Testimonials

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

December 26, 2013

Gamma and AAPL

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

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

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

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

Start by understanding options gamma from this simple

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

Happy New Year!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

September 18, 2013

Fractal Position Management

Option traders have to manage risk. Want a job description? That’s about it. Every trade has a risk and reward associated with it and traders must realize that especially when first learning how to trade. Because options are instruments of leverage, it is very easy to let risk get out of control, if you’re not careful. Traders must manage risk carefully, instituting tight reins on their options, spreads and portfolio. The management technique of each is essentially the same because position management is fractal.

Something that is fractal has a

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recurring pattern that has continuity within its scale. For example, a tree is fractal. A tree has a trunk with limbs extending from it; limbs with smaller branches extending from it; smaller branches with yet smaller branches; and leaves with veins that branch off within each leaf. The pattern is repetitive within each iteratively smaller extension of the last. This is found in option position management too.

Individual options have risk that must be managed. They have direction, time and volatility risk which are managed by setting thresholds for each of the corresponding greeks which measure them. When individual options are a part of a spread, the resulting spread has these same risks of direction time and volatility. The spread’s risk must consequently be managed likewise. A trader’s complete option portfolio, which may be comprised of many spreads has systematic risk in accordance to the market. These risks are the same as for individual options or individual spreads: direction, time and volatility. Traders should treat their all encompassing portfolio as a single spread and use the portfolio greeks to set parameters to minimize the total risk of the portfolio.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

August 22, 2013

Learning to Adjust Option Positions

Dan’s online Options Education series this month (August series) has all been all about helping traders learn to adjust options positions. Adjusting option positions is an essential skill for options traders. Adjusting options positions helps traders repair strategies that have gone wrong (or are beginning to go wrong) and often turn losers into breakeven trades and winners. Given that, it’s easy to see why it’s important to learn to adjust options positions.

Adjusting 101

Adjusting options positions is a technique in which an option trader simply alters an existing options position to create a fundamentally different position. Traders are motivated to adjust options positions when the market outlook or physiology changes and the original trade no longer reflects the trader’s thoughts. There is one golden rule of trading: ALWAYS make sure your position reflects your outlook.

This seems like a very obvious rule. And at the onset of any trade, it is. If I’m bullish, I’m going to take a positive delta position. If I think a stock will be range-bound, I’d take a close-to-zero delta trade that has positive theta to profit from sideways movement as time passes. But the problem is gamma. Gamma is the fly in the ointment of option trading.

Gamma

Gamma—particularly negative gamma—is the cause of the need for adjusting.

Gamma definition: Gamma is the rate of change of an option’s (or option position’s) delta relative to a change in the underling.

Oh, yeah. And, just in case you forgot…

Delta definition: Delta is

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the rate of change on an option’s (or option position’s) price relative to a change in the underlying.

In the case of negative gamma, trader’s deltas always change the wrong way. When the underlying moves higher, the trader gets shorter delta (and loses money at an increasing rate). When the underlying moves lower, negative gamma makes deltas longer (again, causing the trader to lose money at an increasing rate).

Finally

Therefore, traders must learn to adjust options positions, especially income trades, in order to stave off adverse deltas created by the negative gamma that accompanies income trades. But remember, just because you can adjust a position doesn’t mean you should!

To find out more about next month’s topic and have access to the archived previous seminars including “Option Trade Adjustments” please visit Options Education.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

August 1, 2013

Butterflies, Expiration, Raquel Welch and the Importance of Time

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 Raquel Welch is still considered to be still quite attractive by many, her look is not the same as it was decades ago when she was known as a “bombshell”.  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 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

July 3, 2013

Jennifer Aniston 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 heavily watched Greek (unless you count Jennifer Aniston) 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

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are likely to move.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

May 2, 2013

Delta Explained in Simple Terms

If you have been on an options trading floor, you may have heard comments like these for example. “What’s your delta of of the Cubs winning today?” (not good of course) or “What’s the delta the broker comes back and buys more of these?” Option traders have probably used the word delta in this context every single day of their life and if you learn to trade options like a professional, you may too.

It’s the “traders’ definition” of delta—that is, delta is the likelihood of an option expiring in-the-money. Though this definition actually has a few mathematical and theoretical shortcomings, making it not entirely technically correct, every professional option trader I know or Dan knows thinks about delta this way. Many if not most traders borrow the concept of delta being the likelihood of success and adapt into their every-day speech.

The idea is every option has an associated delta figure attached to it. Like, at the time of this writing, the Google Inc. (GOOG) May 830 calls have a 0.30 delta. That means that they change in value 30 percent like the GOOG stock. But it can also be interpreted by traders to mean that the GOOG May 830 calls have a 30-percent chance of expiring in-the-money.

This practical and “traders” use of delta helps guide traders’ expectations and helps them make better trading decisions by factoring probability into their decision-making process. I encourage retail traders to think about option delta this way. You should start today and see if it affects how you think about options and the possible different strategies that can be implemented. I’m 100 delta that you’ll be happy you did.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 21, 2013

Expiration Week: Butterflies

One of the major differences when learning to trade

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options as opposed to equity trading is the impact of time on the various trade vehicles. Remember that quoted option premiums reflect the sum of both intrinsic (if any) and extrinsic (time) value. 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 inescapable in our 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 inexorably 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 vehicle 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 central strike price constructed together in the same underlying in the same month. 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 functional characteristic that it responds sluggishly to price movement early in its life, for example in the first two weeks of a four week option cycle. However, as expiration approaches, the butterfly becomes increasingly sensitive to price movement as the time premium erodes and the beast 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 the final week of the life cycle of the butterfly, i.e. expiration week.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

October 25, 2012

Learn to Adjust Options Positions

Dan’s online Options Education series this month has all been all about helping traders learn to adjust options positions. Adjusting option positions is an essential skill for options traders. Adjusting options positions helps traders repair strategies that have gone wrong (or are beginning to go wrong) and often turn losers into winners. Given that, it’s easy to see why it’s important to learn to adjust options positions.

Adjusting 101

Adjusting options positions is a technique in which a trader simply alters an existing options position to create a fundamentally different position. Traders are motivated to adjust options positions when the market physiology changes and the original trade no longer reflects the trader’s thesis. There is one golden rule of trading: ALWAYS make sure your position reflects your outlook.

This seems like a very obvious rule. And at the onset of any trade, it is. If I’m bullish, I’m going to take a positive delta position. If I think a stock will be range-bound, I’d take a close-to-zero delta trade that has positive theta to profit from sideways movement as time passes. But the problem is gamma. Gamma is the fly in the ointment of option trading.

Gamma

Gamma—particularly negative gamma—is the cause of the need for adjusting.

Gamma definition: Gamma is the rate of change of an option’s (or option position’s) delta relative to a change in the underling.

Oh, yeah. And, just in case you forgot…

Delta definition: Delta is the rate of change on an option’s (or option position’s) price relative to a change in the underlying.

In the case of negative gamma, trader’s deltas always change the wrong way. When the underlying moves higher, the trader gets shorter delta (and loses money at an increasing rate). When the underlying moves lower, negative gamma makes deltas longer (again, causing the trader to lose money at an increasing rate).

Wrap Up

Therefore, traders must learn to adjust options positions, especially income trades, in order to stave off adverse deltas created by the negative gamma that accompanies income trades.

To find out more about next month’s topic and have access to the archived previous seminars including “Option Trade Adjustments” please visit

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Options Education.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

August 23, 2012

Fractal Position Management

Option traders manage risk. Want a job description? That’s about it. Every trade has a risk and reward associated with it and traders must realize that especially when first learning how to trade. But because options are instruments of leverage, it is very easy to let risk get out of control, if you’re not careful. Traders must manage risk carefully, instituting tight reins their options, spreads and portfolio. The management technique of each is essentially the same because position management is fractal.

Something that is fractal has a recurring pattern that has continuity within its scale. For example, a tree is fractal. A tree has a trunk with limbs extending from it; limbs with smaller branches extending from it; smaller branches with yet smaller branches; and leaves with veins that branch off within each leaf. The pattern is repetitive within each iteratively smaller extension of the last. This is found in option position management too.

Individual options have risk that must be managed. They have direction, time and volatility risk which are managed by setting thresholds for each of the corresponding greeks which measure them. When individual options are a part of a spread, the resulting spread has these same risks of direction time and volatility. The spread’s risk must consequently be managed likewise. A trader’s complete option portfolio, which may be comprised of many spreads has systematic risk in accordance to the market. These risks are the same as for individual options or individual spreads: direction, time and volatility. Traders should treat their all encompassing portfolio as a single, macro spread and use the portfolio greeks to set parameters to minimize the total risk of the portfolio.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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