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Posts Tagged ‘Earnings Option Strategy’

Can Nvidia (NVDA) Continue Its Earnings-driven momentum?

Monday, May 28th, 2018

This week we are looking at another of the Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 List companies.  We use this list in one of our options portfolios to spot outperforming stocks and place option spreads that take advantage of the momentum.

The real-life Terry’s Tips portfolio that trades these spreads has gained 97% so far in 2018, and has 4 spreads in place that will increase the gain to 123% in 3 weeks if the underlying stock prices hold their current prices or go up by any amount. And the year will not be half over by then.  Clearly, we have some happy campers who subscribe to our newsletter service, especially those who are having trades placed in their account through the Auto-Trade service offered by thinkorswim.


Can Nvidia (NVDA) Continue Its Earnings-driven momentum?

Several analysts have renewed their bullish NVDA outlook following their recent earnings report.  Here are two of them – Why Nvidia (NVDA) Is a Strong Buy and Nvidia Seen Soaring to Record on Explosive Growth.

NVDA pushed firmly higher following earnings earlier this month, gapping above a horizontal level at $239.  After briefly piercing to a record high, the stock has consolidated lower.  Buyers have stepped in slightly ahead of the horizontal level with the 20-day moving average providing additional support.  This area remains an important zone of support for NVDA.

NVDA Chart May 2018

NVDA Chart May 2018


If you agree there’s further upside ahead for NVDA, consider this trade which is a bet that the stock will continue to advance over the next four weeks, or at least not decline very much.

Buy To Open NVDA 22JUN18 242.5 Puts (NVDA180622P242.5)
Sell To Open NVDA 22JUN18 245 Puts (NVDA180622P245) for a credit of $0.93 (selling a vertical)

This price was $0.02 less than the mid-point of the option spread when NVDA was trading near $249.  Unless the stock rallies quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade will only be $2.50 per spread (the rate charged by thinkorswim for Terry’s Tips’ subscribers).  Each contract would then yield $90.50 and your broker would charge a $250 maintenance fee, making your investment $159.50 ($250 – $90.50).  If NVDA closes at any price above $242.5 on June 22, both options would expire worthless, and your return on the spread would be 68% (834% annualized).

Changes to Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) Top 50 This Week:

IBD Underlying Updates May 25, 2018

IBD Underlying Updates May 25, 2018

We have found that the Investor’s Business Daily Top 50 List has been a reliable source of stocks that are likely to move higher in the short run.  Recent additions to the list might be particularly good choices for this strategy, and deletions might be good indicators for exiting a position that you might already have on that stock.

As with all investments, you should only make option trades with money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading,


Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy Update #5 – Mastercard (MA)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

When using the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy, one of the things we like to find is a stock about to announce earnings where the options have priced in a post-announcement price fluctuation which is greater than the historical average of the post-announcement changes for that company.

Our goal is to create two diagonal spreads at a credit (or slight debit) which allow for a profit to be made if the post-announcement fluctuation is within the historical average amount.  In the past few weeks, we have placed spreads that met these criteria on several companies, including Carmax (KMX), TD Ameritrade (AMTD), and Red Hat (RHT), and these plays were all profitable, with returns from 30% to over 70% including commissions in a single week.

This week, we are looking forward to taking a position in Mastercard (MA) which announces earnings before the market opens on May 2.  The 4May18 options have priced a 3.8% post-announcement price change while the average change for the last eight quarters has been only 1.1% (about $2 when the stock is trading about $175).

Here are the trades we made this week using the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy that is outlined here in case you missed it earlier. Here are the spreads we will place just prior to May 2 (prices as they exist now):

Buy To Open MA 1Jun18 170 puts (MA180601P170)
Sell To Open MA 4May18 175 puts (MA180504P175) for a credit of $.25 (buying a diagonal)

Buy To Open MA 1Jun18 182.5 calls (MA180601C182.5)
Sell To Open MA 4May18 177.5 calls (MA180504C177.5) for a credit of $.17 (buying a diagonal)

After paying a commission of $2.50 per spread at the commission rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim, each pair of spreads will incur a maintenance requirement of $500 less the $42 plus the $5 commission, making it an investment of $463 (the maximum theoretical loss).  One of the spreads is guaranteed to make a gain no matter what the stock might do after the announcement.

Here is the risk profile graph for the above spreads, assuming that implied volatility (IV) of the 1Jun18 option series will fall by 3, from 28 to 25 after the announcement.  This compares to the current IV of the 4May18 series which carries an IV of 35.

