from the desk of Dr. Terry F Allen

Skip navigation

Member Login  |  Contact Us  |  Sign Up

1-800-803-4595

Posts Tagged ‘VIX’

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.

How To Protect Yourself Against a Market Crash With Options

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Today’s idea is a little complicated, but it involves an important part of any prudent investment strategy. Market crashes do come along every once in a while, and we are eight years away from the last one in 2008. What will happen to your nest egg if it happens again this year?

Options can be a good form of market crash insurance, and it is possible to set up a strategy that might even make a small gain if the crash doesn’t come along. That possibility sets it apart from most forms of insurance which cost you out-of-pocket money if the calamity you insure against doesn’t occur.

Terry

How To Protect Yourself Against a Market Crash With Options

There are some strong indications that the old adage “Sell in May and Go Away” might be the appropriate move right now. Goldman Sachs has downgraded its outlook on equities to “neutral” over the next 12 months, saying there’s no particular reason to own them. “Until we see sustained signals of growth recovery, we do not feel comfortable taking equity risk, particularly as valuations are near peak levels,” the firm said in a research note.

For several months, Robert Shiller has been warning that the market is seriously overvalued by his unique method of measuring prices against long-term average p/e’s. George Soros is keeping the bears happy as well, doubling his wager against the S&P 500. The billionaire investor, who has been warning that the 2008 financial crisis could be repeated due to China’s economic slowdown, bought 2.1M-share “put” options in SPY during Q1. The magnitude of his bet against SPY is phenomenal, essentially 200 million shares short. Of course, he almost always deals in stratospheric numbers, but the size of this bet indicates that he feels pretty strongly about this one. He didn’t become a billionaire by being on the wrong side of market bets.

So what can you do to protect yourself against a big tumble in the market? We are setting up a bearish portfolio for Terry’s Tips subscribers, and this is what it will look like. It is based on the well-known fact that when the market crashes, volatility soars, and when volatility soars, the Exchange Traded Product (ETP) called VXX soars along with it.

Some people buy VXX as market crash insurance (or its steroid-like cousin, UVXY). Over the long run, VXX has been a horrible investment, however, possibly the worst thing you could have done with your money over the past six years. It has fallen from a split-adjusted $4000 to its present price of about $15. It has engineered 1-for-4 reverse splits three times to make the price worth bothering to trade. The split usually occurs when it gets down to about $12, so you can expect another reverse split soon.
An option strategy can be set up that allows you to own the equivalent of VXX while not subjecting you to the long-run inevitable downward trend. When volatility does pick up, VXX soars. In fact, it doubled once and went up 50% another time, both temporarily, in the last year alone. While it is a bad long-term investment, if your timing is right, you might pick up a windfall. Our options strategy is designed to achieve the potential upside windfall while avoiding the long-term prospects you face by merely buying the ETP.

Our new portfolio will buy VXX 20Jan17 15 calls and sell fewer contracts in short-term calls. Sufficient short-term premium will be collected from selling the short term calls to cover the decay on the long calls (and a little bit more).

This portfolio will start with $3000. The entire amount will not be used at the outset, but rather be held in cash in case it might be needed to cover a maintenance call in case the market moves higher.

These might be the starting positions:

BTO 3 VXX 20Jan17 15 calls (VXX170120C15)
STO 3 VXX 17Jun16 15 calls (VXX160617C15) for a debit of $2.40 (buying a diagonal)

BTO 3 VXX 20Jan17 15 calls (VXX170120C15)
STO 3 VXX 24Jun16 16 calls (VXX160624C16) for a debit of $2.45 (buying a diagonal)

BTO 4 VXX 20Jan17 16 calls (VXX170120C16) for $3.30

Here is what the risk profile graph looks like with those positions as of June 18th after the short calls expire:
VXX Better Bear Risk Profile Graph May 2016

VXX Better Bear Risk Profile Graph May 2016
You can see that the portfolio will make gains no matter how high VXX might go. It will make a small gain (about 8% for the month) if the stock stays flat, and starts losing if VXX moves below $14.50. If it falls that far, we might sell call or two at the 14 strike and incur a maintenance requirement which would be partially offset by the amount we collected from selling the call(s). A trade like this would reduce or eliminate a loss if the ETP continues to fall, and it might have to be repeated if VXX continues even lower. At some point, some long calls might need to be rolled down to a lower strike to eliminate maintenance requirements that come along when you sell a call at a lower strike than the long call that covers it.

The above positions could be put on for about $2800. There would be about $200 in cash remaining for the possible maintenance requirement in case one might be necessary.

You probably should not attempt to set up and carry out this strategy unless you are familiar with options trading as it is admittedly a little complicated. A better idea might be to become a Terry’s Tips Insider and open an account at thinkorswim so that these trades could automatically be made for you through their Auto-Trade program.

Every investment portfolio should have a little downside insurance protection. We believe that options offer the best form for that kind of insurance because it might be possible to make a profit at the same time as providing market crash insurance.

As with all forms of investing, you should not be committing money that you truly cannot afford to lose.

How Option Prices are Determined

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Today I would like to pass along some basic information about how stock options prices are determined. I have discussed this in the past, but we now have many new subscribers who may not have seen our earlier blogs. I apologize if this is old information for you.

Terry

How Option Prices are Determined

Of course, the market ultimately determines the price of any option as buyers bid and sellers ask at various prices. Usually, they meet somewhere in the middle and a price is determined. This buying and selling action is generally not based on some pie-in-the-sky notion of value, but is soundly grounded on some mathematical considerations.

There are 5 components that determine the value of an option:

1. The price of the underlying stock

2. The strike price of the option

3. The time until the option expires

4. The cost of money (interest rates less dividends, if any)

5. The volatility of the underlying stock

The first four components are easy to figure out. Each can precisely be measured. If they were the only components necessary, option pricing would be a no-brainer. Anyone who could add and subtract could figure it out to the penny.

The fifth component – volatility – is the wild card. It is where all the fun starts. Options on two different companies could have absolutely identical numbers for all of the first four components and the option for one company could cost double what the same option would cost for the other company. Volatility is absolutely the most important (and elusive) ingredient of option prices.

Volatility is simply a measure of how much the stock fluctuates. So shouldn’t it be easy to figure out? It actually is easy to calculate, if you are content with looking backwards. The amount of fluctuation in the past is called historical volatility. It can be precisely measured, but of course it might be a little different each year.

So historical volatility gives market professionals an idea of what the volatility number should be. However, what the market believes will happen next year or next month is far more important than what happened in the past, so the volatility figure (and the option price) fluctuates all over the place based on the current emotional state of the market.

In future newsletters, we’ll continue this discussion of volatility and why it is the most important variable in option pricing.

 

Earnings Season Has Arrived – How to Capitalize on it With Options

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

For each of the last two Mondays I have told you about an earnings-related trade I made. Today I would like to review my thinking on those trades, update how they are going, and offer you a new idea of a third trade I made his morning.

Terry

Earnings Season Has Arrived – How to Capitalize on it With Options

In the last few weeks leading up to a quarterly earnings announcement, two things usually happen. First of all, the stock often moves higher as the announcement day approaches as some investors start hoping that the company might beat expectations. The second thing is even more likely (and essentially always happens). Implied Volatility (IV) of the option prices moves much high. This means that the prices for options temporarily rise in value across the board. The greatest upward move in IV takes place in the options series which expires just after the announcement date.

The reason that IV becomes greater at this time is that once earnings are announced, the stock is likely to move either up or down by a much larger amount than it does most trading days. When volatility is expected to be high, option prices rise in anticipation of that higher level of anticipated price changes.

One of my favorite option plays is based on these two tendencies to occur as the announcement day approaches. I like to leg into a calendar spread at a strike price which is slightly higher than the stock price. I do this by buying a call option at that strike in the option series that expires two weeks after the series which expires just after the announcement is made. Once I have made my purchase, I place a good-til-cancelled order to sell a call at the same strike in the series that expires just after the announcement date (the series which will carry the highest IV and therefore the highest option prices). I set a limit price which is sufficiently greater than what I paid for the two-week-longer call to cover the commissions and leave a small profit as well.

This limit price should be met if either or both of the tendencies end up happening (the stock moves higher or IV increases). Most of the time, I have been able to complete the trade and end up with a calendar spread at a credit.

If I am successful in setting up a calendar spread at a credit, I am guaranteed to make a nice profit on the spread. I can’t lose because the call I own has two weeks more of life than the same-strike call I have sold to someone else, so it can be sold at a credit, no matter what the stock price does after the announcement. My greatest gain will come if the stock ends up very close to the strike price which I selected.

The Starbucks (SBUX) Play: SBUX announces on April 21. Two weeks ago, with SBUX trading about $58.60, I placed an order to buy SBUX May1-16 calls. I paid $1.12 ($112 per contract) plus $1.25 commission at the rate paid by Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim (if you are paying more than this as commission rate, you might consider opening an account at this brokerage – see the offer below).

