The 2 BIG Markets To Take Premium From Now
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Michael: Hello everyone, this is Michael Gross at OptionSellers.com here with your November issue of OptionSellers.com podcast. This is a special Thanksgiving edition and, boy, the world has turned upside down since our last radio show. The title of this month’s show is Trump, the Fed, and 2 BIG Markets for Taking Premium Now. I’m here with James Cordier, head trader here at OptionSellers.com. James, welcome to this month’s radio show.
James: Thank you, Michael. It’s always a pleasure and, boy, have things changed since we met last.
Michael: Well, if you’re listening to this before or after you’ve had your turkey-day, we hope to bring you some good insights here for selling options and understanding the commodities markets over the next 30 days. As we all know, on November 8th Donald Trump won the presidency and that has certainly presented a list of pitfalls and opportunities for the markets. We’re going to touch on some of those today. Also, have big Fed announcement coming up in December that will have a big impact on the markets, and we are going to discuss those today. James, why don’t we start out by just you giving your general comments on the election, what you think this means for commodities markets.
James: What’s interesting, Michael, the pollsters both in England for the Brexit and here in the United States for the presidential election really did not get it. They weren’t even close. Hillary Clinton had a 5% lead going into election night and we all know what happened there. So interesting was the initial response to Donald Trump apparently winning the election. First thing was to sell stocks with both hands and buy gold, with the idea that is just so much uncertainty and how can this gentleman out of nowhere come in and run the greatest and largest economy in the world and, lo and behold, everyone said, “You know, maybe he can. He’s a great businessman, he has been very successful, and he doesn’t mind borrowing money and building things.” Certainly, that’s something that could definitely propel the U.S. economy to levels that it hasn’t seen in quite some time. I think, personally, that both the economy and inflation, something we haven’t had grow at any marketable levels in a long time, is going to really open some eyeballs here the next 12-24 months.
Michael: We also have the other big news on the horizon here is the Fed is expected to raise interest rates in December. That could also bring some changes to the market, potential opportunities. Do you have any thoughts on that at this point?
James: Michael, the topic of discussion, I think, going forward will be U.S. growth no longer at 1%, no longer at 1.5%. We think it’s going to have a crooked number for years to come, in other words, 2%, 3%, and 4% growth. What the Federal Reserve does in order to rein in potential inflation, I think, is going to be headlines constantly with the Federal Reserve talking about raising interest rates to fight inflation, but, lo and behold, I think that’s something that the Federal Reserve has just been waiting so long for and I think we’ll, behind closed doors, do everything they can just to stoke it a little bit and let it run hot.
Michael: James, that’s a point you’ve been making in a lot of our articles recently, and recently, also on CNBC here this past Friday, you had a pretty informative interview on the gold market. Your big theme and our big theme here at OptionSellers.com is that we see inflation picking up in 2017 for a variety of reasons, which you, by the way, did outline very well in our gold piece earlier this month. It is on the blog. As far as your outlook on gold, you had a pretty good interview here Friday where I thought you made your case on CNBC. What do you see happening there over the next 90-120 days? How do option sellers who are looking at that possibly take advantage of that?
James: Well, Michael, with what could be a stronger economy in the United States, what will likely be slightly higher interest rates, of course, we’re going to have ¼ point rise here in December – that’s already said and done, it’s like a 99% chance of a rate rise in December. This is what’s been pressuring the gold and silver market here the last 2-3 weeks, was the idea of higher U.S. interest rates. Initially, that is causing a very strong U.S. dollar and when the dollar is strong a lot of investors will dump their gold holdings in order to get possibly into securities. The timing on that is going to be really interesting. When will investors start looking at a slightly higher interest rate with the idea that that’s not going to slow inflation? The timing on this is going to be a little bit tricky this year. Whether inflation starts coming back and the Federal Reserve does little to stop it, that might not be determined until January or February of 2017, but what will get put in place and I think what will be released coming up very soon is the idea of a much stronger U.S. economy, 2.5-3%, and I a lot of people on the inside are going to think the Federal Reserve is not going to stand in the way of letting it run hot. That will be the ignition for gold and silver to start rallying next year is that January, February, we’re not sure, but going forward right now put premium is ginormous for June, October, December of next year. We are really wringing our hands right now with exactly how to position going forward. Gold puts are extremely overpriced and we really like what we see for getting bullish on gold for next year.
