# 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.

🙂

# Focused Diversification : Mantra for all Times

I’m more into focus.

One can focus on one thing at a time.

Agreed.

What if after that one thing starts running, it doesn’t require any more focus?

Wow.

Then I focus on another thing.

Get it running.

Then another.

Till my focus window is full.

Let me tell you about my focus window.

I focus on cash, debt, equity, forex, gold, real-estate, arbitrage, and options.

With that, my professional focus in finance is full full full.

I get something running.

That’s it.

Then I don’t need to be with it. Mostly.

Let me run you through.

1). Cash – Bind it in a worry-free and accessible manner. Done.

2). Debt – Study the underlying very thoroughly. Reject 10 underlyings. Take up the 11th which passes all criteria. Be happy with a slightly better than FD-return. Done.

3). Equity – Invest for life. Study till you drop the stock or take it up. Only invest in what meets all criteria and offers margin of safety at time of investing. On top of that – SIP (systematic investment plan). Done.

4). Forex – Get a software robot to trade it for you. Or some human-capital. All available online. Requires a bit of fine-tuning. Keep tuning till you start making a return. Done.

5). Gold – Buy physical gold. Research your source. Needs to be impeccable. Bullion. Coins. SIP. Accessible. No jewellery. Done.

6). Real-estate – Make your real-estate yield you an income. Regular income? Done.

7). Arbitrage – Understand what this is, and why it gives you a tax benefit. Get an online MF account going with Kotak MF or DWS. Divert some funds into their arbitrage MF, either or. I prefer Kotak. Monthly dividend payout option. Done.

8). Options – Get the option-strategy going. You don’t require a desktop. Mobile is sufficient. All you now need to do is take care of square-off. On mobile. This means a slightly higher level of engagement than the above avenues. Only slightly. Are you ok with that? Fine. Done.

In a flow, it’s all doable.

And, you remain focused.

Why all this?

Times demand it. You never know what might come in handy, and when.

Yeah, times are tough.

However, you are tougher.

To use Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s terminology, you are antifragile.

# The Market Aha Moment

What is an Aha moment?

Any ideas?

Simple. It’s when you go “Aha, so that’s what it’s like!”

Or “Aha, so that’s what it’s supposed to be!”

You’ve understood something big. Finally. You see light. That’s an Aha moment.

The human being likes to be happy.

Professional happiness adds to our well-being.

To be professionally happy, you need to be doing something during which you forget about time.

What is this something for you?

Let’s assume you’ve decided upon a profession in the markets. The next question is… which market?

Which market draws you out fully? Which market consumes you? In which market do you perform the best? In which market are you happy?

Why isn’t your Aha moment coming here too?

Well, Aha moments aren’t for free. You have to struggle for them.

Start trying out different markets.

See what gives you a kick.

See where you have a natural flair.

See what lingers.

Hit and try.

Try everything if you must.

Eventually, something will speak to you.

You’ll want to be in one particular market, perhaps two.

Aha.

I’ll tell you how it went with me.

I started with Equity.

Fluked a few. Made some money. Bet bigger. Thought I was good. Won some more. Bet really big. Lost huge. Thought to myself – no more Equity.

Then came Gold and Silver. Did ok. Found it boring. No more Gold and silver.

Tried Private equity. Did ok. Boring.

Arbitrage. Boring. But, an avenue for parking.

Real estate. Corrupt.

Commodities…didn’t get a kick. The delivery option always loomed over my head. What if I forgot to square off?

Stock futures. Got hammered. No more.

Foreign stocks. Time difference killed my evenings. Out.

Foreign mutual funds. Expense ratios were sky-high. Slugged it out for a while, but then finished it off. Lost.

Structures – broke even, then won a bit. Got bored.

Debentures. Only do short term ones, to park funds. No kicks. Debt is boring by default.

Mutual funds. Yeah, well, did my fair bit of them. Did excite me, since they were connected to Equity. As of now, there’s just light MF activity.

Stock options. Lost a bit, but didn’t actually get hammered. Gave me a bit of a kick. Well, it was Equity related, so no wonder. Started interfering with my second Equity stint. I let options go.

Second Equity stint. Did ok…ok…ok…lost a bit, won a bit, was enjoying it, when suddenly…came Forex.

Forex…whoaahh…I loved it. Swept me away. Technology, charting, skill-set, I wanted to be here. Aha. Huge leverage, though. Risk. This had to be my second game, not my first. Yeah, safety first, always. Alright, what would be my first game? Yeah, what would be my bulk game?

Equity of course. I understood it and enjoyed it. I’d done ok. Had leant lessons. Knew how to handle it. Infrastructure was in place. Aha. Nailed it in the third attempt.

