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Great Start to the Week, Notes, Info – 12/28/15

We have had two very good Daily Options Trading Strategy (DOTS) trades today. (NFLX) at 10:13 am EST, $0.35 sell to close order above price paid (paid $4.70, sold at $5.05), and (GOOGL) at 11:01 am EST, $1.00 sell to close order above price paid (groupchat paid an average of $14.70, sold at $15.70. GOOGL took off right after being placed.

Many of the DOTS trades trades actually go for a much higher sell to close price daily if held longer, but I am more interested in making a very nice profit fast, and move on to the next trade. In and out. For example, the GOOGL trade today netted a 6.8 % ROI, but could have been sold much higher if held even 20 minutes longer. But the goal of the strategy is to exit as fast as possible and to not be greedy.

Stocks like (TWTR) tend to average at least a 10% per DOTS trade. This is because on average, a TWTR call or put option is less than $2.00 per contract, and I use minimum $0.20 order above the price paid per contract. However, the higher priced stocks, like (NFLX),(GOOGL), (TSLA), (AMZN), (BIDU), etc, have higher sell to close orders, and tend to close out a lot faster than lower-priced stocks, but not always.

The STC prices I use are based on numerous factors:

– The stocks share price
– The volatility of the stock itself
– Option liquidity (daily)
– Time of day the trade is placed (i.e. I will use a higher STC earlier in the day and a lower STC after 1:00 pm EST)

You can see my daily trade log at: http://kevinmobrien.com/?page_id=480

My subscription-based service provides all of these trades in real-time, with the ticker symbol, strike price, my sell-to close orders used (before the trade is even placed), and when the trade is closed out.

If you have any questions about the strategy, subscription plan, or about stock options, you can e-mail me at: kmob79@gmail.com or info@kevinmobrien.com

Updated Daily Options Trading Strategy (DOTS) List – Current as of 12/28/15

Here is the new updated Daily Options Trading Strategy list as of 12/28/15:


Tier 2

Tier 3

Tier 4

Understanding the Correlation of Share Price and Strike Prices When Using Debit Spreads – Part 1: The Neutral Calendar Spread Strategy

One of the most important factors when trading debit spread strategies is the share price and strike prices, and what is available. A common mistake some option traders make when using debit spreads is not paying enough attention to these and how they can seriously impact the chance of profitability. To explain this, I’ll take a look at 3 different debit spread strategies in a Three Part series: The Neutral Calendar Spread, The Reverse Iron Condor, and the Strangle strategy. First up is the Neutral Calendar Spread….

The Neutral Calendar Spread: is a strategy that has 2 “legs”. There is a sell side and a buy side. I prefer to use this strategy with stocks/ETF’s that have weekly options, when available. The weekly option is the sell side. The monthly (or whichever you choose that is a further out expiration that the weekly) is the buy side. This is a strategy that takes advantage of time-decay and a lack of a large price movement. Let’s assume the security I want to trade has a share price at $50.00 at the time of trade placement. This is an ideal share price because there will be $50.00 strike price increments. So, if I was trading XYZ stock using a Neutral Calendar Spread, the trade would look like this:

Sell 10 December 2015 XYZ Calls
Buy 10 January 2016 XYZ Calls

But what if the share price is at $51.50, and I look at the options chain and realize that there are only $2.50 strike price increments? This is an problem, because the trade is no longer neutral and it puts you at an immediate disadvantage from the start.

Today, on my Trading Forum, we had 2 earnings-based Neutral Calendar Spread based-trades. There would have been 3, but this example will explain very well why I did not place it: The stock in question is General Mills (GIS), which reports earnings before the bell tomorrow morning: At the time of looking at the trade, the share price on (GIS) was at $58.80/share.

Entered Trade

Sell -25 GIS Dec15 57.5 Call

Buy 25 GIS Jan16 57.5 Call

I only had two choices as far as strike prices, to use either the $57.50 calls, or the $60.00 calls:

GIS Chain 121615

Knowing the share price, and the strike prices available, this would cause a major problem of neutrality regarding the trade itself, as this shows:

KMO Ex GIS 121615

As you can see from the Profit/Loss chart, the break-even points are uneven, clearly favoring the downside movement more than the upward movement by more than $2.00. That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. This can be the difference between profitability and a loss. The great thing about the Neutral calendar Spread strategy is that it does allow a good amount of price movement, just not excessive. My concern on the (GIS) trade would be if the stock moved up too much. I would be much less concerned about the downside movement. However, when you see a trade have a set-up like this (GIS) example, avoid it like I did today, even though it may initially seem like a good trade.

Overall today, 3 earnings trades, should have 2 tomorrow. (RHT) especially should be a good one.

