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Michael C. Thomsett is a widely published options author. His "Getting Started in Options" (Wiley, 9th edition) has sold over 300,000 copies. He also is author of "Options Trading for the Conservative Investor" and "The Options Trading Body of Knowledge" (both FT Press); and "Options for... More
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  • Short Strangle - Maximizing The Time Decay Advantage 0 comments
    Mar 30, 2013 9:52 AM
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    A strangle is not as violent as it sounds, nor as deadly. It simply is a variation on the straddle, and it presents some interesting possibilities in terms of profit potential and risk. When two strangles are combined with one another, it forms a popular strategy known as the iron condor.

    A short strangle includes positions in both a call and a put. The strikes are different but expiration and the underlying security are the same. A long strangle would require substantial movement in the underlying in either direction, to offset not only the initial cost but also time decay. A short strangle provides a significant advantage in comparison. Time decay works for you, and the initial premium you receive for the two short positions cushions the potential loss if and when one side goes in the money.

    In the ideal strangle, you ensure that both short options are out of the money. For example, a stock closed at $200. At the close, the April 195 calls were at 5.30 and the April 205 puts were at 5.05. If you opened a strangle by selling both options, you would receive $1,035, equivalent of 10.35 points above the 195 call and below the 205 put. So the "profit zone" extended 10.35 points below the put strike and above the call strike. This is a comfortable range, and both options were out of the money. The odds of expiring worthless (or your being able to close both sides profitably) were quite high. For this reason, the strangle is a very attractive strategy.

    Because time value is likely to evaporate more rapidly than growth in intrinsic value, you would probably be able to close an ITM option profitably. At this point in the cycle, time decay might exceed the rate of growth in intrinsic value. This is true especially if you focus on issues about to expire, but with exceptionally high IV at the time you open.

    You could create a long strangle by buying the options on either side. Using the same examples as above, though, chances for creating a profitable outcome were remote. Given the high cost of the options, you would need price movement in one direction or the other above 10.35 points in the example.

    Even with favorable volatility, short-term long strangles are not likely to end up profitable. Selection of short strangle positions relies not only on the profit range, but also on timing based on IV. The volatility of the underlying and of the option affects premium value, but also defines differences in levels of risk, so the underlying you pick should be a good match for your risk tolerance. Volatility is the most important feature of options, and you can time your entry and exit based on the rapid changes in volatility levels.

    To gain more perspective on insights to trading observations and specific strategies, I hope you will join me at where I publish many additional articles. I also enter a regular series of daily trades and updates. For new trades, I usually include a stock chart marked up with reversal and confirmation, and provide detailed explanations of my rationale. Link to the site at to learn more.

    I also offer a weekly newsletter subscription if you are interested in a periodic update of news and information and a summary of performance in the virtual portfolio that I manage. All it requires is your e-mail address. Join at Weekly Newsletter I look forward to having you as a subscriber.

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