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Posts Tagged ‘Strangles’

Interesting SPY Straddle Purchase Strategy

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Interesting SPY Straddle Purchase Strategy:

In case you are new to options or have been living under a rock for the past few months, you know that option prices are at historic lows.  The average volatility of SPY options (VIX) has been just over 20 over the years.  This means that option prices are expecting the stock (S&P 500) will fluctuate about 20% over the course of a year.

Right now, VIX is hanging out at less than 13.  Option buyers are not expecting SPY to fluctuate very much with a reading this low.   Since in reality, SPY jumps around quite a bit every time the word “tapering” appears in print, or the government appears to be unwilling to extend the debt limit, there is a big temptation to buy options rather than selling them.

Today I would like to share with you an idea we have developed at Terry’s Tips that has been quite successful in the short time that we have been watching it.

Terry
 
Interesting SPY Straddle Purchase Strategy:

For many years, Terry’s Tips has advocated buying calendar spreads.  These involve selling short-term options and benefitting from the fact that these options deteriorate in value faster than the longer-term options that we own as collateral.  However, when option prices are as low as they are right now, this strategy has difficulty making gains if the stock fluctuates more than just a little in either direction.  Volatility has always been the Darth Vader of calendar spreads, and with option prices as low as they are right now, it only takes a little volatility to turn a promising spread into a losing one.

If you could get a handle on when the market might be a little more volatile than it is at other times, buying options might be a better idea than selling them.  At Terry’s Tips, we admit that we have no idea which way the market is headed in the short run (we have tried to guess a number of times, or used technical indicators to give us clues, but our batting average has been pretty close to 50% – we could have done just about as well by flipping a coin).

With that in mind, when we buy options, we usually buy both a put and a call. If those options have the same strike price and expiration day, the simultaneous purchase of a put and call is called a straddle.

If you had a good feeling that the market would soon make a big move and you also had no strong feeling which direction that move might take, you might consider buying a straddle.

We did a backtest of SPY price changes and discovered that in the final week of an expiration month for the normal monthly options, SPY tended to fluctuate more than it did in the other three or four weeks of the expiration month.

Three months ago, we decided to buy an at-the-money SPY straddle on the Friday before the week when the monthly options would expire.  We hoped to buy this straddle for just over $2.  If SPY moved more than $2 in either direction at some point in the next week we would be guaranteed to be able to sell either the put or call for a profit (our backtest showed that SPY moved by more than $2 on many occasions on a single day).

On Friday, September 13th, we discovered that at-the-money the straddle was trading  about $2.50, more than we wanted to pay.  There was a reason for it.  SPY pays a dividend four times a year, and the ex-dividend date is the Thursday before the monthly options expire.  When a dividend is paid, the stock usually falls by the amount of the dividend (about $.80) for SPY on the day after it goes ex-dividend (all other things being equal).  For this reason, in the days before that happens, the put prices move much higher in anticipation of the stock falling on Friday.  This pushed the straddle price higher than we wanted to pay.

We decided not to buy the September at-the-money straddle on Friday the 13th (maybe it would be bad luck anyway).  But we should have coughed up the extra amount.  The stock rose more than $3 during the next week, and we could have collected a nice gain.

When the October expiration came around, we could have bought an at-the-money straddle on Friday, October 11 for just over $2, but the portfolio that we set up to buy straddles had all its money tied up in straddles on individual companies. So we didn’t make the purchase. Too bad, for in the next week, SPY rose by over $4.  We could have almost doubled our money.

Finally, on November 9, we finally got our act together.  It was the Friday before the regular monthly options were to expire on November 15.  When the stock was trading very near $176.50, we bought the 176.5 straddle which was due to expire in one week. We paid $2.16 for it. 

We had to wait until Thursday before it moved very much, but on that day when we could claim a 20% gain after commissions, we sold it (for $2.64).  The stock moved even higher on Friday (up $3.50 over our strike price), so we could have made more by waiting a day, but taking a sure 20% seemed like the best move to make.  We plan to make a similar purchase on Friday, December 13th, at least those of us who are not spooked by superstitions.

For three consecutive months, buying an at-the-money SPY straddle on the Friday before the monthly options expire has proved to be a profitable purchase.  Of course, we have no certainty that this pattern will continue into the future.  But these months did confirm what we had noticed in our backtest.

Updates on Costco and Joy Global Earnings Plays

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Last week I wrote two Seeking Alpha articles on earnings plays – How To Play The Costco Earnings Announcement and How To Play Joy Global’s Earnings Announcement.  I expected that Costco would fall after earnings because expectations were unusually high and that JOY would move higher because expectations were quite low.

I was right on with the COST call and our positions gained 16.6% after commissions for the week.  JOY fell marginally, less than $.50 and we gained 7.8%.

Update on the Costco trade (submitted as a comment after the Costco article). Today before the open, Costco announced earnings of $1.04 which beat estimates of $1.02 but fell short of the $1.06 whisper number. The stock is now trading just under $113 compared to just under $115 when I wrote this article so any potential buyer of the stock would have done well to heed my advice and wait until after the announcement to buy shares (Note: a day later fell to below $110).

The diagonal option spread that I suggested was sold in our Terry’s Tips portfolio for a credit of $.84. That meant for anyone buying 5 spreads, your investment would have been the $2500 maintenance requirement less $420 received from the sale, or $2080. Today we sold the spread for a debit of $.10, making $.74 per spread. After paying commissions of $25, the net gain on 5 spreads was $345, or 16.6% on the investment. This was the 11th consecutive successful earnings trade we have made using our Expectation Model.

Note: In the actual Terry’s Tips portfolio where the Costco trade was made, we also placed a calendar spread to reduce our risk (in case we were wrong about Costco falling after the announcement).  This spread lost money and reduced our gain to 9.6% after commissions.

In JOY there were 4 July-13 – May5-13 calendar spreads. In our actual account at thinkorswim, here are the numbers for what we paid for these spreads and what we sold them for: 52.5 strike (cost $1.35 sold for $1.20), 55 strike (cost $1.55 sold for $2.38), 57.5 strike (cost $1.50 sold for $1.61), and 60 strike (cost $1.19 sold for $1.00). We lost money on 2 spreads but gained on 2 others, and enjoyed one big gain. The total cost of our investment was $2236 and our net gain after paying $65 in commissions was $175, or 7.8% on our investment.

While this was quite a bit lower than the returns we made on the earlier 11 investments that resulted in gains averaging about 19% (without a single loss), most people would be happy with 7.8% for a single week after commissions. 

These two profitable earnings trades made it 12 consecutive gainers for this portfolio.
The odds of making 12 successful profitable trades without a single loss is comparable to flipping a coin and getting heads 12 times in a row. The odds of that happening are one out of 4096 times. Either I have been incredibly lucky or maybe there is some merit in the Expectations Model I have developed. The future will tell. 