MA Risk Profile Graph April 2018

MA Risk Profile Graph April 2018

The break-even range for these positions goes from about $170 to $183.  If the price ends up at any price within this range, there should be a profit.  Historically, the stock has fluctuated by an average of about $2, which would place it between $173 and $177.

If the historical fluctuation continues, these positions could deliver 60% or more on investment for a single week of waiting it out.

If the stock fluctuates more than we expect (and finishes outside of the break-even range), we would roll over the expiring options before they expire on May 4 and sell new weekly out-of-the-money options for the 11May18 series, and continue doing so until we took in sufficient new premium to make the entire experience a profitable one.  We would have five weekly opportunities to accomplish this.  Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but weekly fluctuations tend to be much more moderate once the earnings week has passed, and that is the kind of market where this kind of diagonal or calendar spreads do their best.

If the stock fluctuates more than $2.50 from the $166.36 price when we placed the spreads, you might want to adjust the strike prices by $2.50 in the same direction.

Final note: MA has been a good underlying for Terry’s Tips.  In 2017, one of our actual portfolios traded MA options, and the portfolio gained 152% for the year. You can get a full (and free) report on how this worked out by requesting it below.

Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy Update #3

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

This is our third suggestion on how to carry out the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy on companies which are about to announce earnings. The first two suggestions (RHT and KMX) resulted in 40% gains in a single week when the stock fluctuated only moderately after the announcement.  One of these times, the stock is likely to fluctuate more than we would like, and we will be able to put the second part of the strategy to work.  This will involve selling out-of-the-money weekly puts and calls over the next few weeks until the initial trade turns into a net gain.

This week’s choice is TDAmeritrade (AMTD) which announces before the market opens on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.  Implied volatility (IV) of the 27Apr18 options has not escalated at this point – it is 32.5, barely higher than a six-week-out 25May18 series (31).  We expect IV for the 27Apr18 series to move much higher over the next 10 days, and we hope to take advantage of higher option prices as well as a possibly higher stock price before the announcement date.

Here are the trades we made this week.  Note that the diagonals were set up at a small debit rather than the credit that we seek with this strategy, but when we roll over the 20Apr17 puts and calls to the next weekly series, we expect to create solid credits, especially if IV for those options moves higher as we expect.

BTO 1 AMTD 25May18 57 put (AMTD180525P57)
STO 1 AMTD 20Apr18 60 put (AMTD180420P60) for a debit of $.11  (buying a diagonal)

BTO 1 AMTD 25May18 64 call (AMTD180525C64)
STO 1 AMTD 20Apr18 61 call (AMTD18042061) for a debit of $.28  (buying a diagonal)

Once we roll over these options to the 27Apr17, we expect our net investment will be about $250 per set of spreads ($300 maintenance requirement less $50 net credit).  Here is the risk profile graph for those spreads after the roll has been made:

AMAT Risk Profile Graph April 2018

AMAT Risk Profile Graph April 2018

For the past 8 quarters, the post-announcement fluctuation has averaged 1.75%.  This graph shows that a profit should result if the stock fluctuates less than 5% in either direction.  The potential gains may not appear to be significant, but there seems to be a fair chance to make 20% on the investment for a single week of waiting.

A Carmax Spread Trade to Put the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy to Work

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

A Carmax Spread Trade to Put the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy to Work:

Carmax (KMX) announces earnings before the market opens on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.  If anyone would like to place the spread trade that we suggest below, the order must be placed no later than the market close on Tuesday, April 3rd.

Here are the numbers we compiled for KMX for the last eight quarters:

The prices in green are lower than the last pre-announcement price, suggesting that expectations are rising.  Most companies we tested show much many more green numbers than KNX.  Most of the time, KMX showed a high correlation between the actual results and what the stock price did after the announcement (while one might expect this would be universally true, our back-testing and personal experience has proved otherwise).  While the direction of the change for KMX was highly consistent (beating estimates resulted in a higher stock price, and vice versa), the magnitude of the change was not consistent.

In the June 2017 announcement, earnings were a whopping 23% above estimates, but the stock only gained 4% after they became public. In the next quarter, September 2017, earnings exceeded estimates by only 3% while the stock gained 10%.

KMX does not seem consistently beat or fall behind estimates.  This is a different pattern than we see in many companies who low-ball guidance, and then exceed estimates by a large amount quarter after quarter.  KMX does not seem to do this.

