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Trading ETF Options

Exchange-Traded Funds, or ETFs, are index funds that trade just like stocks on major stock exchanges. All the major stock indexes have ETFs based on them, including: Dow Jones Industrial Average (DIA), Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX), and Nasdaq 100 Composite (QQQQ).

In addition, just about every major industry has an ETF for investors who wish to select an entire industry rather than individual stocks.

ETFs differ fundamentally from traditional mutual funds, which do not trade during the normal trading hours of the day. Traditional mutual funds take orders during Wall Street trading hours, but the transactions actually occur at the close of the market. The price they receive is the sum of the closing day prices of all the stocks contained in the fund. Not so for ETFs, which trade instantaneously all day long (just like ordinary stock).

Since ETFs trade all day, options are available on them.  These options provide interesting opportunities for certain strategies, including what I call the 10K Strategy, which is the major strategy offered by Terry’s Tips.

For the most part, at Terry’s Tips, we use broad-based ETFs as underlyings (SPY, DIA) for our option portfolios because they do not fluctuate wildly like individual stocks often do (our strategy works best when the underlying stays flat or moves only slightly in either direction).

We have had good luck with one ETF that is not broad-based, but made up of 84 companies in the banking and financial services area (XLF). 

The 15 most important components of the Financial SPDR (XLF) and their weights are:

1  JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM)  11.80% 

2  Bank of America Corp. (BAC) 8.90% 

3  Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) 8.60% 

4  Citigroup Inc.(C)  5.60% 

5  U.S. Bancorp (USB) 4.20% 

6  Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) 3.10% 

7  Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK) 2.90% 

8  American Express Co. (AXP) 2.60% 

9  MetLife Inc. (MET) 2.20% 

10  Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. (MER)  2.20% 

11  Travelers Cos. Inc. (TRV) 2.00% 

12  PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC) 1.90% 

13  AFLAC Inc. (AFL) 1.80% 

14  CME Group Inc. (CME) 1.60% 

15  Morgan Stanley  (MS) 1.60% 

A hedged strategy:The options strategy I use with XLF is a hedged strategy. In many respects, this strategy involves taking less risk than if I had just purchased XLF stock. Half the options are “long”, meaning they benefit when XLF moves in one particular direction, while half are “short”, meaning that they benefit if XLF moves in the other direction.   No matter which way XLF moves, half the options benefit from the change in stock price.

XLF options can be better than XLF stock. I must admit that I am an options guy, not a stock guy. No matter how much I like XLF (and I do), I know that I can make a whole lot more with the options than I ever can with the stock. And I can do it with a strategy that is “hedged”. I can make money with XLF even if the stock does not go up. Usually, I can even make money when it goes down, (just as long as it doesn’t go down too much, too fast).

If you trade actively in options, and particularly if you are hedged (meaning that you are putting on many different positions rather than speculating with the simple purchase of puts or calls), it is important to look at the options market for the underlying security. Option markets for individual companies, except for a very few extremely active stocks, often have large spreads between the bid and asked price. In many cases, a single market maker sets the prices, and it is difficult to get good executions when you trade.

This means that every time you buy an option, you pay more than you would if the options were more actively traded, and when you sell, you receive less than you would in an active options market. The options market for XLF is liquid. Bid-asked spreads are small, and you can successfully execute spread orders and count on getting decent prices regardless of whether you are buying or selling.

Why is XLF better than trading individual companies?It has nothing to do with the company.  Rather, it has to do with the price behavior of most individual companies.  The 10K Strategy does best when the stock does not gyrate wildly.  At certain times, most individual companies are subject to sudden wide swings in their stock prices.  Earnings are announced, and the company either exceeds (or fails to meet) expected results, and the stock moves accordingly.  An analyst upgrades (or downgrades) the stock unexpectedly, and the stock makes a big move.   Sudden price changes in the stock can result in losses when using the 10K Strategy, so we prefer to trade on a basket of stocks (like XLF) rather than an individual company.  That way, if one company has a big swing in stock price, the effect on the total basket of stocks is usually minimal.  (If the companies are all in the same industry, sometimes one company’s gain is another’s loss, so the net effect on the basket of stocks is zero).

I call my system the 10K Strategy.  It is somewhere between a boring buy-and-hold strategy and day-trading.  It is not a marathon – you do not have to wait forever to see results.  Neither is it a sprint, dependent on short-term increases in the price of the stock.  Like any race, it takes a little effort to execute.  But the extraordinary profit potential makes it all worth while, at least to my way of thinking.

A Simple Options Strategy:The 10K Strategy is based on the simple fact that all options become less valuable every day (if the stock stays flat), but short-term options go down in value (decay) at a faster rate than long-term options.  I purchase slower-decaying long-term options and use them as collateral to sell faster-decaying short-term options to someone else.  If the stock stays flat, I always win.  Guaranteed!

But as we know, all stocks do not stay flat.  Some good stocks, like XLF, actually go up much of the time.  Having a good feeling about a stock (and being right) makes the 10K Strategy even more profitable than just enjoying the option decay advantage.  If the stock goes up, I can make more with the 10K Strategy than I ever could with the stock alone.

If the 10K Strategy is so simple, why doesn’t everybody follow it?First of all, only Terry’s TipsInsiders know about it.  That’s a pretty small, but growing, universe.  Second, it really isn’t as simple as the basic underlying concept makes it seem.  The strategy consists of calendar spreads at several different strike prices (both above and below the stock price), with differing numbers of spreads at different strikes (depending on your personal risk tolerance), often involves puts rather than calls (even if you are bullish on the stock), and is governed by a strict set of Trading Rules that determine when adjustments need to be made.

Does the 10K Strategy make money all the time?  I’m afraid that nothing could be quite that good.  But it is close.  In March 2009, I set up the XLF portfolio using the 10K Strategy (we call it the Marco Polo portfolio).  This portfolio was set up in an actual brokerage account all by itself, and the positions (and every trade) updated each week for Terry’s Tips Insiders.

In the first 7 months, the portfolio gained 35% after all commissions (60% annualized) in spite of some extreme mid-month volatility.  Several times, the stock fluctuated by over 30% in a single month, something that our strategy has the most trouble handling.  To check how the portfolio has performed since that time, go to our Track Record page.

It all sounds too complicated – can you manage the 10K Strategy for me?  Unfortunately, I can’t manage your money.  I publish an options newsletter, and am not a licensed investment advisor.  But through a mechanism called Auto-Trade, you can mirror any of our portfolios, without having to place the trades yourself.

How Much Does It Cost to Learn All About the 10K Strategy?  The White Paper (included in our subscription) costs less than a meal for two at a decent restaurant.  It gives you all the information you will need to execute the 10K Strategy, and set up, and maintain, a portfolio that matches the degree of risk that you are comfortable taking.  Complete Trading Rules for every risk level portfolio are included as well.

And there is more.  First, you will receive a free Stock Options Tutorial which will acquaint you with the basics of option trading, including a simple explanation of the often-intimidating “Greeks.”  Second, you will receive a membership to our Insiders Newsletter, where you can watch our actual portfolios unfold each week (and receive Trading Alerts whenever a change is made in a portfolio).  If you wish, you can mirror one or more of these portfolios in your own account, or sign up for Auto-Trade.

And there is still more, like a list of 20 “Lazy Way” companies which allow you to make two trades at the beginning, and do nothing more for two full years.  At the end of this period, you will have earned a minimum 100% on your investment, mathematically guaranteed, if the stock stays flat or goes up by any amount.  In most cases, it can even fall by 5% and you make at least 100%, and it can fall by 25% and a small profit still results.  (You can figure out all these numbers precisely, before you make the investment.)

Once you have become an Premium Insider, you will have access to several valuable reports on a variety of option strategies, many of which you will not be able to find in any books on options.

All this for less than the cost of a meal for two at a decent restaurant.  And once you put the strategy to work, you might well be spending many pleasant evenings at better-than-decent restaurants for the rest of your life.  Who knows?  In could happen.  It did to me, and I want to pass on my learning experiences to you.

So here’s my offer:

Become a Terry’s Tips Insider, pay only $97, and receive my updated 2020 White Paper which describes 4 unique trading strategies with complete Trading Rules for each, including the 10K Strategy that earned an average of 103% for 8 portfolios in 2005, and get all these additional benefits absolutely free:

  • My Stock Options Tutorial Program service, fourteen separate lessons which provide a sound background for options trading (a $29.90 value).
  • A list of 20 “Lazy Way” companies which make 100% mathematically guaranteed in 2 years if the stock stays flat, goes up by any amount, or falls by less than 5%.  The “Lazy Way” strategy involves making two trades up front, and then sitting back and waiting for 2 years for your 100% to come in.
  • Updates on all our actual portfolio accounts with every trade ever made in each one.  Each account is a real-time unfolding of one of the basic strategies developed in the White Paper.  Different underlyings or investment amounts are used for each portfolio.
  • If you would like, I will email you with every trade I make in each of these accounts, so you can make those same trades yourself if you wish, maybe at even better prices.

Here is the link that could change the way you invest your money for the rest of your life – https://www.terrystips.com/signup.

If you are not convinced that now is the right time to make this investment in yourself, at least sign up for my free newsletter. You will receive my free report, “How to Create an Options Portfolio That Will Outperform a Stock or Mutual Fund Investment”.

For more information about the “Lazy Way” strategy to double your money, click Tip #5.

For more information about how you can use the 10K Strategy in your IRA, click Tip #4.

For more information about options in general, click Tip #1.

But the most important link is right here – https://www.terrystips.com/signup. That is where you can order my White Paper and maybe change how you ever thought about investing for the rest of your life.

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TERRY’S TIPS STOCK OPTIONS TRADING BLOG

January 24, 2023

January 24, 2023

Dear [[firstname]],

Here is your Option Trade of the Week, as given to our Terry’s Tips Insider Members as part of the Saturday Report. With earnings season underway, we’re back to our typical earnings plays with a return to the bearish side.

Before getting to the trade, there’s still time to jump on our huge discount offer to join Terry’s Tips as an Insider Member that lets you trade up to four portfolios. These portfolios use our proprietary 10K Strategy, which has generated average annual gains of 60% for the past five years in actual brokerage accounts (including all commissions).  In 2022, our portfolios beat their underlying stock performance by an average of 22%

We’re still running a special new-year sale that saves you more than 50% on a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips. For just $98, you’ll get:

  • A month of all trade alerts in our four portfolios, giving detailed instructions for entering and exiting positions.
  • Four to five (depending on the month) weekly issues of our Saturday Report, which shows all the trades and positions for our four portfolios, a discussion of the week’s trading activity and early access to our Option Trade of the Week.
  • Instructions on how to execute the 10K Strategy on your own.
  • A 14-day options tutorial on the opportunities and risks of trading options.
  • Our updated 10K Strategy white paper, a thorough discussion of the strategy basics and tactics.
  • Full-member access to all our premium special reports that can make you a wiser and more profitable options trader. 

To become a Terry’s Tips Insider Member, just Click Here, select Sign Up Now and use Coupon Code D21M to start a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips  for half off. You can cancel after a month but, of course, still keep all the valuable reports.

We look forward to having you join us in 2023! Now on to the trade …

Tarnished Goldman

With earnings season now underway, we can focus on companies that have recently reported. Though the docket was sparse this past week, there were a few juicy names to choose from. One was Goldman Sachs (GS), which reported a miserable quarter before the week’s trading began on Tuesday.

Earnings plunged 66% from a year earlier on slower corporate dealmaking and 48% lower investment banking fees. Earnings per share came in at $3.32, far below the expected $5.56. FactSet noted it was the bank’s largest miss in years. Revenue also dropped and missed estimates.

The stock reacted by falling 6.4% on Tuesday, its second-largest one-day, post-earnings decline since April 2009. The week didn’t get any better for GS, as reports came in on Friday that the Federal Reserve is investigating whether the bank had the appropriate safeguards in its consumer business. The stock fell 2.5% on a day when stocks were higher.

The stock’s 8.6% plummet last week pulled it below its 20-day and 50-day moving averages. The 50-day is rolling over into a decline for the first time in three months, while the 20-day appears poised to head lower as well. We are going with a bearish call spread, with the short call strike sitting between the 20-day (blue line) and 50-day (red line) trendlines. However, given the 50-day’s current path, it should fall below this strike and serve as a second potential point of resistance to keep the spread out of the money.

If you agree that GS will continue to struggle, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying below $360 (green line) through expiration in 6 weeks:

Buy to Open the GS 3 Mar 365 call (GS230303C365)

Sell to Open the GS 3 Mar 360 call (GS230303C360) for a credit of $1.25 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $341.84 close. Unless GS falls 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 $123.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $500, making your net investment $376.30 per spread ($500 – $123.70). If GS closes below $360 on Mar. 3, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 33% ($123.70/$376.30).

Any questions?  Email Terry@terrystips.com

Testimonial of the Week

I have been a subscriber for about a year. I autotrade in 2 different accounts, all your strategies. I read everything you write on Saturdays. I love your happiness thoughts and everything else. I usually do not communicate at all but I had to tell you how well my accounts with you are doing compared to everything else. You are awesome. Keep up the good work. Thank you.

~ Maya

Any questions?  Email Terry@terrystips.com.

Thank you again for being a part of the Terry’s Tips newsletter.

Happy trading,

Terry

January 9, 2023

January 9, 2023

Dear [[firstname]],

Here is your Option Trade of the Week, generated by our trading team, for your consideration. We’re going with another ETF this week, but this time back on the bearish side.

Before getting to the trade, there’s still time to jump on our huge discount offer to join Terry’s Tips as an Insider Member that lets you trade up to four portfolios. These portfolios use our proprietary 10K Strategy, which has generated average annual gains of 60% for the past five years in actual brokerage accounts (including all commissions).  In 2022, our portfolios beat their underlying stock performance by an average of 22%

We’re still running a special new-year sale that saves you more than 50% on a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips. For just $98, you’ll get:

  • A month of all trade alerts in our four portfolios, giving detailed instructions for entering and exiting positions.
  • Four to five (depending on the month) weekly issues of our Saturday Report, which shows all the trades and positions for our four portfolios, a discussion of the week’s trading activity and early access to our Option Trade of the Week.
  • Instructions on how to execute the 10K Strategy on your own.
  • A 14-day options tutorial on the opportunities and risks of trading options.
  • Our updated 10K Strategy white paper, a thorough discussion of the strategy basics and tactics.
  • Full-member access to all our premium special reports that can make you a wiser and more profitable options trader. 

To become a Terry’s Tips Insider Member, just Click Here, select Sign Up Now and use Coupon Code D21M to start a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips  for half off. You can cancel after a month but, of course, still keep all the valuable reports.

We look forward to having you join us in 2023! Now on to the trade …

Attention Shoppers

With earnings reports non-existent, we’re sticking with ETFs again this week, this time on the bearish side with the retail sector. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) is a broad-based, equal-weighted index of around 100 retail stocks. No stock is worth more than 1.5% of the portfolio and the top 10 holdings are littered with small niche names, some of which I’ve frankly never heard of (Sally Beauty, Franchise Group, Leslie’s). Amazon and Costco, on the other hand, make up a mere 2.2% combined.

XRT had a rough 2022, losing about a third of its value. That puts it on par with tech stocks, which it is not, and trailing the broader market. Should we expect a rebound in 2023? I won’t hazard a guess. But we know the Fed will continue to raise rates to tame inflation. Many expect some sort of recession. The outlook appears muddy at best and bearish at worst.

XRT has staged a mini-rally to start 2023, gaining 3.8% in the first week. But the ETF is now bumping into its 50-day moving average. However, the 50-day hasn’t provided much resistance or support for the past several months. Of greater concern is the overhead 200-day moving average, which has been declining for more than a year. This trendline marked a top in August and kept XRT in check in November, allowing just two daily closes above it.

