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September 3, 2015

Option Collars are Still in Fashion

Fashion comes and goes but there are some items that never go out of style. They simply are classics. The same could be said of some option strategies which never go out of style. Although the market has dropped lately and maybe your investments have gone down in value, it may still make sense to consider a collar.

A collar strategy is an option strategy that can particularly benefit investors. In this blog we generally have a lot more options education for traders and less for long-term investors. So a collar is a strategy that both can consider. A collar is simply holding shares of stock and buying a put and selling a call. Usually both the call and the put are out-of-the money (OTM) when establishing this option combination. A basic single collar represents one long put and one short call along with 100 shares of the underlying stock. A collar strategy is frequently implemented after stock (investment) has increased in price. The main objective of a collar is to protect profits that have accrued from the shares of stock rather than increasing returns. Is that an option strategy you might consider? Let’s take a look.

Why a Collar?

Since the market has been declined after trading relatively sideways for several months, there are a plethora of stocks that have decreased in value but are still profitable on the P/L ledger. But what if the market and your investments continue to decline? One option strategy is to buy a put. The investor has some protection for the unrealized profits in case the stock declines. The other part of the combination is selling the OTM call. By doing this, the investor is prepared to sell his or her shares of stock if the call is exercised because the stock has moved above the call’s strike price.

Advantages

The advantage of a collar strategy over just buying a protective put is being able to pay for some or the entire put by selling the call. In essence, an investor buys downside stock protection for free or almost free of charge. Until the investor exercises the put, sells the stock or has the call assigned, he or she will retain the stock.

Volatility and Time Decay

Implied volatility (IV) has been really high over the last several weeks in the market with this recent decline. Although it is advantageous to sell options when implied volatility is high (selling the OTM call), volatility and also time decay are not usually big issues when it comes to a collar strategy. The simple explanation is because the investor is long one option and short another so the effects of volatility and time decay will generally offset each other.

An example:

An investor could have bought 100 shares of Delta Air Lines (DAL) in October of last year for about $32 a share. Like many equities, the stock declined but at the time of this writing, the stock has climbed back to about $46 a share and the investor is still worried about the current market conditions and protecting his unrealized gains. The investor can utilize a collar strategy.

The investor can buy an October 42 put for 1.20. If the stock falls, the investor will have the right to sell the shares for $42 up until October expiration. At the same time the investor can sell an October 48 call for 1.45. The $48 area has provided some resistance in the past for the stock. This will make the trade a net credit of 0.25 (1.45 – 1.20). If the stock continues to rise, it can do so for another $2 until the stock will most likely be called away from him.

Three Possible Outcomes

The stock finishes over $48 at October expiration. If this scenario happens, another $2 per share is realized on the stock and $25 on the net credit of the combination is the investors to keep.

The stock finishes between $42 and $48 at October expiration. In this case, both options expire worthless. The stock is retained and the $25 net credit is the investors to keep.

The stock finishes below $42 at October expiration. The investor can sell the put option if he wishes to retain the stock or exercise the right to sell the stock at $42. Either way the $25 net credit is the investors to keep.

Conclusion

The nice thing about a collar strategy is that an investor knows the potential losses and gains right from the start. If the stock climbs higher, the profits may be curbed due to the short call but if the stock takes a dive, the investor has some protection due to the long put and having protection might not be such a bad idea if the market continues to be weak. See…even an investor can benefit from some options education!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

August 13, 2015

Have Your Stocks Taken a Hit?

It has been a tough couple of weeks for bullish traders and investors as several events have moved the market and stocks lower. Some stock buyers are waiting for some of their losers to rally and some are buying more stock at cheaper prices. But as most experienced investors know, the market can always go lower now or in the future. Here is one option strategy that can make sense in some cases; the stock repair strategy.

Introduction to the Stock Repair Strategy

The stock repair strategy is a strategy involving only calls that can be implemented when an investor thinks a stock will retrace part of a recent drop in share price within a short period of time (usually two to three months).

