Last week we outlined an options play based on the historical fluctuation pattern for our favorite ETP called SVXY. This week we will compare those fluctuations to the market in general (using the S&P 500 tracking stock, SPY, as the market definition). We proposed buying a vertical call spread for a one-month-out expiration date with the lower strike about 6% above the starting stock price.
The results were a little unbelievable, possibly gaining an average of 65% a month (assuming the fluctuation pattern continued into the future). If you used an outside indicator to determine which months were more likely to end up with a winning result, you would invest in just under half the months, but when you did invest, your average gain might be in the neighborhood of 152%. Your average monthly gain would be approximately the same if you only invested half the time or all the time, but some people like to increase the percentage of months when they make gains (the pain of losing always seems to be worse than the pleasure of winning).
This week we will offer a second way to bet that the stock will rise by 12.5% in about 38% of the months (as it has in the past). It involves buying a calendar spread rather than a vertical call spread (and sort of legging into a long call position as an alternative to the simple purchase of a call).
Further Discussion on an Options Strategy Designed to Make 40% a Month
First. Let’s compare the monthly price fluctuations of SPY and SVXY. You will see that they are totally different.
Here is a graph showing how much SPY has fluctuated each month over the past 38 months:
Over the 38 months of the time period, SPY rose in 28 months and fell in 10 months. By far, the most popular monthly change was in the zero to +2.5% range. Note that in less than 8% of the months (3 out of 38) SPY fluctuated by more than 5%, while in over 92% of the months, the fluctuation was less than 5%.
Compare the monthly fluctuations of SPY with those for SVXY over the same time period:
SVXY rose in 28 of the 38 months, exactly the same number as SPY. However, the absolute percentage price changes are far higher for SVXY. In nearly half the months, SVXY fluctuated by more than 10% either way (18 of 38 months). In 24 of the 38 months (63%), SVXY changed by more than 5% in either direction compared to less than 8% of the months for SPY. In 21 of the 38 months (55%) SVXY gained over 5%.
Bottom line, monthly fluctuations for SVXY are considerably greater than they are for SPY. In most months, the price change for SPY is relatively insignificant and for SVXY, the price is rarely anywhere near where it started out each expiration month.
Buying Vertical Spreads:
If you were to buy a one-month vertical spread on SPY, buying the at-the-money strike price and selling at a strike $5 higher, the spread would cost about $1.65 ($165) and you could sell it for $5.00 ($500) if the stock rose about 2 1/2% or more. However, if the historical pattern persisted, you would make the maximum gain in only 13 of 38 months, or 34% of the time.
The same 5-point spread in SVXY would cost far more ($2.50) but you could look forward to making the maximum gain in 21 of 38 months (55% of the time). While buying this spread would give you a statistical edge, it probably is not the best spread to purchase. A more profitable spread would be at higher strike prices – betting that the stock would increase by 12.5% or more (which it has 38% of the time). Since this higher-strike price would cost far less, your statistical edge would be much greater as would your gains in those months when a big increase took place.
A second alternative would be to simply buy a call which was about 6% above the purchase price. Last week, in a demonstration portfolio at Terry’s Tips, with SVXY trading at $75, we bought a one-month-out 80 call. It cost $1.40. If the stock rose by 12.5% from $75, it would be trading around $84 ½ and you could sell the call for about 3 times what you paid for it.
We also bought some SVXY Dec4-14 – Dec2-14 80 calendar call spreads for $1.14. This is a way of buying a 5-week call at the 80 strike, paying less than a 4-week call which cost $1.40. When the Dec2-14 short calls expire in two weeks, we would not replace them, and stick with uncovered long calls that expires a week later than the Dec-14 call. The only extra risk we are taking here is that the stock skyrockets 12.5% in the very first two weeks so that the Dec2-14 80 call finishes in the money (something that seems unlikely to happen his month since VIX is so low so that most of the increase in SVXY should come from the contango component). This spread seems to be a better alternative than just buying the Dec-14 80 call, but we will see how it works out. Of course, I’ll report back to you.
So far, the stock has edged up to close today about 5% higher than it started out last week (after recovering from a big drop on Monday). Contango is above 10%, unusually high, but not so unusual for the month of December because of the “holiday effect” (December is often characterized by low volume and higher stock prices, and VIX futures for this month are typically lower than any other month). The contango number is a rough approximation of how much SVXY should increase in one month from the daily adjustment which is made (selling the one-month-out futures and buying at the spot price of VIX). Of course, if VIX fluctuates, SVXY will move in the opposite direction. If VIX moves higher, SVXY might move lower even if it is helped by the contango tailwinds.