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The "Greeks"

The "Greeks" are measures designed to better understand how option prices change when the underlying stock changes in value and/or time passes by (and options decline in value).

My goal is to keep this discussion of Greek measures as simple as possible. It is not easy. I have tried many times to explain these terms to people in person. I have seen their eyes glaze over before I get past Alpha.

I'm sure you heard about the fellow who bragged that he could speak every language except Greek, and when asked to say something in a particular foreign language, answered "It's all Greek to me." Let's hope that isn't your answer next time you are asked about a Greek stock option measure.

I'll confine this discussion to three measures of market risk exposure - delta, gamma, and theta. Mathematicians gave these measures the names of Greek letters, or names that sound like they're Greek letters (vega, another measure which we will not discuss here, is not in the Greek alphabet, but sounds like it should be).

Delta, gamma,and theta are the three most important Greeks in the world of stock options, and each tells us something important about an option. If you own 100 shares of a company's stock, your market risk is easy to understand. If the stock rises (or falls) by $1.00, you gain (or lose) $100. It's not so simple with stock options. The most common way to measure market risk for an option is the Greek called delta.

Delta is the amount the option will change in value if the stock goes up by $1.00. If an option carries a delta of 70, and the stock goes up by $1.00, the price of the option will rise by $.70 ($70 since each option is worth 100 shares).

Owning an option which has a delta of 70 means that you own the equivalent of 70 shares of the company's stock.

All options do not have the same delta value. Deep in-the-money options have very high delta values (perhaps in the 90s), while way out-of-the-money options have very low delta values (could be under 10).

To make matters more confusing, delta values change over the life of the option, even if the price of the stock remains unchanged. An in-the-money option, which might have a delta value of 60 with a month to go until expiration, will have a delta value of essentially 100 on expiration Friday.

You can calculate the net delta value of your composite option positions by multiplying the delta value of your long options by the number of those options and subtracting the delta value of your short options multiplied by the number of those options. The resulting figure, net delta value, tells you how much the value of your current option portfolio will change if the underlying stock goes up by $1.00. It is perhaps the best measure of market risk at any given moment.

Most professional market makers who hold a variety of options in their account, some long, some short, some puts and some calls, calculate their net delta value continually throughout the day so that they don't expose themselves to more risk than their comfort level allows. Ideally, they like to be net delta neutral, which means that with their current configuration of option holdings, they do not care whether the market goes up or down.

Gamma is a measure of how much delta changes with a dollar change in the price of the stock. Just as with deltas, all gammas are different for different options. While you may establish a net delta neutral position (i.e., you don't care if the stock goes up or down), the gamma will most always move you away from delta neutrality as soon as the underlying stock changes in value.

If there is a lot of time left in an option (such as a LEAP), the gamma tends to be quite stable (i.e., low). This holds true for both in-the-money and out-of-the-money options. Short-term options, on the other hand, have widely fluctuating gammas, especially when the strike price of the option is very close to the stock price.

A perfectly neutral option strategy would have a zero net delta position and a zero net gamma position. As long as you deal with calendar spreads, you will never enjoy this luxury. You will always see your net delta position fall as the stock price rises, and watch your net delta position rise as the stock price falls. Gamma measures tend to do the same, which serves to accelerate the change in the net delta position of a calendar spread portfolio.

Occasionally checking out the net gamma position lets you know how big the change in your net delta position will be if the stock moves up or down in price. It helps you know how your exposure to market risk will change as the stock price changes.

Theta is my favorite Greek, because it tells me how much money I will make today if the price of the stock stays flat when I have my favorite positions (calendar spreads) in place. Theta is the amount of daily decay. It is expressed as a negative number if you own an option (that is how much your option will decay in value in one day).

On the other hand, if you are short an option, theta is a positive number which shows how much you will earn while the option you sold to someone else goes down in value in one day.

Theta tells you how many dollars you will make today if the stock stays flat. For me, knowing this number has some negative implications, however. If I'm at a restaurant on a night when the market didn't change much, I might remember the theta value that day - it was sort of "free" money I really didn't make any effort to earn. Oftentimes, I order a too expensive bottle of wine because of that silly theta number).

The ultimate goal of my favorite calendar spread strategy (which I call the 10K Strategy) is to maximize the net theta position in your account without letting the net delta value get so high or low that you will lose a lot of money if the stock moves against you.

This short discussion of the Greeks should be all you need to impress your friends next time you talk about the stock market. All you need to do is to get around to the topic of stock options, and drop a few Greek names on them (ask them if they know what their net delta position was yesterday, or did their theta increase much last week, and watch their eyes glaze over).

I have found that the Greeks are very effective conversation stoppers. Feel free to use them whenever the need arises.

For a free report entitled "How to Make 70% a Year With Calendar Spreads", sign up for our free newsletter.

Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

May 10, 2017

Closing Out Last Week’s Facebook Trades

Today I would like to report on the gains I made last Friday on the trades I told you about that I had placed last Monday in advance of Facebook’s (FB) earnings announcement on May 3. I was fortunate enough for the stock to take a moderate drop after the announcement, and have some thoughts on how I might play the FB earnings announcement in 3 months.

Terry

Closing Out Last Week’s Facebook Trades

A little over a week ago, I passed on a pre-earnings trade I had made on Facebook in advance of their May 3 after-market announcement. Essentially, I bought calendar spreads (long side 16Jun17 series and short side 05May17 series) at the 150, 152.5 and 155 strikes when FB was trading just under $152.

I was hoping that the stock would barely budge after the announcement. I was lucky. It did just that, falling a bit to close out the week at $150.24, about $1.50 lower than it was when I bought the spreads.

Near the close, I was able to buy back all of the . . .

May 2, 2017

Interesting Earnings Play on Facebook

Facebook (FB) has had a great year so far, gaining just over 30%. Terry's Tips has an actual portfolio that trades calendar and diagonal spreads on FB. This portfolio has gained 157% this year, more than 5 times as much as the stock has gone up. A big part of this gain came just after the January earnings announcement when the stock dropped a small amount on the news.

FB announces earnings after the close on Wednesday (May 3), and I would like to share some trades I made today in my personal account at my favorite broker, tastyworks. These trades approximate the current risk profile of the Terry's Tips’ FB portfolio.

Terry

Interesting Earnings Play on Facebook

Terry's Tips carries out 9 actual portfolios for paying subscribers. After the first four months of 2017, all 9 portfolios are in the black. The composite average has gained 34.5% for the year, certainly an outstanding result. The FB portfolio is by far the greatest . . .

April 17, 2017

40% Possible in 2 Weeks With an Iron Condor?

Today’s idea involves an esoteric Exchange Traded Product (ETP) called SVXY. It is one of our favorite underlyings at Terry's Tips. Chances are, you don’t know very much about it, and I can’t help you much in this short note. But I will share a trade I made on this ETP this morning, and my thinking behind this trade.

Terry

40% Possible in 2 Weeks With an Iron Condor?

The best way to explain how SVXY works might be to explain that it is the inverse of VXX, the ETP that some people buy when they fear that the market is about to crash. Many articles have been published extolling the virtues of VXX as the ideal protection against a setback in the market. When the market falls, volatility (VIX) most always rises, and when VIX rises, VXX almost always does as well. It is not uncommon for VXX to double in value in a very short time when the market corrects.

The only problem with VXX is that in the long run, it is just about the worst equity that you could . . .

Making 36%

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

This book may not improve your golf game, but it might change your financial situation so that you will have more time for the greens and fairways (and sometimes the woods).

Learn why Dr. Allen believes that the 10K Strategy is less risky than owning stocks or mutual funds, and why it is especially appropriate for your IRA.

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TastyWorks

Tastyworks is a new brokerage firm from the brains behind tastytrade and it is our top choice of options-friendly brokers. Their commission rates are extremely competitive - options trades are only $1 per contract to open and $0 commission to close (all options trades incur a clearing fee of $0.10 per contract). The tastyworks trading platform quickly became our favorite platform for options trading and it keeps getting better with new features released each week. Terry uses tastyworks and loves everything about them!

TD Ameritrade

This Chicago brokerage firm with the unlikely name thinkorswim, Inc. by TD Ameritrade is considered by many to be the best option-friendly broker. For openers, they have extremely good analytic software and their option trading platform is exceptional. Thinkorswim Mobile has been called the best mobile app in the industry. In 2017, TD Ameritrade received 4 stars out of 5 in the annual Barron`s* Best Online Brokers Survey. TD Ameritrade was tops as an online broker for long-term investors and for novices. The company is the only broker that receives the highest 5.0 score for research amenities among all firms participated in the ranking last year.

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TD Ameritrade, Inc. and Terry's Tips are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products.

tastyworks, Inc. has entered into a Marketing Agreement with Terry’s Tips (“Marketing Agent”) whereby tastyworks pays compensation to Marketing Agent to recommend tastyworks’ brokerage services. The existence of this Marketing Agreement should not be deemed as an endorsement or recommendation of Marketing Agent by tastyworks and/or any of its affiliated companies. Neither tastyworks nor any of its affiliated companies is responsible for the privacy practices of Marketing Agent or this website. tastyworks does not warrant the accuracy or content of the products or services offered by Marketing Agent or this website.

tastyworks, Inc. and Terry’s Tips are separate, unaffiliated companies and are not responsible for each other’s services and products. Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading my expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Options trading in a tastyworks account is subject to tastyworks’ review and approval. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options

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