Follow Up – (IWM) November 15, 2012

As a potentially profitable opportunity presents itself, John will send you an alert with specific trade information as to what should be bought, when to buy it, and at what price.

Trade Alert - (IWM) - Update

Buy the iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF (IWM) December, 2012 $78 puts at $2.20 or best

Opening Trade


expiration date: 12-21-2012

Portfolio weighting: 1.8%

Number of Contracts = 8 contracts

Buy 8 December, 2012 (IWM) $78 Puts at……………$2.20

total cost: $1,760

We are now deep into the fiscal cliff negotiations, which you can expect to be a total nightmare from a trading point of view. You can expect dueling headlines for the next month from both parties. One day they will be on, then off, then on again. There will be tons of posturing. A “light at the end of the tunnel” comment could send markets screaming to the upside at any time, while “my way or the highway” could send them plummeting.

So I am going to neutralize my long side position in the iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF (IWM) January, 2013 $76-$80 in-the-money call spread through buying short dated puts against it.

The great thing about these deep in-the-money call spreads is that your downside risk is limited in exchange for capping your upside participation. You also get a extremely low deltas, which means that a move in the underlying (IWM) leads to only a small move in the spread.

Delta is defined at the rate of change of your derivative relative to the underlying instrument. For math geeks out there like myself, delta is represented by the Greek letter Δ. In this case, it is the rate of change of our call spread relative to the (IWM). This is great news when the market goes against you.

You can find the delta for each position on your option trading website. Usually, it is on the far right of the trading page on off the screen, so you may have to move a slider bar to display it. If it is not there, you may need to enable your screen to show the data flow on your page. This usually involves just checking a box.

For a call spread you need to calculate your net delta, which I show below for the iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF (IWM) January, 2013 $76-$80 in-the-money call spread:

1/$76 +67%
1/$180 -43%

This tells you that a $1 move in the (IWM) produces only a 24 cent move in the iShares Russell 2000 Index ETF (IWM) January, 2013 $76-$80 in-the-money call spread. Note that a delta for a short position has a negative sign in front of it. This means that I can eliminate much of the downside risk in this position through buying (IWM) puts.

To reduce the cost of the puts, I will buy ones expiring on December 21. This leaves me with a position that has minimal downside risk for the next month, then fully participates in any yearend/new year rally.

Here is the calculation for the number of December $78 puts I need to buy:

12/$78 put delta: 51%
1/$76-80 call spread delta: 24%

24%/51% = 47%, which means that I only need to buy $78 puts to cover 47% of my 1/$76-$80 call spread position.

47% X 33 1/$76-80 call spreads = 16

That leaves us with a point of maximum profitability for the total position at $80 in the (IWM). The net P&L is the following:

+$13,200 1/$76-$80 call spread value at a $80 expiration
-$9,900 less cost
? +$0 12/$78 puts at a $80 expiration
-$3,520 less cost

-$220 net loss, or -0.22% for the $100,000 model portfolio

This is a net swing in our performance on this position from -3.00% today to -0.22%, an improvement of 2.78%. In addition, I can recover some of the $78 put premium buy taking it off in any sustained rally, or heaven forbid, a surprise resolution of the fiscal cliff. This is how you turn lemons into lemonade. Successful hedge fund managers make 80% of the reputation managing the losers and 20% from their winners, which anyone can do.

You may note that the Trade Alert I already sent out only calls for buying 8 contracts of the December $78 puts, not the 16 called for in the calculations above. This is because I want to scale in, and will sell more on a decent rally.

In a perfect world, I would have taken out this insurance last week when it became evident that things were not going immediately my way. But it’s hard to write a trade alert when you are on a plane flying from Houston to Orlando with no broadband. I did write it on a note and stuff it into one of those small vodka bottles and throw it out the window. But apparently nobody found it, as we were then passing over the Gulf of Mexico. You can’t catch them all.