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Iron Condor Spread

The (Short) Iron Condor Spread is my all-time favorite spread when I think the market will trade within a fairly small range for the near future.  It is a little complicated, but worth the effort to learn.

With a name like this, it's got to be a great spread.  I know what a condor is, but I wouldn't recognize a short one if I saw it, and I've never seen an iron one - all the condors I know have feathers.

If you really want to impress your friends, you can tell them you own a Short Iron Condor Spread, or wow them even more by saying you also are long a strangle and short another strangle which is more in the money. Or you can say you have a bear call spread and a bull put spread, or else a short vertical call spread and a short vertical put spread.  They all mean the same thing, but who really cares what they call them?

The Iron Condor spread involves the simultaneous purchase of a put and a call for the same expiration month (usually only one or two months of remaining life), and the sale of a put and call for that same month but at a strike price which is closer the to current stock price than the options you purchased.

The result is that you end up with two vertical spreads, one of which uses calls at the higher strikes (called a bear call spread) and puts at the lower strikes (called a bull put spread) with all positions in the same expiration month. The number of call spreads is equal to the number of put spreads, and the increment between the strike prices is the same for both spreads.

Typically, an iron condor spread is sold rather than bought (so it should really be called a short iron condor spread).  Since both the puts and calls which are sold have a higher value than those being purchased, it is a credit spread.  It is placed when the investor believes the underlying stock will end up inside of a certain range of prices.  If it does, all four options will expire worthless and the investor will pocket the original credit she received when originally placing the spread.

The iron condor is so named due to the shape of the profit/loss graph, which loosely resembles a large-bodied bird.  In keeping with this analogy, traders often refer to the inner (short) options collectively as the "body" and the outer (long) options as the "wings".

The word Iron is used (for no apparent reason that I have been able to find) to describe a spread where one part of the overall position is a spread at strike prices above the current price of the underlying stock and the other part of the overall position is at strikes below the current price of the stock.  An iron butterfly is another example of using iron in this manner.

Six reasons to love Short Iron Condor Spreads:

  1.     The stock can go up, down, or stay flat, and you can still make a profit.
  2.     Exceptional profits are possible every month
  3.     Extreme flexibility is possible in creating a comfortable risk level
  4.     You can precisely determine your maximum potential loss (or gain) before you make the investment
  5.     If the stock closes anywhere in a broad range at expiration, a guaranteed pre-determined profit is made
  6.     You only have to wait a maximum of 30 or 60 days to learn how much you have made or lost.

One reason not to like Short Iron Condor Spreads:

  1. You can lose your entire investment in less than 60 days.

For this reason, the best way to carry out the iron condor strategy is to be willing to take a small loss at times because it eliminates the possibility of incurring a larger loss, and only investing a portion of  your capital at one time.  Theoretically, if you only risk half your capital at one time, you will never run out of money to invest.

 

Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

November 22, 2021

On Target Trade


Target
(TGT) reported earnings before the bell on Wednesday that beat estimates on
both revenue and profits. The company also expects its fiscal Q4 comparable
sales growth to be higher than previous forecasts. Moreover, TGT claimed the
supply chain mess has not been an issue - store shelves are full and ready for
the holiday buying onslaught.





Analysts
were mostly bullish on the report, giving TGT several target price increases
(there was one lower price). One went as high as $350, a 38% premium to
Friday’s closing price. The stock price was not rewarded, however. The shares
dropped 4.7% on Wednesday and slid further the rest of the week. However, this
was a common theme among several retailers, including Walmart (WMT). In fact,
the overall retail sector was lower for the week.





The pullback dropped the shares to just above their 50-day moving average (blue line in chart). This trade is thus a bet that TGT will regain its footing and stay above the 50-day as holiday sales numbers – that are predicted to be robust – start rolling in. The short 245 strike (red line) of our put credit spread is below the 50-day, relying on trendline support to hold through expiration.









