Two Market for Year End Option Sales
October 27, 2017 Podcast
Michael : Hello everyone. This is Michael Gross at OptionSellers.com here with your podcast for October 27, 2017. Well, we marked the thirtieth anniversary of the stock market crash of 1987 this month. With stocks hitting new highs every day, a lot of investors are asking that same question – can it happen again. Some people say no, some people say yes but, an interesting prospect comes into play here with the news on tax reform. Will tax reform get passed? How will that affect the stock market? [I’m] here with James Cordier our head trader. James, welcome to the show.
James : Thank you every much, Michael. Good afternoon to you.
Michael : James, what’s your take on this. Everybody’s building up to tax reform – how it could affect stocks, if it does or doesn’t go through. Do you have a viewpoint on this right now?
James : Michael, the discussion about tax reform is certainly extremely business-friendly. Practically all facets of the U.S. economy would likely benefit from this and of course bringing overseas dollars back to the United States, allowing companies to generate more income through investment as well as the one-percenters that sometimes sit on their hands when taxation is too high, a great number of these things could be alleviated if tax reform goes through. Certainly, I think, that’s what a lot of the bullishness is with the stock market right now. It’ll be very interesting to see the next thirty days how that plays out and then what the stock performance is after that.
Michael : I saw this month that Goldman-Sachs projected there’s a sixty-five percent chance tax reform gets passed in 2018 but, there’s also some dire warnings what could happen to stocks if it doesn’t get passed. Do you think there’s a built in assumption right now in equities that this does go through and if it doesn’t, there’s going to be some disappointed bulls out there?
James : I think so. Certainly, the stock market is forward thinking and they are looking at tax reform in the very near future, probably the first half of 2018 like you mentioned. There is no question that the stock market is at precarious levels. If it continues to get positive forward thinking, no reason why it can’t go up but, sooner or later, it’s going to get a dose of medicine that it may not tolerate and tax reform not passing would certainly be one of those possible culprits.
Michael : Alright. Certainly something to watch over the next several months. Let’s hope we can get it done. Topic for this month’s podcast is two markets for year-end positioning and, we’re going to talk about a couple markets here that probably don’t care much about what happens in stocks. They’re completely uncorrelated. As we know from anybody that’s listened to us or read our materials we trade commodities primarily because that non-correlated aspect to stocks and each other. Primarily answering to their own supply-demand fundamentals. Out first market this month we’re going to talk about is the natural gas market. James, this is a market you’ve talked about here previously – the last month or two. But now we’re coming into the time of year where a lot of small speculators, people that aren’t real familiar with commodities often think of kind of that pop analysis, ‘boy, I should buy natural gas heading into winter because it’ll probably go up.’ A good article you wrote this month about that says maybe you want to do just the opposite. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
James : Michael, it’s interesting natural gas just has incredible historic volatility. With hurricanes that came into the Gulf of Mexico several years ago and then some extreme winters that we’ve had a few years ago as well, and that has brought investors looking at things like natural gas going into the winter season. The last few fourth quarters in the United States have been relatively mild. That is one of the reasons why natural gas is down this year going into winter heating season. It appears to us that natural gas supplies however, will be quite ample. We do often with the first cold blast in either November or December you do have speculators, both large and small, run into that market. The bottom line is this: Natural gas is now produced in so many not only nations around the world, but also states here in America. The idea that we could run out of a certain amount of the supply, one mishap or another as far as production, or if there’s a big spike in demand, natural gas can go to the moon, and right now that criteria has really been taken out of this market. We have a great deal of new drilling, especially in Texas. We have natural gas basically being produced as a by-product. So, we think natural gas in the low 3’s is probably fair valued for the market right now. We are going to be very keen to selling calls above the market on again if we do get a bit of spike here in November or December but, we’ve had positions laid out for several months already as high as $7 in natural gas. I know that seems quite high above the market right now and it certainly is however, we probably get one more push up in probably late November, early December, and at that point we could probably be looking at selling calls practically double the price of natural gas. So, we’ll be watching very closely for that when some cold temperatures finally come down from Canada here over the next thirty days, or so.
Michael : Yeah, and talking about supply, the latest supply figures showing natural gas supplies in the U.S. at 3.595 trillion cubic feet. That’s near a historic high for this time of year. So that’s really backing up what you’re saying there as far as supply goes. But we have another dynamic in natural gas as well. I know another thing we look at, especially this time of year, is we have a seasonal tendency and, that seasonal tendency do tend to get a little spike in the fall at some time leading up to winter, as you mentioned, and then natural gas prices historically have tended to decline sharply after that. Can you explain a little bit for our listeners why that tends to happen?
