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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

May 17, 2010

A Tale Of Two Options

For contrarian traders looking to short Thursday’s explosive price move in NFLX, two bearish trades had dramatically different success as the price of the underlying declined into the afternoon. As is often the case, you can learn a lot just by watching and analyzing the sequence of events in autopsies of the trades.

In order to set the stage, NFLX closed on Wednesday at $107 and the implied volatility (IV) of the front month at-the-money puts and calls averaged 57%. Options of NFLX are very liquid and were trading with reasonable BA spreads.

By 10:30 AM, NFLX price had risen dramatically to $117.46. For the trader who wished to take a contrarian view, he could have purchased the out-of-the-money May 115 puts, the then at-the-money strike for $4.95. Importantly, the IV was 84%. Another trader who prefers to sell premium, could have sold the slightly out-of-the-money calls, the May 120 strike, for $5 at an IV of 84%.

At 2:00 PM the stock had sold off to $113.96. How did our two traders fare? The put buyer could have sold his position for $5.60 for a net profit of 65¢ on the initial position. The premium seller would have been able to close his call position for $2.70 for a gain of $2.30. Both positions were closed at an IV of around 71%.

What is the explanation for the disparity in the results? The reason is volatility crush. Both positions were initiated at an IV of 84% and closed at an IV of 71%. However the call sale represented a vega negative trade while the put buy was a vega positive trade. Volatility had exploded upwards with the dramatic and sudden price rise.

Although IV is generally considered to be inversely related to price, it is important to realize that it can also spike with dramatic and rapid price rises. The outcomes of these two different trades emphasize the importance of considering IV as well as price when designing option trades.