The average post-announcement stock price change for KMX was 4.9%.  This is less than the current option prices which have priced in a likely 5.7% change.  Someone who likes the stock might take advantage of the higher option prices and write an out-of-the-money call against their stock, and collect some nice premium in addition to some price appreciation if the stock manages to move higher.

We do not have a strong feeling concerning which way we feel the stock is headed after next week’s announcement other than that we think it will probably go in the same direction as the actual results compared to estimates. Since there is no clear pattern of how well the company does compared to estimates, this leaves us with a neutral position on the direction the stock might take after the announcement.

We have developed what we call the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy as our preferred options play prior to announcements.

Based on our neutral outlook on KMX, these are the spreads we placed for the upcoming announcement:

Buy to Open KMX 11May18 58 puts (KMX180511P58)
Sell to Open KMX 06Apr18 61 puts (KMX180406P61) for a credit of $.08  (buying a diagonal)

Buy to Open KMX 11May18 67 calls (KMX180511C67)
Sell to Open KMX 06Apr18 64 calls (KMX180406C64) for a credit of $.08 (buying a diagonal)

The net maintenance requirement (investment) on these spreads is $294 per pair ($300 – $16 plus $10 commission), and we have a net credit of $6 per pair in the account.

This is what the risk profile graph looks like after the market close on April 6, assuming that implied volatility (IV) of the May options falls by 3, from the current 33 to 30 (which is consistent with prior earnings week IV drops for 5-week-out options).

With KMX currently trading just below $62, the graph shows that we should end up with a gain if the stock ends up at any price between $59 and $67 on Friday, April 6th.  The sweet spot of the graph shows an approximate gain of $200 (about 66%) if the price ends up between $61 and $64.

If the stock fluctuates by its average post-announcement amount (4.9%), it would end up somewhere between about $59 and $65. In six of the last eight quarters, the fluctuation would have landed somewhere inside of this range, and in two of the quarters, it would not have.

To summarize our thinking, based on the level of IV for the options prior to the announcement (67) compared to IV for further-out options (33), investors do not get unduly excited about earnings announcements from KMX. The stock generally fluctuates after the announcement in the same direction as the results compared to estimates.  The company does not show a pattern of either consistently beating or falling behind estimates.  We believe this pattern is a perfect candidate for the options play outlined above which is essentially a neutral outlook, neither particularly bullish or bearish, but does best if the stock only fluctuates moderately after the announcement.

Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Summary of Strategy: Based on 17 years of studying price changes following an earnings announcement, Terry’s Tips has designed a strategy  which has a high probability of successfully navigating the extreme volatility that usually accompanies quarterly earnings reports.  The strategy is based on the observation that there is very little correlation between the actual numbers reported and what the stock does after the announcement.  Stock price fluctuations tend to be larger in announcement weeks and smaller in subsequent weeks.  That is just about all we can say about most earnings events, except that we have identified one indicator that appears an average of only once a year for most companies, and when this indicator is triggered, the stock has a much higher probability of going up than down.

The Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy only applies to companies which have weekly options. Two diagonal spreads are bought, one with puts and one with calls.  The long side is in the furthest out weekly series (usually six weeks out) and the short side is the weekly series that expires just after the earnings announcement.  The long sides are well out of the money and the short sides are at strikes much nearer to the current stock price, and each spread is bought at a credit. Since the Implied Volatility (IV) of the short-term options is considerably higher than that of the longer-term options at earnings time, a credit can be established with a much smaller range between the strikes than is available when earnings is not a factor.

There is only one maintenance requirement for the two spreads because only one of the spreads can lose money, and the other one has a guaranteed profit of some sort.  The strike prices of the short options set up with a range of possible stock prices within which the investor hopes the stock ends up after the announcement.  If it does, both short-term options will expire worthless and the investor will bank both the original credit from the spreads and selling the residual long options. When this occurs, there is an immediate gain averaging between 30% and 50% of the initial net maintenance requirement.

As an alternative to cashing in the positions and taking a profit when there is a moderate stock price change after the announcement, near-the-money options could be sold in the next weekly series for additional premium to take advantage of the propensity of stock price fluctuations to be much smaller in the weeks following the earnings week fireworks.

The net effect of the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy is to use the higher option prices that exist during earnings week to inexpensively set up the 10K Strategy of calendar and diagonal spreads which is one of the foundation strategies of the Terry’s Tips program.  This strategy does best when the underlying stock does not fluctuate very much, and this is exactly what typically happens for most companies in the few weeks after quarterly earnings are announced.

If the stock fluctuates more than the investor wishes after the announcement, a potential short-term loss is likely, but there are still five remaining weekly series of options that could be sold against the long positions to recover the announcement-week loss.  The strike price of one of the long options (the one that the stock price moved away from) may be changed by buying a vertical spread so that the original maintenance requirement is not increased when slightly out-of-the-money options are sold against them in the next weekly series.  The in-the-money short-term option will be bought back and a slightly out-of-the-money option sold in the next weekly series.  The net changes at the end of expiration week should result in a net credit which will reduce the maximum possible loss (the original net maintenance requirement).

This strategy is designed to make a profit in the earnings week whenever the stock fluctuates by an amount which is about 20% less than the fluctuation baked into the earnings week options.  In those weeks when the fluctuation exceeds the number priced into the option prices, there will be up to five weeks for selling new premium to recover the losses caused by the excessive fluctuation.  Since these weeks will probably have only moderate weekly price changes, it should be possible to collect significant amounts of premium decay from the near-to-the-money short puts and calls each week.

A Look Back: About five years ago, we did a lot of work on a model which was designed to successfully predict the direction of a stock price change after an earnings announcement. The model was primarily based on the assumption that investor expectations played a greater role in how the stock moved after earnings than the actual results themselves. If expectations were too high, the stock would fall regardless of how good those results might be. We tried to get a handle on how high expectations were, based on several variables, including whisper numbers published by and how much the stock price rose or fell in the week or two before the announcement.

At one time, we successfully predicted the direction of the post-earnings change on 8 consecutive earnings plays (usually selling vertical credit spreads which we hoped would expire worthless), but then we ended up being wrong on a couple of consecutive ones, and we discontinued these plays. It became apparent that the whisper numbers we were dealing with were not particularly reliable. It was not clear how these numbers were compiled by Of course, they said it was a proprietary algorithm, but they admitted to polling selected analysts while inviting the public to cast votes on their website. The composite estimates of analysts is supposed to be what defines expectations, so we wonder about these analysts who were asked to reveal their “true” estimates. If their opinions were indeed different, why wouldn’t they be telling their clients what they really believed rather than favoring a private company with their innermost thoughts. And asking individual investors what they were expecting, if they actually counted those votes, should be a contrary variable instead, since individual investors are notoriously wrong most of the time. Bottom line, we did not have confidence in those whisper numbers.

Now we want to try again, with a couple of changes. Instead of relying on whisper numbers, we will check what the stock price does in the days leading up to the announcement as an indication of the level of expectations, and also look at the historical record of earnings announcements for each company to see if we can identify any consistent patterns. We may also take a look at recent hedge fund or insider trading activity if there is any significant action that might help predict the direction of the post-announcement price change.

Equally important, we will use a different options strategy than we applied in the past. This time around, we will use diagonal spreads which we sell at a credit (or extremely low debit in some instances). The short side will be in the weekly series that expires on the Friday after the announcement, and the long side will be in the longest-out weekly series (usually six weeks later). We will place both a put and call credit spread, usually in the afternoon of the day before earnings are released. One of the two spreads will be guaranteed to make a profit (both the initial credit and whatever the residual five-week-out out-of-the-money option can be sold for).

The other spread may also be profitable, depending on the strikes that were selected. In the event that the stock moved so much that one of the spreads loses more money than the gaining spread makes, causing the combination of spreads not to be profitable at the end of expiration week, there will be about 5 more weeks that new premium (weeklys) might be sold against the remaining long option, hopefully enough so that a loss will be avoided.

If both spreads are successful, the entire play can begin and end in a single week. If the combination of spreads is not profitable, we will have to spend up to five weeks trying to recover from the too-high post-announcement stock price change by collecting new premium each week. If the strategy works out to be profitable in a single week over half the time (which I believe should be the case), and we can roll out of the others over five weeks or less, it certainly should be a profitable concept.

