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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

January 22, 2015

How to Make 20% in one Month on Your Favorite Stock (Using Options)

This week I would like to show you the exact positions of one of the 9 portfolios we are currently carrying out for Insiders at Terry’s Tips. It involves one of my favorite places to shop, Costco, and its stock, COST. We expect to make just under 20% on this portfolio in the next four weeks, even if the stock does not go up a single penny. Welcome to the wonderful world of stock options.

Terry

How to Make 20% in one Month on Your Favorite Stock (Using Options)

The basic strategy that we carry out at Terry’s Tips is to buy longer-term options on stocks we like and sell shorter-term options against them. Since the decay rates of the shorter-term options is . . .

January 8, 2015

Try a Vertical Put Credit Spread on a Stock That You Like

This week I would like to share my thoughts about the market for 2015, and also one of my favorite option strategies when I find a stock I really like. Whenever I find a stock I particularly like for one reason or another, rather than buy the stock outright, I use options to dramatically increase the returns I enjoy if I am right (and the stock goes up, or at least stays flat).

Today I would like to share a trade that I made today in my personal account.  Maybe you would like to do something similar with a company you particularly like.

And Happy New Year – I hope that 2015 will by your best year ever for investments (even if the market falls a bit).

Terry

Try a Vertical Put Credit Spread on a Stock That You Like

First, a few thoughts about the market for 2015.  The Barron’s Roundtable (made up of 10 mostly large investment bank analysts) predicted an average 10% market gain for 2015.  None of the analysts predicted a market loss for the year.  Others have suggested that the year should be approached with more caution, however. The whopping gain in VIX in the last week of 2014 is a clear indication that investors have become more fearful of what’s ahead. The market has gained about 40% over the past two years.  The bull market has continued for 90 months, a near-record–breaking string.

The forward P/E for the market has expanded to 19, several points higher than the historical average, and 2 points above where it was a year ago.  The trailing market P/E is 22.7x compared to 14x for the 125-year average.  Maybe such high valuations are appropriate for a zero-interest environment, but that is about to change. For the first time since 2007, the Fed will not be propping up the market with their Quantitative Easing purchases. The Fed has essentially promised that they will raise interest rates in 2015.  The only question is when it will happen.

There is an old adage that says “don’t fight the Fed.”  Not only have they stopped pumping billions into the economy every month, they plan to raise interest rates this year.  Like it or not, stock market investments made in 2015 are tantamount to picking a fight with the Fed.

While the U.S. economy is strong (and apparently growing), a great number of U.S. companies depend on foreign sales for a significant share of their business, and the foreign prospects aren’t so great for a number of countries. This situation could cause domestic company earnings to disappoint, and stock prices could fall.  At the very best, 2015 seems like a good time to take a cautious approach to investing.

Even if the market is not great for 2015, surely some shares will move higher. Barron’s chose General Motors (GM) as one of its best 10 picks for 2015 and made a compelling argument for the company’s prospects.  The 3.27% dividend should insulate the company from a big down-draft if the market as a whole has a correction in 2015.

I was convinced by their analysis that GM was highly likely to move higher in 2015.  Today, with GM trading at $35.70, I placed the following trade:

Buy To Open 10 GM Jun-15 32 puts (GM150619P32)

Sell To Open 10 GM Jun-15 37 puts (GM150619P37) for a credit of $2.20  (selling a vertical)

I like to go out about six months with spreads like this to give the stock a little time to move higher.  The above trade put $2200 in my account.  There will be a $5000 maintenance requirement which is reduced to $2800 when you subtract out the amount of cash I received.  This means that my maximum loss would be $2800, and this would come about if the stock closes below $32 on June 19, 2015.

If the stock closes at any price above $37, both the long and short puts will expire worthless and I will not have to make any more trades.  If this happens, I will make a profit of $2200 (less $25 commission, or $2175) on an investment of $2800.  This works out to a gain of 77%.

In order for me to make 77% on this investment, GM only needs to go up by $1.50 (4.2%).  If it stays exactly the same on June 19th ($35.70), I will have to buy back the 37 put for a cost of $1.30 ($1300 for 10 contracts).  That would leave me with a gain of $862.50, or 30.8%.

If I had purchased shares of GM with the $2800 I had at risk, I could have bought 78 shares.  I I might have collected a dividend of $91 over the 6 months.  With my options investment, I would have gained nearly 10 times that much if the stock did not move up at all.

Bottom line, even though I am taking a greater risk with options, the upside potential is so much greater than merely buying the stock that it seems to be a better move when you find a company that looks like it will be a winner.

December 4, 2014

Further Discussion on an Options Strategy Designed to Make 40% a Month

Last week we outlined an options play based on the historical fluctuation pattern for our favorite ETP called SVXY. This week we will compare those fluctuations to the market in general (using the S&P 500 tracking stock, SPY, as the market definition). We proposed buying a vertical call spread for a one-month-out expiration date with the lower strike about 6% above the starting stock price.

The results were a little unbelievable, possibly gaining an average of 65% a month (assuming the fluctuation pattern continued into the future). If you used an outside indicator to determine which months were more likely to end up with a winning result, you would invest in just under half the months, but when you did invest, your average gain might be in the neighborhood of 152%. Your average monthly gain would be approximately the same if you only invested half the time or all the time, but some people like to increase the percentage of months when they make gains (the pain of losing always seems to be worse than the pleasure of winning).

This week we will offer a second way to bet that the stock will rise by 12.5% in about 38% of the months (as it has in the past). It involves buying a calendar spread rather than a vertical call spread (and sort of legging into a long call position as an alternative to the simple purchase of a call).

Terry

Further Discussion on an Options Strategy Designed to Make 40% a Month:

First. Let’s compare the monthly price fluctuations of SPY and SVXY. You will see that they are totally different. . . .

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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