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Writing Covered Calls

Many financial advisors and more than a dozen websites advocate writing (selling) covered calls as a sound investment strategy. Thousands of subscribers pay millions of dollars to get advice on profitable covered calls to write.

I believe they are wasting their money. Writing covered calls only limits the potential gain you might enjoy.

Let’s take an example. You buy 100 shares of XYZ for $80 and write (sell) an at-the-money two-month call ($80 strike price) for $4.00. If the stock stays flat, you will earn 5% on your money for the period (plus collect a dividend if there is one). If you can do this six times a year (write a two-month call six times), you will earn 30% annually (less commissions); or so goes the promise.

(In the last chapter we showed that selling calls against a one-year option rather than stock results in a hypothetical 300% gain if the stock stays absolutely flat, or ten times the amount you could earn by writing calls against the stock.)

In this covered call-writing example, 30% is the maximum amount you can earn. No matter how high XYZ goes in price, you can never earn more than 30%. The bottom line truth is that you will NEVER earn that 30%. The reason is that no stock price ever stays the same. If the stock goes up by $5 in the first 60 days, you will either lose your stock (through exercise), or more likely, you will buy back the call you wrote, paying $5, and losing $1 on the call (but making $5 on the increase in the price of the stock). So for the first 60 days, you actually made a 5% net gain ($4 net gain on a $80 stock).

Presumably, you then sell another 60-day at-the-money call (now at the $85 strike) and collect perhaps $4.25. Then the stock falls back to $80. In this time period, you gain $4.25 from selling the call but you lose $5 in stock value for a net loss of $.75.

Your gains on the calls you wrote now total $3.25 for a 120-day period (you gained $4.00 in the first 60-day period and lost $.75 in hoped would earn you 30% for the year). At this rate (four months of activity), your annual return will be $9.75, or 12.2% on the original $80 stock. Commissions on six sales of calls over the year will considerably reduce this return — to 10% or so. Not a bad return, but certainly not 30%. And it’s an awful lot of work for a 10% return.

For a full explanation of an option strategy that is designed to outperform writing covered calls, check out Dr. Terry Allen’s Free Report on calendar spreads.

Terry's Tips Stock Options Trading Blog

August 19, 2019

Visa (V) Dips – Is it Time to Get In?

One analyst recently wrote an article titled Load Up On Visa which is the type of thing usually said when there is a sharp fall in the stock discussed, in the context that it is being offered at a discount. This is certainly not the case with Visa as the correction a few weeks back was much more shallow when compared to other stocks in the sector. The headline goes to show just how positive sentiment is. Also take a look at the following article which discusses Visa’s performance compared to its sector - Is Visa (V) Stock Outpacing Its Business Services Peers This Year?

August 12, 2019

Ulta Beauty (ULTA) Looks Poised to Break to Fresh Record Highs

Several analysts are optimistic regarding Ulta Beauty’s stock price following their recent earnings surprise, here are two of them - Why the Earnings Surprise Streak Could Continue for Ulta (ULTA) and How one retailer is beating the odds.

August 5, 2019

Consider Essent Group (ESNT) Following Their Earnings Report

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 Essent Group (ESNT) Following Their Earnings Report


ESNT reported earnings in the past week and despite an early day dip, the stock managed to close higher on the day. The following article provides a view on why the stock could continue higher – 2 Stocks Poised to Thrive in Volatile Times: Essent Group Ltd., Cognex Corporation. Also take a look at this article which discusses the earnings report and the declaration of a new dividend – Essent Group Ltd. Reports Second Quarter 2019 Results & Declares Inaugural Dividend.

There are two significant things going for ESNT from a technical perspective. First, the stock dipped below major support at $45.38 on Friday but managed to close above it. This has resulted in a hammer candle which is a popular candlestick that signals the potential for a reversal. This pattern is not just seen on a daily chart, it is also present on a weekly chart and even on a 4-hour chart. The horizontal level is considered significant as it triggered a major turn last year and as it has acted as support in recent months. The fact that the candlestick pattern printed above such a significant level strengthens it. The other thing going for the stock is that it managed to close higher despite an overall heavy tone in the markets on Friday. This divergence is quite important as the markets look a bit heavy following the price action in the past week.

[caption id="attachment_2451" align="alignnone" width="916"]ESNT Chart August 2019 verticle options spread ESNT Chart August 2019[/caption]

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

Buy To Open ESNT 20SEP19 40 Puts (ESNT190920P40)
Sell To Open ESNT 20SEP19 45 Puts (ESNT190920P45) for a credit of $1.68 (selling a vertical)

This price was $0.02 less than the mid-point of the option spread when ESNT was trading near $46.  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 $165.50 and your broker would charge a $500 maintenance fee, making your investment $334.50 ($500 – $165.50).  If ESNT closes at any price above $45 on September 20, both options would expire worthless, and your return on the spread would be 49% (389% annualized).

[caption id="attachment_2452" align="alignnone" width="304"]IBD Underlying Updates August 1, 2019 via Terry's Tips IBD Underlying Updates August 1, 2019[/caption]

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


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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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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