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How To Avoid the Option Premium Trap

Many investors get too excited while seeing the high potential return based on high premiums.  There is always a reason that a call premium is higher than normal.  It may be a fad stock, potential takeover target or expecting some news release that may affect stock price.  The time premium on these stocks is big making them tempting to write.  It is best to pass up these volatile stocks for more stable and fundamental stocks.  In call writing, your gains are topped but loses are not limited to just the net proceeds of the trade.

There is no option premium large enough to protect you from a big downside break.  When you hear stories of investors being wiped out in writing calls, it is usually because they were writing for fat premiums.  The basic rule is to stick to stable stocks that you would feel comfortable at the net price paid for the optionable stock.

The exchanges are filled with potential stocks to write calls on.  The best way to find candidates is through a process of elimination.  For example, start with a list of stocks ranked 5 stars by S&P.  Then eliminate those with a high volatility such as 50% or higher.  Then determine which stocks you want to own to sell calls on the stock.  Then you can diversify the stocks you select from different sectors and industries for more safety.

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How To Make Money On Stagnate Stocks

After bottoming out in October, the equities market bounced back with an impressive march higher. But faster than you can say “Happy birthday, bull market,” government shutdowns and other items loom in the horizon.

So, if you’re like most U.S. investors, you’ve probably got quite a few stocks in your portfolio that are now trading below freshly tagged multi-year highs. Since previous price peaks can act as areas of technical resistance, it’s only natural to be concerned about a forthcoming period of consolidation. Or, to be brutally honest — stagnation.

Fortunately, there’s a simple option strategy any investor can use to generate immediate income on his equity investments — even during those frustrating times when the market is grinding sideways.

A covered call is an option that you sell (or write) on a stock that you’re holding in your portfolio. By selling to open one call option, you’re accepting the obligation to deliver 100 shares of the underlying equity at the strike price of the option, should the stock price surpass the strike price, prior to the contract’s expiration date (in other words, should the option go “in the money”).

To build your cash-collecting call trade, take a look at a price chart of the security in question. You’ll need to pinpoint where you expect the shares to find resistance, because the strike price of your sold call(s) should generally correlate with this price zone.

In the best-case scenario, you want your sold call to expire worthless — or “out of the money” — so that you can (a) retain the entire premium received as pure profit; and (b) avoid taking any further action to close out the trade, which would rack up additional brokerage costs.

On the other hand, a call that’s too far away from the stock’s current price will barely be worth the effort. To see what we mean, simply check out the option chain of any given stock. As your eye travels over higher and higher strike prices, you’ll see the premiums begin to vanish.

Luckily, in the age of 1-point and 2.50-point strike prices for many popular stocks, it’s much easier than ever before to find a happy medium for your focus strike.

Once you’ve selected your ideal strike price, you’ll want to narrow your focus to shorter-term options. The comparatively richer option premiums of longer-dated contracts may be tempting, but trust us — the covered call strategy is best conducted over a relatively narrow window of time.

Put simply: The shorter the time frame of your trade, the less opportunity the shares have to rally above your focus strike. Plus, the effects of time decay are more pronounced on options that are closer to expiration — and in an option-writing strategy, time decay is your best friend. As the contracts shed their time value at an accelerating pace, they’ll naturally decline in price. This means the calls will be cheaper to buy back in the event that you should decide to liquidate your position ahead of expiration.

Investors should also be aware of the stock’s historical volatility, particularly as it relates to the option’s implied volatility. Equities with relatively low historical volatility (that is, slow-moving stocks) are attractive covered call candidates, because it suggests a relatively low probability of drastic price swings that could put you at risk of assignment. When implied volatility is inflated relative to historical volatility, it points to prime premium-selling opportunities.

On that same note, though, don’t forget to check the corporate calendar. A looming event, such as an earnings report or product launch, could be the underlying cause of inflated volatility. These events can often translate to significant price changes in the underlying stock, which raises the risk profile of a sold call position.

So, having selected an appropriate strike price and expiration month, your next responsibility is to place the trade with your broker. In order to make sure this is a covered call, be sure you sell no more than one option contract for every 100 shares of stock you own. Pocket your premium, and then sit back and wait for the options to expire worthless, as you predicted.

However, following a two-year rise in the broader equities market, it’s quite possible that you’re holding a few stocks in your portfolio that have delivered healthy returns. If you’re satisfied with the gains you’ve collected and are ready to move your investing capital elsewhere, writing covered calls is a savvy way to “get paid to get out.”

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The Right Philosophy for Covered Call Trading

When getting started in covered call trading you have so many options available that it can be overwhelming to determine where to begin.  Before you place any trades, you have have an ideal of what your perspective should be.  This is where you want to keep it simple so you don’t get stuck in option overload.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep it simple.  Don’t sell uncovered options because they represent free money because the stock can’t move that far.  This can cause some humongous loses beyond your magnitude of capital.
  • Always keep it safe.  You should know your risk tolerance and don’t venture beyond it.  If it feels risky, then it is too risky for your mental risk avoidance.
  • Keep it sensible.  Don’t trade anything that takes you beyond your sleeping and eating points.  Stay within your comfort zone.
  • Keep it diversified.  You gain some level of safety through buying different stocks in different industries than a large trade of a single stock.
  • Keep it disciplined.  Always stick to your trading plan in all cases.  More often, losses occur and get larger because of a lack of discipline.
  • When you implement a trade, you should have these tow items in your head:
    1. Set an approximate goal – the point where you expect the strategy to produce profits.
    2. Set an exit point to be used if the trade goes against you.

You should keep in mind that selling calls against your stock holdings is safer than just holding stock.  Here, the concept is to continue owning stock but to give yourself some downside protection and to get some income from the option premium.  This approach is not as exciting as buying calls and anticipating a hugh stock rally.  However, our goal is to preserve our capital so we can continue to create a monthly income.

Know Your Potential Risk in Covered Call Trades

The greatest source of risk in a covered call trade is the stock you own in the trade.  Losses are almost always the result of a price decline in the stock or the overall market.  Here is a list of primary risks in covered call trades.

  1. Decline in the stock’s price forces the trader to make adjustments.  This can happens to anyone but rarely happens with disciplined stock selection.  This is why you want to stay with safe stocks with great fundamentals.
  2. Traders fall into the assignment trap when a stock pulls back and they write calls at a strike price below their cost basis.  Then, when the stock recovers the trader will be assigned at a loss or buy back the calls.
  3. The trader will roll up to a higher strike price when a price spikes only to see the price backup to previous levels.  This will increase the cost basis as you paid more to buy back the short call than you received in premium.  You must first determine that the stock price will hold the new higher price before making this move to roll up.
  4. When the trade changes, traders want to add on options to grab more profits or to hedge their position.  These types of strategies should only be done by the experienced trader with knowledge of how add ons change the trade dynamics of risk.

All of these risks can be linked to the trade discipline or lack of discipline in the heat of the moment.  How many times have you seen a stock price spike one day and then pull back over the next few days?  this happens all the time so the trader must be disciplined not to immediately over react without confirmation of the move.  For experienced traders, they know how to determine if the price move is for real and when to make the right trade adjustment.

How to Get More Protection from Stock Price Declines

In a flat to bullish market, most call writers will sell an at-the-money call on the stock they own.  the rationale for selling an ATM call is that they have the highest premium in terms of time value.  Of course, the option seller can sell at any strike price.  What should the call seller do in a market driven by fear such as potential debt defaults, FED changes, financial chaos, etc.?  The smart call writer will change their strike price to get more downside protection.

Suppose you want to write a call on a stock that you are concerned about a potential price drop,  you can look to write an in-the-money call.  The stock is trading at $7.80 per share.  You can write the $7.50 call for $0.90.  This call has a $0.30 intrinsic value so you are getting $0.60 in time value. As long as the stock is above $7.50 at expiration you keep the $0.60 in time value and the $0.30 intrinsic value.  Now you have created a situation where you still make money if the stock declines by 3.85%.

Let’s try another example.  The stock is trading at $136.00 per share.  You can sell the 135 call for $10.25; the 130 for $13.15; the 125 for $16.40; the 120 for 20.05.  You can go down to the 120 call strike to produce a 13% downside protection.   Yet you still get a $4.05 time value premium that is almost a 3% return.  Now you have created a situation where you still make money if the stock declines 13%.

Considering an average volatility, this is a great way to protect yourself for an anticipated price downturn.   While selling ITM calls does not usually realize a return as high as selling ATM calls, it does have the benefit of creating more downside protection for the stock price to fall and still return a profit.  You should only sell ITM calls if you are willing to let the stock be called away.

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Why Sell Covered Calls?

Sellers of covered calls seek two objectives: additional income from their stock portfolio and protection from a market decline in the price of their stocks.  The call premium helps the option writer to achieve these goals.  With the covered call strategy, you can use stocks you already own or you can purchase new shares to sell covered calls on.  In either case, you will not be overly concerned about the the price movement of your stocks over a period of time.  However, you will only write covered calls on stocks you already own.
 
