Short Option Profit-Taking Strategies

01/23/2015 8:00 am EST

Focus: OPTIONS

Michael Thomsett

Founder, Thomsett Publishing Website

Option trader Michael Thomsett, of ThomsettOptions.com, outlines exactly why he feels options can help manage price swings in a trader’s portfolio, without having to dispose of shares thought to be worth owning for the long-term, either to take profits or to cut losses.

Playing short-term volatility swings is fairly straightforward using long calls or puts. But both require you to pay money. The alternative of receiving money to play the same swings is very appealing…and it makes sense as long as the risks are manageable.

The situation arises when your long stock values rise and you expect some of the price movement to reverse and go back to the previous trading range. So, do you sell and take profits now while you can? Or do you hold on through the volatility?

If you believe the current price rise is temporary, another alternative is to sell one covered call per 100 shares you own.  If your assessment of conditions is right and the price does retreat, you can buy to close the call and take profits without having to sell your stock. If the timing is wrong and the stock price rises, your shares could be called away. Or you can close the short call or roll forward to avoid exercise.

The same strategy is used when the price declines. If you are sure it’s only temporary, you don’t need to sell shares to cut your losses. If you sell puts instead, you get paid and if stock values do rise, you keep the premium and make a profit. The risk here is that unlike the call, the short put is not covered. So you could end up getting exercised and having 100 shares put to you at the strike. So you have to be prepared for this. But f you think the strike is a reasonable price for shares, this is a great way to play the swings using short options. You cut your risks by getting paid and time decay works in your favor. For this reason, focus on contracts expiring in two months or less than time decay is most rapid. With an uncovered short option, you also need to have collateral on hand, equal to the strike, but if you own 100 shares for each put sold, this requirement is already satisfied.

Options can help manage price swings in your portfolio, without having to dispose of shares you think are worth owning for the long-term, either to take profits or to cut losses. The issue is one of how to manage volatility. This is a difficult task and many options traders can benefit by getting valuable help. It is wise to take a look at methods for tracking IV on the stocks you own, as part of your options strategy.

By Michael Thomsett of ThomsettOptions.com

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