This bearish trade is a play on XRT once again faltering at the 200-day, which sits 3.7% above the Friday closing price. Note that the short call strike of our spread (red line) sits above the 200-day (blue line), meaning this resistance will need to be broken to move the spread into the money. Options traders have a similar outlook, pricing puts higher than equidistant out-of-the-money calls.

If you agree that XRT will fail to overtake the 200-day, consider the following trade that relies on the ETF staying below $66 through expiration in 6 weeks:

Buy to Open the XRT 17 Feb 69 call (XRT230217C69)

Sell to Open the XRT 17 Feb 66 call (XRT230217C66) for a credit of $0.85 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Monday’s $62.46 close. Unless XRT drops 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 $83.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $300, making your net investment $216.30 per spread ($300 – $83.70). If XRT closes below $66 on Feb. 17, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 39% ($83.70/$216.30).   

Testimonial of the Week

I have been a subscriber for about a year. I autotrade in 2 different accounts, all your strategies. I read everything you write on Saturdays. I love your happiness thoughts and everything else. I usually do not communicate at all but I had to tell you how well my accounts with you are doing compared to everything else. You are awesome. Keep up the good work. Thank you. ~ Maya

Thank you again for being a part of the Terry’s Tips newsletter. Any questions?  Email Terry@terrystips.com

Happy trading,

Terry

January 6, 2023

January 6, 2023

Two and a half years ago, I found myself in the ICU of the University of Vermont Hospital.  I had all the symptoms of Covid even though I had tested negative several times.  My doctor kept saying that the tests had to be false negatives.  Surely, it was Covid, he said.

I checked myself in to the ER of Porter Hospital in Middlebury at midnight on a Friday.  My blood pressure was 65 over 45, and after filling me full of fluids and keeping me awake all night, they couldn’t get that upper reading over 70.

In the morning, they rushed me north to the ICU where they anticipated doing a surgical procedure on my aorta.  They let me make a phone call to Jon Lewis who had been sharing the responsibilities of making the trades in our portfolios.  I told him that he would have to write the Saturday Report that day as well as taking over all the portfolios on Monday.  He said he didn’t think he could do it.  I told him that I surely couldn’t do it, and he was the only one out there who could do it all.

When the test results at the ICU came back, we learned that I did not have Covid after all, and the anti-biotic that they had given me at Porter had saved my life.  Seems that I had a tick-induced disease called Anaplasmosis, and a week later, I felt totally fine.

Ever since that Saturday in July, Jon Lewis has made every trade in every portfolio and written every Saturday Report.  I spoke with him and shared ideas on a regular basis, but he made all the final decisions.  Jon has done a better job than I have in carrying out the 10K Strategy.  For 2022, I traded this strategy in my personal portfolio and did far worse than the market averages. It was my worst year ever. 

Meanwhile, Jon beat those averages by more than 20%. He wisely handled the extreme volatility by keeping about half the portfolios in cash, and placing spreads at a larger range of strikes than we had ever used in the past.

I endured more health issues again this year.  I have had asthma-like breathing issues that prevented me from playing tennis singles or taking long-distance hikes.  In June, a biopsy showed a “high risk” cancer tumor in my prostate.  A long course of radiation has hopefully taken care of it.  And an adjustment to my pacemaker has improved my breathing considerably.

I am almost 84 years old and have been involved in Terry’s Tips for 21 years since I started in in 2001.  I continue to love options trading and place trades in my personal account nearly every trading day.  But this seems to be the appropriate time to turn the entire business over to Jon.

I want to thank my loyal subscribers who hung in there through the difficult years (like 2022).  I have enjoyed conversations over the years with many of you. I hope some of those relationships will continue as we move forward.

I will continue to read the Saturday Report each week, and surely have thoughts I would like to share with Jon. I may offer some additions to the quotations list at the end, but going forward, this is his baby. I am absolutely certain that if volatility falls just a bit to where it has hung out in the great majority of years, he will kill the market averages by a huge margin.

I wish Jon, and all the subscribers who make Terry’s Tips possible, all the luck in the world.  You have made this a wonderful ride for me, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Happy trading,

Terry

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