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Posts Tagged ‘Weekly Options’

Using Puts vs. Calls for Calendar Spreads

Monday, April 7th, 2014

I like to trade calendar spreads.  Right now my favorite underlying to use is SVXY, a volatility-related ETP which is essentially the inverse of VXX, another ETP which moves step-in-step with volatility (VIX).  Many people buy VXX as a hedge against a market crash when they are fearful (volatility, and VXX. skyrockets when a crash occurs), but when the market is stable or moves higher, VXX inevitably moves lower.  In fact, since it was created in 2009, VXX has been just about the biggest dog in the entire stock market world.  On three occasions they have had to make 1 – 4 reverse splits just to keep the stock price high enough to matter.

Since VXX is such a dog, I like SVXY which is its inverse.  I expect it will move higher most of the time (it enjoys substantial tailwinds because of something called contango, but that is a topic for another time).  I concentrate in buying calendar spreads on SVXY (buying Jun-14 options and selling weekly options) at strikes which are higher than the current stock price.  Most of these calendar spreads are in puts, and that seems a little weird because I expect that the stock will usually move higher, and puts are what you buy when you expect the stock will fall.  That is the topic of today’s idea of the week.

Terry

Using Puts vs. Calls for Calendar Spreads

It is important to understand that the risk profile of a calendar spread is identical regardless of whether puts or calls are used.  The strike price (rather than the choice of puts or calls) determines whether a spread is bearish or bullish.  A calendar spread at a strike price below the stock price is a bearish because the maximum gain is made if the stock falls exactly to the strike price, and a calendar spread at a strike price above the stock price is bullish.

When people are generally optimistic about the market, call calendar spreads tend to cost more than put calendar spreads.  For most of 2013-14, in spite of a consistently rising market, option buyers have been particularly pessimistic.  They have traded many more puts than calls, and put calendar prices have been more expensive.

Right now, at-the-money put calendar spreads cost more than at-the-money call calendar spreads for most underlyings, including SVXY.  As long as the underlying pessimism continues, they extra cost of the put spreads might be worth the money because when the about-to-expire short options are bought back and rolled over to the next short-term time period, a larger premium can be collected on that sale.  This assumes, of course, that the current pessimism will continue into the future.

If you have a portfolio of exclusively calendar spreads (you don’t anticipate moving to diagonal spreads), it is best to use puts at strikes below the stock price and calls for spreads at strikes which are higher than the stock price.  If you do the reverse, you will own a bunch of well in-the-money short options, and rolling them over to the next week or month is expensive (in-the-money bid-asked spreads are greater than out-of-the-money bid asked spreads so you can collect more cash when rolling over out-of-the-money short options).

How to Play War Rumors

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Last week, on Monday, there were rumors of a possible war with Russia.  The market opened down by a good margin and presented an excellent opportunity to make a short-term gain.  Today I would like to discuss how we did it at Terry’s Tips and how you can do it next time something like this comes along.

Terry

How to Play War Rumors

When the market opens up at a higher price than the previous day’s highest price or lower than the previous day’s lowest price, it is said to have a gap opening.  Gap openings unusually occur when unusually good (or bad) news has occurred.  Since there are two days over which such events might occur on weekends, most gap openings happen on Mondays.

A popular trading strategy is to bet that a gap opening will quickly reverse itself in the hour or two after the open, and day-trade the gap opening.  While this is usually a profitable play even if it doesn’t involve the possibility of a war, when rumors of a war prompted the lower opening price, it is a particularly good opportunity.

Over time, rumors of a new war (or some other economic calamity) have popped up on several occasions, and just about every time, there is a gap (down) opening. This time, the situation in Ukraine flared, even though any reasonable person would have figured out that we were highly unlikely to start a real war with Russia.

When war rumors hit the news wires, there is a consistent pattern of what happens in the market.  First, it gaps down, just like it did on Monday.  Invariably, it recovers after that big drop, usually within a few days.  Either the war possibilities are dismissed or the market comes to its senses and realizes that just about all wars are good for the economy and the market.  It is a pattern that I have encountered and bet on several times over the years and have never lost my bet.

On Monday, when the market gapped down at the open (SPY fell from $186.29 to $184.85, and later in the day, as low as $183.75), we took action in one of the 10 actual portfolios we carry out for Terry’s Tips paying subscribers (who either watch, mirror, or have trades automatically placed in their accounts for them through Auto-Trade).

One of these portfolios is called Terry’s Trades.  It usually is just sitting on cash.  When a short-term opportunity comes along that I would do in my personal account, I often place it in this portfolio as well.  On Monday, shortly after the open, we bought Mar2-14 weekly 184 calls on SPY (essentially “the market”), paying $1.88 ($1880 plus $12.50 commissions, or $1900.50) for 10 contracts.  When the market came to its senses on Tuesday, we sold those calls for $3.23 ($3230 less $12.50 commission, or $3217.50), for a gain of $1317, or about 70% on our investment.  We left a lot of money on the table when SPY rose even higher later in the week, but 70% seemed like a decent enough gain to take for the day.

War rumors are even more detrimental to volatility-related stocks.  Uncertainty soars, as does VXX (the only time this ETP goes up) while XIV and SVXY get crushed.  In my personal account, I bought SVXY and sold at-the-money weekly calls against it.  When the stock ticked higher on Friday, my stock was exercised away from me but I enjoyed wonderful gains from the call premium I had sold on Monday.

Whether you want to bet on the market reversing or volatility receding, when rumors of a war come along (accompanied by a gap opening), it might be time to act with the purchase of some short-term near-the-money calls.  Happy trading.

Legging Into a Short Iron Condor Spread

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

Today I would like share with you the results of an actual trade recommendations I made for my paying subscribers on January 4th of this year and how subsequent price changes have opened up option possibilities that can further improve possibilities for a first investment.

Please don’t get turned off by what this new spread is called.

Terry

Legging Into a Short Iron Condor Spread

In my weekly Saturday Report that I send to paying subscribers, on January 4, 2014 I set up an actual demonstration portfolio in a separate trading account at thinkorswim in which I made long-term bets that three underlying stocks (GOOG, SPY, and GMCR) would be higher than they currently were at some distant point in the future.  The entire portfolio would make exactly 93% with the three spreads I chose if I were right about the stock prices.

Almost two months later, things are looking pretty good for all three spreads, but that is not as important as what we can learn about option possibilities.

If you recall, early this year I was quite bullish on Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) which has recently changed their name to Keurig Green Mountain.  The major reason was that three insiders who had never bought shares before had recently made huge purchases (two of a million dollars each).  I Googled these men and learned that they were mid-level executives who were clearly not high rollers.  I figured that if they were committing this kind of money, they must have had some very good reason(s),  Also, for four solid months, not a single director had sold a single share, something that was an unusual pattern for the company.

My feelings about the company were also boosted when a company writing for Seeking Alpha published an article in which they had selected GMCR as the absolute best company from a fundamental standpoint in a database of some 6000 companies.

This is what I wrote in that Saturday Report – “The third spread, on Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), is a stronger bullish bet than either of the first two, for two reasons.  The stock is trading about in the middle of the long and short put prices (70 and 80), and the time period is only six months (expiring in June 2014) rather than 11 or 12 months.  I paid $540 for the Jun-14 80 – Jun-14 70 vertical put credit spread.  My maximum loss is $460 per spread if the stock closes below $70, and I will make 115% after commissions in six months if it closes above $80.”

This vertical put credit spread involved selling the Jun-14 80 puts for $13.06 and buying the Jun-70 puts for $7.66, collecting $540 for each spread.  I sold 5 of these spreads, collecting a total of $2700.  There would be a maintenance requirement of $5000 for the spreads (not a margin loan which would have interest charged on it, but an amount that I couldn’t use to buy other stocks or options).  Subtracting what I received in cash from the maintenance requirement, my real cost (and maximum loss) would be $2300.  If GMCR closed at any price above $80 on June 21, 2014, both puts would expire worthless and I could keep my $2700 and make 115% after commissions (there would be no commissions to pay if both puts expired worthless).