We are not making any earnings-related trades this week because only one company we are following (they must have weekly options and be trading over $20) reports this week, and our expectations model could not determine whether expectations were unusually high or low.

Eight Consecutive Successful Earnings Plays and What We Learned

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Note: There is a lot of valuable information in this report for anyone who trades stock options.  It will take you about 15 minutes to read, but that investment in your time could be worth thousands of dollars to you down the line.  I hope you will read it thoroughly all the way to the end.

On April’s Fools Day in 2013, we opened a new $5000 portfolio at Terry’s Tips.  We thought that might be a lucky day to start.  For several months we had been studying what happens just before and after a company announces their quarterly earnings, and this portfolio was designed to put our observations to work.

The biggest thing we discovered in our analysis was that the post-announcement change in the stock price was determined more by market expectations prior to the announcement than the actual earnings themselves.  If you have played in the stock market for any length of time, you surely have lived through an earnings announcement when your favorite company exceeded estimates on all scores, and the stock fell on the news.  That really hurts, and I’m sure we all have felt it.

We have concluded that it is all due to what the market was expecting vs. its experience of the actual earnings.

Most of the time, we measured expectations by what the stock had done in the weeks leading up to the announcement and the difference between what analysts predicted earnings would be and the whisper numbers (we also check out RSI numbers to see if the stock is particularly over-sold or over-bought, and recent company performance at earnings time related to results vs. estimates). 

When the stock has had a big run-up before the announcement and whisper numbers were greater than analyst expectations, we concluded that expectations were uncomfortably high, and the least disappointment in the announcement (concerning earnings, revenues, margins, or guidance) might result in the stock trading lower even if the company surpassed earnings by a comfortable margin.

We called it the PEA Picker portfolio (PEA stands for Pre-Earnings Announcement).  We restricted the companies that we would consider to those which traded Weeklys approximately 160).  We eliminated companies trading for less than $20 because option prices were typically not attractive enough for our purposes. We ended up with about 100 companies which are the most actively-traded and have the most liquid option markets (i.e., small bid – ask spreads and the assurance that decent spread prices could be executed). 

Even more important, we could trade out of them on the Friday following the announcement, just a few days after placing our trades.  This eliminated being concerned about the long-run prospects for the company and put us in cash at the end of the week so we could invest in another company in the following week.  We like near-instant gratification on our trades, bad or good, and we like to sleep over the weekend with no positions in place (most of the time).

In addition to checking recent stock price action and whisper numbers, we looked carefully at the last four earnings reports to see what happened, and to the most recent RSI numbers to learn if the stock were unusually over-bought or over-sold.  Some companies consistently exceeded expectations and their stock fell after the announcement while others merely met expectations and the stock moved higher. 

Many times we were able to detect patterns that helped us decide which option spreads we would use.  One pattern was that big moves after announcements tended to be reversed at the next announcement (or more often, big moves were rarely followed by big moves in the same direction at the next announcement).

The day after the PEA Picker portfolio was set up, we issued the following Trade Alert.  By the way, this portfolio is carried out in an actual TD Ameritrade/thinkorswim portfolio and all commissions are included at the special rate offered to Terry’s Tips Insiders.  All of the Trade Alerts in this report are actual emails that were sent to Terry’s Tips Insiders and to thinkorswim so they could execute trades through Auto-Trade.  Our account is set up through Auto-Trade so every trade reported here was exactly duplicated in the accounts of all our subscribers who set up through Auto-Trade at thinkorswim.

This first trade involved buying a straddle which we bought before the Weeklys which expired on the Friday after the announcement were available.  This not the usual way we set up PEA Plays but we do it sometimes, obviously.

We had decided that expectations were unusually low and the stock would head higher after the announcement, but the first trade was neutral (it would make money if the stock headed either way, just as long as it moved).

April 2, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

J.P. Morgan (JPM) announces earnings next week and the Weeklys that become available on Thursday will be the options with the escalated implied volatility (IV).  We will establish some long positions before that time.  The stock is trading very close to $48 right now so the straddle price is at its lowest.  The straddle might gain for two reasons – first, leading up to an announcement the stock quite often moves (usually higher), and second, implied volatility (IV) of the monthly options usually moves higher once the Weeklys become available:

BTO (Buy To Open) 20 JPM Apr-13 48 calls (JPM130420C48)
BTO 20 JPM Apr-13 48 puts (JPM130420P48) for a debit of $1.88  (buying a straddle) 

Two days later, we issued the following:

April 4, 2013  Trade Alert #2 -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

There are many reasons to believe that the stock is headed higher after earnings and we are currently negative net delta.  This trade will make us long:

STO (Sell To Open) 15 JPM Apr2-13 47 puts (JPM130420P47) for $.58

We held these positions (which cost us a net $2041) until shortly before earnings were to be announced after the close on April 10.  The stock had moved about two dollars higher as we had anticipated.  We issued the following:

April 10, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

The stock moved up almost $2 and IV also moved up. We have a nice gain here so we might as well take it rather than waiting for more (or maybe less) once earnings are reported:

BTC 15 JPM APR2-13 47 puts (JPM130412P47)
STC 15 JPM Apr-13 48 puts (JPM130420P48) for a credit of $.25  (selling a diagonal)

STC 5 JPM Apr-13 48 puts (JPM130420P48) for $.30

STC 20 JPM Apr-13 48 calls (JPM130420C48) for $1.74

 
This first PEA Play was a little complicated (future ones will make more sense, I promise).  You can see that we sold the original straddle (which had cost us $1.88) for a total of $2.04 ($1.74 + $.30).  It is not so clear to see that the 15 Apr2-13 47 puts we had sold for $.58 were bought back for only $.05 (this was where most of our gain was).  After commissions, we made a profit of $789 on our $2061 investment, or about 38% of the money we had invested.  The portfolio as a whole had gained only 15.8% because we had invested only about 40% of the cash at our disposal.
The next week featured the Google (GOOG) announcement. We noticed that the GOOG options were expecting a move of 12.3% yet the average post-announcement move had historically been only 6.7%.  (You can calculate the percentage change that the options are predicting by adding up the time premium of the at-the-money Weekly put and call and dividing that total by the stock price.)  While we would have liked to sell the straddle short, that is not possible in an IRA account, and we do not make any trades for our subscribers which cannot be executed in an IRA.
Our choice was to buy diagonal spreads at strikes both comfortably above and below the stock price.  We issued the following:

April 15, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio
This is a small bet that Google will not deviate by more than $40 from its present level of $790 after this week’s announcement:

BTO 1 GOOG May-13 785 put (GOOG130518P785)
STO 1 GOOG Apr-13 765 put (GOOG130420P765) for a debit of $13.51  (buying a diagonal)

BTO 1 GOOG May-13 820 call (GOOG130518C820)
STO 1 GOOG Apr-13 830 call (GOOG130429C830) for a debit of $8.02  (buying a diagonal)

The total amount invested here was $2158 including commissions.

