Seeking Alpha published quite a few strong and informative articles ahead of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) blowout earnings report. While I did not agree with all of them, the authors, by and large, made sound, clear and coherent points. My biggest beef, really, with the pre-earnings AAPL options trade idea frenzy was simply that so many of the trades, while not necessarily risky, stood a better than 50% chance of not working out for beginners or even intermediate-level options traders and investors.
Here's my analogy of the day. I like to ride road bikes really fast. Practically everybody is capable of riding a road bike for as long and as hard as they want to on sprints and up and down epic climbs. Of course, we all have our physical and mental limitations, but, by and large, it's not too difficult to hit a somewhat proficient level as a road cyclist.
If, however, you've never Put The Fun Between Your Legs, as my favorite t-shirt reads, you need to get past several curves, including a learning curve. I guarantee if you try riding Mandeville Canyon with me tomorrow (or, given the shape I am in right now, if I tried riding it), odds are you will not make it to the top or you'll be in considerable distress upon doing so, particularly if you've never ridden before or have little experience doing so.
The same goes for options. While it's relatively easy to get your feet wet with covered calls and such, it's a whole 'nother criterium race to up the ante to long calls and puts impacted by time decay and implied volatility and relatively complicated spreads. That's the problem - getting yourself into a trade that makes your head spin, potentially gets you in trouble or at least confuses you margin maintenance-wise and causes you to push the wrong button in haste. On that alone, you should test any trade you've never made before, especially one that goes past the basic level, in a paper or simulated trading account.
So, on to AAPL. optionMONSTER wrote the following Wednesday morning:
Traders want instant gratification in Apple today as the tech giant soars to an all-time high after crushing earnings estimates last night.
Option volume has surpassed 400,000 less than an hour into the trading session, already nearly quadruple their daily average. Even more noteworthy is the fact that short-term weekly contracts dominate the flow and account for more than one-third of the total.
Those contracts expire this Friday, so they require the stock to move in a hurry or will end up worthless. AAPL's Weekly 450 calls traded more than 20,000 times, with large blocks purchased for $3.45 to $3.95. The Weekly 455 calls were the second most active and were purchased for $1.45 to $2.10. Overall calls outnumbered puts by more than 2 to 1.
While those large trades were bullish, the overall balance of the AAPL option activity is less clear. In total, more calls were sold than bought, according to optionMONSTER's tracking programs. Puts, which make money from shares dropping, were also bought overall.
"Instant gratification." Always a good reason to get yourself into a trade.
Very few retail investors should mess with weekly options, but, if you're going to today was probably not the right time. That would be akin to introducing yourself to road biking in a crit or on your summer vacation to the French Alps. You're not nimble enough to navigate the situation even if everything goes the way you need it to. And I do not use "you" in condescending fashion; I include myself in the group (though I think I could take the Alps).
Consider the AAPL $450 weekly calls that optionMONSTER reports were purchased between $3.45 and $3.95 this morning. As I write this (11:13 a.m., Pacific Time), they go for about $1.68 with an intraday range of $0.96 to $7.30. The $455s paint a similar picture. There's a reason why, as optionMONSTER indicates, more traders sit on the opposite end of those long calls. Time decay is going to erode the value of those premiums faster than you can say, "Alberto Contador ate a tainted piece of meat."
It's because, no matter how incredibly amazing Apple is, playing the company's weekly options the day after earnings is not for the uninitiated or the faint-hearted.