Will Gold’s Rally Continue?
Michael : Hello, everybody. This is Michael Gross of OptionSellers.com here with your monthly podcast for September 22nd, 2017. I’m here with head trader, James Cordier. James, welcome to the show.
James : Thank you very much, Michael. Always looking forward to them.
Michael : Boy, we had kind of a quiet summer and then, all of a sudden, in September a lot of news stories breaking and we saw a lot of volatility start to come into the commodities markets, at least in some commodities, not so much in stocks. James, do you want to talk a little bit about that? Tell us what’s going on.
James : Michael, that’s a really good point you make. Often, they call them the dog days of summer just for that reason. A lot of investors and traders alike are kind of taking off June, July, and August. As we went from August to September, a whole lot has been hitting the wire. We have Kim Jong Un lighting off his rockets, yet again. We have interesting things happening in Washington D.C. lately, and there’s always a lot of talk about the value of the stock market, how high it is, and, of course, interest rates in the value of the dollar. Practically hitting on all cylinders here as we start getting ready for the 4th quarter of the year.
Michael : Obviously, as commodities options sellers, that is a good thing. If you’re listening, you certainly want volatility. That’s what makes those deep out-of-the-money premiums fatten up a little bit. In addition to what you talked about, James, I know we had a couple hurricanes blow through here, too. It did some things with energy prices, orange juice, and I know you were on CNBC this month talking about that and also Fox Business. A couple commodities there were affected by the storms.
James : You know, Michael, you really have to stay informed being a commodities investor or trader. 12 years ago, when we had these hurricanes hit New Orleans, just amazing havoc on oil production and natural gas production. A decade later, practically the same regions are getting hit and people racing to the options screen to buy calls in natural gas and buy calls in crude oil. The storm that hit Houston did absolutely nothing to commodity prices, such as natural gas and crude oil. It did pump up the price of gasoline, as you can imagine with the refiners going down. Boy, was that a great opportunity to sell options as people were watching the news and the weather channel that weekend.
Michael : James, that’s a good teaching lesson, too, because I know something you talk about is the people that trade by following the news, and what you always talk about is if you know the real underlying fundamentals, those can be opportunities to go in and sell premium on people selling off the news that aren’t really familiar with the real story and how that could likely really affect prices.
James : Well, it’s interesting, Michael, we just go through our day to day business and we’re familiar with the new production areas of natural gas and crude oil. Basically, the Gulf of Mexico 10 years ago was everything, and now they’re producing oil in the Dakota’s, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arizona now for a huge find. You know, you definitely want to be on top of that when the normal investor comes in racing to buy energy calls. We’re more than happy to sell them based on the fact that we probably felt very little impact from the storm this year, and certainly that’s kind of the way that played out.
Michael : Well, great. If you’re listening and you’d like to watch James’ interviews on both Fox and CNBC on those commodities, they are available on the media page of our website – that’s OptionSellers.com/media. James, let’s go ahead and move into our first market this month. The gold market: a market that even a lot of non-commodity traders follow. We’ve seen some pretty good strength in the gold market through, not just this year, 2017. Gold prices have been pretty strong, but especially through the months of July and August. We’re off a little bit now in September, but what’s going on there? What’s driving this rally right now?
James : Well, Michael, as we often talk about, a lot of investors want to be diversified from the stock market. I think a lot of investors have a particular amount of money in, of course, securities; however, when they are watching all the situations around the world happening and playing out on TV, they see a falling U.S. dollar. The dollar is down some 12% or 13% this year, if you can believe that. Basically, the gold market will mirror to the opposite direction whatever the dollar is doing. You throw in Kim Jong Un and you’re really causing some jitters. It really wasn’t a big surprise that the gold market did rally some $100 over the last month or two. It has been putting on a pretty decent show. It has actually outpaced the stock market for the first time in several years.