Again, these trades are a little unlike our usual PEA Plays, but the key point is that the stock would have to fall by $25 before the short 765 puts would have any value.  If the stock fell by that much, or more, the May-13 785 put would be worth at least $2000 more than the short put value (and there would still be some value in the May-13 820 call), so there would be a gain no matter how far the stock might fall.

If the stock were to move $40 higher, the 830 call would have some value, but the May-13 820 call will always be worth at least $1000 more than the 830 short call (and actually, quite a bit more because the option would be very close to the money and there would be a full month of time remaining in that option).  In short, it appeared that a gain would come no matter how high the stock might go.  However, while these spreads gave us excellent protection if there was a large move in either direction, if the stock didn’t move much there was the possibility of a loss.  We corrected that three days later when we issued the following Trade Alert:

April 18, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

The stock has fallen more than $20 since we placed the first spreads.  This is an indication that expectations have dwindled, and the stock might move higher.  These trades will give us a little more upside protection in case it rallies and also protects the mid-range from the extremes of the diagonal spreads we placed earlier:

BTO 1 GOOG May-13 780 call (GOOG130518C780)
STO 1 GOOG Apr-13 780 call (GOOG130429C780) for a debit of $4.60  (buying a calendar)

BTO 1 GOOG May-13 790 call (GOOG130518C790)
STO 1 GOOG Apr-13 790 call (GOOG130429C790) for a debit of $4.75  (buying a calendar)

The stock ended up trading between $780 and $790, just where these calendar spreads would do best.  We sold them for $11.52 and $11.80, well more than doubling our money on those spreads.  We lost a little money on the original diagonal spreads, closing out the puts for $15.92 and the calls for $3.90 (for a total of $19.82 compared to our cost of $21.53).

We lost $176 on the diagonal spreads and gained $1392 on the calendar spreads, making the total gain after commissions for the week a healthy $1216 on an investment of $3,098, or 39%.  We plan to make similar investments with Google options in July when the next earnings announcement is scheduled.

Next up was the eBay earnings announcement.  This occurred during the same week as the Google play, and we had spare cash we could put to use:

April 16, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

eBay is flirting with a new high and whisper numbers exceed estimates.  This level of expectation usually results in a flat or lower stock price after the announcement, and this spread should make gains if the stock rises moderately or falls by any amount:

BTO 10 EBAY May-13 60 calls (EBAY130518C60)
STO 10 EBAY Apr-13 57.5 calls (EBAY130420C57.5) for a credit of $.16  (buying a diagonal)

This spread required a maintenance requirement of $2500 (less the $160 received).

The stock did manage to fall, and by quite a bit, the Apr-13 57.5 calls expired worthless and we were only able to sell the May-13 60 calls for $.07 ($70) so we managed to make a small gain of $230 less $75 commissions on our eBay play (7%).

The portfolio value had soared to $7,187 in its first two weeks of trading.  We withdrew $2000 from the portfolio so that Terry’s Tips subscribers could follow PEA Picker trades for about $5000 (either through Auto-Trade at thinkorswim where they don’t have to place any trades themselves, or on their own if they preferred another broker).

Next up was Apple (trading at about $405):

April 22, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit orders

Expectations for Apple seem to be unusually low and when earnings are announced after the close tomorrow there is a good chance that it will trade higher:

BTO 5 AAPL May-13 410 calls (AAPL130518C410)
STO 5 AAPL Apr4-13 410 calls (AAPL130426C410) for a debit limit of $3.85  (buying a calendar)

BTO 5 AAPL May-13 420 calls (AAPL130518C410)
STO 5 AAPL Apr4-13 420 calls (AAPL130426C410) for a debit limit of $3.65  (buying a calendar) 

The stock did move higher and the next day we issued the following:

April 23, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

The stock has moved up $15 since we bought our spreads.  We should use our remaining cash to add on another calendar at a higher strike:

BTO 4 AAPL May-13 430 calls (AAPL130518C430)
STO 4 AAPL Apr4-13 430 calls (AAPL130426C430) for a debit limit of $3.16  (buying a calendar) 

The stock closed at $417.20 on Friday.  We sold the 430 spread for $3.14 (incurring a loss of $28 after commissions), the 420 spread for $6.86 and the 410 spread for $4.66, both at nice gains totaling $1960 after commissions.  Net gain for the trades was $1982 on an investment of $5049, or 39%. 

The portfolio value had climbed to $7062 and it was time to withdraw another $2000 from the portfolio to allow new Terry’s Tips subscribers to follow it for about the starting value of $5000.

Next up was Storage Technology (STX):

May 1, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

There are a lot of reasons to believe that Seagate (STX) will move higher after today’s announcement following the close.  The company has exceeded expectations every quarter for the last year and sells at a trailing p/e of only 6.4 in spite of consistent growth and a 4.2% dividend.  The company is aggressively buying back shares – in the last six months of 2012, it reduced the outstanding shares by 9.5% and has plans to continue buying back shares.  Whisper numbers are higher than analyst expectations ($1.31 vs. $1.19) but the shares are trading lower than they were three weeks ago which suggests that expectations are not unusually high.  These positions should make gains if the stock falls only a small amount or goes up by any reasonable amount:

BTO 4 STX Jun-13 37 calls (STX130622C37)
STO 4 STX May1-13 36.5 calls (STX130503C36.5) for a debit of $.44  (buying a diagonal)

BTO 4 STX Jun-13 37 calls (STX130622C37) for $1.66

BTO 4 STX Jun-13 37 calls (STX130622C37)
STO 4 STX May1-13 37 calls (STX130503C37) for a debit of $.68  (buying a calendar)
 
BTO 8 STX Jun-13 38 calls (STX130622C38)
STO 8 STX May1-13 38 calls (STX130503C38) for a debit of $.66  (buying a calendar)

BTO 8 STX Jun-13 34 puts (STX130622P34)
STO 8 STX May1-13 34 puts (STX130503P34) for a debit of $.78  (buying a calendar)

The next day the stock moved up over a dollar and we wanted to get a little longer so we placed these trades:

May 2, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit orders

This trade will pick up a little premium and make us neutral net delta:

BTC 4 STX May1-13 36.5 calls (STX130503C36.5)
STO 4 STX May1-13 39.5 calls (STX130503C39.5) for a debit limit of $2.45  (buying a vertical)

We will take these spreads off:

BTC 4 STX May1-13 37 calls (STX130503C37)
STC 4 STX Jun-13 37 calls (STX130622C37) for a credit limit of $.50  (selling a calendar)

BTC 8 STX May1-13 34 puts (STX130503P34) for a limit of $.01 (no commission)

STC 8 STX Jun-13 34 puts (STX130622P34) for a limit of $.31

Note: thinkorswim does not charge a commission when you buy back short options for $.05 or less.

