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Archive for February, 2016

A $40 Option Bet on Nike (Including Commissions)

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

I would like to tell you about an option trade I made today and share my thinking process that went into it. I figure it has an extremely low risk of losing and it could easily double or triple your investment (after paying the commissions). The investment amount per contract is quite low and it is mathematically impossible to lose all of your bet. You will only have to wait two or three weeks to learn the outcome. It involves one of my favorite stocks, Nike (NKE).


A $40 Option Bet on Nike (Including Commissions)

First, an update on my last two trade recommendations. Two weeks ago, I suggested a trade that would make 66% after commissions if Facebook (FB) closed at any price above $97.50 on March 18, 2016. FB has now recovered and is about $107 and the spread looks like it will be a sure winner. All you have to do is wait out the remaining 3 weeks (no closing trade will be necessary as long as the stock is at any price above $97.50)

Six days ago I suggested a similar trade on Costco (COST) when it was trading at $147.20. This one would make 40% after commissions if COST finishes at any price above $145 in 3 weeks from tomorrow (March 18th). It is now trading near $154. This one also looks like a sure winner.

My suggestion today is quite a bit different from the last two trades because this time around, you can’t determine in advance what the maximum gain might be. This spread also requires you to make a closing trade at some point in the next 2 or 3 weeks rather than just letting the options expire worthless.

Today while I was perusing the market as I do every day, most stocks as well as the Dow and S&P 500 were down slightly on the day, but I noticed that NKE had gained over $.50. For some reason, it was doing better than most of the other companies I watch. Usually when that happens, when the market turns around and edges higher, NKE can be expected to do even better.

NKE announces earnings after the close on Thursday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.
Usually, in the weeks running up to an earnings announcement, and particularly in the few days before the announcement, option prices (both puts and calls) get quite expensive as the market anticipates the possibility of a big stock price move once the numbers are made public. As anyone who plays the market knows, big price moves quite often occur right after the announcement.

Option prices are considered high or low depending on their Implied Volatility (IV). When greater volatility (such as directly after an earnings announcement) is expected in the stock, IV for the options often soars, especially for the weekly series which expires just after the announcement. When I checked IV for the NKE Mar-16 options (which expire on Friday, the day after the announcement), I noticed that IV was 29, exactly the same as it was for the Mar2-16 and Mar4-16 series which expire in the weeks before and after the Mar-16 series. This is a most unusual situation. Surely, sometime in the next two weeks, IV for the Mar-16 series will move higher than the other weekly series.

When I placed my trade, NKE was just about $61. I expect that in the next two weeks, it is likely to move higher, both because of today’s unusual strength, and because more than half the time, stocks move higher just before expiration day in anticipation of good news coming along.

I made the following trade (per contract):

Buy To Open 1 NKE Mar-16 63 call (NKE160318C63)
Sell To Open 1 NKE Mar2-16 63 call (NKE160311C63) for a debit of $.33 (buying a calendar)

Each spread cost $33 plus a commission of $2.50, or $35.50 (actually less than the $40 I advertised at the beginning). Thinkorswim charges Terry’s Tips subscribers $1.25 for a single options contract. Many people become subscribers just to get this lower rate – their savings often pay for the entire subscription price. Your broker may charge more for a single option trade and you may have to buy 10 or more contracts to gain a more reasonable average commission rate.

So what am I hoping for? I expect NKE to move higher and my Mar-16 call to move up more than the Mar2-16 call I sold. Most of all, I would like the price of NKE to move up just a bit so that on Friday, March 11, it is trading at just under $63. When you buy a calendar spread, you always hope the stock ends up at exactly the strike price when the short side expires. If the stock is just under $63 on that day, the Mar2-16 call will expire worthless, and I will end up with a Mar-16 63 call with one week of remaining life.

I expect that IV for my long option will move much higher than 29, and that on the prior Friday, that option is quite likely to be much higher than the $35.50 I have invested in each calendar spread. I will probably sell as many of the options I need to in order to get back my entire original investment so I can’t possible lose anything and I still hold a mini lottery ticket.

I will hang on to my remaining long options, hoping that the stock moves even higher in the days leading up to Thursday, and IV continues to grow. I might then sell most of my calls on Thursday and leave a few remaining, hoping for a windfall gain if the stock does manage to move higher after the announcement. Since those options expire on Friday, I will have to sell them on that day (I have no interest in exercising them and putting up all the necessary money to own stock).

So you can see I expect to have some fun with this trade. You might want to do 10 contracts and risk $355 so that you have some flexibility on how you exit the positions. Since your long options have a longer lifespan than the calls you sold, they will always have at least some additional value so that you could never lose all of your investment.

