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Posts Tagged ‘diagonal spreads’

How to Trade Out of an Earnings-Related Options Play

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

A little over a week ago, I told you about trades I was making in advance of Nike’s earnings announcement. Lots of things didn’t quite work out the way I had expected they would, but I still managed to make over 50% for the week on my trades. There were some good learning experiences concerning how to trade out of calendar spreads once the announcement has been made. You need to tread water until the short options you sold expire and you can close out the spreads, and that can present some challenges.

Today I would like to share those learning experiences with you in case you make similar trades prior to a company’s earnings announcement.

Happy trading.

Terry

How to Trade Out of an Earnings-Related Options Play

According to Openfolio, a site where about 70,000 users share information on their investments, three out of four investors lost money in June, with an average return of -0.10%. This compares to the results of the Terry’s Tips’ Auto-Traded portfolios where 7 of 8 portfolios gained, and the average gain was 15.1%. Our only losing portfolio was a special bet that the short-term price of oil would fall. It didn’t, and we lost a little, but that was nothing compared to 4 of the portfolios which gained over 20% for the month.

One of our portfolios trades options on Nike (NKE) which announced earnings after the close last Tuesday, June 28. We had spreads in place similar to those that I told you about last week (and several others as well). The portfolio managed to gain 29% in June, something that often happens during the month when an earnings announcement takes place.

On the Monday before the earnings announcement, with the stock trading at about $52, I placed these trades (at higher quantities):

Buy to Open 1 NKE 29Jul16 52.5 put (NKE160729P52.5)
Sell to Open 1 NKE 1Jul16 52.5 put (NKE160701P52.5) for a debit of $.50 (buying a calendar)

Buy to Open 1 NKE 29Jul16 55 call (NKE160729C55)
Sell to Open 1 NKE 1Jul16 55 call (NKE160701C55) for a debit of $.50 (buying a calendar)

In my note to you, I said I thought you could buy these spreads for $.43 ($43) each, but that was based on the prior Friday’s prices. I was disappointed to have to pay so much more, but I still believed it was a pretty good bet.

When the stock fell closer to $51, I bought half as many spreads as the above two at the 50 strike just in case the stock continued to trade lower. When you buy calendar spreads, you select strike prices where you hope the stock will end up when the short options expire, as the at-the-money strike spread will be the most profitable. Buying spreads at several strikes gives you more places where you can end up being happy, but your maximum gain is reduced a bit when you buy the increased protection that owning several strikes provides.

After I made the above trades on Monday, I suffered my second disappointment. As I had seen so many times before, in the last day before the announcement (Tuesday), the stock rallied $1.10 and closed at $53.09. If I had anticipated this better, I would not have bought the spreads at the 50 strike. In after-hours trading after the announcement (earnings were a penny above estimates but sales disappointed a little and outlook was about what was expected), the stock tanked to about $50. As we have often seen, this initial move was quickly reversed. When the market opened on Wednesday, it had moved up to $54.50.

While my positions were showing a nice paper profit at the open on Wednesday, I had to wait to near Friday’s close to get the full amount I was hoping for. I was in a bad position, however, because most of my spreads were at strike prices which were below the stock price. In option terms, my positions were negative net delta – this means that if the stock went up another dollar, I would lose money. I aggressively changed to a neutral net delta condition by closing out the lowest-strike put calendars (at the 50 strike) and changing some 52.5 calendars to diagonals, buying back in-the-money 52.5 short calls and replacing them with at-the-money 55 calls and slightly out-of-the-money 56 calls in the same 01Jul16 series.

Then I encountered my third disappointment. I had expected implied volatility (IV) of the long 29Jul16 series to be 27 after the announcement based on recent history, but it ended up being 24 which dampened my expected results. That meant the option prices would not be as high as I expected when I went to sell them. I had figured an at-the-money spread could be sold for $1.40, and the closest spread I had (the 55 strike) only yielded $.97 (however, this was almost double what I paid for it). By Friday, the stock moved above the top strike price I held (55) and closed at $55.61. Since I managed to stay neutral net delta and actually pick up some extra premium in the last three days from the new at-the-money calls I sold, I ended up making over 50% on my total investment for the week. It was a lot of work but surely worth the effort.

I had set out to make 100% in a single week, and experienced disappointments in three different areas, but at the end of the day, I was pleased to take in half that amount for the week.

What could be taken away from this play was; 1) that the stock often rises in the last day before the announcement (probably legging into the calendars would have been more profitable, but more risky), 2) the initial move after the announcement is usually reversed, and 3) it is important to make adjustments to create a neutral net delta condition for all your spreads until the short options expire.

100% Gain in One Week Possible With Nike Options Trade?

Monday, June 27th, 2016

The Brexit vote on Friday crushed markets throughout the world, but it was a great day for Terry’s Tips subscribers who follow the eight actual portfolios we carry out for them to follow if they wish.  Our composite gain for the day was greater than 10%, and that was on a day when the Dow fell over 600 points and the market as a whole (SPY) dropped even more.

One of the portfolios we carry out is designed to protect against a market crash or correction.  We call it the Better Bear.  It gained 34% Friday when the markets tumbled.  Friday, like many days, was one when many of us are happy that we trade options rather than simply buy or sell shares of stock.

Today, I would like to share two trades I will be placing on Monday or Tuesday.  I think that there is an excellent chance that these trades could double my money in a single week.

Happy trading.

Terry

100% Gain in One Week Possible With Nike Options Trade? 

Nike (NKE) has fallen on hard times of late, falling from $68 in early December to $52.59 at the close on Friday.  Earnings will be announced after the close on Tuesday, the 28th. Whisper numbers are about 10% higher than public estimates, and options are priced for a higher price after the announcement.

I am an options trader and rarely ever buy stock.  I really don’t know if Nike will go up or down after the announcement, but there are some interesting features of the option prices that have caused me to take an interest in the company this week.  As I often repeat in this newsletter, implied volatility (IV) of the option prices is the major reason that option prices are “high” or “low” compared to other option prices.

