In the world of options, a patient investor willing to collect small amounts of money over and over can easily come out ahead of other investors who spend their time trying to capture larger returns from a position. For a seller of options, looking for opportunities with just a couple of weeks to go before expiration can sometimes yield surprising results. While making 1% to 2% over a two-week period may not be a very exciting trade, if the strategy is repeatedly executed over the course of a year, an investor can realize large annual returns.
With this in mind, I recently spent some time looking for short put opportunities in the December 22, 2012 expiring options. When shorting a put, an investor is selling a put option, collecting a premium, and taking on the risk of being assigned shares of the underlying stock at the strike price sold. If the stock closes above the strike price sold, the options expire worthless, and the put seller keeps the premium with no further obligation.
Without further ado, here are a few short put ideas in December 22, 2012 expiring options:
The November 16, 2012 low of $505.7501 is a level below which investors should focus their efforts when looking to sell December put options.
Here are three possibilities:
$505 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $6.55 will return 1.30% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $505 strike price is currently 5.30% out-of-the-money.
$500 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $5.50 will return 1.10% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $500 strike price is currently 6.24% out-of-the-money.
$495 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $4.60 will return 0.93% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $495 strike price is currently 7.17% out-of-the-money.
Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF)
When choosing a December put option to sell, look at strike prices below the recent 52-week low of $28.05.
Here are three possibilities:
$28 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $0.57 will return 2.04% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $28 strike price is currently 5.12% out-of-the-money.
$27 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $0.34 will return 1.26% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $27 strike price is currently 8.51% out-of-the-money.
$26 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $0.19 will return 0.73% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $26 strike price is currently 11.89% out-of-the-money.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX)
After recently announcing its plans to acquire Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) and McMoRan Exploration (MMR), Freeport-McMoRan's stock plummeted more than 20% in two days. That recent low, which also happens to be its 52-week low, was $30.54. When looking to sell puts expiring two weeks from now, focus your efforts on strike prices below $30.54.
Here are two possibilities:
$30 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $0.33 will return 1.10% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $30 strike price is currently 5.36% out-of-the-money.
$29 December 22, 2012 put option bidding $0.16 will return 0.55% in two weeks if it expires worthless. The $29 strike price is currently 8.52% out-of-the-money.
Please keep in mind that all the returns quoted are ex-commissions. Commissions can vary widely depending on your broker (might even be free depending on your relationship with your broker). As a result of this, some readers may find the put option ideas presented in this article to be less beneficial than other readers will.
If you like the idea of selling puts on the stocks mentioned in this article but find the premiums to be less than adequate after factoring in commissions, you may be tempted to look at the January 2013 expiring options. When doing so, keep in mind that Freeport-McMoRan is expected to announce its quarterly earnings before January's monthly options expiration day.
Additionally, if the December 22, 2012 puts are not to your liking, Apple and Cliffs Natural Resources also have December 28, 2012 expiring options (three weeks from now). The Apple $500 strike price is currently bidding $7.70 (a 1.54% return in three weeks), and the Cliffs Natural Resources $27.50 strike price is currently bidding $0.64 (a 2.33% return in three weeks). At the moment, they are 6.24% and 6.81% out-of-the-money respectively.
On a final note, remember that if these stocks sell off over the next couple of days, the premiums on the strike prices mentioned in this article could rise. This is true despite time value working against out-of-the-money options. If that happens before you open a position, you could consider moving to further out-of-the-money strike prices in order to maintain a sufficient cushion between the price of the stock and the strike price you sell.
Additional disclosure: I am long Cliffs Natural Resources and Phelps Dodge (FCX) bonds.