If you have any questions about this strategy or specific stocks, you can e-mail me at kmob79@gmail.com or post a comment. I usually respond very quickly. Coming up next is the Reverse Iron Condor…

Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (GMCR) Sold to Private Equity Firm

Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. (GMCR) has been bought out by a private equity firm for $13.9 billion. In October, I placed and posted a long-term trade on (GMCR), seeing it as extremely undervalued. I have posted a screenshot of that trade below, along with the news of the buyout…

GMCR 12715


3 Quick In-and-Out Daily Trades Today, Getting Plenty of Action 11/3/15

The three trades placed today were on LNKD puts at 10:24 am EST, position closed 13 minutes later; BABA calls at 10:44 am EST, position closed 11 minutes later; and AMZN calls at 10:46 am EST, position closed 35 minutes later.

The daily trades are picking up even more lately, but always a consistent number of trades happen weekly, regardless of market conditions. The daily strategy (DOTS) does require patience, but you really don’t need to be glued to a computer screen non-stop, as the Bollinger Bands provide great insight as to when a trade is looming. If you have any questions on the strategy, you camn leave a comment or e-mail me at: kmob79@gmail.com

Removing SanDisk (SNDK) From the Daily Options Trading Strategy – 10/22/15 – Adding Monster Beverage (MNST)

With Western Digital buying SanDisk (SNDK), I am removing the stock from the daily strategy. I am replacing SanDisk with Monster Beverage Corporation (MNST).

Here the new updated Daily Options Trading Strategy list as of 10/22/15:





Daily Options Trading Strategy (DOTS) – Updated List – 10/20/15





General Sell to Close Prices Using the Daily Options Trading Strategy Based on Share Price – (Repost) – Updated – 10/8/15

I am often asked how do I determine my sell-to-close prices when using the Daily Options Trading Strategy (DOTS), so I am posting it again with an update…

There are numerous factors I consider when choosing sell-to-close (STC) price when using the Daily Options Trading Strategy (DOTS). Among them are the following:

  • The share price for each security
  • The stocks volatility, daily highs and lows, and current market conditions
  • Width of Bollinger Bands
  • The time of day the trade is placed
  • The current bid/ask price
  • Leverage

Share Price and Sell-To-Close (STC) Prices Using the Daily Options Trading Strategy (DOTS)

$10.00 – $60.00 = $0.20 STC order above the price paid per contract

$61.00 – $80.00 = $0.30 STC order above the price paid per contract

$81.00 – $100.00 = $0.40 STC order above the price paid per contract

$101.00 – $120.00 + = $0.60 STC order above the price paid per contract

$150.00 – $200.00 + = $0.70 STC order above the price paid per contract

$250.00 – $400.00 = $0.80 STC order above the price paid per contract

$500.00 + = $1.00 minimum STC order above the price paid per contract

Example #1: Buy 100 (TWTR) November 2015 $30.00 call options at 2.00 per contract. The sell-to-close order would be $2.20.

Example #2: Buy 10 (GOOGL) November $665.00 put options at $10.00 per contract. The sell-to-close order would be $11.00

Note: these sell-to close (STC) order prices are not static, but a great guideline to use, especially for trader’s new to the strategy.

The share price is extremely important when choosing a STC price. For example, a stock such as Netflix (NFLX) will have a higher STC than Twitter (TWTR) based on share price. NFLX is currently around $99.00/share, while TWTR is $28.00/share. On average, the minimum STC I would have on NFLX is about $0.40. This means that if I paid $4.00 per contract, my STC would be at $4.40. For TWTR, the average STC would be between $0.20 – $0.30. If the price per contract is at $1.20, the STC would be between $1.40 – $1.50.

A stock like Google (GOOGL), however, would have a much higher STC. Since the current share price is around $630.00/share, the minimum STC would be about 0.70, but usually much higher, $1.00+. This is because of higher price per contract paid, it moves more in dollar increments, and has wider daily price swings.

A stock that has higher volatility also plays a role in choosing a STC that assures the trade will be exited as soon as possible. Some of the stocks on the DOTS list simply move a lot more than the others daily.  This is why I have the 3 Tiers with 27 total stocks. I will always prefer to trade stocks that are higher-priced and have larger daily swings. Tier 1 has that. This not to say that stocks on Tier 2 and Tier 3 are not great for trading, they are, but generally the Tier 1 stocks will take a lot sooner to exit than the Tier and Tier 3 stocks. On the same hand, stocks like TWTR, BABA, FB, BA, and CRM all have inexpensive contracts that allows traders to use that as leverage. For example, if it cost me $10.00 per contract to trade a GOOGL strike price, but only $2.00 to trade FB, then I would multiply the contract size on the FB trade five times that of GOOGL to basically have the same cost basis.

