Now Might Be the Perfect Time to Make This Volatility Trade
Today I would like to pass along a trade I just made. It has a chance of making 50% if the stock stays flat or moves moderately higher over the next ten days. I want to share it with you just in case you might like to try it yourself (with some money you could afford to lose – we’re talking about $670 here, per contract).Terry
Now Might Be the Perfect Time to Make This Volatility Trade
The market is going crazy. VIX, the so-called Fear Index, skyrocketed to 40 yesterday, something it hasn’t done for over 2 years. It has fallen to about 30 today, and if history is any indicator, it is headed for the 12 – 14 level where it has hung out for the large part of the past two years.
One of our favorite underlying equities (it’s an Exchange Traded Product, or ETP) is SVXY. It is essentially a way to bet that you think that volatility in the market is likely to fall. When the market is quiet and VIX hangs out in the 12 – 14 range, SVXY inexorably moves higher over time because of a thing called contango (which we can’t explain fully here, but it means that volatility futures are usually higher than the current option volatilities because the future is less certain than the present).
SVXY is the opposite of VXX, an ETP which suffers from the effects of contango. VXX has fallen from a split-adjusted $3000 or so to its present level of $24 over the past 6 years, making it the dog-of-all-dog stocks. Since SVXY is the opposite of VXX, it has gone up by about the same amount (although it has not been in existence so long). Its average annual gain has been about 45% since it started up.
SVXY has taken a huge hit with the recent market turmoil, falling from the low $90’s to $58. When the market settles down, as it most surely will, SVXY can be counted on to move back up to where it was a week ago. With VIX at 30, history says it is a great time to buy.
Here is what I did today:
Buy To Open 1 SVXY Oct1-15 60 call (SVXY151002C60)
Sell To Open 1 SVXY Sep1-15 60 call (SVXY150904C60) for a debit of $3.35 (buying a calendar)
Buy To Open 1 SVXY Oct1-15 65 call (SVXY151002C65)
Sell To Open 1 SVXY Sep1-15 65 call (SVXY150904C65) for a debit of $3.30 (buying a calendar)
For every two spreads I bought, I shelled out $665 plus $5 in commissions, or $670.
Here is what the risk profile graph says these positions will be worth at the close in 10 days when the short calls expire next Friday:
- SVXY Risk Profile Graph August 2015
If the stock is exactly where it is when I made the trades ($58.10), the graph says that I will make a gain of $412, or 61% on my investment. If the stock moves higher by as much as $10 (anywhere in the range of $58 – $68), I should make about $600, or almost 90% in ten days. If the stock falls by less than $5, I should still make a gain of some sort. If it falls by more than $5, I would lose money. In the event of a flat or lower price, the short calls would expire worthless and I would have 4 more weeks of life in the Oct1-15 calls I own. Presumably, I would then sell new weekly calls against those positions and lower my net investment considerably (and have more time for the stock to recover).
Implied volatility (IV) of these options is excessive right now (over 100), and if the market does settle down, IV should fall. That might mean the gains would be not as great as the graph indicates, but there should be significant gains nonetheless.
I really like my chances here. I will report back on how it works out.
How to Fine-Tune Market Risk With Weekly Options
This week I would like to share an article word-for-word which I sent to Insiders this week. It is a mega-view commentary on the basic options strategy we conduct at Terry’s Tips. The report includes two tactics that we have been using quite successfully to adjust our risk level each week using weekly options.
If you are already trading options, these tactic ideas might make a huge difference to your results. If you are not currently trading options, the ideas will probably not make much sense, but you might enjoy seeing the results we are having with the actual portfolios we are carrying out for our subscribers.
How to Fine-Tune Market Risk With Weekly Options
“Bernie Madoff attracted hundreds of millions of dollars by promising investors 12% a year (consistently, year after year). Most of our portfolios achieve triple that number and hardly anyone knows about us. Even more significant, our returns are actual – Madoff never delivered gains of any sort. There seems to be something wrong here.
Our Capstone Cascade portfolio is designed to spin off (in cash) 36% a year, and it has done so for 10 consecutive months and is looking more and more likely that we will be able to do that for the long run (as long as we care to carry it out). Actually, at today’s buy-in value (about $8300), the $3600 we withdraw each year works out to be 43%. Theta in this portfolio has consistently added up to double what we need to make the monthly withdrawal, and we gain even more from delta when SVXY moves higher.
Other portfolios are doing even better. Rising Tide has gained 140% in just over two years while the underlying Costco has moved up 23.8% (about what Madoff promised). Black Gold appears to be doing even better than that (having gained an average of 3% a week since it was started).
