Options Based Resiliency – September Outperformance
Option trading at its core is defining risk, leveraging a minimal amount of capital and maximizing return on investment. Option trading in combination with long equity via broad-based index ETFs and cash on-hand provides portfolio agility in the face of market corrections and in times of volatility expansion. COVID-19 was the linchpin for the major indices to drop over ~30% in March. Logging the worst sell-off since the Great Depression and inducing extreme market volatility that hasn’t been since the Financial Crisis.
Although option trading provides a margin of downside protection and a statistical edge, when hit with a black swan event, no portfolio is immune from the wreckage. Thus proper portfolio construction is essential when engaging in options trading to drive portfolio results. One of the main pillars when building an options based portfolio is maintaining ample liquidity via holding ~50% of one’s portfolio in cash. This liquidity position provides portfolio agility to rapidly adjust when faced with extreme market conditions such as COVID-19 and the September market correction.
An agile options based portfolio is essential to navigate these pockets of volatility. The COVID-19 induced sell-off and recent September correction are prime examples of why maintaining liquidity is one of the many keys to an effective long term options strategy. Overall, in the months of May, June, July, August and September, 121 trades were placed and closed. An options win rate of 98% was achieved with an average ROI per trade of 7.3% and an overall option premium capture of 90% while outperforming the broader market over the September downturn (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – Smooth and consistent portfolio appreciation while matching the broader market gains and outperforming during the market sell-off in September. An overlay of an options/cash/long equity hybrid portfolio and the S&P 500 post COVID-19. Even under the most bullish conditions, the hybrid portfolio outperformed the index with ~50% in cash.
Positive Return Despite September Sell-Off:
The September sell-off was the worst technology rout since March, while the Dow and S&P 500 posted four-week losing streaks, their longest losing stretches since August 2019. The Nasdaq had its first weekly gain in four weeks at the tail end of September. All the major indices sold off double-digits and into correction territory throughout the month of September. This recent September correction provides a great opportunity to demonstrate the durability and resiliency of an options-based portfolio.
Despite the indices being in correction territory for the month of September, following the 10 rules in options trading via leveraging small amounts of capital, defining risk and maximizing returns has generated a positive return as it relates to the options portion of the portfolio. The positive options returns were in sharp contrast to the negative returns for the overall market. Generating consistent income without guessing which way the market will move with the probability of success in your favor has proven successful despite the September correction.
When compared to the broader S&P 500 index, the blended options, long equity and cash portfolio has outperformed this index. In even the most bullish scenario post COVID-19 lows where the markets erased all the declines inflicted by the pandemic, this approach has outperformed the S&P 500 by a narrow margin through 30SEP20 (Figure 1).
Overall, in the months of May, June, July, August and September, 121 trades were placed and closed. An options win rate of 98% was achieved with an average ROI per trade of 7.3% and an overall option premium capture of 90% while outperforming the broader market over the September downturn (Figures 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
Figure 2 – Overall option metrics from May 2020 – September 2020
Figure 3 – Overall option metrics from May 2020 – September 2020
Figure 4 – ROI per trade over the past 121 trades
Figure 5 – Percent premium capture per trade over the last 121 trades
Figure 6 – Average ROI per winning trade during each respective month
An Agile Options Strategy:
Risk management is paramount when engaging in options trading. A slew of protective measures should be deployed if options are used as a means to drive portfolio results. When selling options and running an options-based portfolio the following guidelines are essential:
1) Trade across a wide array of uncorrelated tickers
2) Maximize sector diversity
3) Spread option contracts over various expiration dates
4) Sell options in high implied volatility environments
5) Manage winning trades
6) Use defined-risk trades
7) Maintains a ~50% cash level
8) Maximize the number of trades so the probabilities play out to the expected outcomes
9) Continue to trade through all market environments
10) Appropriate position sizing/trade allocation
Figure 7 – Trade notification service example of a trade cluster that expired on a Friday - Trade Notification Service.
