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Using Calendar Spreads to Play a Short Term Top in Gold

Recent price action in stocks and commodities reinforces the “don’t fight the Fed” mantra. What would our central bank be doing if it were not devaluing our currency, attempting to create inflation, and openly manipulating financial markets through a series of supposedly calculated open-market operations? I do not have any market prophecies; my crystal ball is on permanent vacation. The only certainty that presents itself is that the market pundits, the academics, and the analysts do not know exactly what is going to happen in the future.

We are in uncharted territory regarding government manipulation. We watch as our federal government actively and openly manipulates financial data in an attempt to boost asset prices with the hope that if Americans feel richer they will spend money more freely. What is going to be the catalyst to drive growth when the federal government and the Federal Reserve run out of manipulations?

By now the secret is out, the expected weakening of the U.S. dollar has propelled commodities and stocks higher in short order. The easy trade has likely passed and there are a few warning signs that are being largely ignored by the bullish masses. Business insiders are selling heavily while few are accumulating positions. The banks have not broken out and were under pressure for most of the trading day during Wednesday’s big advance. If the banks do not rally with the broad market, caution is warranted. We are approaching an uncertain period of time regarding earnings and the upcoming elections and we all know that financial markets hate uncertainty.

Additionally, the U.S. dollar is at key support and should that support level fail, stocks and commodities could continue their ascent in rapid fashion. If the level holds, the U.S. dollar could have a relief rally to work off the oversold condition, however a bounce will likely be short lived and the dollar will test and likely fail at that level. The chart below is the weekly price chart of the U.S. Dollar Index.

As the chart above indicates, the U.S. dollar is trading at critical support which offers traders a defined risk level. That being said, gold and silver have literally gone parabolic and are due for a pullback. With risk crisply defined on the other side of the dollar’s support level, a short trade on GLD is warranted. The only problem facing a directionally biased trade is that the November monthly options have nearly five weeks before they expire. Expiration is too far away to utilize an iron condor or butterfly spread, but a different option strategy might make sense.

After considering a few option construction strategies, a calendar spread makes a lot of sense. A calendar option trade, also known as a horizontal spread, is constructed using the same underlying, same strike price, but different expirations. A neutral strategy can be used where the primary profit engine is Theta (time) decay with no real price action expectation. Bull or Bear calendar spreads can be created through the purchase and sale of calls/puts that are out-of-the-money.

Since I expect the price of gold to decline due to a subsequent bounce in the U.S. dollar, I am utilizing a Bear Calendar Spread. The trade construction consists of selling the GLD October Weekly 134 puts (expire 10/22) and the simultaneous purchase of the GLD November 134 puts (expire 11/19). For our example, I will be using the Thursday (10/14) closing prices to illustrate this trade.

The GLD October Weekly 134 puts closed around $130 (bid) per contract (1.30) while the GLD November 134 puts closed trading at $320 (ask) per contract (3.20). The trade would represent a debit of $190 per side (1.90) not including commissions. The chart below illustrates the GLD Put Calendar spread. Please note that the maximum profit for this spread is always at expiration when the price of the underlying is at the strike price selected.

The profitability of the trade based on the Thursday closing price would be a maximum gain of $125 dollars per side assuming GLD’s price closed next Friday at exactly $134/share. The profitability range at Friday’s close is from $131.14 – $137.08. This trade takes on a maximum risk of $190 per side not including commissions. The profit potential based on risk is over 60% if price should close next Friday around 134.

But wait; there is more! The trader has additional choices after the trade has been placed. If GLD’s price stays relatively stable through the October weekly option expiration, the trade could be closed for a profit.

As mentioned above, the expectation is that the price of gold will decline as the dollar has a relief rally to work off the massively oversold condition. With that in mind, the trader could allow the GLD October Weekly 134 to expire next Friday or close that leg of the option trade keeping the long GLD November 134 put in place. After the October weekly contract is closed, the trader has the ability to put on a vertical spread or another calendar using the next week’s options.

In our case, we expect price to decline in the short term on GLD, so we could sell the GLD November 131 put and further reduce our overall cost of the GLD November 134 put that we are long. While this may sound a bit confusing, the main idea is that we are utilizing Theta (time) decay to reduce the cost of the long put we purchased. The further we are able to reduce the cost of the put, the more profitable a downward move in the GLD price becomes.

As an example, let us assume that we were able to close the GLD October weekly 134 put for a profit of $60. The profit reduces our overall cost on the GLD November 134 put by $60 and places the cost to us at $260. Assuming price stays relatively close to the Thursday close on GLD, we likely would be able to sell the GLD November 131 put for around $130 (estimate) depending on price action and volatility levels over the next week. Assuming we were able to sell the November 131 put at $130, we have now reduced our cost of the November 134 GLD put down to only $130 per side. The profitability chart below represents what the trade would look like.

Now we have a directionally biased trade on GLD and we are only risking $140 per side for the exposure. The maximum gain on this trade at the November expiration would be $160 per side assuming GLD’s closing price was $131/share or lower at the November expiration.

The primary risk that this trade undertakes in relation to volatility would be a volatility crush, or collapse. If overall market volatility probes lower or the implied volatility declines on the underlying (GLD), it can cause a potentially damaging impact on this trade. With every trade there are inherent risks, but great traders understand the risk and manage it accordingly through the use of stop orders and proper position sizing (money management).

If GLD does sell off, it is likely that the implied volatility would increase on GLD which would benefit this trade tremendously. However, option traders must always be aware of implied volatility as it relates to the underlying being utilized in their specific trades. Ignoring implied volatility when trading options is like diving into a swimming pool head first without knowing how deep the water is.

While the longer term prospects for gold are quite constructive, in the short term it would be healthy for a pullback, even if only for a few days. This trade carries more risk than most strategies I have presented previously; however option traders need to be familiar with various methodologies that address current market conditions. Keep in mind, risk reducing strategies using contingent stop orders that are based on the U.S. Dollar index allow us to crisply define the risk in this trade. In closing, I will leave you with the insightful muse of Adam Smith, “The problem with fiat money is that it rewards the minority that can handle money, but fools the generation that has worked and saved money.”

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J.W. Jones

Risk Comparison: Options Versus Equities – Part 1

While future articles will return to focusing on the option Greeks, a recent comment regarding risk really piqued my interest. The age old discussion about risk versus reward, equities versus options, and the fundamental difference between Nassim Taleb’s “Black Swan” risk and what most people perceive as ordinary risk.

In a perfect world, financial markets are by design a discounting mechanism of a cash flow stream, risk versus reward, and a psychological environment where the difference between profits and losses is merely perception. In the end, trading is all about the mastery of risk mitigation and leveraging probability.

I am an options trader, not because I do not like equities or futures, but because I fear the perception of their so-called safety. Most academics and the average investor believe that financial markets, specifically individual stocks follow a Gaussian, or log normal distribution. While various economists and statisticians have argued this point for decades, to understand that price distributions are in fact not strictly Gaussian.

Price distributions are capable of exhibiting more than the predicted occasions of price inhabiting the extreme regions of the distribution curve. Understanding these concepts is critical in order to have a robust understanding of risk. This type of phenomenon is called “fat tail” risk; statisticians refer to it as leptokurtosis. It is this degree of risk well beyond the normally distributed range to which Taleb has characterized as “Black Swan” risk.

In financial markets, having accepted that these fat tails do in fact exist and exist with a frequency far beyond what is intuitively apparent, risk becomes significantly harder to quantify. When risk becomes more difficult to quantify it can be said that investors and traders have significantly more exposure to a catastrophic event than they realize.

In basic terms, the financial world we live in today is wrought with fat tails. Government integration and manipulation of financial markets, the Federal Reserve’s (supposedly independent) direct engagement into the bond market, and specifically treasuries and mortgage backed securities creates an environment in those markets where distributions are not statistically normalized. Geopolitical risk such as the potential for an Israeli air strike against Iran places unconditional risk on a variety of risk assets, at the forefront light sweet crude oil.

