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Another AAPL Spread Idea

Last week I suggested buying a SPY Weekly strangle to take advantage of the unusually low option prices that exist today.  Last Monday, I bought a Mar4-12 141 call and 140 call for $1.09 ($111.50 including commissions).  For the first three days, the stock did not budge beyond the $1.50 in either direction that I needed to make a profit on the trade.  Finally, on Thursday it fell enough so that I could at least break even so I placed an order to sell the strangle for $1.14 which executed, exactly covering my cost after commission.  If the stock had fallen that much earlier in the week, I would have held off selling it in hopes of a nice profit.  But I was happy with a break-even trade in a very quiet week.  I plan to place a similar strangle buy on Monday (today).

You may be bored from hearing about another AAPL trade.  But here is another one this week.  Terry’s Tips carries out two option portfolios that use AAPL as the underlying.  Last week was a quiet week for AAPL.  It went up only 1.8%.  Both of our actual portfolios gained over 23% after commissions for the week.  We don’t think that is boring.  Most investors would be happy with that size gain for two years, not seven days.

One of our AAPL portfolios has been running for just under two years, and has gained just shy of 700% while the stock doubled in value.  So we are partial to this stock.

Today I will discuss an AAPL option play that is similar to one in one of our actual portfolios.

Another AAPL Spread Idea

AAPL option prices are high compared to historical levels.  Since there is an earnings announcement coming late in April, option prices tend to move higher.  The stock also tends to move higher in advance of earnings announcements.  So we set up the following portfolio with a slightly bullish stance. 

To keep it simple, with AAPL trading at $596 where it closed Friday we will buy three calendar spreads.  We will buy the Apr-12 options (which expire April 21, 2012) and sell the same-strike Mar5-12 options which expire on Friday, March 30, 2012. 

We will buy one calendar spread using puts at the 595 strike, and one calendar spread using calls at both the 600 and 605 strikes.  These spreads will cost an average of about $11.25 ($1125 plus a commission of $2.50 which is what thinkorswim charges Terry’s Tips subscribers).  So the total investment will be about $3500, and we set aside another $1200 or so in case we need to add another similar spread this week at a higher or lower strike price (based on which way the stock moves).

This what the risk profile graph shows for the above three calendar spreads:

The P/L Day column in the lower right-hand corner shows the expected gain if the stock remains at $596 or goes up or down by $10 during the week.  You can see that there should be a gain if the stock ends up within a range from about $585 to $612.  If the stock stays about flat or goes up by $10, we could make as much as 25% on our investment in five short days.  If it moves by a much larger amount we could lose money, however.

If AAPL moves about $5 higher or lower before we buy these spreads on Monday, we would raise or lower the strike prices we used by that amount, using puts for spreads at strikes below the stock price and calls for strikes which are higher than the stock price.

If, during the week, the stock moves by $10 in either direction, we would use the cash we set aside to buy another calendar spread using the same option series at either the 620 strike (using calls) if the stock has gone up by $10 or at the 580 strike (using puts) if the stock has fallen by $10.  The additional spread would provide some protection against a loss if the stock continued to move in the same direction.

If you think AAPL is headed higher next week you would start out with spreads at higher strike prices than we have used in our sample, and vice versa.  We take the position that we really don’t know which way it is headed, but we know from experience that the weeks leading up to an earnings announcement are usually up weeks, so we have set up spreads which make about as large a gain if the stock goes up by $10 as they do if the stock remains flat.

Happy trading if you choose to duplicate our positions.  Of course, you should never risk money that you can’t afford to lose.

We have made 3 short videos which explain the 3-week results of our AAPL trading. The original positions were set out in an actual account carried out at Terry’s Tips.  The YouTube link is

The portfolio was updated in the Week 2 video – 

And finally, adjustment trades we made were displayed in this little video –  Be sure to enlarge it to full-screen mode so you can see the numbers. 

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