A key part of our current strategy, and a big change from how we operated in the past, is having short options in each of several weekly series, with some rolling over (usually about a month out) each week. This enables us to tweak the risk profile every Friday without making big adjustments that involve selling some of the long positions. If the stock falls during a week, we will find ourselves with previously-sold short options that are at higher strikes than the stock price, and we will collect the maximum time premium in a month-out series by selling an at-the-money (usually call) option.
If the stock rises during the week, we may find that we have more in-the-money calls than we would normally carry, so we will sell new month-out calls which are out of the money. Usually, we can buy back in-the-money calls and replace them with out-of-the-money calls and do it at a credit, again avoiding adjustment trades which might cause losses when the underlying displays whip-saw price action.
For the past several weeks, we have not suffered through a huge drop in our underlyings, but earlier this year, we incurred one in SVXY. We now have a way of contending with that kind of price action when it comes along. If a big drop occurs, we can buy a vertical call spread in our long calls and sell a one-month-out at-the-money call for enough cash to cover the cost of rolling the long side down to a lower strike. As long as we don’t have to come up with extra cash to make the adjustment, we can keep the same number of long calls in place and continue to sell at-the-money calls each week when we replace expiring short call positions. This tactic avoids the inevitable losses involved in closing out an out-of-the-money call calendar spread and replacing it with an at-the-money calendar spread which always costs more than the spread we sold.
Another change we have added is to make some long-term credit put spreads as a small part of an overall 10K Strategy portfolio, betting that the underlying will at least be flat in a year or so from when we placed the spread. These bets can return exceptional returns while in many respects being less risky than our basic calendar and diagonal spread strategies. The longer time period allows for a big drop in stock price to take place as long as it is offset by a price gain in another part of the long-term time frame. Our Better Odds Than Vegas II portfolio trades these types of spreads exclusively, and is on target to gain 91% this year, while the Retirement Trip Fund II portfolio is on target to gain 52% this year (and the stock can fall a full 50% and that gain will still come about).
The trick to having portfolios with these kinds of extraordinary gains is to select underlying stocks or ETPs which you feel strongly will move higher. We have managed to do this with our selections of COST, NKE, SVXY, SBUX, and more recently, FB, while we have failed to do it (and faced huge losses) in our single failing portfolio, BABA Black Sheep where Alibaba has plummeted to an all-time low since we started the portfolio when it was near its all-time high. Our one Asian diversification effort has served to remind us that it is far more important to find an underlying that you can count on moving higher, or at least staying flat (when we usually do even better than when it moves higher).
Bottom line, I think we are on to something big in the way we are managing our investments these days. Once you have discovered something that is working, it is important to stick with it rather than trying to improve your strategy even more. Of course, if the market lets us know that the strategy is no longer working, changes would be in order. So far, that has not been the case. The recent past has included a great many weeks when we enjoyed 10 of our 11 portfolios gaining in value, while only BABA lost money as the stock continued to tumble. We will soon find another underlying to replace BABA (or conduct a different strategy in that single losing portfolio).”
3 Options Strategies for a Flat Market
Ten of our 11 portfolios are ahead of their starting investment, some dramatically ahead. The only losing portfolio is based on Alibaba (BABA) – it was a bet on the Chinese market and the stock is down over 30% since we started the portfolio at the beginning of this year (our loss is much greater). The best portfolio for 2015 is up 55% so far and will make exactly 91% if the three underlyings (AAPL, SPY, and GOOG) remain where they presently are (or move higher). GOOG could fall by $150 and that spread would still make 100% for the year.
Another portfolio is up 44% for 2015 and is guaranteed to make 52% for the year even if the underlying (SVXY) falls by 50% between now and the end of the year. A portfolio based on Costco (COST) was started 25 months ago and is ahead more than 100% while the stock rose 23% – our portfolio outperformed the stock by better than 4 times. This is a typical ratio – portfolios based on Nike (NKE) and Starbucks (SBUX) have performed similarly.
We are proud of our portfolio performance and hope you will consider taking a look at how they are set up and perform in the future.
3 Options Strategies for a Flat Market
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford
If you think the market will be flat for the next month, there are several options strategies you might employ. In each of the following three strategies, I will show how you could invest $1000 and what the risk/reward ratio would be with each strategy. As a proxy for “the market,” we will use SPY as the underlying (this is the tracking stock for the S&P 500 index). Today, SPY is trading at $210 and we will be trading options that expire in just about a month (30 days from when I wrote this).