An interesting side note to the $2700 cash I received in this transaction.  In the same account, I also owned shares of my favorite underlying stock.  I am so bullish on this other company (which is really not a company at all, but an Exchange Traded Product (ETP)) that I owned some on margin, paying 9% on a margin loan.  The cash I received from the credit spread was applied to my margin loan and reduced the total on which I was paying interest.  In other words, I was enjoying a 9% gain on the spread proceeds while I waited out the six months for the options to expire.

In case you hadn’t heard, GMCR announced on February 5th that they had executed a 10-year contract with Coke to sell individual cups on an exclusive basis.  The stock soared some 50%, from $80 to over $120.  In addition, Coke bought 10% of GMCR for $1.25 billion, and gained over $600 million on their purchase in a single day.  Obviously, those insiders knew what they were doing when they made their big investments last November.

Now I am in an interesting position with this spread.  It looks quite certain that I will make the 115% if I just sit and wait another 4 months.  The stock is highly unlikely to fall back below $80 at this point.  I could but back the spread today for $.64, ($320 for the 5 spreads) and be content with a $2380 gain now rather than $2700 in June.

But instead, I decided to wait it out, and add a twist to my investment.  Since the deal with Coke will not reach the market until at least 2015, it seems to me that we are in for a period of waiting until the chances of success for single servings of Coke are better known.  The stock is probably not going to move by a large amount in either direction between now and June.

With that in mind, I sold another vertical credit spread with June options, this time using calls.  I bought Jun-14 160 calls and sold Jun-14 150 calls and collected $1.45 ($725 less $12.50 commissions).  These options will expire worthless if GMCR is at any price below $150 on June 21, 2014, something that I believe is highly likely.  I think it has already taken the big upward move that it will take this year.

If the stock ends up at any price between $80 and $150, I will make money on both spreads that I sold.  Now the total I can gain is $3400 (after commissions) and my net investment has now been reduced to $1600 and my maximum gain is 212% on my money at risk.

This new spread will not have any maintenance requirement because the broker understands that I can’t lose money on both vertical spreads I have sold.  He will look at the two spreads and notice that the difference between the long and short strike prices is 10 for both spreads.  As long as he is setting aside $5000 in a maintenance requirement on the account, he knows that I can lose that maximum amount on only one of the two spreads.

What I have done is to leg into what is called a short iron condor spread (legging in means you buy one side of a spread to start, and then add the other side at a later time – the normal way to execute a spread is to execute both sides at the same time).  You don’t have to know any more about it than know its name at this time, but I invite you to become a Terry’s Tips Insider and learn all about short iron condors as well as many other interesting options strategies.

An Interesting Calendar Spread Play

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Today after the close, one of my favorite stocks, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMRC) , announces earnings.  I am taking quite a chance telling you about another option spread investment that I made this week because if the stock tanks after today’s announcement, I won’t be looking so good.The idea I am suggesting can be used for any stock you might have an opinion about, and it could easily double your money in about six weeks if you are approximately right about where the stock might be at that time.

Terry

An Interesting Calendar Spread Play

As you probably know, I love calendar spreads.  These spreads involve buying a longer-out option and selling a shorter-length option at the same strike price.  You only have to come up with the difference between the two option prices when you place the order.

When the short options expire, if the stock is very close to the strike price of your spread, you can expect to sell the spread for a great deal more than you paid for it.The further away from the strike price the stock is when the short options expire, the less valuable the original spread will be.

The trick is guessing where the stock might end up when the short options expire. This takes a little luck since no one really knows what any stock is likely to do in the short run.  But if it’s a stock you have followed closely, you might have an idea of where it is headed.

I happen to like GMCR.  I like knowing that insiders have bought millions of dollars worth of stock in the past few months and 30% of the stock has been sold short (a short squeeze could push the stock way up).  So I am guessing that the stock will be closer to $85 in six weeks compared to $80 where it closed yesterday (as I write this Wednesday morning it has moved up to about $81.50).

I bought a calendar spread on GMCR at the 85 strike, buying Apr-14 calls and selling Mar-14 calls.  I paid $.85 ($85) per spread for 10 spreads, shelling out $850 plus $25 in commissions.  Here is the risk profile graph for March 22 when the short options expire:

GMCR calendar risk profile graph feb 2014

GMCR calendar risk profile graph feb 2014

The graph shows that the stock can fall by as much as $5 and I will make a gain, or it can go up by more than $10 and I should expect a gain.  This seems to be a pretty large break-even range to me.  If I am lucky enough to see the stock end up near my $85 target, it is possible to triple my money in six weeks.

One nice thing about calendar spreads is that you can’t lose all of your investment.   No matter where the stock goes, the value of the April options will always be greater than the price of the March options at the same strike price.  When you are only risking $85 per spread, you can be quite wrong about where the stock ends up and still expect to make a gain.

 

A “Conservative” Options Strategy for 2014

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Every day, I get a Google alert for the words “options trading” so that I can keep up with what others, particularly those with blogs, are saying about options trading.  I always wondered why my blogs have never appeared on the list I get each day.  Maybe it’s because I don’t use the exact words “option trading” like some of the blogs do.

Here is an example of how one company loaded up their first paragraph with these key words (I have changed a few words so Google doesn’t think I am just copying it) – “Some experts will try to explain the right way to trade options by a number of steps.  For example, you may see ‘Trading Options in 6 Steps’ or ’12 Easy Steps for Trading Options.’  This overly simplistic approach can often send the novice option trading investor down the wrong path and not teach the investor a solid methodology for options trading. (my emphasis)”  The key words “options trading” appeared 5 times in 3 sentences.  Now that they are in my blog I will see if my blog gets picked up by Google.

Today I would like to share my thoughts on what 2014 might have in store for us, and offer an options strategy designed to capitalize on the year unfolding as I expect.

Terry

A “Conservative” Options Strategy for 2014

What’s in store for 2014?  Most companies seem to be doing pretty well, although the market’s P/E of 17 is a little higher than the historical average.  Warren Buffett recently said that he felt it was fairly valued.  Thirteen analysts surveyed by Forbes projected an average 2014 gain of just over 5% while two expected a loss of about 2%, as we discussed a couple of weeks ago. With interest rates so dreadfully low, there are not many places to put your money except in the stock market. CD’s are yielding less than 1%.  Bonds are scary to buy because when interest rates inevitably rise, bond prices will collapse.  The Fed’s QE program is surely propping up the market, and some tapering will likely to take place in 2014.  This week’s market drop was attributed to fears that tapering will come sooner than later.

When all these factors are considered, the best prognosis for 2014 seems to be that there will not be a huge move in the market in either direction.  If economic indicators such as employment numbers, corporate profits and consumer spending improve, the market might be pushed higher except that tapering will then become more likely, and that possibility will push the market lower.  The two might offset one another.

This kind of a market is ideal for a strategy of multiple calendar spreads, of course, the kind that we advocate at Terry’s Tips.  One portfolio I will set up for next year will use a Jan-16 at-the-money straddle as the long side (buying both a put and a call at the 180 strike price).  Against those positions we will sell out-of-the-money monthly puts and calls which have a month of remaining life. The straddle will cost about $36 and in one year, will fall to about $24 if the stock doesn’t move very much (if it does move a lot in either direction, the straddle will gain in value and may be worth more than $24 in one year).  Since the average monthly decay of the straddle is about $1 per month,  that is how much monthly premium needs to be collected to break even on theta.  I would like to provide for a greater move on the downside just in case that tapering fears prevail (I do not expect that euphoria will propel the market unusually higher, but tapering fears might push it down quite a bit at some point).  By selling puts which are further out of the money, we would enjoy more downside protection.

Here is the risk profile graph for my proposed portfolio with 3 straddles (portfolio value $10,000), selling out-of-the-money January-14 puts and calls. Over most of the curve there is a gain approaching 4% for the first month (a five-week period ending January 19, 2014).   Probably a 3% gain would be a better expectation for a typical month.  A gain over these 5 weeks should come about if SPY falls by $8 or less or moves higher by $5 or less.  This seems like a fairly generous range.

Spy Straddle Risk Profile For 2014

Spy Straddle Risk Profile For 2014

For those of you who are not familiar with these risk profile graphs (generated by thinkorswim’s free software), the P/L Day column shows the gain or loss expected if the stock were to close on January 19, 2014 at the price listed in the Stk Price column, or you can estimate the gain or loss by looking at the graph line over the various possible stock prices.  I personally feel comfortable owning SPY positions which will make money each month over such a broad range of possible stock prices, and there is the possibility of changing that break-even range with mid-month adjustments should the market move more than moderately in either direction.

The word “conservative” is usually not used as an adjective in front of “options strategy,” but I believe this is a fair use of the word for this actual portfolio I will carry out at Terry’s Tips for my paying subscribers to follow if they wish (or have trades automatically executed for them in their accounts through the Auto-Trade program at thinkorswim).

There aren’t many ways that you can expect to make 3% a month in today’s market environment.  This options strategy might be an exception.

A Look at the Downsides of Option Investing

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Most of the time we talk about how wonderful it is to be trading options.  In the interests of fair play, today I will point out the downsides of options as an investment alternative.

Terry

A Look at the Downsides of Option Investing

1. Taxes.  Except in very rare circumstances, all gains are taxed as short-term capital gains.  This is essentially the same as ordinary income.  The rates are as high as your individual personal income tax rates. Because of this tax situation, we encourage subscribers to carry out option strategies in an IRA or other tax-deferred account, but this is not possible for everyone.  (Maybe you have some capital loss carry-forwards that you can use to offset the short-term capital gains made in your option trading).

2. Commissions.  Compared to stock investing, commission rates for options, particularly for the Weekly options that we trade in many of our portfolios, are horrendously high.  It is not uncommon for commissions for a year to exceed 30% of the amount you have invested.  Because of this huge cost, all of our published results include all commissions.  Be wary of any newsletter that does not include commissions in their results – they are misleading you big time.

Speaking of commissions, if you become a Terry’s Tips subscriber, you may be eligible to pay only $1.25 for a single option trade at thinkorswim.  This low rate applies to all your option trading at thinkorswim, not merely those trades made mirroring our portfolios (or Auto-Trading).

3. Wide Fluctuations in Portfolio Value.   Options are leveraged instruments.  Portfolio values typically experience wide swings in value in both directions.

Many people do not have the stomach for such volatility, just as some people are more concerned with the commissions they pay than they are with the bottom line results (both groups of people probably should not be trading options).

4. Uncertainty of Gains. In carrying out our option strategies, we depend on risk profile graphs which show the expected gains or losses at the next options expiration at the various possible prices for the underlying.  We publish these graphs for each portfolio every week for subscribers and consult them hourly during the week.

Oftentimes, when the options expire, the expected gains do not materialize.  The reason is usually because option prices (implied volatilities, VIX, -  for those of you who are more familiar with how options work) fall.   (The risk profile graph software assumes that implied volatilities will remain unchanged.).   Of course, there are many weeks when VIX rises and we do better than the risk profile graph had projected.   But the bottom line is that there are times when the stock does exactly as you had hoped (usually, we like it best when it doesn’t do much of anything) and you still don’t make the gains you originally expected.

With all these negatives, is option investing worth the bother?  We think it is.  Where else is the chance of 50% or 100% annual gains a realistic possibility?  We believe that at least a small portion of many people’s investment portfolio should be in something that at least has the possibility of making extraordinary returns.

With CD’s and bonds yielding ridiculously low returns (and the stock market not really showing any gains for quite a while – adjusted for inflation, the market is 12% lower than it was in March,  2000,), the options alternative has become more attractive for many investors, in spite of all the problems we have outlined above.

An AAPL Earnings-Announcement Strategy

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Today I would like to share with you an options investment I made yesterday, just prior to the Apple (AAPL) earnings announcement. While it is too late to make this same investment yourself, you might consider it three months from now when announcement time comes around again, or with another company that you feel good about.

Please continue reading down so you can see how you can come on board as a Terry’s Tips subscriber for no cost at all while enjoying all the benefits that thinkorswim incentive offers to anyone who opens an account with them.

Terry

 

An AAPL Earnings-Announcement Strategy: Approximately every 90 days, most public companies announce their latest quarterly earnings. Just before the announcement day, things get interesting with option prices. Since stocks often make big moves in either direction once earnings (and other numbers such as gross sales, margins, and future guidance) are announced, option prices get quite expensive, both for puts and for calls.

