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Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Options’

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.

The Difference Between Buying Stock and Trading Options

Monday, August 15th, 2016

This week I would like discuss a little about the differences between buying stock and trading options. I would also like to tell you a little about a specific recommendation I made to paying Terry’s Tips subscribers this weekend in my weekly Saturday Report.

Terry

The Difference Between Buying Stock and Trading Options

If the truth be known, investing in stocks is pretty much like playing checkers. Any 12-year-old can do it. You really don’t need much experience or understanding. If you can read, you can buy stock. And you probably will do just about as well as anyone else because it’s basically a roulette wheel choice. Most people reject that idea, of course. Like the residents of Lake Wobegone, stock buyers believe that they are all above average – they can reliably pick the right ones just about every time.

Trading options is harder, and many people recognize that they probably aren’t above average in that arena. Buying and selling options is more like playing chess. It can be (and is, for anyone who is serious about it) a life-time learning experience.

You don’t see columns in the newspaper about interesting checker strategies, but you see a ton of pundits telling you why you should buy particular stocks. People with little understanding or experience buy stocks every day, and most of their transactions involve buying from professionals with far more resources and brains. Most stock buyers never figure out that when they make their purchase, about 90% of the time, they are buying from those professionals. Those smart guys with all the resources are the ones who are selling the stock while you are buying it at that price.

Option investing takes study and understanding and discipline that the purchase of stock does not require. Every investor must decide for himself or herself if they are willing to make the time and study commitment necessary to be successful at option trading. Most people are too lazy.

It is a whole lot easier to play a decent game of checkers than it is to play a decent game of chess. But for some of us, options investing is a whole lot more challenging, and ultimately more rewarding.

Last week I told you about three stock-based Terry’s Tips option portfolios which had doubled in value and a fourth portfolio that was almost there (and it is only 10 months old). I didn’t tell you about two other portfolios that we also carry out which are not available for Auto-Trade at thinkorswim but which are quite easy to trade on your own because they only involve one trade for an entire year (and with luck, options on both side of the spread will expire worthless so no closing trade is necessary).

We have two of these portfolios, and they are set up each January. So far in 2016, while the market (SPY) has gained 4.6%, these two option portfolios have gained 43.9%, and 56.2% without a single adjusting trade having been made. We could close either portfolio right now and take those gains off the table after paying a small commission on one or two spreads. If you buy stock rather than trading options, you will probably never see gains like this, even if you are lucky enough to pick one of the best stocks in the entire market.

This weekend, I recommended another similar spread trade that we are setting up in a new portfolio so we can watch it evolve over time. Like the above two portfolios, it cannot be Auto-Traded but is easy to set up yourself (you can call it in to your broker if you are not familiar with placing option spread trades). This spread will expire on January 20, 2017, about six months from now.

The underlying is a sort of weird derivative of a derivative of a derivative that doesn’t make much sense to anyone (even the Nobel Prize winning managers of Long Term Capital didn’t fully understand the implications of this kind of instrument). The long-term price action of this equity can be measured, however, and it showed that if this spread had been placed every month for the last 50 months, the spread would have made a profit 44 times and it would have lost money 6 times. The average gain for all the trades worked out to 38% for six months (including all the losses in those 6 losing instances). The annualized gain would rise to 90% if you re-invested your money and the average profit at the end of the first six months. Of course, historical price action doesn’t always repeat itself in future months, but if you see how this instrument is engineered, you can see that the pattern should be expected to continue.

This spread idea is so good that I feel I must restrict sharing it with only paying subscribers to the Terry’s Tips newsletter. If you come on board, you can see the full report where I show the profit from this trade for each of the last 50 months and the exact spread that should be placed. I bought more of the exact same spread in my personal account today at the same price I indicated it could be bought in the last Saturday Report.

Historical Performance of 10K Strategy Stock-Based Portfolios

Monday, August 8th, 2016

This week I would like to outline the basic stock option strategy we use at Terry’s Tips where we have created eight portfolios each of which is traded in an actual separate account and is available for Auto-Trade at TDAmeritrade/thinkorswim. Terry’s Tips subscribers can have every trade in these portfolios placed automatically for them in their own thinkorswim accounts through their free Auto-Trade service.

Enjoy the full report.

Terry

Historical Performance of 10K Strategy Stock-Based Portfolios: At Terry’s Tips, we call our options strategy the 10K Strategy. We like to think of it as shorter than a marathon but longer than a sprint. Most people who trade options seem to prefer sprints, i.e., short-term speedy wins (or losses). The basic underlying idea of our 10K Strategy is to do the opposite of what most options traders do. Instead of buying short-term calls in hopes of a quick windfall gain, we primarily sell those calls to option speculators. Since something like 80% of all options expire worthless, we like our odds of selling those options rather than buying them. We like to think that we are sort of in the business of selling lottery tickets.

We buy longer-term options to use as collateral for selling short-term options. All options go down in value every day that the underlying stock remains unchanged. This daily decay in value is called theta in options parlance. Theta for short-term options is much greater than theta for longer-term options at the same strike price, and this difference in decay rates is what makes our strategy a successful one (most of the time).

At Terry’s Tips, we currently have 4 stock-based portfolios. Other portfolios are based on Exchange Traded Products (ETPs). ETPs include Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs) such as the S&P 500 tracking stock (SPY or the Dow Jones Industrial Average tracking stock (DIA), and Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) such as volatility-based XIV, SVXY, VXX, and UVXY. We also have a portfolio based on options of USO where we are betting that the long term price of oil will be higher than it is today.

Three out of 4 of our stock-based portfolios have doubled in value at some point in their lifetime, and the 4th, Foxy Facebook is up 71% since we started it 10 months ago. The prospects look excellent for it to double before its first year has been completed. The record:

2016 HIstorical 10K Portfolios

2016 HIstorical 10K Portfolios

In a world of record low interest rates and anemic investment returns for most equities (even hedge funds lost money in 2015), these results offer a strong vindication of the 10K Strategy. Admittedly, NKE has tumbled steadily over the past 8 months and much of the gains have been eroded away, but a basic assumption of the strategy is that you select underlying stocks which you think will remain flat or rise over time. If you are wrong and the stock doesn’t do one of those things, you should expect to lose money on that investment. So far, we have been fortunate enough to pick winners.

I invite you to become a subscriber to Terry’s Tips so that you can learn the important details of carrying out the 10K Strategy on your favorite stock (assuming that options are available for it). If you are lucky enough to pick a winner, you would have an excellent chance to make many times as much as you would make just buying the stock. It doesn’t have to go up to be a winner – just remaining flat is almost always profitable with this strategy.

Many years ago, someone wrote a book that I bought – it was entitled “Happiness is a Stock That Doubles in a Year.” If you can find a stock that will stay flat or move higher, you might very well enjoy this kind of happiness once you learn how to execute the 10K Strategy.

As with all investments, you should only use money that you can truly afford to lose. Options are leveraged investments, and unless you totally understand the risks, you can easily and quickly lose more money than you could with the equivalent investment in the purchase of stock. I think it is worth a little work to educate yourself about the risks (and potential rewards) of trading options.

Update on Facebook Earnings Announcement Play

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Last week, Facebook (FB) announced earnings which were triple the year-earlier results and were 88% higher than analyst expectations, but the stock barely budged from where it was the day before the announcement. Option players could celebrate, however. The actual portfolio at Terry’s Tips where we trade FB options gained 45.8% for the week. We have a lot of happy subscribers who follow this portfolio either on their own or through the Auto-Trade service at thinkorswim.

As good as 45% for a single week might be, you could have done even better if you had followed a trade I told you about 2 ½ months ago. That is the story I would like to share with you today.

Happy trading.

Terry

Update on Facebook Earnings Announcement Play

On May 11, 2016, I told you about two trades I was making in my personal account. You can see the entire blog which explains my thinking on our blog page. Here they are:

Today, I bought these calendar spreads on FB when the stock was trading just about $120:

Buy To Open 2 FB 16Sep16 120 calls (FB160916C120)
Sell To Open 2 FB 15Jul16 120 calls (FB160715C120) for a debit of $3.26 (buying a calendar)

Buy To Open 2 FB 16Sep16 125 calls (FB160916C125)
Sell To Open 2 FB 15Jul16 125 calls (FB160715C125) for a debit of $3.11 (buying a calendar)

My total investment for these two spreads was $1274 plus $10 commission (at the rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim), for a total of $1284.

When these short calls expired on July 15th, FB was trading at about $122.50, just about the perfect place for me since it was right in the middle of the two strike prices of my spreads. On that day, I bought back the expiring 120 calls and sold 29Jul16 120 calls and collected $2.50 (selling a calendar spread). I sold this series because it would expire just after the July 27 earnings announcement.

