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June 26, 2014

Outright Call Options and Put Options

Another topic that is brought up often in my Group Coaching class is buying call options and put options outright. When option traders first get their feet wet trading options, they often just buy call options for a bullish outlook and put options for a bearish outlook. In their defense, they are new so they probably do not know many if not any advanced strategies which means they are limited in the option strategies they can trade. Buying call options and put options are the most basic but many times they may not be the best choice.

If an option trader only buys and for that matter sells options outright, he or she often ignores some of the real benefits of using options to create more flexible positions and offset risk.

Here is a recent example using Twitter Inc. (TWTR). If an option trader believed TWTR stock will continue to rise like it has been doing, he could buy a July 39 call for 1.80 when the stock was trading at $38.50. However the long call’s premium would suffer if TWTR stock fell or implied volatility (measured by vega) decreased. Long options can lose value and short options can gain value when implied volatility decreases keeping other variables constant.

Instead of buying a call on TWTR stock, an option trader can implement an option spread (in this case a bull call spread) by also selling a July 42 call for 0.75. This reduces the option trade’s maximum loss to 1.05 (1.80 – 0.75) and also lowers the option trade’s exposure to implied volatility changes because of being long and short options as part of the option spread. This option spread lowers the potential risk however it limits potential gains because of the short option.

In addition, simply buying call options and put options without comparing and contrasting implied volatility (vega), time decay (theta) and how changes in the stock price will affect the option’s premium (delta) can lead to common mistakes. Option traders will sometimes buy options when option premiums are inflated or choose expirations with too little time left. Understanding the pros and cons of an option spread can significantly improve your option trading.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

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

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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

April 3, 2014

Different Option Strategies on AAPL

Compared to trading stocks, there are so many more 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 reason of our discussion and why getting a proper options education can help a trader better understand all of those strategies and when and how

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to use them.

Different options strategies exist because each one serves

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a unique purpose for a unique market condition. For example, take bullish AAPL traders. The stock has recently moved higher after declines in January and February. There are traders who continue to be extremely bullish on AAPL as it heads closer to its earnings announcement and 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

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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 spring hopefully ending soon (cold and snowy winter here in Chicago)and supposedly the volatile markets, now is a great time to spend optimizing your options strategies over the next few weeks to build the habit heading into the summer season!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

February 27, 2014

Naked AAPL Options

With March finally here, traders are still assessing when or if ever this market will have a correction like it had in January. That being the case, there are several option strategies that traders can consider depending on their outlook. Below is an explanation of a option strategy that may be right for you depending on your goals and trading personality. Regardless, understanding this option strategy is something all traders should and need to know even if they may never use it.

Let’s take a look at an option strategy that involves the selling of a put, often referred to as an uncovered put write or simply a naked put. A naked put is when a trader sells a put that is not part of a spread. This strategy is generally considered to be a bullish-to-neutral strategy. The maximum profit is the premium received for the put. The maximum profit is achieved when the underlying stock is greater

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than or equal to the strike price of the sold put. Though this allows for a lot of room for error (The stock can be anywhere above the strike at expiration), note that the maximum loss is unlimited and occurs when the price of the underlying stock is less than the strike price of the sold put less the premium received. So, executing this trade in the right situation is essential. To calculate the breakeven point, subtract the premium received from the sold put’s strike price.

The Example
For our example we will use Apple Inc. (AAPL). Apple shares have moved lower since the middle of February and are attempting to rally again. Now the trader thinks after this brief pullback the stock will once again continue to move higher. For this example we will assume the stock is trading around $525 a share at the beginning of March. A trader sells the April 500 put, which carries a bid price of $6 (rounded to make the math a bit easier) because there is an area of support at that level that the trader thinks will hold. Should AAPL stock be trading above $500 a share at expiration, the April 500 contract will expire worthless and the trader will keep the premium collected. (Do not forget to take any commissions the trader may pay from the equation.) All is good, right? Well, what if the stock falls below that area of support?

If AAPL falls another $40 to $485 at expiration, the put would expire in-the-money and would have to be purchased back to avoid assignment. This could cost the trader a rather hefty sum. Assigning values, our investor collected $6 in premium. The 500 put expired with $15 in intrinsic value. The trader loses the $15, less the $6 premium collected results in a loss of $9, or $900 of actual cash.

Why Sell Naked Puts?
We have already discussed the profit potential of selling naked puts, but there is another reason to do so – owning the stock. Selling naked puts is a good way

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to purchase at a specific price by choosing a strike near said target price. Should the stock price drop below the put strike and the puts are assigned, the trader buys the stock at the strike price minus the option premium received. Again, should the put not reach the strike price, the premium is pocketed at expiration. Traders should be aware of the risk when selling naked puts and that potential losses can be extreme when compared to other option strategies.