So and thus, I found my games upon my Aha moments. That’s where I am. Don’t plan to do anything else.

Work towards it.

# And What’s so Special about Forex?

… the freedom to trade exactly like you want to.

Is there any market in the world which allows you complete freedom?

Equity? Naehhh. Lots of issues. Liquidity. Closes late-afternoon, leaving you hanging till the next open, unless you’re day-trading. Who wants to watch the terminal all day? Next open is without your stop. Then there’s rigging. Syndicates. Inside info. Tips. Equity comes with lot of baggage. I still like it, and am in it. It doesn’t give me complete freedom, though. I live with what I get, because equity does give me is a kick.

Debt market? A little boring, perhaps. Lock-ins.

Commodities? You wanna take delivery? What if you forget to square-off a contract? Will you be buying the kilo of Gold? Ha, ha, ha…

Arbitrage? Glued to screen all day. No like. Same goes for any other form of day-trading.

Mutual Funds. Issues. Fees. Sometimes, lock-ins. MFs can’t hold on to investments if investors want to cash out. Similarly, MFs can’t exit properly if investors want to hang on. And, you know how the public is. It wants to enter at the peak and cash out at the bottom.

Private Equity? Do you like black boxes? You drive your car? Do you know how it functions? You still drive it, right? So why can’t you play PE? Some can. Those who are uncomfortable with black boxes can’t.

CDOs? @#\$!*()_&&%##@.

Real Estate? Hassles. Slimy market. Sleaze. Black money. Government officials. Bribery. No like.

Venture Cap? Extreme due diligence required. Visits. Traveling. The need to dig very deep. Deep pockets. Extreme risk. No.

Forex? 24 hr market. Order feed is good till cancelled. Stops don’t vanish over weekends. Stops can be pin-pointedly defined, and you can even get them to move up or down with the underlying, in tandem or in spurts. You can feed in profit-booking mechanisms too, and that too pin-pointedly. You watch about 10-11 currency pairs; you can watch more if you want to. 10-11 is good, though. You can watch 4, or even 2 or 1, up to you. Platforms are stupendous, versatile, malleable, and absolutely free of charge. You can trade off the chart. Liquidity? So much liquidity, that you’ll redefine the word. No rigging – market’s just too large. The large numbers make natural algorithms like Fibonacci work. Technicals? Man, paradise for technicals. Spreads? So wafer thin, that you barely lose anything on commissions. Oh, btw, spreads are treated as commissions in forex; there’s no other commission. Money management? As defined as you want it to be. Magnitude? As small or as large as you want to play? Comfort? You make your morning tea, sip it, open your platform, feed in orders with trigger-entry, stop and limit, and then forget about the forex market for the rest of the day, or till you want to see what’s happening. Yeah, comfort. Challenge? You’re playing with the biggest institutions in the world. What could be more challenging? I could go on. You’re getting the gist.

Yeah.

Forex is a very special market.

Also, the forex market is absolutely accessible to you, online.

If you decide to enter it one day, play on a practice account till you feel you’re ready for a real account.

If and when you do start with a real account, for heaven’s sake start with a micro account, where 1 pip is equal to 0.1 USD.

🙂

# Betting Your Monsters and Checking Ace-High

Blah, blah, blah, I know, poker terminology yet again…

Can’t help it, people, it’s just so valid…

When you’re holding a monster hand, you bet out on the next street to build up the pot. Similarly, when a trade starts to run, you’re looking to load up some more on the scrip at the appropriate point.

When you’re holding air, or a mere bluff-catching hand like ace-high, you check it down through the river. Likewise, if the scrip you’ve just bought into stagnates, or moves a bit down, you do not double up on your trade. Instead, you just wait for your stop to be hit, or if before that your time-stop has run out, you square-off the trade.

An aggressive-passive style?

Who cares?

Recipe for winning in the long run?

Yes.

Right, then we’re taking it.

Two out of ten trades may start to run big. It’s taken you time, money and effort to identify those two. You are in the trade. You can feel the adrenaline pumping. Now’s not the time to sit passively. Spade-work’s all done. Right, put some more money on the winning scrip. Point is, when?

Additional points of entry are tricky.

I prefer a little margin of safety here. I like to double up at a point where there’s been some correction, and possibly when a Fibonacci level has been hit. After that, I want to see the scrip going up back through the level, and I’d like to see volume go up simultaneously. That’s my point of second entry.

You can be more aggressive, no one’s stopping you.

You can even choose to enter the second time above some kind of a previous high or above the breaking of a resistance with volume.

Risky?

Yes.

You do, however, stand a good chance of catching a big move in a very short time.

You see, at this particular point, where you’re choosing to enter, the scrip is pretty hot. People are plunging in. There is no resistance from above. Upward movement is smooth.

Downside is, that those who’ve been sitting on notional profits might start to book these anytime. When that happens, the scrip might plunge well below your high entry and hit your stop. That’s a risk you have to take, since you have decided to enter above a high.

No risk, no gain.

At my more conservative second entry point, the scrip is not as hot. It is meeting with overhead resistance from recent entrants who entered high to then find the scrip correcting, and who are now happy to exit at their entry points as the scrip retraces its upward move. So, I will have to wait longer for a possible second run of the scrip to develop, and this might or might not develop. That’s a chance I have to take. That’s the price of being conservative during second entry. I’m comfortable.

Staying in your comfort-zone at all times adds a lot of value to the rest of your life, even after you shut down your computer. One does carry over one’s emotions, and it’s best if these are under control when you reach home. By trading in your comfort-zone at all times, you make sure that you come home in an emotionally balanced state.

If you can take the second entry above a high or above a resistance while still remaining in your comfort-zone, by all means, please do so. It’s an exciting play, capable of yielding large and quick rewards. I’ve tried it at times, but cannot get a grip on the excitement levels. Thus, I normally choose the more conservative play mentioned above. It’s just a personal choice.

Similarly, I’m very comfortable checking my ace-high trades down through the river. If I’m in a trade and it’s not running, I don’t jump about trying to pull stuff out of a hat in an effort to make the trade run.

If it’s not running, it’s not running. Feed in a trigger stop and shut the computer.

Once you are alerted that the stop’s been hit, look for a new trade.

Keep it simple. That’s another recipe for winning.

# Elephant in a China Shop

Mr. Cool just plugged his trading exam.

Big time, and for the umpteenth time.

It all started out like this. He partied late night. Had one too many, of course. Slept till late morning. Woke up with a headache.

Then he made his first mistake of the new day. He decided to trade.

Two mistakes here, I’d say. Firstly, there was no market preparation. Secondly, health was not up to the mark. Deciding to trade after this backdrop – hmmm – bad call.

The next set of mistakes came right after that. Coolers asked his broker Mr. Ever So Clever the wrong question, this being “What’s moving, mate?”

True to his form was Mr. Cool-i-o. Two mistakes here again. Firstly, you don’t ask your broker technical questions. You tell your broker what to do. You instruct him or her. Asking your broker to instruct you is like asking the second hand car dealer to start ripping you off.

Next, if you are asking Mr. Ever So Clever anything at all, it can be about your funds in transit, or your equity in transit or basically something mechanical. You are not in this business to give Mr. Clever even an inch more of space by asking market questions like what’s moving or what’s going to move.

If you still do, as Mr. Coolovsky obviously proved, then of course Mr. Ever So Clever is going to tout to you what his other clients are squaring off. Specifically illiquid scrips. These need buyers, and if you’ve just announced yourself as a buyer and are asking what to buy, illiquid scrips that others are selling will definitely be touted to you for buying.

Also, a scrip doesn’t have to be illiquid to be touted. One can even be dealing with a very large order which a big player is looking to off-load at a relative peak. A whole set of brokers then does the rounds to get buyers interested.

The bottom-line is this – you are not giving your broker any kind of leeway with regards to what you are buying or selling. You need to do your own technicals, or fundamentals or whatever it is that you do, to gauge what is moving. You don’t ask what is moving.

On many occasions, rallies wind up soon after big players square off. This time was no different. Coolster had loaded himself with a scrip which had already peaked. With no buying pressure to push it up any further, its price started to sink.

Next set of mistakes.

He’d marked a vague stop-loss in his head because everyone had been ticking him off for not applying stops. Specifically our friend Mr. System Addict, remember him? He had been very vocal about it. Because the stop was vague, Mr. Cool wasn’t motivated enough to feed it into his trade as the price neared his stop.

Not feeding in a mental stop – mistake.

As the scrip’s price undershot his mental stop, Coolins did nothing except to hope it would climb back to his buy level, which is when he would exit.

Hoping in a trade – big mistake.

Not taking your loss once stop is undershot – even bigger mistake.

What happened after that can’t be called a mistake anymore (on humanitarian grounds), because Coolinsky had gone into freeze mode. The reason was the sinking scrip. Huge losses were piling up. Coolitzer answered two back to back margin calls in this frozen state of body and mind. He was frozen. Didn’t know what he was doing. Scrip didn’t turn back up before Mr. Cool was cleaned out.

This chronology of events is a kind of worst-case scenario. A grade F minus in an exam.