These were our closing transactions:

May 3, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit orders

We need to close these out today:

BTC 8 STX May1-13 38 calls (STX130503C38)
STC 8 STX Jun-13 38 calls (STX130622C38) for a credit limit of $.37  (selling a calendar)

BTC 4 STX May1-13 39.5 calls (STX130503C39.5)
STC 4 STX Jun-13 37 calls (STX130622C37) for a credit limit of $2.68  (selling a diagonal)

STC 4 STX Jun-13 37 calls (STX130622C37) for $4.45

The stock had shot up 11% after announcing earnings.  While we correctly guessed the direction of the change, we didn’t quite expect it would be that large.  We lost money on all the spreads we had placed, but the four extra uncovered Jun-13 37 calls rose enough to cover all the losses.  It was our worst week so far.  We gained only $161 which worked out to be 6.4% on our investment and 3.2% on the portfolio value.

Next up was Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), a company I have followed since its founding since I live in Vermont and have played tennis regularly with the founder (now ex-chairman) of the company (no, he never gives me any tips, darn it).  I have made a great deal of money betting on the company this year (while it has risen nearly four-fold from its low).  I wrote a Seeking Alpha article outlining why I believed that the company would exceed estimates on earnings but the stock might be flat or fall a little after the announcement – How To Play The Green Mountain Coffee Roaster…

This is the trade I recommended in that article:

May 6, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio

As we indicated in the Saturday Report, we will make this trade:

BTO 12 GMCR Jun-13 52.5 calls (GMCR130622C52.5)
STO 12 GMCR May2-13 57 calls (GMCR130510C57) for a debit of $3.78 (buying a diagonal) 

Two days later, my prognosis of the earnings was right on the money, but the company unexpectedly announced a new five-year deal with Starbucks which removed much of the uncertainty about the company.  The stock soared by 25%!

If this announcement had not been made I feel certain that our spread would have gained about 50%, but with such a huge gain in the stock, we had to settle for less:

May 9, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit order

The stock has gone up so far that we can expect to collect little more than the intrinsic value of this spread:

BTC 12 GMCR May2-13 57 calls (GMCR130510C57)
STC 12 GMCR Jun-13 52.5 calls (GMCR130622C52.5) for a credit limit of $4.53  (selling a diagonal)

We “only” made 18.5% after commissions for the trades.  The wonderful thing about options is that you can be wrong and still make a gain much of the time, as we managed to do this time around.

The PEA Picker portfolio was now all in cash and was worth $6,065.  It was time to withdraw another $1000.  Subscribers who followed our trades or participated in Auto-Trade now had all $5000 they originally invested back, and the portfolio was still worth over $5000, It had only been 38 days since our first trade.

Next week we made two PEA Plays, one on Deere & Company and the other on Sina Corporation (SINA).  I wrote Seeking Alpha articles in advance of both plays -How To Play The Deere & Company Earnings Anno… and How To Play The Sina Corporation Earnings Ann…

May 14, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit orders

We will invest about half our cash in this play as described in the Saturday Report:

BTO 8 DE Jun-13 95 puts (DE130622P95)
STO 8 DE May-13 92.5 puts (DE130518P92.5) for a debit limit of $2.35  (buying a diagonal)

BTO 4 DE Jun-13 90 puts (DE130622P90)
STO 4 DE May-13 90 puts (DE130518P90) for a debit limit of $.93  (buying a calendar)

We thought expectations were running high (whisper numbers well above analyst expectations and the stock had traded higher going into the announcement) so we were betting on a flat or down market after the announcement.  In addition, for the prior four quarters, Deere had traded lower (by about 4%) after earnings, even though they exceeded estimates most of the time.

We were not disappointed.  Even though the company announced earnings that were above estimates, their guidance was tepid.  The stock fell about $4 after the announcement.  We took off our diagonal spread the same day:

May 15, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – LIMIT ORDER

We will take off this spread if can get this price:

BTC 8 DE May-13 92.5 puts (DE130518P92.5)
STC 8 DE Jun-13 95 puts (DE130622P95) for a credit limit of $2.72  (selling a diagonal)

We closed out the calendar spread on Friday, selling it for $1.42.  Our gain on the trades was $176 for each spread after commissions, or $352 total on an investment of $2282, or 15%.

In the same week we made a second PEA Play, this one on Sina:
 
May 14, 2013  Trade Alert  #2 -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit orders

We will invest about half our cash in this play:

BTO 7 SINA Jun-13 55 puts (SINA130622P55)
STO 7 SINA May-13 55 puts (SINA130518P55) for a debit limit of $1.17  (buying a calendar)

BTO 7 SINA Jun-13 57.5 puts (SINA130622P57.5)
STO 7 SINA May-13 57.5 puts (SINA130518P57.5) for a debit limit of $1.28  (buying a calendar)

BTO 7 SINA Jun-13 60 calls (SINA130622C60)
STO 7 SINA May-13 60 calls (SINA130518C60) for a debit limit of $1.30  (buying a calendar)

On the day before earnings were announced, we added another spread:

May 16, 2013  Trade Alert -  PEA Picker  Portfolio – limit order

If Sina stock rallies more than 5% we will lose money on our spreads.  This trade will expand our upside protection a little and still give us coverage for almost a 10% drop on the downside:

BTO 4 SINA Jun-13 57.5 puts (SINA130622P57.5)
STO 4 SINA May-13 60 puts (SINA130518P60) for a debit of $.10  (buying a diagonal)

We had expected Sina to fall after the earnings announcement because expectations were so high, but we left ourselves with a little room for the stock to move higher in case we were wrong.  The extra trade ended up being a good one because the stock opened up almost $2 higher but then fell back over a dollar mid-day.  We sold the 4 diagonal put spread for $.93, making $352 after commissions.  The 55 put calendar spread was sold for a loss ($.70), the 57.5 put calendar spread for a small gain ($1.35), and the 60 call calendar was sold for a nice gain ($2.05).  After commissions, the Sina options were closed out for a $525 gain, or 19% on our $2727 investment (we had a $1250 maintenance requirement for one day because of the put diagonal, but since we had closed out the Deere positions we had plenty of spare cash in the account).

So there we are.  Eight consecutive profitable option spreads on earnings announcements.  The original $5000 investment had been entirely withdrawn in cash and the account was worth $5862 and sitting in cash awaiting the next week’s trades.

Here are the net results:
JPM  38%
GOOG  39%
EBAY   7%
AAPL  39%
STX   6%
GMCR 18%
DE  15%
SINA  19%

The average gain for the eight successful plays was 22.6%.  Most of the time we only put about half our money at risk so the portfolio increased in value by less than 8 x 22.6%.

What We Have Learned:   We have identified the following characteristics of earnings-announcement-related price action based on our experience over the past several months:

1. It is possible to construct a combination of option spreads which creates a profit if the stock moves less than 10% in one direction or 5% in the other.  Most of the time, the level of pre-announcement expectation determines the direction you want to establish the 10% coverage.

2. It is possible to create unlimited coverage in one direction or the other with diagonal spreads but the potential gains are diminished.