Case Study – Red Hat (RHT):  Let’s use Red Hat (RHT) as an example. They announced earnings after the close, on Monday, March 26, 2018. We were uncertain about the expectation level, so we gave ourselves a little wiggle room in both directions and sold both 3/30/18 puts and calls which were slightly out of the money. In the afternoon of March 26 when RHT was trading about $153, we made the following trades:

BTO # RHT 04May18 141 puts (RHT180504P141)
STO # RHT 29Mar18 148 puts (RHT180329P148) for a credit of $.11 (buying a diagonal)

BTO # RHT 04May18 162.5 calls (RHT180504C162.5)
STO # RHT 29Mar18 155 calls (RHT180329C155) for a credit of $.13 (buying a diagonal)

If the stock ended up on Thursday (markets would be closed on Good Friday) anywhere between $148 and $155, both these spreads would end up being profitable (both from the credit collected plus the value of selling the residual May 4 options). If either of the short options expired in the money, we would need to buy it back and close out all the positions if a profit could be made, or roll over the in-the-money option to the next week and collect some additional premium in an effort to eventually make a gain over the next five weeks.

The stock ended up at $149.51 which placed it between the 148 and 155 range of our short options, so both of them were about to expire worthless (and were bought back for $.05, with no commissions payable at thinkorswim).  For half our contracts, we sold the long side of these spreads for a total of $3.48.  This yielded a net profit of $357 (including the original credit) per pair of spreads after all commissions on our net maintenance requirement of $781, making it a gain of 46% for the week.  Not bad, but hopefully a whole lot less than we will eventually do on the contracts that we did not sell.

We did not close out our remaining contracts because we wanted to experiment with rolling short options to the next weekly series to take advantage of the expected quiet period for RHT after earnings week.

Near the close on Thursday we bought back both the soon-to-expire puts and calls for $.05 and sold 06Apr18 148 puts for $2.52 and 13Apr18 155 calls for $1.55.  This gave us a net credit if $387 per pair of original spreads and reduced our investment (net maintenance requirement) from $781 to $394.

Here is the risk profile graph for these positions per pair of spreads for the week ending April 6, 2018:

RHT Risk Profile Earnings April 2018

RHT Risk Profile Earnings April 2018

If RHT remains quiet as we expect, we might earn about $200 on our net investment of $394, or almost 40% in one week. Our break-even range for the week extends from a drop of $4 on the downside to a little more than $5 on the upside.  We will update this case study as the weeks go by going forward.


Closing Out Last Week’s Facebook Trades

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

Today I would like to report on the gains I made last Friday on the trades I told you about that I had placed last Monday in advance of Facebook’s (FB) earnings announcement on May 3.  I was fortunate enough for the stock to take a moderate drop after the announcement, and have some thoughts on how I might play the FB  earnings announcement in 3 months.


Closing Out Last Week’s Facebook Trades

A little over a week ago, I passed on a pre-earnings trade I had made on Facebook in advance of their May 3 after-market announcement.  Essentially, I bought calendar spreads (long side 16Jun17 series and short side 05May17 series) at the 150, 152.5 and 155 strikes when FB was trading just under $152.

I was hoping that the stock would barely budge after the announcement.  I was lucky.  It did just that, falling a bit to close out the week at $150.24, about $1.50 lower than it was when I bought the spreads.

Near the close, I was able to buy back all of the expiring options (puts at the 150 strike, calls at the 152.5 and 155 strikes for $.02 or $.03), and sell every long call for a higher price than I had paid for the original spread.

Here are the spreads I made today when FB was trading just under $152:

Buy to Open 2 FB 16Jun17 150 puts (FB170616P150)

Sell to Open 2 FB 05 May17 150 puts (FB170505P150) for a debit of $1.49 (buying a calendar)   Spread closed for $2.19, gaining $140.

Buy to Open 1 FB 16Jun17 150 calls (FB170616C150)

Sell to Open 1 FB 05 May17 152.5 calls (FB170505C152.5) for a debit of $3.03 (buying a diagonal)  Spread closed for $3.75, gaining $72.

Buy to Open 1 FB 16Jun17 155 calls (FB170616C155)

Sell to Open 1 FB 05 May17 152.5 calls (FB170505C152.5) for a debit of $.55 (buying a diagonal)  Spread closed for $1.55, gaining $100.

Buy to Open 2 FB 16Jun17 155 calls (FB170616C155)

Sell to Open 2 FB 05 May17 155 calls (FB170505C155) for a debit of $1.59 (buying a diagonal) Spread closed for $1.62, gaining $6.

These spreads cost me a total of $974 plus $12 in commissions at tastyworks’ ultra-low rate of $1.00 per contract.  Even better, when I closed out these trades on Friday, I did not incur a commission at all (only paid the $.10 per contract clearing fee).

I made a net profit of $318 on an investment of $986, or 32% on an investment that lasted for 5 days. The Terry’s Tips portfolio that trades FB options gained 22% last week, and now has gained 215% for the year (after commissions).  The stock has gained 30% in 2017, but our portfolio has done 7 times that number.