James : Generally, we were building supplies here in the United States just for that reason, for a potential frigid winter, especially in the northeastern United States. If the winter turns out to be anything other than a historic low temperature winter, we have more than enough supplies and of course, natural gas is used to be heating homes and businesses and fueling factories and such. But it never quite seems to be such a demand driven market in the winter as it normally would be possibly several years ago when natural gas supplies weren’t as high as they are right now. The market does seem to make a little bit of a pop to the up side in November/December but, it’s interesting if you look at a fifteen or twenty year seasonal pattern for natural gas, it actually falls into January and February only to bottom out then. So, I basically think that you have bullish investors trying to game the market a little bit before winter. If we have anything other than an extreme historic winter season prices do fall on expectations of the demand not being as high and then, we actually go down in January and February and that often then is the seasonal low for a rally going into spring.
Michael : Very good. So, it’s a combination of fundamental high supply-side factors and we also have a seasonal tendency. And remember, if you’re listening, we’re not trying to predict prices going to be lower. We’re simply trying to predict where they’re not going to go. At this point, James feels that the pressure is going to be on the bulls this season and the highest odds trades are going to be selling those calls high above the market with expectations that prices could be lower but they don’t necessarily have to do that for call sellers to make money. If you’d like to learn more about the natural gas in this trade, you want to check the blog. We have a full-length article there and we talk about different potential trading opportunities there. That’s OptionSellers.com/blog. James, let’s move into our second market this month. That is the coffee market and, this is another market we’ve talked about recently but we’ve had a significant development there during the month of October. We had the event of coffee flowering, which takes place in Brazil – a big time of year for coffee. Do you want to talk about that and what’s going on down there?
James : Michael, the most important seasonal factor to influence coffee prices over the entire year is the weather in Brazil in the months of October and November. We have a record number of coffee trees in the largest producing country of Brazil and, they are waiting for precipitation and that normally takes place in October and November. If, in fact, precipitation does develop during these two months, you have the largest number of trees ever on record waiting to produce cherries, which of course turn into coffee beans later on. What’s so interesting about October is that leading up to October weather patterns in Brazil are normally moving from west to east. A situation develops where it starts moving from south to north and during this transformation, it’s often dry in Brazil and people start getting excited about the fact that we might have a smaller crop next year. Precipitation, as we can see it right now, looks like it’s going to be right on course for October and November. We think that we’re going to probably be looking at the largest production ever coming out of Brazil next year but we will be keen to watch is for some periods of time, maybe a week to ten days, where it’s not raining in Brazil. That’s when you get investors, once again, speculating that it’s too dry there. It’s seems to make the news quite well because that is an important timeframe. So, we will be looking for rallies in coffee in October and November to take a short position by selling call options far out of the market and, we do watch the weather closely and for October and November that’s what we’ll definitely have our eyes on.
Michael : James, we also have a seasonal tendency in coffee, as well, and it’s associated exactly what you talked about – about the flowering season. It tends to be dry. Speculators come in and bid up the market. Then, when rains inevitably arrive, which the almost always do, that anxiety comes out of the market and you often see coffee prices fall. Now, we’ve had coffee – hasn’t really had a rally this year. Is that because of the higher expected supply this year?
James : Michael, it is. Everyone knows that this is going to be the “on” cycle for Brazil. That is, when the tree has a smaller seasonal production, and then a larger seasonal production the following year. We are coming onto the “on” cycle in 2018. So, the idea that Brazil could produce sixty million bags of coffee this coming year, at a time when U.S. supplies are at all-time highs, the combination is really lethal for higher coffee prices, we think. You could get a seasonal weather rally. It could happen in October/November but longer term, the reason why coffee prices haven’t rallied this year is because they are looking down the barrel of extremely high supplies and the United States, of course, is the largest consumer of coffee in the world and, we’re sitting on the highest level of coffee beans in thirteen years. If Brazil does get the rain that they’re expected to in the next thirty to sixty days, we’re looking at a bearish coffee scenario for the next six to twelve months. – Would really enjoy seeing a little bit of weather premium built in in the next thirty days. That would be something that would really play into our hands, I think.
Michael : Okay. So, you and I know there’s a lot of different things we’re doing in coffee right now for clients – different strategies we can use, whether it’s up or down but, the guy sitting at home, he’s listening to us and he wants to maybe try out some trades, look at the coffee market, does he wait for a rally into the end of the year? Or, does he go ahead and sell calls now with the expectation that if it does rally, it’s not going to go too far?
James : I would start selling calls, just a small position, right now and then hope and wait for a rally. The coffee market is sitting right near twelve-month lows. I think it’s just a couple pennies off the lowest price of the year. There will be ideas of dry conditions. There’ll be talk about the weather is not just right and, this is the critical time of the year. It just simply takes a little bit of the news media to get a hold of weather that isn’t quite perfect and they will talk about it and, I would expect coffee will probably get a ten to fifteen cent rally this November, possibly December. That would be the time to really lay out coffee calls, in my opinion.
Michael : Okay. For those of you who do want to read more about the coffee market and some suggested trades we have in there for option sellers, you’ll want to read this month’s OptionSellers newsletter. That is the November edition. It should be out at or around November 1st. If you’re currently not on our subscriber list, you can get a free trial copy of that at OptionSellers.com/newsletter and also read our other features we have in there this month – a good piece in there as well on how to use technical analysis in your option selling. Obviously, we focus a lot on fundamental supply/demand of the markets, which is probably your most important aspect but, there are some technical tricks you can use to really help boost your odds and we talk about that in this month’s issue. James, why don’t we go ahead and move into our lesson for this month. Probably a valuable lesson to people, especially new option sellers that haven’t sold a lot of options, and that is a concept we talk about in our book, which is staggering or layering options through different expiration months. James, I know this is a strategy that, I don’t know if you invented it but, you certainly in my opinion came close to perfecting it. Do you want to talk a little bit about what staggering is?
James : Michael, it’s interesting when we have new clients join our firm, I from time to time I’ll get a new client say, “James, how many trades do you do in a month?” Or, “How many trades will we be doing in a year, as far as positioning the portfolio goes?” Basically, we trade, of course and identify opportunities based on fundamentals. So, what we might do is sell a six to twelve month option in coffee or, natural gas or, gold and, if we see the type of decay that we project, often three months later the option will have lost already maybe 50% of its value. The fact that we trade based on fundamentals, we will now look at that exact same positioning three to six later and, if the fundamentals are the same, we will start doing what we call layering. In other words, right now we’re in the month of October, we might possibly be selling June options for natural gas, or for coffee, or for gold, and as we turn into 2018 we get into say January or February – if those options are behaving like they normally should, they’ve lost probably over half of their value – at that point, we lake a look at the price of the same commodity. If the fundamentals are the same, we will then sell six months out and use the exact same strike price, or very close to it, collecting the same amount of premium, or very close to it, and basically just positioning on fundamentals. So, after the pipeline is filled, if you will – after you have five or six selections in commodities that are working for you – that is what we call layering. Three months later the original options are now 10% of what we sold them for, we might buy them back. The options that we sold on the second round, they may have decayed 50% and, what are we doing now? We’re selling the next six months out. And that is what we call layering. Basically, a brand new portfolio is just basically filling the pipeline. As you go forward, three months, six months, nine months out, you start having options decaying and then coming off every three to six months.
Michael : You make a good point there. You have expirations expiring every couple months and some cases, every month. It’s really smoothing out that equity curve, if you’re the investor that has your portfolio structured this way but it’s also spreading the risk around so you don’t have all your risk concentrated in certain expiration months or even certain markets and ultimately, I think that the reason you adopted it James, it’s really helped produce more consistent results. Would you say that’s the case?
James: It is. You certainly don’t want to…you’re not scouring different commodities and different options and make one big bet on what you like that particular month or period of time. Being in a basket of commodities, selling options sometimes 50% out of the money, granted you’re selling a lot of time when you’re doing that but, generally speaking, the price of coffee has little to do with the price of gold, and gold has little to do with price of Apple stock. It’s a great way to diversify.
Michael : Alright and if you’re listening and you’d like to learn more about the concept of layering or staggering your options, you will want to consult The Complete Guide to Option Selling, Third Edition. You can get that on our website at a discount to Amazon or bookstores. That link is OptionSellers.com/book. We thank you all for listening this month. We do have an announcement here as far as final openings for new accounts for 2017. We are currently filling our final new account interviews. They’re taking place during the month of November. If you are interested in potentially opening an account in 2017, you’ll want to contact Rosemary Veasey, our office manager, at 1-800-346-1949. I believe there are still a few openings in November for those final interviews. James, I really want to thank you this month for your insights.
James : My pleasure, Michael. Always enjoy bringing information to our listeners and showing them maybe a smarter way to invest.
Michael : Great! For all you listening out there, have a great month of option selling and we will talk to you next month.