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March 28, 2013

Buying Calls Instead of Apple Stock

You have been watching Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) and you believe this downtrend for the stock is about to end. You believe that this stock, despite its high price, now has potential and could easily make it back to $500 soon. The problem is that you don’t want to shell out $450 for one share of the technology giant. What can you do to maximize your money and cash in on A potential move to the upside? Simple, buy a call option rather than the stock.

Quick Definition

A call option is a bullish strategy where a trader purchases the right (but not the obligation) to purchase a stock at a specified price within a specific time period. One advantage to buying a call option rather than purchasing a stock is that you can gain a much larger percentage return on your investment. To learn more advantages, please check out the Options Education section on our website.

The Example

If you want to purchase 100 shares of AAPL stock at $450 it is going to cost you (100 X $450) $45,000. However, let’s say that you decide to purchase 1 call option on AAPL (each option represents 100 shares) with a strike price of, say, 450 with a May expiration, which carries a price tag of $22. Rather than shelling out $45,000 for 100 AAPL stock shares, you instead pay $2,200 for the options – a pretty sunstantial difference of $42,800 that you can use for something else or to purchase other options.

The Money

The cost savings of purchasing call options can be far greater than simply purchasing shares of a stock, especially when you are dealing with high-priced stocks like AAPL. Remember that one option contract is the right to purchase 100 shares of a stock at that price. So, rather than purchasing 100 AAPL shares at $450 at the massive cost of $45,000; you have dished out a more reasonable $2,200 for the transaction. Of course this is the scenario if you want to be simply bullish on AAPL stock.

Conclusion

As you can see, it is possible to spend far less money to purchase call options on a stock that to by the call itself. In fact, the earlier the expiration you choose, the lower the price you could pay. No matter what math you use, paying $2,200 is far better than paying $45,000 for the same product. What if you want to sell these options to someone who is willing to pay a higher ask price than you paid? That is another subject for another time. Remember, there is no fool-proof way to make money in the market – there is risk involved in any trading strategy. One way to make sure you maximize your cash is to make sure you study your subject, remember that knowledge is power is used correctly.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

March 21, 2013

Implied Volatility Discrepancies

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dan Passarelli @ 11:01 am

It is often a daunting task deciphering the tremendous amount of options information contained within an option chain for the trader beginning his study of the world of options. One of the most nuanced variables embedded within the prices quoted for the chains is that of the relative values of implied volatility (IV) amongst the various strike prices and the various months of expiration.

The IV of each of the various available options for a given underlying is not usually constant for each individual strike price and expiration cycle. The IV can and often does vary between individual strike prices within the same cycle; this variation is termed vertical skew. In addition, IV often varies at the same exact strike price when considered between various expiration cycles; this variation is termed a horizontal skew.

To review briefly, remember that option prices depend largely on the three variables: time to expiration, price of the underlying, and IV. The only one of these factors not immediately accessible to anyone with a quote screen and a calendar is IV.

It is by changes in the magnitude of IV that future events of potential major import to the price of the underlying are expressed.

As an example of the information that can be gained by considering skewed values for IV is the stock AFFY. This biopharmaceutical stock is represented in upcoming expiration cycles of: April, May, July, October, January 2014 and January 2015. Considering the example of the 3 strike call, the IV for these various months at the time of this writing are: 222, 189, 171,131, 137 and 110 respectively.

The company just announced a significant reduction of their workforce due to an ongoing investigation surrounding one of their product. The options markets are pricing a substantial probability of a significant price move earlier than later. These types of IV spikes are typically seen in biotech stocks ahead of significant FDA decisions or product investigations like in this instance.

The bottom line for an option traders is to make sure they know how the IV might influence their decision making and understanding why there are discrepancies in the first place.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

March 14, 2013

Six-Year Low in the VIX? What’s It Mean to YOUR Options Trading?

The VIX, or CBOE’s Implied Volatility Index, hit a six-year low this week. What’s that mean to options trading? Lots!

