Seeking Alpha

Chris Vermeulen's  Instablog

Chris Vermeulen
Send Message
Chris Vermeulen the founder of AlgoTrades.net Algorithmic Trading Systems. This automated investing system is designed for individual investors and traders. He is also the editor of the TheGoldAndOilGuy newsletter which is designed for gold market traders providing quality ETF Trade Alerts,... More
My company:
AlgoTrades Algorithmic Trading Systems
My blog:
TheGoldAndOilGuy - Gold Market Traders
My book:
Technical Trading Mastery - 7 Steps To Win With Logic
View Chris Vermeulen's Instablogs on:
  • The Stealth Greek Of Options Trading: Vega

    By: Chris Vermeulen & J.W. Jones

    In my previous missives on the Greeks of the option world, we have spent most of our time focusing on Theta and Delta. In the real world of option trading, option prices are the subjects of three primal forces: price of the underlying, time to expiration, and implied volatility.  Delta and theta address the first of these two primal forces. The third primal force, implied volatility, is by far the least known by newcomers to the option trading world. However, while it is usually not respected or even known by many new to trading options, it typically is the most frequently unrecognized force resulting in is the cause for significant trading capital deterioration.

    In order to set the framework within which to understand option pricing, it is essential to understand that the quoted price of each option is in reality the sum of the intrinsic value (if any) and the extrinsic (time) value.  The intrinsic value has been discussed previously and consists of the portion of the premium which reflects the extent to which the particular option is “in the money.”

    Understanding of the various concepts of volatility is essential to grasping one of the essential defining operational characteristics of the world of options.  Volatility can be considered in light of:

    1. What was (SV, statistical volatility; HV historical volatility; & other synonyms of the same)

    2. What is,

    3. What shall be (IV, implied volatility, and Market Implied Volatility (MIV) They are all confusingly disparate words and acronyms signifying identical concepts)

    Of these three time frames within which volatility can be considered, implied volatility is by far the most important. The nexus point is right here, right now, while the future is unclear and will always be that way. For an option trader to sustain profitability over long periods of time, it is essential to understand implied volatility and its various implications.

    Let us consider for a moment the variables defining an option’s price.  Intrinsic value is a crisply defined value that requires simply the calculation of the relationship of the price of the underlying to the strike price of the option and can theoretically vary from 0 to infinity. The time value (also termed the extrinsic value) of the option is dependent, in large part, on two distinct variables. These variables are the amount of time to expiration and implied volatility. Time to expiration is easily defined by anyone with access to a calendar and schedule of option expiration dates. Option expiration is easily accessible for option traders, and as such represents a totally transparent variable. Conversely, implied volatility is not as easy to explain, or quantify.

    The subjective concept expressed by implied volatility is to be distinguished from the mathematically objective and precise concept of historic volatility.  Historical volatility is simply derived from the price action of the underlying and can be calculated in one or more of several iterations. Each calculation is fundamentally derived from historically apparent price action.

    Implied volatility is not only arduous to understand, it is even more difficult to quantify. A totally different calculation is required; the computation is reflective of a unique and characteristic point of view with regard to price action. It is technically calculated by an iterative process requiring multiple trial and error calculations; thankfully the robust computational ability of the current generation of computers handles this task easily.  Of the three primal forces impacting option price, implied volatility is the only factor subject to cerebration. As an adaptable and subjective input factor, implied volatility is reflective of both general market sentiment and the subjective evaluation of potential future volatility while simultaneously corresponding with the specific direction of the underlying. As such, it is a forward looking evaluation as opposed to historic volatility which is well, historic.

    Implied volatility has a historic and characteristic range for each underlying.  A strong historic tendency is the characteristic for implied volatility to revert to the mean for the particular underlying under consideration.  This strong mean reverting tendency forms one of the primary fundamental tenets of option trading and represents a major opportunity for potential profit in option trading.

    TheOptionsGuide site produced the chart below that illustrates the behavior of Vega at various strike prices that are expiring in 3 months, 6 months and 9 months when the stock is currently trading at $50.

    In addition to the historic backdrop  in which implied volatility may be considered, there are certain stereotypic patterns of IV expansion and contraction in relation to anticipated events which may lead to unusual volatility of the underlying. Classic examples of these events include earnings, impending FDA announcements, and the release of key economic data by the government or the analyst community. For example, many of the most extreme increases in implied volatility anticipate FDA decisions and routinely revert to the mean immediately following the anticipated announcement. Potentially substantial profit opportunities are borne from such situations for the adept and knowledgeable option trader.

    In future writings we will address the precise mechanisms by which perturbations in implied volatility can be exploited for profit by the knowledgeable option trader. Failure to consider the current position of implied volatility in a historic framework for the particular underlying in which you are contemplating a trade is the single most frequent hallmark of an inexperienced trader. Lack of attention to this important factor in trade planning is the most frequent cause of paradoxical option behavior and failure to profit from correctly predicting anticipated price movements of the underlying.

    While most equity traders focus their attention on the SP-500 for broad market clues, option traders always have a watchful eye on the volatility index, commonly known as the VIX. While the VIX is the most common volatility measurement in the option trading world, there are several volatility indices which can be monitored, followed, and even traded if one is so inclined. While it is not always necessarily the case, recently when the VIX rises, the broad markets are selling off.

    While this article has been a basic overview of implied volatility and Vega, it will conclude the series of recent articles which have been focused on the option Greeks. Forthcoming articles are going to be more focused on trades and the unbelievable profit opportunities that can be created by various option strategies. In closing, if you are interested in furthering your education regarding options my recommendation is to do some serious homework. Otherwise it will only be a matter of time before a combination of Theta, Delta, Vega, or implied volatility rear their ugly heads and take money from unsuspecting rookies.

    If you would like to receive our free options trading reports and trading signals please join our free newsletter at: www.OptionsTradingSignals.com

    J.W. Jones is an independent options trader using multiple forms of analysis to guide his option trading strategies. Jones has an extensive background in portfolio analysis and analytics as well as risk analysis. J.W. strives to reach traders that are missing opportunities trading options and commits to writing content which is not only educational, but entertaining as well. Regular readers will develop the knowledge and skills to trade options competently over time. Jones focuses on writing spreads in situations where risk is clearly defined and high potential returns can be realized.



    Disclosure: Currently do not hold any positions
    Tags: options
    Aug 26 4:50 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Gold, Oil, SP500 & Dollar At Key Pivot Points
    Last week was exciting as investments rocketed higher or tank… We saw Gold and the US Dollar pop while oil and equities dropped sharply with heavy volume.

    Just to recap, Wednesday the market went into free-fall mode sending traders and investors running for the door. This was obvious from looking at the large percent drop coupled with heavy selling. That day the NYSE showed panic selling with 37 shares sold for every 1 share purchased meaning pure panic. In my Wednesday night report “How to Take Advantage of Panic Selling for SP500 and Gold ” I explained how to read these extreme market conditions and what to expect the following sessions.

    Currently the price of gold, oil, spx are trading somewhat at the opposite extremes seen last week. Below are a few charts explaining the situations:

    GLD – Gold ETF Trading Signals

    This 60 minute chart shows gold getting hit hard on Wednesday morning. Investors and traders around the globe were closing out positions and moving to cash. This high volume dumping of positions pulled virtually all investments lower and was the first tip-off that the market was in panic mode.

    One the dust settled and investor’s regrouped we saw money surge back into gold creating a nice pop the following day. Problem I see is that gold is now trading at a key resistance level when reviewing the daily chart. And if you take a look at the 60 minute chart below you can see the price of gold sold down in the morning on August 13th and drifted up into the close on Friday forming a bearish wedge. Also there was some very strong selling just before the market closed which is also a concern.

    USO – Oil Traded Fund

    Both times oil has fallen we have seen the price pierce key support levels where the bulls would have the majority of their stops placed. The intraday pierce causes the stops to be triggered washing the market of long positions while the smart money loads up accumulating everyone’s sell orders . This is something which happens with virtually every type of investment and the main reason traders get shaken out just before the market goes in their direction. Anyways, running of the stops is something I will cover in a future report.

    Looking at the chart below you can see oil trading at trendline support. Each time the key support levels (blue arrows) have been pierced the market has rocketed higher. Just from looking at the chart from August 9th forward you can see that this move down is overextended and visually looks ready for a pause or bounce in the coming days.

    *Trading Tidbit - When trading trendlines it is important to try and play the third test. Reason being is that the first two pullbacks create the trendline and the third test is when active traders generally jump on board causing a sizable bounce. Each test of a trendline it becomes weaker and the probability of a breakdown is more likely.*

    SPY – SP500 ETF Trading Fund

    The SP500 chart shows last week’s breakdown on the 5th test of the trendline. The market is oversold here and ready for a bounce which I hope we get this week. My concern is that the downward momentum is to strong and a bounce will be negated.

    US Dollar Index

    US dollar put in a huge bounce last week after testing is 61.8% Fib retracement level from the 2009 December low. The strong bounce has pushed the dollar up to a key resistance level which happens to be 38.2% Fib retracement level from both the December up trend and the recent sell off. I figure this will hold the dollar down for a few days easing the pressure on oil and equities.

    Weekend Gold, Oil, SPX and Dollar Trading Conclusion:

    In short, I feel there will be a relief bounce in oil and equities while the dollar and gold will have some profit taking and trade sideways or down at the beginning of the week. After that it looks as though stocks and oil will head lower while the dollar and gold rally.