Most of the time, our basic strategy involves buying calendar spreads at a variety of strike prices. A calendar spread (also called a time spread) consists of coincidentally buying and selling either put or call options at the same strike price.  The option you buy always has a longer time life than the option you sell.  Our gains come from the higher decay rate of the short-term options that we have sold compared to the lower decay rate of the longer-term options that we have bought.

Most of the time, when we buy these calendar spreads, the IV for the options we buy is greater than it is for the options we sell.  This means we are buying relatively more expensive options and selling relatively cheap options.  We don’t particularly like this, of course, but it is usually the nature of option prices.  Most of the time, we manage to make money on our calendar spreads in spite of this reality (which we call an IV disadvantage).

When a company is about to announce earnings, the IV disadvantage often turns into an IV advantage.  When a company announces, there is often a big move in the stock in one direction or the other immediately after the announcement.  The likelihood of this big move causes a surge in the option prices for the series which expires directly after the announcement.  In other words, IV soars for that series and almost always becomes greater than the longer-term series that follow.

The NKE option series which expires directly after the June 28 post-market announcement is the 1Jul16 series which expires on the following Friday.  IV for this series has surged to 53.  This compares to an IV of 30 for the 29Jul16 series which expires 28 days later than the 1Jul16 series.  This is a humungous IV advantage.  It enables you to buy relatively cheap options and sell relatively expensive options which have a long way to fall to get to their intrinsic value on expiration Friday.

When you buy calendar spreads, you choose a strike price which is closest to where you think the stock price will end up.  Since I really have no idea where that price might be for NKE, I take my best guess and select strike prices accordingly.  My best guess is that NKE has fallen so far already that the chances are better that it might move higher after tomorrow’s announcement.  After all, it is a good company, and they are still celebrating LeBron James’ victory in Cleveland (and he is a big spokesman for Nike).  With the stock closing at $52.59 on Friday, I will pick the 52.5 and 55 strike prices.  If I wanted to guess that the stock would fall after the announcement, I would pick the 50 strike as well.

Here are the trades I will make Monday or Tuesday (although the quantities will be greater):

Buy to Open 1 NKE 29Jul16 52.5 put (NKE160729P52.5)

Sell to Open 1 NKE 1Jul16 52.5 put (NKE160701P52.5) for a debit of $.43  (buying a calendar)

Buy to Open 1 NKE 29Jul16 55 call (NKE160729C55)

Sell to Open 1 NKE 1Jul16 55 call (NKE160701C55) for a debit of $.43 (buying a calendar)

I may have to adjust these prices a bit to get an execution, but at Friday’s close, these prices were possible.  Each spread will cost me $43 plus a $2.50 commission (the rate paid by Terry’s Tips’ subscribers at thinkorswim – many people become subscribers primarily to get this low rate which applies to all their trades – the normal commission rate at thinkorswim  for a single option spread trade is $7.80).

So I will be shelling out a total of $86 plus $5, or $91 for each pair of spreads I buy.  I am planning to close out (sell) both spreads near the end of the day on Friday, July 1st.  I have selected puts for the 52.5 strike and calls for the 55 strike because I am hoping that the stock ends up at some price between $52.50 and $55 on Friday.  If it does, then both the puts and calls I sold that will expire that day will be out of the money.  I should be able to buy them back for $.05 or less near the end of the day. Thinkorswim does not charge a commission if you buy back expiring options for $.05 or less.

The big question will be what value the 29Jul16 options will have next Friday.  To get an idea, I need to check back and see what the likely IV will be of those options at a time when there is no earnings announcement on the horizon.  I found that a typical IV for the series with 28 days of remaining life was 27.  That is 3 less than the current IV of those options.  This means that those option prices will fall, but not a whole lot.

If you go to the CBOE option calculator and enter in a price of either $52.50 or $55 and the same strike, select 28 days for the time period, and 27 as the IV, and hit Calculate, you will find that the option will be trading about $1.56 for the 52.5 strike or $1.64 for the 55 strike.  That means that if the stock ends up at either of the strike prices I selected, I will collect almost twice as much for a single sale as I paid for both spreads.  The other spread will also have some value.  If the stock is $2.50 away from one of the strikes, the CBOE calculator says the remaining long option will have a value of about $.65 which is still greater than what I paid for either spread, even after paying $.05 to buy back the expiring option.

If these option prices prevail next Friday and the stock ends up at any price between $52.50 and $55, I should be able to collect a total of about $225 (less $10 to buy back the expiring options less $2.50 for commissions, for a net of $212.50).  This amount is well more than double my total $91 investment for the pair of spreads.

What could go wrong?  First, IV might not be as high as 27.  If the stock stays flat, option prices might fall because they are based on the expected volatility of the stock – a flat stock suggests low future volatility.  Second, the stock might fluctuate so much that it moves well beyond the two strike prices I have picked.  That is the greatest fear.  But if that happens, volatility might even get greater than 27 for the options I will be selling, and that might result in a higher than expected price when I sell.

I feel highly confident about these spreads.  If the market tanks early in the week, I would buy spreads at the 50 strike as well.  As usual, I would like to remind everyone that options involve risk, and you should only invest money that you can truly afford to lose.

How To Protect Yourself Against a Market Crash With Options

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Today’s idea is a little complicated, but it involves an important part of any prudent investment strategy. Market crashes do come along every once in a while, and we are eight years away from the last one in 2008. What will happen to your nest egg if it happens again this year?

Options can be a good form of market crash insurance, and it is possible to set up a strategy that might even make a small gain if the crash doesn’t come along. That possibility sets it apart from most forms of insurance which cost you out-of-pocket money if the calamity you insure against doesn’t occur.

Terry

How To Protect Yourself Against a Market Crash With Options

There are some strong indications that the old adage “Sell in May and Go Away” might be the appropriate move right now. Goldman Sachs has downgraded its outlook on equities to “neutral” over the next 12 months, saying there’s no particular reason to own them. “Until we see sustained signals of growth recovery, we do not feel comfortable taking equity risk, particularly as valuations are near peak levels,” the firm said in a research note.

For several months, Robert Shiller has been warning that the market is seriously overvalued by his unique method of measuring prices against long-term average p/e’s. George Soros is keeping the bears happy as well, doubling his wager against the S&P 500. The billionaire investor, who has been warning that the 2008 financial crisis could be repeated due to China’s economic slowdown, bought 2.1M-share “put” options in SPY during Q1. The magnitude of his bet against SPY is phenomenal, essentially 200 million shares short. Of course, he almost always deals in stratospheric numbers, but the size of this bet indicates that he feels pretty strongly about this one. He didn’t become a billionaire by being on the wrong side of market bets.

So what can you do to protect yourself against a big tumble in the market? We are setting up a bearish portfolio for Terry’s Tips subscribers, and this is what it will look like. It is based on the well-known fact that when the market crashes, volatility soars, and when volatility soars, the Exchange Traded Product (ETP) called VXX soars along with it.

Some people buy VXX as market crash insurance (or its steroid-like cousin, UVXY). Over the long run, VXX has been a horrible investment, however, possibly the worst thing you could have done with your money over the past six years. It has fallen from a split-adjusted $4000 to its present price of about $15. It has engineered 1-for-4 reverse splits three times to make the price worth bothering to trade. The split usually occurs when it gets down to about $12, so you can expect another reverse split soon.
An option strategy can be set up that allows you to own the equivalent of VXX while not subjecting you to the long-run inevitable downward trend. When volatility does pick up, VXX soars. In fact, it doubled once and went up 50% another time, both temporarily, in the last year alone. While it is a bad long-term investment, if your timing is right, you might pick up a windfall. Our options strategy is designed to achieve the potential upside windfall while avoiding the long-term prospects you face by merely buying the ETP.

Our new portfolio will buy VXX 20Jan17 15 calls and sell fewer contracts in short-term calls. Sufficient short-term premium will be collected from selling the short term calls to cover the decay on the long calls (and a little bit more).

This portfolio will start with $3000. The entire amount will not be used at the outset, but rather be held in cash in case it might be needed to cover a maintenance call in case the market moves higher.

These might be the starting positions:

BTO 3 VXX 20Jan17 15 calls (VXX170120C15)
STO 3 VXX 17Jun16 15 calls (VXX160617C15) for a debit of $2.40 (buying a diagonal)

BTO 3 VXX 20Jan17 15 calls (VXX170120C15)
STO 3 VXX 24Jun16 16 calls (VXX160624C16) for a debit of $2.45 (buying a diagonal)

BTO 4 VXX 20Jan17 16 calls (VXX170120C16) for $3.30

Here is what the risk profile graph looks like with those positions as of June 18th after the short calls expire:
VXX Better Bear Risk Profile Graph May 2016

VXX Better Bear Risk Profile Graph May 2016
You can see that the portfolio will make gains no matter how high VXX might go. It will make a small gain (about 8% for the month) if the stock stays flat, and starts losing if VXX moves below $14.50. If it falls that far, we might sell call or two at the 14 strike and incur a maintenance requirement which would be partially offset by the amount we collected from selling the call(s). A trade like this would reduce or eliminate a loss if the ETP continues to fall, and it might have to be repeated if VXX continues even lower. At some point, some long calls might need to be rolled down to a lower strike to eliminate maintenance requirements that come along when you sell a call at a lower strike than the long call that covers it.

The above positions could be put on for about $2800. There would be about $200 in cash remaining for the possible maintenance requirement in case one might be necessary.

You probably should not attempt to set up and carry out this strategy unless you are familiar with options trading as it is admittedly a little complicated. A better idea might be to become a Terry’s Tips Insider and open an account at thinkorswim so that these trades could automatically be made for you through their Auto-Trade program.

Every investment portfolio should have a little downside insurance protection. We believe that options offer the best form for that kind of insurance because it might be possible to make a profit at the same time as providing market crash insurance.

As with all forms of investing, you should not be committing money that you truly cannot afford to lose.

An Options Play on Facebook Which Should Make 50% in 60 Days

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Today I would like to suggest an options trade on Facebook (FB). It will involve waiting 6 weeks to close out. Many option players have short attention spans and don’t like to wait that long. On the other hand, I think this trade has a very high likelihood of making a profit of at least 50%, even if the stock fluctuates more than we might like. To my way of thinking, it should be worth the wait, especially since I think that there is a very small likelihood that this play would end up losing money.

Terry

An Options Play on Facebook Which Should Make 50% in 60 Days

Over the past month I have suggested legging into calendar spreads in advance of an earnings announcement for 7 different companies (FB, COST, TWX, TGT, SBUX, and JNJ, and ABBV). In every case, I was personally successful at creating a calendar spread at a credit and guaranteeing myself a profit no matter where the stock price ended up after the announcement. You should have been able to duplicate every one of these successes as well. I got a kick out of having 7 consecutive winning trades, some of which made me more than 100% on my amount at risk.

The ultimate gain on these spreads will depend on how close the stock ends up to the strike price of my calendar spread after the announcement. The nearer to the strike, the greater the gain. It is fun owning a spread that you are certain will make a profit, no matter what the stock does.

Today’s idea is a little different. We will not be guaranteed a profit, but it looks quite likely to happen if our assumptions hold up. In each of the last two quarters when FB announced earnings, they were better than the market expected, and the stock rallied nicely. Who knows what will happen next time around when they announce once again on July 27?

If history is any indication, the stock price for FB doesn’t fluctuate very much between announcement dates. It tends to be fairly flat, or edges up a bit in the lulls between announcements, and often moves a little higher in the week or two before the announcement day.