Basic Options Strategy Framework:
Preferably, in high implied volatility environments, option traders can sell options and collect rich premium income in a high probability manner with a statistical edge. This set-up comes with expected and predicable outcomes given enough trade occurrences over time. Furthermore, options can be sold with defined risk to leverage a minimal amount of capital to maximize return on investment. Whether you have a small account or a large account, a defined risk (i.e. put spreads and diagonal put spreads) strategy enables you to leverage a minimal amount of capital which opens the door to trading virtually any stock on the market.
Holding ~50% cash as a protective measure is essential when faced with unpredictable outlier situations such as COVID-19 or even contenting with a sharp double digit decline observed recently in the month of September across the indices. A cash position this high is possible because options are a leveraged vehicle thus minimal amounts of capital can be deployed to generate outsized gains with predictable outcomes. Even deploying all the protective measures outlined above won’t offer the protection required during a black swan event. During these black swan market meltdowns, all sectors and stocks homogenize and naturally correlate together in a downward spiral. Cash is the safest way to immunize a portfolio from these types of market crashes. This cash position also provides optionality to pivot and go long stock in high quality names when faced with extreme sell-offs.
Maximizing Return on Capital:
Risk-defined trades (i.e. put spreads, diagonal put spreads and iron condors) maximizes return on investment and often times a double-digit realized gain over the course of a month long contract is possible. The required capital is equal to the maximum loss while the maximum gain is equal to the option premium income received. Since the risk-defined approach has a max loss, the required capital is equivalent to the max loss. If you sell a put spread with strikes at $100 and $95 while receiving $1 per share then you’ll only need $400 of capital for the trade. You agree to buy shares at $100 and as long as the underlying shares remain above $100 at expiration then the $100 premium is a realized gain. If the shares fall below $95 then you would be assigned shares at $100 and exercise your right to sell the shares at $95 to limit any losses. Thus, worst case scenario/max loss would be ($100-$95)*100 shares - $100 in premium income received = $400 per contract.
The recent September correction and the COVID-19 black swan event reinforces why appropriate risk management is essential. The overall options-based portfolio strategy is to sell options which enable you to collect premium income in a high-probability manner while generating consistent income for steady portfolio appreciation. This is all done without predicting which way the market will move. Option trading isn’t about whether or not the stock will move up or down, it’s about the probability of the stock not moving up or down more than a specified amount. This options-based approach provides a margin of safety while circumventing the impacts of drastic market moves and contains portfolio volatility.
Sticking to the core fundamentals of options trading, one can leverage small amounts of capital, define risk and maximize return on investment. Keeping an outsized portion of your portfolio in cash is essential to the overall strategy. Despite the indices being in correction territory for the month of September, following the 10 rules in options trading has generated a positive return as it relates to the options portion of the portfolio. The positive options returns were in sharp contrast to the negative returns for the overall market. This negative backdrop demonstrates the durability and resiliency of an options-based portfolio to outperform during pockets of market turbulence.
Disclosure: The author holds shares in AAL, AAPL, AMC, AMZN, AXP, DIA, GOOGL, JPM, KSS, MSFT, QQQ, SPY and USO. However he may engage in options trading in any of the underlying securities. The author has no business relationship with any companies mentioned in this article. He is not a professional financial advisor or tax professional. This article reflects his own opinions. This article is not intended to be a recommendation to buy or sell any stock or ETF mentioned. Kiedrowski is an individual investor who analyzes investment strategies and disseminates analyses. Kiedrowski encourages all investors to conduct their own research and due diligence prior to investing. Please feel free to comment and provide feedback, the author values all responses. The author is the founder of Stock Options Dad, LLC - www.stockoptionsdad.com where options are a bet on where stocks won’t go, not where they will. Where high probability options trading for consistent income and risk mitigation thrives in both bull and bear markets. For more engaging, short duration options based content, visit stockoptionsdad’s YouTube channel.
Originally published in partnership with INO.com