Michael : James, I know gold is one of your favorite markets to trade, especially given the current levels of volatility. We’re going to give listeners a view into some of our privately managed portfolios with this trade, but that’s fine… we think it’s a good teaching example. I know you had written strangles on there, we had talked about it this summer, it was on our website, you had talked about writing gold strangles. We had some of those on the market that started to rally, and you said, “No, we’re going to let it go. We’re not going to close out those positions on the call side just because we’re getting a little strength here.” Do you want to explain that position and your rationale behind that decision?
James : Michael, a strangle on some of the commodities that we follow really gives the client an incredible amount of staying power. If you’re long gold from $950 by selling puts at that strike price and you’re short gold, for example at $1,800 an ounce by selling calls at that strike price, it really gives an extremely large window for the market to stay inside. Generally, gold over the last year or two has been kind of meandering up $25 and down $25. With the recent weakness in the dollar, and the geopolitical concerns that we’ve had, especially with North Korea, the gold market rallied real rapidly- practically $100. It went from $1,260 to basically $1,360 an ounce almost overnight. Our short positions did pressure us a little bit. Basically, I really had a strong feeling that the 3rd leg of pricing gold is inflation. Yes, you can have a weak dollar- that’s bullish for gold. Yes, you can have geopolitical concerns- that’s bullish for gold. The missing piece to the gold market rally is inflation. Basically, gold is a hedge against inflation and, as we all know, Japan tried creating inflation with 0% interest rates. Here in the United States we’ve done the same, and there simply isn’t any. We thought that the rally in gold would be short lived and we’re not exactly sure, day to day, where it’s going to travel to, but we backed off a quick $60 or $70 over the last couple of days and we’re very glad we stayed with our short positions in gold. It’s not getting to $1,800, at least it doesn’t look like from my desk, and any time it rallies we’re going to be likely selling it over the next 6-12 months based on the same idea- no inflation.
Michael : Boy, that’s some great lessons in there if you’re listening and you’re just learning how to sell options. James is talking about selling calls deep out-of-the-money, high above the market. We had strikes on both sides, puts and calls, so when gold market rallied, if you’re short futures you’re probably getting stopped out there, or even ETFs you’re taking a beating, whereas our strategy with selling both sides of the market, even though those calls got a little bit of pressure, the puts were making up for some of that on the backside. When gold inevitably starting coming back down, the premium comes out of those in a hurry, doesn’t it James?
James : It really did. A lot of the calls that we were short were double the value that we put them on at. We are now profitable our short gold calls in less than a week. It’s just a great lesson for people listening in and following us and for ourselves, as well. We learn on every single trade we make. Using our compasses, we thought staying short was the right idea and we continue to think that probably through the end of the year, as well.
Michael : Good. Something else you bring up there… the option doubled, we held them, and a lot of people that read the book or read some of our materials say, “Well, I thought you were supposed to get out when it doubled.” That’s an excellent point and we’re going to be talking about that a little bit later today and today’s lesson. One of the reasons is we had a strangle on so we had a lot more leeway, but we’re going to talk about risk management here and some more advanced strategies later in the podcast here. For now, James, I know I said I wouldn’t put you on the spot, but the title of today’s podcast is Will gold’s rally continue? What are your thoughts here through the end of 2017? I know our job isn’t to pick what the market’s going to do, we only have to pick what it’s not going to do, but for people listening, maybe they don’t do this yet, maybe they’re thinking about selling options, but what’s your gut feel here? Do you think a rally continues through the end of the year or do you think we may be reaching some value levels here?
James : Michael, that is a great question. The gold market is something near and dear to many investors. You can talk to clients about the price of cocoa, they might not be familiar with where that’s trading at, or soybeans, but a lot of investors know what the price of gold is trading at for one reason or another. They probably have some stashed away or it’s something they might be interested in purchasing. The gold market has a personality. It’s not necessarily all supply and demand, like soybeans or crude oil or coffee, a lot of it is perception. One week ago, the North Koreans were slapped with the harshest situations as far as deterring trade, you know, going to that country. The sanctions that were levied on them were thought to be the strongest ever. Two days later, Kim Jong Un is lighting off missiles. That seemed to really ratchet up the rhetoric and the tensions that day. The gold market traded up $7 that night. The following day after the day traders were able to get a hold of the price of gold and trade it, it closed lower the day after Kim Jong Un was lighting off missiles. That tells you that that market had topped out. Certainly, hindsight is 20/20, but it did fall some 7 days in a row since then. That tells us that a very important top was made in gold for the remainder of the year. I think fair value for the beautiful shiny yellow metal is probably $1,275 to $1,300 and we have a decent economy, we have no inflation, we have interest rates about to rise, and that is going to take a lot of the steam off of the bulls, as far as the gold market’s concerned. If you read the Wall Street Journal just 2 weeks ago, it went on and on about small investors are long, ETFs are long, large investors are long. If you follow along with that, investors listening to us today, that basically means anyone who wanted to buy the market was already in, and you’re going to see large investors pull out and take profits when that’s the case. I think that’s what we just saw and we just made an important top in gold that will probably last at least the next 3-6 months.
Michael : All right, that makes a lot of sense. As far as investors maybe looking to trade gold or maybe use some of our strategies, obviously a rally like this helps us because it pumps premium into those call options. Even after the sell-off, do you think there’s still an opportunity there for investors to go in and still take premium on the calls side of this market?
James : I think so. We have a couple of important announcements by the FED over the next day or two. We have some very large decisions made by the EU coming up over the next week or two. You can basically play the middle of gold right now if you just can’t fathom being short the gold market and you can’t fathom having a short gold call in your portfolio. We really like selling the 1050 gold puts, in other words the $1,050 gold put strike. We think that’s a great idea, but we are neutral to negative gold. We don’t see it going that low. That’s some $200-$250 lower than where we are right now. That’s a great window for gold bugs to participate in being in the shiny metal. Being neutral to negative I would sell the $1750-$1800 gold calls. I think that is a very low hanging fruit and I think the beginning of next year those would start being very profitable for anyone selling those.
Michael : So, that’s for gold. That’s about a $700-$800 profit window that gold prices can move around and still those options would expire worthless. That’s a pretty wide range.
James : You know, trying to get gold’s next $25 move is difficult. Can you imagine how many small investors and large investors alike poured into gold here the last 30 days? They’re probably going to be waiting maybe a year or two to see the market come back to that level or get slightly above it. Positioning yourself $500 above and $200 below, I know that’s not the typical investment in gold, but if you take a look at it, it might be for more investors than what they might think.
Michael : Good. James, I know you’ve been tweaking some strategies here. Some of our strategies we’re going to be using for our privately managed clients as far as option selling goes, but if you heard James’ commentary here, for anyone listening, he’s just giving you a sample strategy you can possibly even use at home of a gold strangle. If you’d like to read more about strangles and other option strategies we recommend, I do suggest our book The Complete Guide to Option Selling: Third Edition. If you’d like to get a copy of it for a lower price than you’ll get at Amazon or at the book store, you can get it at our website, OptionSellers.com/book. James, let’s move into our second market this month. We’re going to move over to the grain markets, in particular the soybean market. For those of you that have listened to our commentary over the last 4-8 weeks, we’ve talked a lot about the upcoming harvest, and seasonally in soybeans, harvest time is when supplies will be at their highest. Typically, when supplies are at their highest, Economics 101 dictates that’s often when prices will fall to their lowest level. That’s why you see the seasonal chart tends to decline right into the fall and October is when harvest tends to get in full swing and then wrap up at the end of October and early November. So, often times you’ll see prices make a low around that time of year, but then something different happens. We kind of reversed that. James, do you want to talk a little bit about that? We have a change going on possibly this month in the seasonal pattern of soybeans.