I also sold the same calendar spread at the 125 strike price and collected $2.35. The net effect of these two trades (I collected $960 after commissions) reduced my net investment from $1284 to $324.

After Wednesday’s announcement, FB soared to $130 in after-hours trading, but opened at $127.52, and by late Friday when my short options were about to expire, it had fallen to about $124. I then closed out my positions by buying back the 29Jul16 calls and selling the 16Sep16 calls I still owned, collecting $2.10 per contract for the 120 strike calls and $3.10 for the 125 strike calls. After commissions, this worked out to a total of $1030, so I netted a profit of $706 on an original investment of $1284. Bottom line, I made 55% on my original investment for the 10 weeks I traded FB options.

Over this same time period, investors who owned FB stock made $4 per share on their money. If they invested $1284 like I did, they could have bought only 10 shares for $120 per share. Their gains for the 10 weeks would have been $40. My option trading made 17 times more money than the stock buyers would have made. Once again, I don’t understand why people would waste their money buying stock when they could spend a little time studying how to trade options, and make a multiple of what they could make by the simple buying of stock.

As with all investments, you should only use money that you can truly afford to lose. Options are leveraged investments, and unless you totally understand the risks, you can easily and quickly lose more money than you could with the equivalent investment in the purchase of stock. I think it is worth a little work to educate yourself about the risks (and potential rewards) of trading options.

How to Trade Out of an Earnings-Related Options Play

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

A little over a week ago, I told you about trades I was making in advance of Nike’s earnings announcement. Lots of things didn’t quite work out the way I had expected they would, but I still managed to make over 50% for the week on my trades. There were some good learning experiences concerning how to trade out of calendar spreads once the announcement has been made. You need to tread water until the short options you sold expire and you can close out the spreads, and that can present some challenges.

Today I would like to share those learning experiences with you in case you make similar trades prior to a company’s earnings announcement.

Happy trading.

Terry

How to Trade Out of an Earnings-Related Options Play

According to Openfolio, a site where about 70,000 users share information on their investments, three out of four investors lost money in June, with an average return of -0.10%. This compares to the results of the Terry’s Tips’ Auto-Traded portfolios where 7 of 8 portfolios gained, and the average gain was 15.1%. Our only losing portfolio was a special bet that the short-term price of oil would fall. It didn’t, and we lost a little, but that was nothing compared to 4 of the portfolios which gained over 20% for the month.

One of our portfolios trades options on Nike (NKE) which announced earnings after the close last Tuesday, June 28. We had spreads in place similar to those that I told you about last week (and several others as well). The portfolio managed to gain 29% in June, something that often happens during the month when an earnings announcement takes place.

On the Monday before the earnings announcement, with the stock trading at about $52, I placed these trades (at higher quantities):

Buy to Open 1 NKE 29Jul16 52.5 put (NKE160729P52.5)
Sell to Open 1 NKE 1Jul16 52.5 put (NKE160701P52.5) for a debit of $.50 (buying a calendar)

Buy to Open 1 NKE 29Jul16 55 call (NKE160729C55)
Sell to Open 1 NKE 1Jul16 55 call (NKE160701C55) for a debit of $.50 (buying a calendar)

In my note to you, I said I thought you could buy these spreads for $.43 ($43) each, but that was based on the prior Friday’s prices. I was disappointed to have to pay so much more, but I still believed it was a pretty good bet.

When the stock fell closer to $51, I bought half as many spreads as the above two at the 50 strike just in case the stock continued to trade lower. When you buy calendar spreads, you select strike prices where you hope the stock will end up when the short options expire, as the at-the-money strike spread will be the most profitable. Buying spreads at several strikes gives you more places where you can end up being happy, but your maximum gain is reduced a bit when you buy the increased protection that owning several strikes provides.

After I made the above trades on Monday, I suffered my second disappointment. As I had seen so many times before, in the last day before the announcement (Tuesday), the stock rallied $1.10 and closed at $53.09. If I had anticipated this better, I would not have bought the spreads at the 50 strike. In after-hours trading after the announcement (earnings were a penny above estimates but sales disappointed a little and outlook was about what was expected), the stock tanked to about $50. As we have often seen, this initial move was quickly reversed. When the market opened on Wednesday, it had moved up to $54.50.

