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February 27, 2014

Naked AAPL Options

With March finally here, traders are still assessing when or if ever this market will have a correction like it had in January. That being the case, there are several option strategies that traders can consider depending on their outlook. Below is an explanation of a option strategy that may be right for you depending on your goals and trading personality. Regardless, understanding this option strategy is something all traders should and need to know even if they may never use it.

Let’s take a look at an option strategy that involves the selling of a put, often referred to as an uncovered put write or simply a naked put. A naked put is when a trader sells a put that is not part of a spread. This strategy is generally considered to be a bullish-to-neutral strategy. The maximum profit is the premium received for the put. The maximum profit is achieved when the underlying stock is greater than or equal to the strike price of the sold put. Though this allows for a lot of room for error (The stock can be anywhere above the strike at expiration), note that the maximum loss is unlimited and occurs when the price of the underlying stock is less than the strike price of the sold put less the premium received. So, executing this trade in the right situation is essential. To calculate the breakeven point, subtract the premium received from the sold put’s strike price.

The Example

For our example we will use Apple Inc. (AAPL). Apple shares have moved lower since the middle of February and are attempting to rally again. Now the trader thinks after this brief pullback the stock will once again continue to move higher. For this example we will assume the stock is trading around $525 a share at the beginning of March. A trader sells the April 500 put, which carries a bid price of $6 (rounded to make the math a bit easier) because there is an area of support at that level that the trader thinks will hold. Should AAPL stock be trading above $500 a share at expiration, the April 500 contract will expire worthless and the trader will keep the premium collected. (Do not forget to take any commissions the trader may pay from the equation.) All is good, right? Well, what if the stock falls below that area of support?

If AAPL falls another $40 to $485 at expiration, the put would expire in-the-money and would have to be purchased back to avoid assignment. This could cost the trader a rather hefty sum. Assigning values, our investor collected $6 in premium. The 500 put expired with $15 in intrinsic value. The trader loses the $15, less the $6 premium collected results in a loss of $9, or $900 of actual cash.

Why Sell Naked Puts?

We have already discussed the profit potential of selling naked puts, but there is another reason to do so – owning the stock. Selling naked puts is a good way to purchase at a specific price by choosing a strike near said target price. Should the stock price drop below the put strike and the puts are assigned, the trader buys the stock at the strike price minus the option premium received. Again, should the put not reach the strike price, the premium is pocketed at expiration. Traders should be aware of the risk when selling naked puts and that potential losses can be extreme when compared to other option strategies.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 20, 2014

Socrates 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, etc. Have you ever wondered how can you know how much an option is going to move 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 suggests the option should move 50 cents higher when the AAPL jumps a dollar, and lose 50 cents for every dollar loss in AAPL.

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). 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.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 13, 2014

The Olympics of Trading

The Winter Olympics in Sochi are currently in full swing and it can be quite enjoyable and patriotic to watch. But did you ever stop and think for a minute how these fantastic athletes got to be where they are? It took a lot of dedication, courage and a well though out plan to make it to their elite level. If that sounds familiar it should because those same attributes are what it takes to learn to trade and become a successful options trader.

You might be dedicated and have the courage to be an options trader, but do you have a trading plan that you follow? It is probably safe to say many option traders do not. Option traders spend a lot of time looking for solid trades that they often neglect probably the most important part: the management of the trade. If that is you take a little solace because you are not alone.

A simple way to combat this problem is by having a plan in place before even entering the trade. This is the psychological part of trading. Having a plan in place will remove emotions from getting in the way of decision making and possibly producing unwanted results. Should I stay in the trade or should I exit? Decisions like that should not be made after the trade is executed because many option traders can become too emotional when the trade is in progress especially when they are losing money on the trade. Here are a few things to consider about trade management.

Option traders should think about how they are determining their targets. Don’t forget to consider how the greeks and the implied volatility may be affected if the outlook or environment changes. In a volatile market like this, an options trader may need to make some adjustments especially about taking early profits or exiting for a loss.

Option traders should also think about how they will exit if their targets are not met. How will the exit or stop be determined? Once again, don’t forget to use the greeks and implied volatility in your methods because it could make the difference between profiting or losing.

All trading including option trading can be very difficult at times just like training for the Olympics and not having plan in place can make it exponentially more difficult. It helps to have courage and be dedicated to reaching your goals but a solid trading plan can go a long way towards potential success. Athletes that train without a plan are similar to option traders letting their emotions make decisions for them. Once there is well thought out plan in place and most importantly the plan is followed, an option trader removes unwanted emotions which can hinder his or her chances of being successful. You never know, you might just earn yourself a gold medal too!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 6, 2014

Option Prices and Earnings

With earnings season in full gear and major players like Priceline.com and Tesla ready to announce soon, it is probably a good time to review how option prices are influenced.

Perhaps the most easily understood of the options price influences is the price of the underlying. All stock traders are familiar with the impact of the underlying stock price alone on their trades. The technical and fundamental analyses of the underlying stock price action are well beyond the scope of this discussion, but it is sufficient to say it is one of the three pricing factors and probably the most familiar to traders learning to trade.

The price influence of time is easily understood in part because it is the only one of the forces restricted to unidirectional movement. The main reason that time impacts option positions significantly is a result of the existence of time (extrinsic) premium. Depending on the risk profile of the option strategy established, the passage of time can impact the trade either negatively or positively.

The third price influence is perhaps the most important. It is without question the most neglected and overlooked component; implied volatility. Because we are in the midst of earnings season, it can become even a greater influence over the price of options than usual. Implied volatility taken together with time defines the magnitude of the extrinsic option premium. The value of implied volatility is generally inversely correlated to price of the underlying and represents the aggregate trader’s view of the future volatility of the underlying. Because implied volatility responds to the subjective view of future volatility, values can ebb and flow as a result of upcoming events expected to impact price (e.g. earnings, FDA decisions, etc.).

New traders beginning to become familiar with the world of options trading should spend a fair amount of time learning the impact of each of these options pricing influences. The options markets can be ruthlessly unforgiving to those who choose to ignore them especially over an earnings announcement.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring