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December 17, 2014

Options Education for Every Holiday Budget

Looking for an options trading system to give to someone in need or for yourself this Holiday Season? Let the Market Taker Mentoring Trading Path be your options trading guide.

The MTM Trading Path

The MTM Trading Path is a simple, but powerful proprietary options trading system designed to be a veritable options trading guide that outlines a step-by-step a plan for options trading. There are a total of twelve steps in this options trading system which begins with observing the market and discovering opportunities.

Options trading is, of course, more involved than stock trading. Specifically, there are two steps in this options trading guide that are not in a conventional trading plan. These steps center around analyzing volatility and selecting among the various strategies.

The important thing here is discipline. Having a guide to follow to avoid missing important steps is the key to any options trading plan. The Trading Path is central to our Options Coaching program, Dan’s Online Options Education Series and my Group Coaching. The Market Taker Live Advantage Group Coaching is our most popular class because of its “earn while you learn” format. Be sure to check it out!

I encourage my options coaching students and students in Dan’s options seminars alike to closely follow this option trading guide for all their trades.

Any of these programs makes the perfect gift because it is a gift that can keep on giving!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

December 11, 2014

The Iron Condor

An iron condor occurs when a trader combines a bear call spread and a bull put spread. It is essentially combining two credit spreads as one trade. The trade is executed by buying a lower-strike out-of-the-money put and selling an out-of-the-money put with a higher strike. Then the trader sells an out-of-the-money call with a higher strike and buys another out-of-the-money call with an even higher strike. Learning to trade more advanced option strategies like an iron condor is not essential for option traders but it can give you more means in which to possibly extract money from the market.

A short iron condor consists of four legs as described above and results in a net credit received. As for profit potential, the maximum potential profit is the initial credit received upon entering the trade. This profit will occur if the underlying stock price, on expiration date, is between the two middle (short) strikes.

One of the rationales behind selling an iron condor is implied volatility (implied volatility is – simply defined – the volatility component of an option price). When IV is inflated (meaning the implied volatility has pushed the option price higher) it lifts the premium values for option sellers. In addition, the profitable range on the short iron condor can be rather large depending on how it is implemented. Certainly the larger the profitable range, the smaller the maximum profit and the greater the risk. The smaller the profitable range,  the larger the maximum profit will be and there will be less overall risk but there is less of a chance the underlying will remain in that range. Like many spreads in option trading, there is a trade-off.

One of the benefits of a short iron condor (and potentially options in general) is limited risk. For short condors, the maximum loss comes when the underlying stock price drops below the lowest strike (long put) or above the highest strike (long call). If you want an equation for max loss, think of it as the difference in strike prices of the two lower-strike options (or the two higher-strike options) less the initial credit for entering the trade.

Being that earnings season is mostly behind us, it is not a major concern at this time. But when the season does return (and it will),  it may be best to construct the iron condor to expire before the actual announcement. If not, then it may be best to exit the trade before the announcement especially if the trade is profitable up to that point.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

December 4, 2014

Moneyness and AAPL

If you have seen Dan Passarelli do one of his presentations, there is probably a good chance you heard him mention “moneyness”. In fact, he even has a section about it in his books. Moneyness isn’t a word, is it? It won’t be found on spell-check, but moneyness is a very important term when it comes to learning to trade options. There are three degrees, if you will, of moneyness for an option, at-the-money (ATM), in-the-money (ITM) and out-of-the-money (OTM). Let’s take a look at each of these terms, using tech behemoth Apple (AAPL) as an example. At the time of writing, Apple was hovering around the $115 level, so let’s define the moneyness of Apple options using $115 as the price.

At-the-Money
An at-the-money AAPL option is a call or a put option that has a strike price about equal to $115. The ATM options (in Apple’s case the 115-strike put or call) have only time value (a factor that decreases as the option’s expiration date approaches, also referred to as time decay). These options are greatly influenced by the underlying stock’s volatility and the passage of time.

In-the-Money
An option that is in-the-money is one that has intrinsic value. A call option is ITM if the strike price is below the underlying stock’s current trading price. In the case of AAPL, ITM options include the 110 strike and every strike below that. One will notice that option positions that are deeper ITM have higher premiums. In fact, the further in-the-money, the deeper the premium.

A put option is considered ITM when the strike price is above the current trading price of the underlying. For our example, an ITM AAPL put carries a strike price of 120 or higher. As with call options, puts that are deeper ITM carry a greater premium. For example, a February AAPL 125 put has a premium of $12.85 compared to a price of $9.25 for a February 120 put.

If an option expires ITM, it will be automatically exercised or assigned. For example, if a trader owned a AAPL 110 call and AAPL closed at $115 at expiration, the call would be automatically exercised, resulting in a purchase of 100 shares of AAPL at $110 a share.

Out-of-the-Money
An option is out-of-the-money when it has no intrinsic value. Calls are OTM when their strike price is higher than the market price of the underlying, and puts are OTM when their strike price is lower than the stock’s current market value. Since the OTM option has no intrinsic value, it holds only time value. OTM options are cheaper than ITM options because there is a greater likelihood of them expiring worthless.

If this is the case, why purchase OTM options? If you have little investing capital, an OTM option carries a lower premium; but you are paying less because there is a higher possibility that the option expires worthless. OTM options are attractive because OTM calls can see their premium increase quickly. Of course, OTM options could see their premium decrease quickly as well. Remember that OTM options can log the highest percentage gain on the same move in the underlying, in comparison to ATM or ITM options.

Enjoy the Holidays!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

November 25, 2014

Weekly Options and Theta

There are so many different characteristics of options that I talk a lot about with my options coaching students. But one of the more popular subjects is that premium sellers see the most dramatic erosion of the time value (option theta) of options they have sold during the last week of the options cycle. Most premium sellers strive to keep the options they have sold short (also known as options they have “written”) out-of-the-money (OTM) in order that the entirety of the premium they have sold represents time (extrinsic) premium and is subject to this rapid time decay.

With 12 monthly cycles, there historically have been only 12 of these final weeks per year in which premium sellers have seen the maximum benefit of their core strategy. The continued and expanding use of weekly options has changed the playing field. Options with one week durations are available on several indices and several hundred different stocks. These options have been in existence since October 2005 but only in the past couple of years have they gained widespread recognition and achieved sufficient trading volume to have good liquidity. Further now, there are even more weeklys that go for consecutive weeks (1 week options, 2 week options, 3 week options, 4 week options and 5 week options).

Standard trading strategies employed by premium sellers can be executed in these options. The advantage is to gain the “sweet spot” of the time decay of premium without having to wait through the entirety of the 4 to 5 week option cycle. In addition, it gives premium-selling option traders even more choices to take advantage of option theta. The party never ends for premium sellers using these innovative methods. Of course there is a trade-off because the shorter the time there is left until expiration, the smaller the option premiums are compared to an option with a longer expiration. As option traders, we are used to tradeoffs.

Option traders interested in using these weeklys MUST understand settlement procedures and be aware of last days for trading. An excellent discussion of weeklies given by Dan Passarelli is available at Learn to Trade Weeklys. enjoy the Holidays!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

November 17, 2014

Delta and Another Famous Greek

We all know options are derivatives, and their prices are derived from the underlying stock, index, or ETF. But with other factors at work such as implied volatility, time decay and the constant changing of prices, it may be difficult to gauge how much option prices will change. Certainly these are all important factors to consider when pricing options.  But have you ever wondered how much an option is going to change with respect to say the underlying? Very simple – check out its delta.

Delta is arguably the most heavily identifiable Greek (unless you count Socrates or Aristotle) especially by individuals learning to trade options. It offers a quick and relatively easy way to tell us what to expect from our option positions as we watch the price action of the underlying. Calls have positive deltas, as they typically move higher on a rise in the stock, and puts have negative deltas, as they typically move lower when the stock rises.

While some investors view delta as the percentage chance an option has of expiring in-the-money, it is really more of a way to project expected appreciation or depreciation. A delta of 0.50 for an AAPL call option suggests the option should move 50 cents higher when the AAPL moves up by a dollar, and lose 50 cents for every dollar AAPL moves lower.

But delta is only foolproof when all other factors are held constant, which is rarely the case (and certainly never the case for time decay). As option traders know, time decay is inevitable for all options particularly hurting long positions due to option premiums shrinking due to the passing of time. If an option is moving more (or less) than its delta would suggest, it is likely because other variables are shifting. For example, buying demand might be pushing implied volatility higher, raising the price of the options.

Still, this king of all Greeks is a good starting point for gauging how your options are likely to move. Option traders should consider mastering this option greek before moving on to the other greeks. Here at Market Taker Mentoring, we have many programs to teach you about option delta and much much more about all things options by experienced professionals. As Socrates once said, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.”

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

November 13, 2014

Consider a Directional Butterfly

Many option traders use butterfly spreads for a neutral outlook on the underlying. The position is structured to profit from time decay but with the added benefit of a “margin of error” around the position depending on what strike prices are chosen. Butterflies can be great market-neutral trades. However, what some traders don’t realize is that butterflies can also be great for trading directionally.

A Butterfly

The long butterfly spread involves selling two options at one strike and the purchasing options above and below equidistant from the sold strikes. This is usually implemented with all calls or all puts. The long options are referred to as the wings and the short options are the body; thus called a butterfly.

The trader’s objective for trading the long butterfly is for the stock to be trading at the body (short strikes) at expiration. The goal of the trade is to benefit from time decay as the stock moves closer to the short options strike price at expiration. The short options expire worthless or have lost significant value; and the lower strike call on a long call butterfly or higher strike put for a long put butterfly have intrinsic value. Maximum loss (cost of the spread) is achieved if the stock is trading at or below the lower (long) option strike or at or above the upper (long) option strike.

Directional Butterfly

What may not be obvious to novice traders is that butterfly spreads can be used directionally by moving the body (short options) of the butterfly out-of-the-money (OTM) and maybe using slightly wider strike prices for the wings (long options). This lets the trader make a directional forecast on the stock with a fairly large profit zone depending on the width of the wings.

To implement a directional butterfly, a trader needs to include both price and time in his outlook for the stock. This can be the most difficult part for either a neutral or directional butterfly; picking the time the stock will be trading in the profit zone. Sometimes the stock will reach the area too soon and sometimes not until after expiration. If the trader picks narrow wings (tighter strikes), he can lower the cost of the spread. If the trader desires a bigger profit zone (larger strikes), he can expand the wings of the spread and the breakevens but that also increases the cost of the trade. It’s a trade-off.

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest advantages of a directional butterfly spread is that it can be a relatively low risk and high reward strategy depending on how the spread is designed. Maybe one of the biggest disadvantages of a directional butterfly spread is that its maximum profit potential is reached close to expiration. But being patient can be very good for a trader…most of the time!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

November 6, 2014

AAPL and Risk Control

Now that Apple’s earnings announcement is behind us, it may be a good time to take another look at the technology giant. With the volatility event over, you might be looking to implement an option position. Even though the company announced its earnings, there may still be some volatile action ahead as the market heads towards the holidays.  Here are a few thoughts that should be considered on AAPL or any other position you may enter.

Learning to trade options offers a number of unique advantages to an option trader, but perhaps the single most attractive characteristic is the ability to control risk rather precisely in many instances. Much of this advantage comes from the ability to control positions that are similar to stock with far less capital outlay.

One particular form of risk control that is often dismissed among option traders is the time stop. Time stops take advantage of the time decay (theta) and can help control risk. It is important to understand that this time decay is not linear by any means.

As a direct result, it may not be apparent the course the time decay curve will follow. An option trader has to take into account that the option modeling software that most online brokers have is essential to plan the trade and decide the appropriate time at which to place a time stop. This of course is dependent on how much risk the option trader is willing to take concede due to time decay as part of the whole risk element of the trade. Other risk factors include delta, gamma and theta just to name a few.

As an example, consider the case of a bullish position in AAPL implemented by buying in-the-money December 105 calls. A trader could establish a position consisting of 10 long contracts with a position delta of +700 for approximately $5,000 as I write this.

At the time of this writing, the stock is trading around $109; these call options are therefore $4 in-the-money. Let’s assume a trader analyzes the trade with an at-expiration P&(L) diagram and wants to exit the trade if AAPL is at or abelow $106 (where potential support is at) at expiration. The options expiration risk is $4,000 or more. However, if the option trader takes the position that the expected or feared move will occur quickly—long before expiration—he could implement a time stop as well.

Using a stop to close the position if the stock gets to $106 at a point in time around halfway to expiration would reduce the risk significantly. Because the option would still have some time value, the trader could sell the option for a loss prior to expiration, therefore retaining some time value and and the option having a higher price. In this scenario, closing the position prior to expiration helps the trader lose less when the stop triggers. This is especially true if there is a fair amount of time until expiration and time decay hasn’t totally eroded away the option premium.

As one can see, options offer a variety of ways to control risk. An option trader needs to learn several that match his or her risk/reward criteria and personality.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

October 30, 2014

The Stock Repair Strategy

Filed under: Options Education — Tags: , , , , , — Dan Passarelli @ 10:43 am

It has been a tough couple of weeks for traders and investors as the first part of October was unpleasant for bullish stock positions. Some stock buyers are waiting for some of their losers to rally and some are buying more stock at chepaer prices. But as most expereinced investors know, the market can always go lower now or in the future. Here is one option strategy that can make sense in some cases; the stock repair strategy.

Introduction to the Stock Repair Strategy

The stock repair strategy is a strategy involving only calls that can be implemented when an investor thinks a stock will retrace part of a recent drop in share price within a short period of time (usually two to three months).

The stock repair strategy works best after a decline of 20 to 25 percent of the value of an asset. The goal is to “double up” on potential upside gains with little or no cost if the security retraces about half of its loss by the option’s expiration.

Benefits

There are three benefits the stock repair strategy trader hopes to gain. First, little or no additional downside risk is acquired. This is not to say the trader can’t lose money. The original shares are still held. So if the stock continues lower, the trader will increase his loses. This strategy is only practical when traders feel the stock has “bottomed out”.

Second, the projected retracement is around 50 percent of the decline in stock price. A small gain may be marginally helpful. A large increase will help but have limited effect.

Third, the investor is willing to forego further upside appreciation over and above original investment. The goal here is to get back to even and be done with the trade.

Implementing the Stock Repair Strategy

Once a stock in an investor’s portfolio has lost 20 to 25 percent of the original purchase price, and the trader is anticipating a 50 percent retracement, the investor will buy one close-to-the-money call and sells two out-of-the-money calls whose strike price corresponds to the projected price point of the retracement. Both option series are in the same expiration month, which corresponds to the projected time horizon of the expected rally. The “one-by-two” call spread is ideally established “cash-neutral” meaning no debit or credit. (This is not always possible. More on this later). To better understand this strategy, let’s look at an example.

Example

An investor, buys 100 shares of XYZ stock at $80 a share. After a month of falling prices, XYZ trades down to $60 a share. The investor believes the stock will rebound, but not all the way back to his original purchase price of $80. He thinks there is a reasonable chance for the stock to retrace half of its loss (to about $70 a share) over the next two months.

The trader wants to make back his entire loss of $20. Furthermore, he wants to do it without increasing his downside risk by any more than the risk he already has (with the 100 shares already owned). The trader looks at the options with an expiration corresponding to his two-month outlook, in this case the September options.

The trader buys 1 November 60 call at 6 and sells 2 November 70 calls at 3. The spread is established cash-neutral.

Bought 1 Nov 60 call at 6
Sold 2 Nov 70 call at 3 (x2)
-0-

By combining these options with the 100 shares already owned, the trader creates a new position that gives double exposure between $60 and $70 to capture gains faster if his forecast is right. The P&L diagram below shows how the position functions if held until expiration.

If the stock rises to $70 a share, the trader makes $20, which happens to be what he lost when the stock fell from $80 to $60. The trader would be able to regain the entire loss in a retracement of just half of the decline. With the stock above 60 at expiration, the 60-strike call could be exercised to become a long-stock position of 100 shares. That means, the trader would be long 200 shares when the stock is between $60 and $70 at expiration. Above $70, however, the two short 70-strike calls would be assigned, resulting in the 200 shares owned being sold at $70. Therefore, further upside gains are forfeited above and beyond $20.

But what if the trader is wrong? Instead of rising, say the stock continues lower and is trading below $60 a share at expiration. In this event, all the options in the spread expire and the trader is left with the original 100 shares. The further the stock declines, the more the trader can lose. But the option trade won’t contribute to additional losses. Only the original shares are at risk.

Benefits and Limitations of the Stock Repair Strategy

The stock repair strategy is an option strategy that is very specific in what it can (and can’t) accomplish. The investor considering this option strategy must be expecting a partial retracement and be willing to endure more losses if the underlying security continues to decline. Furthermore, the investor must accept limiting profit potential above the short strike if the stock moves higher than expected.

Some stocks that have experienced recent declines may be excellent candidates for the stock repair. For others, the stock repair strategy might not be appropriate. For stocks that look like they are finished or may even head lower, the Stock Repair Strategy can’t help – just take your lumps! But for those that might slowly climb back, just partially, this can be a powerful option strategy to recoup all or some of the losses.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

October 23, 2014

Math is Beneficial for Option Trading

One of the greatest advantages for an option trader is the initial flexibility of the position and the ability to adjust a position to match the new outlook of the underlying. The option trader who limits his or her world to that of simply trading equities also limits the position and outlook to either long (bullish) or short (bearish) positions. A change in an outlook regardless of the reason often requires starting a new position or closing out the old one. The options trader can usually change with  the newly developed outlook with much more ease, often with a minor option adjustment on the position in order to achieve the right fit for the new outlook.

Option Adjustments

One concept with which the option trader needs to be familiar in order to construct a necessary option adjustment is that of the synthetic relationship. Most options traders neglect to familiarize themselves with this concept when learning to trade options. This concept arises from the fact that appropriately structured option positions are virtually indistinguishable in function from the corresponding long or short equity position. One approach to remembering the relationships is to memorize all of the relationships. It may be easier to do this by remembering the mathematical formula below and modifying as needed.