While my positions were showing a nice paper profit at the open on Wednesday, I had to wait to near Friday’s close to get the full amount I was hoping for. I was in a bad position, however, because most of my spreads were at strike prices which were below the stock price. In option terms, my positions were negative net delta – this means that if the stock went up another dollar, I would lose money. I aggressively changed to a neutral net delta condition by closing out the lowest-strike put calendars (at the 50 strike) and changing some 52.5 calendars to diagonals, buying back in-the-money 52.5 short calls and replacing them with at-the-money 55 calls and slightly out-of-the-money 56 calls in the same 01Jul16 series.

Then I encountered my third disappointment. I had expected implied volatility (IV) of the long 29Jul16 series to be 27 after the announcement based on recent history, but it ended up being 24 which dampened my expected results. That meant the option prices would not be as high as I expected when I went to sell them. I had figured an at-the-money spread could be sold for $1.40, and the closest spread I had (the 55 strike) only yielded $.97 (however, this was almost double what I paid for it). By Friday, the stock moved above the top strike price I held (55) and closed at $55.61. Since I managed to stay neutral net delta and actually pick up some extra premium in the last three days from the new at-the-money calls I sold, I ended up making over 50% on my total investment for the week. It was a lot of work but surely worth the effort.

I had set out to make 100% in a single week, and experienced disappointments in three different areas, but at the end of the day, I was pleased to take in half that amount for the week.

What could be taken away from this play was; 1) that the stock often rises in the last day before the announcement (probably legging into the calendars would have been more profitable, but more risky), 2) the initial move after the announcement is usually reversed, and 3) it is important to make adjustments to create a neutral net delta condition for all your spreads until the short options expire.

Lowest Subscription Price Ever

Tuesday, June 7th, 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. Read on.

Today I would also like to share with you a small bet I made today on Nike. It should make 60% in 8 months even if the stock does not go up a penny. It can actually fall a little and you would still make 60%. But the big news today is our 15th birthday celebration offer.

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. 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.

A Conservative Nike Trade Which Should Gain 60% in 8 Months

Timing is everything. The price of Nike (NKE) was beaten down last week, apparently on the news that one of their largest retailers, Sports Authority, had declared bankruptcy and was conducting a going-out-of-business sale. I believe that this news has unfairly impacted the price of NKE. After all, people will continue to buy NKE shoes. It just won’t be at Sports Authority.

NKE has been doing very well lately. It has had 4 consecutive spectacular quarters, exceeding estimated earnings by a wide margin each time, yet it is trading very near the low for the year, down 20% from its high reached in December. In that month, there was a 2-for-1 stock split, and this often results in a lower stock price over the subsequent few months (apparently, a fair number of people sell off half their stock so they retain the same number of shares they had before the split, with most or all of their original investment back in their pocket). The same thing happened to Google when it split its stock a few years ago – it was lower at the end of the year than it was at the beginning, the only time in its first 9 years of existence that that happened.

NKE is trading about $54 today. If you believed that this was about as low as it might go, you might make a 5-month bet that it won’t be trading below $52.50 when the 21Oct16 options expire. You would make 50% on your money (after commissions) if you bought 21Oct16 50 puts and sold 21Oct16 52.5 puts, collecting $.86 and risking $1.64 if the stock falls below $50 by that time (using the commission rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim – $1.25 per contract).

This trade, executed as a vertical put credit spread, would put $83.50 in your account. Your broker would assess a maintenance requirement of $250. Subtracting out the $83.50 you received, the net amount the trade would cost you would be $166.50. This is also the maximum loss you could possibly incur. It would come along only if NKE fell below $50 on October 16th. If NKE is at any price above $52.50 on that date, both put options would expire worthless and you would not have to make another trade to close out your positions (saving you commissions on that end of the trade).

An even safer bet could be made by trading those same strikes for the 20Jan17 series where you could collect $.96, risk $1.54, and make 60% on your investment (and maximum loss) if NKE closes above $52.50 in January. Not only is the gain greater, but you have an extra quarter (including the Christmas selling season) to watch NKE grow (or at least not fall).

I consider this to be a conservative investment because I believe NKE has had its price unfairly pushed lower because of the Sports Authority bankruptcy and is selling near the low for the year in spite of exceeding earnings estimates every quarter for the last year. The stock does not have to go up a penny to make 60% on this trade. All it has to do is not fall by more than $1.50 by January 20, 2017. I think it is highly likely to be trading safely higher than $52.50 at the time.

As always, you should only invest money in stock options if you can truly afford to lose it. Options are risky, and while potential gains can be far greater than conventional investments, they usually incur a greater degree of risk (although in the above case, I like the odds when a stock is unfairly downtrodden and doesn’t have to go up a penny to guarantee a gain on the trade).

