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Posts Tagged ‘VIX’

40% Possible in 2 Weeks With an Iron Condor?

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Today’s idea involves an esoteric Exchange Traded Product (ETP) called SVXY.  It is one of our favorite underlyings at Terry’s Tips.  Chances are, you don’t know very much about it, and I can’t help you much in this short note.  But I will share a trade I made on this ETP this morning, and my thinking behind this trade.

Terry

40% Possible in 2 Weeks With an Iron Condor?

The best way to explain how SVXY works might be to explain that it is the inverse of VXX, the ETP that some people buy when they fear that the market is about to crash.  Many articles have been published extolling the virtues of VXX as the ideal protection against a setback in the market.  When the market falls, volatility (VIX) most always rises, and when VIX rises, VXX almost always does as well.  It is not uncommon for VXX to double in value in a very short time when the market corrects.

The only problem with VXX is that in the long run, it is just about the worst equity that you could imagine buying.  Over the last 5 years, it has fallen from a split-adjusted several thousand dollar price to today’s $18 level.  About every year and a half, a reverse 1-for-4 reverse split must be engineered on VXX to keep the price high enough to bother with buying.  The last time this happened was in August 2016.  It pushed the price up from just over $9 to about $40, and it has lost over half its value since then.

Clearly, you would only buy VXX if you felt strongly that the market was about to implode.  Most of the time, we prefer to own the inverse of VXX.  That is SVXY.  So far, it has gone from $90 to over $140 in 2017, only to fall back to about $123 last week when geopolitical fears arose and depressed the market a bit, and even more significant for volatility-related ETPs like VXX and SVXY, volatility (VIX) rose from the 11 -13 range where it has hung out most of the time for the past few years to about 16 today.

When VIX rose and SVXY fell last week, something interesting happened. Implied volatility (IV) of the SVXY options skyrocketed to nearly double what it was a month ago.  I think that these high option prices will not exist for too long, and would like to sell some at this time.

Rather than selling either or both puts and calls naked (inviting the possibility of unlimited loss), a good way of selling high-IV options is through an iron condor spread.  I believe that SVXY, trading near the $123 where it opened this morning, is unlikely to be higher than $135 or lower than $95 in 11 days when the 28April17 options expire.

This is the spread I executed this morning:

Buy to Open # 28Apr17 140 calls (SVXY170428C140)
Sell to Open # 28Apr17 135 calls (SVXY170428C135)
Buy to Open # 28Apr17 90 puts (SVXY170428P90)
Sell to Open # 28Apr17 95 puts (SVXY170428P95) for a credit of $1.63 (selling an iron condor)

I received $163 for each contract I sold, less $5 in commissions.  My maximum loss is $500 less the $158 net I received, or $342.  If SVXY ends up at any price between $95 and $135 on April 28, all of these options will expire worthless and I will be able to keep my $158.  This works out to a 46% gain for the 11 days of waiting.

As with any investment, you would only commit money that you can truly afford to lose.  I like my chances here, and I committed an amount that would not change my style of living if I lost it.

44% in 46 Days From a Play on ULTA?

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

I would like to share a trade that we made in one of our Terry’s Tips portfolios today.  By the way, we have 9 portfolios that we carry out for paying subscribers where they can see every trade (including commissions) as we make them. All of these portfolios have made positive gains so far in 2017, and the composite average has picked up 28.8% at the end of the first quarter.  Not bad compared to conventional investment results.

Enjoy today’s offering.

Terry

44% in 46 Days From a Play on ULTA?

There is a lot to like about Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance’s (ULTA).  It has been a darling of Wall Street this year, rising about 50%.  It appears on IBD’s Top 50 list of momentum stocks.  The Motley Fool guys have written over 300 articles on the company and include it in their top three beauty stocks.  The company has a plan to add on 500 new stores, and they have exceeded earnings estimates every quarter for the past year.

The chart for the last year shows a steady climb upward, but there have been some setbacks along the way:

 

ULTA Chart April 2017

ULTA Chart April 2017

If you think the momentum might continue for about six more weeks, you might consider this trade we made on April 3rd when ULTA was trading about $285.

Buy To Open 4 ULTA 19May17 275 puts (ULTA170519P275)

Sell To Open 4 ULTA 19May17 280 puts (ULTA170519P280) for a credit limit of $1.55  (selling a vertical)

We collected $620 from this trade, less commissions of $10 at the rate Terry’s Tips  subscribers pay at thinkorswim.  A maintenance requirement of $2000 will be assessed by the broker, less the $610 net we collected, making it a $1390 investment.  This would be the maximum loss if the stock ended up below $275 on May 19th.  If it is at any price above $280 on that day, it works out to a 44% gain for the 46 days we will have to wait.

The stock can fall about $5 and we will still make the maximum gain. While this might not be much downside protection, it is surely a lot better deal than owning the stock where even a dollar drop in the stock will result in a loss for the period.

If the stock does fall below $280 near the end of the six-week period, we would probably roll out the spread to a future time period, a tactic that will give us a little more time for it to rise above $280.  If that becomes necessary, we will send you a note explaining the action we took.

As with any investment, you should do your own research on the fundamentals of any stock or options you buy, and you should only be risking money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading.

Terry

How to Make 50% in 5 Months With Options on Celgene

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

One of my favorite option plays is to pick a company I like (or one that several people I respect like) and place a bet that it will at least stay flat for the next few months. Actually, most of the time, I can find a spread that will make a great gain even if the stock falls by a few dollars while I hold the spread.

Today, I would like to share an investment we placed in a Terry’s Tips portfolio just yesterday. By the way, this portfolio has similar spreads in four other companies we like, and it has gained over 20% in the first two months of 2017. We have already closed out two spreads early and reinvested the cash in new plays. The portfolio is on target to make over 100% for the year (and it is available for Auto-Trade at thinkorswim for anyone not interested in placing the trades themselves).

Terry

How to Make 50% in 5 Months With Options on Celgene

Not only is CELG on many analysts’ “Top Picks for 2017” list, but several recent Seeking Alpha contributors have extolled the company’s business and future. One article said “Few large-cap biotech concerns have a clearer earnings and revenue growth trajectory over the next 3-5 years than Celgene.”

Zacks said, “We are expecting an above average return from the stock in the next few months.” See full article here.

So we like the company’s prospects, and this is the spread we sold yesterday when CELG was trading at $123.65:

Buy To Open # CELG 21Jul17 115 puts (CELG170721P115)
Sell To Open # CELG 21Jul17 120 puts (CELG170721P120) for a credit limit of $1.72 (selling a vertical)

For each contract sold, we received $172 less commissions of $2.50 (the rate Terry’s Tips’ subscribers pay at thinkorswim), or $169.50. The broker will place a $500 maintenance requirement on us per spread. Subtracting out the $169.50 we received, our net investment is $330.50 per spread. This is also the maximum loss we would incur if CELG closes below $115 on July 21, 2017 (unless we rolled the spread over to a future month near the expiration date, something we often do, usually at a credit, if the stock has fallen a bit since we placed the original trade).

Making a gain of $169.50 on an investment of $330.50 works out to a 51% for the five months we will have to wait it out. That works out to over 100% a year, and the stock doesn’t have to go up a penny to make that amount. In fact, it can fall by $3.65 and we will still make 51% on our money after commissions.

If the stock is trading below $120 as we near expiration in July, we might roll the spread out to a future month, hopefully at a credit. If this possibility arises (of course, we hope it won’t), we will send out a blog describing what we did as soon as we can, just in case you want to follow along.

This spread is called a vertical put credit spread. We prefer using puts rather than calls even though we are bullish on the stock because if we are right, and the stock is trading above the strike price of the puts we sold on expiration day, both put options will expire worthless and no further commissions will be due.

As with all investments, option trades should only be made with money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading.

Terry

Black Friday: How A VIX Spread Gained 70% in 3 Weeks

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

On Wednesday of this week, a VIX spread I recommended for paying subscribers expired after only 3 weeks of existence.  It gained 70% on the investment, and it is the kind of spread you might consider in the future whenever VIX soars (usually temporarily) out of its usual range because of some upcoming uncertain event (this time it was the election that caused VIX to spike).

In addition to telling you about this spread so you can put it in your book of future possibilities, we are offering a Black Friday -  Cyber Monday special offer to encourage you to come on board at a big discount price.

