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April 24, 2014

Stop Loss or Trailing Stop?

The market has moved higher, lower and higher again over the last month or so. Even though the market has rallied as of late, there’s still a potential for the market to move lower. Regardless, whether the market continues to move higher or lower once again it is always a good time to talk about stop losses. Traders may hear the terms trailing stop loss and stop loss order and wonder exactly what those terms mean and how a stop loss can potentailly enhance a trading strategy. Well, worry no more because that is exactly what we will review in this blog entry. To get more educational ideas like this, sign up for a free two-week trial of Market Taker Mentoring’s options newsletter.

Let’s start with the basics which is defining a stop loss order. Basically, a trader will tell the broker a certain price on a stock (or option) where the position will be closed; but it’s a little different than a typical closing order. For longs, the closing price is below the current market price and for shorts the stop loss closing order is above the current market. Let’s take a look.

Stop Loss Example

A trader could purchase a stock for $20.00 and set a stop-loss order at $18.50. This means that the position will be closed at the market price once the stock drops below $18.50, pretty simple right? It is called a stop loss order because it stops the trader from taking any more losses. Many traders use a set percentage of a trade for a stop loss order. If a trader wants to use a stop loss order for an option, the bid and ask prices would be monitored and then the same decisions as were made in the stock example are followed.

Trailing Stop Loss Example

A trader chooses a lower target price to keep losses in check and tells the broker to sell the contract once this price is violated. There is another stop loss strategy, the trailing stop loss. A trailing stop loss is either a fixed percentage or a fixed nominal increment from the current market price. Once the market price moves away from the stop, the stop moves, or trails, the market. It remains in place, though, if the market moves towards it.

Once the trailing stop loss is triggered the stock is sold, just like the regular stop loss. The benefit of the trailing stop loss is that it is flexible. If you purchase an option for $10 and set a trailing stop of 50 cents, the sell target is $9.50. Of course, as the stock increases in value, the 50-cent trailing stop will do follow (the stock trades at $10.50, the trailing stop becomes $10.00).

A trailing stop loss can be used very effectively in profit taking and it is a strategy I have used often myself. Let’s revisit the $10 stock with a 50-cent stop loss. If the company reports blow-out earnings, driving the price sharply higher, it might be time to adjust the trailing stop loss. In this example, let’s say the stock jumped to $12.00. A nice profit, but there could be some more room to the upside. Maybe the trader will adjust that trailing stop a little tighter to, say, 25 cents. Doing so allows the trader to lock in a profit of at least 1.75 (12 minus 10 = 2, 2 minus 0.25 = 1.75).

Consider the option next time you are in a profitable position!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

May 9, 2013

Stock Option Picks Require Analyzing the Overall Market as Well as Individual Stock Assessment

Making stock option picks with huge profit potentials, whether the market is up or down, depends on diligent market research and a thorough understanding of stock option fundamentals.

Finding profitable trading opportunities can be tough. But you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Some professional trader services, such as Market Taker’s Group Options Coaching, make stock option picks that they share with protégés, saving individual traders time and effort.

But whether you do your own research or rely on a seasoned professional for your stock option picks, its essential to understand some basic facts about options trading.

Making stock option picks based on individual stock assessment requires an understanding of specific fundamental parameters. Traders may learn how to read an annual report and 10K stockholders report for income statements, past earnings, sales, assets, new products, and overall industry trends.

Stock option picks based on technical analysis is essential for success and requires the investor to examine the historical price movement and volume in order to determine price patterns and extrapolate future price movements. The single most important technical analysis technique is the simplest: Support and resistance lines. Specifically, horizontal support and resistance lines at the same price level in two or more time frames.

Stock option picks based on broad market analysis examines overall activity based on performance indices. Is the overall market bullish (moving up), bearish (moving down) or neutral (moving sideways)? The broad market will affect individual equities.

Stock option picks based on psychological market indicators attempts to interpret the facts and gauge whether a change from bullish to bearish (or vice versa) is in the wind. Successful options traders are frequently contrarians who buy puts in a bullish market and purchase calls in a bearish market — against convention.

Bottom line, a lot goes into stock option picks. The help of a professional with experience in “putting it all together” can make the process easier and can result in better trade ideas with greater profit potential.

Enroll today and take a step towards better trading.

April 11, 2013

Trading a Long Call or Trading a Bull Call Spread AAPL

Purchasing a Call vs. Bull Call Spread
With the market moving higher at unprecedented levels recently, it probably made sense to have at least a moderately bullish bias towards many stocks. The market is due for some type of pullback but whose to say it won’t continue on its bullish pace. Is there a way that you can take advantage of this bullish investing scenario while limiting risk? Certainly, there are a couple. One that may be a better option compared to the rest is the bull call spread. To learn to trade this strategy and more in detail please visit our website for details.

When implementing a bull call, a trader purchases call options at one strike and sells the same number of calls on the same company at a higher strike with the same expiration date. Let’s use Apple Inc. (AAPL) which is currently trading around $435 as an example. In this case you would purchase May calls at the 435 at-the-money strike at the ask price of $18. You would then sell the same number of May calls with a higher strike price, in this case 455 at the bid, $10.

The Math
The trader’s maximum profit in the bull call spread is limited; he can make as much as the difference between the strike prices less the net debit paid. For simplicity, let’s assume that he purchased one May 435 call and sold one May 455 call resulting in a net debit of $8 (that’s $18 – $10). The difference in the strike prices is $20 (455 – 435). He would subtract 8 from 20 to end up with a maximum profit of $12 per contract. So if he traded 10 contracts, you could make $12,000.

Although he limited his upside, the trader also limited the downside to the net debit of $8 per contract. To simply breakeven, the stock would have to trade at $443 (the strike price of the purchased call (435) plus net debit ($8)) at expiration.

Advantage versus Purchasing a Call
When trading the long call, a trader’s downside is limited to the net premium paid. If he simply purchased the at-the-money May 435 call he would have paid $18. The potential loss is, therefore, greater when implementing a call-buying strategy. If he had moved to a call with a longer time frame to expiration, he would have even paid more for the option. This would also increase his potential loss per option.

By implementing a bull call spread, traders can hedge their bets – limiting the potential loss. This is the advantage when comparing to purchasing a call outright. Remember that there are no sure-fire ways to make money by using options. However, knowing and understanding the strategy is a good way to limit losses.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring