Bernie Madoff attracted billions of dollars because he said he had a system that would generate gains of 12% a year. For many investors, 12% must seem like a pretty good return. Options investors think differently. They prefer to have at least some of their investment capital in something that could conceivably make a far greater return.Today I would like to discuss an investment I made this week in a demonstration (actual money on the line) portfolio for Terry’s Tips Insiders. It is designed to make about 25% in the next four weeks.
An Oil Play Designed to Make 25% in One Month
One of our favorite underlyings these days is USO, an ETP (Exchange Traded Product) which closely tracks the price of oil. If you have filled your car with gas lately, you know that the price of oil must have been trading lower over the recent past. In fact, it has. A barrel of oil has fallen from about $100 to $50, while USO has dropped from about $40 to about $18.
There are a couple of reasons to believe that the downward trend of USO might continue for a while longer. First, the way this ETP is designed, it suffers from contango (futures prices for further-out months are higher than the spot price of oil). At the current level of contango, if the price of oil remains the same, USO should lose about 21% of its value over the course of a year due to the influence of contango.
Second, some large investment banks (e.g., Citi) have come out and said that the price of oil is likely to fall in half once again before the current glut is eliminated and oil might start recovering in the third quarter.
With these two reasons suggesting that oil (and USO) might be headed lower, at least for the next month or so, we looked back at every calendar monthly change in USO for the recent past, and we learned that in the last 25 months, on only two occasions did USO fall by more than 15% in a single month, and only once did it rise by more than 5.6%.
If this historical pattern continues for the next month, the portfolio we set up has an 88% chance of making a gain, and the average gain over most of the possible stock prices is over 25%.
Here are the calendar spreads we placed in a portfolio that could be set up for no more than $2900 at today’s prices with USO trading about $18.45:
Buy to Open 8 USO Jan-16 16 puts (USO160115P16)
Sell to Open 8 USO Mar4-15 16 puts (USO150327P16) for a debit of $1.26 (buying a calendar)
Buy to Open 8 USO Jan-16 17 puts (USO160115P17)
Sell to Open 8 USO Mar4-15 17 puts (USO150327P17) for a debit of $1.42 (buying a calendar)
Buy to Open 4 USO Jan-16 18 puts (USO160115P18)
Sell to Open 4 USO Mar4-15 18 puts (USO150327P18) for a debit of $1.58 (buying a calendar)
Here is the risk profile graph for these spreads for March 27th when the short puts expire:
- USO Risk Profile Graph March 2015
The vertical red lines on the graph are set at -15% on the downside and +5% on the upside, and roughly indicate the break-even range for the positions. Over the past 25 months, USO has fluctuated inside this range in 22 of the 25 months. You can eyeball the potential gain and see that across a very large portion of the possible prices within this range, the indicated gain is close to $1000, or about 33% on your investment.
We like our chances with these positions. It seems like a much higher chance of making double what Mr. Madoff was promising, and in only one month rather than a full year. Option investors think differently than stock buyers. I will report back on how well we do.