With Fed and Brexit Out of the Way, Commodities Opportunities Await Wary Stock Investors




With Fed and Brexit Out of the Way, Commodities Opportunities Await Wary Stock Investors

(Note to listeners: This show was recorded just prior to the Brexit vote on Thursday. However, you’ll find its contents very relevant this week.)
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(Video Transcript)

Michael: Hello everyone, this is Michael Gross at OptionSellers.com. We’re here with your monthly Option Seller Radio Show for June. We have a lot of stuff to talk about here this month, simply because of the news going on this month. Probably first and foremost, James, what we want to talk about here is the FED decision or inaction, as we say. Obviously, that was a big topic on Investor Minds here in June. The FED did not act – the reasons why were kind of obvious to everyone so we don’t need to talk about it here. I think probably one of the first things we should talk about for out listeners is what the means for commodities right now. What’s the macro picture in commodities?

James: Michael, the macro picture right now is perfectly mixed. We have 0% and negative interest rates all around the world, which is extremely the main reason why the Federal Reserve here won’t be raising interest rates at all this year, possibly once maybe after the election, something along those lines. U.S. companies certainly can’t afford to have a strong dollar. With everyone else racing to zero and now below zero for interest rates, clearly the Federal Reserve is going to hold off on raising interest rates here. The strong dollar would be a catalyst for other strong economies to do well, and for the U.S. economy to suffer, and certainly we don’t see that happening. So, we’re looking at the newly 0% interest rates here in the United States, negative interest rates everywhere. Generally speaking, historically, that is going to be bullish for commodities; however, the fact that we have such low interest rates because economic growth around the world is so weak right now. So, on the flip side of 0% interest rates is that economic growth right now is small. Copper demand, steel demand, zinc demand, and soybean demand is way down. For that reason, we see a very mixed picture for commodities for the last half of 2016. We see a lot of up and down because of that, and we think a lot of commodities are fairly priced, and what the Federal Reserve is doing right now is simply jawboning to get the market to do what they want it to do. At the end of the day, we’re looking at very few interest rate hikes this year. That is, I think, what Janet Yellen spelled out in June.

Michael: Yeah, it has been all the talk on the financial channels and the paper and what the effect is going to be on equities now, and you have Jim Cramer talking about buying defensive stocks because he’s more concerned about the global financial picture. Do you have any thoughts on that? Stock traders have two choices: they can be long or short. The typical investor gets advice like “Well, you buy defensive stocks and hope to try and ‘ride it out’.” So, they’re playing defense if they’re expecting lower prices. A lot of times, shows like Cramer’s don’t cover “Well, why not go on the offense with strategies like options?” You certainly brought that to my attention, because now’s the time you can go on the offense with different commodities markets, even the stock market if you want, but commodities in particular.

James: Michael, I think that’s why we have so many investors knocking on our door right now, simply because they do want to diversify away from the stock market. Buying defensive stocks, if the stock market falls, isn’t going to help your portfolio all that much. Basically, as Mr. Cramer’s referring to, getting involved with defensive stocks is simply going to make your portfolio fall less. As we know here at OptionSellers.com, if we see something developing, whether it’s a bull market, bear market, or something in-between, take advantage of that, and that’s what we’re able to do selling options on commodities. We can actually bet on lower values. As a matter of fact, that’s what we like doing best, as you know. Of course, call options on commodities, sometimes 50% and 100% out-of-the-money, certainly a great way to participate in what might be a bear market 2016 and 2017. Go on the offense, and that’s certainly what we do here at the office for our clients on a daily basis.

Michael: Something we talked about in the newsletter this month, and I don’t remember if it was a letter you got or not, but somebody asked, “It seems like you guys sell a lot of calls. Are you perpetual bears on the market?” Your answer was, “No, we’re not perpetual bears on the market. We can be bullish or bearish. It just so happens that oftentimes because it’s public speculators, calls are often more over-valued than puts.” Can you talk about that for a minute?

James: It’s certainly true. When we have a move up in silver, silver recently moved up from $16 to $17.50, when soybeans rally because of dry conditions in the Midwest, the public really pushes prices on call options further than they normally would be. Fair value is still something that we follow. Puts sometimes get overpriced, but call prices on commodities get absolutely inflated. We had made note recently in one of our videos that we think that June and July we’re going to look back at the end of the year, that absolute crescendo in call premiums on many commodities, and so many stock portfolios that sell options on stocks. We’ll talk to new clients and they’ll say that they’re selling options 2%, 6%, 8% out-of-the-money, when you can bet on a commodity to not double in price by selling a call 100% out-of-the-money. What would you rather do?

Michael: Alright, James. Speaking of taking alternative approaches with options, etc., a lot of high net-worth investors have an interest in hedge funds or may have investments in hedge funds. I wanted to bring up an article here from the Wall Street Journal, last month, from May 13th. Its called Hedge Funds Annual Bash is Downer as Industry Flags. The whole thing is about this big annual party they have out in Las Vegas for all these hedge funds managers. Bernie Sanders would not be happy – I’ll put it that way. They have all these bands and celebrities and everything else. This year, there’s a real downer mood there because a lot of investors are pulling money out of hedge funds. Major hedge fund clients, including Chinese sovereign wealth funds, during this thing aired doubts. The general feeling was that 90% of hedge fund managers probably weren’t skilled enough to navigate the markets. That’s how they felt and that’s why this money is coming out of hedge funds right now. Do you feel that’s accurate or do you have any input into that?

James: Well, Michael, I read the same articles. A lot of that was floating around over the last month or so, especially in the Wall Street Journal, paying hedge funds two and twenty, simply trying to chase return right now is extremely difficult. I think there was a record number of hedge funds that closed in 2015 and the first half of 2016. It’s easy to be a hedge fund when the stock market is going straight up. It’s easy to produce returns that way. What happens when interest rates are at zero? What happens when the stock market goes sideways for the last 18 months? Where do you make 15%? Where do you make a 20% return? It doesn’t exist. I think my favorite piece out of that Las Vegas soirée this past month was some of the biggest banks sticking out their biggest chests over the last several years. We’re telling they’re clients that they had to get to the club and back using taxis and they weren’t using limousines this year. When the hedge fund industry can’t get their best prospects to and from the restaurant and they need to get their own vehicle and their own transportation, I think that says really something. Going to Vegas once a year, you have to just be absolutely confident that the returns are still coming and sticking your client in the back of a cab probably isn’t a good sign.

Michael: Well, the thing about hedge funds, and they argue that it helps reduce volatility etc., etc., and that’s why you shouldn’t bail out, but a good piece of the article was about that stocks have been going up for the last how may years. Nothing against hedge fund managers, there’s a lot of great strategies and very gifted individuals, but, on the other side of the coin, a lot of these guys are just glorified stock pickers. If that market’s going up they’re going well, and a lot of investors look at that and say, “Great… I made 8% or 10% last year. I could have done that on my own. Why am I giving you 20% of my profits and 2% of my account?” So, that’s what I saw and that was my takeaway from the piece. It was an interesting piece, nonetheless, and for those of you that invest in the hedge fund industry, maybe look for some alternative strategies other than ones that focus entirely on stocks. Speaking of alternatives, we did a special report this month on natural gas. A lot of that revolved around the seasonal tendency, James, and how a lot of people get it wrong. The pop analysis is you buy natural gas in the summer, and that’s not necessarily the case. Can you talk about that a little bit?

James: Michael, I think what happens in natural gas during the summer is similar to other commodities that people just jump on. Fundamentals are what dictates eventual price, and short-term headlines is what creates opportunities for investors like OptionSellers.com. The bottom line is this: everyone is watching the weather, everyone is trying to chase return, everyone’s looking for the next best way to make a buck, especially with interest rates flat like they are. It’s 120 degrees in Arizona, breaking records, let’s buy natural gas for this heat wave. This sort of thing happens all the time. Fundamentally, we have ginormous supplies of natural gas, both in the United States as well as around the world. What investors need to know when the jump into a commodity like natural gas, because it’s going to be hot this summer and they think we’re going to need electricity to cool homes and cool factories. The bottom line is this: winter demand for natural gas is 5 times greater than natural gas consumption during the summer. So, as investors pour into natural gas because it’s 120 degrees in Arizona and they think they’re going to get rich going long natural gas, that probably isn’t going to work out so well. Natural gas demand is needed in the winter. We have production ramp up for natural gas supplies that are going to be needed in the fall and wintertime of the year, not in summer. We are looking at selling natural gas here with both hands. We had a one handle on natural gas, Michael, as you know, just a month or two ago and the November and December contract are pushing up towards 3 and 3.50 per million BTU’s. That, in our opinion, is a sale. We have the public and headlines pushing natural gas right now. This fall, natural gas is going to be pushing the low 2’s and possibly the high 1’s. Once again, don’t trade your investments and your hard earned money based on headlines. By the time it hits the headlines, you probably want to go the other way and, if you have the ability to sell options, we actually can go the other way. Similar to being on the offensive, Michael, like you mentioned at the beginning of our show today, there are ways to go on the offensive. You don’t have to just get out of the market, you don’t have to buy defensive stocks, you can go on the offensive, and I think selling natural gas for the rest of the year is a great example of doing just that.

Michael: The best defense is a good offense. You talk about selling deep out, so the thing just rallied. Funny you brought that up, because natural gas was in the Journal yesterday. They’re talking about warm weather and a lot of specs coming in, so the thing rallies and obviously that drives up volatility, but how far out-of-the-money are you looking to sell calls now?

James: Natural gas, the timing is a seasonal trade. Quite often, we sell options 6 and 12 months out. On this particular, what we think is a great opportunity; it’s not that far out. The spot month, of course, for natural gas is going to become August here in the next week or so. The November and December contract are the ones that we are keying on. September, October, November, a lot of investors and analysts think that’s the beginning of winter, but, in all actuality, in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, it’s not that cold in October. So, we’re looking at selling options for early winter delivery and we’re selling options anywhere from 30%-40% out-of-the-money. We checked the margin rates on these and the possibly decay and that trade looks excellent, so we’re starting to position our clients in that this week.

Michael: One thing I like about it, as well, is that it’s not just a seasonal trade. Overall supplies of natural gas right now are 32% above the average for this time of year. As you mentioned, just a huge glut in the market right now, which that’s the bottom line fundamentally in natural gas, regardless of what you’re reading in the headlines.

James: Michael, that brings up a great point. A couple months ago, we were talking about trading seasonally, however you want it to line up with fundamentals, and vice versa. Every once in a while, we’ll have a seasonal trade comes up and it’s not geared with the fundamentals. This trade has both. As you mentioned, the supply of natural gas is just huge and it’s several percentages above the 5-year average. It’s 30%-40% above what it was last year. This trade appears to be lining up quite well. The fundamentals is how we trade: that always comes first and seasonality comes second. The fundamentals right now, as you mentioned, are very bearish long term for natural gas.

Michael: If you’re listening to this, this isn’t a discussion where we’re saying the natural gas markets are going to crash tomorrow and you need to short it today. We don’t know if the market is going to turn around tomorrow, it could keep going up for the next month. That’s one reason why we are talking about selling so deep-out-of-the-money is you give the market room to do that and still take advantage of those longer term fundamentals and seasonals that James was just talking about here. Speaking of the longer-term fundamentals, in our upcoming newsletter, we also have a feature piece on the cattle market for the summer. That’s going to be coming out here at the end of the month in June. It’s steak and barbeque season and, again, another seasonal there that some people don’t really understand, so we really get it straightened out for you in this month’s newsletter. You can look for that at the end of June, probably July 1st, most of you should be receiving that both electronically and via hard copy in your mailbox. Also, one thing I want to point out in this upcoming newsletter…. We have a very unique interview this month with a gentleman named Don Singletary. Don recently published a book called Options Exposed Playbook. He worked in the commercial hedge industry for over 25 years, so he really brings a unique insight into the difference between what commercial traders do and what the public is doing. If you have any interest in commodities or selling options, it’s just a really insightful interview. I really like this guy and I think you will, too. James, you also had some media coverage this month at a little debate on CNBC with a gentleman named Andy Lipow. How do you think that played out on air?