I immediately placed an order to sell Apr4-16 60 calls at a limit price of $1.20. The Apr4-16 series expires on April 22, the day after the announcement on the 21st. This trade executed the very next day. After commissions, I had gained $5.50 for each spread, and was guaranteed to make an additional gain once the Apr4-16 calls expired. Since the May1-16 calls have two weeks more of remaining life than the Apr4-16 calls, the spread will always have at least some value. The closer the stock is to $60, the greater the value of the spread. If I am lucky enough to see it end up at $60 on April 22, I could expect to collect about $80 for each spread (on top of the $5.50 I already have collected).

The Facebook (FB) Play: One week ago today, knowing that FB would announce earnings on April 27, when the stock was trading at $112 (it had fallen $4 at the open from Friday’s close because an analyst forecast that their earnings would disappoint). I bought May2-16 114 calls for $4.40 ($440 plus $1.25 per contract, or $441.25). I then placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell Apr5-16 114 calls for $4.50. These calls would expire on April 29, two days after the announcement on the 27th.

Both the stock and IV of the Apr5-16 options rose on Tuesday, and my trade executed. IV for the Apr4-16 series was 40 when I reported this trade to you two weeks ago, and it is now 48. Now I am guaranteed a profit in FB as well, and I am rooting for the company to exceed expectations and a $114 price come along after the announcement. (As I write this, FB has fallen further, to about $110). There is something nice about holding an options investment that is guaranteed to make a gain no matter what the stock price does. Most of the time, I would be anguishing when my stock is dropping in price.

Closing Out the Trades: On the Friday when the short calls in these calendar spreads expire, you will have to make a decision. If the stock price is trading at a lower price than the strike price, you don’t really need to do anything as the short calls will expire worthless. However, you might want to buy them back at a nominal price (if that price is $.05 or lower, thinkorswim does not charge any commission, by the way). You would only buy them back if you also planned to make a sell trade as well. You could either sell the call you own which has two weeks of remaining life (essentially closing out the calendar spread), or you might sell the same-strike call which has one week of remaining life (this sale can almost always be made at more than 50% of what you could sell the two-week-out call).

A third alternative would be let the short call expire worthless and just hang on to your long calls (remember, they did not cost you anything at the beginning), and hope for a windfall gain if the stock manages to soar. Most of the time, I resist buying puts or calls outright, preferring instead to be a seller of short-term options. But every once in a while, it is fun to hang on to an option and see what might happen, especially when it didn’t cost me anything. It is sort of like getting a free lottery ticket (with better odds but a smaller pay-off than the lottery offers).

If the Sell Trade Doesn’t Execute: Some of the time, the stock will fall after you have made your call purchase and IV doesn’t rise enough to force an execution on your sell order. In those cases, I wait until the end of the day just before the announcement and sell the same call in my good-til-cancelled order at whatever price I can get. I have found that the stock often ticks up in the final hour of that day, and I can get a better price than earlier.

The calendar spread that you have created will not be made at a credit, but it still might be cheap compared to usual standards because of the elevated IV of the call you are selling.

Another alternative might be to sell your long call. It might be sold at a small profit, or more likely, a small loss. Even if the stock has fallen, IV might have moved high enough to make the option worth more than you paid for it.

This Week’s Trade, Abbvie (ABBV): ABBV is a drug company that pays a high dividend and doesn’t fluctuate very much. For these reasons, IV and option prices are quite low, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make gains with this same strategy. ABBV announces earnings before the market opens on April 28th.

With the stock trading about $58.50 this morning, I bought ABBV May2-16 58.5 calls for $1.87. This series closes two weeks later than the Apr5-16 series which expires on April 29, just after the April 28 announcement date. I have placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell Apr5-16 58.5 calls at a limit price of $1.95. IV for this series is currently 34 and can be expected to rise over the next week or two.

I selected the 58.5 strike instead of a higher strike because there is a $.57 dividend payable on April 13 (tomorrow) which may depress the stock by about that much. In fact, you might want to wait until tomorrow to buy the Apr5-16 call because it might be cheaper then.

I will report back to you on how these trades end up.

Making 36%

Making 36% — A Duffer's Guide to Breaking Par in the Market Every Year in Good Years and Bad

This book may not improve your golf game, but it might change your financial situation so that you will have more time for the greens and fairways (and sometimes the woods).

Learn why Dr. Allen believes that the 10K Strategy is less risky than owning stocks or mutual funds, and why it is especially appropriate for your IRA.

Order Now

Success Stories

I have been trading the equity markets with many different strategies for over 40 years. Terry Allen's strategies have been the most consistent money makers for me. I used them during the 2008 melt-down, to earn over 50% annualized return, while all my neighbors were crying about their losses.

~ John Collins