3. Big (over 10%) price moves are almost always in the opposite direction of these last 10% earnings-related move.

4. Downside 10% moves are about twice as likely as upside 10% moves.

5. Big downside price moves are much more likely when expectations are high (some small part of the announcement often disappoints).  High expectations can be measured by a strong upward move in the stock price in the month or two prior to the announcement, a high RSI, and whisper numbers exceeding analyst expectations – all three numbers should be checked prior to making PEA Play).  Low expectations (and a possible 10%+ upward post-earnings move) have the opposite numbers.

6. When risk profile graphs are created prior to making a PEA Play, it is important to change the Implied Volatility (IV) of the long options to account for the expected implosion of all option prices after the announcement has been made.  Check back to see what IV of the one-month options fell to after the last earnings announcement as a guide. If the month of the long options is greater than three months more than the short-term options which are being sold (usually Weeklys), IV will not fall as much as shorter-term long options (because a second earnings-announcement day will occur before they expire).

7. It is usually possible to create a risk profile graph which shows a break-even range which extends about 10% in one direction (usually on the downside) and 5% in the other (usually the upside) by selecting the strike prices of the calendar spreads.

8. When selecting the best month for the long side of the calendar spreads, check out the bid-ask ranges of the options to learn if decent executions are likely.  The further out you go, the more conservative your positions will be (more of the option’s value is due to its long life than its IV) but the greater the bid-ask range might be.

9. Restrict PEA Play companies to those which have Weekly options available.  These are the most actively-traded option markets and decent executions are generally available (which is often not the case with companies which trade only monthly options).  Selling Weeklys also means that you can exit the positions in just a few days rather than waiting until the month expires before the short-term options fall to their intrinsic value.

10. In about a third of the weeks, there will not be a viable PEA Play available, especially if Weekly options are to be sold.  Earnings announcements tend to lump together in a distinct season starting about the middle of January and extending for about six weeks (and then moving 90 days forward to the next quarterly reports).

11. While losses are possible with PEA Plays, the entire amount of the investment can never be lost because there will always be more value to the long side of the calendar spreads than the short value because of the additional time value to those options.

12. More conservative (with lower potential gains) PEA Plays can be made by choosing a wider range of strike prices for the calendar spreads.

13. We checked to see if hedge funds had recently bought (or sold) shares in the company, and concluded that such information was valuable in deciding whether to bet on a higher (or lower) stock price.  While hedge funds aren’t always right, they surely do intensive due diligence before investing or divesting, and they have far more resources to do this that any individual has.

14. A statistic that will need more study is the short interest ratio.  When an unusually high percentage of shares have been sold short, a short squeeze is possible that could result in a large upward move after the announcement, but except for the GMCR case (huge short interest, huge gain after the announcement), the short interest level did not seem to be a significant factor. 

.  Will we be able to continue making profitable PEA Plays every week for the next six weeks?  Probably not.  But it’s possible.  We plan to invest only about half our portfolio value in any given earnings play (and sometimes two in a week) so that if there is a 10% move in the opposite direction we expect, we won’t be left with no money to work with.  (If we feel really strongly about a trade, like we did in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, we will invest more than half the portfolio value.)

So far, playing the earnings announcements has been fun, and profitable.  After reading this, I hope you decide that it would be a lot easier to become a Terry’s Tips Insider, sign up for Auto-Trade at thinkorswim, and let us make all the investment decisions.  You could also follow our Trade Alerts and place the trades at another broker if you prefer.

You can become a Terry’s Tips Insider, and receive all our educational reports and materials absolutely free by opening a new account (even if you already have another account) at the best options broker around – thinkorswim. You must use this link to sign up – open thinkorswim account– and once you have funded your account with at least $3500, email Seth@TerrysTips.com and let him know that you have done it, and this is what he will do – sign you for our Premium Service package ($119.95 value plus an extra 4 months of our Premium Service, valued at another $190.80).  You get $300.65 worth of services without paying us one penny, and your service will extend for five full months after which you can decide on whether to continue or not.

I look forward to prospering with you.

Terry
Terry@TerrysTips.com

An Interesting Straddle Purchase Opportunity in J.P. Morgan (JPM)

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Most of the time I prefer to sell options with just a few days or weeks of remaining life and collect the premium that is decaying at a higher rate than ever before.  However, this policy is not always the most profitable alternative out there.  Today I would like to discuss one of those situations where buying options rather than selling them might be the better bet. 

If you read down further, there is information on how you can become a Terry’s Tips Insider absolutely free! 

An Interesting Straddle Purchase Opportunity in J.P. Morgan (JPM)

 Implied Volatility (IV) of an option price is supposed to measure the market’s expectation of how much the underlying security will fluctuate in one year.  If an options series has an IV of 20, the market expects the stock will move either up or down by 20% over the course of a year. 

Sometimes there is a huge difference between IV of the options and the actual price behavior of the stock.  For example, check out J P Morgan (JPM).  The April options have an IV of 24 with three weeks of remaining life, and this IV is unusually high because an earnings announcement is due on April 12 (before the open), and volatility is usually higher than normal after announcements. 

So how much did JPM fluctuate over the past year?  On June 4, 2013 it hit a low of $30.83 and on March 15, 2013 it hit a high of $51.00. This is a 64% change, more than triple the IV of the options.  In other words, options are relatively inexpensive compared to the actual volatility of the stock. 

When you see a situation like this, the best options play might be to buy a straddle (both a put and a call) at an at-the-money strike and hope that the stock fluctuates as it has in the past. 

Right now, with JPM trading at $47.50, you could either buy an April 47 or 48 straddle for about $2.00 (if you think JPM is headed higher, you would select the 47 strike, and if you think JPM is more likely to fall, you would choose the 48 strike).  If the stock fluctuates more than $3.00 in the next three weeks, you could sell your straddle for a 50% gain.  (The nice thing about straddles is that you don’t care whether the stock goes up or down, just as long as it moves.) 