    If you would like to receive my Trading Analysis and Signals Complete with Entry, Targets and Protective Stops please visit my website at: www.TheGoldAndOilGuy.com

    Chris Vermeulen



    Disclosure: I am currently long USO.
    Tags: GLD, SPY, USO, UUP, index, etfs, metals
    Aug 16 2:51 PM | Link | Comment!
  • How to Trade Gold Options Using Theta

    In the previous article, “Learning How to Profit from Theta When Trading SPX Options,” I discussed the basics of the famed option Greek, Theta. A fundamental knowledge of Theta is imperative in order to understand the mechanics and construction of option strategies. In many cases, Theta is either the profit engine or the means by which experienced option traders reduce the cost of opening a new position. Theta can even take an ETF that pays no dividend and create a monthly income stream utilizing a technique known as a covered call write.

    The most exciting thing about options is their versatility. You can trade them in so many different ways. A trader can define a positions’ risk with unbelievable precision. When traded properly utilizing hard stops, options offer traders opportunities that stocks and futures simply cannot provide. Theta allows option traders to write spreads which generally offer nice returns with very limited risk.

    Theta is the fundamental reason behind the slow and relentless deterioration of option values over time. As a series of options gets closer to expiration, Theta becomes a very powerful force. As stated in the previous article, the final two weeks of option expiration put Theta into overdrive. Courtesy of Optionsuniversity, the two charts listed below illustrate the rapid decay of Theta.

    These charts illustrate effectively that option contracts which are out of the money and consist entirely of time premium decline rapidly in value on their way to 0 potentially. While Theta must be respected, it is Theta’s relationship with implied volatility that really makes it a force that must be monitored closely.

    While I will not discuss implied volatility in this article, in future articles it will gain considerable attention. Implied volatility is paramount in every decision that an option trader makes. Ignoring implied volatility and Theta is a recipe for disaster, the kind of disaster where an entire trading account is wiped out in less than 30 days. In most of the trades that I place, Theta is regularly a profit engine. I never purchase options naked, in every option trade that I construct I am utilizing some form of a spread in order to mitigate the ever present wasting away of time premium. In many cases, Theta is the driving force behind my profitability.

    In any other case, Theta decreases the cost for me to purchase options allowing me to minimize my risk to an acceptable level. Vertical spreads come in two variations: debit spreads and credit spreads. A vertical spread is a multi-legged option trade which involves more than one strike price. As an example, we will assume that GLD is trading around $119/share. If I were to have placed a call credit spread trade at the close on Thursday I could have sold the GLD August 120 call strike and purchased the GLD August 121 call strike, thus receiving a credit in my account.

    At current prices as I type, the August 120 call strike would have resulted in a credit to my trading account of $53 dollars while the August 121 call strike would have resulted in a debit in my account of $29 dollars with a one lot position size. If I were to place this trade, I would have a strong feeling that the price of GLD was going to decline. The reason this trade is called a vertical credit spread is because the total trade results in a credit to my account of $24 dollars less commissions. The vertical aspect of the trade is based on the arrangement of the positions on the options board, also called an option chain.

    When an option trader places a credit spread, they are relying on time decay, Theta, to provide them with profits. In many cases, option traders will utilize vertical spreads to play a directional bias. In the example above, the bias on GLD would be to the downside. However, the maximum amount I can lose is limited because I purchased the 121 call. The most I can lose is $100 dollars minus the credit of $24 dollars. Thus, the worst case scenario for this call credit spread would be a loss of $76 dollars for every contract I had put on. If I had put on 5 contracts, my loss would have been limited to $380 dollars plus commissions.

    A call debit spread is constructed exactly the opposite direction. If I believed that gold was going to increase in value I could buy 1 August 120 GLD call for $53 dollars and sell 1 August GLD 121 call for $29 dollars. Notice that the sale of the GLD 121 call reduces the cost of the GLD 120 call. By selling the GLD 121 call, I reduce the cost of this spread down to $26 dollars. However, my maximum gain is limited to $74 dollars minus commissions. The point of this illustration is more to focus on the way Theta helps option traders in practical situations.

    When an option trader utilizes a credit spread, Theta operates as the profit engine. When an option trader does the exact opposite by placing a debit spread, Theta acts to reduce the overall cost of the spread reducing the overall risk exposure. As one can see, understanding Theta is crucial when trading options. While vertical spreads are very basic, they can provide nice returns while having the unique ability to control risk with an extremely tight leash.

    In future articles, we will dissect the various option trading strategies which option traders can utilize in different situations, at different points within the option expiration cycle. While this article will conclude the basic overview of Theta, future articles will discuss intimately the key relationship that Theta and implied volatility share. In closing, I will leave you with the famous muse of Benjamin Franklin, “Time is money.”

    Get our Free Weekly Options Education Articles and Options Trading Signals by joining out free newsletter at www.OptionsTradingSignals.com

    Chris Vermeulen – Gold Analyst/Trader
    J.W Jones – Independent Options Trader



    Disclosure: I currently do not own gld options.
    Tags: GLD, metals, gold, options
    Aug 14 10:14 PM | Link | Comment!
Full index of posts »
Latest Followers

StockTalks

More »

Latest Comments


Posts by Themes
Instablogs are Seeking Alpha's free blogging platform customized for finance, with instant set up and exposure to millions of readers interested in the financial markets. Publish your own instablog in minutes.