Terry

How A VIX Spread Gained 70% in 3 Weeks

VIX is the average implied volatility (IV) of options which are traded on the S&P 500 tracking stock (SPY).  It is called the “fear index” because when market fears arise because of some future uncertain event, option prices move higher and push VIX up.  Most of the time, VIX fluctuates between 12 and 14, but every once in a while, it spikes much higher.

Just before the election that took place on November 8, VIX soared to 22.  I recommended to my paying subscribers to place a bet that VIX would fall back below 15 when the option series that expired on November 23 came around.  Here are the exact words I wrote in my November 5 Saturday Report:

“When VIX soared to above 22 this week, we sent out a special note describing a bearish vertical call credit spread which would make very large gains if VIX retreated toward its recent average of hanging out in the 12-14 range.  As you surely know, you can’t actually buy (or sell short) VIX, as it is the average implied volatility (IV) of SPY options (excluding the weeklies).  However, you can buy and sell puts and calls on VIX, and execute spreads just as long as both long and short sides of the spread are in the same expiration series.

You are not allowed to buy calendar or diagonal spreads with VIX options since each expiration series is a distinct series not connected to other series.  If you could buy calendars, the prices would look exceptional.  There are times when you could actually buy a calendar spread at a credit, but unfortunately, they don’t allow such trades.

Vertical spreads are fair game, however, and make interesting plays if you have a feel for which way you think volatility is headed.  Right now, we have a time when VIX is higher than it has been for some time, pushed up by election uncertainties, the Fed’s next interest rate increase, and the recent 9-day consecutive drop in market prices.  This week, when VIX was over 22, we sent out a special trade idea based on the likelihood that once the election is over, VIX might retreat to the lower 12-14 range where it has hung out most of the time recently.  This is the trade we suggested:

BTO 1 VIX 23Nov16 21 call (VIX161123C21)

STO 1 VIX 23Nov16 15 call (VIX161123C15) for a credit of $2.60 (selling a vertical)”

This spread caused a maintenance requirement of $600 against which we received $260 for selling the spread.  That made our net investment $340 (and maximum loss if VIX ended up above 17.60 on November 23rd.

It worked out exactly as we expected.  VIX fell to below 13 and both puts expired worthless on Wednesday.  We pocketed the full $260 per contract (less $2.50 commission) for the 3 weeks.  How sweet it is.  We also placed the identical spread at this $2.60 price for the series that closes on December 28 (after the Fed interest rate decision has been made public).  With VIX so much lower, we could close out the spread right now for $75, netting us a 51%  profit.  Many subscribers have reported to us that they have done just that.

And now for the special Black Friday – Cyber Monday special offer.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Special Offer:  As a post Thanksgiving special, we are offering one of the lowest subscription prices that we have ever offered – our full package, including several valuable case study reports, my White Paper, which explains my favorite option strategies in detail, and shows you exactly how to carry them out on your own, a 14-day options tutorial program which will give you a solid background on option trading, and three months of our Saturday Reports full of tradable option ideas.  All this for a one-time fee of $69.95, normally $139.80 (not including bonus reports).

For this low-price Black Friday/Cyber Monday $69.95 offer, click here, enter Special Code BFCM16 (or BFCM16P for Premium Service – $199.95).

If you are ready to commit for a longer time period, you can save even more with our half-price offer on our Premium service for an entire year.  This special offer includes everything in our basic service, and in addition, real-time trade alerts and full access to all of our portfolios so that you can Auto-Trade or follow any or all of them.  We have several levels of our Premium service, but this is the maximum level since it includes full access to all nine portfolios which are available for Auto-Trade.  A year’s subscription to this maximum level would cost $1080.  With this half-price offer, the cost for a full year would be only $540.  Use the Special Code MAX16P.

This is a time-limited offer.  You must order by midnight Monday , November 28th, 2016.  That’s when the Black Friday/Cyber Monday offer expires, and you will have to go back to the same old investment strategy that you have had limited success with for so long (if you are like most investors).

This is the perfect time to give you and your family the perfect Holiday Season treat that is designed to deliver higher financial returns for the rest of your investing life.

I look forward to helping you survive the Holidays by sharing this valuable investment information with you for our first ever Black Friday/ Cyber Monday Sale. It may take you a little homework, but I am sure you will end up thinking it was well worth the investment.

Happy trading.