We can apply this call writing strategy to dividend paying stocks.  You will be getting two sources of income: the dividends and the premium you received from selling the calls.  In addition, there is potential for a third source of income if the stock were to increase in price.  If we were to allow the stock to be called away, we would receive the strike price in addition to the premium and dividends.  This is an outstanding scenario where you can potentially receive three sources of income from one investment!

However, the call writer does not have to remain obligated to deliver the stock.  The writer can terminate the obligation if it has not been exercised by purchasing to close an identical option at current premium price.  Also, if the option is exercised, you do not have to deliver the original stock as you can purchase new shares to fulfill your delivery obligation.

When you write a covered call, you still own the stock and can receive all dividends paid before the options expire.  When you sell options, you begin with an immediate profit rather than an uncertain potential gain.  The most you can make is the premium received and the price of the strike minus your cost of the purchase of stock.

There are always opportunities for investors to use options are part of their total investing plan.  With careful stock selection and monitoring of your position, selling options can:

    • Boost annual income by 15 percent or more;
    • Be used for tax benefits and low costs;
    • Offer a variety of choices such as the underlying stock, strike prices and time periods.

The best rule: never buy options, only sell them!  Buying options is speculation while selling options is investing.

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Covered Call Results in 2017 – You Can Make $2000 per Month

The year 2017 was another great year of total returns and monthly income. We had a call yield of 21% for our portfolio. You can’t get this level of yield from a dividend payment.

In terms of total return as tracked in the monthly spreadsheets, the average across all positions was 37% during 2017. In the past year ending 12/15, the S&P 500 only returned 20%. Therefore, we almost doubled the S&P while capturing significant alpha return. The average monthly income across our open positions was $132 for each position with 100 stock shares. If you own all positions (100 shares) you would capture $953 dollars of income per month. And if you double up you can capture $2,000 per month. You get it – $4,000 per month is achievable.

We had no losing positions in our perpetual call portfolio in 2017. We had 8 of 9 positions with returns greater than 20% and all but one with returns greater than 20% of the S&P 500 in 2017.

The table below shows the results for each perpetual covered call position during 2017. This table is the same information as displayed in the monthly tables for each position (based on owning 100 shares of stock and selling one covered call each month). This is for portfolio tracking only as subscribers will own more than 100 shares and sell like size amount of call options for income each month.

Income Opportunity for 40% Option Trade

As income investors, we seek to create consistent monthly income by selling options to collect monthly premiums. This has been successful for our investors for years. Option selling offers another method to diversify investing strategies beyond traditional dividend investing. We have combined technical stock events with our strategy to identify high returns option selling opportunities. This income trade will generate a return of 40% annualized.

Stock: STMicroelectronics N.V., (STM) together with its subsidiaries, designs, develops, manufactures, and markets semiconductor products, and subsystems and modules worldwide. STM has strengthened its ecosystem through a Partner Program that connects customers with qualified technical specialists capable of strategically supporting their projects.

We have identified a bullish “Continuation Diamond” chart pattern. This bullish signal indicates that the stock price may rise from the close of $17.44 to the range of $20. The pattern formed over 114 days which is roughly the period of time in which the target price range may be achieved, according to standard principles of technical analysis.

STMicroelectronics has a current support price of 17.04 and a resistance level of 17.46 that has been broken this week.

A Continuation Diamond (Bullish) is considered a bullish signal, indicating that the current uptrend may continue. Prices create higher highs and lower lows in a broadening pattern, then the trading range gradually narrows after the highs peak and the lows start trending upward. The technical event occurs when prices break upward out of the diamond formation to continue the prior uptrend, which confirms the pattern.

Monthly Income Option Trade

Strategy: We have an opportunity to sell options for income with STM as the stock should trade higher in the coming weeks. I recommend to place your trade and exit when you have locked in profits due to the stock price moving higher. Our goal here is to make income short term so we can exit and compound capital into another trade.

For medium risk option trade, look to sell an October 2017 17.5 PUT for about $0.80. This creates a return of 4.8% with 6 weeks to expiration.

For a conservative trade, you can setup a covered call trade. You can purchase 100 shares of STM and sell an October 17.5 CALL option for about $0.80.

We continue to identify winning option trades to generate income and to exit early as the stock bullish patterns moves prices higher.

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Great Income Trade Opportunity in HEES

As income investors, we seek to create consistent monthly income by selling options to collect monthly premiums. This has been successful for our investors for years. Option selling offers another method to diversify investing strategies beyond traditional dividend investing. We have combined technical stock events with our strategy to identify high returns option selling opportunities. This income trade will generate a return above 8% using the forward month options.