Today, I bought these calendar spreads on FB when the stock was trading just about $120:

Buy To Open 2 FB 16Sep16 120 calls (FB160916C120)
Sell To Open 2 FB 15Jul16 120 calls (FB160715C120) for a debit of $3.26 (buying a calendar)

Buy To Open 2 FB 16Sep16 125 calls (FB160916C125)
Sell To Open 2 FB 15Jul16 125 calls (FB160715C125) for a debit of $3.11 (buying a calendar)

My total investment for these two spreads was $1274 plus $10 commission (at the rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim), for a total of $1284.

Here is the risk profile graph which shows the profit or loss from those trades when the short options expire on July 15th:

 

Face book Risk Profile May 2016

Face book Risk Profile May 2016

You can see that if the stock ends up somewhere between $120 and $125 in two months, these spreads will make a gain somewhere near $550, or about 42% on the original investment. I think the stock is quite likely to end up inside this range. If I am wrong, and it falls by $5 or goes up by over $10, I will lose some money at that time, but in each case, the loss would be less than half my expected gain if it ends up where I expect it will.

As encouraging as this graph looks, I think it considerably understates how profitable the trades will be, and that has to do with what option prices do around earnings announcement dates. Since stock prices tend to have large fluctuations (both up and down) after the results are made public, option prices skyrocket in anticipation of those fluctuations.

When the 15Jul16 options expire on July 15, there will be a weekly options series available for trading that expires just after the July 27th announcement. It will not become available for trading until 5 weeks before that time, but it will be the 29Jul16 series.

Implied Volatility (IV) of the 15Jul16 series is currently 26 and the 16Sep16 series has an IV of 30. When the 29Jul16 series becomes available, IV will be much higher than either of these numbers, and should soar to near 60 when the announcement date nears (it grew even higher than that a few weeks ago before the last announcement). An IV that high means that an at-the-money call with two weeks of remaining life (which the 29Jul16 series would have when the 15Jul16 series expires), would be worth about $5, or almost double what the above calendar spreads cost us. If this were true, and if the stock is trading between $120 and $125, you could buy back the expiring 15Jul16 calls and sell the 29Jul16 calls at both strike prices for a credit which is greater than what you paid for the original calendar spread, and when those short calls expired, your long calls would still have 6 weeks of remaining life.

In other words, the strategy I have set up today by buying the above two calendar spreads is an admittedly complicated way to leg into two calendar spreads at a large credit, and guaranteeing an additional profit as well. The risk profile graph doesn’t reflect the fact that IV will soar for the 29Jul16 series that doesn’t exist yet, and the indicated gains are drastically understated.

I will update these trades as we move forward, and let you know if I make any adjustments. If the stock moves up to $125 in the next few weeks, I would probably add a third calendar spread at the 130 strke. That is about the only likely adjustment I can think of at this point, unless the stock falls to $115 when I would probably buy the same calendar spread at the 115 strike.

If you make this investment, as is true with all options investments, you should do it only with money that you can truly afford to lose. If you do choose to make it, I wish both of us luck over the next two months.

 

More Legging Into Pre-Announcement Calendar Option Spreads

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Over the past month I have suggested legging into calendar spreads in advance of an earnings announcement for 4 different companies. In every case, you should have been able to duplicate my success in creating a calendar spread at a credit. These spreads are absolutely guaranteed to make a profit since the long side of the spreads has more time remaining and will always be worth more than the short side, regardless of what the stock does after the earnings announcement.

Today I would like to suggest two more companies where I am trying to set up calendar spreads at a credit.

Terry

More Legging Into Pre-Announcement Calendar Option Spreads

First, an update on the Facebook (FB) pre-earnings play I suggested last week. Earlier, I showed how you could leg into a calendar spread in FB at the 110 strike, and this proved to be successful. In addition, last week I suggested something different – the outright buying of 17JUN16 – 29APR16 calendar spreads at the 105 strike (using puts and paying $1.58), the 110 strike (using puts and paying $1.52) and the 115 strike (using calls and paying $1.52). I was able to execute all three of these spreads in my account at these prices, and you should have been able to do the same.

As you probably know, FB reported blow-out numbers, and the stock soared, initially to over $121, but then it fell back to $117 near the close on Friday the 29th. We were hoping that the stock could end up inside our range of strikes (105 – 115) but we were not so lucky. At 3:00 on Friday, I sold these three spreads for $.95, $1.82, and $3.40 for a total of $6.17 for all 3. This compared to a cost of $4.62 for the 3 spreads. Deducting out $15 in commissions, I netted $1.40 ($140) for every set of three calendar spreads I had put on. While this was a disappointing result, it worked out to 22% on the investment in only 4 days. I enjoyed the thrill of holding a possible 100% gain (if the stock had ended up at $110 instead of $117) and still managed to make a greater return than most people do in an entire year.

This week, on Monday morning, I looked at Costco (COST), (one of my favorite stocks) which reports earnings on May 25. The options series that expires just after this announcement is the 27MAY16 series. With the stock at about $148.50, I bought 10JUN16 150 calls (which expire two weeks later than the 27MAY16 options), paying $2.90. Implied Volatility (IV) for those options was 21 and the 27MAY16 series was only 22. I expect the difference between these IVs to get much higher over the next couple of weeks (mostly, the 27MAY16 series should move higher).

I immediately placed an order to sell the 27MAY16 150 calls (good-til-cancelled order) for $3.05 which would give me a credit of $.15 ($15 less $2.50 commissions). The stock shot $2 higher and this order executed less than 2 hours after I placed it. I apologize that I didn’t send this out to you in time for you to duplicate what I did.

I still like the company and its prospects, so I placed another order to buy 10JUN16 152.5 calls, paying $2.56 when COST was trading at $150.80. I then placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell 27MAY16 152.5 calls for $2.65. That has not executed yet.

