Get Rich - Stay Rich - Investing for Monthly Income

Posts Tagged ‘stock volatility’

The Biggest Mistake New Call Writers Make

Covered call trading is not like directional trading which has an objective to time the movement of a stock in the direction it is moving.  Covered writing is a game of regular, incremental returns.  The covered call writer’s objective is to collect the option premium for income without taking any damage to the downside of owning the stock.  The secret to success for the call writer is to make smaller, more consistent returns compared to a advanced option trader who makes many bets waiting for a 50% – 100% winner.  The biggest mistake by new call writers is writing a stock solely to capture the fattest time value premiums.

To improve the chances of being successful, the call writer should focus on stock selection.  The covered call trader should focus on 3% monthly returns.  However, a 15% drawdown on a trade will require 5 months of 3% returns to recoup the loss and get back to even.  This is why the Monthly Income Plan focuses on 5 star stocks signaling high quality stocks.

Why avoid the fattest premiums for a measly 3% monthly return?  The short answer is that high premiums often signal high risk, and writing calls on these options without regard to stock quality will eventually decimate your trading account.  There are two reasons that value premium becomes high enough to offer big returns:

1)   The stock is volatile and implied volatility is in line with the stock, or

2)   Implied volatility (IV) is significantly higher than actual volatility.

Simply, the higher the rate of return, the higher either actual or implied volatility (or both) must be on the options.  If two stocks had volatility of 60% we would expect the option premiums to be roughly comparable.  What if one stock had an IV of 25%?  This indicates a market expectation of less volatility in the future but it also means the investor is not getting paid for the 60% volatility risk he is taking on.  If the other stock had IV of 80% then the investor must determine what is causing the IV to be higher than the 60% actual volatility.  This usually indicates that the market is expecting some new event on the stocks such as news, announcement, earning or more.

If the IV is in line with the stock volatility, then the options are priced fairly so the decision comes down to – do you want to invest in the stock.  The rule is to AVOID stocks with spiking IV and look for a different trade.  To be conservative, look to write calls on stocks with a volatility of 40% or less.  If you are experienced and seek more income, look for stocks with volatility between 40% and 60%.  Anything above 60% I would consider high risk so proceed with caution.  You should at least look at the volatility of the stock before you invest to know what the risk of the trade may be over the coming option period.

How To Use Volatility in Selecting Covered Call Trades

If options were always fairly priced, then we would expect the option price to always imply a level of stock volatility that is more or less in line with historic volatility (HV).  But this not always the case.  For example, two stocks are trading at $20 each with current month calls at $20; one calls ask price is $1.00 while the other is at $2.00.  In comparison, one calls value is twice the others. Why? The difference is in implied volatility of the two stocks.

Implied volatility is the market’s perception of how volatile a stock will likely be in the future.  A covered call trader must understand how implied volatility affects their trading  decisions.  IV Can be the same as historical volatility, lower than historical or higher than historical.  What if an option has an implied volatility of 70% while the stock had a volatility of 25%?  The Black-Scholes calculation would tell us that the option is overpriced.

The key to covered writes: how implied volatility compares to historical volatility.  When option volatility (call IV) is lower than the 10-day/30-day historical volatility, then the call option is under priced.  For call writers, under priced options mean you are not being paid for the stock’s actual volatility.  However, if the calls IV is extremely higher than historical volatility, the market is expecting something to happen.  If after the event the IV collapses then the calls value will collapse.  But…

You should not chase the high IV because those stocks are too risky.  You should compare IV to both the 10-day and 30-day historical volatility.  This will tell you if the the IV is in line with HV.  Generally, you do not want IV to be significantly higher (10-15%) than either 10-day or 30-day historical volatility.


Trade Options $0.50* / contract, Stocks $7.50 per share. Click here to open a new tradeMONSTER brokerage account.


The rules are as follows:

  • If IV is higher than HV – then an event is projected such as news, earnings, etc. Find another stock to write calls on;
  • If IV is lower than HV – then the option is likely under priced so you should Find another call write trade;
  • If IV is in line with HV – then this is a good trade if stock volatility is below 40%.

For conservative covered calls, you want stock volatility below 40%.  Any stock with a volatility above 60% is too risky for a covered call trade.  

Factors Affecting Option Prices

While there are many factors that determine option prices, stock option premiums move in unison with the underlying stock price.  The most popular method for determining option value is the Black-Scholes Model.  There are six factors in this model:

  1. Stock price is the most important factor in an options price as changes in stock price affect the price of options on the stock;
  2. Strike price has an affect on option price through intrinsic value, time value, delta and other factors;
  3. Time to expiration is the time remaining before an option expires.  Due to time decay, option values can decrease at a faster rate when the option is closer to expiration;
  4. Stock volatility is the standard deviation of a stocks price variations over a fixed period of time.  The more volatile the stock, the more likely its price will move and the option price will increase with high volatility;
  5. Interest rates have little affect on option prices but they are part of the Black-Scholes model;
  6. Stock dividends also have little affect on option prices since they are already included in the stocks price by market forces.

There are other forces that can affect the price of options that are not included in the Black-Sholes model such as:

Share Some Winning Cash