If the stock is above $63 on March 11 when the Mar2-16 calls expire, you would either sell the calendar spread or buy back the expiring calls, thus increasing your investment and risk, or do some combination of the two.


Make 40% in One Month With This Costco Trade

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Make 40% in One Month With This Costco Trade

Two weeks ago, LinkedIn (LNKD) issued poor guidance while at the same time announced higher than expected earnings. Investors clobbered the stock, focusing on the guidance rather than the earnings. At the same time, as is often the case, another company in the same industry, Facebook (FB) was also traded down. With FB falling to $98, I reported to you on a trade that would make 66% after commissions if the company closed at any price above $97.50 on March 18, 2016. FB has now recovered and is well over $104 and this spread looks like it will be a winner. All we have to do is wait out the remaining 4 weeks (no closing trade will be necessary as long as the stock is at any price above $97.50).

Today, a similar thing took place. Walmart (WMT) announced earnings which narrowly beat estimates, but missed top line revenue by a bit. However, they projected that next quarterly earnings (starting now) would be flat. This announcement was a big disappointment because they had earlier projected growth of 3% – 4%. The stock fell 4.5% on that news.

Costco (COST) is also a retailer, and many investors believe that as Walmart goes, so will Costco. They sold COST down on WMT’s news by the same percentage, 4.5%. This how the lemmings do it, time and time again.

That seemed to be an over-reaction to me. COST is a much different company than WMT. COST is adding on new stores every month while WMT is in the process of closing 200 stores, for example. WMT has a much greater international exposure than COST, and the strong dollar is hurting them far more.

I expect cooler heads will soon prevail and COST will recover. Today, with COST trading at $147.20, I made a bet that 4 weeks from now, COST will be at least $145. If it is, I will make 40% after commissions on this spread trade. The stock can fall by $2.20 by that time and I will still make 40%.

Here is what I did for each contract:

Buy to Open 1 COST Mar-16 140 put (COST160318P140)
Sell to Open 1 COST Mar-16 145 put (COST160318P145) for a credit of $1.45 (selling a vertical)

This is called selling a bull put credit spread. When the trade is made, your broker will deposit the proceeds ($145) in your account (less the commission of $2.50 which Terry’s Tips subscribers pay at thinkorswim), or a net of $142.50). The broker will make a maintenance requirement of $500 (the difference between the two strike prices). There is no interest on this requirement (like a margin loan), but it just means that $500 in your account can’t be used to buy other stock or options.

Since you received $142.50 when you sold the spread, your net investment is $357.50 (the difference between $500 and $142.50). This is your maximum loss if COST were to end up at any price lower than $140 when the puts expire. The break-even price is $143.57. Any ending price above this will be profitable and any ending price below this will result in a loss. (If the stock ends up at any price between $140 and $145, you will have to repurchase the 145 put that you originally sold, and the 140 put you bought will expire worthless.)

Since I expect the stock will recover, I don’t expect to incur a loss. It is comforting to know that the stock can fall by $2.20 and I will still make my 40%.

If you wanted to be more aggressive and bet the stock will move higher, back above the $150 where it was before today’s sell-off, you could buy March puts at the 145 strike and sell them at the 150 strike. You could collect at least $2.00 for that spread, and you would gain 65% if COST ended up above $150. Higher risk and higher reward. The stock needs to move a bit higher for you to make the maximum gain. I feel more comfortable knowing it can fall a little and still give me a seriously nice gain for a single month.

By the way, these trades can be made in an IRA (if you have a broker like thinkorswim which allows options spread trading in an IRA).

If you make either of these trades, please be sure you do it with money you can truly afford to lose. Options are leveraged instruments and often have high-percentage gains and losses. With spreads like the above, at least you know precisely what the maximum loss could be. You can’t lose more than you risk.

If the market knocks you down, try laughing instead of crying – Some Market Definitions

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

First, an update on the Facebook (FB) trade I told you about a week ago – it was trading about $98 and the spread I suggested would make 66% if the stock was any higher than $97.50 in one month. FB is now at almost $105 and that is looking like a sure winner. It’s a good feeling to make 66% while lots of people are anguishing over recent losses. Now for a few chuckles today…


If the market knocks you down, try laughing instead of crying –  Some Market Definitions:

CEO –Chief Embezzlement Officer.

CFO– Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET — A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

BEAR MARKET — A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewellery, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING — The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO — The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

STANDARD & POOR — Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST — Idiot who just downgraded your stock.

STOCK SPLIT — When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER — A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION — The day after you buy stocks.

OUT OF THE MONEY — When your checking account’s overdraft hits bottom.

