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Equity Options

Can investors/speculators use equity options to boost return through buying and selling leverage (calls), and/or buying and selling insurance (puts)? If so, which strategies work best? These blog entries relate to trading equity options.

ATM or OTM Index Puts for Portfolio Hedging?

A reader asked: “I have been looking into portfolio hedging using index put options, but I cannot find any analysis on the efficiency of using at-the-money (ATM) versus out-of-the-money (OTM) puts. Do you know of any research focusing on this question?” Keep Reading

Are VIX Options Mispriced?

A reader asked: “Today (12/04/09), the Dec 27.5 VIX put options had a negative extrinsic value [option price – (strike value – VIX level)] of $-0.36 with bid-ask spread $0.50. Is there something about VIX that makes this situation not abnormal?” Keep Reading

Passive and Active Collar Strategies for ETFs and Mutual Funds

An investor can collar (bound) a long position in an asset by simultaneously purchasing a put option at one strike price (lower bound) and selling a call option at a higher strike price (upper bound) on the asset. How does this strategy perform? In the September 2009 version of their paper entitled “Loosening Your Collar: Alternative Implementations of QQQ Collars”, Edward Szado and Thomas Schneeweis evaluate the performances of passive and active collar strategies for the PowerShares QQQ (QQQQ) Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) and for a small cap equity mutual fund. While a standard collar employs put and call options with the same expiration date, the study also considers puts with longer durations. The passive collar strategy follows a fixed set of rules regardless of market conditions. The active strategy varies collar specifications according to three market/economic conditions: (1) momentum of the underlying; (2) broad market volatility; and, (3) a macroeconomic measure combining unemployment and the business cycle. Using data covering the period from the introduction of QQQQ options on March 19, 1999 through May 31, 2009 (122 months), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Bear Spreads on Leveraged ETF Pairs?

A reader wondered: “After reading ‘Shorting Leveraged ETF Pairs’, I’m wondering whether there is any other way to play a leveraged ETF pair — perhaps writing bear spreads on both funds simultaneously.” Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Day Trading Options

In his 2009 book Day Trading Options: Profiting from Price Distortions in Very Brief Time Frames, author Jeff Augen argues that individual investors operate at material informational and analytical disadvantages whether focusing on fundamentals or trend-based technical indicators. He has written this book”for investors who are seeking a different approach and are willing to work very hard to perfect new trading strategies.” This different approach seeks to exploit “well-characterized pricing anomalies and distortions… [that] exist, in part, because contemporary option pricing models assume continuous trading… Today’s option market [responds to market down time] by varying the implied volatility priced into option contracts [thereby presenting a] profit opportunity [that] can become very large under certain circumstances.” Also, “news events often introduce brief distortions that take many minutes for the market to digest. During these brief time frames the market becomes inefficient…[as detected by] a new technical indicator that can be used to quantify rising or falling volatility.” Some notable points from the book are: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on The Options Trading Body of Knowledge

In his 2009 book The Options Trading Body of Knowledge: The Definitive Source for Information About the Options Industry, author Michael Thomsett “provides a market overview and discussion of risks, in addition to a comprehensive listing of strategies.” He states that the “…book is designed for the options trader, whether a novice or skilled pro, who understands and appreciates the market issues.” He states that the book “provides a very comprehensive explanation of how option premium develops based on various elements of value; calculation of returns from options and stock trading; federal taxation works in the options market; how stocks are picked for options trading; online and print resources; and a very complete glossary of terms that options traders will find valuable.” Some notable points about the book are: Keep Reading

Strike Price Rolls for Option Writes?

A reader asked: “If you roll short call (or put) options up or down in strike price as the market moves to stay at-the-money, it seems you can collect quite a bit more time premium during a market trend compared to simply holding the original until expiration. I modify this adjustment process during the last week before options expiration by rolling to the next month when time premium gets below $1. In an range-bound market this process does not work as well as sell and hold, but it provides approximately 40-45% protection (trend capture) in the event of a strong trend down (up). Has anyone looked at this concept in detail?” Keep Reading

Ways to Exploit ex-Dividend Effects?

A reader asked: “I am under the impression that stocks usually drop by the amount of the dividend on the ex-dividend day. Is this true…or more precisely, how true is this? If it is true, couldn’t one just short the stock on that day? If it is not true, could you just hold the stock for that day and reap the dividend? Also, could options be used to make some profits on this? Selling calls or buying puts?” Keep Reading

Wash Rules on Iterative Option Writes?

A reader asked: “I have seen some writings which suggest that iteratively selling puts, or covered calls for that matter, may trigger wash sale rules, even though expiration dates and probably strike prices would vary. The authors mentioned that the IRS may consider the re-establishment of a short position on the same security as triggering the wash sale rule. Are you aware of any definitive rulings on this issue?” Keep Reading

Sell Index Put Options Only When Above Long-term SMA?

A reader asked: “Have you considered a test of selling puts on the Russell 2000 Index only when it is above a long term moving average, such as the 10-month, 200-day, etc?” Keep Reading

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