  • GOOGL 10 contracts X $10.00/contract = $10,000.00 cost to place trade. $1.00 STC above price paid/contract = $11,000.00 (minus commission costs).
  • FB 50 contracts X $2.00/contract = $10,000.00 cost to place trade. $0.20 STC above price paid/contract = $11,000.00 (minus commission costs).

The minor downside is that FB will take a bit longer to exit than GOOGL would, but this is not always the case. Just understand that after years of trading my strategy, this is generally true of the lower priced stocks. I actually find TWTR to be more volatile than FB, and those contracts are even lower-priced than FB.

The time the trade is placed is also very important. If it is very early in the day, I will use a higher sell-to-close price than I would if there were only two hours left in the trading day. If early, I can always adjust the STC price and lower it, as there is still plenty of time left. If I place a trade at 2:00 p.m. EST, my STC would be more conservative. This is due to lower volume, possible pinning (happens often late Friday’s). If there is an early GOOGL trade at 9:50 am am EST, I would use a STC starting at $1.50 above price paid per contract. Then, depending on the price movement, would adjust and lower accordingly from there (increases happen, as well).

The Bollinger Bands play a very important role in determining my STC price. This is often gained from experience trading the strategy and repetition. If I see a GOOGL chart, where the bands are extremely wide, and all of the bottom 4 indicators are showing extremely oversold for a call buy, I will not hesitate starting with a much higher STC than I usually would. PCLN has this happen often. The one main issue with a stock like PCLN is the bid/ask prices, which I will get into later. A couple of years ago I had a PCLN call trade that had a $5.00 STC order above price paid per contract that cost $18.00 initially. If I see an APPL chart, and there is a $4.00 + difference from high to low daily when the time to place a trade is available, I would set a STC higher than usual. On TWTR or GPRO, for example, if I see a $2.00 difference from the high to low, this would also be a situation where an increase STC price is appropriate. One thing I look at also is the top Bollinger Band high and the Bottom Bollinger Band low, not necessarily the price action, but the Bands themselves. This is a great indicator of where the stock can move to.

Bid/ask prices are also very important and play an important role in my STC prices. As I mentioned, PCLN could probably be traded at least 3 times per day if only the bid/ask prices were reasonable. Especially the last few months, I am seeing a bid/ask difference on the strike prices that are sometimes $3.00 + apart. This is impossible to trade. Occasionally, I will see PCLN strikes that are about $1.20 apart. I will trade this, but would have initially been a $2.00 + STC price above the price paid per contract, I would automatically know to place the STC at $1.00, maybe slightly more. This is because since these trades are round-trip trades, getting in and out of the trade will cut profits simply due to the wide bid/ask prices. If PCLN should ever have a stock split (hope it’s soon), it would probably take over as the #1 DOTS stock to trade. GMCR, even as a lower-priced DOTS stock, has had this issue with the bid/ask prices being too wide. Currently at $58.50/share, the $56.00 strike price call options are trading at $2.24 – $2.76. This is too wide. If my pre-determined STC price would be at $0.30 above price paid per contract, it would be extremely difficult to exit this trade without needing double the price move of the share price. A more reasonable bid/ask would be $2.25 – $2.35 or $2.20 – $2.40 even.

There are trading opportunities where I will buy a lot more calls or puts than usual. In situations like this, since you are more leveraged, the STC can be lowered. I will do this especially if it is later in the trading day. 100 contracts will require a lot less of a price move to exit the trade than 50 contracts would. If I have 100 contracts on TWTR at $1.20 per contract and my initial STC price was at $0.30, I would have no problem lowering that to $0.20 if I wanted to close the trade out as soon as possible. If a STC on GOOGL was initially set at $1.00, lowering that to $0.70- $0.80 is perfectly fine.

My subscription service on Skype and Chatzy for these DOTS trades does provide all of these real-time STC orders, but I wanted to give everyone a good gauge on how to determine what STC orders are appropriate under each circumstance.

If you have any questions about determining a STC price, you can leave a comment here or e-mail me at kmob79@gmail.com.


Weekly Trades and Strategies That Require Less Time Management – 9/17/15

For traders that are busy and do not have time to trade daily, I also have weekly trades such as the Reverse Iron Condor and Neutral Calendar Spreads. These  trades are very easy to manage and do not require constant monitoring. I post these trades usually on Thursday mornings before noon EST in the Trading Forum at http://kevinmobrien.com/forum/index.php. The Reverse Iron Condors have an expiration the following Friday using weekly options. For example, today I placed a Reverse Iron Condor on Citigroup (C) and the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), and they expire on 9/25/15. Usually, they take about 3 trading days to close the position, sometimes a day sooner or later. I post updates on the sell-to-close orders as the positions begin to move. These trades are very inexpensive to place, and consistently provide a great source of profits on a yearly basis. I have many articles on Seeking Alpha on these strategies if you would like to learn more about them.

