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January 7, 2016

Mastering Vertical Spreads on AAPL

One of the basic directional spreads when trading options is that of the vertical spread.  It can be extremely versatile and represents a major building block of more complex spreads. With a vertical spread, the various strike prices for an option are arranged vertically and the expirations available to trade are displayed horizontally.  This defined risk position consists of both a long and short position at different strike prices within the same expiration.  It can be constructed with either puts or calls and the initial cash flow can be either a credit or debit.  Strike prices can be selected to produce either aggressive or conservative stances depending on the outlook and the risk/reward that is desired.

In conjunction with this blog, Dan’s Online Education series this month is all about “Mastering Vertical Spreads”. The series will cover essentially everything you need to know about them including analyzing, managing and adjusting the spreads. Please take a look at the Options Education section of our website for more information and the additional education that is included.

As an example, let us consider a vertical spread in  Apple (AAPL). The stock has dropped considerably over the last several weeks to the chagrin of many investors and at the time of this writing is hovering around $101. With AAPL being heavily traded, the option chain show tremendous liquidity, a tight bid ask spread, and elevated implied volatility.

For the trader who has a bullish diagnosis  for the price action in AAPL just ahead of earnings later this month, a put credit spread can be established by selling the January 100 put ($1.50 credit) where it has a pivot low and buying the January 95 put ($0.50 debit). The total premium received is $1. At the time of this writing there are 10 days to expiration, the maximum potential return is 20% and is achieved as long as AAPL remains at or above the short put strike of 100.  Maximum risk is defined by the long 95 put. The maximum risk is defined by taking the difference in the strikes $5 (100 – 95) minus the premium received ($1) or $4 if AAPL finished at or below $95 at expiration.

As contrasted to a naked put sale, this position has the following major differences: 1. Risk is crisply defined as opposed to the naked sale maximum risk of the underlying going to zero, and 2. Margin requirements for the position and hence yield are dramatically improved. Understanding the potential risk of each strategy and implementing the one that matches your trading personality can go a long way at making you feel comfortable and successful as a trader. And remember to check out Dan’s class!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

January 4, 2016

Apple Stock or Call Options

Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock is much cheaper to purchase now then it was before its split back in June 2014. And even though it has declined over the last month, it is still rather pricey for many investors. You might believe that this stock, despite its recent dive, continues to have tremendous upside potential and could easily make it back to $120 relatively soon. The problem is that you don’t want to shell out about $107 for one share of the technology giant. What can you do to maximize your money and cash in on the perceived upside? Easy, buy a call option rather than the stock.

Quick Definition

A call option is a bullish strategy wherein 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 $107, it is going to cost you (100 X $107) $10,700. 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 100 with a July expiration (gives the buyer the right to purchase 100 shares for $100 a share). This call option carries a price tag of $12 and has about 200 days until expiration. Rather than dishing out $10,700 for 100 AAPL stock shares, you instead pay $1,200 for the options – a rather nice difference of $9,500 that you can use for something else or to purchase other options.

The Money

The cost efficiency 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 $107 at the massive cost of $10,700; you have dished out a more reasonable $1,200 for the transaction. Of course this is a scenario where a trader would be simply bullish on AAPL stock.

Conclusion

As you can see, it is possible to lay out 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 $1,200 is far better than paying $12,000 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.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

November 12, 2015

AAPL and Controlled Stops

If you are like a lot of other option traders, you probably avoided trading Apple Inc. (AAPL) during its recent earnings announcement. Now that the volatility event is over, you might be looking to take an option position. Even though the company announced its earnings, there may still be some volatile action ahead. Just this past week, the stock dropped significantly lower after Credit Suisse made an announcement about the company allegedly cutting components orders for the iPhone6. 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 the trader, but perhaps the single most attractive characteristic is the ability to control risk precisely in many instances. Much of this advantage comes from the ability to control positions that are equivalent to stock with far less capital outlay.