The risk profile graph I published in the last blog assumed that implied volatility (IV) of the June options would fall from 24% to 16%.  I was a little too conservative.  IV fell to 18%, and the spreads performed a little better than the graph had projected.

While this is certainly a nice gain for the week, it only came about because I was lucky enough for the stock not to fluctuate very much.  In the future, I think I might buy more spreads at strikes below the current stock price of FB because the clear pattern around announcement time has been for the company to exceed expectations by a nice margin and the stock falls a small amount on the news.

Happy trading,


Interesting Earnings Play on Facebook

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Facebook (FB) has had a great year so far, gaining just over 30%.  Terry’s Tips has an actual portfolio that trades calendar and diagonal spreads on FB.  This portfolio has gained 157% this year, more than 5 times as much as the stock has gone up.  A big part of this gain came just after the January earnings announcement when the stock dropped a small amount on the news.

FB announces earnings after the close on Wednesday (May 3), and I would like to share some trades I made today in my personal account at my favorite broker, tastyworks.  These trades approximate the current risk profile of the Terry’s Tips’ FB portfolio.


Interesting Earnings Play on Facebook

Terry’s Tips carries out 9 actual portfolios for paying subscribers.  After the first four months of 2017, all 9 portfolios are in the black.  The composite average has gained 34.5% for the year, certainly an outstanding result.  The FB portfolio is by far the greatest gainer.  We know that we cannot expect to continue these extraordinary gains for the entire year, but we are confident that many portfolios will continue producing gains which outperform the market averages.

Implied volatility (IV) of FB options tends to escalate prior to an earnings announcement.  For example, it is about 45% for the 05May17 series that expires this Friday.  This compares to 24% for the 16Jun17 series that expires six weeks later. We will buy the relatively cheap 16Jun17 series and sell the more expensive 05May17 series.

Here are the spreads I made today when FB was trading just under $152:

Buy to Open 2 FB 16Jun17 150 puts (FB170616P150)

Sell to Open 2 FB 05 May17 150 puts (FB170505P150) for a debit of $1.49 (buying a calendar)

Buy to Open 1 FB 16Jun17 150 calls (FB170616C150)

Sell to Open 1 FB 05 May17 152.5 calls (FB170505C152.5) for a debit of $3.03 (buying a diagonal)

Buy to Open 1 FB 16Jun17 155 calls (FB170616C155)

Sell to Open 1 FB 05 May17 152.5 calls (FB170505C152.5) for a debit of $.55 (buying a diagonal)

Buy to Open 2 FB 16Jun17 155 calls (FB170616C155)

Sell to Open 2 FB 05 May17 155 calls (FB170505C155) for a debit of $1.59 (buying a diagonal)

The second and third spreads together essentially create a calendar spread at the 152.5 strike price.  This was necessary because the 16Jun17 series does not offer that strike.

These spreads cost me a total of $974 plus $12 in commissions at tastyworks’ ultra-low rate of $1.00 per contract.  Even better, when I close out these trades, probably on Friday, I will not incur a commission at all (only pay the $.10 per contract clearing fee).

Here is the risk profile graph which shows the expected gains and losses from these trades after the close on Friday, May 5, 2017.  The graph assumes that IV of the June options will fall from 24% to 16%:

FB Risk Profile Graph May 2017

FB Risk Profile Graph May 2017

These spreads will do best if the stock remains flat or moves moderately higher.  If it falls within the range of about $150 to about $155, I should make about 40% for the week.  While we all know that anything can happen after an earnings announcement, if the last announcement is any example, it could be a good week.

One thing I like about these kinds of spreads is that your risk is clearly limited, and you can’t lose your entire investment because the long options will always have a greater value than the options you sold to someone else.

As with all investments, especially with options, you should only use money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading,


Comparing Calendar and Diagonal Spreads in an Earnings Play

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Last week, in one of our Terry’s Tips portfolios, we placed calendar spreads with strikes about $5 above and below the stock price of ULTA which announced earnings after the close on Thursday. We closed out our spreads on Friday and celebrated a gain of 86% after commissions for the 4-day investment. It was a happy day.

This week, this portfolio will be making a similar investment in Broadcom (AVGO) which announces earnings on Thursday, December 8. I would like to tell you a little about these spreads and also answer the question of whether calendar or diagonal spreads might be better investments.