Other weekly Reverse Iron Condor candidates are iShares Silver Trust (SLV) and the (VXX).

If you have a busy schedule, definitely check these strategies out.

Earnings Strategy: The Strangle

The Strangle is a strategy that, when used properly, can bring very high returns. Similar to the Straddle, the Strangle is when a trader buys both out-of-the-money call and put options, anticipating a large price move after the company reports earnings. It is a neutral-based strategy, meaning that it doesn’t matter which way the stock moves, as long as it does move. Profit potential is unlimited on the upside and at full profit if the stock hits rock bottom on the put side. The strategy is a debit spread. I prefer to only use this strategy on stocks that historically and consistently make very large price moves after reporting earnings.

While the returns can be very high, this is a strategy that is not very cheap to place, although lower than the Straddle. There are numerous factors that are keys to success using this strategy:

  • The stocks volatility after reporting earnings (Historical and Implied Volatility)
  • The price paid to place the trade
  • The Strike Prices used and Strike Price Increments
  • Time-Decay and Time-Value
  • Liquidity
  • Lower Share Priced Stocks
  • Time of Placement

Deciding which stocks are good candidates for a Strangle can be difficult sometimes. Just because a stock moved 15% last quarter after reporting earnings doesn’t mean the same will happen the next time, and vice versa. This is why I only recommend using this strategy only with stocks you follow daily and understand how they move both pre-earnings and post-earnings. My advice to new traders to this strategy is to look at a minimum of the last four quarters to see how the stock has moved in terms of percentage post-earnings.

The Strangle is not a strategy to use with stocks that historically move little post-earnings. An example of this would be a stock like AT&T (T). You don’t want to use a Strangle on a stock that might move only $1.00 a share after reporting earnings. You will have no chance to make any money. On the other hand, stocks like TSLA, GOOGL, SNDK, YELP, and pharmaceutical companies are good candidates (I will use this strategy on pharmaceutical companies when the FDA ishttp://kevinmobrien.com/wp-admin/post-new.php set to make a decision on drug approval/denial). BETA can also be a good gauge on how a stock may move. Even with this information, repetition and practice will be your best way to learn this strategy and when to pick your spots.

The price paid to place this trade is critical to the Strangle strategy. Often, some trades are just too expensive. This is due usually to the rise in Implied Volatility and expected price movement. Some time ago, there was an author on Seeking Alpha who recommended a Strangle on Priceline (PCLN). I knew ahead of time this was going to be a disaster of a trade. First, the options were simply too expensive. Even on a Strangle, which cost less than the Straddle, this trade was going for over $35.00 a contract on each side of the trade, the calls and puts. To add to the disaster, the author was using expiration dates that expired that same week. To explain this, if the stock didn’t move about $80.00/share, it was a loser. What I though might happen did, PCLN moved minimally. Those calls and puts both got crushed. A huge loss, but even more so because there was no time left at all for it to even move towards one of the strikes. So how does one tell if an option is overpriced? Implied Volatility (IV) is a good start, but hardly all that matters. Current market conditions, the 52-week range of the stock, historical volatility, all play a role, as does time-value.

Let’s say I wanted to use a Strangle on TSLA, with October expirations and buying $260.00 calls and $245.00 puts. The trade is going for (hypothetically) $30.00 ($15.00 for each “leg”) combined to place. This would immediately give me some hesitation, even with the time-value factor on my side. The reason is the IV crush would still severely drop the value of both the calls and puts. It would take a fairly massive move after earnings to just break-even. While this is definitely possible with a stock such as TSLA, if I am paying that much to place the trade, I better be very sure it will move like that. Anything less and the trade will lose a lot of value. However, if I saw that the trade was going for $20.00 – $22.00 to place, I would be more inclined to buy a Strangle. Understanding these subtle differences will come with experience.

The strike prices chosen is very important when placing a Strangle. You do not want to use too far out-of-the-money calls and puts. The stock could make a large price move after reporting, but if you used strikes way out there it is basically buying a lottery ticket. While the cost of the trade can be substantially reduced by doing this, it also makes it more difficult to profit, as the deltas are much lower. Market makers understand this, as well. The strike prices used also must be realistic compared to what the share price currently is and what the reasonable, expected movement might be after reporting earnings. On a stock such as GOOGL, for example, if the share price is at $650.00/share currently, I do not want to be using $800.00 calls and $500.00 puts. That is much too wide apart. A more realistic Strangle would be $700.00 calls and $600.00 puts, with longer expirations, which I will go into.

Strike price increments available is something to pay very close attention to. On higher-priced stocks like GOOGL, PCLN, etc., the strike prices are in $5.00 increments. As an example, October (calls) $650.00, $655.00, $660.00/ (puts) $645.00, $640.00, $635.00. This is not such a big issue with these higher-priced stocks, but with lower-priced stocks this is a major problem. There are times where I really like the price of a specific trade, but the strike price increments available make it impossible to trade. A stock such as Boeing (BA), at $135.00/share currently, only has strike price increments of $5.00 if using month out options. Knowing how BA tends to move after reporting earnings historically, I would never use a Strangle on BA with only those strike prices, It would take too much of a move up or down to break-even, let alone profit.

Time-Decay is one aspect of this strategy that I really stress option traders to learn. Time-Value is even more important. I would never recommend for any trader to use weekly options or soon-to-be expiring options. The reason for this is the time-decay factor. After earnings are announced, the Implied Volatility drop will always be significant. This is why you will sometimes see a stock move exactly as you hoped for post-earnings release, but the option value remains stagnant or loses value. I get asked this question all the time. Often, it was because the trader used weekly options. This is even more pronounced with the Strangle, as you are initially buying out-of-the-money options. The Straddle will have a higher delta as it is more deep-in-the-money (as compared to the Strangle). My advice: never use weekly or short-term expiring options when placing a Strangle. I recommend at least three (3) weeks of time-value. This also protects you in case the stock initially does not make the required move. If you have weekly options, you aren’t even giving the stock a chance to do so. While you will pay more for the added time-value, it is well worth it. The cost is higher, but it is a nice safety net, and the longer-term options will hold their value much better.

Always pay attention to liquidity when placing a Strangle, both the open interest, daily, and the stock itself. A great example of this is a stock like Autozone (AZO) and  Intuitive Surgical (ISRG). What happens here is that the bid/ask prices are so wide on the options post earnings that even if the stock required the necessary price move to profit, you may not make what you thought you would. Often, you will not get your sell-to-close order filled at the mid-point of the bid/ask, which should be the reasonable price to close out the profitable side. Depending on the liquidity, there just may not be enough buyers willing to pay that., so the trade could sit in the queue for hours, if not days to get your desired price. I’ve seen this happen all too often. The last thing you want to see if a great trade go bad and the stock reverse itself. That’s not fun to watch.

With stocks that have a lower share price, you really have to be careful using a Strangle strategy. This is because the stock will not move as much incrementally as a stock that is higher priced, and the strike prices available may hinder any profitability. For example, if a stock is currently $20.00/share, but there are only $2.50 strike price increments available, it makes it very difficult to profit. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally, try to use stocks that are at least $50.00 a share or higher. I recommend completely staying away from stocks that are under $15.00/share.

The Strangle is very reliant on where the current share price is and when you place the trade. The goal here is to use strike price increments that are as close to neutral as possible. Placing a Strangle too early can have serious consequences. As an example, let’s say I bought a Strangle on XYZ stock at the market open when it was $100.00/share.The company is expected to announce earnings after the bell that same day. Since everyone knows this, the volume will be higher and the share price will fluctuate. By 2:00 p.m. EST that same day, the share price is now $105.00. Well, now my Strangle trade is no longer neutral-based at all. It is completely bullish to the call side. If the call side is up (which it would be under this circumstance), the put side will be down a lot, as well. Yes, you could ride it out and keep both sides, but defeats the purpose of the strategy to begin with. There is just a likelihood that the stock moves back down after-hours and into the next day that you are stuck right in the middle, which is the worst possible scenario when using a Strangle.

What I like to do is this: if  a company is reporting earnings before the markets open the following day, I will place the Strangle anywhere from 2:00 pm EST- to 3:00 pm EST the day before. This allows me to have a good idea where the share price will close at and what strike prices to use to be as neutral as possible. You do not want uneven strike prices. It doesn’t have to be aligned perfectly, but as even as possible.

To summarize, while the Strangle strategy can be used to great effect, a trader must be very careful when using it. It is one of the more expensive earnings trades  and while it can provide great returns when right, the losses can be very large if the stock does not move as necessary. It is a strategy that becomes more easy to understand and use properly with experience. Make sure to only use this strategy with stocks you are familiar with, and pay extra for the added time-value.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment or e-mail me at kmob79@gmail.com. Thanks.














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