I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and/or loved ones, and are ready for some exciting new information. Admittedly, the title of this week’s Idea of the Week is a little bizarre. Surely, such a preposterous claim can’t possibly have a chance of succeeding. Yet, that is about what your average monthly gain would have been if you had used this strategy for the past 37 months that the underlying ETP (SVXY) has been in existence. In other words, if the pattern of monthly price changes continues going forward, a 40% average monthly gain should result (actually, it would be quite a bit more than this, but I prefer to underpromise and over-deliver). Please read on.
We will discuss some exact trades which might result in 40%+ monthly gains over the next four weeks. I hope you will study every article carefully. Your beliefs about options trading may be changed forever.
An Options Strategy Designed to Make 40% a Month
First of all, we need to say a few words about our favorite underlying, SVXY. It is not a stock. There are no quarterly earnings reports to push it higher or lower, depending on how well or poorly it performs. Instead, it is an Exchange Traded Product (ETP) which is a derivative of several other derivatives, essentially impossible to predict which way it will move in the next week or month. The only reliable predictor might be to look how it has performed in the past, and see if there is a way to make extraordinary gains if the historical pattern of price changes manages to extend into the future. This price change pattern is the basis of the 40% monthly gain potential that we have discovered.
SVXY is the inverse of VXX, a popular hedge against a market crash. VXX is positively correlated with VIX (implied volatility of SPY options), the so-called fear index. When the market crashes or corrects, options volatility, VIX, and VXX all soar. That is why VXX is such a good hedge against a market crash. Some analysts have written that a $10,000 investment in VXX will protect against any loss on a $100,000 stock portfolio (I have calculated that you would really need to invest about $20,000 in VXX to protect against any loss in a $100,000 stock portfolio, but that is not a relevant discussion here.)
While VXX is a good hedge against a market crash, it is a horrible long-term holding. In its 7 years of existence, it has fallen an average of 67% a year. On three occasions, they have had to engineer 1-for-4 reverse splits to keep the stock price high enough to bother trading. In seven years, it has fallen from a split-adjusted $2000+ price to today’s under-$30.
Over the long run, VXX is just about the worst-performing “stock” that you could possibly find. That is why we are so enamored by its inverse, SVXY.
Deciding to buy a stock is a simple decision. Compare that to SVXY, an infinitely more complicated choice. First, you start with SPY, an ETP which derives its value from the weighted average stock price of 500 companies in the S&P 500 index. Options trade on SPY, and VIX is derived from the implied volatility (IV) of those options. Then there are futures which are derived from the future expectations of what VIX will be in future months. SVXY is derived from the value of short-term futures on VIX. Each day, SVXY sells these short-term futures and buys at the spot price (today’s value) of VIX. Since about 90% of the time, short-term futures are higher than the spot price of VIX (a condition called contango), SVXY is destined to move higher over the long run – an average of about 67% a year, the inverse of what VXX has done. Simple, right?
While SVXY is anything but a simple entity to understand or predict, its price-change pattern is indeed quite simple. In most months, it moves higher. Every once in a while, however, market fears erupt and SVXY plummets. In October, for example, SVXY fell from over $90 to $50, losing almost half its value in a single month. While owning SVXY might be a good idea for the long run, in the short run, it can be an awful thing to own.
Note on terminology: While SVXY is an ETP and not literally a stock, when we are using it as an underlying entity for options trading, it behaves exactly like a stock, and we refer to it as a stock rather than an ETP.
We have performed an exhaustive study of monthly price fluctuations (using expiration month numbers rather than calendar month figures). Our major finding was that in half the months, SVXY ended up more than 12% higher or lower than where it started out. It was extremely unusual for it to be trading at the end of an expiration month anyway near where it started out. This would suggest that buying a straddle (both a put and a call) at the beginning of the month might be a good idea. However, such a straddle would cost about 10% of the value of the stock, a cost that does not leave much room for gains since the stock would have to move by 10% before your profits would start, and that occurs only about half the time.
A second significant finding of our backtest study of SVXY price fluctuations was that in 38% of the months, the stock ended up at least 12.5% higher than it started the expiration month. If this pattern persisted into the future, the purchase of an at-the-money call (costing about 5% of the stock price) might be a profitable bet. There are other strategies which we believe are better, however.
