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Shoot for the Stars Strategy

In spite of the odds against winning, many people seem to like to invest in individual stocks. It is sort of like picking horses at the race track (and often for similar sound selection reasons, like the reputation of the trainer or the jockey or the color of his silks, or the horse’s name or his recent race record, or what the touts are touting).

To our way of thinking, picking individual stocks is a lot more like gambling than carrying out a prudent option strategy such as the 10K Strategy.  But picking individual stocks is easier, and a whole lot more fun for many people.

If you insist on picking individual companies, there are two good ways to use an options strategy to multiply your gains if you are lucky enough to pick a winner.  First, the 10K Strategy, our favorite strategy, is best if you merely like a particular company.  Second, if you really LOVE the company, you might use the Shoot Strategy.

At Terry’s Tips, we conduct options strategies based on several individual companies we feel good about.  For example, in October 2013 we set up a portfolio based on Nike (NKE), a company we liked.  If we had really loved NKE, we would have used the Shoot Strategy.  We were lucky to have picked a good company. We started with $4000 in the portfolio (set up in an actual brokerage account with no other positions) when NKE was trading at $63.  By the end of November 2014, NKE had surged to $99, up 57%.  Our portfolio was then worth $11,435, a gain of 186%.  Our options portfolio had performed more than 3 times as well as the stock had gained.

If we had loved the stock at the outset, rather than just liking it, we would have used the Shoot Strategy instead of the 10K Strategy, and we would have gained even more. This time around. the Shoot Strategy would have done much better.  On the other hand, we felt pretty good about almost tripling our investment in 16 months while taking less risk than is involved in the Shoot Strategy.

While we don’t use the Shoot Strategy in any of our actual portfolios, we show you exactly how to do it if you have a company you really love.  It is more risky than our 10K Strategy but it should outperform if the stock actually does move up a lot.  If the stock stays flat, the Shoot Strategy will usually about break even. On the other hand, if the stock stays flat, the 10K Strategy is designed to make a nice gain.

Les Brown said “Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.  And Confucius said long ago “If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot.”

This is how the Shoot Strategy works –

1.  If the stock goes up, the Shoot Strategy will make money.  The gain will be considerably greater than the percentage gain would have been if the stock had been bought instead of the LEAPS.

2. If the stock stays flat, your account value will be about flat as well, or a small gain might result.  Since you are collecting slightly more than the average monthly decay of the LEAPS each month (until they have only a few months of remaining life) you might often make a small gain.  However, even a small gain is more than you would have made if you had bought the stock and it doesn’t go up a penny.

3. If the stock falls, a loss will usually result just like it would if you had bought the stock, and the loss will likely be a greater percentage loss than if the stock itself had been purchased instead.  However, in many cases, the loss could be reduced (or eliminated) if the stock fell during those months when our Trading Rules call for selling in-the-money calls.

General Trading Rules for executing the Shoot Strategy:

Pick a stock you believe is headed higher (we suggest using www.magicformulainvesting.com. as a guide – see discussion below).

1. Buy slightly in-the-money or out-of-the-money call LEAPS.  At least two LEAPS must be purchased.  If your budget does not warrant buying at least two true LEAPS, shorter-term calls can be purchased as long as they have at least six months of remaining life.
         Calculate the average monthly decay of the LEAPS (time premium divided by the number of remaining months).

2.  Sell enough slightly out-of-the-money current month calls to cover the average monthly decay.

3. Near or at expiration, roll over the short calls to the next month (if they are in the money), again selling enough out-of-the-money contracts to cover the average monthly decay.  If the expiring calls are out-of-the-money, let them expire worthless and sell the next month out, as above.

4. If short-term calls that have been sold become in the money (i.e., the stock has gone up), they must be bought back during expiration week, and the amount paid must be added to the remaining decay of the LEAPS and a new (higher) average monthly decay bogey established based on the number of remaining months of the LEAPS.

The biggest differences between the Shoot Strategy and the 10K Strategy is the calls are used exclusively in the Shoot Strategy and all of the short calls are at the money or out of the money (i.e., at strikes which are at or above the current price of the stock. These positions will cause the portfolio to have a strongly positive net delta at all times.

Deciding Which Companies to Buy:

The best single source we have found for selecting individual companies is the Magic Formula system outlined in the small book by Joel Greenblat called “The Little Book That Beats the Market” and is available online at www.magicformulainvesting.com

Rather than relying entirely on the Magic Formula, it might be even better to select individual stocks that also rank high at Investors Business Daily (IBD), Value Line, and by composite analyst rankings.  While we prefer the 10K Strategy because of its lower risk, using the Shoot Strategy offers considerably higher returns than merely buying the stock, and if you carry it out correctly, you can sometimes make money with the Shoot Strategy even if the stock stays flat.

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TERRY’S TIPS STOCK OPTIONS TRADING BLOG

September 26, 2022

Housing Poor

Homebuilding stocks got a boost early in the week after a prominent housing analyst upgraded the entire sector, including a rare “double upgrade” for Lennar (LEN) from underweight to overweight. The rationale was that housing tends to outperform coming out of a bear market and that “early pain = early gain.”

Now, he could very well be right … at some point. Housing stocks, along with the broader market, will eventually pull out of this bear market. But that’s off in the future. We’re still in the “early pain” phase.

LEN got a boost from the news but then trended lower after a mixed earnings report and another 75 bps rate hike from the Fed (with more to come). The stock could not pierce its declining 20-day moving average (blue line), which has kept a lid on LEN’s rally attempts after turning lower two months ago. Furthermore, the 50-day moving average (red line), which is now headed lower, sits overhead, ready to provide resistance.

This trade is based on more “early pain” for the homebuilders based on rising interest rates, mortgage rates at 14-year highs and the looming prospect of a recession. We are playing a call credit spread with the short call sitting above the 50-day, meaning that LEN will have to overcome two points of resistance to move the spread into the money.

If you agree that LEN will continue to slide lower, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying below $82 (green line) through expiration in six weeks:

Buy to Open the LEN 4Nov 85 call (LEN221104C85)
Sell to Open the LEN 4Nov 82 call (LEN221104C82) for a credit of $1.05 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.02 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $77.07 close. Unless LEN sags quickly, you should be able to get close to that price.

The commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread. Each spread would then yield $103.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $300, making your net investment $196.30 per spread ($300 – $103.70). If LEN closes below $82 on Nov. 4, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 53% ($103.70/$196.30). 

September 20, 2022

Pumped Up

Much is made of gas prices declining for so many weeks in a row (I think we’re at 13 and counting). And that’s great for drivers. But what about the oil companies. Don’t they suffer when pump prices decline? Apparently not.

Gas prices peaked in mid-June and have dropped about 25% since then. But Chevron (CVX) has gained more than 5% during that period. For the year, CVX is up 33%. Its only major blip this year was the June swoon that pulled all stocks lower. But the decline was supported by the 200-day moving average, which allowed just a handful of daily closes below it in mid-July.

This trade is based on the strength of oil companies continuing for the next couple of months. More specifically, it is relying on the continued support of the 200-day. Note that the short put of our spread is right on the 200-day (blue line) and will be below it given the trendline’s current slope. Thus, CVX will have to penetrate that support to move the spread into the money.

If you agree that CVX will respect the 200-day, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying above $148 (red line) through expiration in six weeks:

Buy to Open the CVX 28Oct 145 put (CVX221028P145)
Sell to Open the CVX 28Oct 148 put (CVX221028P148) for a credit of $0.75 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $156.45 close. Unless CVX pops quickly, you should be able to get close to that price.

The commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread. Each spread would then yield $73.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $300, making your net investment $226.30 per spread ($300 – $73.70). If CVX closes above $148 on October 28, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 33% ($73.70/$226.30). 

September 12, 2022

September 12, 2022

Warp Speed for This Lithium Producer

Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM) producers highly sought after commodities, most notably lithium and potassium fertilizers. Though it missed on earnings in its August earnings report, it easily beat on sales. A couple of analysts raised their price target after the news, though the overall mood toward the stock is between a buy and a hold.

But what do analysts know? SQM is up 120% this year (not a typo) … and it pays a dividend of more than 11%. The stock has recovered what it lost following earnings and came within four cents of hitting an all-time high in Friday’s trading. Though it has traded mostly sideways for the past three months, the overall uptrend remains intact, as the stock continues to put in higher lows. Plus, its 20-day and 50-day moving averages are pointed higher.

This trade is a play on SQM’s continued strength as it sits in one of the most favorable sectors within the global economy – supplying EV battery makers. We are thus going with a put credit spread with the short put sitting below the 20-day moving average (blue line). 

If you agree that SQM will continue its uptrend, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying above $100 (red line) through expiration in six weeks:

Buy to Open the SQM 21Oct 95 put (SQM221021P95)
Sell to Open the SQM 21Oct 100 put (SQM221021P100) for a credit of $1.10 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.02 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $111.12 close. Unless SQM pops quickly, you should be able to get close to that price.

The commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread. Each spread would then yield $108.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $500, making your net investment $391.30 per spread ($500 – $108.70). If SQM closes above $100 on October 21, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 28% ($108.70/$391.30). 

Upcoming Market Dates:

Monday September 5th. Market closed for Labor Day
Monday October 10th. Market closed for Columbus Day

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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