I just thought I'd ask if anyone on these boards actively trades options, either in stocks or indecies. In my opinion some good value is to be had in options trading. If folk are interested then I'm happy to share some of my thoughts.
Okay, first up, I've been doing some experiments with writing out of the money Puts and Calls on FTSE.
A simple strategy is wait until next months expiry is about 4 weeks away, then write a Call for 75 points above current FTSE and also write a Put for 75 points below current FTSE. For these two options you'll get paid a premium of about 80 points. This means that in order to lose money FTSE has to either climb or fall more than155 points in that 4 week period leading into expiry. In order to make the maximum 80 points profit FTSE obviously has to expire inside your 150 point range between the Put and the Call. If in worst case the FTSE rallies / falls sharply you simply cover with futures.
I spent a year or two writing strangles around the ftse when it was rangebound; normally 400-500 points on either side. depending on TA and prices
It produced a few percent return per month on average.
Qaza - I have actually done it. I have been studying the situation for 6 months or so and last month I decided to dip my toe using a spreadbet which seemed to offer reasonable value based on where the actual options market was. Two days later they caught Saddam and the markets have climbed pretty relentlessly. Afterall that it's still made me a nice little sum although I have had to manage the position once or twice. My early observations are that the positions seem much easier to manage than naked futures exposure. The fact that you are making money by the simple of passage of time seems to push the position into profit right from the outset.
The only thing I'd say about writing options right now is that volatility is at historical lows meaning the risk/reward is starting to get somewhat skewed, not in the writers favour.
Having said that one could have made the same argument 2 months ago with volatility at higher levels than today.
Personally I think that we're now in the environment that makes buying options seem a pretty good trade, but I wouldn't buy near term (3 months or less) because as anyone whose bought options in the past you know that the time will evaporate a lot quicker than you could imagine. Perhaps 9 month options would be the ones, but only if you've got a view and only if that view is an explosive one, up or down.
If I was an options trader I'd be scaling back my selling and sort of going into semi-hibernation.
Anley - So far as I can work out it seems that writing Options stands a far greater chance of making regular money over an extended period of time. The reason being that markets seem to spend far longer periods of time in ranges than they do in steep trends. Obviously as an Options writer you would do well to avoid markets that look like they maybe capitulating (bull or bear) with this type of strategy. If on average we say that the FTSE rises about 12% per year then this equates to about 45 points per month, well inside the 155 points we have to play with before we suffer loss.
The only risk is the odd crazy event like 9/11 that will send
volatility through the roof and your strangle out of the money
before you can hedge yourself.
Then you lose everything you have made up to that point
plus some more.
It depends what you call "stuffed". Many spreadbet companies now quote FTSE on a 24 hour basis. With someone like CMC you can set stops which stay live whenever the FTSE is open. No great drama in setting up some crash stops when you write (sell) the options. That way these 'one off' events are covered at minimal expense.
Oh indeed. Free money it is not. We get paid to take risks. I was just pointing out one method of protection should the worst happen. My guess is if you had that sort of stop (to open your hedge) with CMC and there was a bad news event then you'd have an advantage over the market as a whole - its just the nature of dealing with a company offering a parallel market. They would find it hard to justify gapping you through it unless there was an incident that caused a market suspension (or a weekend of course). In some of Livermores books he points out potential weakness of business offering parallel markets - their weakness can be our gain if it is played right.
Stevespray - welcome to the options forum. I regularly write ftse strangles for bread and butter income, but I couldn't stomach the risk of writing them as close as 75 points above and below. Hedging with futures is all very well, but it gets very hairy even if you delta hedge rather than cover contract for contract. For example, in December I sold 4525 calls and 3975 puts for the Jan expiry for 22, and even then I began to sweat over the calls last week. I normally buy some puts 200 points below the short puts strike to ensure I keep my house if there is a repetition of 911.
IV is now so low that I question whether just selling for premium is worth the risk - but I've been saying that since IV fell below about 18. Last months short calls had an IV of just 13% - last year I was selling calls with IV of 30% and the difference in premium taken is just huge. For example today with the FTSE100 future at 4430 the IV of the Feb 4625 calls is just 11.2% and gives a pathetic premium of 13. If IV was nearer the norm for calls at about 25%, then that would imply a premium of 76 for the Feb 4625 calls. Some difference!
A sharp correction from here would increase IV significantly and you'd be stuffed if you wanted to buy back a position under threat. And I'm not sure that getting it right 11 months out of 12 would be enough to compensate. I agree with donaldduke that losses in these circumstances may be more than your entire gains to date. I was not in the market on 911 and can only imagine how I'd have been feeling if I hade been short naked Dow puts and had to wait a week for the market to re-open.