Michael: You had some great points and you bring up a good point about the put premium- it’s higher. There are a lot of people bearish right now on gold and, from my perspective, your perspective probably as well, it’s hard to see what they’re looking at. If you do see a growing economy next year, Wall Street Journal had a recent survey showing GDP is expected to jump to 2.2% next year, possibly higher in 2018. They’re looking at inflation jumping 2.2% in 2017, 2.4% in 2018, which may not sound like a lot but, considering it may end up this year about 1.8%, that’s fairly significant as far as the ripple effect it can have. I think you made that case pretty well. As far as people looking at gold and saying, “Should I buy the thing here? Is it underpriced”, what are some of these bears looking at? Why are they bearish gold right now? Why this big premium in the puts?
James: Michael, all anyone can see right now is a strong U.S. dollar. I think the dollar this past week hit a 13-year high. There is much less uncertainty about health of banking and the banking system around the world right now. Over the last 24 months, there was Greece, Italy, and the Brexit and it was negative interest rates in Germany and just certainly things in the market that no one has considered before, so a lot of investors had the idea that, “maybe I should own some gold” with a brighter picture for the U.S. economy and other economies around the world right now. People feel less need to own gold right now. It hasn’t been a hedge against inflation for several years, and that, I think, is the canary in the coal mine where for the first time, I think, in 2017 we will finally be hedging against inflation – something we haven’t seen in practically a decade. People are selling gold right now because of a stronger U.S. dollar, inflation has not been a worry for several years, and that is what we think is about to change and why someone should look at selling puts and going long on gold.
Michael: Of course, put selling strategy where you don’t really have to pick the bottom, you simply go far underneath the market, that’s a little bit of confusion that mainstream investors don’t get. I think, for instance, to go back to your CNBC interview, James, you’re talking about bullish influence for gold in 2017 and one of the commentators there, I believe it was Evan Newmark, was just an all-out bear. Didn’t like gold at all, told a story about how he bought gold index and it went down and he lost 80% and that the market’s no good. Just to dismiss it like that, he has probably never heard of selling options. When people think, “We think gold’s at a value, you should buy gold here”- we’re not necessarily saying that. We’re saying it’s at a level where you can go far underneath it, collect put premium, the longer-term fundamentals support price, and you can really afford to just wait it out and wait for prices to go up. That’s the whole concept of selling options. It’s the same approach you’re taking in the portfolios now, is that correct, James?
James: It is, Michael. So often, its herd mentality that drives prices too high and too low. When gold is rallying, everyone seems to be jumping on board. You have gold bugs coming out of the woodwork, buying gold coins and buying bars that you see on TV all the time. Basically, all we’re doing right now is saying that the value of gold right now is at fair value. That’s without any inflation. The gold market is down from $1,900 all the way down to $1,200 now. We really see extremely strong values selling puts at $9.50 and $9.25 for several months out in 2017. We don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know when the gold market’s about to start rallying on any given day; however, if we do have strong growth in 2017, if we still have a relative easy fed, the gold market is going to look extremely strong as inflation numbers start coming out. Does gold bottom right here at $1,210? We’re not exactly sure, but would we go long by selling strikes at $9.50 and $9.25? We absolutely would. We think that in the 2nd and 3rd quarter of next year, gold will likely be $50-$100 higher than where it is right now. Certainly, that would put these gold options that we’re referring to $300-$350 below the market at that level. Of course, the premiums would be basically cut into maybe 90% from where the current position from where they are right now. We think the timing’s pretty good on it. When does gold start rallying? We’re not exactly sure, but the premiums are extremely large right now because of the down drafts since after the election.
Michael: All right, and of course the title of this podcast is 2 Big Markets. A lot of times we’re talking about, well, last month we talked about soft markets, markets like coffee, cocoa, or we’ll talk about grain market. When you talk about major markets, for instance, like gold and silver where there’s a lot of liquidity, there’s just tons and tons of open interest there, open contracts, a lot of participation there. This is where you can really get creative with a lot of your option selling, and we’re going to talk about second big market today, which is one of our favorites. James, I know it’s one of your seasonal favorites… the crude oil market. This is a big time of year for crude oil. Would you maybe want to explain to our listeners why that’s the case?
James: Crude oil certainly is one of the largest commodities traded worldwide. Energy prices seem to do quite well in the western hemisphere in June and July, as driving season and demand is as its greatest and often a time when supplies are at their least. Going into the 4th quarter of each year, we have something called shoulder season where we’re no longer heating homes in the northeast and we’re certainly not driving as far as long vacations. This is truly the smallest demand season of the year going into December and January. This year, we’ve had oil trading around $40-$45 recently, we have some discussion from OPEC that they’re going to try and reduce production, but each year we want to go long crude oil in December and January for the June and July time frame. That appears to be setting up quite well. Demand is at its least in December and at its most in June. December is when you would sell puts below the June contract with the upcoming driving season. Normally, you can sell puts $15-$20 below the current value in December and January, and you normally see a $10-$15 rise into driving season. Once again, our favorite seasonal play in all of commodities is possibly taking place in the next 30 days going long crude oil for next spring and summer’s driving season.
Michael: Very detailed piece included in the upcoming December newsletter on crude oil that really talks about the seasonal and flushes it out, gives you some background info to trade this writing premium on it, how to get the biggest premium out of this market. James, you make this point well… as far as the seasonal for people listening that may not be familiar with what seasonal tendencies are, seasonal tendencies and commodities are the tendency, not the guarantee, but the tendency that prices tend to move a different direction at a certain time of year. Crude oil, for instance, as refineries start ramping up gasoline production to meet summer driving needs, they start doing it in December and January, and that’s when they start using more crude oil. Demand at the wholesale level rises. That is often coincided with the corresponding rise in price. So, these are the type of things that we look at while we’re analyzing a commodity that they don’t talk about on the news. They want to talk about what’s in the headlines but they don’t talk about these kind of invisible hands that are really pushing supply and demand. When you’re looking at commodities, that’s the kind of thing we look at here- the real underlying forces that are moving price, not necessarily what’s in the headline. James, that lead up to driving season, it appears, from looking at a seasonal chart, that that strength lasts all the way into May or June. Is that how you’ve tended to play it?
James: That is how we see it, Michael. Here in Florida, and we probably have similar prices across the nation right now, we’ve seen gasoline prices dip below $2.00. Once again, you’re looking at gasoline at $1.90-$1.95 per gallon. Next May, June, and July you’re going to see gasoline around $2.50, $2.60, $2.70. I know that sounds like really making a simplistic argument to going long crude oil in December for the June and July timeframe, but it is as simple as that. The idea that prices are near their low around the holidays because demand is at its least. It’s not your imagination.
Michael: As we discussed before, that is the feature piece in your December newsletter. You’ll see the seasonal chart we talked about. Also, one final thing to bring up about seasonals that we are going to talk about in this piece is these seasonal price moves, while they’re not guaranteed, past performance is not indicative of future results, of course, they tend to occur regardless of where the absolute supply of the commodity is… or the demand or the absolute price. They tend to operate independently of that. For instance, this year, gasoline stocks tend to dwindle. They hit a high in the spring and they tend to just fall off right into December. Even though gasoline stocks are higher than they typically are this year, they have followed that exact pattern straight down. This time of year they start to build them again. We have no reason to believe they won’t start building them again this year, and that’s typically what can cause that seasonal move. Going onto the December newsletter for those of you expecting it, you should look for that around December 1st or 2nd if you are on our newsletter mailing list. In addition to the feature oil piece, James, we put together a great piece this month called How to Make Your Portfolio Great Again. Obviously, a little play on the election there, but some really good pieces of advice in there you gave, especially for the upcoming year. I think anyone that’s interested in building a portfolio will gain something from that. Also, you’ll find a nice piece in this month’s letter about using premium ladders, something we haven’t talked a whole lot about on the show, and something we probably should. It is included in the book, The Complete Guide to Option Selling. It really gives you a blueprint for building a consistent income stream, if that’s what you’re looking to get out of this type of investing. James, lets move on to our trading lesson of the month now. We’re going to talk about a strategy that I know is one of your personal favorites. It’s one that we employ often in our portfolios. It’s the strategy of writing covered options. A lot of people that trade stocks think that means owning the stock and selling the option, but that’s not necessarily how you approach it. Lets talk a little bit about writing covered options and commodities and how you like to go about doing that.
James: Michael, during times of low volatility, we don’t always have the luxury of doing a credit-ratio spread, in other words, a one-by-three, which is outlined in The Complete Guide to Option Selling chapter 10. Basically, what we’re doing during times of high volatility, something we just received now after the election, is the luxury of selling a ratio spread. In other words, for example, using our crude oil scenario…. We’re looking to sell the $30 crude oil puts. In order to babysit that position while we’re holding onto it we would buy 1 possibly $33 put. So, in other words, what we’re doing is we’re taking in a great deal of money selling the puts and we’re going to buy 1 contract to protect it while we’re holding it for 30-60 days to make sure that trade is exactly the way we though it would be. What it basically does is it controls the risk on your position and as you no longer need the insurance of buying that option, we can sell it off. In other words, we are taking in anywhere from $600-$700 per contract on our short puts. We’ll spend a little bit of money to hold that position as far as insurance using a long put option. It is basically, in our opinion, the very best way to take in premiums selling options and having a controlled risk parameter while you’re doing it.
