Put-Writing: Too Often Overlooked

| About: SPDR S&P (SPY)

Shame on me for going a year and a half without mentioning the CBOE S&P 500 PutWrite Index (PUT), a recipient of the Most Innovative Benchmark Index award at last year’s Super Bowl of Indexing Conference.

Given all the market volatility for the past three months or so, I suspect that a put writing strategy is probably not top of mind for most investors at the moment. In fact, a put write strategy like one tracked by the PutWrite Index will generally outperform the S&P 500 index in a down trending market and significantly outperform the S&P 500 index in a sideways market. Much like a covered call strategy, however, a put write approach will not match the gains of the underlying index in a strong bull market rally.

The CBOE describes the PutWrite Index methodology as follows:

“The PUT strategy is designed to sell a sequence of one-month, at-the-money, S&P 500 Index puts and invest cash at one- and three-month Treasury Bill rates. The number of puts sold varies from month to month, but is limited so that the amount held in Treasury Bills can finance the maximum possible loss from final settlement of the SPX puts.”

Additional information about the PutWrite Index is available at the CBOE PutWrite Index splash page.

I mention put write strategies for four reasons:

  1. If we continue in a non-trending market, as I expect we will, this is an excellent investment approach
  2. Ennis Knupp just published a superb analysis of the PutWrite Index: Evaluating the Performance Characteristics of the CBOE PutWrite Index
  3. Put write strategies have historically outperformed the more widely utilized buy write strategies
  4. Properly implemented, a put write strategy is not as risky as most investors expect

At a minimum, readers should check out the Ennis Knupp paper and get a better sense of the essence of put write strategies. Those who expect the markets to do anything other than rally significantly might also want to start implementing that strategy on their own.

Note that while there are currently no ETFs that utilize a put write strategy, it is a volatility strategy that is practiced by hedge funds.