However, a less frequently discussed aspect of risk control is the ability to moderate risk by the careful and precise use of time stops as well as the more familiar price stops more generally known to traders. Because time stops take advantage of the time decay of extrinsic premium to help control risk, it is important to recognize that this time decay is not linear by any means.

As a direct result, it may not be obviously apparent the time course that the decay curve will follow. An option trader has to take into account that the option modeling software that most brokers have is essential to plan the trade and decide the appropriate time at which to place a time stop.

As a simple example, consider the case of a short position in AAPL established by buying in-the-money December 120 puts. A trader could establish a position consisting of 10 long contracts with a position delta of -660 for approximately $5,750 as I write this.

At the time of this writing, the stock is trading around $116; these puts 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 as a stop loss if AAPL is at or above $118 at expiration. The options expiration risk is $3,750 or more. However, if the 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 $118 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 fetch a higher price. In this event, closing prior to expiration helps the trader lose less when the stop executes, especially if there is a fair amount of time until expiration and time decay hasn’t totally eroded away.

Options offer a variety of ways to control risk. An option trader needs to learn several that match his or her risk/reward criteria.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

September 10, 2015

Option Delta Multiplied

As an option trader, there are quite a few areas to learn and master before being able to extract money from the market on a regular basis. Learning what the option greeks mean and how they function alone and in relation to the other greeks is very important as an option trader. Here we will take a look at one of the greeks and consider what many option traders often fail to consider.

Option Delta

Delta is probably the first greek an option trader learns and is focused on. In fact it can be a critical starting point when learning to trade options. Simply said, delta measures how much the theoretical value of an option will change if the stock moves up or down by $1. A positive delta means the position will rise in value if the stock rises and drop in value of the stock declines. A negative delta means the opposite. The value of the position will rise if the stock declines and drop in value if the stock rises in price. Some traders use delta as an estimate of the likelihood of an option expiring in-the-money (ITM). Though this is common practice, it is not a mathematically accurate representation.

The delta of a single call can range anywhere from 0 to 1.00 and the delta of a single put can range from 0 to -1.00. Generally at-the-money (ATM) options have a delta close to 0.50 for a long call and -0.50 for a long put. If a long call has a delta of 0.50 and the underlying stock moves higher by a dollar, the option premium should increase by $0.50. As you might have derived, long calls have a positive delta and long puts have a negative delta. Just the opposite is true with short options—a short call has a negative delta and a short put has a positive delta. The closer the option’s delta is to 1.00 or -1.00 the more it responds closer to the movement of the stock. Stock has a delta of 1.00 for a long position and -1.00 for a short position.

Taking the above paragraph into context, one may be able to derive that the delta of an option depends a great deal on the price of the stock relative to the strike price of the option. All other factors being held constant, when the stock price changes, the delta changes too.

AAPL Example

What many traders fail to understand is that delta is cumulative. A trader can add, subtract and multiply deltas to calculate the delta of the overall position including stock. The overall position delta is a great way to determine the risk/reward of the position. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Let’s say a trader has a bullish outlook on Apple (AAPL) when the stock is trading at $111 and purchases 3 October 110 call options. Each call contract has a delta of +0.55. The total delta of the position would then be +1.65 (3 X 0.55) and not just 0.55. For every dollar AAPL rises all factors being held constant again, the position should profit $165 (100 X 1 X 1.65). If AAPL falls $2, the position should lose around $330 (100 X -2 X 1.65) based on the delta alone.

Using AAPL once again as the example, lets say a trader decides to purchase a October 110/115 bull call spread instead of the long calls. The delta of the long $110 call is once again 0.55 and the delta of the short $115 call is -0.40. The overall delta of the position is 0.15 (0.55 – 0.40). If AAPL moves higher by $3, the position will now gain $45 (100 X 3 X 0.15) with all factors being held constant again. If AAPL falls a dollar, the position will suffer a $15 (100 X -1 X 0.15) loss based on the delta alone.

Last Thought

Calculating the position delta is critical for understanding the potential risk/reward of a trader’s position and also of his or her total portfolio as well. If a trader’s portfolio delta is large (positive or negative), then the overall market performance will have a strong impact on the traders profit or loss.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

May 21, 2015

Call Options Instead of Apple Stock

Although Apple Inc. (AAPL) is much cheaper to purchase now then it was before the split, it is still rather pricey. You believe that this stock, despite its high price, continues to have tremendous upside potential and could easily make it to $150 soon. The problem is that you don’t want to shell out $130 for one share of the technology giant. What can you do to maximize your money and cash in on the perceived upside? Easy, buy a call option rather than the stock.

Quick Definition

A call option is a bullish strategy wherein 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 $130 it is going to cost you (100 X $130) $13,000. 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, 120 with a July expiration (gives the buyer the right to purchase 100 shares for $120 a share), which carries a price tag of $11. Rather than dishing out $13,000 for 100 AAPL stock shares, you instead pay $1,100 for the options – a rather nice difference of $11,900 that you can use for something else or to purchase other options.

The Money

The cost efficiency 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 $130 at the massive cost of $13,000; you have dished out a more reasonable $1,100 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 lay out 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 $1,100 is far better than paying $13,000 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.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 19, 2015

Your Overall Option Delta

Delta is probably the first greek an option trader learns and is focused on. In fact it can be a critical starting point when learning to trade options. Simply said, delta measures how much the theoretical value of an option will change if the stock moves up or down by $1. A positive delta means the position will rise in value if the stock rises and drop in value of the stock declines. A negative delta means the opposite. The value of the position will rise if the stock declines and drop in value if the stock rises in price. Some traders use delta as an estimate of the likelihood of an option expiring in-the-money (ITM). Though this is common practice, it is not a mathematically accurate representation.

The delta of a single call can range anywhere from 0 to 1.00 and the delta of a single put can range from 0 to -1.00. Generally at-the-money (ATM) options have a delta close to 0.50 for a long call and -0.50 for a long put. If a long call has a delta of 0.50 and the underlying stock moves higher by a dollar, the option premium should increase by $0.50. As you might have derived, long calls have a positive delta and long puts have a negative delta. Just the opposite is true with short options—a short call has a negative delta and a short put has a positive delta. The closer the option’s delta is to 1.00 or -1.00 the more it responds closer to the movement of the stock. Stock has a delta of 1.00 for a long position and -1.00 for a short position.

Taking the above paragraph into context, one may be able to derive that the delta of an option depends a great deal on the price of the stock relative to the strike price of the option. All other factors being held constant, when the stock price changes, the delta changes too.

What many traders fail to understand is that delta is cumulative. A trader can add, subtract and multiply deltas to calculate the delta of the overall position including stock. The overall position delta is a great way to determine the risk/reward of the position. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

Let’s say a trader has a bullish outlook on Apple (AAPL) when the stock is trading at $128 and purchases 3 March 130 call options. Each call contract has a delta of +0.40. The total delta of the position would then be +1.20 (3 X 0.40) and not just 0.40. For every dollar AAPL rises all factors being held constant again, the position should profit $120 (100 X 1 X 1.20). If AAPL falls $2, the position should lose $240 (100 X -2 X 1.20) based on the delta alone.

Using AAPL once again as the example, lets say a trader decides to purchase a March 130/135 bull call spread instead of the long calls. The delta of the long $130 call is once again 0.40 and the delta of the short $135 call is -0.22. The overall delta of the position is 0.18 (0.40 – 0.22). If AAPL moves higher by $3, the position will now gain $54 (100 X 3 X 0.18) with all factors being held constant again. If AAPL falls a dollar, the position will suffer a $18 (100 X -1 X 0.18) loss based on the delta alone.

Calculating the position delta is critical for understanding the potential risk/reward of a trader’s position and also of his or her total portfolio as well. If a trader’s portfolio delta is large (positive or negative), then the overall market performance will have a strong impact on the traders profit or loss.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 5, 2015

What is an Option Strangle?

An option strangle is an option strategy that option traders can use when they think there is an imminent move in the underlying but the direction is uncertain. With an option strangle, the trader is betting on both sides of a trade by purchasing a put and a call generally just out-of-the-money (OTM), but with the same expiration. By buying a put and a call that are OTM, an option trader pays a lower initial price than with an option straddle where the call and put purchased share the same strike price. However, this comes with a price so-to-speak; the stock will have to make a much larger move than if the option straddle were implemented because the breakeven points of the trade will be further out due to buying both options OTM. The trader is, arguably, taking a larger risk (because a bigger move is needed than with an option straddle), but is paying a lower price. Like many trade strategies there are pros and cons to each. If this or any other option strategy sounds a little overwhelming to you, I would invite you to checkout the Options Education section on our website.

The Particulars

An option strangle has two breakeven points just like the option straddle. 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 (for upside moves). 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 an option strangle is the net premium paid.

Implied Volatility

The implied volatility (IV) of the options plays a key role in an option strangle as well. With no short options in this spread, the IV exposure is concentrated. When IV is considered low compared to historical volatility (HV), it is a relatively “cheap” time to buy options. Since the option strangle involves buying a call and put, buying “cheaper” options is critical. If the IV is expected to increase after the option strangle is initiated, this could increase the option premiums with all other factors held constant which is certainly a bonus for long option strangle holders.

Example Trade

To create an option strangle, a trader will purchase one out-of-the-money (OTM) call and one OTM put. An option trader may think Apple Inc. (AAPL) looks good for a potential option strangle since at the time of this writing, it is teetering around its all-time high at $120. With IV lower than HV and the trader unsure in what direction the Apple stock may move, the option strangle could be the way to go. The trader would buy both an March 125 call and an March 115 put. For simplicity, we will assign a price of 2.00 for both – resulting in an initial investment of $4 (2 + 2) for our trader (which again is the maximum potential loss).

Apple Stock Rallies

Should the Apple stock rally past the call’s breakeven point which is $129 (125 + 4) at expiration, the 115 put expires worthless and the $125 call expires in-the-money (ITM) resulting in the strangle trader collecting on the position. If, for example at expiration the stock is trading at $133 which means the intrinsic value of the call $8 (133 – 125), the profit is $4 (8 – 4) which represents the intrinsic value less the premium paid.

Apple Stock Declines

The same holds true if the stock falls below the put’s breakeven point at expiration. The put is in ITM and the call expires worthless. At expiration, if Apple stock is trading below the put’s breakeven point of the trade which is $111 (115 – 4), a profit will be realized. The danger is that Apple stock finishes between $111 and $129 as expiration occurs. In this case, both legs of the position expire worthless and the initial 4, or $400 of actual cash, is lost.

Maximum Loss

Notice that the maximum loss is the initial premium paid, setting a nice limit to potential losses. Profits and losses can be realized way before expiration and it is up to the trader to decide how and when to close the position. 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.

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 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

August 14, 2014

AAPL and Option Gamma

Many option traders will refer to option delta as the most important option greek. It is debatable but in my opinion the next most important greek is option gamma. Option gamma is a one of the so-called second-order option greeks. It is, in theory, 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 option 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 option gamma:

When you buy options you get positive option 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 September 95 long call that has an option delta of 0.55 and option gamma of 0.0478 , a trader makes money at an increasing rate as the stock rises and loses money at a decreasing rate as the stock falls. Positive option gamma is a good thing.

When you sell options you get negative option 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 option gamma is a bad thing.

Start by understanding option gamma from this simple perspective. Then, later, worry about figuring out the math.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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