If
you agree that TGT will stay atop its 50-day moving average line in chart),
consider the following trade that relies on the stock remaining above 245  (through expiration in six weeks.





Buy
to Open TGT 31Dec 240 put (TGT211231P240)

Sell to Open TGT
31Dec 245 put (TGT211231P245) for a credit of $1.60 (selling a vertical)





This
credit is $0.02 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when TGT was trading around $251. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.





Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $158.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $341.30
($500 – $158.70) for one spread.  If TGT
closes above $245 on December 31, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 46% ($158.70/$341.30).


November 15, 2021

An AFRMation Trade


Affirm
Holdings (AFRM) provides a platform for point-of-sale payments for consumers
and merchants. In August, AFRM announced a partnership with Amazon.com (AMZN)
to offer flexible payment solutions to customers with AMZN purchases above $50.
AFRM reported earnings on Wednesday after the bell that missed on profits but
beat on revenue. The company also raised sales guidance.





Wall
Street apparently forgave the earnings miss, largely because it was not clear
if the discrepancy used comparable numbers. Moreover, AFRM said its AMZN
relationship as a buy-now-pay-later service was exclusive. Clearly, analysts
were looking at AFRM’s growth prospects, as the company was greeted with
several target price upgrades that reached as high as $185 (the stock closed at
$149 on Friday).





After a nasty, four-day 21% plunge heading into earnings that pulled the stock to its 50-day moving average, the stock rebounded 13.7% the day after the earnings news. Given the earnings rebound, analyst target upgrades and deal with AMZN, we are going with a bullish trade on AFRM that keys on the stock maintaining its three-month rally and staying atop its 50-day moving average (blue line in chart). The short put strike of our credit spread sits at $133 (red line in chart), just below the 50-day.









If
you agree that AFRM will continue its uptrend and stay atop its 50-day moving
average line in chart), consider the following trade that relies on the stock
remaining above $133  (through expiration
in seven weeks.





Buy
to Open AFRM 31Dec 128 put (AFRM211231P128)

Sell to Open AFRM 31Dec
133 put (AFRM211231P133) for a credit of $1.85 (selling a vertical)





This
credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when AFRM was trading at $149. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.





Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $183.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $316.30
($500 – $183.70) for one spread.  If AFRM
closes above $133 on December 31, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 58% ($183.70/$316.30).


November 10, 2021

A Me(h)T Trade


MetLife
(MET) won’t get anyone’s juices flowing. It’s frankly a rather boring insurance
and financial services company that’s been around for 158 years. But who cares …
if we can make money on a trade, right?





MET
reported earnings last week that beat estimates on the top and bottom lines.
Hardly anyone noticed. Analysts were silent. There were no stories other than a
dry listing of its key performance numbers. And the stock fell 2% the next day.
Ho hum.





But MET is up 36% for the year, which is well ahead of the S&P 500’s 25%. After a swoon in June and July, the stock has been grinding steadily higher along the dual support of its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. The key is the 50-day (blue line in chart), which has allowed just three daily closes below it during the past three months. This trendline, which is rising slightly, sits at $61.10, which is above the short strike of our put spread trade. Thus, MET would have to pierce this support to hurt this trade. And the 200-day (red line in chart) sits at $61 to provide another layer of support. The last time MET closed below the 200-day was more than a year ago.









If
you agree that MET will continue its slow ascent and stay atop its 50-day
moving average line in chart), consider the following trade that relies on the
stock remaining above $62.50  (through
expiration in six weeks.





Buy
to Open MET 17Dec 60 put (MET211217P60)

Sell to Open MET 17Dec
62.5 put (MET211217P62.5) for a credit of $0.75 (selling a vertical)





This
credit is $0.04 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when MET was trading at $64. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.





Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $73.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $250 and makes your net investment $176.30
($250 – $73.70) for one spread.  If MET
closes above $62.50 on December 17, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 42% ($73.70/$176.30).


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