Comparing Calendar and Diagonal Spreads in an Earnings Play

Using last Friday’s closing option prices, below are the risk profile graphs for Broadcom (AVGO) for options that will expire Friday, December 9, the day after earnings are announced. Implied volatility for the 9Dec16 series is 68 compared to 35 for the 13Jan17 series (we selected the 13Jan17 series because IV was 3 less than it was for the 20Jan17 series). The graphs assume that IV for the 13Jan17 series will fall from 35 to 30 after the announcement. We believe that this is a reasonable expectation.

The first graph shows the expected profit and loss at the various prices where the stock might end up after the announcement. Note that the maximum expected gain in both graphs is almost identical and it occurs at any ending price between $160 and $170. The first graph has calendar spreads at the 160 strike (using puts) and the 170 strike (using calls). The cost of placing those spreads would be $2375 at the mid-point of the spread quotes (your actual cost would probably be slightly higher than this, plus commissions). The maximum gain occurs if the stock ends up between $160 and $170 on Friday (it closed at $164.22 last Friday), and if our assumptions about IV are correct, the gain would exceed 50% for the week if it does end up in that range.

AVGO Calendar Spreads December 2016

AVGO Calendar Spreads December 2016

This second graph shows the expected results from placing diagonal spreads in the same two series, buying both puts and calls which are $5 out of the money (i.e., $5 lower than the strike being sold for puts and $5 higher than the strike being sold for calls). These spreads cost far less ($650) but would involve a maintenance requirement of $2500, making the total amount tied up $3150.

We also checked what the situation might be if you bought diagonal spreads where the long side was $5 in the money. Once again, the profit curve was essentially identical, but the cost of the spreads was significantly greater, $4650. Since the profit curve is essentially identical for both the calendar spreads and the diagonal spreads, and the total investment of the calendar spreads is less than it would be for the diagonal spreads, the calendar spreads are clearly the better choice.

AVGO Diagonal Spreads December 2016

AVGO Diagonal Spreads December 2016

AVGO has a long record of exceeding estimates. In fact, it has bested expectations every quarter for the last three years. The stock does not always go higher after the announcement, however, and the average recent change has been 6.5%, or about $7.40. If it moves higher or lower than $7.40 on Friday than where it closed last Friday, the risk profile graph shows that we should make a gain of some sort (if IV of the 13Jan17 options does not fall more than 5).

You can’t lose your entire investment with calendar spreads because your long options have more weeks or months of remaining life, and will always be worth more than the options you sold to someone else. But you can surely lose money if the stock fluctuates too much. Options involve risk and are leveraged investments, and you should only invest money that you can truly afford to lose.

Happy trading.


Option Idea Which Must Be Executed Before Market Closes November 1st

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

Option Idea Which Must Be Executed Before Market Closes November 1st

I am sorry to send you a second email message today, but I need to hurry because it will disappear tomorrow.  It involves Gilead Sciences (GILD)

Gilead (GILD) announces earnings on Tuesday, November 1st after the close.  The post-announcement options are extremely expensive.  Implied Volatility (IV) for the 04Nov16 series is 60 compared to 34 for the 16Dec16 series which expires six weeks later.  The company has fallen 32% from its 52-week high and pays a dividend of 2.5% and has a p/e of only 6.4 which should provide some level of support. Expectations are for lower sales and earnings.  These facts support the idea that a big drop in stock price is unlikely after the announcement.  This trade will make money if the stock is flat or goes up by any amount (a maintenance requirement of $400 per spread, less the amount of the credit, will result):

Buy To Open 1 GILD 16Dec16 70 put (GILD161216P70)

Sell To Open 1 GILD 04Nov16 74 put (GILD161104P74) for a credit of $.25  (buying a diagonal)

We bought 5 contracts of exact spread today in our portfolio that trades on earnings announcements.  It will make a maximum gain if the stock closes on Friday exactly at $74.  Any price higher than that will also result in a profit.  The stock should be able to fall about $2 before any loss should appear on the downside.

This is the risk profile graph for this spread, assuming that IV for the 16Dec16 series falls by 5 after the announcement:

GILD Risk Profile Graph Oct 31 2016

GILD Risk Profile Graph Oct 31 2016

The theoretical risk of this investment is $375 (the $400 maintenance requirement less the $25 received).  However, since we plan to close the spread on Friday and there will still be 6 weeks of remaining life for the 16Dec16 70 put, the actual risk is far less than $375.  That is the amount that you will tie up in your account for this week, however.

