Fast Cash From Selling Options in Overbought or Oversold Markets
July 2018 Podcast
James Cordier and Michael Gross
Michael : Hello everybody. This is Michael Gross of OptionSellers.com. I am here for your July Podcast. This month’s podcast will be in audio format. I’m here with head trader James Cordier. James, welcome to the show.
James : Thank you very much, Michael. Always happy.
Michael : Great. The topic of this month’s podcast is Fast Cash from Selling Options in Over-Bought or Over-Sold Markets. James, as you and I know, we’re not really in the business of looking for fast cash, but we’re more in the business of long-term investments. Every once in a while, when you’re selling options, there comes certain opportunities where there might be a place to sell the option and you see that time decay in just the first 30-60 days. Often times that can be when markets get to an extreme, like some markets we’re seeing now. Wouldn’t you agree with that?
James : Michael, it’s interesting, we are very long-term investors. When we’re looking at seasonal positions or headlines that create a slightly shorter-term opportunity, then we do look at things like timing and certainly all the headlines going on right now with trade are probably offering some really good opportunities of the slightly shorter variety and we’re looking forward to taking advantage of those over the next 10 days or so.
Michael : Great. I know, as you and I have been discussing, as are most investors right now, the big topic is trade tensions with China. I don’t know if we call it a trade war yet, but certainly having got some investors attention and pushing the stock market around. Maybe talk a little bit about how that’s affecting commodities right now.
James : Michael, if this doesn’t turn into a trade war, this is the most well played game that I’ve ever seen between the U.S. and China. I mean, we are right to the brink of what could be quite a significant trade policy coming down the pike. It is definitely worrying some investors that are looking at certain parts of the global economy. Uncertainty is always not welcome. Anyone who is looking at investing for their company or inventories or what have you, when they see uncertainty they usually hold back and that is probably going to be swelling some economic growth globally if this doesn’t come to a head here in the next week or two.
Michael : Okay. As most of you listeners know, as far as being an option seller, it doesn’t really matter to you which way the market or prices are moving, especially when you’re trading different uncorrelated commodities. Often times, situations like this can create opportunities and that’s what we’re going to talk a little bit about today. James, would you like to go ahead and move into our feature markets?
James : Michael, certainly. Natural gas is one of the markets that are very near and dear to our hearts. In the very heart of winter and the very heart of summer, which is coming up relatively soon, we did take positions in natural gas much earlier this year, trying to sell put premium. We were fairly successful doing that. Generally, the market bottoms in winter and rallies into spring and the natural gas market did that. Right now, we are looking at a seasonality for natural gas. It has had a very nice rally over the last 3 months or so and basically a lot of headlines talk about the need for natural gas in summer for cooling homes and cooling businesses, of course. We think that’s quite overplayed. Generally speaking, when it’s extremely cold in the U.S. or throughout Europe, demand for natural gas does spike and that is real. As far as buying natural gas for summer cooling, I don’t think the numbers dive exactly. It takes approximately 25% of the natural gas to cool a home in the summer as it does to heat a home in the winter so, generally speaking, when natural gas rallies because the warmer temperatures are ahead, that’s usually something you want to fade. Of course, at that time, inventories are usually being built in a very big way. So, we’re looking at selling natural gas calls over the next 2-4 weeks to take advantage of that seasonal position.
Michael : Yeah, you make a good point there, James. The seasonal tendency for natural gas used to get a little bit of a spike in summer and, yeah, you can but it seems like the tendency over the last 5-10 years seems to be more of, as they build that inventory into spring and summer as those supplies rise, it tends to just kind of overlook the summer demand for just the reason you mentioned. Now we’re seeing a seasonal where the seasonal prices tend to start declining in June and keep going right through fall so it appears they’re following that pattern right now. Now, we’re not at a particularly high level of natural gas supplies right now. From what I’m seeing we’re a little bit under where we typically are this time of year. Is that what you’re seeing as well?
James : We are. Natural gas supplies in the U.S. are under the 5-year average and they’re below levels from last year, not a great amount, but what a lot of market participants are looking at is all the drilling all around the U.S. Of course, the bi-product of that is natural gas. A lot of investors and a lot of the analysts in natural gas feel that $3 natural gas is probably a fairly decent price considering that drillers are getting it for free as a bi-product. So, it used to be that natural gas was produced in the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, and when you had demand shocks it really moved the market a great deal. The beauty of option selling is that some of that volatility is still in the market even though we’re now producing natural gas all over the country. We have just massive fines in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kansas, the Dakotas, Pennsylvania, Ohio. The supply is always going to be there for natural gas right now and taking advantage of small swings, up and down, during the year should be fruitful for selling options and that’s why we think selling calls over the next few weeks is probably going to be a very good idea.
Michael : You know, James, you made several good points there. In talking about the seasonal tendency, when we go back to where you were talking about selling puts in the spring when we recommended that in the newsletter, prices have rallied almost 10% since that point. Now, with supplies building, as you said, it can start putting a little bit more pressure on the price of natural gas, at least that is what you’re expecting. We’re going back to Fast Cash from Selling Options in Over-Bought Markets… I think two points, and maybe you can hit on both of them, one is natural gas, as of at least a couple days ago, hit a pretty good level where it was and looked pretty over-bought, especially for this time of year when you have a seasonal. Technically, the market is over-bought, that tends to push those option premiums up higher to where they get to an over-valued level at some point, especially with a little jolt like that. Also, natural gas is probably one of the markets that would be least affected by any type of Chinese trade tariff. Would you agree with that?
James : Michael, the natural gas market that we trade here in the United States is purely a domestic market right now. It’s not coffee, it’s not steel, it’s not sugar. Those are all world traded markets and the natural gas market is probably 99% influenced by the supply and demand that happens within the 50 states. Of all the markets that we follow, several won’t be affected by the tariffs and natural gas is definitely the bull’s-eye of the one that will probably deem what goes on with tariffs probably be the least of all of them that we follow.
Michael : Okay. So, we’re here at the beginning of a potential seasonal downturn here, at least that’s what we might be looking for. When you talk about this, and for those of you listening, natural gas is the feature market in our upcoming July newsletter, which you can keep an eye out for. It should be out on or before the 1st of July in your mailbox or e-mail box. James, in that, you’re recommending taking a look at selling call strikes at the $4 or above level. Right now natural gas is under $3, so we’re looking at strikes at least 25% above the current market. So, you’re not really calling a top right here, what you’re saying is, “Hey, it’s a 3, it’s not going to go to 4, especially at a time of year where supplies are building.”
James : Michael, it certainly does look like an opportunity. The natural gas market has risen off the lows that we spoke of earlier this year and the ones you just mentioned recently. Natural gas was down to $2.50 and $2.55 earlier this year. Right now it’s approximately $3 so it has had a decent rally. We’re looking at strikes at $4, $4.50, and $5 and we think that the time to probably jump into those positions is really soon. We have had a nice rally in natural gas. A lot of it is based off of the hot temperatures that we’ve had in the Midwest and the Northeast recently. I’m looking at the 14-28 day forecast and it cools off quite a bit. While I don’t make that big of a deal over the temperatures exactly, a lot of traders do. That’s why I think we got this rally and we really like selling it here right about this level that we’re at right now.
Michael : We go back to what we’re talking about here… The Fast Cash in Over-Bought Markets. Even if you’re going out deeper out-of-the-money contracts, which you recommend going out to December and maybe even March contracts, if we do get a typical seasonal move, which there’s no guarantee that happens, but if the price does and we get a pretty decent price drop over the next 30-45 days, I’m guessing what the market is still looking a little bit over-bought, you could see some pretty significant decay in those options. Is that what you’re looking at as well?
James : It is. The decay on these options that we’re considering would probably, if in fact natural gas does have a slight decline going into the 3 rd and 4th quarter, we would expect these options to lose a great deal of their value well before the winter timeframe. So, we are probably anticipating decent decay where these options might start out at $600, might have a value of maybe $100-$200 before we even reach the winter season. As far as our looking at the market, that’s a relatively short position for us and we think the decay in selling these options over the next 60-90 days could be very good.
Michael : Okay, good. And again, those of you interested in taking a look at this market and what James is describing here, you will want to take a look at the July Newsletter. It is in the premium sniper column there. James, let’s move into our second market, which is the soybean market. If you want to talk about a market affected by or potentially affected by a Chinese trading tariff, this would certainly be it. You have soybeans just off the rumors since President Trump announced he wanted to have another potential tariff on some Chinese products up to the tune of, I believe, it’s 200 billion… is that correct?
James : That’s the latest that I’ve heard on the wire today, yes.
Michael : Okay. If that has stoked fears that China is going to retaliate and put tariffs on U.S. products. Soybeans, one of the main markets that a lot of investors fear may be in the cross hairs because we export a lot of soybeans to China. Soybeans have declined sharply on these fears just in the last few weeks. That and the fact that planting has gone nearly perfectly in the Midwest. Right now, the weather is ideal so we’re looking at fundamentals but we’re also going to be looking at this China pressure, but you’re thinking they might have pressed, over-pressed, on the downside right now.
James : Michael, it’s so interesting the gamesmanship taking place out of China right now is just being played to perfection. We certainly have the ability to see China import soybeans from other locations, of course, Argentina and Brazil. I think we spoke of that earlier this year. What’s so interesting is the amount of livestock that has to be fed both corn and soybeans. That will not change, but the brinkmanship coming out of China right now is excellent. I can’t believe I’m going to mention this, but here I go. There are elections coming up in the United States and with China playing the tariff card on soybeans and watching those markets just absolutely fall out of bed, that is going to certainly be a bit of an irritant to the Midwest and the great plains in the United States right before elections. Don’t think that these farming states don’t know that. We just saw soybeans fall practically 20% in value with corn and soybeans over the last 30 days on these tariff scares. The fact that soybeans are a global market and there’s only so many to go around, while we were bearish soybeans earlier this year, it really looks like that might be overdone on the downside. If this is simply brinksmanship and this is simply bargaining going on, this fall in soybeans, the fall in price is probably just about run its course. We were just pushing $11 on soybeans. Now they’re in the high $8’s. We think that this might be a good place to look at selling puts in the next week or two.
Michael : You know, James, just to point out in your feature article in the Spring, you suggested investors selling calls in soybeans based on, one, the seasonality and, two, what you mention and you hit it right on the head, there was no guarantee China was going to put tariffs on U.S. soybeans but if they did or if people believe they were going to that would just be an added bonus for the trade and really sink soybean prices. It looks like you hit it right on the head. That is exactly what happened right in the middle of seasonality where soybean prices tend to decline anyways because when they wrap up harvest, that anxiety goes out of the market, prices tend to decline. They don’t tend to decline as much as they did this year and that looks like it’s right off that China fear, just like you said. You’re talking about the elections, there’s a possible factor that could mitigate that, but we’re also looking at the core fundamentals where we have ending stocks this year 385 million bushels projected for 18-19, next year. It’s not high but it’s substantially lower than we’ve been for the last couple of years. So, when you look at the longer-term fundamentals, we’re not that bearish. I think you’re right. It looks like the market probably overreacted here. If they would slap tariffs on do you think that would bring another leg down or do you think we may have already priced that, at least for the most part?
James : Michael, this is truly speculation on my part, but I think all the leaders around the world agree that major tariffs that are being discussed right now are going to simply be detrimental to a lot of the economies. When you look at the locations like Japan and Europe, which are starting to slow already, so many of these nations and their economies are certainly in need of a strong U.S. economy and a strong Chinese economy. Without those they slow down. I’m starting to think that this is simply negotiating to hopefully get a better deal, I think, is what the administration is thinking. We really like the idea that soybeans are going to be in very good demand later this year. As livestock feeding continues, that has certainly not changed at all. As far as I can tell, we’re going to have record demand for soybeans this year and the beginning of next and this very steep fall-off is probably going to be a good selling opportunity for puts. In other words, taking a bullish position from these very low levels coming up quite soon.
Michael : Yeah, that’s a great point, as well. Record global demand for soybeans this year and the market tends to be discounting that because it’s been all wrapped up in this China story. When you have record demand you have very little room for any type of weather error or weather problem developing. Right now, this market is pricing in a perfect harvest, it’s pricing in perfect weather, and they are just sinking the price. In addition to what you’re saying as far as maybe this whole China thing is a little bit overblown, I think the core fundamentals here are enough to prop it up at least from the levels it has been to the last couple of days. Just looks like a market that, when we’re talking about over-sold markets, this looks like an extreme example of that.
James : You know, what we started out saying is headlines can often create slightly shorter-term opportunities. The headline right now with the potential tariff is certainly one of those. Record demand, that’s not about to change. The demand for production of livestock throughout Asia, that’s not changing, that’s only growing. Many metals and other soft commodities, these can be transfixed into using something else. Coffee supplies, we can use coffee supplies from 20 years ago. It winds up at Starbucks and McDonald’s and such. Cocoa supplies can be used from 15 years ago. Sugar can be stored for a decade. That’s not the case with soybeans and feeding livestock and, thus, there really is no alternative for corn and soybeans. That’s why we think these headlines are probably going to be an opportunity to be selling puts here pretty soon.
Michael: Okay. One final point I wanted to hit on the soybean market, and you made this in your article this week on the soybean market, which is on the blog. If you’re listening and you’d like to read the article and James’ suggested trade, you can see that at www.OptionSellers.com/Blog. It is our soybean feature market this week. The point you made, James, is even if China slaps a tariff on U.S. soybeans, they still need the beans so they’re just going to have to go to Brazil or somewhere else, Argentina, to buy their soybeans. So, they’re still getting the soybeans there, the U.S. beans get cheaper and they become more attractive to other importers and it’s really just a shift of who’s buying from who, but on the overall global stage it doesn’t really have that big of an impact on soybean supply and demand. I think that’s a great point you made.
James : Michael, that’s exactly right. Whether the soybeans from Argentina and Brazil and soybeans from the United States go to Europe, it really doesn’t matter. We’re still talking about the same global supply and the same global demand. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter which soybeans are going to what part of the world. It’s a supply factor and it’s a global market. I think that’s an excellent point that you made, as well.
Michael : So, as far as the trade goes now, we’re talking about again Fast Cash from Option in an Over-Sold Market. As we said, this market definitely fits the definition of over-sold and I’m not necessarily calling a low there but you’re willing to go $1-$1.50 below the current price and sell puts. As far as a trading strategy goes, what are you looking at there?
James : Michael, as long as the market is still considering record demand and they certainly are, that part hasn’t changed, as long as the U.S. is now going to be the main grocery supporter for soybeans as Argentina and Brazil runs out, we’re looking at selling puts and soybeans at levels that the market hasn’t traded in years. We’re looking at selling soybean puts around $7.80-$8 a bushel. We think that the market’s going to probably be in the low $9 to mid $9 level later on this year. That would be putting these puts out-of-the-money by 20-25% and I think that’s a really safe basket, if you will, for us to be outside of the money. As far as soybeans falling down to $8 or $7.80, that would be a real eye opener. That would really set up a long-term position to sell puts then even lower. We don’t think that’s going to happen and we really like the opportunity that we think it coming up at selling puts around the $8 level.
