 16Dec16 130 call (FB161014C130) for a debit of $3.25 (buying a calendar)

This spread would cost about $3.25 ($325) to buy, plus $2.50 in commissions at the rate Terry’s Tips’ subscribers pay at thinkorswim, for a total of $327.50. (Buy the way, the regular commission on this spread at thinkorswim would be $7.80, and for this reason, many people choose to become Terry’s Tips subscribers because this low rate will extend to all the trades they make in their account, regardless of whether or not they are following one of our portfolios. The commission savings could be greater than the low monthly cost of being a subscriber).

When this spread expires on December 16th, this is what the risk profile graph would look like:

Face Book Risk Profile #2 September 2016

Face Book Risk Profile #2 September 2016

Note that the break-even range has more than doubled so that the stock can fluctuate about $8 in either direction before the spread starts losing money. Of course, you have to wait three months for December 16th to come around, and this gives the stock lots of time to make a big move in either direction. Again, the further it moves away from $130, the less money it makes. If the stock remains unchanged, and ends up at about $130 on that day in December, the expected gain is over $350, or more than 100% of the original cost of the calendar spread.

Presumably, you are trading calendars on a stock you believe is headed higher. If you believe that FB is likely to be trading about $5 higher three months from now, you might buy the same calendar at the 135 strike instead of the 130 strike. It would cost a little less, about $315, and this is what the risk profile graph looks like for December 16th:

Face Book Risk Profile #3 September 2016

Face Book Risk Profile #3 September 2016

If the stock stays flat, the spread will make about $150, or about 45% on your investment, but if it goes up $5 and ends up near $135, you could gain over $370, or well over 100% on your investment. The break-even range extends less than $5 to the downside and about $16 on the upside, so you will be rooting for FB to move higher over the three months.

The key point to selecting the strike price of calendar spreads is to make your best guess as to where the stock might be at the future date when the calls you have sold expire. If you are right, you could enjoy some extraordinary gains.

As usual, there are no easy ways to make sure gains in this world. You inevitably must make some sort of guess as to what the underlying stock will do. The neat thing about calendar spreads is that you don’t have to be precisely right. There is a fairly large range of possible stock prices withing which gains could come your way. The further out in time you go to select dates for a calendar spread, the greater the break-even range will be, and the maximum gain will always come if the stock ends up precisely at the strike price you select when you buy the spread.

As with all investments, you should only plunk down money that you can truly afford to lose. Option spreads can make excellent gains, but large movements in the stock price in either direction could cause losses with calendar spreads (unless you anticipated that direction and selected the right strike price at the outset).

Happy trading.

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