from the desk of Dr. Terry F Allen

Skip navigation

Member Login  |  Contact Us  |  Sign Up


Posts Tagged ‘VXX’

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.


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.

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.


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.


P.S.  If you would have any questions about this offer or Terry’s Tips, please email Seth Allen, our Senior Vice President at  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.


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.

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.


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.

List of Options Which Trade After Hours (Until 4:15)

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Some time ago, I noticed that the value of some of our portfolios was changing after the market for the underlying stock had closed. Clearly, the value of the options was changing after the 4:00 EST close of trading. I did a Google search to find a list of options that traded after hours, and came up pretty empty. But now I have found the list, and will share it with you just in case you want to play for an extra 15 minutes after the close of trading each day.


List of Options Which Trade After Hours (Until 4:15)

Since option values are derived from the price of the underlying stock or ETP (Exchange Traded Product), once the underlying stops trading, there should be no reason for options to continue trading. However, more and more underlyings are now being traded in after-hours, and for a very few, the options continue trading as well, at least until 4:15 EST.

Options for the following symbols trade an extra 15 minutes after the close of trading – DBA, DBB, DBC, DBO, DIA, EFA, EEM, GAZ, IWM, IWN, IWO, IWV, JJC, KBE, KRE, MDY, MLPN, MOO, NDX, OEF, OIL, QQQ, SLX, SPY, SVXY, UNG, UUP, UVXY, VIIX, VIXY, VXX, VXZ, XHB, XLB, XLE, XLF, XLI, XLK, XLP, XLU, XLV, XLY, XME, XRT.

Most of these symbols are (often erroneously) called ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds). While many are ETFs, many are not – the popular volatility-related market-crash-protection vehicle – VXX is actually an ETN (Exchange Traded Note). A better way of referring to this list is to call them Exchange Traded Products (ETPs).

Caution should be used when trading in these options after 4:00. From my experience, many market makers exit the floor exactly at 4:00 (volume is generally low after that time and not always worth hanging around). Consequently, the bid-ask ranges of options tend to expand considerably. This means that you are less likely to be able to get decent prices when you trade after 4:00. Sometimes it might be necessary, however, if you feel you are more exposed to a gap opening the next day than you would like to be.

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.


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.

Make 40% in One Month With This Costco Trade

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Make 40% in One Month With This Costco Trade

Two weeks ago, LinkedIn (LNKD) issued poor guidance while at the same time announced higher than expected earnings. Investors clobbered the stock, focusing on the guidance rather than the earnings. At the same time, as is often the case, another company in the same industry, Facebook (FB) was also traded down. With FB falling to $98, I reported to you on a trade that would make 66% after commissions if the company closed at any price above $97.50 on March 18, 2016. FB has now recovered and is well over $104 and this spread looks like it will be a winner. All we have to do is wait out the remaining 4 weeks (no closing trade will be necessary as long as the stock is at any price above $97.50).

Today, a similar thing took place. Walmart (WMT) announced earnings which narrowly beat estimates, but missed top line revenue by a bit. However, they projected that next quarterly earnings (starting now) would be flat. This announcement was a big disappointment because they had earlier projected growth of 3% – 4%. The stock fell 4.5% on that news.

Costco (COST) is also a retailer, and many investors believe that as Walmart goes, so will Costco. They sold COST down on WMT’s news by the same percentage, 4.5%. This how the lemmings do it, time and time again.

That seemed to be an over-reaction to me. COST is a much different company than WMT. COST is adding on new stores every month while WMT is in the process of closing 200 stores, for example. WMT has a much greater international exposure than COST, and the strong dollar is hurting them far more.

I expect cooler heads will soon prevail and COST will recover. Today, with COST trading at $147.20, I made a bet that 4 weeks from now, COST will be at least $145. If it is, I will make 40% after commissions on this spread trade. The stock can fall by $2.20 by that time and I will still make 40%.

Here is what I did for each contract:

Buy to Open 1 COST Mar-16 140 put (COST160318P140)
Sell to Open 1 COST Mar-16 145 put (COST160318P145) for a credit of $1.45 (selling a vertical)

This is called selling a bull put credit spread. When the trade is made, your broker will deposit the proceeds ($145) in your account (less the commission of $2.50 which Terry’s Tips subscribers pay at thinkorswim), or a net of $142.50). The broker will make a maintenance requirement of $500 (the difference between the two strike prices). There is no interest on this requirement (like a margin loan), but it just means that $500 in your account can’t be used to buy other stock or options.

Since you received $142.50 when you sold the spread, your net investment is $357.50 (the difference between $500 and $142.50). This is your maximum loss if COST were to end up at any price lower than $140 when the puts expire. The break-even price is $143.57. Any ending price above this will be profitable and any ending price below this will result in a loss. (If the stock ends up at any price between $140 and $145, you will have to repurchase the 145 put that you originally sold, and the 140 put you bought will expire worthless.)

Since I expect the stock will recover, I don’t expect to incur a loss. It is comforting to know that the stock can fall by $2.20 and I will still make my 40%.

If you wanted to be more aggressive and bet the stock will move higher, back above the $150 where it was before today’s sell-off, you could buy March puts at the 145 strike and sell them at the 150 strike. You could collect at least $2.00 for that spread, and you would gain 65% if COST ended up above $150. Higher risk and higher reward. The stock needs to move a bit higher for you to make the maximum gain. I feel more comfortable knowing it can fall a little and still give me a seriously nice gain for a single month.

By the way, these trades can be made in an IRA (if you have a broker like thinkorswim which allows options spread trading in an IRA).

If you make either of these trades, please be sure you do it with money you can truly afford to lose. Options are leveraged instruments and often have high-percentage gains and losses. With spreads like the above, at least you know precisely what the maximum loss could be. You can’t lose more than you risk.

An Option Play Designed to Make 68% in One Month

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Last week, VIX, the so-called “fear index” rose 65% to close at 24.39. It was the 10th time that it moved over 20 in the last 3 years. In 9 of those 10 occasions, VIX fell back below 20 in less than 10 days, and in the other instance (August 21, 2015), it took 40 days to fall back below 20. Today I would like to tell you about a trade I am making today that will make 68% in one month if that pattern continues this time around.


An Option Play Designed to Make 68% in One Month

Last week was a bad one for the market. The S&P 500 tracking stock (SPY) fell $7.74 to close at $201.88, down 3.7% for the week. SPY closed out 2014 at $205.54 and started out 2015 at $206.38, so if last week’s close holds up for two more weeks, the market will record a calendar year loss for the first time since 2008.

Apparently, the reason for the big drop centered around the Fed’s likely move to raise interest rates on Wednesday, the first time it has done so in a decade. I believe that the institutions (who control over 90% of the trading volume) were carrying out a last-ditch effort to discourage this move. After all, does the Fed want to be the bad guys who are responsible for the worst yearly market in 7 years? Would raising rates be a good idea at a time when the market is lower than it was a year ago? (We should remember that the Fed is composed of big banks who make greater profits when interest rates are higher, so raising rates may seem to be self-serving).

I have no idea if the Fed will raise rates in two days as Janet Yellen has indicated they plan to. If they do, I suspect it will be a small start, maybe 0.25%, and they will also report that they intend to be slow to make further increases. In either case, no rate increase or a small one, the big change will be that the uncertainty over the timing of the increase will cease to exist. Either choice should result in a higher market and more importantly for option traders, a lower VIX.

As I have written about extensively, an Exchange Traded Product (ETP) called SVXY varies inversely with VIX. When VIX moves higher, SVXY crashes, and vice versa. Last week, SVXY fell $14.27, from $59.41 to $45.14, (24%) when VIX rose 65%.

When VIX falls back below 20, as it has done every single time it rose over 20 for the past 3 years, SVXY will be trading higher than it is today. Here is the trade that will make 68% if SVXY is trading any higher than it closed on Friday in 32 days (on January 15, 2016).

Buy To Open 1 SVXY Jan-16 40 put (SVXY160115P40)
Sell To Open 1 SVXY Jan-16 45 put (SVXY160115P45) for a credit of $2.05 (selling a vertical)

This trade will put $205 in your account (less $2.50 commissions at the rate Terry’s Tips subscribers pay at thinkorswim), or $202.50. The broker will place a maintenance requirement on your account of $500, but your maximum amount at risk is $500 less the $202.50 you collected, or $297.50) – this loss would occur if SVXY closed at any price below $40 at the January expiration. The break-even price for you would be $43.00 – any price above this would be profitable and any price below it would incur a loss. There is no interest charge on the maintenance requirement, but that much in your account will be set aside so that you can’t buy other stocks or options with it.

At the close of trading on January 15, 2016, if SVXY is at any price above $45, both these puts options will expire worthless and you will keep the $202.50 you collected when you made the trade. This works out to be a 68% gain on your investment at risk. You will not have to make a trade at that time, but just wait until the end of the day to see the maintenance requirement disappear.

Of course, there are other ways you could make a similar bet that SVXY will head higher as soon as some of the market uncertainty dissipates. You could sell the same spread at any weekly option series for the next 5 weeks and receive approximately the same credit price. For shorter time periods, you don’t have to wait so long to pocket your profit, but there is less time for uncertainty to settle down and SVXY move higher.

Actually, VIX does not have to fall for SVXY to at least remain flat. It should trade at least at $45 as long as VIX does not rise appreciably between now and when the options expire.

A more aggressive trade would be to bet that SVXY rises to at least $50 in 33 days. In this trade, you would buy Jan-16 45 puts and sell Jan-16 50 puts. You should collect at least $2.80 ($277.50 after commissions) and make 124% on your maximum risk of $222.50 if SVXY closed at any price above $50 on January 15, 2016.

The last time that VIX closed above 20 was on November 13, 2016. On that day, SVXY closed at $50.96. On the very next day, VIX fell below 20 and SVXY rose to $56.16. It never traded below the $50.96 number until last Friday when VIX once again moved above 20.

I think this is an opportune time to make a profitable trade which is essentially a bet that the current market uncertainty will be temporary, and might be over as soon as Wednesday when the Fed makes its decision concerning interest rates. Of course, a serious terrorist action or other calamity might spook markets as well, and the uncertainty will continue.

No option trades are sure bets, even if the last 10 times a certain indicator flashed and a 68% profit could have been made every time. As with all investments, you should never risk any money that you truly can’t afford to lose. However, I feel pretty good about the two investments outlined above, and will be making them today, shortly after you receive this letter.


The Worst “Stock” You Could Have Owned for the Last 6 Years

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Today I would like to tell you all about the worst “stock” you could have owned for the past 6 years.  It has fallen from $6400 to $26 today.  I will also tell you how you can take advantage of an unusual current market condition and make an options trade which should make a profit of 66% in the next 6 months.  That works out to an annualized gain of 132%.  Not bad by any standards.For the next few days, I am also offering you the lowest price ever to become a Terry’s Tips Insider and get a 14-day options tutorial which could forever change your future investment results.  It is a half-price back-to-school offer – our complete package for only $39.95. Click here, enter Special Code BTS (or BTSP for Premium Service – $79.95).

This could be the best investment decision you ever make – an investment in yourself.

Happy trading.


The Worst “Stock” You Could Have Owned for the Last 6 Years

I have put the word “stock” in quotations because it really isn’t a stock in the normal sense of the word.  Rather, it is an Exchange Traded Product (ETP) created by Barclay’s which involves buying and selling futures on VIX (the so-called “Fear Index” which measures option volatility on the S&P 500 tracking stock, SPY).  It is a derivative of a derivative of a derivative which almost no one fully understands, apparently even the Nobel Prize winners who carried out Long-Term Capital a few years back.

Even though it is pure gobbledygook for most of us, this ETP trades just like a stock.  You can buy it and hope it goes up or sell it short and hope it goes down.  Best of all, for options nuts like me, you can trade options on it.

Let’s check out the 6-year record for this ETP (that time period is its entire life):

VXX Historical Chart 2015

VXX Historical Chart 2015

It is a little difficult to see what this ETP was trading at when it opened for business on January 30, 2009, but its split-adjusted price seems to be over $6000. (Actually, it’s $6400, exactly what you get by starting at $100 and engineering 3 1-for-4 reverse splits).  Friday, it closed at $26.04.  That has to be the dog of all dog instruments that you could possible buy over that time period (if you know of a worse one, please let me know).

This ETP started trading on 1/30/09 at $100.  Less than 2 years later, on 11/19/10, it had fallen to about $12.50, so Barclays engineered a reverse 1-for-4 split which pushed the price back up to about $50.  It then steadily fell in value for another 2 years until it got to about $9 on 10/15/12 and Barclays did the same thing again, temporarily pushing the stock back up to $36.  That lasted only 13 months when they had to do it again on 11/18/13 – this time, the stock had fallen to $12.50 once again, and after the reverse split, was trading about $50.  Since then, it has done relatively better, only falling in about half over almost a two-year span.

Obviously, this “stock” would have been a great thing to sell short just about any time over the 6-year period (if you were willing to hang on for the long run).  There are some problems with selling it short, however.  Many brokers can’t find stock to borrow to cover it, so they can’t take the order.  And if they do, they charge you some healthy interest for borrowing the stock (I don’t quite understand how they can charge you interest because you have the cash in your account, but they do anyway – I guess it’s a rental fee for borrowing the stock, not truly an interest charge).

Buying puts on it might have been a good idea in many of the months, but put prices are quite expensive because the market expects the “stock” to go down, and it will have to fall quite a way just to cover the cost of the put.  I typically don’t like to buy puts or calls all by themselves (about 80% of options people buy are said to expire worthless).  If you straight-out buy puts or calls, every day the underlying stock or ETP stays flat, you lose money. That doesn’t sound like a great deal to me.  I do like to buy and sell both puts and calls as part of a spread, however.  That is another story altogether.

So what else should you know about this ETP? First, it is called VXX.  You can find a host of articles written about it (check out Seeking Alpha) which say it is the best thing to buy (for the short term) if you want protection against a market crash.  While that might be true, are you really smart enough to find a spot on the 6-year chart when you could have bought it and then figured out the perfect time to sell as well?  The great majority of times you would have made your purchase, you would have surely regretted it (unless you were extremely lucky in picking the right day both to buy and sell).

One of the rare times when it would have been a good idea to buy VXX was on August 10, 2015, just over a month ago.  It closed at its all-time low on that day, $15.54.  If you were smart enough to sell it on September 1st when it closed at $30.76, you could have almost doubled your money.  But you have already missed out if you didn’t pull the trigger on that exact day. It has now fallen over 15% in the last two weeks, continuing its long-term trend.

While we can’t get into the precise specifics of how VXX is valued in the market, we can explain roughly how it is constructed.  Each day, Barclays buys one-month-out futures on VIX in hopes that the market fears will grow and VIX will move higher.  Every day, Barclays sells VIX futures it bought a month ago at the current spot price of VIX.  If VIX had moved higher than the month-ago futures price, a profit is made.

The reason why VXX is destined to move lower over time is that over 90% of the time, the price of VIX futures is higher than the spot price of VIX.  It is a condition called contango.  The average level of contango for VIX is about 5%.  That percentage is how much higher the one-month futures are than the current value of VIX, and is a rough approximation of how much VXX should fall each month.

However, every once in a while, the market gets very worried, and contango disappears.  The last month has been one of those times.  People seem to be concerned that China and the rest of the world is coming on hard times, and our stock markets will be rocked because the Fed is about to raise interest rates.  The stock market has taken a big tumble and market volatility has soared.  This has caused the current value of VIX to become about 23.8 while the one-month futures of VIX are 22.9.  When the futures are less than the spot price of VIX, it is a condition called back-wardation.  It only occurs about 10% of the time.  Right now, backwardation is in effect, (-3.59%), and it has been for about 3 weeks.  This is an exceptionally long time for backwardation to continue to exist.

At some point, investors will come to the realization that the financial world is not about to implode, and that things will pretty much chug along as they have in the past.  When that happens, market volatility will fall back to historical levels.  For most of the past two or three years, VIX has traded in the 12 – 14 range, about half of where it is right now.  When fears subside, as they inevitably will, VIX will fall, the futures will be greater than the current price of VIX, and contango will return.  Even more significant, when VIX falls to 12 or 14 and Barclays is selling (for VXX) at that price, VXX will lose out big-time because a month ago, it bought futures at 22.9.  So VXX will inevitably continue its downward trend.

So how can you make money on VXX with options?  To my way of thinking, today’s situation is a great buying opportunity.  I think it is highly likely that volatility (VIX) will not remain at today’s high level much longer.  When it falls, VXX will tumble, contango will return, and VXX will face new headwinds going forward once again.

Here is a trade I recommended to Terry’s Tips Insiders last Friday:

“If you believe (as I do) that the overwhelming odds are that VXX will be much lower in 6 months than it is now, you might consider buying a Mar-16 26 call (at the money – VXX closed at $26.04 yesteday) and sell a Mar-16 21 call.  You could collect about $2 for this credit spread.  In 6 months, if VXX is at any price below $21, both calls would expire worthless and you would enjoy a gain of 66% on your $3 at risk.  It seems like a pretty good bet to me.”

This spread is called selling a bearish call credit vertical spread.  For each spread you sell, $200 gets put in your account.  Your broker will charge you a maintenance requirement of $500 to protect against your maximum loss if VXX closes above $26 on March 18, 2016.  Since you collect $200 at the beginning, your actual maximum loss is $300 (this is also your net investment in this spread).  There is no interest charged on a maintenance requirement; rather, it is just money in your account that you can’t use to buy other stocks or options.

This may all seem a little confusing if you aren’t up to speed on options trading.  Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger – the great majority of investors know little or nothing about options.  You can fix that by going back to school and taking the 14-day options tutorial that comes with buying the full Terry’s Tips’ package at the lowest price ever – only $39.95 if you buy before Friday, September 23, 2015.

Lowest Subscription Price Ever:  As a back-to-school special, 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 BTS (or BTSP for Premium Service – $79.95).

A Low-Risk Trade to Make 62% in 4 Months

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

Market volatility continues to be high, and the one thing we know from history is that while volatility spikes are quite common, markets eventually settle down.  After enduring a certain amount of psychic pain, investors remember that that the world will probably continue to move along pretty much as it has in the past, and market fears will subside.While this temporary period of high volatility continues to exist, there are some trades to be made that promise extremely high returns in the next few months.  I would like to discuss one today, a trade I just executed in my own personal account so I know it is possible to place.


A Low-Risk Trade to Make 62% in 4 Months

As we have been discussing for several weeks, VIX, the so-called Fear Index, continues to be over 25.  This compares to the 12 – 14 level where it has hung out for the large part of the past two years.  When VIX eventually falls, one thing we know is that SVXY, the ETP that moves in the opposite direction as VIX, will move higher.

Because of the persistence of contango, SVXY is destined to move higher even if VIX stays flat.  Let’s check out the 5-year chart of this interesting ETP:

5 Year Chart SVXY September 2015

5 Year Chart SVXY September 2015

Note that while the general trend for SVXY is to the upside, every once in a while it takes a big drop.  But the big drops don’t last very long.  The stock recovers quickly once fears subside.  The recent drop is by far the largest one in the history of SVXY.

As I write this, SVXY is trading about $47, up $2 ½ for the day. I believe it is destined to move quite a bit higher, and soon.  But with the trade I made today, a 62% profit (after commissions) can be made in the next 4 months even if the stock were to fall by $7 (almost 15%) from where it is today.

This is what I did:

Buy to Open 1 SVXY Jan-16 35 put (SVXY160115P35)
Sell to Open 1 SVXY Jan-16 40 put (SVXY160115P40) for a credit of $1.95  (selling a vertical)

When this trade was executed, $192.50 (after a $2.50 commission) went into my account. If on January 15, 2016, SVXY is at any price higher than $40, both of these puts will expire worthless, and for every vertical spread I sold, I won’t have to make a closing trade, and I will make a profit of exactly $192.50.

So how much do I have to put up to place this trade?  The broker looks at these positions and calculates that the maximum loss that could occur on them would be $500 ($100 for every dollar of stock price below $40).  For that to happen, SVXY would have to close below $35 on January 15th.  Since I am quite certain that it is headed higher, not lower, a drop of this magnitude seems highly unlikely to me.

The broker will place a $500 maintenance requirement on my account.  This is not a loan where interest is charged, but merely cash I can’t use to buy shares of stock.  However, since I have collected $192.50, I can’t lose the entire $500. My maximum loss is the difference between the maintenance requirement and what I collected, or $307.50.

If SVXY closes at any price above $40 on January 15, both puts will expire worthless and the maintenance requirement disappears.  I don’t have to do anything except think of how I will spend my profit of $192.50.  I will have made 62% on my investment.  Where else can you make this kind of return for as little risk as this trade entails?

Of course, as with all investments, you should only risk what you can afford to lose.  But I believe the likelihood of losing on this investment is extremely low.  The stock is destined to move higher, not lower, as soon as the current turbulent market settles down.

If you wanted to take a little more risk, you might buy the 45 put and sell a 50 put in the Jan-15 series.  You would be betting that the stock manages to move a little higher over the next 4 months. You could collect about $260 per spread and your risk would be $240.  If SVXY closed any higher than $50 (which history says that it should), your profit would be greater than 100%.  I have also placed this spread trade in my personal account (and my charitable trust account as well).

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