This message is coming out a day early because the underlying stock we have been trading options on has fallen quite a bit once again, and the put we sold to someone else is in danger of being exercised, so we will trade a day earlier than usual to avoid that possibility.
I hope you find this ongoing demonstration of a simple options strategy designed to earn 3% a week to be a simple way to learn a whole lot about trading options.
How to Avoid an Option Assignment
Owning options is a little more complicated than owning stock. When an expiration date of options you have sold to someone else approaches, you need to compare the stock price to the strike price of the option you sold. If that option is in the money (i.e., if it is put, the stock is trading at a lower price than the strike price, and if it is a call, the stock is trading at a higher price than the strike price), in order to avoid an exercise, you will need to buy back that option. Usually, you make that trade as part of a spread order when you are selling another option which has a longer life span.
If the new option you are selling is at the same strike price as the option you are buying back, it is called a calendar spread (also called a time spread), and if the strike prices are different, it is called a diagonal spread.
Usually, the owner of any expiring put or call is better off selling their option in the market rather than exercising the option. The reason is that there is almost always some remaining premium over and above the intrinsic value of the option, and you can almost always do better selling the option rather than exercising your option. Sometimes, however, on the day or so before an option expires, when the time premium becomes very small (especially for in-the-money options), the bid price may not be great enough for the owner to sell the option on the market and still get the intrinsic value that he could get through exercising.
To avoid that from happening to you when you are short the option, all you need to do is buy it back before it expires, and no harm will be done. You won’t lose much money even if an exercise takes place, but sometimes commissions are a little greater when there is an exercise. Not much to worry about, however.
SVXY fell to the $74 level this week after trading about $78 last week. In our actual demonstration portfolio we had sold an Oct1-14 81 put (using our Jan-15 90 put as security). When you are short an option (either a put or a call) and it becomes several dollars in the money at a time when expiration is approaching, there is a good chance that it might be exercised. Although having a short option exercised is sort of a pain in the neck, it usually doesn’t have much of a financial impact on the bottom line. But it is nice to avoid if possible.
We decided to roll over the 81 put that expires tomorrow to next week’s option series. Our goal is to always collect a little cash when we roll over, and that meant this week we could only roll to the 80.5 strike and do the trade at a net credit. Here is the trade we made today:
Buy To Close 1 SVXY Oct1-14 81 put (SVXY141003P81)
Sell To Open 1 SVXY Oct2-14 80.5 put (SVXY141010P80.5) for a credit of $.20 (selling a diagonal)
Our account value is now $1620 from our starting value of $1500 six weeks ago, and we have $248 in cash as well as the Jan-15 90 put which is trading about $20 ($2000). We have not quite made 3% a week so far, but we have betting that SVXY will move higher as it does most of the time, but it has fallen from $86 when we started this portfolio to $74 where it is today. One of the best things about option trading is that you can still make gains when your outlook on the underlying stock is not correct. It is harder to make gains when you guess wrong on the underlying’s direction, but it is possible as our experiment so far has demonstrated.