James: Well, it’s interesting. We’re not on CNBC all that often, but we’re on from time to time. What I like most about when CNBC calls, either the gold market or the oil market or the coffee market are at extremes, whether they be the high or the low, and that’s when they often bring us on. We, of course, think that the oil market is probably overpriced. We think it was a seasonal rally and the fundamentals, we think, are going to probably bring crude oil prices down later this year. Andy was bullish. There were several reasons for his side in the interviews that we did. He was siding on Nigeria, we have problems there, and, of course, the Canadian wildfires. I went on to say that all of those are temporary. Iraq and Iran are now producing record amounts of oil. That’s okay for overproduction from certain countries when demand is high. Here in the United States, of course, driving season is the highest peak for consumption of oil anywhere in the world during this timeframe, but overproduction when demand is down this fall and winter, that, I think, is going to spell quite a different story. We went on to say that we expect oil to be in the high 30’s later this fall, like November and December. That, of course, is one of our favorite positions that we have on right now. We recently sold $75-$80 call strikes for fall and winter delivery on crude oil, and we believe that prices will be roughly half of that. Once again, the call options that we sold might be 100% out-of-the-money this fall. We think that what makes a market is a bull and a bear. Andy was bullish, and we think that it’s time to start looking the other way. As a matter of fact, that’s one of our favorite positions that we have on going right now, going into fall of the year.

Michael: James, you made some good points. Backing up the hypothesis that oil prices are getting overpriced right now, I want to bring up another piece in the Wall Street Journal recently. This was from May 27th. There was an article in the paper titled Everyone’s Trading Crude, from Moms to Millennials. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s similar to what typically happens when markets get a little frothy. If you remember back in 1999 with the tech bust when everybody and their brother thought they could trade tech stocks, it’s kind of the same thing going on in crude right now where you have 22 year old college kids and moms all trading crude oil and different crude products, talking about how fun it is, and how they like to watch the market go up and down. Here’s a quote from a lady. This lady’s a math tutor. She says, “If oil goes from $43.50 a barrel to $43.70, you’ve made $100!” So, this lady is doing this for fun and entertainment, and when you have that crowd that are coming into the oil futures markets, that can often be an indication that the thing is possibly getting a little bit out of hand. Would you agree with that, James?

James: You know, Michael, when the stock market is at all time highs and the barber is invested, and the guy who shines your shoes is talking about stocks, that sounds familiar. The gold market, when it rallied up to 1,900, everyone was going into coin stores and buying gold. This move in crude oil feels a lot the same. Once you have moms and millennials staying home to trade crude oil and, of course, be on the long side, because the market is bullish, that has signaled a lot of tops in the past and certainly it has all of the makings of one, as well, this summer. You know, crude oil was down at 27, rallies up to 50, that’s going to make a lot of headlines, but it’s maybe not the right time to get in.

Michael: Well, for those of you listening, if you missed James’ debate with Andy Lipow, you can see it on our website at OptionSellers.com/CNBCJune. Also, we had a question that came in from people asking how to get our newsletter. There’s no specific place on our website you can request our newsletter, but if you request anything from our website, whether you request our booklet or buy our book, or you get on our e-mail list getting our free report, you’re automatically subscribed to the newsletters. So, if you do want to get copies of the newsletter you can go on and request our free report and you’ll start getting the newsletter. James, let’s shift gears a little bit here and do our strategy lesson for this month. This month, what we’re going to cover for our listeners is not so much a strategy, it’s the approach to the strategy, and that’s selling deeper and the ability to sell a very deep out-of-the-money in commodities. As a lot of you listening right now may be stock options sellers or sell options on indexes, commodities allow you the ability to sell much deeper out-of-the-money and it’s really a matter of trading time for distance. James, can you talk about that a little bit about what your philosophy is on that and how you go about employing that?

James: You know, Michael, that’s probably the most frequent asked question when we have a new client come on board with us is how far in time do you want to sell out-of-the-money. I normally have felt like everyone else did the 90-day option, as it probably gives you the best decay, gives you the furthest amount out-of-the-money. That’s reasonable when you’re considering risk and reward. I have now sold millions of options on commodities over the last several years, and what I simply do is look for the furthest out-of-the-money that I can find that offers the greatest amount of decay. You can simply look at option tables by pulling up your CQG or your Bloomberg Terminal and you simply look at what the decay is probable for the next 8 weeks, then the previous 8 weeks, and the previous 8 weeks. So, if we sell an option that is 9-12 months out in time, we can judge by looking …  for example, if we’re looking at selling the July silver options, we simply look at the May. If it’s roughly 50% of what the July contract is, we know that even if we’re selling 9 months out, we can expect to see 50% decay in just 8 weeks. You then will look at, say, the March contract. That will often be 50% of what the May contract was for a particular strike, for example, in silver. You are now looking at a short 16 weeks, have an option practically go from $600-$700 down to just $100 per contract. That is fertile territory for selling options. Though we are selling strikes that are 50%-100% out-of-the-money, and it appears that we are selling out nearly a year in time, the sweet spot is much closer than that. You’re looking at simply 2 sets of 8 weeks for an option to lose ¾ of its value. That is what I consider low-hanging fruit and that is who we detect the best time value as far as selling options. It’s something that anyone who is interested in learning more about that, I can explain it to them further so that you can understand it maybe a little bit better. The ability to sell 100% out-of-the-money is just priceless. In commodities, you can do that and you can gage what the decay is by looking at the previous options that are just before it. The decay can be fantastic in just a very short period of time, even though you’re selling options that far out.

Michael: It’s quite a contrast from a lot of the options books and courses out there that tell you if you’re going to sell options then you have to sell them 30 days out because you get the fastest time decay. But then, you’re also selling them right at the money almost. James, an important point you made there is you sell an option 6, 8, 9 months out. That sounds like a long period of time, but what you’re saying is “Look, you don’t have to stay. If you sell an option, it’s 9 months out, you don’t have to stay in the thing 9 months. You can be out of it in 3, 4, 5 months because you’re buying it back early when it’s nearly worthless.” Is that correct?

James: My job, Michael, is to fundamentally position our clients in fundamentally sound trades. By finding that 90-120 day period where the decay is going to be the greatest is my job. If we have collected 80%-90% of the premium, we’ll buy back options that have 2, 3, and 4 months remaining on them. Our job is to find the most decay, the furthest distance out-of-the-money, and, after selling millions of contracts of commodity options, I get paid the same whether I sell a 90-day option or a 9-month option, and we sell the 9 month option because those are the best ones to sell.

Michael: Well, that’s a great discussion. I was going to do an example here, but I think we already did one with the natural gas here earlier, kind of a perfect example when you talked about natural gas. If you want to go back and listen to that part of it, you get a pretty good example of what we do here. As we mentioned, the newsletter will come out at the end of the month if you want to look for that in your inbox. Also, I have a note here that new account consultation interviews are booked for June, but we do still have some available after July 7th. So, if you’re interested in talking to us about an account you can certainly call and schedule a consultation. That’s 800-346-1949 or 813-472-5760 if you’re listening from outside the United States, and, of course, you can always email us at office@optionsellers.com. And final thought before we sign off here during this podcast, we didn’t mean to ignore the elephant in the room, which is the Brexit Vote. We have the disadvantage of recording your podcast this week 2 days prior to the Brexit Vote. Right now, the surveys seem to indicate that it is pretty much split down the middle. It’s going to be a really close vote. It could have different impacts on the market, but initially we may be looking for some more volatility in different markets that can certainly be an advantage to option sellers. James, would you concur with that?

James: Michael, that’s what the first half of 2016 has been, is turmoil, uneasiness about several different things, and lots of headlines. This just feeds into option selling and premiums being too high. We certainly enjoy this and will be addressing this in upcoming videos that we make for our clients and for the audience.

Michael: Exactly. James is going to be doing a special video on the Brexit Vote. That will be available next week on the blog. If you like this podcast and the information you get here, you can certainly subscribe to us on YouTube, and subscribe to us as well on iTunes. We also want to invite you to follow us on Facebook. We apologize. We’ve been a little negligent to our Facebook, but we are correcting that. We are going to start providing a lot more content on our Facebook, so feel free to follow us there, as well. Everyone have a great month of premium collection. We will talk to you in July. Thank you.

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