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Calendar Spread Trade on Noble Corp (NE)

A CALENDAR SPREAD that involves selling the January ’12 37 call and buying the January  ’13 33 call should cost $32.59 less per share than the covered call and potentially yield a 100% return if the stock stays above $37 through expiration

TRADE:  Noble (NYSE: NE) ended the last trading session at $37.79.  So far the stock has hit a 52-week low of $27.33 and 52-week high of $46.72.  NE has had an S&P 4 STARS (out of 5) ranking since 6/8/2010.  On 7/21/2011 S&P equity analysts set a 12-Month price target of $47.00 for the stock.   Noble stock has been showing support around $36.76 and resistance in the $38.52 range.  NE is part of the S&P 4 STARS stock list.  One way to play this stock would be with a calendar spread that substitutes a longer term call option in place of the covered call stock purchase.  To use this strategy consider going long the NE Jan ’13 33 Call and selling the Jan ’12 37 call for a $2.00 debit.  The strategy has a 75 day life and would provide 7.38% downside protection and a 100.00% assigned return rate for a 486.67% annualized return rate (for comparison purposes only).

RISK: The Calendar spread strategy will normally carry more risk than a covered call strategy, but the rate of return is generally higher, since there is a lower capital outlay.  At a 3 Key risk ranking this strategy is considered to have moderate relative risk.  If the stock price at expiration is below $37 this strategy will not generate the potential returns shown. Another risk for this strategy is related to the bought Call Option price.   If the stock drops in price between now and
expiration date, there is a possibility that the Jan ’13 33.00 call could drop quickly.

Trading a Calendar Spread with LEAPS

Previously, we posted information on doing a covered call using a LEAPS option. Call calendar spreads are similar to a covered call. One part of the call calendar spread is buying a LEAPS call instead of owning the stock. Then, we can sell call options (like a covered call) with less time to expiration (the calendar part). For example, we can buy a call LEAPS with two years of time and sell a call option in the next month. It the strike price of the LEAPS is the same as the call sold, then you have created a call calendar spread. It the strike prices are different, then we have created a diagonalized calendar spread.

My preference is to buy a LEAPS that is in-the-money. This gives you a higher delta so you captured more of the stock price move. A good target is to buy a LEAPS call with a delta of 0.70 or higher. If the stock makes a strong up move, then you gain more profits in the LEAPS call. Also, ITM LEAPS give us more choices in what strike prices to sell the call. In comparison to a covered call with stock, we DO NOT want to e exercised in the LEAPS position. The reason is simply that we do not want to lose the time value of the LEAP call. You can buy an ATM or OTM LEAPS call, but your delta will be lower and it is more difficult to sell a call until the stock price moves up.

When I sell a call, I like to sell the shortest amount of time available because it will decay faster (more profit per day due to time decay) than a call with several months of time. I like to use the existing month and the next month for call sells. I like to sell an OTM call when holding a LEAPS because the call sold is all time value.

The bottomline: Your returns will be leveraged. For example, you may get a 3% return on a covered call but that same return will be 12% if your underlying is a LEAPS instead of stock. Since we are using LEAPS, if the short call strike price is above the stock then it will expire worthless. You can then sell a call against the LEAPS for the next month. If the stock price is greater than the short call, you can back back the short call or roll it up to a higher strike price.

FYI:  See the top 50 calendar spreads on the options caculator page.  This list is based on simple calendar spreads with the same strike price for lomg and short options.

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