Today’s guest column at The Striking Price on behalf of Steven Sears at Barron’s marks the tenth time I have had the opportunity to write a column for Barron’s and this time around I even managed to suppress the impulse to write about the VIX and volatility – at least directly.
In How to Insure Your Stock Portfolio I drill down on an element of hedging I cited in one of my hall of fame posts, Cheating with Partial Hedges. Specifically, I talk about bear put spreads, which I like to think of as “gap hedges” due to the fact that they offer protection should the underlying fall in between two strikes.
The Barron’s article talks about a specific SPY gap hedge strategy involving buying puts that are 5% out-of-the-money and offsetting some of the cost of the put protection (and capping the downside effectiveness) by selling puts that are 10% out-of-the-money. Done at a 1x1 ratio, this is a classic bear put spread that has the following effect on an SPY position:
[Graphic showing range of protection offered by 5% - 10% bear put spread or “gap hedge”]
What I didn’t have the space to discuss in the Barron’s article is the possibility of converting the 1x1 position into a ratio put spread by selling two 10% OTM puts for every one 5% OTM put that is purchased. With SPY closing at 154.14 today, the strike closest to a 5% pullback is 146, where the July puts currently at 2.55. At the same time, the 10% OTM strike is 139 and the July 139 puts are 1.40. With these numbers, a 1x2 ratio spread can be initiated for a credit of 0.25 (2x1.40 – 2.55) and provide protection down to SPY 139 (9.8% below today’s close) essentially for free. The big caveat here is that there is no such thing a free portfolio protection. What happens here is that in moving from a 1x1 put spread to a 1x2 ratio spread, the position is transformed from a limited risk position to a unlimited risk position where investors are exposed to the possibility of large losses should SPY fall below 139 prior to the July 20th expiration. For this reason, put ratio spreads – or any options trade with unlimited risk – should be utilized only by advanced options traders. In contrast, the standard 1x1 put spread is an excellent trade for beginning and intermediate options traders to seek to master.
- Cheating with Partial Hedges
- Performance of Volatility-Hedged ETPs
- Why Not Point Hedges?
- Dynamic VIX ETPs as Long-Term Hedges
- Comparing SPLV and VQT
- Three New Risk Control ETFs from Direxion
- The Case for VQT
- The Year in Safe Havens
- The VIX as a Hedging Tool
A full list of my Barron’s contributions:
- How to Insure Your Stock Portfolio (April 18, 2013)
- The Case for Options Trading (January 2, 2013)
- Calm Down and Exploit Others’ Anxieties (November 14, 2012)
- How to Trade Options Around Volatile Events (July 10, 2012)
- Be Greedy While Others Are Fearful (May 3, 2012)
- Ways to Turn Volatility into an Asset Class (January 12, 2011)
- There’s Opportunity in Uncertainty (November 18, 2010)
- Will Market Volatility Return to Crisis Levels? (September 15, 2010)
- The Perils of Predicting Volatility (May 20, 2010)
- Take a Longer View on Volatility (July 2, 2009)