The stock repair strategy works best after a decline of 20 to 25 percent of the value of an asset. The goal is to “double up” on potential upside gains with little or no cost if the security retraces about half of its loss by the option’s expiration.

Benefits

There are three benefits the stock repair strategy trader hopes to gain. First, little or no additional downside risk is acquired. This is not to say the trader can’t lose money. The original shares are still held. So if the stock continues lower, the trader will increase his loses. This strategy is only practical when traders feel the stock has “bottomed out”.

Second, the projected retracement is around 50 percent of the decline in stock price. A small gain may be marginally helpful. A large increase will help but have limited effect.

Third, the investor is willing to forego further upside appreciation over and above original investment. The goal here is to get back to even and be done with the trade.

Implementing the Stock Repair Strategy

Once a stock in an investor’s portfolio has lost 20 to 25 percent of the original purchase price, and the trader is anticipating a 50 percent retracement, the investor will buy one close-to-the-money call and sells two out-of-the-money calls whose strike price corresponds to the projected price point of the retracement. Both option series are in the same expiration month, which corresponds to the projected time horizon of the expected rally. The “one-by-two” call spread is ideally established “cash-neutral” meaning no debit or credit. (This is not always possible. More on this later). To better understand this strategy, let’s look at an example.

Example

An investor, buys 100 shares of XYZ stock at $80 a share. After a month of falling prices, XYZ trades down to $60 a share. The investor believes the stock will rebound, but not all the way back to his original purchase price of $80. He thinks there is a reasonable chance for the stock to retrace half of its loss (to about $70 a share) over the next three months.

The trader wants to make back his entire loss of $20. Furthermore, he wants to do it without increasing his downside risk by any more than the risk he already has (with the 100 shares already owned). The trader looks at the options with an expiration corresponding to his two-month outlook, in this case the September options.

The trader buys 1 November 60 call at 6 and sells 2 November 70 calls at 3. The spread is established cash-neutral.

Bought 1 Nov 60 call at 6
Sold 2 Nov 70 call at 3 (x2)
-0-

By combining these options with the 100 shares already owned, the trader creates a new position that gives double exposure between $60 and $70 to capture gains faster if his forecast is right. The P&L diagram below shows how the position functions if held until expiration.

If the stock rises to $70 a share, the trader makes $20, which happens to be what he lost when the stock fell from $80 to $60. The trader would be able to regain the entire loss in a retracement of just half of the decline. With the stock above 60 at expiration, the 60-strike call could be exercised to become a long-stock position of 100 shares. That means, the trader would be long 200 shares when the stock is between $60 and $70 at expiration. Above $70, however, the two short 70-strike calls would be assigned, resulting in the 200 shares owned being sold at $70. Therefore, further upside gains are forfeited above and beyond $20.

But what if the trader is wrong? Instead of rising, say the stock continues lower and is trading below $60 a share at expiration. In this event, all the options in the spread expire and the trader is left with the original 100 shares. The further the stock declines, the more the trader can lose. But the option trade won’t contribute to additional losses. Only the original shares are at risk.

Benefits and Limitations of the Stock Repair Strategy

The stock repair strategy is an option strategy that is very specific in what it can (and can’t) accomplish. The investor considering this option strategy must be expecting a partial retracement and be willing to endure more losses if the underlying security continues to decline. Furthermore, the investor must accept limiting profit potential above the short strike if the stock moves higher than expected.

Some stocks that have experienced recent declines may be excellent candidates for the stock repair. For others, the stock repair strategy might not be appropriate. For stocks that look like they are finished or may even head lower, the Stock Repair Strategy can’t help – just take your lumps! But for those that might slowly climb back, just partially, this can be a powerful option strategy to recoup all or some of the losses.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

June 25, 2015

Long Calls and Bull Call Spreads

With Nasdaq trading around all-time closing highs and the S&P 500 currently threatening its all-time highs recently, it probably makes sense to keep at least a moderately bullish bias towards many stocks. The market is due for some type of pullback, but who knows when that will happen. Even if it does pullback sooner than later, there will be another bullish opportunity at some point rest assured. Traders often ask me is there a way that you can take advantage of this bullish investing scenario while limiting risk? Certainly, there are a few option strategies that can accomplish this goal. One that may be a better option compared to the rest is a debit call spread which is sometimes referred to as a bull call spread.

Definition

When implementing a bull call spread, an option trader purchases a call option at one strike and sells the same number of calls on the same stock at a higher strike with the same expiration date. Here is a trade idea we looked at in Group Coaching just a couple of weeks ago. Tesla Motors (TSLA) moved up to a resistance area right around $250, formed a bullish base and then closed above resistance at around $253. With implied volatility (IV) generally being low, which is advantageous for purchasing options as with a bull call spread, and a directional bias, a bull call spread can be considered.

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 at the time one June 255 call was purchased for 8.00 and one June 260 call was sold for 6.00 resulting in a net debit of $2 (8 – 6). The difference in the strike prices is $5 (260 – 255). He would subtract $2 from $5 to end up with a maximum profit of $3 per contract. So if he traded 10 contracts, you could make $3,000 (10 X 300).

Although he limited his upside, the trader also limited the downside to the net debit of $2 per contract. To simply breakeven, the stock would have to trade at $257 (the strike price of the purchased call (255) plus the net debit ($2)) 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 out-of-the-money June 255 call, he would have paid $8. 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.

Conclusion

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

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

April 23, 2015

Determining Option Strategies on NFLX

Compared to trading equities, there are so many more option strategies available to an option trader. But more importantly: Do you know why there are so many different types of options strategies? This is the real root of our discussion and why getting a proper options education can help a trader better understand all of those strategies and when and how to use them.

Different options strategies exist because each one serves a unique purpose for a unique market condition. For example, take bullish NFLX traders. Now that the stock has recently gapped up big after earnings and has broken through several resistance areas and is now trading around its all-time high, there are traders who continue to be extremely bullish on the stock. Some option traders want to get more bang for their buck and buy short-term out-of-the-money calls. This might not be the most prudent way to capture profits but that is a discussion for another time. Less bullish traders might buy at- or in-the-money calls. Traders bullish just to a point may buy a limited risk/limited reward bull call spread. If implied volatility is high (which it currently is not but it has been rising) and the trader is bullish just to a point, the trader might sell a bull put spread (credit spread), and so on.

The differences in options strategies, no matter how apparently minor, help traders exploit something slightly different each time. Traders should consider all the nuances that affect the profitability (or potential loss) of an option position and, in turn, structure a position that addresses each difference. Traders need to consider the following criteria:

  • Directional bias
  • Degree of bullishness or bearishness
  • Conviction
  • Time horizon
  • Risk/reward
  • Implied volatility
  • Bid-ask spreads
  • Commissions
  • And more

Carefully defining your outlook and intentions and selecting the best options strategies makes all the difference in a trader’s long-term success. Leaving money on the table with winners, or taking losses bigger than necessary can be unfortunate byproducts of selecting inappropriate options strategies. With summer coming soon and supposedly the slow markets, now is a great time to spend optimizing your options strategies over the next few weeks to build the habit!

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

January 29, 2015

A Different Use of the Butterfly

There are several ways to make adjustments or lock in profits on a profitable long call or long put position. One of my favorites has to be converting the option position to a long butterfly spread. It may sound funny, but probably the hardest part about an option trader converting his position to lock in profits with a butterfly spread is getting to a profitable position in the first place; the rest is relatively easy! Let’s take a look at a scenario and an outlook in which this butterfly spread can be considered.

Butterfly Spread on BIDU

Let’s assume an option trader has been watching ABC Inc. (ABC) stock and noticed the stock pulled back slightly from the uptrend in which it has been trading. When ABC stock was trading around $175 in the middle of January, he decides to buy the February 175 call options for 7. Lo and behold about a week later the stock moves higher and it’s trading around $185. The $185 level is potential resistance for the stock because is has previously traded to that area twice before and the trader is concerned it might happen once again. The trader thinks there may be a chance that ABC stock may trade sideways at that level. Converting a long call position to a butterfly spread is advantageous if a neutral outlook is forecast (as in this case). A long butterfly spread has its maximum profit attained if the stock is trading at the short strikes (body of the butterfly) at expiration.

The option trader is already long the February 175 call which constitutes one wing of the butterfly so he needs to sell two February 185 calls which is the body of the butterfly and where the option trader thinks the stock may trade until expiration. $185 represents where the maximum profit can be earned at expiration. A February 195 call (other wing) would need to be purchased to complete the long call butterfly spread.

The original cost of the February 175 call was 7. The two short February 185 calls sell for 5.25 a piece and the long February 195 call costs 2. The converted 175/185/195 long call butterfly spread produces a credit of 1.50 (-7 + 10.50 – 2). Now here’s a look at the possible scenarios that could happen and some possibilities that can be considered.

 Take Profit

With ABC stock trading around $185, the February 175 call option has increased in value to 11.25. That means the trader can sell the call and make a profit of $4.25 (11.25 – 7). Certainly this is a viable option and should be considered on some of the contracts before adjusting the position.

Maximum Loss

Maximum loss for a long butterfly spread is realized if the stock is trading at or below the lowest strike (lower wing) or at or above the highest strike (higher wing). In this case the maximum loss is not a loss at all but a credit of $1.50. In essence, the original $7 potential risk from buying the February 175 call is now erased and has turned into a guaranteed profit even if ABC stock completely collapses. If the stock continues to move higher and past the 195 strike at expiration, the maximum loss is still achieved; albeit a $1.50 profit. But more could have been made by simply keeping the original position intact. That is why it may be prudent if there is more than one contract (long call) to maybe not convert all the positions to a butterfly spread, particularity if the trader thinks that the stock can still climb higher. Keeping the long call would have more profitable if this scenario played out.

Maximum Profit

Maximum profit is achieved if the trader is right and stock closes right at $185 at expiration. The current profit on the trade is $4.25 as discussed above. If ABC stock continues to trade sideways or ends up at $185 at expiration, that $4.25 profit has now grown to an $11.50 profit. The maximum profit for a butterfly spread is derived from taking the difference between the bought and sold strikes which in this case is $10, and adding premium received from converting the position to a butterfly spread ($1.50). Not too bad of a result if ABC stock trades sideways or ends up at $185 at expiration. It seems pretty clear that the long butterfly spread is very beneficial when a sideways outlook is forecast after the long option has profited.

As long as the strike prices align with the trader’s outlook, converting a long call or a long put to a butterfly spread can be very effective after gains are realized. If there are multiple contracts, it allows an option trader to take profits now and also potentially earn more if the stock essentially goes nowhere and ends up close to the short strikes at expiration.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

January 22, 2015

Hedging Risk in Potential Take-Over Stocks

Several days ago, there was a rumor that Samsung was planning on acquiring smartphone maker BlackBerry Limited (BBRY) and the stock shot up over 25%. The rumors so far have failed to materialize. That being said, let’s look at an made-up example of a take-over and a way to use options to capture the possible move. A $50 stock is rumored to be taken out at $55. Looks like a nice spec trade right? You go to the option chain to look for some calls to buy and you notice that the options have gotten pretty expensive. Implied volatility has skyrocketed. 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 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 February 50 call at $4

Sell 1 February 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

January 8, 2015

Make Mine a Double!

With earnings season unbelievably upon us in a few short weeks, it might be a good time to talk about a subject that is brought up quite often in MTM Group Coaching and Online Education and is often debated by option traders learning to trade advanced strategies; double calendars vs. double diagonals.

Double Calendars vs. Double Diagonals
Both double calendars and double diagonals have the same fundamental structure; each is short option contracts in nearby expirations and long option contracts in farther out expirations in equal numbers. As implied by the name, this complex spread is comprised of two different spreads. These time spreads (aka known as horizontal spreads and calendar spreads) occur at two different strike prices. Each of the two individual spreads, in both the double calendar and the double diagonal, is constructed entirely of puts or calls. But the either position can be constructed of puts, calls, or both puts and calls. The structure for each of both double calendars or double diagonals thus consists of four different, two long and two short, options. These spreads are commonly traded as “long double calendars” and “long double diagonals” in which the long-term options in the spread (those with greater value) are purchased, and the short-term ones are sold. The profit engine that drives both the long double calendar and the long double diagonal is the differential decay of extrinsic (time) premium between shorter dated and longer dated options. The main difference between double calendars and double diagonals is the placement of the long strikes. In the case of double calendars, the strikes of the short and long contracts are identical. In a double diagonal, the strikes of the long contracts are placed farther out-of-the-money) OTM than the short strikes.

Why should an option trader complicate his or her life with these two similar structures? The reason traders implement double calendars and double diagonals is the position response to changes in IV; in other words, the vega of the position. Both trades are vega positive, theta positive, and delta neutral—presuming the price of the underlying lies between the two middle strike prices—over the range of profitability. However, the double calendar positions, because of the placement of the long strikes being closer to ATM, responds favorably more rapidly to increases in IV while the double diagonal responds more slowly. Conversely, decreases in IV of the long positions has a negative impact on double calendars more strongly than it does on double diagonals.

If you have only traded a single-legged calendar or diagonal through earnings season even not during earnings season, it might just be time to give them a look. Maybe you have never traded a calendar or a diagonal. This might be the time to find out about these time spreads.  Once a single position spread makes sense, a double might make even more sense and be more profitable too.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

November 13, 2014

Consider a Directional Butterfly

Many option traders use butterfly spreads for a neutral outlook on the underlying. The position is structured to profit from time decay but with the added benefit of a “margin of error” around the position depending on what strike prices are chosen. Butterflies can be great market-neutral trades. However, what some traders don’t realize is that butterflies can also be great for trading directionally.

A Butterfly

The long butterfly spread involves selling two options at one strike and the purchasing options above and below equidistant from the sold strikes. This is usually implemented with all calls or all puts. The long options are referred to as the wings and the short options are the body; thus called a butterfly.

The trader’s objective for trading the long butterfly is for the stock to be trading at the body (short strikes) at expiration. The goal of the trade is to benefit from time decay as the stock moves closer to the short options strike price at expiration. The short options expire worthless or have lost significant value; and the lower strike call on a long call butterfly or higher strike put for a long put butterfly have intrinsic value. Maximum loss (cost of the spread) is achieved if the stock is trading at or below the lower (long) option strike or at or above the upper (long) option strike.

Directional Butterfly

What may not be obvious to novice traders is that butterfly spreads can be used directionally by moving the body (short options) of the butterfly out-of-the-money (OTM) and maybe using slightly wider strike prices for the wings (long options). This lets the trader make a directional forecast on the stock with a fairly large profit zone depending on the width of the wings.

To implement a directional butterfly, a trader needs to include both price and time in his outlook for the stock. This can be the most difficult part for either a neutral or directional butterfly; picking the time the stock will be trading in the profit zone. Sometimes the stock will reach the area too soon and sometimes not until after expiration. If the trader picks narrow wings (tighter strikes), he can lower the cost of the spread. If the trader desires a bigger profit zone (larger strikes), he can expand the wings of the spread and the breakevens but that also increases the cost of the trade. It’s a trade-off.

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest advantages of a directional butterfly spread is that it can be a relatively low risk and high reward strategy depending on how the spread is designed. Maybe one of the biggest disadvantages of a directional butterfly spread is that its maximum profit potential is reached close to expiration. But being patient can be very good for a trader…most of the time!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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