For people who like to collect high option premiums (i.e., selling expensive options to someone else), this pre-announcement period seems like a great opportunity provided I have a feeling one way or the other about the company. I had a good feeling about AAPL this month. I wasn’t sure what earnings might be (beware of anyone who says he is sure), but I thought the company was fairly priced, and I think the huge stash of cash they are sitting on provides some protection against a large drop in the stock price.

When a situation like this occurs (where I like a company and earnings are about to be announced), one of my favorite strategies is to buy a deep in-the-money call on the company, a call that has a few months of remaining life, and sell an at-the-money call in the shortest-term option series that expires after the announcement day.

On Monday morning, AAPL was trading about $525. I bought a diagonal spread, buying Jan-14 470 calls and selling Nov1-13 525 calls (AAPL has weekly options available, and the Nov1-13 calls would expire on Friday, November 1st , four days after the announcement after the close on Monday.

I paid $62.67 for the Jan-14 470 call and sold the Nov1-13 525 call for $17.28, shelling out a net $45.39 ($4539) for each spread. (Commissions on this trade at thinkorswim were $2.50). The intrinsic value of this spread was $55 (the difference between 525 and 470) which means if the stock moved higher, no matter how high it went, it would always be worth a minimum of $55, or almost $10 above what I paid for it. Since the Jan-14 calls had almost three more months of remaining life than the Nov1-13 calls I sold, they would be worth more (probably at least $5 more) than the intrinsic value when I planned to sell them on Friday.

So I knew that no matter how much the stock were to move higher, I was guaranteed a gain on Friday. If the stock managed to stay right at $525 and the Nov-1 525 call expired worthless (or I had to buy it back for a minimal amount), I stood to gain the entire $17.28 I had collected less a little that the Jan-14 call might decay in four days. A flat market would net me about a 36% gain on my investment, and any higher price for AAPL would result in at least a 25% gain.

After a company makes its announcement, all option prices tend to fall, especially in the shortest-term series that expires just after the announcement. However, deep in-the-money options like the one I bought derive most of their value from being so deep in the money, and they generally do not fall nearly as much as shorter-term, nearer-the-money options.

On the downside, the stock could fall at least $20 before I would incur a loss. Since the delta of the Jan-14 470 call was 80, if the stock fell $20, my long call might fall about $16 ($20 x .80). That would still be less than the $17.28 I collected from the 525 which would expire worthless so I would still make a gain.

Actually, as the stock falls in value, delta for an in-the-money call gets lower, and the Jan-14 call would fall by less than $16. The stock could probably go down at least $25 before I lost money with my original spread.

In the event that AAPL fell over $25 so I lost some money on the spread, since I like the company and it is now trading for only $500, I might want to hang onto my 470 call rather than selling it on Friday. I might sell another 525 (or other strike) call with a few weeks of remaining life, reducing my initial investment by that amount.

I like to make an investment that could make 25% or more in a single week if a company I like stays flat or goes higher by any amount after an announcement, and the stock can fall about 10% and I still make a gain. A more conservative investment would be to sell an in-the-money call rather than an at-the-money call. While the potential maximum gain would be less, you could handle a much greater drop in the stock value before you entered loss territory on the downside.

How to Own 100 Shares of Google for $16,000

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Way back when Google (GOOG) went public at $80 a share, I decided that I would like to own 100 shares and hang on to it for the long run. Obviously, that was a good idea as the stock is trading today at $870. My $8000 investment would now be worth $87,000 if I had been able to keep my original shares. Unfortunately, over the years, an options opportunity inevitably came along that looked more attractive to me than my 100 shares of GOOG, and I sold my shares to take advantage of the opportunity.

Many times my investment account had compiled a little spare cash, and I went back into the market and bought more shares of GOOG, always paying a little more to buy it back. At some point it felt like I just had too much money tied up in it. An $8000 commitment is one thing, but $87,000 is real money.

Today I would like to share how I own the equivalent of 100 shares of GOOG for an investment of only $17,000, and the neat thing about my investment is that I get expect to get a “dividend” in the next two weeks of about $1300 if the stock just sits there and doesn’t go anywhere.

I own options, of course. Here is what I own.

Terry

 How to Own 100 Shares of Google for $16,000:  You would have to shell out about $87,000 today to buy 100 shares of GOOG stock. If you bought it on margin, you might have to come up with about half that amount, $43,500, but you have to shell out interest on the margin loan each month. I like money coming in, not going out.

A couple of weeks in this newsletter we talked about the Greek measure delta. This is simple the equivalent number of shares of stock that an option has. I own GOOG 800 calls that expire on the third Friday of January 2014. You could buy one today for $8600. I own 2 of them for a cost of about $17,200.

The delta for these Jan-14 800 calls is 75. That means if the stock goes up by a dollar, the value of each of my options will go up by $75. With these 2 options I own the equivalent of 150 shares of stock.

Since all options decline a little bit every day that the stock stays flat (it is called decay), simply owning options is just about as bad as paying margin interest on a stock loan. As I said earlier, I like money coming in rather than going out.

Since I own 2 call options at a lower strike price that the market price I am entitled to use them as collateral to sell someone else the opportunity to buy shares of GOOG at a higher price. I sold one Oct-13 890 call, collecting $13.50 ($1350) at today’s price. This option will expire in two weeks (October 18). If the stock is at any price less than $890, this call will expire worthless and I will get to keep the entire $1350.

This Oct-13 890 call option that I sold carries a delta of 38, making my net option value 112 deltas (the equivalent of 112 shares of stock).

Since I am aiming to own 100 shares of GOOG, I sold another Oct-13 call, this one at the 935 strike. At today’s prices, this one would go for $3.50 ($350). The delta on this call is 13, reducing my net delta value to exactly 100.

I now own the equivalent of 100 shares of GOOG at a cost of $17,200 less the $1700 I collected from selling the two calls, or $15,500.

The neat thing about my option positions is that if the stock doesn’t go up (as I hope it will), my disappointment will be soothed a bit because I will gain about $1300 over the next two weeks. Here is the risk profile graph for my positions:

Google Risk Profile Graph

Google Risk Profile Graph

The P/L Day column in the lower right-hand corner shows what the gain or loss will be at the price in the first column on the left. (The stock popped up about $3 while I was writing this Monday morning so it is no longer trading at $870 as it was when I started).

There are two disadvantages to owing the options I do rather than the stock. If the stock falls 10%, I will lose about $9800. If I owned 100 shares of stock, I would lose only $8700. On the other hand, if the stock goes up by 10% in the next two weeks, I would only gain $7100 vs. the $8700 I would make if I owned the stock. I don’t think the stock will move by anywhere near these amounts in the next two weeks, so I am content to live with the slightly less I might gain (or the slightly more I would lose) at these extremes.

A Strategy of Buying Weekly SPY Straddles

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

I performed a back-test of weekly SPY volatility for the past year and discovered that in just about half the weeks, the stock fluctuated at some point during the week by $3 either up or down (actual number 27 of 52 weeks).  That means if you could have bought an at-the-money straddle for $2 (both an at-the-money call and put), about half the time you could sell it for a 50% gain if you placed a limit order to sell the straddle for $3.  As long as the stock moves at least $3 either up or down at some point during the week you can be assured that the straddle can be sold for $3.

Here are the numbers for SPY for the past six months:

 

SPY Straddle Chart

SPY Straddle Chart

The weekly changes (highlighted in yellow) are the ones where SPY fluctuated more than $3 so that a 50% gain was possible (by the way this week is not over yet, and the stock fell over $3 at one point yesterday).

An interesting strategy for these months would be to buy 10 at-the-money SPY straddles on Friday (or whatever your budget is – each straddle will cost about $200). With today’s low VIX, an at-the-money straddle last Friday cost $1.92 to buy (one week of remaining life),  In the weeks when VIX was higher, this spread cost in the neighborhood of $2.35  (but actual volatility was higher, and almost all of the weeks showed a $3.50 change at some point during the week).

Over the past year, in the half of the weeks when the stock moved by at least $3, your gain on 10 straddles would be $1000 on the original straddle cost $2.  If the change took place early in the week, there would be time premium remaining and the stock would not have to fluctuate by quite $3 for the straddle to be sold for that amount.

The average loss in the other weeks would be about $700, maybe less.  On Friday morning, the worst-case scenario would be that you could sell the 70 straddles for $700 (causing a loss of $1300). This would occur if the stock were trading exactly at the strike price of the straddle – on Friday morning it could be sold for about $.70 because there would be some time premium remaining for both the puts and calls.  The maximum loss that occurred in about a third of the losing weeks was about $.70 but another third of the weeks when the 50% gain was not triggered, you could have broken even (on average) by selling the straddle at the close on Friday.  I calculated that the average loss for all of the last 12 months would be about $700 in those weeks when the 50% gain was not triggered.

This means an average investment of $2000 (10 straddles) would make an average gain of $150 per week. While that might be considered to be a decent gain by most standards, it could be dramatically improved if you varied the amount that you invested each week by following the volatility patterns.

There was a remarkable tendency for high-volatility weeks to occur together.  In the above table you can see that at one point there was a string of 14 weeks when 12 times a 50% gain was possible (high-lighted in yellow) and two weeks (high-lighted in red) when a small gain was possible because the closing price was greater than $2 away from the starting price.  Only one week out of the 14, 5/28/13 would a loss have occurred, and that would have been negligible because the stock closed $1.86 lower, almost covering the $2 initial cost of the straddle.

The same went for low-volatility weeks – there were strings of them as well. At one point early in 2013 the strategy would have incurred a string of seven consecutive weeks when no 50% was possible, and in the last six months pictured above, there were two four-week strings when SPY fluctuated by less than $3 in either direction.

If you invested $4000 in weeks after you made a gain and $2000 in weeks after a 50% gain was not possible, your net gains would be much higher.  This is the most promising part of the strategy.

Another way of playing this strategy would be to invest only in those weeks when a 50% gain would have been possible in the previous week, and sit on the sidelines for the other weeks.  Of course, since the average gain for all weeks was positive (but small), you would be giving up a little by not investing each week.

In this world of low option prices (VIX is at historical lows) and relatively high volatility, this might be an exceptionally profitable strategy to follow.  We plan to carry it out in one of the portfolios we run at Terry’s Tips.

Barron’s Article Creates Great Buying Opportunity For Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This morning Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) fell more than $2, apparently because of a negative article about the company published by Barron’s on Saturday.  I submitted an article to Seeking Alpha in which I argued that Barron’s had inappropriately used some statistics and made some faulty comparisons of GMCR’s p/e ratios and their competitors.

I’m not sure if my article really turned the market around, but in the first two hours after it was published, the stock went from being down $2 to being up $2.50, a swing of over $4.50  or well over 5%.

In this article I recommended buying a diagonal call spread which I will discuss today.

Read to the bottom of this letter to learn how you can become a Terry’s Tips Insider for absolutely no cost.

Terry

Barron’s Article Creates Great Buying Opportunity For Green Mountain Coffee Roasters

In this article I made a case that GMCR would move higher and that the Barron’s article had temporarily unfairly pushed the stock lower.   In a Terry’s Tips portfolio, we purchased the spread I recommended in the article for $10.93.  The natural price is now $12.15 so we have a paper profit of about 10% for the day.

I recommended making a fairly conservative options investment, buying Dec-13 well in-the-money calls at the 67.5 strike when the stock was trading about $78 and selling Aug2-13 weekly calls at the 77.5 strike.  I selected the Dec-13 series because implied volatility of those options (55) was lower than any other weekly or monthly series, and since the December expiration comes well after the next earnings announcement in late October or early November, IV is not likely to plummet after Wednesday’s announcement like the August, September, and October options will probably do.

IV of the Aug2-13 weeklies is a whopping 137, just the kind of options that we like to sell.

This diagonal spread should make an average of about 25% this week if the stock stays flat or goes up by any reasonable amount, and should only lose money if the stock falls by more than 7%.  This seems like a pretty good bet to me, and I have bought a large number of these spreads in my personal account.

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