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.

 

An Options Play on Facebook Which Should Make 50% in 60 Days

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Today I would like to suggest an options trade on Facebook (FB). It will involve waiting 6 weeks to close out. Many option players have short attention spans and don’t like to wait that long. On the other hand, I think this trade has a very high likelihood of making a profit of at least 50%, even if the stock fluctuates more than we might like. To my way of thinking, it should be worth the wait, especially since I think that there is a very small likelihood that this play would end up losing money.

Terry

An Options Play on Facebook Which Should Make 50% in 60 Days

Over the past month I have suggested legging into calendar spreads in advance of an earnings announcement for 7 different companies (FB, COST, TWX, TGT, SBUX, and JNJ, and ABBV). In every case, I was personally successful at creating a calendar spread at a credit and guaranteeing myself a profit no matter where the stock price ended up after the announcement. You should have been able to duplicate every one of these successes as well. I got a kick out of having 7 consecutive winning trades, some of which made me more than 100% on my amount at risk.

The ultimate gain on these spreads will depend on how close the stock ends up to the strike price of my calendar spread after the announcement. The nearer to the strike, the greater the gain. It is fun owning a spread that you are certain will make a profit, no matter what the stock does.

Today’s idea is a little different. We will not be guaranteed a profit, but it looks quite likely to happen if our assumptions hold up. In each of the last two quarters when FB announced earnings, they were better than the market expected, and the stock rallied nicely. Who knows what will happen next time around when they announce once again on July 27?

If history is any indication, the stock price for FB doesn’t fluctuate very much between announcement dates. It tends to be fairly flat, or edges up a bit in the lulls between announcements, and often moves a little higher in the week or two before the announcement day.

Today, I bought these calendar spreads on FB when the stock was trading just about $120:

Buy To Open 2 FB 16Sep16 120 calls (FB160916C120)
Sell To Open 2 FB 15Jul16 120 calls (FB160715C120) for a debit of $3.26 (buying a calendar)

Buy To Open 2 FB 16Sep16 125 calls (FB160916C125)
Sell To Open 2 FB 15Jul16 125 calls (FB160715C125) for a debit of $3.11 (buying a calendar)

My total investment for these two spreads was $1274 plus $10 commission (at the rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim), for a total of $1284.

Here is the risk profile graph which shows the profit or loss from those trades when the short options expire on July 15th:

 

Face book Risk Profile May 2016

Face book Risk Profile May 2016

You can see that if the stock ends up somewhere between $120 and $125 in two months, these spreads will make a gain somewhere near $550, or about 42% on the original investment. I think the stock is quite likely to end up inside this range. If I am wrong, and it falls by $5 or goes up by over $10, I will lose some money at that time, but in each case, the loss would be less than half my expected gain if it ends up where I expect it will.

As encouraging as this graph looks, I think it considerably understates how profitable the trades will be, and that has to do with what option prices do around earnings announcement dates. Since stock prices tend to have large fluctuations (both up and down) after the results are made public, option prices skyrocket in anticipation of those fluctuations.

When the 15Jul16 options expire on July 15, there will be a weekly options series available for trading that expires just after the July 27th announcement. It will not become available for trading until 5 weeks before that time, but it will be the 29Jul16 series.

Implied Volatility (IV) of the 15Jul16 series is currently 26 and the 16Sep16 series has an IV of 30. When the 29Jul16 series becomes available, IV will be much higher than either of these numbers, and should soar to near 60 when the announcement date nears (it grew even higher than that a few weeks ago before the last announcement). An IV that high means that an at-the-money call with two weeks of remaining life (which the 29Jul16 series would have when the 15Jul16 series expires), would be worth about $5, or almost double what the above calendar spreads cost us. If this were true, and if the stock is trading between $120 and $125, you could buy back the expiring 15Jul16 calls and sell the 29Jul16 calls at both strike prices for a credit which is greater than what you paid for the original calendar spread, and when those short calls expired, your long calls would still have 6 weeks of remaining life.

In other words, the strategy I have set up today by buying the above two calendar spreads is an admittedly complicated way to leg into two calendar spreads at a large credit, and guaranteeing an additional profit as well. The risk profile graph doesn’t reflect the fact that IV will soar for the 29Jul16 series that doesn’t exist yet, and the indicated gains are drastically understated.