Another company that looked interesting was Target (TGT) which announces earnings before the bell on May 18. IV for the 20MAY16 series was 27, only barely higher than the 3JUN16 series of 24 (this difference should get bigger). When the stock was trading about $79.40, I bought 3JUN16 79.5 calls for $1.88 and immediately placed an order to sell 20MAY16 calls for $1.95. This order executed about 2 hours later when the stock rose about $.60. Once again, I apologize that I did not get his trade possibility out to you in time for you to copy it.

Tomorrow I intend to buy TGT 3JUN16 81 calls and as soon as I get them, I will place an order to sell 20MAY16 81 calls for $.10 more than I paid for them. If the stock rises or IV of the 20MAY16 options gets larger (as it should), another credit calendar guaranteed profit spread should be in place.

In the last few weeks, I have both told you about and used this strategy for SBUX, JNJ, FB, and TWX. Now I have added COST and TGT to the list. In each case, I bought a slightly out-of-the-money call a few weeks out and immediately placed an order to sell the post-announcement same-strike call so that I would create a calendar spread at a credit.

The ultimate gain on these spreads will depend on how close the stock ends up to the strike price of my calendar spread after the announcement. The nearer to the strike, the greater the gain. It is fun owning a spread that you are certain will make a profit, no matter what the stock does.

How to Play the Upcoming Facebook Earnings Announcement

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Over the last 3 weeks, I have suggested a way to leg into calendar spreads at a credit in advance of the earnings announcement for Starbucks (SBUX), Facebook (FB), and Abbvie (ABBV). All three calendars ended up being completed, and all three have already delivered a small profit. Once earnings are announced and the short side of the calendar spread expires, all three spreads are guaranteed to produce a much larger profit as well (depending on how close the stock price is to the strike price).

Today I would like to discuss another Facebook play. While this one does not guarantee profits, I believe it is even more exciting in many ways. It is possible that you could double your money in less than two weeks. I also believe it is extremely unlikely to lose money.

Terry

How to Play the Upcoming Facebook Earnings Announcement

All sorts of articles have been written over the past few weeks about the prospects for FB, some positive and some negative. We will all learn who was right and who was wrong late next week when FB announces earnings on April 27, and the details of the company’s large assortment of new and wondrous initiatives will be disclosed.

The high degree of uncertainty over the announcement has caused implied volatility (IV) of the options to soar, particularly in the series that expires two days after the announcement. Those Apr5-16 options carry an IV of 52. This compares to only 35 for longer-term option series and 32 for the Apr4-16 series which expires this week.

Buying calendar spreads at this time represents one of the best opportunities I have ever seen to buy cheap options and sell expensive options against them. The FB calendar spreads are exceptionally cheap right now, at least to my way of thinking.

I have written an article which was published by TheStreet.com today which describes the actual calendar spreads I have bought yesterday and today (and I have bought a lot of them). The article fully explains my thinking as to which spreads I purchased. Read the full article here.

Earnings Season Has Arrived – How to Capitalize on it With Options

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

For each of the last two Mondays I have told you about an earnings-related trade I made. Today I would like to review my thinking on those trades, update how they are going, and offer you a new idea of a third trade I made his morning.

Terry

Earnings Season Has Arrived – How to Capitalize on it With Options

In the last few weeks leading up to a quarterly earnings announcement, two things usually happen. First of all, the stock often moves higher as the announcement day approaches as some investors start hoping that the company might beat expectations. The second thing is even more likely (and essentially always happens). Implied Volatility (IV) of the option prices moves much high. This means that the prices for options temporarily rise in value across the board. The greatest upward move in IV takes place in the options series which expires just after the announcement date.

The reason that IV becomes greater at this time is that once earnings are announced, the stock is likely to move either up or down by a much larger amount than it does most trading days. When volatility is expected to be high, option prices rise in anticipation of that higher level of anticipated price changes.

One of my favorite option plays is based on these two tendencies to occur as the announcement day approaches. I like to leg into a calendar spread at a strike price which is slightly higher than the stock price. I do this by buying a call option at that strike in the option series that expires two weeks after the series which expires just after the announcement is made. Once I have made my purchase, I place a good-til-cancelled order to sell a call at the same strike in the series that expires just after the announcement date (the series which will carry the highest IV and therefore the highest option prices). I set a limit price which is sufficiently greater than what I paid for the two-week-longer call to cover the commissions and leave a small profit as well.

This limit price should be met if either or both of the tendencies end up happening (the stock moves higher or IV increases). Most of the time, I have been able to complete the trade and end up with a calendar spread at a credit.

If I am successful in setting up a calendar spread at a credit, I am guaranteed to make a nice profit on the spread. I can’t lose because the call I own has two weeks more of life than the same-strike call I have sold to someone else, so it can be sold at a credit, no matter what the stock price does after the announcement. My greatest gain will come if the stock ends up very close to the strike price which I selected.

The Starbucks (SBUX) Play: SBUX announces on April 21. Two weeks ago, with SBUX trading about $58.60, I placed an order to buy SBUX May1-16 calls. I paid $1.12 ($112 per contract) plus $1.25 commission at the rate paid by Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim (if you are paying more than this as commission rate, you might consider opening an account at this brokerage – see the offer below).

I immediately placed an order to sell Apr4-16 60 calls at a limit price of $1.20. The Apr4-16 series expires on April 22, the day after the announcement on the 21st. This trade executed the very next day. After commissions, I had gained $5.50 for each spread, and was guaranteed to make an additional gain once the Apr4-16 calls expired. Since the May1-16 calls have two weeks more of remaining life than the Apr4-16 calls, the spread will always have at least some value. The closer the stock is to $60, the greater the value of the spread. If I am lucky enough to see it end up at $60 on April 22, I could expect to collect about $80 for each spread (on top of the $5.50 I already have collected).

The Facebook (FB) Play: One week ago today, knowing that FB would announce earnings on April 27, when the stock was trading at $112 (it had fallen $4 at the open from Friday’s close because an analyst forecast that their earnings would disappoint). I bought May2-16 114 calls for $4.40 ($440 plus $1.25 per contract, or $441.25). I then placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell Apr5-16 114 calls for $4.50. These calls would expire on April 29, two days after the announcement on the 27th.

Both the stock and IV of the Apr5-16 options rose on Tuesday, and my trade executed. IV for the Apr4-16 series was 40 when I reported this trade to you two weeks ago, and it is now 48. Now I am guaranteed a profit in FB as well, and I am rooting for the company to exceed expectations and a $114 price come along after the announcement. (As I write this, FB has fallen further, to about $110). There is something nice about holding an options investment that is guaranteed to make a gain no matter what the stock price does. Most of the time, I would be anguishing when my stock is dropping in price.

Closing Out the Trades: On the Friday when the short calls in these calendar spreads expire, you will have to make a decision. If the stock price is trading at a lower price than the strike price, you don’t really need to do anything as the short calls will expire worthless. However, you might want to buy them back at a nominal price (if that price is $.05 or lower, thinkorswim does not charge any commission, by the way). You would only buy them back if you also planned to make a sell trade as well. You could either sell the call you own which has two weeks of remaining life (essentially closing out the calendar spread), or you might sell the same-strike call which has one week of remaining life (this sale can almost always be made at more than 50% of what you could sell the two-week-out call).

A third alternative would be let the short call expire worthless and just hang on to your long calls (remember, they did not cost you anything at the beginning), and hope for a windfall gain if the stock manages to soar. Most of the time, I resist buying puts or calls outright, preferring instead to be a seller of short-term options. But every once in a while, it is fun to hang on to an option and see what might happen, especially when it didn’t cost me anything. It is sort of like getting a free lottery ticket (with better odds but a smaller pay-off than the lottery offers).

If the Sell Trade Doesn’t Execute: Some of the time, the stock will fall after you have made your call purchase and IV doesn’t rise enough to force an execution on your sell order. In those cases, I wait until the end of the day just before the announcement and sell the same call in my good-til-cancelled order at whatever price I can get. I have found that the stock often ticks up in the final hour of that day, and I can get a better price than earlier.

The calendar spread that you have created will not be made at a credit, but it still might be cheap compared to usual standards because of the elevated IV of the call you are selling.

Another alternative might be to sell your long call. It might be sold at a small profit, or more likely, a small loss. Even if the stock has fallen, IV might have moved high enough to make the option worth more than you paid for it.

This Week’s Trade, Abbvie (ABBV): ABBV is a drug company that pays a high dividend and doesn’t fluctuate very much. For these reasons, IV and option prices are quite low, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make gains with this same strategy. ABBV announces earnings before the market opens on April 28th.

With the stock trading about $58.50 this morning, I bought ABBV May2-16 58.5 calls for $1.87. This series closes two weeks later than the Apr5-16 series which expires on April 29, just after the April 28 announcement date. I have placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell Apr5-16 58.5 calls at a limit price of $1.95. IV for this series is currently 34 and can be expected to rise over the next week or two.

I selected the 58.5 strike instead of a higher strike because there is a $.57 dividend payable on April 13 (tomorrow) which may depress the stock by about that much. In fact, you might want to wait until tomorrow to buy the Apr5-16 call because it might be cheaper then.

I will report back to you on how these trades end up.

How to Play the Facebook (FB) Earnings Announcement

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Facebook (FB) will announce earnings on April 27, and this presents an opportunity to make an investment similar to the one I suggested last week regarding Starbucks (SBUX). One of the SBUX trades has already resulted in a small profit and has a guaranteed additional profit which could be significant in two weeks when the post-announcement options expire. I hope you enjoy reading about the trades I made in FB this morning (and my reasoning behind them).

Terry

How to Play the Facebook (FB) Earnings Announcement

First of all, a quick update on the suggestion I made one week ago concerning the upcoming SBUX announcement on April 21st. At that time, with SBUX trading about $58.60, I suggested 3 different ways to play this announcement, all of which were based on the stock moving a bit higher in anticipation of that big day (a good deal of the time, stocks do move higher in advance of the earnings announcement day). All three trades have increased in value since last week because SBUX has indeed moved higher, and now trades about $60.50.

One of the suggestions involved legging into a May1-16 – Apr4-16 60 call calendar spread. This involved buying May1-16 60 calls outright with a plan to sell Apr4-16 60 calls if the stock moved higher or implied volatility (IV) of the Apr4-16 options rose (two things that frequently happen as the announcement date approaches).

I bought SBUX May1-16 calls for $1.12 ($112 per contract) plus $1.25 commission at the rate paid by Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim (if you are paying more than this as commission rate, you might consider opening an account at this brokerage – see the offer below).

I didn’t have to wait very long for the stock to move enough higher so that I could sell the Apr4-16 60 calls for more than I had paid for the May1-16 calls. On Tuesday, I completed the calendar spread at the 60 strike by selling Apr4-16 60 calls for $1.20 ($120 per contract less $1.25 commission). After commissions, I had gained $5.50 for each spread, and was guaranteed to make an additional gain once the Apr4-16 calls expired and I would presumably sell the calendar spread. Since the May1-16 calls have two weeks more of remaining life than the Apr4-16 calls, the spread will always have at least some value. The closer the stock is to $60, the greater the value of the spread. If I am lucky enough to see it end up at $60 on April 22, I could expect to collect about $80 for each spread (on top of the $5.50 I already have collected).

While there is something nice about holding something that already has a small gain locked in, and there is still hope for a decent gain in two weeks, in retrospect, I wish I had completed the calendar on only half my positions. The stock rose to $61 and at the end of the week I could have sold the Apr4 calls for $.20 more than I did. I expected the stock to move higher in the week going into the announcement but it moved higher earlier than that. It probably still has room to climb over the next two weeks, but now I am locked in to a smaller gain than I could have made by waiting.

We are faced with a similar situation with Facebook which announces on the 27th. The May2-16 options series which expires two weeks after this date carries an IV of 37 which compares to 40 for the Apr4 series which expires just after the announcement (it is always nice to sell options with a higher IV than those that you buy). As the 27th approaches, IV for the Apr5-16, May1-16, and May2-16 series may move even higher (i.e., the option prices will increase even if the stock price remains flat).

I like to buy calendar spreads at a strike which is a couple of dollars higher than the current stock price in anticipation of the stock moving higher in the weeks or days leading up to the announcement. Today, FB fell about $4 because Deutsche Bank analyst Ross Sandler cautioned that its Q1 numbers may come in shy of high expectations, allowing investors to add to positions below current levels. There was also some disquieting news about the company’s Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Initial product reviews were tepid and there will be some delivery problems at first (possibly due to too many sets being ordered?). In any event, the stock traded down to about $112.25 when I placed the following orders this morning.

First, I bought May2-16 114 calls for $4.40 ($440 plus $1.25 per contract, or $441.25). I then placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell Apr5-16 114 calls for $4.50. If this order is executed sometime in the next couple of weeks, I will have all my money back plus a little (including commissions) and will wait until April 29 to see how big my profit will be (the closer to $114 that FB is, the greater will be my gain). It could be as high as $200 per contract (the expected value of a FB at-the-money call with two weeks of remaining life (and an IV of 27).

In addition to buying May2-16 calls with the intention of legging into a calendar spread, I made the following two trades this morning:

Buy To Open 10 FB May2-16 114 calls (FB160513C114)
Sell To Open 10 FB Apr5-16 114 calls (FN160429C114) for a debit of $.60 (buying a calendar)

Buy To Open 10 FB May2-16 114 puts (FB160513P114)
Sell To Open 10 FB Apr5-16 114 puts (FN160429P114) for a debit of $.55 (buying a calendar)

You might notice that these are identical calendar spreads except that one is with calls and the others with puts. One thing we have learned is that the strike price is what is important with calendar spreads, not whether puts or calls are used. The risk profile is identical with either puts or calls (even though this does not make much intuitive sense).

These calendar spreads have sold the options which expire just after the announcement and these options carry the highest IV of any option series (i.e., they are the most expensive of all option series). I like these spreads because they are so cheap, and you can’t lose the entire investment no matter what. The value of your long options will always be higher than the value of the options you have sold because they have two weeks of additional remaining life.

Assuming IV of the May2-16 options will fall to about 27 (from the current 37), an at-the-money two-week option would carry a premium of at least $2.00 (the CBOE option calculator comes up with a $2.40 price). This would about triple your money if you sold the spread at this price. There is a good chance that IV might not fall that far. It is 31 for the Apr4-16 series that expires just before announcement week, for example. So it might be possible to sell the at-the-money spread for more than $2.00.

My best guess is that the call calendar spread could be sold at a profit on April 29th if FB is at any price within $4 of $114, and the put calendar spread could be sold at a profit if FB is at any price within $5 of $114.

If there is a big move in the price of FB in the next couple of weeks, I would probably buy more of these same calendar spreads at different strike prices. This would increase my chances of having at least some spreads at a strike which is close to the stock price and where the greatest profit potential lies. If FB moves up to $116, for example, I might buy some calendars at the 118 strike to expand the range of possible stock prices that would give me a net profit. I figure if I triple my money on one spread I could lose everything (an impossibility) on the other spread and still come out ahead.

I will report back to you on how these trades end up, or if I add any more spreads at different strike prices. Most companies report earnings each quarter, and there will be lots of opportunities to use these trading ideas on other companies you might like.

Some Ways to Play the SBUX Earnings Announcement

Monday, March 28th, 2016

In the few weeks before a company makes its quarterly earnings announcement, option prices make some predictable changes and the stock usually edges up in advance of the announcement. There are several ways you can take advantage of these changes to pick up some nice trading profits using stock options. Today I would like to share some trades I placed today on Starbucks (SBUX).

Terry

Some Ways to Play the SBUX Earnings Announcement

SBUX is slated to announce earnings on April 21st. Implied Volatility (IV) for pre-announcement weeks is 20 and it pops up to 25 for the Apr4-15 series which expires just after the announcement. The next two weekly series also have an IV of 25 which is likely to fall to 20 after the announcement.

SBUX has a record of coming very close to meeting earnings expectations. For the four quarters, there has never been a difference of more than a penny between what the market expected from the announcement and the actual earnings figure. Consequently, the stock has not fluctuated very much after the announcement.

Many times, in the weeks or days leading up to the announcement, hope for a better-than-expected announcement often causes the stock to tick a little higher.

SBUX closed last week at $58.36. I think there is a good chance that it might drift up to the $60 as we head into the announcement week. There are several ways you could play the tendency for the stock to move higher just before that time. One way would be to leg into a calendar spread by buying a further-out 60 call and wait for the stock to move up before completing the short side. If it does move up, you would get the calendar spread at a very attractive price (possible even at a credit which means you would be assured of a gain no matter what happens to the stock after the announcement). The downside is the possibility that it does not move higher, and time starts eating away at your long call before you can complete the spread.

Today, with SBUX trading about $58.60, I placed an order to buy SBUX May1-16 calls. I paid $1.12 ($112 per contract) plus $1.25 commission at the rate paid by Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim (if you are paying more than this as commission rate, you might consider opening an account at this brokerage – see the offer below).

A second way to play it would be to buy a May1-16 – Apr-16 60 call calendar spread. This is the trade I made today:

Buy to Open 5 SBUX May1-16 60 calls (SBUX160506C69)
Sell to Open 5 SBUX Apr-16 60 calls (SBUX160415C60) for a debit of $.68 (buying a calendar)
The Apr-16 series expires in the week before the announcement, so you could roll into the higher-IV Apr4-16 series when it expires on April 15. An at-the-money call with a week of remaining life when IV is 25 is about $.80, so if you are lucky and the stock is trading near $60, you could sell the Apr4-16 60 calls for more than you paid for the original calendar, and you would still own a calendar with two weeks of remaining life.

A third way to play the expectation rise would be to buy a May1-16 – Apr4-16 60 calendar spread. This way you would be selling the high-IV series now rather than waiting. Here is the spread I placed today:

Buy to Open 10 SBUX May1-16 60 calls (SBUX160506C69)
Sell to Open 10 SBUX Apr4-16 60 calls (SBUX160422C60) for a debit of $.24 (buying a calendar)

If the stock ends up at $60 after the announcement, a two-week at-the-money call at an IV of 20 would be worth about $.60 so you could about double your money after commissions. Of course, you are betting that the stock does not make a big move after the announcement. Such a move is always possible even though SBUX does not have a history of big moves after announcing (average change 2.6%, or about $1.50). The attractive thing about this spread is that it costs so little that risk is quite limited. There will always be some value to a call with two weeks of remaining life, and $.24 isn’t much to have to cover.

I will report back to you on how these three trades ended up. Hopefully, we might find out which of the three choices works out. Most companies report earnings each quarter, and there will be lots of opportunities to use these trading ideas on other companies you might like.

 

How to make 45% with a Safe Bet on GM

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Lots of people like GM. It is one of the most popular stocks in some of the largest mutual funds in America. Investors seem to like the 5.2% dividend it pays. Today I will show you how you could make 8 times that much with an options bet that will net 45% even if the stock doesn’t go up by a penny.

Terry

How to make 45% with a Safe Bet on GM

First, an update on my last 3 trade recommendations. Five weeks ago, I suggested a trade that would make 66% after commissions if Facebook (FB) closed at any price above $97.50 on March 18, 2016. FB is now trading above $106 and that looks like a sure winner when it closes out a week from today.

A little over 3 weeks ago I suggested a similar trade on Costco (COST) when it was trading at $147.20. This one would make 40% after commissions if COST finishes at any price above $145 next Friday (March 18th). It is now trading near $152. This one also looks like a sure winner.

The third suggestion was made two weeks ago, and it involved Nike (NKE) which according to both the Nasdaq and EarningsWhispers.com would announce earnings on March 17, just before the Mar-16 options expired. Now it appears that my sources were both wrong. The announcement (still unconfirmed) will probably not take place until the following week. We had expected that our long calls would benefit from rising expectations before the announcement, but we should have bought calls with a week of additional life to take advantage of that possibility. Even worse, the stock has fallen about $3 since we placed the spread, and it looks like it will end up being a loss unless the stock rallies strongly next week.

Today, I am suggesting a play on General Motors (GM). There is a lot to like about GM. For the second year in a row, Barron’s ranked it as one of its five favorite stocks for the coming year. Their 2015 prognosis was not a good one as the stock fell from about $35 to $30 in 2015 in spite of 5% higher sales and earnings. Barron’s second try seems to be more likely to work out.

In its January earnings announcement, GM exceeded expectations all around, authorized a new $5.5 billion buyback, and raised guidance. The market hardly budged, apparently worried about GM’s Chinese sales (which had gained 12% in 2015) and some concerns about price cutting from rivals.

The company sells at a P/E ratio of only 5.2 and pays a well-covered dividend of 5.2%. There are very few other companies out there selling so low with such a dividend.

Kevin O’Leary, “Mr. Wonderful” of Shark Tank, in a recent AARP interview, said that his mother told him never to buy a stock that didn’t pay a dividend, and that over the past 40 years, 71% of the returns on the S&P came from dividends, not capital appreciation. Dividends are clearly important these days, mostly because they usually provide a solid floor for the stock price. When the overall market fell in the first few weeks of 2015, GM edged briefly down to the $28 level, and quickly recovered back above $30 where it stands now.

A recent Seeking Alpha article makes a compelling case that GM could double in value over the next 4 years – General Motors: Multiple Catalysts Should Double Your Money By 2020. One the biggest reasons the author cited was GM’s fast-growing finance arm which has so far not contributed anything to its parent’s coffers, but which could be soon passing on $1 billion a year or so.

I am not convinced that GM is destined to move significantly higher over the next few years, but I am comfortable believing that the combination of a high dividend rate, low P/E, a large buyback program, stable sales, and the finance arm possibility suggest that the stock is quite unlikely to fall very much from its current level.

I am suggesting a bet that GM will be at least $28 when the Jan-17 options expire on January 20, 2017. If that is true, this spread would make 45% on your money after commissions. That means it could fall about 8% from where it is now ($30.50), and the same 40% gain would result.

In the same AARP article, the Sharks recommended that you should expect to make 4% to 6% on your money each year over time. It seems to me that it makes sense to put some of your money, at least a small portion, in something that could make many times that much if the risk level is reasonable.

I made this trade in my personal account yesterday to confirm that this price was available:

Buy To Open 10 GM Jan-17 25 puts (GM170120P25)
Sell To Open 10 GM Jan-17 28 puts (GM170120P28) for a credit of $.98 (selling a vertical)

I collected $980 less the $25 commission, or $955 (of course, you could sell a single spread and take only 1/10th the risk). My maximum loss and net investment is $2145. This works out to be a 45% gain if the stock closes at any price above $28. I will make a gain at any price above $27.05. When the Jan-17 expiration date comes along, I will not have to do anything. If the stock is at any price above $28, both the long and short put will expire worthless and I will be able to keep the $955 I collected at the beginning. It feels like a safe investment to me, and a whole lot better than the 5.2% dividend they are paying.

 

Making 36%

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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.

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