You can see that if the stock is flat or moderately higher on Friday, you will make a profit of about $100 on your $475 investment, or about 25%.  Not bad for a week.

If the stock falls by more than $2, the graph indicates that a loss would result.  Since we believe the low valuation and the high dividend rate both provide a solid support level for the stock, we don’t believe the stock will fall by very much, and we feel good about making this investment.

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Happy trading.


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IBM Pre-Announcement Play

Friday, September 30th, 2016

IBM announces earnings on October 17, less than three weeks from now. I would like to share with you a strategy I used today to take advantage of the extremely high option prices which exist for the option series that expires on October 21, four days after the announcement. I feel fairly confident I will eventually make over 100% on one or both of these trades before the long side expires in six months.


IBM Pre-Announcement Play

One of my favorite option strategies is to buy one or more calendar spreads on a company that will be announcing earnings in a few weeks. The option series which expires directly after the announcement experiences an elevated Implied Volatility (IV) relative to all the other option series. A high IV means that those options are relatively expensive compared to all the other options that are trading on that stock.

IV for the post-announcement series soars because of the well-known tendency for stock prices to fluctuate far more than usual once the announcement is made. It may go up if investors are pleased with the company’s earnings, sales, or outlook, or it may tumble because investors were expecting more. While there is some historical evidence that the stock usually moves in the opposite direction that it did in the week or two leading up to the announcement, it is not compelling enough to always bet that way.

IBM has risen about $5 over the last week, but it is trading about equal to where it was two weeks ago, so there is no indication right now as to what might happen after the announcement.

IBM has fluctuated by just under 4% on average over the last few announcement events. That would make an average of $6 either way. I really have no idea which way it might go after this announcement, but it has been hanging out around it/s current level (just under $160) for a while, so I am planning to place my bet around that number

In the week leading up to the announcement, IV for the post-announcement series almost always soars, and the stock often moves higher as well, pushed higher by investors who are expecting good news to be forthcoming. For that reason, I like to buy calendar spreads at a strike slightly above the current price of the stock in hopes that the stock will move toward that strike as we wait for the announcement day. Remember, calendar spreads make the greatest gain when the stock is exactly at the strike price on the day when the short side of the spread expires.

This is the trade I placed today when IBM was at $159 (of course, you may choose any quantity you are comfortable with, but this is what each spread cost me):

Buy To Open 1 IBM 21Apr17 160 call (IBM170421C160)
Sell To Open 1 IBM 21Oct16 160 call (IBM161021C160) for a debit of $4.71 (buying a calendar)
Each spread cost me $471 plus $2.50 (the commission rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim), for a total of $473.50. I sold the 21Oct16 160 call for $354. In order to get all my $473.50 back once October 21st rolls around, I will have 25 opportunities to sell a one-week call (if I wish). Right now, a 160 call with one week of remaining life could be sold for about $.90. If I were to sell one of these weeklies on 6 occasions, I would get my entire investment back and still have 19 more opportunities to sell a weekly call.

Another way of moving forward would to sell new calls with a month of remaining life when the 21Oct16 calls expire. If IBM is around $160 at that time, a one-month call could be sold for about $2.00. It would take three such sales to get all of my initial investment back, and I would have three more opportunities to sell a one-month call with all the proceeds being pure profit.

Before the 21Apr17 calls expire, another earnings announcement will come around (about 3 ½ months from now). If IBM is trading anywhere near $160 at that time, I should be able to sell a 160 call with 3 weeks of remaining life for about $354, just like I sold one today. That alone would get about 75% of my initial investment back.

In any event, over the six-months that I might own the 21Apr17 calls, I will have many chances to sell new calls and hopefully collect much more time premium than I initially shelled out for the calendar spread. There may be times when I have to buy back expiring calls because they are in the money, but I should be able to sell further-out short-term calls at the same strike for a nice credit and whittle down my initial investment.
I also made this trade today:

Buy To Open 1 IBM 21Apr17 160 call (IBM170421C160)
Sell To Open 1 IBM 14Oct16 160 call (IBM161014C160) for a debit of $6.65 (buying a calendar)

This is the same calendar spread as the first one, but the sell side is the 14Oct16 series which expires a week before the announcement date week. If IV for the 21Oct16 series does escalate from its present 25 (as it should), I might be able to sell calls with a week of remaining life for a higher price than is available right now. I might end up with paying less than $473.50 for the original spread which sold the post-announcement 21Oct16 calls.

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