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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

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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

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earnings announcement.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

January 23, 2014

Thoughts on Front-Month Puts

With the market threatening to move lower after a bullish run last year and earning’s season upon us,

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it might be a good time to talk about put options. If a trader buys a put option, he or she has the right to sell the underlying at a particular price (strike price) before a certain time (expiration). If a trader owns 100 shares of stock and purchases a put option, the trader may be able to protect the position fully or to some degree because he or she will have the right to sell the stock at the strike price by expiration even if the shares lose value.

A lot of traders especially those who are just learning to trade options can be smitten by put options especially buying the shortest-term, or front month put for protection. The problem, however, is that there is a flaw to

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the reasoning of purchasing front-month puts as protection. Front-month contracts have a higher theta (time decay) and relying on front-month puts to protect a straight stock purchase is not necessarily the best way to protect the stock. If you were to continually purchase front-month puts as protection, that can end up being a rather expensive way to by insurance.

Although front month options are often cheaper, they are not always your best bet. The idea may be sound, the trader purchases a number of shares of the stock and purchases out-of-the-money puts to protect his or her position; but sound reasoning does not always lead to good practice. Here’s an example.

We will use a hypothetical trade. The stock is trading a slightly above 13 and our hypothetical trader wants to own the stock because he or she thinks the stock will beat its earnings’ estimates in each of the next two quarters. This investment will take at least six months as the trader wants to allow the news events to move the stock higher.

Being a smart options trader, our stock trader wants some insurance against a potential drop in the stock just in case. The trader decides to buy a slightly out-of-the-money July 13 put, which carries an ask price of $0.50 (rounded for simplicity purposes). That 0.50 premium represents almost 4 percent of the current stock price. In fact, if the investor rolled option month after month, it would create a big dent in the initial outlay of cash. To be sure, after about seven months (assuming the stock hangs around $13) the trader would lose more than 25 percent on the $13 investment.

If the stock drops in price, then the ultimate rationalization for the strategy is realized; protection. The put provides a hedge. The value of the option will increase as the stock drops, which can offset the loss suffered as the stock drops. Buying the put is a hedge and and a solid insurance policy – though, albeit, an expensive one. Investors can usually find better ways to protect a stock.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

January 16, 2014

A Short Iron Condor

A short 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.

One of the rationales behind selling an iron condor is implied

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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 is can be rather large depending on how it is implemented.

A short iron condor consists of four legs 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 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 or above the highest strike. If you want an equation for max loss, think of it as the difference in strike prices of the two lower-strike options (or

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the two higher-strike options) less the initial credit for entering the trade.

Being that we are in the mist of earnings season, 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

January 9, 2014

Butterflies, Expiration, the Importance of Time and Christie Brinkley

One of the major differences when learning to trade options as opposed to equity trading is the impact of time on the various trade instruments. Remember that option premiums reflect the total of both intrinsic (if any) and extrinsic (time) value. Equities are not affected by the passing of time unlike many movie stars. Even though Christie Brinkley is still considered to be still quite attractive by many, her look is not the same as it was decades ago when she was a top model and cover-girl. Also remember that while very few things in trading are for certain, one certainty is that the time value of an option premium goes to zero at the closing bell on expiration Friday.

While this decay of time premium to a value of zero is reliable and undeniable in the world of option trading, it is important to recognize that the decay is not linear. It is during the final weeks of the option cycle that decay of the extrinsic premium begins to race ever faster to oblivion. In the vocabulary of the options trader, the rate of theta decay increases as expiration approaches. It is from this quickening of the pace that many examples of option trading vehicles gain their maximum profitability during this final week of their life.

Some of the most dramatic changes in behavior can be seen in the trading strategy known as the butterfly. For those new to options, consideration of the butterfly represents the move from simple single legged strategy such as simply buying a put or a call to multi-legged strategies that include both buying and selling options in certain patterns.

To review briefly, a butterfly consists of a vertical debit spread and vertical credit spread sharing the same strike price constructed together in the same underlying in the same expiration. It may be built using either puts or calls and its directional bias derives from strike selection rather than the particular type of option used for construction. For a (long) butterfly, maximum profit is always achieved at expiration when the underlying closes at the short strike shared by the

two vertical spreads.

The butterfly has the interesting characteristic in that it responds sluggishly to price movement early in its life. For example in the first two weeks of a four week option cycle, time decay or theta is slow to erode. However, as expiration approaches, the butterfly becomes increasingly sensitive to price movement as the time premium erodes and the spread becomes increasingly subject to delta as a result of increasing gamma. It is for this reason that many butterfly traders restrict their use to the more responsive part of the options cycle. For a butterfly, the greatest sensitivity to time (and, therefore, profit potential) is reaped in

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the final week of the life cycle of the butterfly, i.e. expiration week. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

January 2, 2014

A Few Pennies Can Make a Difference

One of the more difficult problems with which to deal for an options trader has historically been the broad bid-ask spreads quoted for options. I often refer to them in class and depending on how large the spread, it may keep me out of a potential trade. Experienced traders have routinely negotiated the bid-ask spreads downward with varying success when trading individual positions, but the non-economic price has been the significant effort and time required to achieve these negotiated results.

Beginning in January 2007, Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) initiated a Pilot Program to reduce bid-ask spreads to as

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low as 1¢. As of the beginning of this year, there are currently around 360 in the series (including such big names as Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and more) quoted in these penny increments. CBOE maintains an Excel file of option series currently included within this “Penny Pilot” program.

Because option positions are frequently constructed with several individual legs, the impact of the ability to trade with tighter bid-ask spreads can

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have significant impact on the aggregate slippage of positions. Combined with the falling commission rates resulting from the increasingly intense competition among brokers specializing in options, significant trading efficiencies have resulted. Looks like a great situation for an option trader to be in.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

December 26, 2013

Gamma and AAPL

Many option traders will refer to the trifecta of option greeks as delta, theta and vega. But the next most important greek is gamma. Options gamma is a one of the so-called second-order options greeks. It is, if you will, a derivative of a derivative. Specifically, it is the rate of change of an option’s delta relative to a change in the underlying security.

Using options gamma can quickly become very mathematical and tedious for novice option traders. But, for newbies to option trading, here’s what you need to learn to trade using gamma:

When you buy options you get positive gamma. That means your deltas always change in your favor. You get longer deltas as the market rises; and you get short deltas as the market falls. For a simple trade like an AAPL January 565 long call that has a delta of 0.51 and gamma of 0.0115 , a trader makes money at an increasing rate as the stock rises and loses money at a decreasing rate as the stock falls. Positive gamma is a good thing.

When you sell options you get negative gamma. That means your deltas always change to your detriment. You get shorter deltas as the market rises; and you get longer deltas as the market falls. Here again, for a simple trade like a short call, that means you lose money at an increasing rate as the stock rises and make money at a decreasing rate as the stock falls. Negative gamma is a bad thing.

Start by understanding options gamma from this simple

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perspective. Then, later, worry about working in the math.

Happy New Year!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

December 18, 2013

Strangles and AAPL

Today we are going to discuss an option strategy that you may not have thought about in quite some time. A straddle is an option strategy that traders can use when the market is volatile but direction is uncertain. Another play similar to the straddle is the option strangle. In a straddle, the trader is betting on both sides of a trade by purchasing options with the same strike price and the same expiration date, on the same underlying. A trader can create a similar trade, but with a lower price by trading a strangle instead. Rather than purchasing a put and a call at the same strike (which makes up a straddle), the trader purchases a put and a call at different strikes, still with the same expiration. By using a put and a call that are out-of-the-money (OTM), a trader pays a lower initial price. However, this comes with a price so-to-speak; the stock will have to make a much larger move than if the straddle were implemented. The trader is, arguably, taking a larger risk (because a bigger move is needed than with a straddle), but is paying a lower price. Like many trade strategies there are pros and cons to each. If this all sounds a little overwhelming to you, I would invite you to checkout the Options Education section on our website.

The Particulars
Like a straddle, a strangle has two breakeven points. To calculate these points simply add the net premium (call premium + put premium) to the strike price of the call (for upside breakeven) and subtract the net premium from the put’s strike (to calculate downside breakeven). If at expiration, the stock has advanced or dropped past one of these breakeven points, the profit potential of the strategy is unlimited (yes, unlimited). The position will take a 100% loss if the stock is trading between the put and call strikes upon expiration. Remember that the maximum loss a trader can take on a strangle is the net premium paid.

Example Trade
To create a strangle, a trader will purchase one out-of-the-money (OTM) call and one OTM put. We can use Apple (AAPL) as an example which at the time of this writing is trading at around $540

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after a volatile couple if weeks. The trader would buy both a January 545 call and a January 535 put. For simplicity, we will assign a price of $17 for both – resulting in an initial investment of $34 for our trader (which again is the maximum potential loss).

Should the stock rally past $545 at expiration, the 535 put expires worthless and the $545 call expires in-the-money (ITM) resulting in the strangle trader collecting on the position. If, for example, the intrinsic value of the call at expiration is $38, the profit is $4 (intrinsic value less the premium paid). The same holds true if the stock falls below $535 at expiration, it then is the put that is ITM and the call expires worthless. The danger is that the stock moves nowhere by the time option expiration occurs. In this case, both legs of the position expire worthless and the initial $34, or $3,400 of actual cash, is lost.

Notice that the maximum loss is the initial premium paid, setting a nice limit to potential losses. Potential profits on the strangle are unlimited which can be very rewarding but as always, a traders needs to decide how he or she will manage the position.

I hope you have a safe and very Happy Holiday!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

December 11, 2013

Options and Math

One of the greatest advantages of options trading is its extreme flexibility in both the initial construction of positions and in the ability to adjust a position to match the new outlook of the underlying. The trader who limits his or her world to that of simply trading equities and ETF’s can only deal in terms of short or long. A change in an outlook often requires starting a new position or exiting the old one. The

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options trader can usually accommodate the newly developed outlook with much more fluidly, often with minor adjustments on the position in order to achieve the right fit with the new outlook.

One concept with which the trader needs to be familiar in order to construct the necessary adjustments is that of the synthetic relationships. Most options traders neglect to familiarize themselves with the 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/ETF 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 and modifying as needed.

For those who remember high school algebra, 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 positions or to modify existing positions either in whole or part. You might have not liked algebra when you were in school, but applying some of the formulas can help an options trader exponentially!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

December 5, 2013

Options Education for Every 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 eleven 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

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trading plan. The Trading Path is central to my Options Coaching program, Dan’s Online Options Education Series and my Group Options Coaching. In addition, we are all excited at Market Taker Mentoring on the release of our brand new Elite Trader Community options chat room. Feel free to try to try it for 2 weeks at a price that everyone can afford even around the holidays!

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

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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

November 26, 2013

The Fundamentals of Iron Condors

Have you ever noticed a professional athlete warming up before a game or match? What are they doing? They are stretching, running, throwing and catching just to name a few for example. What they are really doing is working on the fundamentals. To be good at anything requires learning the fundamentals and constantly working on them throughout your career no matter what your career is.

Option trading is no different. Even traders who have traded for years, who trade complex strategies return to the fundamentals to make their trading decisions. Take trading iron condors. Trading iron condors requires utilizing the fundamentals. Traders who are trading

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iron condors are trading a fairly complex, four-legged option strategy. They need to be able to visualize the strategy in order to analyze it and ultimately decide whether or not they

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should be trading iron condors or something else.

Traders trading iron condors should consider the spread from several different perspectives. Specifically, they should consider it as combinations of other spreads. When a trader is trading iron condors, the trader is in fact trading a pair of credit spreads. An iron condor is a put credit spread combined with a call credit spread. That’s one way to look at it.

Trading iron condors can also be considered from the strangle-trading perspective. An iron condor is a short strangle combined with a long strangle with wider strikes. The profit (and risk) comes from the short strangle, while the long one provides protection.

An iron condor can also be thought of as four individual option positions. Traders trading iron condors have a position in a long put, in a short put, in a short call and in a long call. Thinking of trading iron condors from this perspective, in particular, can help traders make adjustment and closing decision more effectively.

And, of course, an iron condor is, well, an iron condor! It

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is a single strategy in which the risk can be observed on a P&(L) diagram or through the greeks.

This strategy-break-down technique is not just suited for trading iron condors, but for trading all multi-legged strategies. It is an effective analysis technique similar to how car shoppers consider buying a car. They look at the front; then walk around to the side, then the back; they look under the hood and at the interior. All the while, they are considering this one purchase, but just from many different perspectives. Doing this on every potential trade can only improve your odds.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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