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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 20, 2019

Consider Cadence Design Systems (CDNS) Following the Technical Breakout

This week we are looking at another of the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 List companies.  We use this list in one of our options portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place option spreads that take advantage of the momentum.

Terry

Consider Cadence Design Systems (CDNS) Following the Technical Breakout

Several analysts expect more upside from CDNS, here are two of them – Disney and 4 Other Stock Picks from a Parnassus Fund Manager and Why Should You Retain Cadence Stock in Your Portfolio?

CDNS is seeng breaking higher from a triangle pattern which signals a continuation of the broader uptrend, often with a pick up in upside momentum.  In addition to the technical break, the stock is one of few on the IBD Top 50 List, and in the broader markets for that matter, that is on the verge of breaking to record highs.

[caption id="attachment_2320" align="alignnone" width="300"]CDNS Chart January 2019 CDNS Chart January 2019[/caption]

*source Tradingview.com

If you agree there's further upside ahead for CDNS, consider this trade which is a bet that the stock will continue to advance over the next four weeks, or at least not decline very much.

Buy To Open CDNS 15FEB19 43 Puts (CDNS190215P43)
Sell To Open CDNS 15FEB19 46 Puts (CDNS190215P46) for a credit of $0.65 (selling a vertical)

This price was $0.02 less than the mid-point of the option spread when CDNS was trading near $47.  Unless the stock rallies quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade will only be $2.50 per spread (the rate charged by thinkorswim for Terry’s Tips’ subscribers).  Each contract would then yield $62.50 and your broker would charge a $300 maintenance fee, making your investment $237.50 ($300 – $62.50).  If CDNS closes at any price above $46 on February 15, both options would expire worthless, and your return on the spread would be 26% (380% annualized).  Note:  Options on CDNS are fairly illiquid, with large bid-ask spreads.  It would be especially important to place a limit order rather than a market order here.

Changes to Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 This Week:

[caption id="attachment_2321" align="alignnone" width="300"]IBD Underlying Updates January 17, 2019 IBD Underlying Updates January 17, 2019[/caption]

We have found that the Investor’s Business Daily Top 50 List has been a reliable source of stocks that are likely to move higher in the short run.  Recent additions to the list might be particularly good choices for this strategy, and deletions might be good indicators for exiting a position that you might already have on that stock.

As with all investments, you should only make option trades with money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading,

Terry

January 13, 2019

Can CyberArk Software (CYBR) Continue the Upside Momentum?

This week we are looking at another of the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 List companies.  We use this list in one of our options portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place option spreads that take advantage of the momentum.

Terry

Can CyberArk Software (CYBR) Continue the Upside Momentum?

The Investor’s Business Daily recently published an article picking out CYBR as one of the 5 best companies that stand to gain as the market rallies, view the full article here.  As well, take a look at this article published on Zacks that details CYBR as an outperformer among its peers.

From a technical perspective, the main appeal to CyberArk’s stock is that it’s trading within a rising trend channel while a majority of stocks remain within a declining trend channel, which is an indication of strength.  In fact, looking at the CYBR chart alone, it would not be apparent that the broader markets had such a volatile decline in the last two months of 2018.  The stock price ended last week near highs and looks to be threatening a break above the December top.

[caption id="attachment_2315" align="alignnone" width="300"]CYBR Chart January 2019 CYBR Chart January 2019[/caption]

*source Tradingview.com

If you agree there's further upside ahead for CYBR, consider this trade which is a bet that the stock will continue to advance over the next four weeks, at least a little bit.

Buy To Open CYBR 8FEB19 75 Puts (CYBR19028P75)
Sell To Open CYBR 8FEB19 78 Puts (CYBR19028P78) for a credit of $1.33 (selling a vertical)

This price was $0.02 less than the mid-point of the option spread when CYBR was trading near $80.  Unless the stock rallies quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade will only be $2.50 per spread (the rate charged by thinkorswim for Terry’s Tips’ subscribers).  Each contract would then yield $130.50 and your broker would charge a $300 maintenance fee, making your investment $169.50 ($300 – $130.50).  If CYBR closes at any price above $78 on February 8, both options would expire worthless, and your return on the spread would be 77% (1124% annualized).

Changes to Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 This Week:

[caption id="attachment_2316" align="alignnone" width="197"]IBD Underlying Updates January 10, 2019 IBD Underlying Updates January 10, 2019[/caption]

We have found that the Investor’s Business Daily Top 50 List has been a reliable source of stocks that are likely to move higher in the short run.  Recent additions to the list might be particularly good choices for this strategy, and deletions might be good indicators for exiting a position that you might already have on that stock.

As with all investments, you should only make option trades with money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading,

Terry

January 6, 2019

Will Five9 Inc (FIVN) Break Higher From It’s Range?

This week we are looking at another of the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 List companies.  We use this list in one of our options portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place option spreads that take advantage of the momentum.

Terry

Will Five9 Inc (FIVN) Break Higher From It’s Range?

Take a look at what these analysts have to say about Five9 – IBD 50 Stocks To Watch: How Cloud, AI Shape Five9’s Software Future and Lookout for these Two stocks: American International Group, Five9 Inc.

Five9 has consolidated higher since hitting a low in late October and is seen trading within a range.  The stock is an outperformer as most stocks posted losses in the last two months of the year.  A technical pattern is emerging as a triangle can be drawn around the recent consolidation.  To the upside, a break above $44.40 would suggest a bullish breakout.  There is a confluence of downside support deriving from a rising trendline, the 50-day moving average, as well as a horizontal level.  The horizontal level, which resides at $39.55, is considered well respected as it has acted both resistance and support on several occasions since the initial test in June.

*source Tradingview.com

If you agree there's further upside ahead for FIVN, consider this trade which is a bet that the stock will continue to advance over the next six weeks, or at least not decline very much.

Buy To Open FIVN 15FEB19 35 Puts (FIVN190215P35)
Sell To Open FIVN 15FEB19 40 Puts (FIVN190215P40) for a credit of $1.18 (selling a vertical)

This price was $0.02 less than the mid-point of the option spread when FIVN was trading near $43.  Unless the stock rallies quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade will only be $2.50 per spread (the rate charged by thinkorswim for Terry’s Tips’ subscribers).  Each contract would then yield $115.50 and your broker would charge a $500 maintenance fee, making your investment $384.50 ($500 – $115.50).  If FIVN closes at any price above $40 on February 15, both options would expire worthless, and your return on the spread would be 30% (281% annualized).

Changes to Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 This Week:

[caption id="attachment_2311" align="alignnone" width="266"]IBD Underlying Updates January 3, 2019 IBD Underlying Updates January 3, 2019[/caption]

We have found that the Investor’s Business Daily Top 50 List has been a reliable source of stocks that are likely to move higher in the short run.  Recent additions to the list might be particularly good choices for this strategy, and deletions might be good indicators for exiting a position that you might already have on that stock.

As with all investments, you should only make option trades with money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading,

Terry

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