# Playing Over-hot Underlyings with the Call Butterfly

A call butterfly is a fully hedged options trade …

… with an upwards bias.

It consists of four call options.

…and 2 sells.

One can play any overtly rising underlying with the call butterfly, without batting an eyelid.

Why?

Firstly, and most importantly, one is fully hedged.

Meaning?

At first look, the call butterfly seems market neutral as far as basic mathematics is concerned, that is +1, -2, +1, net net 0.

So, net net, one isn’t looking at a large loss if one is wrong.

When is one wrong here?

If the underlying doesn’t move, or if it falls, in the stipulated period, then one is wrong,…

…and one will incur a loss.

However, the loss will be relatively small, because of the call butterfly’s structural market neutrality.

And that’s magic, at least to my ears.

Method to enter anything flying off the handle with the chance of a small loss?

Will take it.

Then, also very importantly, the margin requirement is relatively less, when one uses the following chronology.

Then come the sells.

Upon the upholding of this chronology, the market regulator is lenient with one on margin requirement, as long as the trade-construct is market neutral.

Typically, for one butterfly, total margin requirement is in the range of 50 to a 100k.

Now let’s talk about what one is looking to make.

5k per single-lot trade-construct, if it’s fast, as in execute today, square-off tomorrow, or even intraday, if expiry is close.

10k if slow, as in 7 to 10 days.

If the butterfly is not yielding because the underlying is not moving, then one is looking to exit, typically with a minus of under 3k.

Just do the math. Numbers are great.

What kind of a maximum loss are we looking at, if things go badly wrong, as in if the underlying sinks?

5k to 10k.

Can the loss be more?

If the trade construct is such that the butterfly can even give 40 odd k till expiry, one could even be looking at a max loss of about 15k too.

Here’s an example of a call butterfly trade that can lose around 15-16k, but has the potential to make upto around 45k till expiry. The graphical representation is courtesy Sensibull.

I mean, it’s all still acceptable.

Tweaks?

Let’s say one is losing.

Sells will be in biggish plus.

Square-off the sells. Yeah, break the hedge.

They are losing big.

With some time to go till expiry, if the underlying goes back up, the buys gain.

What one makes off the trade is proportional to how much the underlying goes up.

It’s riskier. Correspondingly, profit potential is higher.

Money risked here will be up to double of the fully hedged version of the trade, and one could lose this amount if the underlying does not come back up appropriately and in time. Pocketed premium of the squared-off sells softens the hit.

Therefore, it makes more sense to pull this tweak with at least ten days to go before expiry, giving the underlying time to recoup.

Got another tweak.

Underlying’s on a roll, and you want to make the most possible off the opportunity.

Square-off the sells at a huge loss.

Let the buys, which are winning big, run for some part of the day.

Chances of them yielding more are very high.

If the underlying promises to close on a high, square-off the out-of-the-money buy before close of trade, and take the in-the-money buy overnight.

Risky, though.

You could lessen your risk, and increase your chances of taking most profits off the table by squaring off the in-the-money buy and taking the out-of-the-money buy overnight.

Square-off the overnight buy next morning on a high, or wherever feasible.

With this particular tweak, the trade becomes somewhat more like a lesser exposed futures transaction, at least for some time, after the hedge is broken.

There’s another thing one can do with the call butterfly.

One can adjust it as per the level of perceived bullishness.

If -1 and -1 are set at the same level, one trades for averagely perceived bullishness.

If one -1 is closer to the lower +1, and the other -1 is above this first -1, then one trades for below average perceived bullishness.

If one -1 is closer to the upper +1, and the other -1 is below this first -1, then one trades for above average perceived bullishness.

Anything else worth mentioning?

Volume. Need it.

Scaling up needs to correspond to one’s risk-profile, requirement, temperament and acumen.

One can make it an income thing by scaling up, during bull runs, or generally, just in case an up move is tending to pan out.

One can make the call butterfly do a lot of things.

It’s a very versatile trade to play a rising market, with low risk and low capital requirement.

🙂

# How I Wish to Trade

Tension?

No.

Hassle-free?

Yes.

Profit?

Yes.

Fun?

Too.

I want it to make me want to come back.

In the background?

Yes.

Part of my normal life?

No.

Disturbing me in the night?

No?

Terminal on – ideally once a day. Max twice. That’s it.

Protection?

Yes. Stops for forex. Hedges for options. No naked options.

Exits?

Make me exit. Yeah, Mrs. Market needs to make me exit. I don’t wish to exit on my own. She needs to throw me out of a trade.

Fear?

None.

Why?

Surplus can potentially become zero. Will I still take the next trade?

Yes. After scanning strategy for errors.

Loss?

Will take small ones, again and again and again. That’s the only way to find the large profit moves.

Once profit sets in, what then?

Nothing then.

Normal.

Behaving as if nothing has happened.

It needs to make even more profit.

It is a potential multi-x trade. Why should I nip it in the bud? As I said, make me exit. Throw me out.

Family life?

Balanced.

None.

When yes, stop trading. Trading should never be allowed to disturb family life.

Evolutionary?

Forever. Learning, learning, learning.

Bias?

None.

News?

No.

Tips?

None.

Peers?

Maybe to start a strategy with. After strategy is made to fit – no peers any more.

Discussion?

None. Hopefully.

Don’t like to discuss trades after terminal shuts.

Losses piling up?

Profits piling up?

Great. Do nothing.

Are you getting the gist?

Similarly, you need to figure out how you might want to trade.

Many things I might be doing will not suit you automatically.

You need to make things fit.

If something doesn’t fit, discard it.

Look for something new that might fit.

Make a trading strategy that’s lucrative and gels with you and your lifestyle and environment.

Such a strategy will blossom. For you.

# Stop-Loss vs Hedge – what’s what and how?

Insurance.

Makes you sleep easy.

Simultaneously, you are able to take a calculated risk.

Risk?

Why should you take a risk?

No risk no gain.

It’s as simple as that.

You have to put something on the line to possibly gain something.

That’s what market activity is all about.

You’re doing this all the time.

Day in, day out.

You’ve become used to a steady and dynamic LINE. Your line doesn’t harm you anymore. It doesn’t disrupt your life.

Well done.

How did you achieve this?

By using stops and hedges.

What’s the difference?

The difference is technical, and then practical.

For some mindsets and positions, a stop is more suited.

When you don’t mind exposing your market-play, and want to close your terminal and do other stuff, use a stop.

You get up from your desk, engage in other activity, and have forgotten about your position, because now you don’t need to tend to its needs for 24 hours, for example.

Great.

Your position will either play out, or it won’t.

If it doesn’t, your stop will automatically throw you out of your position.

The level of the stop is digestible.

Next morning, you simply move on to a new trade.

Let’s say you don’t want to to expose your market play, or, in some cases, when you don’t need to expose your market play – how do you then insure yourself?

Hedge.

A hedge maintains general market neutrality.

It leaves windows open for what-if scenarios.

For example, the trade could make money, and then the hedge could make money.

Or, vice-versa. As in lose-lose. Sure, there are win-loss and loss-win scenarios too.

The starting point is somewhat neutral, and then there are permutations and combinations.

Some people prefer this kind of play.

They like the possibility of maximizing profit from the total position at a calculated higher risk.

Also fine.

Generally, the idea is for your main position to make money and your hedge to lose money.

It might or might not play out like that.

Some like this uncertainty and know how to benefit from it.

A stop is sure-shot and straight-forward. It is low-risk as long as it is digestible.

Hedges open you to the risks of a meta-game. Play becomes more interesting, consuming, and possibly, more profitable, for experienced hedgers.

In my opinion, a hedge is slightly higher in risk than a stop.

However, both entities lower overall risk.

Currency pair forex trades are typically taken with a stop. However, they can be hedged too.

Market-neutral option-trades are typically taken using hedges.

Step into a trade with either or, for peace of mind and career longevity.

Cheers.

🙂

# Options 1.0.3

Has your stop ever been jumped over?

Yes?

Did it make you angry?

Yes?

It might make you angrier to know that Mrs. Market couldn’t care less about you on a personal level. It’s you who has to adapt, not Mrs. Market.

So, next time you see Mrs. Market moving many points in one shot, you have a choice. Either you can choose to take the chance of having your stop jumped over in the hope of huge rewards, or you can use options as an instrument to trade.

In general, a stop getting jumped over is a non-issue with options, because you are pre-defining your maximum loss here. Your option-premium is the maximum loss you will incur on the trade. Once you’ve mentally aligned yourself with this potential maximum loss, you are actually then asking Mrs. Market to do all the jumping she wishes to do. It just doesn’t bother you anymore. You travel, do other stuff, and then take a sneak-peak at your position.

Once your position starts making money, you might decide to fine-tune your trade-management after achieving your target. If you then make sure that your trailing stop is wide-gapped, you can still relax and do other stuff. Maybe one time out of twenty, Mrs. Market will jump even your wide-gapped trailing stop. Even if she does, you are well in the money, and you do not forget to install a new stop. Also, a little while ago, you were mentally prepared to forgo your whole option-premium, so giving back a part of your profits seems a piece of cake to you.

Welcome to the world of options. We have plunged right in. I believe that the best way to learn something is to plunge right in. Gone are the days of bookish learning.

The options market in India is just about coming into its own. At any given time, there will be at least 20 scrips on the National Stock Exchange showing very high options volume for long trades, and at least 10 scrips showing heavy volume for short trades. Bottomline: you can get into a liquid trade on either side, anytime you want. The number of scrips showing this kind of liquidity is picking up. We are still very, very far away from the mature options market in the US. What can be said is that the Indian options market will offer you liquid trades, anytime, both on the long and the short side. Frankly, that’s all one needs.

On the flip side, options on commodities have yet to come to India. Also, only the current month options are adequately liquid in India. Regarding options, the Indian market is getting there. Well, as long as you get a liquid trade anytime you want, who cares if we’re not as mature as the US options market? I don’t.

Over the last few months, options have been the instruments of choice, with unfathomable volatility abounding. I was dying to have a go, but have been caught up in so much other distracting stuff, that I’ve not traded for two months now. I like sticking to my trading rules. One of them is to not trade if I’m distracted. I really stick to this one.

Those who did trade the options market over this period would have done exceptionally well, because ideal conditions persisted. Big and quick moves, like a see-saw. The scenario would look like this: Long options give quick profits, short options simultaneously becoming very cheap, especially the out of the money ones. One sells the now expensive long options (which were picked up cheap), and stocks up on the now cheap out of the money short options. The market turns around and leaps to the downside, giving quick and large profits on the short options. One sells the short options and picks up now cheap out of the money long options, again. The repeat trades according to this pattern can continue till they stop working. When they stop working, what have you lost? Just your premium on some out of the money options.

Wish I’d had the frame of mind to trade options over the last two months. But then, one can’t have everything!

# A Hedge is a Hedge is a Hedge

U guessed it, this is again about Gold.

Why do I keep harping on Gold?

Situations crop up, questions arise, people ask stuff…whatever.

I’ve always treated Gold as a hedge. Luckily, I don’t suffer from any Midas affliction.

There’ll be a time in one’s investing timeline, when there’s no need to hedge. As of now, there is a need to hedge, seeing the uncertainty around us. This does not mean, under any circumstances, that you go around picking up your Gold for hedging at these rates. A hedge is best picked up cheap. Curretly, Gold is 2 or maybe 3 multiplied by cheap.

So, if Gold is your hedge of choice, this is not the time to pick it up. There is absolutely no margin of safety at these levels.

Once you’ve picked up your hedge cheaply, you can turn it into a double whammy and sell it really expensively. That option will always be with you.

You also have the option of not buying your hedge, whatever hedge it might be, if you don’t get a cheap enough price.

Exercise your options. Mrs. Market gives you lots of freedom till you act. Once you do act, you have to bear the consequences, whatever they are.

Don’ be in a hurry to act, especially if you are an investor. For the investor, the entry is of prime importance. Entry is the investor’s singular weapon.

And please, for heaven’s sake, treat Gold as a hedge. In good economic times, it’s going right back where it came from. The 100 year return on Gold has been 1% per annum compounded.

Whenever one gets into any underlying, one needs to be clear about what one is getting into.

Do you buy your car without doing the appropriate due diligence? No, right?

By the same right, investing demands proper due diligence too.

# One Step Closer to the Gold-Standard?

The gold-standard is an extreme scenario.

Imagine the world’s top currencies collapsing. For lack of a better alternative, the world resorts to gold for conducting international trade.

Probably a situation that’s not going to occur.

But then, are we doing anything to stop it from occuring?

Q: Is the US doing anything concrete to reduce its debt?

A: No.

Interpretation: USD will lose its stronghold as global currency at this rate.

Q: Does Europe have any concrete ideas about its financial future?

A: No.

Interpretation: Euro is nowhere near toppling USD from its global currency status.

Q: Is China doing anything concrete to increase transparency?

A: No.

Interpretation: Doesn’t make the Yuan a strong contender for top post.

Q: Is India doing anything concrete to reduce corruption?

A: Er…blah blah blah… No.

Interpretation: I’m not even trying to interpret the eyewash going on here.

Let’s move on to a country called Venezuela.

President Hugo Chavez just called all his gold home…!

Even if this is to taunt the US, it still is HOARDING.

Hoarding is infectious. The start of hoarding can trigger a “Domino-Effect”.

Whatever his ulterior motives were, Big Boy Hugo has taken the world one step closer to the gold standard.

To prevent hoarding from escalation, a counter statement needs to come, like NOW, from the major economic players of the world, something confidence-boosting. Don’t see that happening anytime soon. Seems that hoarding might escalate.

The gold-standard seemed to be a myth a few months ago. Now, at this stage, we seriously need to educate ourselves with regard to the gold-standard and position ourselves accordingly.

# Here’s Trying to answer a Million Dollar Question

During the financial meltdown, my portfolio took a huge knock. It was the biggest eye-opener I had ever experienced. I contemplated quitting the markets, but survived the strong impulse. From then on, I only operate in the markets with a hedge. Early 2008, I identified gold as my hedge, and ever since, I have maintained a steady 10% of my portfolio in gold.

I am stating this here because of the one question that is going around in everybody’s minds – what to do with their gold investments???

By default, I have to answer this question for myself. If my answer benefits anyone, even better.

And my answer to the question – What to do with my gold investment? is – nothing.

Yup, I’m not touching it. It’s a hedge, man, protecting the other 90% of the portfolio, which is inversely correlated to gold more than 80% of the time.

What happens if 400 dollars an ounce get knocked off gold’s current price? Well, I’ll be partying in Vegas, because the other 90% in the portfolio will have done well in this scenario.

And what happens if gold goes on to touch 1500 dollars an ounce, or even 2000 dollars an ounce eventually. Again partying in Vegas, this time because of gold, but the other 90% will have taken a bit of a beating, so I might party at home. But the bottomline is, I’ll get to ride gold if it sky-rockets.

Now what would happen were I not using gold as a hedge, but as a sheer investment. To illustrate this, let me give you an example. My relationship manager in Singapore who’s handling my gold investment just called twenty minutes back, excited and eager and rattling on about the current level of the investment and about how we had to book gold right now. Told him the same thing. It’s a hedge for me. Let it ride to 5000 dollars an ounce, I’ll still ride it as a hedge. What becomes clear is that if one has approached gold as a sheer investment and not as a hedge, one is facing the dilemna today of whether or not to book profit.

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that one.

I’m good either way, with a decline in gold as well as with a rise in gold. So would you be, if you hedged. Hedging is for safety, and it comes at a cost. My investment in gold is the cost of protecting my bulk investments. So, by no means am I getting rid of it, despite the lure of the price level.

Thus ends the lesson in hedging.