I will update these trades as we move forward, and let you know if I make any adjustments. If the stock moves up to $125 in the next few weeks, I would probably add a third calendar spread at the 130 strke. That is about the only likely adjustment I can think of at this point, unless the stock falls to $115 when I would probably buy the same calendar spread at the 115 strike.

If you make this investment, as is true with all options investments, you should do it only with money that you can truly afford to lose. If you do choose to make it, I wish both of us luck over the next two months.

 

More Legging Into Pre-Announcement Calendar Option Spreads

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Over the past month I have suggested legging into calendar spreads in advance of an earnings announcement for 4 different companies. In every case, you should have been able to duplicate my success in creating a calendar spread at a credit. These spreads are absolutely guaranteed to make a profit since the long side of the spreads has more time remaining and will always be worth more than the short side, regardless of what the stock does after the earnings announcement.

Today I would like to suggest two more companies where I am trying to set up calendar spreads at a credit.

Terry

More Legging Into Pre-Announcement Calendar Option Spreads

First, an update on the Facebook (FB) pre-earnings play I suggested last week. Earlier, I showed how you could leg into a calendar spread in FB at the 110 strike, and this proved to be successful. In addition, last week I suggested something different – the outright buying of 17JUN16 – 29APR16 calendar spreads at the 105 strike (using puts and paying $1.58), the 110 strike (using puts and paying $1.52) and the 115 strike (using calls and paying $1.52). I was able to execute all three of these spreads in my account at these prices, and you should have been able to do the same.

As you probably know, FB reported blow-out numbers, and the stock soared, initially to over $121, but then it fell back to $117 near the close on Friday the 29th. We were hoping that the stock could end up inside our range of strikes (105 – 115) but we were not so lucky. At 3:00 on Friday, I sold these three spreads for $.95, $1.82, and $3.40 for a total of $6.17 for all 3. This compared to a cost of $4.62 for the 3 spreads. Deducting out $15 in commissions, I netted $1.40 ($140) for every set of three calendar spreads I had put on. While this was a disappointing result, it worked out to 22% on the investment in only 4 days. I enjoyed the thrill of holding a possible 100% gain (if the stock had ended up at $110 instead of $117) and still managed to make a greater return than most people do in an entire year.

This week, on Monday morning, I looked at Costco (COST), (one of my favorite stocks) which reports earnings on May 25. The options series that expires just after this announcement is the 27MAY16 series. With the stock at about $148.50, I bought 10JUN16 150 calls (which expire two weeks later than the 27MAY16 options), paying $2.90. Implied Volatility (IV) for those options was 21 and the 27MAY16 series was only 22. I expect the difference between these IVs to get much higher over the next couple of weeks (mostly, the 27MAY16 series should move higher).

I immediately placed an order to sell the 27MAY16 150 calls (good-til-cancelled order) for $3.05 which would give me a credit of $.15 ($15 less $2.50 commissions). The stock shot $2 higher and this order executed less than 2 hours after I placed it. I apologize that I didn’t send this out to you in time for you to duplicate what I did.

I still like the company and its prospects, so I placed another order to buy 10JUN16 152.5 calls, paying $2.56 when COST was trading at $150.80. I then placed a good-til-cancelled order to sell 27MAY16 152.5 calls for $2.65. That has not executed yet.

Another company that looked interesting was Target (TGT) which announces earnings before the bell on May 18. IV for the 20MAY16 series was 27, only barely higher than the 3JUN16 series of 24 (this difference should get bigger). When the stock was trading about $79.40, I bought 3JUN16 79.5 calls for $1.88 and immediately placed an order to sell 20MAY16 calls for $1.95. This order executed about 2 hours later when the stock rose about $.60. Once again, I apologize that I did not get his trade possibility out to you in time for you to copy it.

Tomorrow I intend to buy TGT 3JUN16 81 calls and as soon as I get them, I will place an order to sell 20MAY16 81 calls for $.10 more than I paid for them. If the stock rises or IV of the 20MAY16 options gets larger (as it should), another credit calendar guaranteed profit spread should be in place.

In the last few weeks, I have both told you about and used this strategy for SBUX, JNJ, FB, and TWX. Now I have added COST and TGT to the list. In each case, I bought a slightly out-of-the-money call a few weeks out and immediately placed an order to sell the post-announcement same-strike call so that I would create a calendar spread at a credit.

The ultimate gain on these spreads will depend on how close the stock ends up to the strike price of my calendar spread after the announcement. The nearer to the strike, the greater the gain. It is fun owning a spread that you are certain will make a profit, no matter what the stock does.

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