One possible strategy would be to buy a one-month out vertical call spread with the lower strike about 6% above the current price of the stock. Last week, with SVXY trading about $75, we bought a Dec-14 80 call and sold a Dec-14 85 call. The spread cost us $1.11 ($111 per spread, plus $2.50 in commissions at the special thinkorswim rate for paying Terry’s Tips subscribers). This means that if the stock ends up at any price above $85 (which it has historically done 38% of the time), we could sell the spread for $497.50 after commissions, making a profit of $384 on an investment of $113.50. That works out to a 338% gain on the original investment.
If you bought a vertical call spread like this for $113.50 each month and earned a $384 gain in the 14 months (out of 37 historical total) when SVXY ended up the expiration month having gained at least 12.5%, you would end up with $5376 in gains in those months. If you lost your entire $113.50 investment in the other 23 months, you would have losses of $2610, and this works out to a net gain of $2766 for the total 37 months, or an average of $74 per month on a monthly investment of $113.50, or an average of 65% a month. Actually, it would be better than this because wouldn’t lose the entire investment in many months when the maximum gain did not come your way.
But as good as 65% a month seems (surely better than the 40% a month I talked about at the beginning), it could get better. Again using the historical pattern, we identified another variable which could tell us whether or not we should buy the vertical spread at the beginning of the month. If you followed this measure, you would only buy the spread in 17 of the 37 months. However, you would make the maximum gain in 10 of those months. Your win rate would be 58% rather than 38%, and your average monthly gain would be 152%. This variable is only available for paying subscribers to Terry’s Tips, although maybe if you’re really smart and can afford to spend a few dozen hours of searching, you can figure it out for yourself.
Starting in a couple of weeks, we are offering a portfolio that will execute spreads like this every month, and this portfolio will be available for Auto-Trading at thinkorswim (so you don’t have to place any of the orders yourself). Each month, we will start out with $1000 in the portfolio and buy as many spreads as we can at that time. We expect it will be a very popular portfolio for our subscribers. With potential numbers like this, I’m sure you can agree with our prognosis.
Of course, this entire strategy is based on the expectation that future monthly price fluctuations of SVXY will be similar to the historical pattern of price changes. This may or may not be true in the real world, but we think our chances are pretty good. For example, for the November expiration that ended just one week ago, the stock had risen a whopping 34%. In the preceding October expiration month, it had fallen by almost that same amount, but at the beginning of the month, our outside variable measure would have told us not to buy the spread for that month, so we would have made the 338% in November and avoided any loss at all in October.
There are other possible spreads that could be placed to take advantage of the unusual price behavior of SVXY, and we will discuss some of them in future reports. I invite you to check them out carefully, and to look forward for a year-end special price designed to entice you to come on board for the lowest price we have ever offered. It could be the best investment decision you make in 2014.
Update on the ongoing SVXY put demonstration portfolio. This sample demonstration portfolio holds a SVXY Mar-15 75 put, and each week, (almost always on Friday), we buy back an expiring weekly put and sell a one-week-out put in its place, trying to sell at a strike which is $1 – $2 in the money (i.e., at a strike which is $1 or $2 above the stock price). Our goal in this portfolio is to make 3% a week.
Last week, SVXY rose to just less than $75 and we bought back the expiring Nov-14 73 put and sold a Dec1-14 75 put (selling a calendar), collecting a credit of $1.75 ($172.50 after commissions).
The account value was then $1570, up $70 for the week, and $336 from the starting value of $1234 on October 17th, 5 weeks ago. This works out to $67 a week, well more than the $37 weekly gain we need to achieve our 3% weekly goal. In fact, we have gained 5.4% a week for the 5 weeks we have carried out this portfolio.
At this point, we closed out this portfolio so that we could replace the positions with new options plays designed to take advantage of the SVXY price fluctuation pattern we spoke about today. It seems like very few people were following our strategy of selling weekly puts against a long Mar-15 put, but we clearly showed how 3% a week was not only possible, but fairly easy to ring up. Where else but with stock options can you achieve these kinds of investment returns?