Synthetic Formula

For those who remember algebra probably that was taught back in high school, the fundamental equation expressing this relationship is S=C-P. The variables are defined as S=stock, C=call, and P=put. This equation states that stock is equivalent to a long call and a short put.

Using high school algebra to formulate this equation, the various equivalency relationships can easily be determined. Remember that we can maintain the validity of the equation by performing the same action to each of the two sides. This fundamental algebraic adjustment allows us, for example, to derive the structure of a short stock position by multiplying each side by -1 and maintain the equality relationship. In this case (S)*-1 =(C-P)*-1 or –S=P-C; short stock equals long put and short call.

Such synthetic positions are frequently used to establish option positions or to make an option adjustment either in whole or part. You might have not liked or did well with algebra when you were in school, but applying some of the formulas can help an option trader exponentially!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

October 15, 2014

Debit Spread Versus Credit Spread

Students in my Group Coaching class as well as my one-on-one students ask me all the time how do you decide between buying a debit spread and selling a credit spread? This is inherently a discussion that could fill a thick book so I will just try to give you a few thoughts to consider.

Risk and Reward

A debit spread such as a bull call spread or a bear put spread is considered to have a better risk/reward ratio then a credit spread such as a bull put spread or a bear call spread. Usually the reason is because the debit spread is implemented close to where the stock is currently trading with an expected move higher or lower. A credit spread is many times initiated out-of-the-money (OTM) in anticipation the spread will expire worthless or close to worthless. For example, if a stock is trading at $50 and an option trader expects the stock to move about $5 higher the trader could buy a 50 call and sell a 55 call. If the 50 call cost the trader $5 and $3 was received for selling the 55 call, the bull call (debit) spread would cost the trader $2 (also the maximum loss) and have a maximum profit of $3 (5 (strike difference) – 2 (cost)) if the stock was trading at or above $55 at expiration. Thus the risk/reward ratio would be 1/1.5.

If the option trader was unsure if the $50 stock was going to move higher but felt the stock would at least stay above a support area around $45 the trader could sell a 45 put and buy a 40 put. If a credit of $1 was received for selling the 45 put and it cost the trader $0.50 to buy the 40 put, a net credit would be received of $0.50 for selling the bull put (credit) spread. The maximum gain for the spread is $0.50 if the stock is trading at $45 or higher at expiration and the maximum loss is $4.50 (5 (strike difference) – 0.50 (premium received)) if the stock is trading at or below $40 at expiration. Thus the risk reward ratio would be 9/1.

Probability

The risk/reward ratio on the credit spread does not sound like something an option trader would strive for does it? Think of it this way though, the probability of the credit spread profiting are substantially better than the debit spread. The debit spread most certainly needs the stock to move higher at some point to profit. If the stock stays at $50 or moves lower, the calls will expire worthless and a loss is incurred from the initial debit ($2). With the credit spread, the stock can effectively do three things and it would still be able to profit. The stock can move above $50, trade sideways and even drop to $45 at expiration and the credit spread would expire worthless and the trader would keep the initial premium received ($0.50). I like to say OTM credit spreads have three out of four ways of making money and debit spreads usually have one way depending on how the spread is initiated.

Implied Volatility

Another thing to consider when considering either a debit or credit spread is the implied volatility of the options. In general, when implied volatility is low, options are “cheap” which may be advantageous for buying options including debit spreads. When options are “expensive”, it may be advantageous to sell options including credit spreads. Option traders that are considering selling a credit spread should also take into account if the implied volatility is perceived as being high. Just the opposite, option traders that are considering buying a debit spread prefer the implied volatility to be low. As a general rule of thumb, I look at the 30-day IV over the last year and make note of the 52-week high and 52-week low. If the current 30-day IV is below 50% (closer to the 52-week low), I look at it is more of an advantage to do a debit spread over a credit spread. If the current 30-day IV is above 50% and closer to the 52-week high, I look at it as an advantage to implement a credit spread over a debit spread. I will not change my outlook like switching to a debit spread from a credit spread because the IV is relatively low. If this is the case, an option trader should maybe consider looking somewhere else for profit.

There are several factors to consider when choosing between a debit spread and a credit spread. The risk/reward of the spread, the probability of the trade profiting, the implied volatility of the options and the outlook for the underlying are just a few to consider. A trader always wants to put the odds on his or her side to increase the chances if extracting money from the market.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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