I suspect that when most investors make the jump from stocks to options, the most difficult issue for them to come to terms with is position management. With stocks, it is easy for an investor to reason that if a particular stock rises to a target price of X, he or she will take the profits and exit the position. By the same token, if the stock falls below Y, this means it is time to cut losses.
For options, the process becomes much more complicated. One of the complicating factors is certainly the potential for extreme percentage changes in an option position. It is not uncommon for an option to double in value for several consecutive days; alternatively an option can lose half of its value several days in a row.
Given all the questions I have received about how to manage options positions, going forward I have decided to share some of my thinking about position management using real-time case studies of options trades.
Let me offer up a taste of what I had in mind using a recent short straddle trade on the SPX that I first talked about on August 20th in The Sideways Play.
First, while I did not go into detail about the rationale for the trade at the time of the original post, one of the technical factors I found appealing was the possibility of the 1000 serving as a consolidation point, with SPX potentially trading in a narrow range that was defined by 978-1018 at the time. The chart below shows that following the initial post (black arrow), SPX subsequently rallied as high as 1040, closing a little over 1030 on August 27th. When SPX subsequently fell back below 1000 last week, there was reason to believe that the 1030 (closing) and 1040 (intraday) levels might serve as resistance. As described in SPX Short Straddle Still Hugging 1000 Level, the trade had started to yield some meaningful profits at this stage.
The graphic below is a snapshot of the position as of yesterday’s close. The original premium was $5000 per contract. At the close of trading yesterday, the position could have been closed out for $3820, yielding a profit of $1180 per contract. This is down from a profit of $1490 a week ago today when the SPX was still hugging the 1000 level. The change in profitability in the past week has been largely the result of directional movement (delta) in the form of a 30 point jump in SPX more than offsetting the time decay at work over the course of the week.
Note that in setting up my exits, I am completely ignoring the price of the actual options and prefer to focus on the underlying. In future posts, I will talk about a more holistic approach that encompasses not just the underlying, but also options prices, position Greeks and other factors.
For the record, the previous posts in this SPX short straddle series are: