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Using Options to Prosper in Down Markets

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Last week was the worst week for the market for almost three years.  The S&P 500 fell by a whopping 6.6%.  Investors seem to be dumping everything.  Usually, when stock markets crash, gold moves higher, but last week, gold fell $100 in a single day, the worst one-day drop in its history.  Silver and other commodities were crushed as well.  Billions of dollars are going into treasuries even though over half the S&P 500 companies have higher yields. 

What do you in times like these?  Would you be surprised if I said that a well-designed options portfolio might be the perfect solution?

Using Options to Prosper in Down Markets

At Terry’s Tips, we conduct an actual portfolio which we call the 10K Bear.  We believe that this portfolio offers a better alternative than any other as a downside hedge vehicle.  Even better, the market does not have to go down for you to make a gain.  A flat or slightly higher market also makes weekly gains most of the time

Here is the current risk profile graph for our 10K Bear portfolio.  It shows the loss or gain that should result from a $5200 investment in SPY put options on September 30 when the Weeklys expire in a few days.  Last Friday, SPY closed at $113.54  (This graph assumes that today’s option prices – VIX – will remain unchanged – if VIX falls significantly over the next 4 days, the gains would be less than the graph indicates.)

The graph shows that about an 18% gain would be made if the stock stays flat, and a higher gain would result if SPY fell up to $3 (if it fell that far, we would make an adjustment to extend the downside potential).  Commissions would reduce results somewhat as well. The stock could go up as high as $116.50 before a loss would occur on the upside.  Clearly, this is an excellent hedge against a market drop, and it has the added advantage of also making gains if the market is flat or slightly higher.

How do we create an options portfolio like this?  It is the strategy we use when we want to bet on the direction of the market.  Most of the portfolios at Terry’s Tips make the assumption that we have no idea of which direction the market will take in the short run.

The 10K Bear portfolio involves buying put options with several months of remaining life and selling short-term (Weekly) puts to someone else.  The puts we sell are mostly at lower strikes than those we own.  Rather than trying to sell short-term puts which maximize the amount of short-term decay we could collect, we aim to sell just enough short-term decay to cover the decay of the longer-term puts we own.

In Greek terms (pardon me for using Greeks if you are not familiar with them), we seek to maximize the negative net delta of the portfolio while maintaining a positive theta.  As the stock fluctuates during the month, adjustments are often required to maintain these two goals.  (Adjustments we made in the August expiration month enabled the 10K Bear  portfolio to gain 55% while the original positions at the beginning of the month projected a gain of less than half that amount).

While this may seem to be a little complicated right now, if you become a Terry’s Tips subscriber, it should all become quite clear.  You can follow how the 10K Bear operates over time (as well as several other bullish-leaning portfolios) so that you can do it on your own if you wish.  (Most of our subscribers don’t do it on their own, but sign up for the Auto-Trade program at thinkorswim and have them execute the trades automatically for them).

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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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