5 Tech Earnings Plays For The Week Of Feb. 20-24

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 |  Includes: ADSK, CRM, DELL, GRMN, HPQ
by: SteadyOptions

In this article, I will describe some of my favorite ways to trade earnings for companies reporting during the week of February 20-27, 2012.

My regular readers already know that my favorite way to play earnings is buying a strangle a few days before earnings and selling it just before earnings are announced (or as soon as the trade produces a sufficient profit). The idea is to take advantage of the rising IV (Implied Volatility) of the options before the earnings. I described the general concept here. In general, I look for companies having a history of big post-earnings price moves. Those big moves will cause the IV to spike before earnings.

In some cases I will buy an Out-of-The-Money (OTM) strangle and sell a further OTM strangle, creating a Reverse Iron Condor.

The strategy performed well so far in February, producing an average gain of ~10%. I'm not looking for homeruns here (although I had few when IV spiked), but consistent 10-15% gains with relatively low risk. You can see the February performance here.

So here is the list of next week's candidates in chronological order:

Trade # 1: Dell (DELL)

Dell reports earnings on Tuesday, February 21, 2012, after the market close. With the stock currently around $17.93, I'm looking at the following trade:

  • Buy DELL March 2012 18.0 puts
  • Buy DELL March 2012 18.0 calls

Notice that I'm buying the same strikes this time, creating a straddle.

Trade # 2: Garmin (GRMN)

Garmin reports earnings on Wednesday, February 22, 2012, before the market open. With the stock currently around $43.95, I'm looking at the following trade:

  • Buy GRMN March 2012 44.0 puts
  • Buy GRMN March 2012 44.0 calls

Notice that I'm buying the same strikes this time, creating a straddle.

Trade # 3: Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)

HP reports earnings on Wednesday, February 22, 2012, after the market close.

With the stock currently around $28.80, I'm looking at the following trade:

  • Buy HPQ February Week4 2012 29.0 put
  • Buy HPQ February Week4 2012 29.0 call

Notice that I'm buying the same strikes this time, creating a straddle.

Trade # 4: Autodesk (ADSK)

Autodesk reports earnings on Thursday February 23, 2012, after the market close.

With the stock currently around $38.50, I'm looking at the following trade:

  1. Buy ADSK March 2012 38.0 put
  2. Buy ADSK March 2012 39.0 call

Trade # 5: Saleforce (CRM)

Saleforce reports earnings on Thursday, February 23, 2012, after the market close.

With the stock currently around $131.10, I'm looking at the following trade:

  • Sell CRM February Week4 2012 120.0 put
  • Buy CRM February Week4 2012 125.0 put
  • Buy CRM February Week4 2012 135.0 call
  • Sell CRM February Week4 2012 140.0 call

The main idea behind those trades is "renting the strangle/straddle" (or the reverse Iron Condor) before the earnings. An increase in IV should help to neutralize the negative theta and keep the floor under the strangle price. As we know, earnings are 50/50. This is a trade for those who don't want to bet on the direction of the stock and don't want to hold through earnings.

Some additional considerations for all trades:

  1. The main and only risk of those trades is the negative theta (time decay). Some of the trades are using options that expire in just few days so the theta is fairly large. The expectation is that an increase in IV will offset the theta, but it doesn't always happen. If the stock moves, it will help. In any case, you can control your loss since theta damage is gradual. It is very unusual to lose more than 10-15% on those trades.
  2. If you don't want to place the Reverse Iron Condor, you can do the trade with the strangle or straddle. The trade will be more expensive and the negative theta much higher, so I recommend to be in the trade no more than 3-5 days.
  3. Choice of strikes depends on your risk tolerance. Risk and reward are always closely related. Going far out of the money will gain more if the stock has a decent move. Going near the money will gain less with less risk. I usually like strikes with deltas in the 25-30 range, which is a good compromise in my opinion. My article "Google Earnings Trade: Risk Vs. Reward" has a good discussion on the choice of strikes.
  4. Instead of weeklies, you can choose a more distant expiration to reduce the effect of the negative theta. However, the IV increase for the distant expiration will be less as well. The IV is the most inflated for the options with closest expiration.

Good luck. Let me know if you have any questions in comments below. The prices might be different when you place the trade so adjust the strikes accordingly. If you decide to place some of those trades, please make sure you understand what you are doing.

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

Additional disclosure: I will be initiating some of the positions in the next 72 hours