So how likely is JPM to fluctuate by at least $3.00 in a month?  Here are the biggest and smallest moves it has made over the past 25 months: 

Month

Open

High

Low

Close

Big Up

Big Down

3/1/2013

48.6

51

47.28

47.46

2.08

1.64

2/1/2013

47.4

49.68

46.85

48.92

2.63

0.20

1/2/2013

44.98

47.35

44.2

47.05

3.38

-0.23

12/3/2012

41.27

44.54

40.2

43.97

3.46

0.88

11/1/2012

41.7

43.07

38.83

41.08

1.39

2.85

10/1/2012

40.88

43.54

40.42

41.68

3.06

0.06

9/4/2012

36.98

42.09

36.78

40.48

4.95

0.36

8/1/2012

36.19

38.86

34.76

37.14

2.86

1.24

7/2/2012

36.27

37.2

33.1

36

1.47

2.63

6/1/2012

32.41

37.03

30.83

35.73

3.88

2.32

5/1/2012

43

44.24

32.26

33.15

1.26

10.72

4/2/2012

45.75

46.35

41.8

42.98

0.37

4.18

3/1/2012

39.51

46.49

39.12

45.98

7.25

0.12

2/1/2012

37.89

39.94

37.05

39.24

2.64

0.25

1/3/2012

34.06

38.1

34.01

37.3

4.85

0.05

12/1/2011

30.86

34.19

30.03

33.25

3.22

0.94

11/1/2011

32.47

35.18

28.28

30.97

0.42

6.48

10/3/2011

30.03

37.54

27.85

34.76

7.42

2.27

9/1/2011

37.62

37.82

28.53

30.12

0.26

9.03

8/1/2011

41.16

41.37

32.31

37.56

0.92

8.14

7/1/2011

40.81

42.55

38.93

40.45

1.61

2.01

6/1/2011

42.87

42.99

39.24

40.94

0.12

4.00

5/2/2011

45.94

46.07

41.69

43.24

0.44

3.94

4/1/2011

46.55

47.8

43.53

45.63

1.70

2.57

3/1/2011

46.47

47.1

43.4

46.1

0.41

3.29

 I have highlighted the months in which the stock fluctuated at least $3.00 in either direction (enough for you to make a 50% gain on a $2.00 straddle purchase).  For those months, a 50% gain would be possible in 17 out of 25 months (68% of the time).

 Admittedly, in this example with April options, there are only three weeks rather than four for the stock to fluctuate by this much, but since this time period includes an earnings announcement, greater volatility can be expected in this three-week period than a normal (no earnings announcement) month. 

If you were to buy an April straddle on JPM for $2.00 and place a good-til-cancelled order to sell it if it hit $3.00, you would gain 50% on your investment (less commissions).  If it did not execute in the next two weeks, I would recommend selling it when there was one week remaining for the April options.  If the stock is trading exactly at the strike price of your straddle, you would probably get back half of your $2.00 cost, losing 50%.  If the stock is at any other price than exactly at your strike price, you should be able to sell the straddle for more than $1.00.  If the stock is as little as $1.00 higher or lower than your strike price, you should be able to get back $1.50 of your original $2.00 cost by exiting (selling) the position with a week of life remaining in the option.  If the stock is $2.00 away from the strike price, you should be able to sell the straddle at a profit. 

The stock does not have to fluctuate by $3.00 for you to sell an at-the-money straddle for $3.00 since there will always be some time value to the options (over and above the intrinsic value) right up until the options expire. 

I like the odds of this straddle purchase and plan to do it both in my personal account and in one of my portfolios that I conduct at Terry’s Tips

Closing out the APPLE Pre-Earnings Spreads

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The AAPL crash after the earnings announcement surely hurt a lot of people big-time (several people had commented that just buying calls was the smart way to approach the announcement, and others said they were selling out-of-the-money puts to be more “conservative” – they are the ones who got hurt the most – at least the call buyers only lost their entire investment).

 If you recall, in my Seeking Alpha article entitled A Remarkably Safe Way To Play The Apple Earni…  I recommended buying one AAPL Apr-13 500 straddle and selling one Jan4-13 500 straddle to take advantage of the huge difference in IV between them (April = 34, Jan4-13 = 76).  In addition, I said to buy two Apr-13 500 straddles to protect against a large move in AAPL in either direction. 

The difference between the first two straddles came up to $2900, and the extra two straddles cost $6500 each (I actually got better prices than these, but let’s go with the numbers I used in the article). 

I waited until Friday about noon to close out the positions.  AAPL had fallen all the way to $440, down about $60 since I placed the spreads, and $75 from where it had closed just before the announcement. 

I closed out the long and short straddles by selling both the  puts and calls as a calendar spread, collecting $570 for the calls and $750 for the puts.  So I lost money on those spreads (cost $2900, sold for $1320, lost $1580). 

The extra two straddles were sold for $7350 each ($14,700 total) compared to the $13,000 cost for a gain of $1700.  Bottom line, after paying $15 in commissions, I eked out a gain of $105 for the day. 

I consider myself lucky, especially waiting until Friday to close it out (the stock fell another $10 by the time I sold so I did better with the extra straddles than I would have done closing out on Thursday).  

I suspect that my small gain was a whole lot better than most option-players experienced this earnings week (I surely did a whole lot worse in many of my other spreads, most calendars at higher strike prices than $500 – all of which lost big time).

It ended up being one of the worst weeks ever for me, in fact. 

The biggest reason that the “remarkably safe” positions I  recommended  did not do anywhere near what the risk profile graph had suggested the spreads might gain was because IV of the April options fell far more than I expected.  Before the announcement, IV was 34, lower than any other option month.  After the announcement, IV tumbled to 29.  The at-the-money straddle would cost $4900 to buy compared to the almost $6500 that I paid for the April at-the-money straddle a couple of days earlier. 

The at-the-money Feb1-13 440 straddle with a week to go until expiration (as I write this with AAPL at $440) could be sold for $1730 or just about half what the at-the-money straddle with a week of remaining life could be been sold for prior to  the announcement. 

In conclusion, it is important not to get too excited about the risk profile graphs that get created before an earnings announcement (unless your software allows you to set an expected IV of the longer-term options). 

The inevitability of all option prices falling dramatically after the earnings announcement makes calendar and diagonal spreads difficult to execute profitably at the time.

A Remarkably Safe Way To Play The Apple Earnings Announcement

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Apple announces earnings Wednesday after the close and I have come up with a strategy that looks like it can make a decent gain for the week (ranging from 5% to 15%) with almost no chance of incurring a loss. 

The big downside of the strategy is that it requires an investment of about $16,000.  I understand that many subscribers are looking for less costly option investments.

 However, if you can afford an investment of this size, check out the Seeking Alpha article I wrote just yesterday. 

Terry 

Here is the link – A Remarkably Safe Way To Play The Apple Earnings Announcement 

This is the third week in a row that I have offered a strategy centering on the unusually-high option prices in the series that expires just after an earnings announcement. 

The first play was for Wells Fargo – How to Play the Wells Fargo Earnings Announcement for Tomorrow.  This one gained 44% after commissions. 

The second play involved eBay – How to Play the EBAY Earnings Announcement.  I waited too long to close out my spreads this time around (many subscribers gained 24% or more).  But I did manage to make 11.6% after commissions, still not a bad week. 

I think this week’s earnings-announcement play is the safest one yet in spite of the high cost  requirement.  I am also sharing with paid subscribers a most promising play in Starbucks (SBUX).

All About Back Spreads

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Back spreads and ratio spreads are usually discussed together because they are simply the mirror image of each other. Back spreads and ratio spreads are comprised of either both calls or both puts at two different strike prices in the same expiration month. If the spread has more long contracts than short contracts, it is a Back Spread. If there are more short contracts, it is a Ratio Spread.
Since ratio spreads involve selling “naked” (i.e., uncovered by another long option) they can’t be used in an IRA.  For that reason, and because we like to sleep better at night knowing that we are not naked short and could possibly lose more than our original investment, we do not trade ratio spreads at Terry’s Tips.