Michael : As far as fast time decay, maybe and maybe not, but I’m of the opinion, and you tell me if you agree, that this market has gone so far in ignoring the weather, which has been ideal, but if you get one little weather blip this summer in Indiana or Illinois, I think the market is so oversold that you could easily see a $0.50-$1 rally in soybeans over a period of just a couple weeks. You know what it can get like in the summer. If that’s the case, you could get a pretty fast decay on these, as well.
James : Michael, you mentioned just a short time ago that we have near ideal conditions in the Midwest, the growing regions of the United States. We will have a week or two of hot weather coming to Indiana or Ohio or Iowa this July and August and that’s all it takes. They show this ring of fire on weather maps later this summer and up go soybeans, probably $0.50 a bushel. Shortly after that, if in fact that happens, I think you’d see really rapid decay on the puts that we’re looking at selling at this $8 level.
Michael : Of course, if you’re an option seller and you are selling puts down at the $7.80-$8 level that James is talking about, all these things we’re talking about don’t need to happen. The only thing you need to happen is for the price to stay above your strike. So, any of these scenarios could play out and, as an option seller, you still take the premium. So, that’s really why we sell options in the first place. There’s many ways to make money with it, there’s only one thing that can happen for you to lose and I know that’s why we started selling options in the first place, James.
James : Michael, we’ve often said the market can go up, down, or sideways, just as long as it doesn’t exceed your strike price and, of course, there are a lot of books talking about how often they do expire worthless. You do keep the premium, you’re the house, and from time to time someone leaves the casino with a smile on their face, but often it’s upside down from that price.
Michael : Of course, those of you listening, if you’d like to read more about our strategies, the strategy we recommend for selling options in commodities as an overall investment approach, you’ll want to pick up a copy of our book, The Complete Guide to Option Selling. It’s now in its third edition through McGraw-Hill. You can get it on our website at www.OptionSellers.com/Book. You’ll get it at a discount there, a lower price than you’ll get it on Amazon or at the bookstore. James, I think that’s it for this month. I think we’ve covered quite a lot of ground. If you’re and investor and you’re looking at these markets, certainly follow up on our blog where you’ll see the written parts of these or the newsletter. Take them on your own merit. We will be incorporating these into our trading plan for our managed portfolios this month. Speaking of managed portfolios, our waiting list is now out to September; however, we are still booking consultations through July and August for those September openings. So, if you are interested or thinking about opening an account, now is the time you’ll want to book your consultation. We’ll have those interviews and we’ll see if you match the profile for a client. James, as far as one final parting comment here, as far as this volatility goes that’s coming from the Chinese trade tariff worries, does that make it a better or a worse time to be selling options?
James : Michael, once or twice a year inevitably there are headlines that create volatility. A couple years ago it was the talk of the Brexit, there was Switzerland leaving the Euro currency, it was 2 years ago the surprise election results. These headlines seem to come around once or twice a year and a lot of investors feel that while that type of uncertainty is something I don’t want to invest in, but that plays into our hands perfectly. The fundamentals of the markets that we follow change very in small fashion, you know, 1%-2% moves in commodities, but to listen to headlines it’s like the markets are moving a great deal. That plays right into our hands. We sell options so far out in time and so far out in price. We love headlines like this and tariff talks with China is just the second one for this year and we really enjoy having headlines like this. It causes uncertainty, it causes high premiums, and that is something that has been feeding us for the last several years. One or two headlines like this every year or two is just fine with me.
Michael : All right. I hope everybody got something out of this month’s podcast that you can use or help you decide if option selling is a good strategy for you and your overall portfolio. Again, if you would like to book one of our remaining consultations in July or August, you can call the office at the main number… 800-346-1949 and speak with Rosemary. If you are calling from overseas, that number is 813-472-5760. You can also e-mail an inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll be able to hear this podcast on our blog but you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel and/or iTunes and hear it there. James, thank you for all your insights this month.
James : Michael, it’s my pleasure.
Michael : For everybody listening, have a great month of option selling. We will talk to you in 30 days. Thank you.