Terry

P.S.  If you would have any questions about this offer or Terry’s Tips, please email Seth Allen, our Senior Vice President at seth@terrystips.com.  Or make this investment in yourself at the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale price – the first time this has been offered in our 15 years of publication – only $69.95 for our entire package.  Get it here using Special Code BFCM16 (or BFCM16P for Premium Service – $199.95).   Do it today, before you forget and lose out.  This offer expires at midnight November 28th, 2016.

How to Make 40% With a Single Options Trade on a Blue Chip Stock

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

Every once in a while, market volatility soars. The most popular measure of volatility is VIX, the so-called “fear index’ which is the average volatility of options on SPY (the S&P 500 tracking stock). By the way, SPY weekly options are not included in the calculation of VIX, something which tends to understate the value when something specific like today’s election is an important reason affecting the current level of volatility.

Today I would like to share with you a trade I recommended to paying subscribers to Terry’s Tips last week. We could close it out today for a 27% profit after commissions in one week, but most of us are hanging onto our positions for another couple of weeks because we still believe the spread will result in 75% gain for three weeks when the market settles down after today’s election.

I hope you can learn something from this latest way to benefit from an elevated volatility level in the market.

Terry

How to Make 40% With a Single Options Trade on a Blue Chip Stock

As much as you might like, you can’t actually buy (or sell short) VIX, so there is no direct way to bet whether volatility will go up or down with this popular measure. However, you can buy and sell puts and calls on VIX, and execute spreads just as long as both long and short sides of the spread are in the same expiration series.

You are not allowed to buy calendar or diagonal spreads with VIX options since each expiration series is a distinct series not connected to other series. If you could buy calendars, the prices would look exceptional. There are times when you could actually buy a calendar spread at a credit, but unfortunately, they don’t allow such trades.

Vertical spreads are fair game, however, and make interesting plays if you have a feel for which way you think volatility is headed. Last week, we had a time when VIX was higher than it has been for some time, pushed up by election uncertainties, the Fed’s next interest rate increase, and the recent 9-day consecutive drop in market prices. When VIX was over 22, we sent out a special trade idea based on the likelihood that once the election is over, VIX might retreat. For the last few years, the most popular range for VIX to hang out has been in the 12-14 area. Obviously, this is a lot lower than last’s week’s 22-23 range.

If you look at a chart of VIX, you will see that it has moved above 20 on only 7 occasions over the past three years, and the great majority of time, it quickly retreated to a much lower level. Only once did it remain over 20 for more than a couple of weeks or so. Back in 2008, VIX moved up to astronomical levels and stayed there for several months, but if you recall those days, with the implosion of Lehman Bros., Long Term Capital, and bank bailouts all around, there was serious fears that our entire financial system might soon collapse. This time around, it seemed like the most fearful consideration was the American election, and specifically that Donald Trump might win and market uncertainty would surely soar even further. This does not feel like the cataclysmic possibilities that we were facing in 2008.

This is the trade we suggested, based on our assumption that Donald Trump would probably not prevail and not much different would happen out of Washington going forward:

BTO 1 VIX 23Nov16 21 call (VIX161123C21)
STO 1 VIX 23Nov16 15 call (VIX161123C15) for a credit of $2.60 (selling a vertical)

This spread involves an investment (and maximum risk) of $342.50. There is a $600 maintenance requirement (the difference between the strike prices) from which the $260 received less $2.50 commission or $257.50 must be deducted. If VIX closes at any number below 15 on November 23, both calls would expire worthless and this spread would make $257.50 on the maximum risk of $342.50, or 75%.

Maybe 3 weeks was not a long enough time to expect VIX to plummet back to 15. An argument could be made that it would be better to wait until after the Fed’s December rate decision has been made, and place this same spread in the 20Jan17 series. The price (and potential gain) would be about the same (I have sold this same spread in that series in my personal account as well). Of course, you have to wait 2 ½ months for it to come about, but 75% is a sweet number to dream about collecting in such a short time.

Since we placed the above spreads a week ago, VIX has fallen from 23 to a little over 18 today (apparently when the FBI exonerated Hillary, it looked less likely that Trump would win). It only needs to fall a little over 3 more points after the election today to deliver 75% to us on November 23rd. We like our chances here. Some subscribers are taking their gains today, just in case Mr. Trump gets elected. They can buy the spread back today for $1.65, well below the $2.60 they collected from selling it. I am personally holding out for the bigger potential gain.

IBM Pre-Announcement Play

Friday, September 30th, 2016

IBM announces earnings on October 17, less than three weeks from now. I would like to share with you a strategy I used today to take advantage of the extremely high option prices which exist for the option series that expires on October 21, four days after the announcement. I feel fairly confident I will eventually make over 100% on one or both of these trades before the long side expires in six months.

Terry

IBM Pre-Announcement Play

One of my favorite option strategies is to buy one or more calendar spreads on a company that will be announcing earnings in a few weeks. The option series which expires directly after the announcement experiences an elevated Implied Volatility (IV) relative to all the other option series. A high IV means that those options are relatively expensive compared to all the other options that are trading on that stock.

IV for the post-announcement series soars because of the well-known tendency for stock prices to fluctuate far more than usual once the announcement is made. It may go up if investors are pleased with the company’s earnings, sales, or outlook, or it may tumble because investors were expecting more. While there is some historical evidence that the stock usually moves in the opposite direction that it did in the week or two leading up to the announcement, it is not compelling enough to always bet that way.

IBM has risen about $5 over the last week, but it is trading about equal to where it was two weeks ago, so there is no indication right now as to what might happen after the announcement.

IBM has fluctuated by just under 4% on average over the last few announcement events. That would make an average of $6 either way. I really have no idea which way it might go after this announcement, but it has been hanging out around it/s current level (just under $160) for a while, so I am planning to place my bet around that number

In the week leading up to the announcement, IV for the post-announcement series almost always soars, and the stock often moves higher as well, pushed higher by investors who are expecting good news to be forthcoming. For that reason, I like to buy calendar spreads at a strike slightly above the current price of the stock in hopes that the stock will move toward that strike as we wait for the announcement day. Remember, calendar spreads make the greatest gain when the stock is exactly at the strike price on the day when the short side of the spread expires.

This is the trade I placed today when IBM was at $159 (of course, you may choose any quantity you are comfortable with, but this is what each spread cost me):

Buy To Open 1 IBM 21Apr17 160 call (IBM170421C160)
Sell To Open 1 IBM 21Oct16 160 call (IBM161021C160) for a debit of $4.71 (buying a calendar)
Each spread cost me $471 plus $2.50 (the commission rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim), for a total of $473.50. I sold the 21Oct16 160 call for $354. In order to get all my $473.50 back once October 21st rolls around, I will have 25 opportunities to sell a one-week call (if I wish). Right now, a 160 call with one week of remaining life could be sold for about $.90. If I were to sell one of these weeklies on 6 occasions, I would get my entire investment back and still have 19 more opportunities to sell a weekly call.

Another way of moving forward would to sell new calls with a month of remaining life when the 21Oct16 calls expire. If IBM is around $160 at that time, a one-month call could be sold for about $2.00. It would take three such sales to get all of my initial investment back, and I would have three more opportunities to sell a one-month call with all the proceeds being pure profit.

Before the 21Apr17 calls expire, another earnings announcement will come around (about 3 ½ months from now). If IBM is trading anywhere near $160 at that time, I should be able to sell a 160 call with 3 weeks of remaining life for about $354, just like I sold one today. That alone would get about 75% of my initial investment back.

In any event, over the six-months that I might own the 21Apr17 calls, I will have many chances to sell new calls and hopefully collect much more time premium than I initially shelled out for the calendar spread. There may be times when I have to buy back expiring calls because they are in the money, but I should be able to sell further-out short-term calls at the same strike for a nice credit and whittle down my initial investment.
I also made this trade today:

Buy To Open 1 IBM 21Apr17 160 call (IBM170421C160)
Sell To Open 1 IBM 14Oct16 160 call (IBM161014C160) for a debit of $6.65 (buying a calendar)

This is the same calendar spread as the first one, but the sell side is the 14Oct16 series which expires a week before the announcement date week. If IV for the 21Oct16 series does escalate from its present 25 (as it should), I might be able to sell calls with a week of remaining life for a higher price than is available right now. I might end up with paying less than $473.50 for the original spread which sold the post-announcement 21Oct16 calls.