Strategy #1 – Calendar Spread. With SPY trading at $210, we will buy calls which expire on the third Friday in October and we will sell calls which expire in 30 days (on September 4, 2015). Both options will be at the 210 strike. We will have to spend $156 per spread (plus $2.50 commissions at the thinkorswim rate for Terry’s Tips subscribers). We will be able to buy 6 spreads for our $1000 budget. The total investment will be $951. Here is what the risk profile graph looks like when the short options expire on September 4th:
- SPY Calendar Spread Risk Profile Graph August 2015
On these graphs, the column under P/L Day shows the gain (or loss) when the short options expire at the stock price in the left-hand column. You can see that if you are absolutely right and the market is absolutely flat ($210), you will double your money in 30 days. The 210 calls you sold will expire worthless (or nearly so) and you will own October 210 calls which will be worth about $325 each since they have 5 weeks of remaining life.
The stock can fluctuate by $4 in either direction and you will make a profit of some sort. However, if it fluctuates by much more than $4 you will incur a loss. One interesting thing about calendar spreads (in contrast to the other 2 strategies we discuss below) is that no matter how much the stock deviates in either direction, you will never lose absolutely all of your investment. Since your long positions have an additional 35 days of life, you will always have some value over and above the options you have. That is one of the important reasons that I prefer calendar spreads to the other strategies.
Strategy #2 – Butterfly Spread: A typical butterfly spread in involves selling 2 options at the strike where you expect the stock to end up when the options expire (either puts or calls will do – the strike price is the important thing) and buying one option an equidistant number of strikes above and below the strike price of the 2 options you sold. You make these trades all at the same time as part of a butterfly spread.
You can toy around with different strike prices to create a risk profile graph which will provide you with a break-even range which you will be comfortable with. In order to keep the 3 spread strategies similar, I set up strikes which would yield a break-even range which extended about $4 above and below the $210 current strike. This ended up involving selling 2 Sept-1 2015 calls at the 210 strike, and buying a call in the same series at the 202.5 strike and the 217.5 strike. The cost per spread would be $319 plus $5 commission per spread, or $324 per spread. We could buy 3 butterfly spreads with our $1000 budget, shelling out $972.
Here is the risk profile graph for that butterfly spread when all the options expire on September 4, 2015:
- SPY Butterfly Spread Risk Profile Graph August 2015
You can see that the total gain if the stock ends up precisely at the $210 price is even greater ($1287) than it is with the butterfly spread above ($1038). However, if the stock moves either higher or lower by $8, you will lose 100% of your investment. That’s a pretty scary alternative, but this is a strategy that does best when the market is flat, and you would only buy a butterfly spread if you had a strong feeling of where you think the price of the underlying stock will be on the day when all the options expire.
Strategy #3 – Short Iron Condor Spread. This spread is a little more complicated (and is explained more fully in my White Paper). It involves buying (and selling) both puts and calls all in the same expiration series (as above, that series will be the Sept1-15 options expiring on September 4, 2015). In order to create a risk profile graph which showed a break-even range which extended $4 in both directions from $210, we bought calls at the 214 strike, sold calls at the 217 strike and bought puts at the 203 strike while selling puts at the 206 strike. A short iron condor spread is sold at a credit (you collect money by selling it). In this case, each spread would collect $121 less $5 commission, or $116. Since there is a $3 difference between each of the strikes, it is possible to lose $300 per spread if the stock ends up higher than $217 or lower than $203. We can’t lose the entire $300, however, because we collected $116 per spread at the outset. The broker will put a hold on $300 per spread (it’s called a maintenance requirement and does not accrue interest like a margin loan does), less the $116 we collected. That works out to a total net investment of $184 per spread (which is the maximum loss we could possibly incur). With our $1000 budget, you could sell 5 spreads, risking $920.
Here is the risk profile graph for this short iron condor spread:
- SPY Short Iron Condor Spread Risk Profile Graph August 2015
You can see the total potential gain for the short iron condor spread is about half what it was for either of the earlier spreads, but it has the wonderful feature of coming your way at any possible ending stock price between $206 and $214. Both the calendar spread and the butterfly spread required the stock to be extremely near $210 to make the maximum gain, and the potential gains dropped quickly as the stock moved in any direction from that single important stock price. The short iron condor spread has a lower maximum gain but it comes your way over a much larger range of possible ending stock prices.
Another advantage of the short iron condor is that if the stock ends up at any price in the profit range, all the options expire worthless, and you don’t have to execute a trade to close out the positions. Both the other strategies require closing trades.
This is clearly not a complete discussion of these option strategies. Instead, it is just a graphic display of the risk/reward possibilities when you expect a flat market. Maybe this short report will pique your interest so that you will consider subscribing to our service where I think you will get a thorough understanding of these, and other, options strategies that might generate far greater returns than conventional investments can offer.