CASH FLOW– The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

YAHOO — What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

WINDOWS — What you jump out of when you’re the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR — Past year investor who’s now locked up in a nuthouse.

PROFIT — An archaic word no longer in use.


An Option Trade for Anyone Who Likes Facebook (FB)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The market seems to be crashing because of a fear of a worldwide economic slowdown, and last week a disappointing guidance from LinkedIn (LNKD) spooked many social media stocks like Facebook (FB). I think that FB was sold down far more than it should have and that it will recover soon. Today I made a trade which will make 66% on my investment (after commissions) in 25 days even if FB doesn’t gain a penny from here. I would like to share the details of this option trade with you today.


An Option Trade for Anyone Who Likes Facebook (FB)

Less than two weeks ago, Facebook had a blow-out quarter that exceeded estimates by a large margin, both on the top and bottom lines. Ad revenue from Instagram topped expectations all around, and the future looks even better, especially in this election year when candidates are finding that social media is one of the best ways to reach voters in local elections (Ted Cruz reportedly spend $10k a day on Instagram in Iowa and won the election).

After the announcement, FB soared 15% and hit a high north of $117 a couple of days later. And then LNKD announced, and the entire gain disappeared. As I write this on Monday, the stock is back down to $98.

For Q4 2015, LinkedIn actually had a decent quarter. Revenues grew by 34% over the prior-year period and beat analyst estimates by more than $4.3 million. On the bottom line, non-GAAP EPS of $0.94 smashed estimates for $0.78. Unfortunately, investors like to be more forward looking, and guidance was down – the company expects 2016 revenue of $3.6B-3.65B and EPS of $3.05-3.20, below a consensus of $3.91B and $3.67.

This guidance implies 2016 revenue growth of just 20-22%, a dramatic slowdown from the 35% seen in 2015. One analyst reported, “The problem for LNKD is that the name is heavily compared to the social media giant Facebook (FB). Fair or not, the most recent results show a large divide between the success of these firms. In another strong quarter, FB reported a GAAP profit of $2.56 billion on nearly $6 billion in revenues. For the entire year in 2015, LinkedIn didn’t even hit $3 billion in revenues and lost more than $164 million.”

FB has clearly found a way to monetize its traffic while LNKD has not, and FB was
unfairly penalized pretty much because of tepid guidance provided by a not-so-popular alternative social media company.

So what do you do if you’re an options nut and you think FB shouldn’t be trading this low? My favorite strategy is to sell what is called a vertical put credit spread. You choose a strike price which is at a number where you think the minimum price will be at some time in the future and you sell a put option at that strike while you buy a lower-strike put option in the same series. The higher-strike put option sells for more than you pay for the lower-strike put, and cash is deposited in your account when you make the trade. If you are right, both puts expire worthless and you get to keep the money that you collected when you originally placed the trade.

Here is what I did today while FB was trading just about $98:

Buy to Open 1 FB Mar-16 95 put (FB160318P95)
Sell to Open 1 FB Mar-16 97.5 put (FB160318P97.5) for $1.02 (selling a vertical)

For each contract I sold, $102 was placed in my account (less $2.50 for the commission at the cost Terry’s Tips subscribers pay at thinkorswim), for a net of $99.50. The broker will place a maintenance requirement on my account of $250 for each contract. This is not a margin loan and no interest is charged, but I can’t use that amount to buy other options or stock. Since I received $99.50 from the sale, the most I could actually lose is $150.50, and that is all that is tied up from the $250 maintenance requirement.

If FB closes at any price above $97.50 on March 18, both puts will expire worthless and I will get to keep the $99.50 I received for each contract. There will be no trade necessary and no commission to pay. That works out to a gain of 66% for the month.

If the stock falls from $98 to $97 on that date, I would have to buy back the 97.5 put for $50, so my gain would be just less than $50. The break-even price would be about $96.50 below which I would lose money up to the $150.50 maximum. In order to lose the maximum amount, FB would have to close at or below $95.

You might choose a further-out date, say April, July, or September instead of March for this trade to give the stock a little more time to move higher. You could probably get more than $1.02 for those months, but you would have to wait that much longer to be able to collect your money.

Another way to play this spread would be to select higher strike prices and hope that FB doesn’t just stay flat but moves higher. If you bought puts at the 97.5 strike and sold puts at the 100 strike, you could collect about $1.20 for the spread. If the stock ended up above $100, you would make a little less than $120 per spread on a risk of $130, or about 90%. This is a much more bullish bet because the stock has to move higher for you to collect the maximum gain. I personally think it should move this high, but I feel more comfortable betting that it at least doesn’t fall any more from here.


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