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    Options Trading Strategies: Slash Your Risk and Make Money

    If you feel like Alice in Wonderland when you start to look into options trading strategies, you're not alone.

    Even so-called "experts" struggle with options. It gets even uglier when they attempt to bring it down to earth for their readers.

    Yet, if anyone can do it, I can.

    I've written six books about options, and have been trading options myself for more than 35 years.

    It means that I have already made every mistake in the book so you don't have to.

    So why should you learn about and invest in options?

    Done right, you can use options to create a virtual cash cow - often quickly, and often with very little risk.

    Options Trading in Action

    Consider the case of the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEArca: GLD). A year ago, GLD shares were trading for about $130.

    Say you felt pretty confident GLD was going to go up in the next 12 months. You could have gone "long" GLD by buying 100 shares.

    Of course, you'd have to be ready to plunk down about $13,000 for them. But if you had that kind of cash you would have done pretty well.

    A year later, GLD was trading at $160, and your 100 GLD shares were worth $16,000. That's a nice 23.7% gain.

    But you would have done even better if you had used options.

    Let's say, instead, you bought one $135 call. (A "call" is just a bet on the price of GLD going up from $130; the same thing you're betting on when you buy the stock.)

    A year ago, GLD calls were trading at $9.00. So you would have spent about $900 to initiate the trade. Yet by the expiration month, the price of the calls had risen to $28.00.

    That means the price of the option "contract" you bought was now worth $2,800-giving you a 300% gain on the very same price move in GLD.

    Now where I come from, 300% is much better that 23.7%. That's the power of options.

    And there's more...

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  • what is stock options trading

  • Options Trading: Three Ways to Win Big with a Bearish Calendar Spread Think some of Wall Street's higher flyers look vulnerable to a broad market pullback?

    If so, they could be perfect candidates for a low-cost, low-risk options trading strategy that could pay off big time if we get another move like last Friday's 169-point Dow plunge.

    The strategy is called a "calendar put spread," and it works like this:

    • You sell a slightly out-of-the-money put option with a strike price just below the current market price of the underlying stock - with a near-term expiration date.
    • You then simultaneously buy a put option with the same strike price but with a more distant expiration date.
    The cost - and the maximum risk - is the difference between the two option premiums, referred to as the "debit" on the spread. But because the longer-term put you buy "covers" the shorter-term put you sell, there's no added margin requirement.

    It may sound complicated, but it's not once you understand how to employ this bearish options trading strategy.

    Options Trading Primer: A Potential 900% Gain in Six Weeks

    Here's how a bearish calendar spread might work with Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), which has held up better than many other oil stocks in recent weeks, closing last Friday at $84.57, barely $3.00 off its 52-week high:

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  • An Options Strategy That Will Save You Some Money Whether you credit a Santa Claus rally, an early January Effect, or some other driving market force, there's no disputing the strong finish posted by stocks in 2011 - or the healthy 2012 opening advance added in the first week of January.

    To be specific, stocks - as measured by the Standard & Poor's 500 Index - rose from 1,204.00 at the close on Monday, Dec. 19, to 1,257.60 on Friday, Dec. 30, then jumped to 1,280.15 at midday yesterday (Monday), a gain of 6.32% in just three weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average did almost as well, climbing from 11,751.96 on Dec. 19 to 12,398.29 in Monday trading, a 21-day gain of 5.50%.

    While those short-term moves are certainly impressive, they're hardly unique in today's volatile market environment. Three similar advances have occurred in the past five months alone - in late August, early October and late November - but each was followed by a sharp short-term pullback that wiped out much of the value gained in the rallies.

    And, while few things in the market are certain, there's a strong probability this current market advance will also be followed by a sizeable retracement in the very near future.

    So, how do you protect your most recent gains?

    One answer is to turn to the options market.

    A Defensive Options Play

    As veteran Money Morning readers know, two of the most effective and often-used strategies involving options are writing covered calls to bring in added income and buying put options as "insurance" against possible price pullbacks.

    As such, investors would typically look to the latter strategy - buying puts - for protection in the present market situation. However, there are times when unusual conditions can force investors to take an alternative approach to option strategies - and that has certainly been the case recently, thanks to the market's extreme short-term volatility.

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  • Two Options Strategies That Can Turn Short-Term Price Gyrations Into Big-Time Profits Everyone acknowledges that at its most basic level the stock market is driven by fear and greed. And, in the past, the immediate impact of fear has been far more dramatic than the short-term effect of greed.

    In other words, stock prices have historically tended to fall faster - and further - when investors are running scared than they rise when investors get a pleasant surprise.

    Lately, however, with Treasury yields still near all-time lows, commodity prices hovering near record highs, and little else offering significant potential, there's a lot of money out there in mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), retirement accounts and other institutional portfolios that's looking for a place to go.

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