Calendar Spreads Tweak #4

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Today I would like to discuss how you can use calendar spreads for a short-term strategy based around the date when a stock goes ex-dividend. I will tell you exactly how I used this strategy a week ago when SPY paid its quarterly dividend.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #4

Four times a year, SPY pays a dividend to owners of record on the third Friday of March, June, September, and December. The current dividend is about $1.09. Each of these events presents a unique opportunity to make some money by buying calendar spreads using puts to take advantage of the huge time premium in the puts in the days leading up to the dividend day.

Since the stock goes down by the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend day, the option market prices the amount of the dividend into the option prices. Check out the situation for SPY on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, two days before an expected $1.09 dividend would be payable. At the time of these prices, SPY was trading just about $213.70.

Facebook Bid Ask Puts Calls Sept 2016

Facebook Bid Ask Puts Calls Sept 2016

Note that the close-to-the-money options at the 213.5 strike show a bid of $1.11 for calls and $1.84 for puts. The slightly out-of-the-money put options are trading for nearly double the prices for those same distance-out calls. The market has priced in the fact that the stock will fall by the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend day. In this case, that day is Friday.

SPY closed at $215.28 on Thursday. Friday’s closing price was $213.37, which is $1.91 lower. However, the change for the day was indicated as -$.82. The difference ($1.09) was the size of the dividend.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to sell some of those puts that had such large premiums in them to see if there might be some opportunity there. While SPY was trading in the $213 to $216 range, I bought put calendar spreads at the 214.5, 214, 213.5, and 213 strikes, buying 21Oct16 puts at the even-strike numbers and 19Oct16 puts for the strikes ending in .5 (only even-number strikes are offered in the regular Friday 21Oct16 options). Obviously, I sold the 16Sep16 puts in each calendar spread.

Note: On August 30th, the CBOE offered a new series of SPY options that expire on Wednesday rather than Friday. The obvious reason for this offering involves the dividend situation. Investors who write calls against their SPY stock are in a real bind when they sell calls that expire on an ex-dividend Friday. First, there is very little time premium in those calls. Second, there is a serious risk that the call will be exercised by the holder to take the stock and capture the dividend. If the owner of SPY sold the series that expired on Wednesday rather than Friday, the potential problem would be avoided.

I paid an average of $2.49 including commissions for the four calendar spreads and sold them on Friday for an average of $2.88 after commissions. I sold every spread for more money that it cost (including commissions). My net gain for the two days of trading was just over 15% after commissions.

The stock fell $.82 (after accounting for the $1.09 dividend). If it had gone up by that amount, I expect that my 15% gain would also have been there. It is unclear if the gains would have been there if SPY had made a big move, say $2 or more in either direction on Friday. My rough calculations showed that there would still be a profit, but it would be less than 15%. Single-day moves of more than $2 are a little unusual, however, so it might not be much to be concerned about.

Bottom line, I am delighted with the 15% gain, and will probably try it again in three months (at the December expiration). In this world of near-zero interest rates, many investors would be happy with 15% for an entire year. I collected mine in just two days.

Trading SPY options is particularly easy because of the extreme liquidity of those options. In most cases, I was able to get an execution at the mid-point price of the calendar spread bid-ask range. I never paid $.01 more or received more than $.01 less than the mid-point price when trading these calendar spreads.

While liquidity is not as great in most options markets, it might be interesting to try this same strategy with other dividend-payers such as JNJ where the dividend is also over $1.00. I regularly share these kinds of trading opportunities with Terry’s Tips Insiders so that they can follow along in their own accounts if they wish.

Happy trading.

Calendar Spreads Tweak #1

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

This week we will continue our discussion of a popular option spread – the calendar spread which is also called a time spread or horizontal spread. We will check out the feasibility of buying spreads at different strike prices in an effort to reduce risk.

Terry

Calendar Spreads Tweak #1

First, let’s look at a typical calendar spread on Facebook (FB). Last Friday, when FB was trading about $124.20, we bought 5-month-out 20Jan17 calls and sold one-month-out 30Sep16 calls. The spread would cost $5.43 ($543), and this is what the risk profile graph looked like:

Face book Risk Profile May 2016

Face book Risk Profile May 2016

Note that the break-even range extends from about $3 on the downside to $5 on the upside, a range of $8. (The loss or gain when the short calls expire on September 30 is indicated in the column on the right titled “P/L Day.”) The maximum gain is precisely at the $125 price, and it is about $150 which would result in a nice 27% gain for the month.