Stock: H&E Equipment Services, Inc. (HEES) operates as an integrated equipment services company. The company rents, sells, and provides parts and service support for hi-lift or aerial work platform equipment, cranes, earthmoving equipment, and industrial lift trucks. It offers heavy construction and industrial equipment for rent on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis

A “Double Bottom” chart pattern has been detected on H&E Equipment Services Inc (HEES). This bullish signal indicates that the price may rise from the close of 21.90 to the range of 25. The pattern formed over 46 days which is roughly the period of time in which the target price range may be achieved. H&E Equipment Services Inc has a current support price of 19.89.

Strategy: We want to sell a covered call on HEES using the August 2017 22.5 Call. For each 100 shares of HEES stock you buy, sell one August 22.5 covered call option for a $20.70 ($21.90 – $1.20) debit or better. That’s potentially a 8.7% assigned return with a 5.8% downside protection. If you want more downside protection, you can purchase an August 17.5 PUT for less than $0.25 per option.

For PUT writers wanting to lower their cost of entering this position. You can sell a August 22.5 PUT option for $2.00. That’s a potential return of return of 8.9%.

Investors should consider taking profits early as the stock price moves higher toward the $25 target price and exit if there is a pull back below support levels..

This is a higher risk trade than we normally place in the Monthly Income Report. However, this is a nice setup with a positive merger announcement, positive technical confirmation and increased premium from selling options for income.

H&E Equipment Services to Acquire Neff Corporation to Create Leading Equipment Rental Company

The acquisition will nearly double the number of H&E branches, from 78 to 147, within H&E’s existing footprint in the strategically important Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and West Coast regions. Both H&E’s and Neff’s customers will benefit from best-in-class practices and a wide range of equipment in more locations.

H&E estimates the acquisition will create $25 to $30 million of synergies annually related to corporate overhead, systems and operational efficiencies, as well as scale benefits for equipment purchases.

The acquisition of Neff

is expected to generate in excess of $800 million of gross tax assets for H&E arising from a step-up in the basis of certain of Neff’s assets.

Private investment funds managed by Wayzata Investment Partners LLC holding approximately 62.7% of the outstanding common shares of Neff have executed a written consent to approve the transaction, thereby providing the required stockholder approval for the transaction.

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How to Generate a 10% Return in 45 Days

In our Monthly Income Report, we look for opportunities to utilize option selling to generate income. While we focus on selling cash-secured puts and covered calls on high quality stocks, we sometimes identify high return trades. We like to have 2 or more stock or company events leading to positive confirmation that the stock will continue its trend. This month we have identified a stock with a bullish technical indicator that has potential to generate a 10% return in only 45 days.

Stock: Alkermes plc (ALKS) is a biopharmaceutical company. The Company is engaged in the researching, developing and commercializing pharmaceutical products that are designed to address medical needs of patients in therapeutic areas. The Company has a portfolio of marketed drug products and a clinical pipeline of products that address central nervous system (CNS) disorders, such as schizophrenia, depression, addiction and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Alkermes just announced positive preliminary top line results from ENLIGHTEN-1, the first of two key phase 3 studies in the ENLIGHTEN clinical development program for ALKS 3831, an investigational, novel, once-daily, oral atypical antipsychotic drug candidate for the treatment of schizophrenia. ENLIGHTEN-1 was a multinational, double-blind, randomized, phase 3 study that evaluated the antipsychotic efficacy, safety and tolerability of ALKS 3831 compared to placebo over four weeks in 403 patients experiencing an acute exacerbation of schizophrenia. The study also included a comparator arm of olanzapine, an established atypical antipsychotic agent with proven efficacy.

ALKS will announce earnings on July 27 but should be positive on this news.

This stock has formed a pattern called Flag (Bullish), providing a target price for the short-term in the range of 61.50 to 62.30 (see chart below). We think the stock can hit the target price within 6 weeks or less. The price recently crossed above its moving average signaling a new uptrend has been established. While we like the upside potential in ALKS, we want to protect the downside against market changes.

Technical Setup on Alkermes ALKS

Strategy: We want to sell a covered call on Alkermes using the August 2017 60 Call. For each 100 shares of ALKS stock you buy, sell one August 60 covered call option for a $54.50 ($58.70 – $4.20) debit or better. That’s potentially a 10.0% assigned return with a 7% downside protection. If you want more downside protection, you can purchase an August 55 PUT for less than $2.00 per option.

This is a higher risk trade than we normally place in the Monthly Income Report. However, this is a nice setup with a positive news announcement, positive technical confirmation and increased premium from selling options for income.

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