Michael: James, a lot of people when we talk about volatility and increasing volatility, mainstream investors that don’t sell options tend to run from volatility and they think, “Oh, I better get out of the market.” What they don’t understand and what option sellers do understand is that can be the time to really make hay as an option seller because it opens up these types of strategies. When volatility increases, that makes the premiums bigger. That means you can actually put on spreads like this and you can actually get a higher probability trade that goes a long way toward smoothing out the equity curve. You can get in a not only higher quality trade, but sometimes a, for lack of a better word, safer trade than you would otherwise. Would you agree with that statement?
James: You know, volatility is certainly the low-hanging fruit for what we do. Any time we have the luxury of selling puts or calls 50-60% out-of-the-money in an area that we’re able to buy a long option to protect that position for just a short period of time, that is just the most low-hanging fruit landscape that we can ask for and we just received that since the election.
Michael: If you’re listening to this discussion, and James and I have had this conversation in private over the last couple of weeks in regard to spreading the markets, and it has been a little bit more difficult to do in 2016. We’ve gone more to writing naked, which is certainly a viable strategy, certainly a good strategy to take premium out of the market, but when you can spread the markets when you get this type of volatility like we just got it opens up a whole new ball game for selling premium. We think that’s open now, we do think 2017 is going to be a much friendlier year to spreading options and certainly looking forward to that. James, I think one final point to make on this topic is you and I both know we get a lot of feedback from people that read our newsletter, maybe see us on TV, where we’ll write an article about something and recommend a possible trade – here’s a way you can take advantage of this – and there’s people out there that aren’t our clients that look at that and may take the trade. They go trade it themselves, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but a lot of those people might not understand is that when we’re trading these markets we are trading them as part of an overall portfolio, as part of an overall strategy and not trading them in a vacuum, like I think some people take and trade on their own. So, when you put a portfolio together, you may be using a combination of different strategies, different strikes, different months, all designed to balance each other. I think that’s one thing that people just take a trade here and there don’t really understand. Would you agree with that?
James: A balanced portfolio is certainly the key to success for any portfolio, whether it’s in stocks, or whether it’s real estate, or whether it’s selling options and commodities. We simply will have a blended cocktail almost, if you will, of our favorite positions that we see. Sometimes, it is a naked short position in coffee, sometimes it’s going long crude oil for the driving season, other times we see extremely large premiums on both the put and call side and in that case we would strangle the market. So, we utilize probably 4 or 5 different strategies and approaches to selling options on commodities and using a blending of all 4 or 5 is usually what a portfolio looks like. I know that’s what is going to be achieved here in the last part of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Right now, premiums are extremely large and it gives us the ability to blend, what we think, is a very balanced portfolio using different strategies in applying short options. We’re really excited about 2017 and making exactly portfolios look just like that.
Michael: All right, well I think that’s a pretty good analysis of spreading options and the strategy of the ratio-credit spread. As James mentioned, if you want to read more about that we have a whole chapter about it in our book, The Complete Guide to Option Selling: Third Edition. In closing, just a few announcements. As you may know or find out here in the newsletter, we unfortunately have no new accounts left available during 2016. All of our accounts are booked. The good news is, if you’re hoping to take advantage of some of these strategies we talked about in the gold or crude oil market, these should spill into January time frame. Would you agree with that, James?
James: Especially what’s happening right now in gold and silver, it looks like an opportunity that even our listeners can take advantage of in January. Of course, if the oil market stays relatively low going into the new year, that is something we would certainly encourage our listeners to take advantage of. We only trade energies twice a year and one of those two times is coming up in the next 30 days. I would definitely encourage people to take a look at that.
Michael: So, if you hear this and you say, “Aw, well I can’t really open the account” these things aren’t here and then they’re gone. They’re opportunities that could probably be available in January. We do have a few openings left in January if you’re looking to possibly have an account then. Consultations for those openings are still being scheduled in December. If you are interested in reserving one of those consultations, they will be taking place before the 15th of the month in December. So, if you’re interested in one of those, give Rosemary a call at our main number… 800-346-1949 to reserve one of those remaining openings. We wish everybody here a very happy Thanksgiving and, James, thanks for your insights this month.
James: My pleasure, Michael. I hope everyone listening has a happy Thanksgiving. Very interesting times we’re going into. Sometimes, people feel that it’s a slow portion to the season coming up, but actually we find it quite exciting as investors are taking advantage of options and we’re going to take the other side.
Michael: We will be back with you for a special New Years edition of the Option Seller Radio Show. Until then, everybody have a happy Thanksgiving, happy holidays, and a great month of option selling.
To learn more about OptionSellers.com and their managed portfolios for high net-worth investors, visit www.optionsellers.com.