Next, I tested whether I could expand the break-even range by adding the same calendar spread at the 120 and 130 strike prices (the 20Jan17 series only offers strikes at $5 increments, unlike the weekly series). The 120 spread would cost $464 and the 130 spread would be $483, so buying all three spreads would involve an investment of about $1500. Here is what the risk profile graph looks like for the three spreads:

Face Book Risk Profile 2 September 2016

Face Book Risk Profile 2 September 2016

Note that the break-even range is almost exactly the same with the three spreads. The maximum gain is also about $150, but with three spreads, it would mean a 10% gain rather than a 27% one because you would have about $1500 invested rather than $543. Clearly, adding calendar spreads at strikes $5 above and below the current stock price is not the way to go – about triple the investment, the same expected maximum gain, and about the same break-even range.

Presumably, you are trading calendars on a stock you believe is headed higher. You might choose to buy an at-the-money calendar and a second one at a higher strike. If you do this, your investment is about $1000 and this is the risk profile graph:

Face Book Risk Profile 3 September 2016

Face Book Risk Profile 3 September 2016

The break-even range is once again about $8 from the lowest point to the highest, but it extends just over a dollar on the downside and $7 on the upside. If you are bullish on the stock, this seems to be a better way to go. The maximum gain is about $150 once again, and this results in a 15% gain for the month. The best thing about this choice of two spreads is that the maximum gain can be achieved across a 5-point range rather than being available at only one precise price point.

Another strategy might be to buy the 125 calendar spread, and then wait to see which way the stock moves, and then buy another calendar in that direction. As we have seen, the cost of an at-the-money calendar is not much greater than the same calendar which is $5 away from the money. The big risk with this strategy is that the stock might whipsaw. For example, it might fall $3 which might prompt you to buy a 120 calendar, and then shoot higher, going up to $128 which might cause you to add a new spread at the 130 strike.

As usual, there are no easy ways to make sure gains in this world. The best bet seems to be to take a position that the stock is headed in one particular direction (usually up unless you are trading on some ETP that is destined to go down, like VXX), and combine an at-the-money spread with one at a higher strike price. Most months you should be making a significant gain if your stock behaves as you expect, and that gain can materialize over a nice range of possible prices.

All About, or at Least an Introduction to Calendar Spreads

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

This week I would like start an ongoing discussion about one of my favorite option plays. It is called a calendar spread. It is also known as a time spread or a horizontal spread. But most people call it a calendar because that’s where you focus much of your attention while you hold this kind of a spread. On a specific date on the calendar, you discover whether you made or lost money since you first bought the calendar spread. In the next few blogs, I will discuss all sorts of variations and permutations you can make with calendar spreads, but today, we will focus on a bare bones explanation of the basic spread investment.

Terry

All About, or at Least an Introduction to Calendar Spreads

A calendar spread consists of the simultaneous purchase of one option (either a put or a call) and the sale of another option (either a put or call), with both the purchase and the sale at the same strike price, and the life span of the option you bought is greater than the option you sold. You can trade either puts or calls in this kind of spread, but not both in the same spread. You have to choose to use either puts or calls, but as we will see at a later time, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference which choice you make.

Some things that we all know about options: 1) they all have a limited life span, and 2) if the underlying stock does not change in price, all options fall in value every day. This is called decay. In option parlance, it is called theta. Theta is the amount that the option will decay in value in a single day if the underlying stock remains flat.

The basic appeal of a calendar spread is that the decay (or theta) of the option that has been sold is greater than the decay (or theta) of the stock that was bought. Every day that the stock remains flat, the value of the spread should become slightly greater. For this reason, most buyers of calendar spreads are hoping that the stock does not move in either direction very much (but we will see that is not always the case with all calendar spreads).

Here is a typical calendar spread purchase on Nike (NKE) on August 24, 2016 when NKE was trading just about $60:

Buy to Open 5 NKE 20Jan17 60 calls (NKE170120C60)
Sell to Open 5 NKE 23Sep16 60 calls (NKE160923C60) for a debit of $2.20 (buying a calendar)

The options that are being bought will expire on January 21, 2017 (about 5 months from now) and the options being sold will expire on September 23, 2016, one month from now. You don’t really care what the prices are for the calls you bought or the calls you sold, just as long as the difference between the two prices is $2.20 ($220 per spread, plus a commission of about $2.50 per spread). That’s how much money you will have to come up with to buy the spread. This spread order will cost $1100 plus $12.50 in commissions, or $1112.50.

The all-important date of this spread is September 23, 2016. That is the day on which the short options (the ones you sold) will expire. If the stock is trading on that day at any price below $60, the calls that you sold will expire worthless, and you will be the owner of 5 NKE 60 calls which have about 4 months of remaining life. If NKE is trading at exactly $60 on that day, those 20Jan17 60 calls will be worth about $3.05 and you could sell them for about $1525, netting yourself a profit of about $400 after commissions. That works out to a 35% gain for a single month, not a bad return at all, especially if you can manage to do it every month for the entire year (but now, we’re dreaming). That is, alas, the maximum you could make on the original spread, and that would come only if the stock were trading at exactly $60 on the day when the short calls expired.

Here is the risk profile graph which shows the loss or gain on the original spread at various prices where the stock might be trading on September 23rd:

2016 NKE Risk Profile Graph September Expiration

2016 NKE Risk Profile Graph September Expiration

In the lower right-hand corner under P/L Day, the profit or loss on the spread is listed for each possible stock price between $58 and $62. Those numbers should be compared to the investment of just over $1100. The graph shows the maximum gain takes place if the stock ends up right about $60, and about half that gain would result if the stock has moved a dollar higher or lower from $60. If it rises or falls by $2, a loss would result, but this loss would be much lower than the potential gains if the stock fluctuated by less than $2. If the stock moves by a much greater amount than $2, even greater losses would occur.

One good thing about calendar spreads is that the value of the options you bought will always be greater than the ones you sold, so you can never lose the entire amount of money you invested when you bought the spread. If you just buy a call option with the hopes that the stock will rise, or buy a put option with hopes that the stock will fall, you risk losing 100% of your investment if you are wrong. Even worse, in most cases, you would lose the entire investment if the stock stays flat rather than moving in the direction you were hoping.

With calendar spreads, you should never lose everything that you invested and you don’t have to be exactly right about the direction the stock needs to move. There is a range of possible prices where your spread will be profitable, and if you enter your proposed spread in a software program like the (free) Analyze Tab at thinkorswim, you can tell in advance what the break-even range will be for your investment.

There are ways that you can expand the break-even range so that a greater stock price fluctuation could be tolerated, and that will be the subject of our next blog.

Lowest Subscription Price Ever Still Available

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

This month marks the 15th year in business for Terry’s Tips.  We are celebrating this event by offering you our lowest subscription price ever.  If you ever wanted to learn all about the wonderful world of options and my favorite options strategy, now is the time to act.

Lowest Subscription Price Ever

As our birthday present to you, we are offering the lowest subscription price than we have ever offered – our full package, including all the free reports, my White Paper, which explains my favorite option strategies in detail, and shows you exactly how to carry them out on your own, a 14-day options tutorial program which will give you a solid background on option trading, and two months of our weekly newsletter full of tradable option ideas.  All this for a one-time fee of $39.95, less than half the cost of the White Paper alone ($79.95).

For this lowest-price-ever $39.95 offer, click here, enter Special Code 15Year (or 15YearP for Premium Service – $79.95).  The premium service offers you real-time trade alerts so you can follow along with our trades if you wish, or participate in Auto-Trade at thinkorswim.

 This is a time-limited offer.  You must order by Wednesday, June 15, 2016. There’s no need or reason to wait that long, but that’s when the half-price offer expires, and you will have to go back to the same old investment strategy that you have had limited success with for so long (if you are like most investors).

This is the perfect time to our 15th birthday with us, and give yourself and your family the perfect birthday gift that is designed to deliver higher financial returns for the rest of your investing life.  It may take you a little homework on your part, but I am sure you will end up thinking it was well worth the investment.

Happy trading,

Terry

P.S. For this lowest-price-ever $39.95 offer for the complete Terry’s Tips package (including my White Paper for which over 10,000 people have paid our regular price $79.95), click here, enter Special Code 15Year (or 15YearP for Premium Service – $79.95).  It could be the best investment decision you ever make.

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