James : Yes, Michael, that’s exactly how it follows out. I’ve been looking at soybean seasonal charts here quite a bit. I have one very near to me right now. June and July we have weather scares and the soybean market rallies. It falls off as the scares seem to be not as defined as previously thought. The soybean market and the corn market have fallen steadily since the 4 th of July. This is truly the seasonal bottom coming up practically every year at the end of September and beginning of October. Looking for a possibly different trading approach might be up on us here in the next 4-6 weeks.
Michael : Yeah, and looking at soybean prices we had a pretty good nosedive into August. Sometimes that could have been a seasonal low there, I don’t know. We’ve rallied a little bit since then. We’re going to see a secondary low in October; possibly, it’s hard to say at this point. We may get the low in October or we may have already seen it in August, but the fact of the matter is after October and November prices have historically tended to start strengthening. That’s when a lot of those forward sales and those orders start to get filled and it starts to draw down inventories again and, often times, you can see soybean prices firm. Now, if you’re listening you would think, “Well, then we would want to sell puts”, but that’s not necessarily the case. James, you made a case for this in our upcoming newsletter this month. Maybe it’s the better strategy to employ the think strategy we just talked about here in gold.
James : Michael, I really think it is. Seasonally, we’re going to have very good support under soybeans. At the same time, we have carryover from this year’s production practically as high as we’re ever going to see it in the past 10 years. That will likely keep a cap on soybeans. Once again, when finding a fairly valued market, that is just a great deployment of selling calls way above the market and selling put strikes way below the market. This fall and this winter for soybeans, it may be ideal for that. We have large supplies likely to hold the market down and we have a very strong seasonal tendency for the market to rally that might be the perfect equation for probably a sideways market at a time when both puts and calls are quite expensive. It might be setting up extremely well and something we’re going to be paying very close attention to as we speak.
Michael : It really makes a lot of sense, because that seasonal does carry a lot of weight. At the same time, soybean stock is 475 million bushels. Not only is that going to be the highest in over a decade, but it’s the second highest in over 25 years. So, the supply levels here in the United States are pretty sizeable, yeah we could still get an adjustment in the October report, but for the most part it looks like we’re going to have a pretty sizable crop. I see what you’re saying- that could tamper that seasonal a little bit and keep prices in a nice defined range. Good thing about strangles is you’re getting double premiums. You’re getting premiums on both sides of the market. Those can be big income earners to pad an account.
James : Michael, absolutely. So often, people are trying to define the next bull market or the next bear market, but when you’re able to identify a sideways or fairly priced commodity, that can be the best of both worlds. As you’re short one side of the strangle, it’s basically taking care of the other one while you’re waiting for decay. As option sellers, patience is the name of the game, and having a strangle on as your key position can really help, not only a portfolio, but help the manager taking part in deciding what to do as you have the trade on.
Michael : All right… pretty good stuff. For those of you that would like to read more about the soybean market, we are featuring it in the upcoming October Newsletter. You can see the seasonal we’re talking about and also take a look at the fundamentals we’re looking at, get James’ analysis and possibly strikes you can look at if you’re trading at home. Obviously, if you’re interested in a managed portfolio, you can request our information pack on that, as well. As far as our lesson this month, James, we’re going to address something this month that we probably get more question on than anything else. It’s because it’s a very important topic and that is kind of a broad question, but it is “How do I manage risk on my short options?” We do have a whole chapter dedicated to this in The Complete Guide to Option Selling. We talk about it a lot in our videos and seminars, but I think we should cover it here because there’s a little bit of confusion as to what’s the best way, what’s the right way, etc. What we’ve put forth in our book is what we recommend to beginners, people either new to commodities or new to option selling, is the 200% rule. It’s a good basic rule; it keeps you out of trouble, if the option doubles then you end it, end of story. We still think that’s a good rule and I know you think that’s a good rule, as well. When we’re managing a portfolio with $100 million in it, we have the ability to have a little bit more leeway, we can use a little bit more advanced techniques to bump our odds up a little bit. I know there’s a couple you use and I thought maybe this month we’d pull back the curtain a little bit and let people see some of the more advanced techniques that we may use in managing our portfolios. Do you want to talk about that a little bit, James?
James : You know, Michael, we make a great deal about fundamental trading simply using the 200% rule and, if you’re trading along with the fundamentals, I think a portfolio would do very well over a 1, 2, 3 year period. As far as making a more sophisticated exit level and risk parameters, we do utilize more parameters than just the 200% rule. Basically, we’re going to sell options on what the fundamentals dictate. If there’s too much cocoa in the world then we’re going to look to sell calls. 9 times out of 10, the fundamentals in cocoa that brought us to get into that position won’t change over the next 6 months. Generally speaking, a rally against the fundamentals is technical in nature and we can watch open interest, we can see who’s actually doing the buying and who’s doing the selling, and if it’s technical in nature and possibly the option did reach a double level or even more so, I’m going to look at the landscape of the cocoa market or the gold market, whatever the case may be, and if the fundamentals remain the same we will give that trade more leeway. If, for example, we were talking about gold earlier, and all of a sudden we are getting inflation and inflation is at 2, then 2.2 and 2.4 and 2.6, that is a change in fundamentals and you would definitely want to use the 200% rule. As a matter of fact, in a case like that you may not wait for it to reach that level. Being nimble selling options, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you simply want to use the 200% rule, I think, over a 3-5 year period you’ll do extremely well. We follow the fundamentals in commodities so closely that often it’s a technical rally or a technical decline in the market and, for that reason, we’ll stay with a position longer than just a simply percentage rule.
Michael : So, you’re saying that’s why you sell options so far out-of-the-money. You give it so much space to move and you have a little bit more leeway because you may have a little bit more insight into what’s actually going on with prices. For the guy out there on the street that’s saying, “I like this 200% rule, but what if I want to employ something else? What if I am looking at some other things?” I know you’ve used a couple of things, but one of them is at times if the fundamentals stay the same you may roll part of that position. Can you talk a little bit about that?
James : Absolutely. If you’re selling puts because you’re bullish the market and it’s falling, you might want to scale back a half of your position that you have in the puts and then just roll down to the next 1 or 2 strikes below that. Generally, the selling or the buying based on technicalities will be short-lived. You don’t necessarily just want to leave your position because of something a headline that was in the Wall Street Journal or one of the business channels. Rolling your position allows you to stay with your initial fundamental analysis.
Michael : That makes a lot of sense, too, James, because I know when you get into rolling and, another strategy you mentioned is gradually scaling out a position rather than just closing out the whole thing, that gets into a little bit more art than science. It gets into kind of a feel for the market kind of to know what’s moving it. For the person that has just joined us on their own, they may not have the skills to employ that art, whereas the 200% rule is very scientific, it’s very numerical, it’s very definite. Yeah, you’re probably going to get out of a few trades that at the end of the day they’ll still expire, but it’s the only way to keep you out of the ones that are going to cause you trouble down the road. That’s a great point to make and for those of you listening, if you would like to learn some of our more advanced risk techniques, we mention a couple in The Complete Guide to Option Selling, as well. We also talk about them in some of our upcoming videos that you’re going to see this fall. So, if you watch our videos on our blog, we’re going to be talking a little bit more about the risk management, as well. Just a little housekeeping here before we go this month. For those of you interested in discussing a potential new option selling account for the 4th quarter, we are fully booked for October. Rosemary is currently scheduling consultations for our available openings in November. We do have a few of those left. If you would like to schedule a consultation, feel free to call her at the main number… 800-346-1949. If you’re calling from outside the United States, you can reach her at 813-472-5760. You can also inquire on availability by e-mail… that is Office@OptionSellers.com. James, thank you for your insights this month.
James : My pleasure, Michael. Always enjoy being part of the show.
Michael : We will talk to you all next month. In the meantime, have a great month of option selling. Thank you.