If one considers all the various risks extant, risk today seems excruciatingly high. Professors on Minyanville have recently called into question whether paper assets like the Gold ETF GLD is accurately priced. It is widely believed that there is significantly less physical gold versus gold-backed paper. This adds yet another element of uncertainty to an increasingly uncertain environment.

What would happen to the gold ETF GLD if an analyst announced that the GLD ETF no longer had access to physical gold? What would happen to the valuation? How can they maintain adequate capital levels inside the ETF if gold demand rises while physical supply diminishes? The answer is contraction in the NAV price of the gold ETF. In real terms, the ETF owns less gold than the paper supposedly represents and price must come down to indicate this discrepancy. Make no mistake, the market will be happy to provide the swift and unforgiving necessity of adjusting to parity.

While the above offers basic examples of fat tails, the increased statistical variation has a name. The name of this type of condition where fat tails surround us and atypical logarithmic distribution takes place is called kurtosis. As a side note, since recent and forthcoming articles are going to focus on the Greeks, kurtosis comes from the Greek word meaning ??t??, kyrtos, or kurtos. (Just thought I’d throw that in there for a synergistic moment)

A scenario similar to the condition in which we find financial markets today could likely be summarized as a period of time where Leptokurtosis has become prevalent. Leptokurtosis is a statistical phenomenon where a population’s distribution, in our case equities, has a rather pronounced peak around the average. This peak is representative of a population that is rife with fat tails, higher variance, and a propensity for abnormally large swings in the standard deviation of returns.

What does all this mumbo jumbo mean? It means that when fat tails are present within a leptokurtic distribution, risk literally can become infinite. Fat tails and leptokurtosis are just a few of the many statistical economic studies that have caught the eye of many academics, specifically in the areas of advanced statistics, mathematics, and . . . economics. Distributions, kurtosis, and fat tails are the science behind behavioral finance. To most people this subject matter is boring, however it is only boring if you have never experienced the gut wrenching expression of these phenomena in the market; after that experience, the subject becomes transfixing.

The average investor believes that when they buy a stock the likelihood of it declining significantly in a short period of time is relatively minimal. We have been conditioned by Wall Street snake oil salesmen that due to inflationary pressure, over long periods of time equities must rise as a function of inflation. Everything is a buy in the long term, plus it makes for a great story to build a business model around that the retail crowd buys into. While this may be true in the long run, we live finite lives which do not have the luxury of allowing behavioral mean reversion over geological periods of time.

Right now risk is excruciatingly high. We have a variety of risks and uncertainties that are plaguing financial markets. The statistics behind the market today would likely exemplify the excessive risk built into the current system. So how exactly does this relate to options you might be wondering? I trade options instead of individual stocks to reduce risk. Options offer a variety of ways to hedge risk, even after a trade has been initiated. Options allow for manipulation where as with stocks and futures there is little one can do besides fully hedge a position.

The reason I utilize options instead of futures or equities for swing trades is because by definition they are insulated from outlying events such as an unexpected act of war or a natural disaster which could interrupt the flow of commerce for an extended period of time. Options are inherently less risky than stocks because of the leverage built into them. Since all moneys invested in the market are subject to Black Swan risk, the ability to control an equivalent position with dramatically less capital commitment is a core risk reduction strategy.

Yes, a trader can lose his/her entire investment if they own an option naked. Experienced option traders that buy and sell calls or puts naked and then hold them for extended periods of time is likely an anomaly. Experienced option traders will use some form of a spread to mitigate their risk further. Additionally, most online brokers offer option traders access to contingent stops which are based on the underlying asset’s intraday price.

Fat tails and leptokurtosis are the result of financial markets reacting violently to unexpected events, similar to what happened this week when the jobs number was much worse than expected or to the still unknown factors which precipitated the recent “flash crash”. Large price swings similar to what we have seen recently are usually attributed to higher volatility. Higher volatility for prolonged periods of time is just another symptom that points to fatter tails and leptokurtic distributions. Reliance on the Gaussian, log normal distributions likely have some of the “machines” on Wall Street in a situation where their models do not work.

