Sometimes, the market does just the opposite of what you hoped it would, and you are faced with the decision to hang on and hope it will reverse itself, or accept that you guessed wrong, and close out your position and move on to something else.
That will be our subject today.
Knowing When to Bite the Bullet
Kenny Rogers said it well – “You’ve got to know when to walk away and know when to run.” We set up demonstration portfolio to trade diagonal spreads on an ETP called SVXY. We were betting that the stock would go up. In each of the last two years, SVXY had doubled in value. Its inverse, VXX, had fallen from a split-adjusted $3000+ to under $30 over the past 5 years, making it just about the biggest dog on the entire stock exchange (selling it short would have made anyone a bundle over that time period). We felt comfortable being long (i.e., the equivalent of owning stock) in something that would do just the opposite of VXX.
In our demonstration portfolio, we decided to trade puts rather than calls because there was a lot more time premium in the weekly puts that we planned to sell to someone else than there was in the calls. Each Friday, we would buy back the expiring put and replace it by selling another put with a week of remaining life. This strategy enabled us to be short put options that had extremely high decay.
The biggest challenge was to decide which strikes to sell new puts at. We selected a strike that was about $1 in-the-money (i.e., about a dollar higher than the stock price), or if the put we were buying back was well into the money so that the trade could not be made at a credit, we would select the highest strike we could take that could yield us a credit on the spread. This meant that when the stock tumbled, the best we could do would be to sell a calendar spread at a very small credit.
In a six-week period, the stock managed to fall by over 30%. Not such good news when we were betting that it would go up. The biggest problem with a drop of this magnitude was that our short put was so far in the money that we risked an execution. This would mean that the stock would be put to us (i.e., we would be forced to buy it at the strike price). With that risk hanging over our head, the time has come to recognize our loss.
Admitting that you were wrong, at least for a certain time period, and closing out your trade, is sometimes the best thing you could do. Many people hang on to their losing investments and sell the winners (usually for a smaller profit than they could have made by hanging on). In the long run, this strategy leaves you with a portfolio of losing stocks that you are hoping will go higher (and probably never will). Better to sell your losers and move on to something more promising.
Today we placed the following trade which closed out our spread:
Buy to Close 1 SVXY Oct4-14 80.5 put (SVXY141024P80.5)
Sell to Close 1 SVXY Jan-15 90 put (SVXY150117P90) for a credit of $9.71 (selling a diagonal)
When the trade was executed at this price, we were left with $1,234 in the account after paying commissions. Since we started with $1500, we were faced with a loss of $266, or a little less than 18%. This was over a period in which the stock we were betting on lost over 30%. This is another example of how options can protect you better than merely buying stock.
We expected to make 150% a year on this portfolio, many times greater than the 18% we lost in the couple of months we operated it. If the stock had remained flat or moved higher as we expected, we could have expected to gain the 3% a week we were hoping for.
Today, in the special account I set up this portfolio with $1500 (and now is down to $1234), I am trying again, this time at lower strike prices which are more appropriate to the current level of the stock.
This was the trade I executed today when the stock was trading about $57:
Buy To Open 1 SVXY Mar-15 65 put (SVXY150320P65)
Sell To Open 1 SVXY Oct4-14 59 put (SVXY141025P59) for a debit of $12.07 (buying a diagonal)
I will continue trading this account and let you know from time to time how close I am achieving my goal of 3% a week, although I will not report every trade I make each week. I will follow the guidelines for rolling over as outlined above, so you should be able to do it on your own if you wished.