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Time-sensitive Options Strategy to Protect Facebook (FB) Gains

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Dr. W. Edward Olmstead

Olmstead Options Trading Strategies



Now that many stocks have weekly options, there are new strategies available to protect the price of a stock following an earnings report. Stocks often experience their biggest declines in price after an earnings report fails to meet the expectations of investors. Weekly options can offer cheap, short-term insurance to lock in a minimum sale price of a stock that might be vulnerable to an earnings setback.


It has always been possible to use monthly put options to protect the price of a stock through the date of the company’s earnings report. The problem with monthly puts is that they can be quite expensive, particularly when the expiration date is substantially later than the earnings report. Weekly options are cheaper and offer more flexibility in providing short-term protection.


Not all stocks have weekly options, but when a stock does have them, it is prudent to know how to employ them to circumvent an earnings report disaster. A timely illustration of a protective options strategy will be presented for Facebook Inc (FB), which has its next earnings report on January 23.


FB stock is currently trading around $26, which represents a nice 30% increase since mid-November. With the company’s earnings report scheduled for January 23, there is concern about losing those recent gains if the report is less than spectacular. Let’s explore an inexpensive strategy to protect the price of FB by using a combination of weekly options.


This protective strategy assumes the ownership of 100 shares of FB stock. While this trade may be appropriate for the protection of FB stock purchased at any price, it is designed primarily for stock purchased below the level of $25 per share.


It is easiest to present this protective strategy as a combination of two separate trades. The first trade is the purchase of a weekly put that expires two days after the FB earnings report. For 100 shares of FB stock, buy one contract of the Jan 25.5 put that has an expiration date of January 25. The current cost of this put is $1.65 per share. This put will allow you to liquidate your stock for $25.50 per share if the earnings report on January 23 leads to a collapse of the FB stock price.


The second part of the strategy is intended to lower the cost basis of the long Jan 25.5 put. In this second trade, sell one contract of the Jan 29 call and one contract of the Jan 24 put, each of which expires on January 18 (these particular weekly options coincide with the monthly options). Currently, the premium received from the sale of these two options is $.75 per share. This sale will reduce the cost basis of long put from $1.65 per share down to $.90 per share.


The recent price range of FB stock will likely hold for the next few weeks leading up to the earnings report on January 23. This suggests that the short Jan 29 call and short Jan 24 put will expire worthless on January 18, five days before the earnings report. The residual option position will be long one Jan 25.5 put with a cost basis of $.90 per share that is valid through the week of January 21-25. With the FB earnings report on January 23, there will be two full days after the report to observe the response of the stock price. If the price of FB stock falls significantly after the report, the stockholder will have the choice of either (I) liquidating the stock at $25.5 per share or (ii) selling the Jan 25.5 put for a profit that will offset some of the loss in the stock price.


Of course, it is possible that the price of FB stock will be either above $29 or below $24 when the expiration date of the short options arrives on January 18. If the stock price is above $29, the short put will expire worthless and the stock holder can choose to either buy back the short call or allow the stock to be called away for a nice profit. If the stock price is below $24, the short call will expire worthless and the diagonal spread composed of the long Jan 25.5 put and short Jan 24 put can be sold for a profit.


While this weekly options strategy was presented as a protection for actual shares of FB stock, it applies equally well for an options position that represents synthetic stock. In an August 2012 blog entry (with follow up commentary), I presented an options approach to safely construct a synthetic long stock position in FB. The protection strategy presented here can be used in conjunction with that synthetic holding.




Dr. Olmstead can be found at http://www.olmsteadoptions.com, an on-line options trading site, centered around options education material and option trading strategies he’s developed. He is Professor of Applied Mathematics at Northwestern University, author of the popular and highly-praised options book, Options for the Beginner and Beyond (2006) and former chief strategist for The Options Professor on-line newsletter, distributed by Zacks.com and Forbes.com.

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