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Stock Options 101

Welcome to Stock Options 101

Our goal is to explain stock options in simple English. As you learn more, you will appreciate how difficult a task it is. People say that investing in stock is like playing checkers, while investing in options is like playing chess. We look forward to teaching you how to play the more complex game of stock options.

Are Stock Options Risky?

Most people would answer that question with a resounding “yes”. True, according to some studies, over half of all options that people buy end up being worth absolutely nothing. Nada! Tear up your ticket stub and walk away.

If buying options is such a bad investment, maybe a strategy of selling options to someone else would be a better idea. Let their loss be your gain. But there is a problem here as well – it is called selling a naked option, because that is how you feel for the whole time you have sold that option. You are facing a theoretical unlimited loss. You can lose many more times the amount you invested. At least when you bet on a horse, that is all you lose when he trips on his way to the finish line.

So if buying options is usually not a good idea, and selling them can be worse, it is easy to see why people decide that options are risky no matter what you do. It does not occur to most of them that a strategy of buying an option and simultaneously selling another option to someone else might be an entirely different story.

This website is designed to explain an options strategy that we believe is less risky than buying stock or mutual funds, and potentially a whole lot more profitable. We hope you will read through this material and learn to love the world of options as we do.

Why Trade Stock Options?

Stock options are exchanged for two main reasons: for speculation (adds risk) and for hedging (reduces risk).

Speculation

Stock options are a way of leveraging your money. This is usually done by buying call options. You are able to participate in any upward moves of a stock without having to put up all the money to buy the stock. However, if the stock does not go up in price, the call option buyer may lose 100% of his/her investment. For this reason, options are considered to be risky investments.

Hedging

Stock options can be used to considerably reduce risk. Put options are usually traded for hedging purposes. While hedging reduces risk, it also limits the amounts of gains you can make. Since most stock markets go up over time, and most people invest in stock because they hope prices will rise, there is more interest and activity in call options than there is in put options.

TERRY’S TIPS STOCK OPTIONS TRADING BLOG

June 27, 2022

Darden Restaurants (DRI) reported earnings this week that beat on both revenue and profits. But the owner of such popular chains as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille was beset by higher food, beverage and labor costs even as customers are more comfortable eating out again.

Analysts weighed in with a plateful of target price decreases, although there were no rating downgrades. This has been common for most stocks, as analysts re-adjust their targets amid the 2022 swoon. Nevertheless, some targets are now barely above the current share price, which does not inspire confidence about DRI’s near-term price action.

The stock reacted with a small increase on Thursday and then popped 3.6% on Friday. But most stocks surged on Friday, so it doesn’t appear that earnings gave DRI a boost. Although the stock is up 8% off a 52-week low hit last week, it is bumping into its 20-day moving average at the 120 level (red line in chart). The 50-day moving average lies overhead at the 125 level (blue line). Although DRI has managed to overtake the 50-day at times, it ultimately retreats into a tailspin. Given this history, we’re using a bearish call credit spread with the short call strike (green line) sitting right on the 50-day.

If you agree that DRI will continue its overall downtrend, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying below $125 through expiration in eight weeks.  

Buy to Open DRI 19Aug 130 call (DRI220819C130)
Sell to Open DRI 19Aug 125 call (DRI220819C125) for a credit of $1.50 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point of the option spread when DRI was trading at $120. Unless the stock drops quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $148.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $351.30 ($500 – $148.70) for one spread.  If DRI closes below $125 on August 19, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 42% ($148.70/$351.30).

June 20, 2022

Roku (ROKU) is a stock many believe is in play as a takeover candidate. Netflix and Disney are potential suitors, among others. Whatever the rumor or sentiment, the stock has been flat for the past seven weeks, which is saying something. In fact, since April 27, ROKU is down 2.7% while QQQ has fallen more than 13%.

There’s no denying that ROKU has been a spectacular flop for the past year. The shares are down a whopping 83% from their July 2021 high. But the stock has held up well over the past couple of months with takeover rumors in the air. It may not be advancing, but it’s not falling either. Moreover, the stock appears to have found solid support in the 72-73 area, the site of a two-year low.

One way to see how the market feels about a stock is by looking at equidistant out-of-the-money put and call prices. Currently, calls are trading for more than their corresponding puts, suggesting that the market sees more risk to the upside. That is highly unusual in this market, where most everything has richer put prices. We are therefore trading a put credit spread with the short put strike below the recent two-year low level. 

If you agree that ROKU is in play and will continue sideways at worst, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying above $70 through expiration in six weeks. Note that ROKU is scheduled to report earnings the day before expiration.

Buy to Open ROKU 29Jul 65 put (ROKU220729P65)
Sell to Open ROKU 29Jul 70 put (ROKU220729P70) for a credit of $1.50 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point of the option spread when ROKU was trading at $82.42. Unless the stock surges quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $148.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $351.30 ($500 – $148.70) for one spread.  If ROKU closes above $70 on July 29, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 42% ($148.70/$351.30).

November 22, 2021

Target
(TGT) reported earnings before the bell on Wednesday that beat estimates on
both revenue and profits. The company also expects its fiscal Q4 comparable
sales growth to be higher than previous forecasts. Moreover, TGT claimed the
supply chain mess has not been an issue – store shelves are full and ready for
the holiday buying onslaught.

Analysts
were mostly bullish on the report, giving TGT several target price increases
(there was one lower price). One went as high as $350, a 38% premium to
Friday’s closing price. The stock price was not rewarded, however. The shares
dropped 4.7% on Wednesday and slid further the rest of the week. However, this
was a common theme among several retailers, including Walmart (WMT). In fact,
the overall retail sector was lower for the week.

The pullback dropped the shares to just above their 50-day moving average (blue line in chart). This trade is thus a bet that TGT will regain its footing and stay above the 50-day as holiday sales numbers – that are predicted to be robust – start rolling in. The short 245 strike (red line) of our put credit spread is below the 50-day, relying on trendline support to hold through expiration.

If
you agree that TGT will stay atop its 50-day moving average line in chart),
consider the following trade that relies on the stock remaining above 245  (through expiration in six weeks.

Buy
to Open TGT 31Dec 240 put (TGT211231P240)
Sell to Open TGT
31Dec 245 put (TGT211231P245) for a credit of $1.60 (selling a vertical)

This
credit is $0.02 less than the mid-point
of the option spread when TGT was trading around $251. Unless the stock rises
quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your
commission on this trade will be only $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $158.70. This
trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $341.30
($500 – $158.70) for one spread.  If TGT
closes above $245 on December 31, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would
be 46% ($158.70/$341.30).

Making 36%

Making 36% – A Duffer's Guide to Breaking Par in the Market Every Year in Good Years and Bad

This book may not improve your golf game, but it might change your financial situation so that you will have more time for the greens and fairways (and sometimes the woods).

Learn why Dr. Allen believes that the 10K Strategy is less risky than owning stocks or mutual funds, and why it is especially appropriate for your IRA.

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    Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading my expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options

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