Back spreads involve selling one option and buying a greater quantity of an option with a more out-of-the-money strike. The options are either both calls or both puts.
A typical back spread using calls might consist of buying 10 at-the-money calls and selling 5 in-the-money calls at a strike low enough to buy the entire back spread at a credit. 
Ideally, you collect a credit when you set up a back spread.  Since the option you are buying is less expensive than the one you are buying, it is always possible to set up the back spread at a credit.  You would like as many extra long positions as possible to maximize your gains if the underlying makes a big move in the direction you are betting. 
If you are wrong and the underlying moves in the opposite direction that you originally hoped, if you had set up the back spread at a net credit at the beginning, all of your options will expire worthless and you will be able to keep the original credit as pure profit (after paying commissions on the original trades, of course).
Call back spreads work best when the stock price makes a large move up; put back spreads work best when the stock price makes a large move down.
One of the easiest ways to think about a back spread is as a vertical with some extra long options. A call back spread is a bear vertical (typically a short call vertical) plus extra long call options at the higher of the two strikes. A put back spread is a bull vertical (typically a short put vertical) plus extra long put options at the lower of the two strikes.
The purpose of a back spread is to profit on a quick extended move toward, through and beyond the long strike. The purchase of a quantity of more long options is financed by the sale of fewer short options. The danger is that because the short options are usually in the money, they might grow faster than the long out-of-the-money options if the stock price moves more slowly or with less magnitude than expected. This happens even faster as expiration approaches. The long out-of-the-money options may lose value despite a favorable move in the stock price, and that same move in the stock price may increase the value of the short options. This is when the back spread loses value most quickly. This is depicted in the “valley” of the risk profile graphs. The greatest loss in the graph occurs at exactly the strike price of the long options.

There are two reasons that I personally don’t like back spreads.  First, they are negative theta.  That means you lose money on your positions every day that nothing much happens to the underlying strike price. 

Second, and more importantly, the gains you make in the good time periods are inconsequential compared to the large losses you could incur in the other time periods.  If the stock moves in the opposite way you are hoping, you end up making a very small gain (the initial credit you collected when the positions were originally placed).  If the underlying doesn’t move much, your losses could be huge.  On the other hand, in order for you to make large gains when the market moves in the direction you hope it will, the move must be very large before significant gains come about.

Here is the risk profile graph for a back spread on SPY (buying 10 Dec-12 142 calls for $1.55 and selling 6 Dec-12 140 calls for $2.78 when SPY was trading at $142.20 and there were two weeks until expiration):

You have about $1100 at risk (the $1200 maintenance requirement less the $115 credit (after commissions) you collected at the outset.  If the stock falls by more than $2.20 so that all the calls expire worthless, you would gain the $115 credit.  If the stock moves higher by $2, you would lose just about that same amount.  It would have to move $2.20 higher before a gain could be expected on the upside, and every dollar the stock moved higher from there would result in a $400 gain (the number of extra calls you own).

The big problem is that if the stock doesn’t do much of anything, you stand to lose about $1000, a far greater loss than most of the scenarios when a gain could be expected.  In order for you to make $1000 with these positions, the stock would have to go up by $5 in the two-week period.  Of course, that happens once in a great while, but probably less than 10% of the time.  There there is a much greater likelihood of its moving less than $2 in either direction (and a loss would occur at any point within that range).

Bottom line, back spreads might be considered if you have a strong feeling that the underlying stock might move strongly in one direction or another, but I believe that there are other more promising directional strategies such as vertical spreads, calendar or diagonal spreads, or even straddles or strangles that make more sense to me.

Another Interesting Time to Buy Options

Monday, August 6th, 2012

For the past several weeks we have been discussing how to make money buying options.  For those of you who have been following us for any extended time, you understand that this is a total departure from our long-standing belief that the best way to make maximum returns is to sell short-term options to someone else.

A combination of low option prices and high actual volatility has recently caused us to reverse our strategy.  Now seems to be a good time to be buying either or both puts or calls.  Rather than blindly buying an option and hoping for the best, we are continually on the look-out for something that will give us an edge in making this buying decision.

Last week we couldn’t find an edge we were comfortable with.  We considered buying a straddle on Thursday in advance of the jobs report but the market had been quiet all week and we sat on the sidelines.  Unfortunately, as it worked out.  SPY rose almost 2% on Friday and we would have easily doubled our money if we had pulled the trigger.

Today we will talk about one of those possible edges.

Another Interesting Time to Buy Options

It seems to happen every summer.  While the overall market doesn’t seem to do much of anything (that’s why they call it the summer doldrums I suppose), on many days, the market just seems to jump all over the place.  It could be that so many traders are on vacation that the few who are working are able to move the market with very few trades.

A more likely explanation is the computer-generated program trading that has taken over the market lately.  The average holding period for a stock in our country is now less than two seconds according to one study.  When the computers sense unusual buying or selling coming into the market, they place trades in advance of the orders getting to the exchanges.  This adds to the momentum and pushes the market sharply in one direction or the other.

At some point, the momentum shifts, and the market moves sharply in the other direction.

Check out the price action of SPY on Fridays for the past ten weeks:

June 1        -3.30
June 8        +1.05
June 15    +1.30  Monthly X dividend
June 22    +1.05
June 29     +3.31
July 6        -1.30
July 13        +2.20
July 20        -1.30    Monthly X dividend
July 27        +2.51
Aug 3        +2.70

If you had bought a slightly out-of-the-money put and call (or an at-the-money straddle) on essentially any one of the Thursdays preceding these Fridays, you would have surely made money when the stock moved well over a dollar the next day.  These puts and calls with only one day of remaining life are quite cheap, and could easily double or triple in value if the market moves by over $2 which it has on half of the Fridays this summer.

This edge probably does not extend to other months of the year, however.  In April and May, the stock did not move over $.75 on any Friday.  So it seems to be a summer phenomenon.

Buying options is risky business because you can lose 100% of your investment.  But doing it with small amounts when you see an edge like this Friday action (or before jobs reports, or on the Monday following the monthly option expiration), the odds may shift in your favor.

Be careful, and good luck.  Never invest money that you can’t afford to lose.

Another Buying Straddles Story

Monday, July 16th, 2012

For most of the last year, the market (SPY) and many individual stocks have fluctuated more than the implied volatility of the options would predict.  This situation has made it quite difficult to make gains with the calendar spread strategy that we have long advocated.

Now we are experimenting with buying straddles as an alternative to our basic strategy.  This represents a total reversal from hoping for a flat market to betting on a fluctuating one.

Today I would like to report on a straddle purchase I made last week.

Another Buying Straddles Story

I selected the Russell 2000 (Small-Cap) Index (IWM) as the underlying. For many years, this equity seems to fluctuate in the same direction and by about the same amount as the market in general (SPY) although it is trading for far less ($80 vs. $134) so the percentage fluctuations are greater.

On Monday morning, IWM was trading right about $80. I bought an 80 straddle using IWM (Jul2-12 puts and calls), paying $1.53 for the pair.  If IWM moved by $1.53 in either direction, the intrinsic value of either the puts or calls would be $1.53, and there would be some time premium remaining so that either the puts or calls could be sold for a profit.

How likely was IWM to move by more than $1.53 in either direction in only one week?  Looking back at weekly price behavior for IWM, I found that in 62 of the past 66 weeks, IWM had fluctuated at least $1.60 during the week in one direction or another.  That is the key number I needed to make the purchase.  That meant that if the historical pattern repeated itself, I could count on making a profit in 94% of the weeks.  I would be quite happy with anything near that result.

Buying a straddle fits my temperament because I was not choosing which way the market might be headed (something I know from experience that I can’t do very well, at least in the short term), and I knew that I could not lose 100% of my investment (even on Friday and the stock had not moved, there would still be some time premium remaining in the options that could be sold for something).

One on the biggest problems with trading straddles is the decision on when to sell one or both sides of the trade.  We’ll discuss some of the choices next week.  What I did was place a limit order to take a reasonable profit if it came along.  When IWM had fallen about $1.75, I sold my puts for $1.85 on Thursday.  On Friday the stock reversed itself, and I was able to collect $.17 by selling the calls, making a total 20% after commissions for the week. Not a bad result, I figured.  

At some point during the week, there were opportunities to sell both the puts and calls for more than I sold them for, but I was delighted with taking a reasonable profit.  You can’t look back when trading straddles.  If I had not sold the calls but waited until the end of the week, I would have lost about 70% of my original purchase.  So selling when you have a small profit is clearly the way to go.

Buying Strangles With Weekly Options (and How We Made 67% in a Single Day Last Week)

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Exactly one year ago, we spoke about an interesting options play that might be made before the July jobs report came out.  This Friday, the July 2012 report will come out before the market opens, and a similar trade might be in order.  It is interesting to note that one year ago, the market (SPY) was almost exactly where it is today.

 

Here are my exact words delivered on the Monday following the jobs report: “This week I would like to share an actual investment we made last Thursday which involved buying a close relative of a straddle called a strangle (buying a put and a call but at different strike prices).  Admittedly, the word strangle does not have the greatest of connotations, but it can be a wonderful thing as we learned last week.

 

Terry

 

Buying Strangles With Weekly Options (and How We Made 67% in a Single Day Last Week)

 

On Thursdays which precede the government monthly job reports,  we have sometimes employed a strategy that only does well if the stock (SPY) moves significantly in either direction once the report is published (we have noticed that volatility tends to be extreme on those days when the jobs report comes out).  Rather than betting that SPY will fluctuate by less than a dollar on Friday (the usual kind of bet we make), on the Thursday preceding the Friday jobs report, we sometimes buy either a straddle or strangle that will most likely make money if SPY moves by more than a dollar on Friday.

 

This was the Trade Alert we sent out to Insiders on Thursday, July 7, 2011 with about 10 minutes remaining in the trading day:

 

“July 7, 2011  Trade Alert  -  Last Minute  Portfolio


With the government jobs report due tomorrow, we would rather bet that the stock moves by a dollar or more rather than placing calendar spreads that make a gain only if the stock moves by less than a dollar.  We will invest only about a quarter of our available cash:

 

BTO 30 Jul2-11 135 put (SPY110708P135)

BTO 30 Jul2-11 136 call (SPY110708C136) for $.68 (buying a strangle)”

 

With SPY trading just about half way between $135 and $136 Thursday afternoon, we decided to buy the above strangle rather than a straddle.  If the stock had been closer to one particular strike price, we would have opted for a straddle instead.

 

We bought 30 strangles for $68 each, investing $2040.

 

If at any point on Friday, SPY changed in value by more than $1.00 in either direction, we could probably sell those options at a profit.  (At any price above $136.50, the calls could probably be sold for more than $68 we paid for the strangle, and at any price below $135.50, the puts could be sold for more than we paid for the strangle.)  A small amount could also probably be gained by selling the other side of the strangle as well (unless the stock moved well more than a dollar).

 

When the government report came out on Friday, the market was spooked by the poor numbers  – Non-farm private payrolls were expected to grow by 110,000 while the actual number was a disappointing 57,000.  Total nonfarm payrolls grew only 18,000 compared to an expected 80,000 (government jobs dropped by 39,000). The stock (SPY) opened down $1.40 and moved down almost $2 during the day.

 

Early in the day while the 135 puts were trading at about $1.00, we placed a limit order to sell 25 of our 30 puts at $1.10, and the order was executed about a half hour later. This would insure that we made a profit for the day no matter what happened from that point forward.  We were hoping that either the stock moved lower and we could sell the remaining 5 puts for a higher price or the stock would make a big move upward and maybe we could collect something from selling our 30 calls at the 136 strike.

 

The stock continued to fall, and later in the day we placed an order to sell the remaining 5 puts. We collected $1.52 ($152) each for them.  That wasn’t the absolute high for the day but it was darn close.  Had we waited until the close, we would have only received $.37 for those puts, and lost money on our investment.  This proves the value in taking a profit on the great majority of positions whenever it might come up rather than waiting for a possible windfall gain if the stock continues in only one direction.

 

Bottom line, we collected a profit for the day of $1363 after commissions on our investment of $2040, or 67%.

 

Straddle buyers like volatility as much as we don’t like it in our other portfolios.   There are many ways to profit with options. It is best to remain flexible, and use the option strategy that best matches current market conditions. Buying straddles or strangles when option prices are low and volatility is high is one very good way to make extraordinary gains, as we happily did last week.

 

The downside to buying straddles or strangles is that if the market doesn’t fluctuate much, you could lose every penny of your investment (although if you don’t wait too much longer than mid-day on the day options expire, even out-of-the-money options retain some value and should be able to be sold for something).  This makes it a much riskier investment than the other option strategies we recommend at Terry’s Tips.  However, straddle- or strangle-buying can be quite profitable if the current market patterns persist.

 

A personal thought – I think that expectations are so low for Friday’s jobs report (and May’s report was so disappointing), that there is a good chance that the market will surge on Friday.  Instead of buying a straddle or strangle, I plan to spend a very small amount of money buying an out-of-the-money Jul1-12 Weekly call (maybe paying $10 or less per option) just in case the stock skyrockets.  It is my lottery ticket purchase for the week, a reward to myself for having had such a good week (I have been quite long AAPL).  Chances are, I will lose the entire investment, just as the chances are hopelessly against you when you buy a lottery ticket.  At least my odds are better than being hit by lightning (the lottery ticket odds).

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