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On a day when the Nasdaq Composite declined fractionally, several Nasdaq stocks rose on unusual volume. The table below shows the costs, as of Friday's close, of hedging seven of them against greater-than-25% declines over the next several months, using optimal puts.

Comparisons

For comparison purposes, I've also added the costs of hedging the SPDR S&P 500 Trust ETF (SPY) and the Nasdaq 100-tracking ETF PowerShares QQQ Trust ETF (QQQ). First, a reminder about what optimal puts are, plus a note about why I've used 25% as a decline threshold here; then, a screen capture showing the optimal puts for one of the 7 stocks, Cintas Corporation (CTAS).

About Optimal Puts

Optimal puts are the ones that will give you the level of protection you want at the lowest possible cost. Portfolio Armor uses an algorithm developed by a finance Ph.D. to sort through and analyze all of the available puts for your position, scanning for the optimal ones.

Decline Thresholds

In this context, "threshold" is the maximum decline you are willing to risk. You can enter any percentage you like for a decline threshold when scanning for optimal puts (the higher the percentage though, the greater the chance you will find optimal puts for your position). Usually, I use 20% decline threshold when hedging, but one of these stocks, HealthStream, Inc. (HSTM) was too expensive to hedge using a 20% threshold (i.e., the cost of hedging it against a 20% decline was itself more than 20% of position value, so Portfolio Armor indicated there were no optimal contracts available for it). There were optimal contracts for all of these stocks against a 25% threshold, so that's the decline threshold I've used here.

The Optimal Puts For CTAS

Below is a screen capture showing the optimal put option contract to buy to hedge 100 shares of CTAS against a greater-than-25% drop between now and May 18, 2012. A note about these optimal put options and their cost: to be conservative, Portfolio Armor calculated the cost based on the ask price of the optimal puts. In practice an investor can often purchase puts for a lower price, i.e., some price between the bid and the ask.

Hedging Costs As Of Friday's Close

Aside from the ETFs listed at the bottom for comparison purposes, the stocks below are listed in order of volume change Friday, with the one with the most unusually high volume, HealthStream, Inc. (HSTM), listed first.

Symbol

Name

Hedging Cost

HSTM HealthStream, Inc. 19.1%***
MENT Mentor Graphics Corp. 11.5%*
SONO SonoSite Inc. 16.0%***
MRVL Marvell Technology Group, Ltd. 5.67%**
CME CME Group Inc. 6.87%***
PLCE The Children's Place 6.19%***
CTAS Cintas Corporation 4.04%**

SPY

SPDR S&P 500

3.34%***

QQQ PowerShares QQQ Trust 3.68%***

*Based on optimal puts expiring in April, 2012

**Based on optimal puts expiring in May, 2012

***Based on optimal puts expiring in June, 2012

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: Hedging 7 Stocks That Advanced On Unusual Volume Friday