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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

July 7, 2016

How to Trade Out of an Earnings-Related Options Play

A little over a week ago, I told you about trades I was making in advance of Nike’s earnings announcement. Lots of things didn’t quite work out the way I had expected they would, but I still managed to make over 50% for the week on my trades. There were some good learning experiences concerning how to trade out of calendar spreads once the announcement has been made. You need to tread water until the short options you sold expire and you can close out the spreads, and that can present some challenges.

Today I would like to share those learning experiences with you in case you make similar trades prior to a company’s earnings announcement.

Happy trading.

Terry

How to Trade Out of an Earnings-Related Options Play

According to Openfolio, a site where about 70,000 users share information on their investments, three out of four investors lost money in June, with an average return of -0.10%. This compares to the results of the Terry’s Tips’ Auto-Traded portfolios where 7 of 8 portfolios gained, and the average gain was 15.1%. Our only losing portfolio was a special bet that the short-term price of oil would fall. It didn’t, and we lost a little, but that was nothing compared to 4 of the portfolios which gained over 20% for the month.

One of our portfolios . . .

June 27, 2016

100% Gain in One Week Possible With Nike Options Trade?

The Brexit vote on Friday crushed markets throughout the world, but it was a great day for Terry’s Tips subscribers who follow the eight actual portfolios we carry out for them to follow if they wish. Our composite gain for the day was greater than 10%, and that was on a day when the Dow fell over 600 points and the market as a whole (SPY) dropped even more.

One of the portfolios we carry out is designed to protect against a market crash or correction. We call it the Better Bear. It gained 34% Friday when the markets tumbled. Friday, like many days, was one when many of us are happy that we trade options rather than simply buy or sell shares of stock.

Today, I would like to share two trades I will be placing on Monday or Tuesday. I think that there is an excellent chance that these trades could double my money in a single week.

Happy trading.

Terry

100% Gain in One Week Possible With Nike Options Trade?

Nike (NKE) has fallen on hard times of late, falling from $68 in early December to $52.59 at the close on Friday. Earnings will be announced after the close on Tuesday, the 28th. Whisper numbers are about 10% higher than public estimates, and options are priced for a higher price after the announcement.

I am an options trader and rarely ever buy stock. I really don’t know if Nike will go up or down after the announcement, but there are some interesting features of the option prices that have caused me to take an interest in the company this week. As I often repeat in this newsletter, implied volatility (IV) of the option prices is the major reason that option prices are “high” or “low” compared to other option prices.

Most of the time, our basic strategy involves buying calendar spreads at a variety of strike prices. A calendar spread (also called a time spread) consists of coincidentally buying and selling either put or call options at the same strike price. The option you buy always has a longer time life than the option you sell. Our gains come from the higher decay rate of the short-term options that we have sold compared to the lower decay rate of the longer-term options that we have bought.

Most of the time, when we . . .

June 15, 2016

Half-Price Offer Expires at Midnight Today

Our 15th birthday celebration ends at midnight tonight, and the half-price offer will disappear as well. If you have ever considered learning all about the wonderful world of options, this is the best opportunity you will ever see, at least from us. The time it act is now. Don’t let it slip away from you.


Half-Price Offer Expires at Midnight Today

As our 15th birthday present to you, we are offering the lowest subscription price than we have ever offered – our full package, including all the free reports, my White Paper, which explains my favorite option strategies in detail, and shows you exactly how to carry them out on your own, a 14-day options tutorial program which will give you a solid background on option trading, and two months of our weekly newsletter full of tradable option ideas. All this for a one-time fee of $39.95, less than half the cost of the White Paper alone ($79.95).

For this lowest-price-ever $39.95 offer, click here, enter Special Code . . .

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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