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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

January 16, 2018

Wingstop (WING) Rallies on Earnings Forecast, Can It Continue the 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 portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place spreads that take advantage of the momentum. The Terry’s Tips actual portfolio that executes these trades has gained 26% in the first two weeks of 2018 and is our third-best performing portfolio so far in this new year.

Terry

Wingstop (WING) Rallies on Earnings Forecast, Can It Continue the Momentum?

Wingstop shares have already made an impressive gain in the first few weeks of the new year and several analysts believe there is further upside ahead. CNBC has published an article outlining the factors driving the recent rally while Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison shares his outlook for growth in a video interview with Jim Cramer.

January 8, 2018

Adobe Systems (ADBE): Q4 Earnings Beat to Fuel Further 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 portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place spreads that take advantage of the momentum. Speaking of our portfolios, I would like to share with you the exact report for 2017 that we sent to Terry’s Tips’ paying subscribers this week – “All of the portfolios except Boomers’ Revenge and Vista Valley have been reset for 2018. Boomers’ Revenge will start over with $5000 after the 1/19/18 spreads expire with an almost-certain gain of 56% for the “year” starting and ending on the third Friday of January. The others:

Capstone Cascade – (restarted with $10,000 on 1/2/18) – 48% gain for 2017
Contango (our only portfolio not available for Auto-Trade – restarted with $5000 on 1/2/18) – 138% gain for 2017
Earnings Eagle (started with $5000 on 6/7/17) – 31% gain over last 6 months of 2017
Galloping Turtle (restarted with new strategy on 11/20/17 after withdrawal of $3960) – 79% gain for 2017
Honey Badger (restarted with $5000 using a new strategy on 12/26/17) – 48% loss for 2017, our only losing portfolio (fully recovered loss in the first week of 2018)
Leaping Leopard (restarted on 12/26/17 with $5000 after withdrawal of $2001) – 40% gain for 2017
Rising Tide (restarted on 1/2/18 with $5000 after withdrawal of $7615) – 152% gain for 2017
Vista Valley (restarted on 1/19/18 with $5000 after withdrawal of $5058) – 101% gain for 2017
Wiley Wolf (restarted on 11/8/17 with $5000 after $19,840 withdrawal) – 728% gain for 2017 as FB soared 56%.”
Terry

January 2, 2018

Fleetcor Technologies (FLT) Likely to Cross $200 Mark

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 portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place spreads that take advantage of the momentum.  The 2017 trading year is over.  The 10 option portfolios carried out at Terry’s Tips gained an average of 113% for the year.  Only one portfolio lost money, and four of them earned over 100%.  It was the best year in our 16-year history.  We look forward to a similar outcome in 2018.  We invite you to come along for the ride.

Terry

Fleetcor Technologies (FLT) Likely to Cross $200 Mark

Two recent analyst upgrades suggest Fleetcor Technologies stock will cross the $200 point as Deutsche Bank has raised their price targets to $225 and Jefferies has raised their target to $218.

FLT posted a sixth consecutive week of gains in the past week and closed at an all-time record high.  In fact, the stock has only had three down weeks in the last 19 and each one of those declines was not very significant.  A rising trendline is in play that originates from a low posted in September and offers support near the $190 price point where the 20-period daily moving average is also found to add confluence.

[caption id="attachment_1993" align="alignnone" width="300"]FLT Chart January 2018 FLT Chart January 2018[/caption]

*source Tradingview.com

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

Buy To Open FLT 16Feb18 185 Puts (FLT180216P185)
Sell To Open FLT 16Feb18 190 Puts (FLT180216P190) for a credit of $1.78 (selling a vertical)

This price was $0.02 less than the mid-point of the option spread when FLT was trading near $192.  Unless the stock rallies quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

If you use our favorite broker for this trade, tastyworks, your commission on this trade will only be $1 per opening contract ($2 per spread) (and there is no commission on closing trades, only the $.10 clearing fee).  Each contract would then yield $176 and your broker would charge a $500 maintenance fee, making your investment $324 ($500 – $176).  If FLT closes at any price above $190 on February 16, 2018, both options would expire worthless, and your return on the spread would be 54% (431% annualized).

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

[caption id="attachment_1994" align="alignnone" width="258"]IBD Underlying Updates December 28, 2017 IBD Underlying Updates December 28, 2017[/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

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.

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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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