Option traders leaning long into the close on Wednesday that utilized specific types of spreads had limited risk. They did not have to worry if the market gapped their stop. Their risk was limited from the moment they initiated the trade. In contrast, an equity trader that went long before the close on Wednesday could have exited if they had access to the premarket, however if they didn’t the gap down found them losing more than they originally set out to lose. The market gapped over their stop, leaving them vulnerable to further downside. The unquestioning reliance on stops to close positions in times of Black Swan events is flawed at its core because it denies the very existence of unknown and unknowable risk.

This is just one example of how equity traders who routinely hold positions overnight are exposing themselves to potentially unidentifiable levels of risk in today’s market. If we are in a period where leptokurtosis and subsequent fat tails in the distribution prevail nothing is impossible when risk is being calculated. By statistical definition, a period where a fat tail(s) exist indicates a period where risk is extremely high.

Log normal modeling software will significantly underestimate the true risk in financial markets. What trading software and price models are you using in your analysis? If you are using a gut feel or one type of stock chart to help guide your decisions about risk, you could potentially be mischaracterizing risk by as much as 5-7 standard deviations. 5-7 standard deviations is scary my friend, the kind of scary that days that have nicknames that start with “black” are made of.

If you would like to receive our free options trading reports and trading signals please join our free newsletter at: www.OptionsTradingSignals.com

J.W. Jones is an independent options trader using multiple forms of analysis to guide his option trading strategies. Jones has an extensive background in portfolio analysis and analytics as well as risk analysis. J.W. strives to reach traders that are missing opportunities trading options and commits to writing content which is not only educational, but entertaining as well. Regular readers will develop the knowledge and skills to trade options competently over time. Jones focuses on writing spreads in situations where risk is clearly defined and high potential returns can be realized.

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Learning How Delta Creates Profits When Trading Gold

Last week’s articles focused specifically on the option Greek Theta. This week we will shift gears and adjust our focus on Delta, another fundamental tenet of option trading. The official definition of Delta as provided by Wikipedia is as follows:

?, Delta – Measures the rate of change of option value with respect to changes in the underlying asset’s price.

Delta has a significant impact on the price of an option contract(s). When a trader is long a call contract, Delta will always be positive. Likewise, if an option trader owns a put contract long, Delta will always be negative. As option contracts get closer to the money their Delta increases causing the option contract to rise in value rapidly as the option gets closer to being in the money.

Clearly Theta has an adverse impact on a trader who is long a single options position (own options long with no hedge or spread), however Delta is extremely dynamic and is one of the major factors directly responsible for option pricing as the price of the underlying changes throughout the trading day.

If an option is deep in the money, the option contract will have a higher Delta and will generally act similarly to actually owning the individual stock. For a deep in-the-money GLD call that has a Delta of +.80, the first dollar GLD rises by then the value of the GLD call options increases by roughly $0.80 or $80.

If the delta is 0.80, this essentially means that the GLD call option will increase in value 0.80 ($80) for every $1 that the GLD ETF increases. As the GLD option goes deeper into the money, the Delta will typically rise until it nearly produces the same gains as the GLD ETF until the delta asymptotically approaches 1.00 and the option moves in lockstep with the underlying. While my next article will continue to help explain Delta, it is important to understand how Delta can enhance a trader’s return when trading options with a specific directional bias.

While options exist for the gold futures contract, typically if I want to trade gold I utilize the GLD ETF. The primary reason is that the ETF offers liquid options, which makes it easier to initiate spreads and multi-legged orders. If options are thinly traded, the bid ask spread is almost always wide making it more difficult to get a good fill and a good overall price. Most option traders stay away from underlying stocks that have illiquid options.

In order to better illustrate how an options’ Delta can create profits, I will use GLD as an example. Keep in mind, I am not advising any traders to buy or sell options naked. I only trade options using strategies that help mitigate various risks to my capital. Theta (time) risk, volatility risk, and market risk are not being considered as this is merely an example to illustrate the power of Delta.

Recently Gold and subsequently GLD suffered a pretty significant pullback. GLD broke down through a major horizontal trend line and the daily chart was extremely bearish. Just when a lot of traders were preparing to get short GLD, buyers stepped in and pushed GLD’s price back above the support area. The GLD daily chart listed below illustrates the breakdown and subsequent failure and a powerful rally followed.

Let us assume for contrast that an option trader and an equity trader each want to get long GLD. The equity trader buys 200 shares of GLD at $115/share. Assuming the equity trader does not use margin, the total trade would cost around $23,000 not including commissions. The option trader decides to utilize delta and purchases 5 October 107 calls which in our example cost $900 per contract for a grand total of $4,500 not including commissions.

We will assume the October 107 calls have a Delta of 1.00. When a call option has a delta of 1.00, it essentially means that the owner of the call is going to get 100% of the move reflected in the premium of the option he/she owns. Thus if GLD increases by $1, the value of the option would increase $1 all things being held constant.

This is where Delta really shines; it shines even brighter than gold in this illustration. Both the equity trader and the option trader have a profit target of $118/share. A few days later GLD reaches $118/share and both traders close their trades with profits. The equity trader made $3/share which relates to a total gain of $600, or around 2.60%.

The option trader realized roughly 95% of the move, meaning around $2.85. The option trader had five total contracts for a total gain of $1,425 less commissions. The total gain for the options trader was over 31% less commissions.

Keep in mind, the option trader only had $4,500 of maximum risk while the equity trader was risking over $20,000. The option trader made over 100% more money, while risking only 25% of the total capital required by the equity trader. Behold, the power of Delta!

Learn more about how to find low risk options trades and get our alerts at: www.OptionsTradingSignals.com

J.W. Jones is an independent options trader using multiple forms of analysis to guide his option trading strategies. Jones has an extensive background in portfolio analysis and analytics as well as risk analysis. J.W. strives to reach traders that are missing opportunities trading options and commits to writing content which is not only educational, but entertaining as well. Regular readers will develop the knowledge and skills to trade options competently over time. Jones focuses on writing spreads in situations where risk is clearly defined and high potential returns can be realized.

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Learning How to Profit from Theta When Trading SPX Options

J.W. Jones
As discussed in the first article, “The Hidden Potential of Learning How to Trade SPX and Gold Options” I pointed out that there are several fundamental principles that must be mastered before profits can be attained when trading options. Novice traders typically skip the discussion about “The Greeks” and skim over volatility only to watch their precious trading capital disappear.

As promised, this article and future articles are going to discuss the Greeks as they relate to options trading in a way that hopefully everyone reading this can understand. While there are more than ten Greek symbols that directly relate to option pricing, an option trader must be able to clearly articulate and understand 4 of the ancient Greek symbols and one English invention. (Vega is not a true Greek symbol-Look it up!)

The five core Greek symbols which are critical in order to understand are as follows, in no particular order: Delta, Theta, Vega, Gamma, & Rho. Most veteran option traders have a sound understanding of Delta, Theta, Vega, & Gamma. Rho is not nearly as well known, but anyone who has ever studied econometrics, option pricing models, or has studied applied finance know all too well the importance of Rho. For inquiring minds, Rho measures sensitivity to current interest rates.

Today’s article is going to focus on the Greek symbol Theta. By now many readers may wonder why I continually capitalize the Greek symbols, and the reason is because they are that critical. The technical definition of Theta derived directly from Wikipedia when applied to options is as follows:

THETA – T, measures the sensitivity of the value of the derivative to the passage of time: the “time decay.”

Time decay (Theta decay) is of critical importance when an option trader is attempting to quantify and/or mitigate risk. There are two parts factored into the price of an option contract: extrinsic value (a major component of extrinsic value is Theta; the other is implied volatility) and intrinsic value which would be the amount of money a trader would gain if they exercised an option right away. A great many authors who opine about options get caught up using terminology like intrinsic and extrinsic value which only serves to confuse most novice option traders even more. I refuse to use those words in my writing as I find them to be cumbersome and option trading can be made much more difficult than it needs to be.

Theta and time decay are synonyms when discussing options. An easy way to remember their congruence is that the word time starts with a “T” as does Theta. If a trader owns calls or puts outside of any type of spread, they are totally exposed to time decay (Theta) and as an option contract gets closer to expiration, the time value of the contract diminishes. This accompanied with failure to account for implied volatility (to be discussed in the future) are the fundamental reasons why so many people lose money when trading options.

Just as theta can be an option trader’s worst enemy, it can also be used as a profit engine. If an option trader sells an option contract to open the position, that option trader is using theta as a method to profit or as a way to reduce the cost of a spread. While this article will not spend a ton of time discussing various option spread techniques, in the future we will discuss them in detail. At this point, we are only attempting to understand that Theta represents the time decay priced into an option.

It is also critical to understand that Theta (time decay) is not linear in the time course of the life of an option and accelerates rapidly the final two weeks before an option expires. The rapid time decay the final two weeks before expiration presents a multitude of ways to drive profitability, but it also can represent unparalleled risk. While this article is just an introduction to Theta, the next article later this week will continue the time decay discussion.

Since we are discussing Theta, I thought it would make sense to discuss a trade I took last week which utilized Theta as the profit engine. Recently a variety of underlying indices, stocks, and ETF’s have options that expire weekly. Weekly expiration expedites Theta and gives option traders additional vehicles to produce profits.

While most equity or futures traders might shy away from a chart like this, an option trader has the unique ability to place a high probability trade. I believed that the market would stall around the SPX 1130 area so I looked for a trade which would utilize the SPX weekly options. The SPX weeklies expire based on the Friday SPX open. With the SPX trading around 1124, I put on a call credit spread which used time decay as the primary profit engine.

The setup I used involved selling an 1150 SPX call and buying an 1175 SPX call, which is also known as a vertical credit spread. I received $100 (1.00) for the 1150 SPX call and purchased the 1175 call for $20 (0.20). The $80 dollar profit represents the maximum gain per contract sold. As an example, if I placed this trade utilizing five contracts per side I would have a maximum gain of $400 dollars. The probability of success at the time when I placed this trade was around 78% based on a log normal distribution of the price of the underlying.

Immediately after placing the trade I utilized a contingent stop order that would close my trade entirely if the SPX reached the 1135.17 area. Essentially, my maximum loss not including commissions was limited to around $60 dollars per contract with a maximum gain of around $80 per contract assuming we did not get a big gap open.

Essentially, if the SPX stayed below 1135.17 for two days and opened on Friday below the 1150 level my trade would reach maximum profitability. This is a trade I actually placed on Tuesday afternoon, however I exited the position before the close on Thursday due to the impending jobs report which was set to come out Friday morning. I was able to collect over 60% of the premium sold per contract ($80) which came to about $45-50 per side. At $1,000 dollars risked based on my stop level, the trade would have produced a net gain of around $750 dollars in less than 3 days.

Hopefully this basic example illustrates the potential profits options can produce if they are traded appropriately with risk clearly defined while having hard stops in place. This trade produced a nice profit, however it was susceptible to a gap open, thus I maintained a relatively small position to mitigate my overall risk profile. As always, a trader must see potential risks from all angles and utilize proper money management principles when determining how much capital to risk. In closing, I will leave you with the insightful muse of famed trader Jesse Livermore, “A loss never troubles me after I take it.”

If you would like to continue Learning about the Hidden Potential Pptions Trading Can Provide please join my FREE Newsletter: www.OptionsTradingSignals.com

J.W. Jones is an independent options trader using multiple forms of analysis to guide his option trading strategies. Jones has an extensive background in portfolio analysis and analytics as well as risk analysis. J.W. strives to reach traders that are missing opportunities trading options and commits to writing content which is not only educational, but entertaining as well. Regular readers will develop the knowledge and skills to trade options competently over time. Jones focuses on writing spreads in situations where risk is clearly defined and high potential returns can be realized.

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The Hidden Potential of Learning How to Trade SPX & Gold Options

J.W. Jones
Market technicians believe they operate in a world that few people truly understand. It is as if they believe they are working in some sort of secretive financial construct that only a few lucky souls away from Wall Street can access. The truth is that technical analysis should only be used as one metric to help a trader navigate financial markets.

There are a variety of research methodologies which all shed light and offer clues where the market may be heading. Market internals, the volatility index, Fed speak, and even fundamental analysis can be helpful to traders. It would not make sense to ignore market information that provides greater insight and additional clues that can help give a trader an edge. After all, the edge is what all traders seek. The sweet spot in trading is having a trading system that gives you an edge and offers a variety of way to quantify, mitigate, and define risk.

The same traders that only look to use purely technical analysis in their trading also fail to recognize other investment vehicles which might offer advantageous returns. The best kept secrets are always kept in the open, right beneath the public’s proverbial nose. People will travel the world in search of secrets or to prove theories, but in many cases the Holy Grail is lying right beneath their noses.

The greatest secret financial markets offer are the unbelievable potential returns that options can offer. Options offer a variety of ways to profit in a multitude of market conditions. Options offer unique profit engines that are not available or even possible when trading stocks or bonds. Most traders overlook options or are simply unwilling to put in the time or effort to learn how to trade them appropriately. In doing so, they are walking away from huge opportunities.

Most novice traders are quick to spurn options as they consistently lose money when trading them. The most common reason novice option traders experience losses is that they do not do their homework beforehand. New option traders fail to recognize the importance of “The Greeks.” Option traders not only have to be cognizant of the volatility index, but they have to be proficient in the dynamic factors that impact option prices such as implied volatility. In the future, my articles will be focused with the intent to educate readers about “The Greeks” in a way that is easy to read and understand.

Traders that utilize a trading system or that look for low risk entries find themselves sitting idle when market conditions are not favorable for their trading system or when prudent entries have not presented themselves. The ability to trade options gives a trader another investment vehicle that can offer potential profits. In most situations, options can offer attractive returns while taking significantly less risk than trading stocks, ETF’s or bonds.

In order to illustrate a situation where options can present a better risk versus reward, we need to look no further than intraday market action in the S&P 500 on August 2nd. The market rallied from the previous close and was bumping up against significant resistance. Traders could have been looking to get long or short based on recent price action. The market had been consolidating, and a significant move was likely coming.

Clearly the market was at a crossroads and a breakout could be right around the corner, or the market could test recent highs only to turn down to retest recent support. Stock traders have to make a decision about direction or sit on the sidelines and let others do the heavy lifting. Option traders could put on positions that have a directional bias, or they could utilize time decay (theta) as a profit engine.

Through the use of spreads such as an iron condor or a butterfly spread, option traders can actually put on a position that has the ability to be profitable regardless of which direction SPY goes. In order for a spread to work, SPY’s price must stay within the confines of the spread which is also determined by the specific option strike prices selected by the option trader. Similar to the mechanism that drives asset pricing, the more risk an option trader takes the greater their return. If a spread is written that is extremely wide and thus less risky, potential returns diminish.

Ultimately, this is a recent example of how options can offer more than just leverage, but a totally different methodology that can produce outsized profits. In the future, we will dissect the various spreads and the profit engines that drive them. However, before we begin detailed discussion of various option strategies, option traders must have a sound understanding of various volatility principles as well as the impact that the Greek’s have in the world of options. In closing, I will leave you with the muse of George Orwell, “To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle.”

If you would like to continue learning about the hidden potential options trading can provide please join my FREE Newsletter: www.OptionsTradingSignals.com

J.W. Jones is an independent options trader using multiple forms of analysis to guide his option trading strategies. Jones has an extensive background in portfolio analysis and analytics as well as risk analysis. J.W. strives to reach traders that are missing opportunities trading options and commits to writing content which is not only educational, but entertaining as well. Regular readers will develop the knowledge and skills to trade options competently over time. Jones focuses on writing spreads in situations where risk is clearly defined and high potential returns can be realized.