Options trading is greatly affected by implied volatility. At its most basic level, when the VIX is low, it tends to mean lousy options trading.

Option traders are not incented to trade when the VIX is low. Traders generally don’t want to sell options when premiums are so low. There is no reward and still there is always the specter of the risk of an unexpected market shock. And, option traders don’t want to buy options either. Why? Because when the VIX is low, the VIX low is for a reason: Because market volatility is low. Why would traders want to buy options (and endure time decay) is the market isn’t moving?

And so, as always, the devil is in the details. Right now, there actually exists a somewhat atypical pattern in many stock options. Many stocks have their implied volatility trading decidedly below historical volatility levels. Though this volatility set up can be seen here and there at any given time, it is more common than usual. That means cheap volatility trades (i.e., underpriced options) are more abundant.

Stocks like CRM, C, GE, F, and even the almighty AAPL all have implied volatility below their historical volatility.

That means that even though overall stock volatility (as measured by historical volatility) is low, the options are priced at an even lower level. That means time decay is very cheap per the level of price action in these stocks. And, implied volatility in these stocks (and probably the VIX as well) is likely to rise to catch up to historical volatility levels—assuming the current price action continues as it is.

So, traders should be careful not to sell too many option spreads (i.e., credit spreads) at these fire-sale levels. Instead, traders should look to positive vega spreads (i.e., debit spreads), at least until implied volatility rises offering worthy premiums to option sellers.

Dan Passarelli

CEO

Market Taker Mentoring

March 7, 2013

Hedging Volatility Risk in Take-Over Stocks

Say you hear a takeover rumor. A $50 stock is rumored to be taken out at $55. Looks like a nice spec trade. You go to the option chain to look for some calls to buy. But, wow! The options seem to have gotten expensive. Implied volatility is jacked. Sometimes implied volatility can make options so expensive that even if the trade goes your way the profit is just not there–but the risk is. So, what’s an options trader to do?

One solution can be to buy a bull call spread instead of instead the outright call. The rationale? It’s called hedging–hedging volatility premium. Whenever you buy options, you’re getting long implied volatility. If implied volatility is expensive, the options are expensive too. And if implied volatility subsequently falls after you make the trade, those options drop in value too. So, what if you both buy and sell an option to create a spread? Let’s look at the two legs of a bull call spread.

Bull Call Spread – Long Leg
A bull call spread is when a trader buys one call and sells another that has a higher strike price. Look at it as two trades. The long call would be the one you might buy if you were to spec on the take-over stock. In the case of a take over, this call likely has high implied volatility as the market scrambles to buy up calls, making it pricey.

Bull Call

Spread – Short Leg

Because there is a target price in which the take-over target is expected to be bought, you only need exposure up to a certain point–the take-over price. Why not sell a call at or above the expected take-over price? You’re not giving up upside. But you are taking in (expensive) premium to hedge the (expensive) premium you’re buying with the long call leg. It’s a perfect spread.

Example
Let’s look at this in terms of absolute risk. A stock currently trading for $50 is rumored for take over at $55. News is expected within a couple of weeks.

Buy 1 Dec 50 call at $4
Sell 1 Dec 55 call at $2
Net debit $2

Max loss = $2 (That’s better than just buying the 50 calls outright)
Max gain = $3 (That’s the $5 spread minus the $2 premium)
Break even = $52 (That’s $50 strike plus $2 spread premium)

Here the max loss/max gain ratio of the spread is 2:3. The max loss/max gain ratio of the outright call would be 4:1 (Remember, you expect the stock only to rise to $55). The spread looks better so far. Let’s look at the break evens. The spread break-even is $52. The outright call’s break even is $54. Better still.

Wrap Up
With all option strategies, there are opportune times when they offer an advantage over an alternative strategy. Bull call spreads and take-over candidates are a natural fit. Traders always need to look for ways to construct the smartest position in terms of risk-reward.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring