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Vertical Spreads

All About Vertical Spreads - Definition, An Example, and How to Use

A vertical spread is simply the purchase of an option and simultaneous sale of another option at different strike prices (same underlying security, of course).  A vertical spread is a known as a directional spread because it makes or loses money depending on which direction the underlying security takes.

You buy a vertical spread if you have a feel which way the market for a particular stock is headed.  You can buy a vertical spread if you think the stock is headed higher, or a different vertical spread if you believe it is headed lower.  A neat thing about vertical spreads is that if the stock doesn't move at all, you might just make a gain even if it didn't do exactly what you had hoped.

Here is an example of a vertical spread I recently placed.  I had a good feeling about Apple.  I thought the stock would go up in the next month, or at least not fall very much.  The stock was trading about $200 a share.  I purchased 10 Apple March 190 calls and simultaneously sold 10 Apple March 195 calls and paid out $3.63 per spread ($3653 + $30 commission = $3683).  I only had to come up with the difference between the cost of the option and the proceeds from the option I sold.

I bought this spread with calls, but the potential gains or losses would have been identical if I had used puts instead.  In vertical spreads, the strike prices are what is important, not whether puts or calls are used.

On the third Friday of March, both options would expire.  If the stock is at any price above $195, the value of my vertical spread would be worth $5000 less $30 commissions ($4750), and I would make a gain of $1067 on an investment of $3683, or 29% for a single month of waiting for expiration to come.

The maximum loss of my vertical spread would be my entire investment ($3683) if the stock fell below $190.  I would make a gain at any price above $193.69.  If the stock ended up at $192, my 190 call would be worth $2.00 ($2000) and the 195 would expire worthless.  In that event, I would lose $1683.

If the stock ends up over $195 at expiration, I do not have to place any trade to close out the vertical spread.  The broker will automatically sell the 190 calls and buy back the 195 calls for exactly $5.00, charging me a commission on both options ($1.50 each at thinkorswim where I trade).

I placed this vertical spread because I liked the prospects for Apple and because I would make the maximum gain (29% in a single month) even if the stock fell from $200 down to $195, so I could even be a little wrong about the stock and I would still make the maximum gain.

In retrospect, I would have been smarter to buy the vertical spread using puts rather than calls (if the same price for the spread could have been had).  If I used puts, I would buy at the same strike prices (buying the 190 puts and selling the 195 puts).  I would collect $1.37 ($1370 less $30 commissions, or $1340 because the 195 puts would carry a higher price than the 190 puts that you bought).  When you buy a credit spread like this, the broker places a maintenance requirement on your account to protect against the maximum loss that you could incur.  In this case, a $5000 maintenance requirement would be made, which after the $1340 you collected in cash was credited, would work out to $3660.  This is the maximum you would lose if the stock closed below $190.

A maintenance requirement is not a margin loan.  No interest is charged.  The broker just holds that amount aside in your account until your options expire.

There are several reasons that I would have been smarter to make this trade in puts rather than calls.  First, if Apple closes above $195, both put options would expire worthless, and I would not be charged $30 in commissions to close them out like I will have to with the calls.  Second, selling a vertical (bullish) spread in puts means that I would be taking in more cash than I paid out (i.e., it is a credit spread).  The extra cash in my account would be credited against a margin loan I might have in my account, thus saving me some interest (there is no interest charged on a maintenance requirement).  Third, buying a vertical put spread eliminates the possibility of an early exercise of a short in-the-money call - such an exercise might take place if the company declares a dividend during the holding period of the spread, or if the call gets so far in the money that there is no time premium left, and the owner of the call decides to take stock.

For all these reasons, put spreads are the best bet for vertical spreads when you expect the stock price to rise, assuming, of course, that they can be placed for the same price as the equivalent spread in calls.  The risk profile of each spread is the same, so the least expensive alternative should be taken, and if both put and call spreads are identical, then puts should be the spread of choice.

Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

January 11, 2017

An Interesting Short-Term Play on Aetna (AET)

We are always on the lookout for unusual option prices that might indicate a better-than-usual investment opportunity. I would like to share one of those recent opportunities with you, one I personally acted on and passed on to Terry's Tips subscribers last Saturday. It involves the venerable insurance company, Aetna.

Terry

An Interesting Short-Term Play on Aetna (AET)

This week, we are looking at Aetna (AET), a health care benefits company. If you check out its chart, you can see that it does not historically make big moves in either direction, especially down:

January 3, 2017

How to Make 30% on 5 Blue-Chip Companies in 2017 Even if They Fall by 10%

Today, we set up a new portfolio at Terry's Tips that I would like to tell you about. It is our most conservative of 9 portfolios. It consists of selecting 5 blue-chip companies which pay a dividend between 2% and 3.6% and which appear on at least two top analysts’ “top 10” lists for 2017. This portfolio is designed to gain 30% for the year, and we can know in advance exactly what each of the 5 spreads will make in advance. For most of these companies, they can fall by 10% over the course of the year and we will still make our 30% gain.

We are also repeating our best-ever offer to come on board before January 11 rolls around.

Terry

How to Make 30% on 5 Blue-Chip Companies in 2017 Even if They Fall by 10%

The spreads we are talking about are vertical put credit spreads. Once you have found a company you like, you select a strike price which

December 30, 2016

Invest in Yourself in 2017 (at the Lowest Rate Ever)

To celebrate the coming of the New Year I am making the best offer to come on board that I have ever offered. It is time limited. Don’t miss out.

Invest in Yourself in 2017 (at the Lowest Rate Ever)

The presents are unwrapped. The New Year is upon us. Start it out right by doing something really good for yourself, and your loved ones.

The beginning of the year is a traditional time for resolutions and goal-setting. It is a perfect time to do some serious thinking about your financial future.

I believe that the best investment you can ever make is to invest in yourself, no matter what your financial situation might be. Learning a stock option investment strategy is a low-cost way to do just that.

As our New Year’s gift to you, we are offering our service at the lowest price in the history of our company. If you ever considered becoming a Terry’s Tips Insider, this would be the absolutely best time to do it. Read on…

Making 36%

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

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