This week I would like to share my thoughts about the market for 2015, and also one of my favorite option strategies when I find a stock I really like. Whenever I find a stock I particularly like for one reason or another, rather than buy the stock outright, I use options to dramatically increase the returns I enjoy if I am right (and the stock goes up, or at least stays flat).
Today I would like to share a trade that I made today in my personal account. Maybe you would like to do something similar with a company you particularly like.
And Happy New Year – I hope that 2015 will by your best year ever for investments (even if the market falls a bit).
Try a Vertical Put Credit Spread on a Stock That You Like
First, a few thoughts about the market for 2015. The Barron’s Roundtable (made up of 10 mostly large investment bank analysts) predicted an average 10% market gain for 2015. None of the analysts predicted a market loss for the year. Others have suggested that the year should be approached with more caution, however. The whopping gain in VIX in the last week of 2014 is a clear indication that investors have become more fearful of what’s ahead. The market has gained about 40% over the past two years. The bull market has continued for 90 months, a near-record–breaking string.
The forward P/E for the market has expanded to 19, several points higher than the historical average, and 2 points above where it was a year ago. The trailing market P/E is 22.7x compared to 14x for the 125-year average. Maybe such high valuations are appropriate for a zero-interest environment, but that is about to change. For the first time since 2007, the Fed will not be propping up the market with their Quantitative Easing purchases. The Fed has essentially promised that they will raise interest rates in 2015. The only question is when it will happen.
There is an old adage that says “don’t fight the Fed.” Not only have they stopped pumping billions into the economy every month, they plan to raise interest rates this year. Like it or not, stock market investments made in 2015 are tantamount to picking a fight with the Fed.
While the U.S. economy is strong (and apparently growing), a great number of U.S. companies depend on foreign sales for a significant share of their business, and the foreign prospects aren’t so great for a number of countries. This situation could cause domestic company earnings to disappoint, and stock prices could fall. At the very best, 2015 seems like a good time to take a cautious approach to investing.
Even if the market is not great for 2015, surely some shares will move higher. Barron’s chose General Motors (GM) as one of its best 10 picks for 2015 and made a compelling argument for the company’s prospects. The 3.27% dividend should insulate the company from a big down-draft if the market as a whole has a correction in 2015.
I was convinced by their analysis that GM was highly likely to move higher in 2015. Today, with GM trading at $35.70, I placed the following trade:
Buy To Open 10 GM Jun-15 32 puts (GM150619P32)
Sell To Open 10 GM Jun-15 37 puts (GM150619P37) for a credit of $2.20 (selling a vertical)
I like to go out about six months with spreads like this to give the stock a little time to move higher. The above trade put $2200 in my account. There will be a $5000 maintenance requirement which is reduced to $2800 when you subtract out the amount of cash I received. This means that my maximum loss would be $2800, and this would come about if the stock closes below $32 on June 19, 2015.
If the stock closes at any price above $37, both the long and short puts will expire worthless and I will not have to make any more trades. If this happens, I will make a profit of $2200 (less $25 commission, or $2175) on an investment of $2800. This works out to a gain of 77%.
In order for me to make 77% on this investment, GM only needs to go up by $1.50 (4.2%). If it stays exactly the same on June 19th ($35.70), I will have to buy back the 37 put for a cost of $1.30 ($1300 for 10 contracts). That would leave me with a gain of $862.50, or 30.8%.
If I had purchased shares of GM with the $2800 I had at risk, I could have bought 78 shares. I I might have collected a dividend of $91 over the 6 months. With my options investment, I would have gained nearly 10 times that much if the stock did not move up at all.
Bottom line, even though I am taking a greater risk with options, the upside potential is so much greater than merely buying the stock that it seems to be a better move when you find a company that looks like it will be a winner.