Handicapping AAPL Earnings Report

01/23/2013 8:00 am EST


Mike Scanlin

CEO, BornToSell.com

One of the most anticipated events in this earnings season is Apple’s holiday earnings release after the market closes today. Mike Scanlin of BornToSell.com outlines five ways to deal with the issue.

This is a continuation of a covered call trade we started on December 5, 2012, on AAPL.

We've now had six sets of weekly calls expire out of the money on our AAPL position. As of Jan 19, 2013, AAPL is below our Dec 5 purchase price by about 51 points (closed at 500 on Friday). However, we've lowered our basis between 54 and 68 points by selling weekly calls, so the trades are currently profitable.

Here is a recap of what we've done to date. We purchased AAPL at 551.57 on Dec 5. There were two strikes suggested, a 535 and 540, so we are tracking two separate trades.

If you wrote the 535s on Dec 5, this is where you are today:

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If you wrote the 540s on Dec 5, this is where you are today:

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On Friday, AAPL closed at 500 and your adjusted cost basis is either 482.97 (if you started with 535s on Dec 5) or 496.97 (if you started with 540s). You're still in the black but significant risk exists this week....

Moment Of Truth
AAPL announces holiday quarter earnings Wednesday, Jan 23, after the market closes. It will be one of the most watched earnings reports this season, and will likely drive not only AAPL but the entire market higher or lower based on the results and the guidance.

There are at least five ways to deal with this pending earnings report, from most bearish to most bullish:

(1) Sell your AAPL stock before earnings are announced. You have a small profit already and maybe you're nervous about a drop caused by AAPL missing the quarter or giving weak guidance. Lock in your gain and live to fight another day.

(2) Write an in-the-money call option. You won't have any upside potential on the stock but you could eek out some more time premium. The Jan 25, 460-strike can be sold for 44, or example, generating another four points of time premium while providing 44 points of downside protection.

(3) Write an at-the-money call option (500-strike) for this Friday (Jan 25). You will collect 17.85 in time premium, and lower your basis by the same amount.

(4) Write an out-of-the-money call option. The Jan 25, 540-strike can be sold for 4.65, for example, generating 4.65 points of time premium this week and leaving you 40 points of upside potential.

(5) Don't write an option. Just hold the stock and hope it goes up after earnings are announced. Unlimited potential upside, but also the highest downside risk of all the choices listed here.

So Which Should You Do?
Obviously, depends on your outlook for AAPL and your risk tolerance. And whatever you do, you don't have to do it for all of your shares. If you own more than 100 shares you could do one strategy with some of your shares, and another strategy with the rest of your shares.

We believe AAPL will have a good quarter and give reasonably good guidance, causing the stock to rise in a relief rally as shorts cover and new money comes in. For purposes of this trade we recommend selling the Jan 25, 520-strike for 9.70, which leaves our two trades with the following net debits:

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If AAPL closes above 520 by Friday, then your stock will be called away and you make the annualized return shown over a 51-day period (Dec 5 to Jan 25).

If you are not assigned on Friday (i.e. AAPL is below 520), then you own AAPL at the adjusted net debit shown and can write another option for the next cycle. Your adjusted cost basis (i.e. break even point) is the adjusted net debit.

By Mike Scanlin, CEO, BornToSell.com

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