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

September 5, 2013

Naked on AAPL

The Strategy
If you want to learn to trade here’s a really useful option strategy that all traders should and need to know. Let’s take a look at an option strategy that involves the selling of a put, often referred to as an uncovered put write or simply a naked put. A naked put is when a trader sells a put that is not part of a spread. This strategy is generally considered to be a bullish-to-neutral strategy.

The maximum profit is the premium received for the put. The maximum profit is achieved when the underlying stock is greater than or equal to the strike price of the sold put. Though this allows for a lot of room for error (The stock can be anywhere above the strike at expiration), note that the maximum loss is unlimited and occurs when the price of the underlying stock is less than the strike price of the sold put less the premium received. So, executing this trade in the right situation is essential. To calculate the breakeven point, subtract the premium received from the sold put’s strike price.

The Example
For our example we will use Apple Inc. (AAPL). Apple shares have moved higher since the beginning of July but recently pulled back again. Now the trader thinks after this brief pullback the stock will once again continue to move higher. For this example we will assume the stock is trading around $490 a share at the beginning of September. A trader sells the October 460 put, which carries a bid price of $8.00 (rounded to make the math a bit easier) because there is an area of support at that level that the trader thinks will hold. Should AAPL stock be trading above $460 a share at expiration, the October 460 contract will expire worthless and the trader will keep the premium collected. (Do not forget to take any commissions the trader may pay from the equation.) All is good, right? Well, what if the stock falls below that area of support?

If AAPL falls another $50 to

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$440 at expiration, the put would expire in-the-money and would have to be purchased back to avoid assignment. This could cost the trader a rather hefty sum. Assigning values, our investor collected $8 in premium. The 460 put expired with $20 in intrinsic value. The trader loses the $20, less the $8 premium collected results in a loss of $12, or $1,200 of actual cash.

Why Sell Naked Puts?
We have already discussed the profit potential of selling naked puts, but there is another reason to do so – owning the stock. Selling naked puts is a good way to purchase at a specific price by choosing a strike near

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said target price. Should the stock price drop below the put strike and the puts are assigned, the trader buys the stock at the strike price minus the option premium received. Again, should the put not reach the strike price, the premium is pocketed at expiration. Traders should be aware of the risk when selling naked puts and that potential losses can be extreme when compared to other option strategies.

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

August 15, 2013

Determining Option Strategies on AAPL

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 AAPL traders. Now that the stock has recently broken through several resistance areas, there are traders who continue to be extremely bullish on AAPL and 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

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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 ending 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 heading into the fall season!

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

June 20, 2013

Trailing Stop or Stop Loss?

With several disaster

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films like World War Z and White House Down scheduled to be released, it’s no wonder traders may be a little nervous. But on a serious note, after this past week’s decline, there’s still a potential for the market to move lower and it’s probably 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, then, 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).

John Kmiecik

Senior Options Instructor

Market Taker Mentoring

May 23, 2013

Risk/Reward is Ever Changing

There are quite a few option strategies have defined maximum rewards that are approached as a result of the passage of time, changes in implied volatility (IV), and/or movement or lack of movement in price of the stock. Examples of such strategies include the sale of naked options and vertical spreads.

As the positions “mature” by virtue of various combinations of changes or lack of change in these three main forces, the initial risk:reward calculation often changes and sometimes even dramatically. The successful trader with a proper options education is aware of these changes, because the risk to gain the last bit of potential profit is often dramatically out of whack to the magnitude of the profit he or she seeks to obtain.

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Let us consider the hypothetical example of a trader who has elected to open a position as a naked put seller. This trader has chosen to sell out-of-the-money (OTM) puts, the June $385 strike, on AAPL which currently trades at $440 in this example. His risk in the trade is that he is obligated to buy AAPL at the strike price at any time between opening the trade and June expiration. For taking the risk of writing these puts, his account receives a credit of $1.10 and margin is encumbered based on SEC rules. The credit received when the trade is opened is the maximum amount of money that can or will be received as a result of the trade.

As June expiration approaches, the stock remains at the $440 level and the market price of the puts he has sold decreases as a result of time (theta) decay. As the price of the puts decreases and the profits increase, the risk:reward increases. As the price declines below the often used 20% re-evaluation benchmark of the initial credit received, the risk incurred to gain the remaining residual premium is potentially substantial and may no longer be appropriate given the reward.

The experienced options trader will many times take profits and find opportunities to invest his or her money in other trades that appear to be much more attractive from a risk/reward standpoint than to remain in the existing position.

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

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