Testimonials

April 10, 2014

Double Your Pleasure

With earnings season just kicking off once again, 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 optionspeak, 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 placement of the long strikes 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 impacts negatively double calendars more strongly than it does double diagonals.

In future writings, the selection of strike prices and position management based on the volatility of the stock will be discussed. In addition, other option strategies will be introduced and guidelines will be discussed to help the trader select among these similar strategies when considering trades and alternatives.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

March 27, 2014

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

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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

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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

March 20, 2014

Aint’ Nothin’ Like the Real Thing, Baby!

When it comes to learning to trade, there really isn’t anything like the real thing. You can read hundreds of books, watch thousands of videos, but without having someone to show you the way to actually DO IT, learning to trade can be tough.

Imagine trying to learn a complex game like chess by reading a book or watching a video. You’ll get some good pointers, but can you really learn to master the game? There is logic, psychology, player interaction, time-tested moves and other intangibles that a book or video can only teach you so much about. You can practice playing the game over and over again as well, but without someone showing you move-by-move, piece-by-piece how to play the game, you’ll never achieve mastery of the game. You need someone to show you how to play, the way to counter certain moves, the way to set up attacks three moves ahead, the way to read your opponent.

That’s the way I learned to trade: Face-to-face, and often toe-to-toe, down on the trading floor. I learned the old fashioned way: By having people around me to show me how to do it. The benefit of being able to ask the experts standing next to me on the trading floor the burning questions that I needed answered. This helped me to reach the level of competency I need to become a successful a trader. It proved to be the biggest contributor to a long and rewarding trading career.

It’s hard for people to learn to trade without access to the knowledge center that I was fortunate enough to have which was smack dab in the middle of the trading floor; and I appreciated that. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have grown up in Chicago and to have gotten a break, getting a job on the trading floor after college. I was able to springboard that opportunity into a successful trading career. I get it. And that’s why, for two days, I am going to help recreate some of

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that experience for YOU.

We are planning an intensive (but fun) two-day class in Chicago. It will be held at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), where I first learned to trade.

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We’ve got a GREAT curriculum planned and a really fun social event in the plans as well. Right now, this class has not been made officially public. We’re still in the final stages of planning and we’ll announce all the details next week. Right now, we’d like your input so we can finish off the amazing itinerary we have planned. Please help us create the kind of class you’d love to be a part of—your DREAM CLASS—by answering this short, four-question survey.

Dan Passarelli

CEO, Market Taker Mentoring, Inc.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

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March 6, 2014

Weekly Options and Time Decay

There are so many different characteristics of options that I talk a lot about with my options coaching students. But one of the more popular subjects is that premium sellers see the most dramatic erosion of the time value of options they have sold during the last week of the options cycle. Most premium sellers strive to keep the options they have sold short (also known as options they have “written”) out-of-the-money (OTM) in order that the entirety of the premium they have sold represents time (extrinsic) premium and is subject to this rapid time decay.

With 12 monthly cycles, there historically have been only 12 of these final weeks per year in which premium sellers have

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seen the maximum benefit of their core strategy. The widespread use of weekly options has changed the playing field. Options with one week durations are available on several indices and several hundred different stocks. These options have been in existence since October 2005 but only in the past couple of years have they gained widespread recognition and achieved sufficient trading volume to have good liquidity. Further now, there are weeklys that go for consecutive weeks (1 week options, 2 week options, 3 week options, 4 week options and 5 week options) that were just late last year.

Standard trading strategies employed by premium sellers can be executed in these options. The advantage is to gain the “sweet spot” of the time decay of premium without having to wait through the entirety of the 4 to 5 week option cycle. The party never ends for premium sellers using these innovative methods. Of course there is a trade-off because the shorter the time there is left until expiration, the smaller the option premiums are compared to an option with a longer expiration. As option traders we are used to tradeoffs.

Traders interested in using these weeklys MUST understand settlement procedures and be aware of last days for trading. An excellent discussion of weeklies given by Dan Passarelli is available at Learn to Trade Weeklys.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 20, 2014

Socrates and Another Famous Greek

We all know options are derivatives, and their prices are derived from the underlying stock, index, or ETF. But with other factors at work such as implied volatility, time decay, etc. Have you ever wondered how can you know how much an option is going to move with respect to say the underlying? Very simple – check out its delta.

Delta is arguably the most

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heavily identifiable Greek (unless you count Socrates or Aristotle) especially by individuals learning to trade options. It offers a quick and relatively easy way to tell us what to expect from our option positions as we watch the price action of the underlying. Calls have positive deltas, as they typically move higher on a rise in the stock, and puts have negative deltas, as they typically move lower when the stock rises.

While some investors view delta as the percentage chance an option has of expiring in-the-money, it is really more of a way to project expected appreciation or depreciation. A delta of 0.50 for an AAPL call suggests the option should move 50 cents higher when the AAPL jumps a dollar, and lose 50 cents for every dollar loss in AAPL.

But delta is only foolproof when all other factors are held constant, which is rarely the case (and certainly never the case for time decay). If an option is moving more (or less) than its delta would suggest, it is likely because other variables are shifting. For example, buying demand might be pushing implied volatility higher, raising the price of the options. Still, this king of all Greeks is a good starting point for gauging how your options are likely to move.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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

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

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