SteadyOptions is an options trading forum where you can find solutions from top options traders. TRY IT FREE!

We’ve all been there… researching options strategies and unable to find the answers we’re looking for. SteadyOptions has your solution.

Why We Sell Our Straddles Before Earnings


Our regular readers know that buying an options straddle a few days before earnings is one of our favorite strategies. IV (Implied Volatility) usually increases sharply a few days before earnings, and the increase should compensate for the negative theta. If the stock moves before earnings, the position can be sold for a profit or rolled to new strikes. I'm asked many times why we sell those trades before earnings.

In this article, I will show why it might be not a good idea to keep those options straddles through earnings.

 

As a reminder, a straddle involves buying calls and puts on the same stock with same strikes and expiration. Buying calls and puts with the different strikes is called a strangle. Strangles usually provide better leverage in case the stock moves significantly.

 

Under normal conditions, a straddle/strangle trade requires a big and quick move in the underlying. If the move doesn’t happen, the negative theta will kill the trade. In case of the pre-earnings strangle, the negative theta is neutralized, at least partially, by increasing IV.

 

The problem is you are not the only one knowing that earnings are coming. Everyone knows that some stocks move a lot after earnings, and everyone bids those options. Following the laws of supply and demand, those options become very expensive before earnings. The IV (Implied Volatility) jumps to the roof. The next day the IV crashes to the normal levels and the options trade much cheaper.

earnings.jpg

 

Over time the options tend to overprice the potential move. Those options experience huge volatility drop the day after the earnings are announced. In many cases, this drop erases most of the gains, even if the stock had a substantial move. In order to profit from the trade when you hold through earnings, you need the stock not only to move, but to move more than the options "predicted". If they don't, the IV collapse will cause significant losses.

 

Here is a real trade that one of the options "gurus" recommended to his followers before TWTR earnings:

 

Buy 10 TWTR Nov15 34 Call
Buy 10 TWTR Nov15 28 Put

 

The rationale of the trade:

 

Last quarter, the stock had the following price movement after reporting earnings:
Jul 29, 2015 32.59 33.24 31.06 31.24 92,475,800 31.24
Jul 28, 2015 34.70 36.67 34.14 36.54 42,042,100 36.54
I am expecting a similar price move this quarter, if not more. With the new CEO for TWTR having the first earnings report, the conference call and comments will most likely move the stock more than the actual numbers. I will be suing a Strangle strategy. 9/10.

 

Fast forward to the next day after earnings:

 

b7fd9a3ef206c9b19baaa409ef2246a9.png

 

As you can see, the stock moved only 1.5%, the IV collapsed 20%+, and the trade was down 55%.

 

Of course there are always exceptions. Stocks like NFLX, AMZN, GOOG tend on average to move more than the options imply before earnings. But it doesn't happen every cycle. Last cycle for example NFLX options implied 13% move while the stock moved "only" 8%. A straddle held through earnings would lose 32%. A strangle would lose even more.

 

It is easy to get excited after a few trades like NFLX, GMCR or AMZN that moved a lot in some cycles. However, chances are this is not going to happen every cycle. There is no reliable way to predict those events. The big question is the long term expectancy of the strategy. It is very important to understand that for the strategy to make money it is not enough for the stock to move. It has to move more than the markets expect. In some cases, even a 15-20% move might not be enough to generate a profit.

 

Jeff Augen, a successful options trader and author of six books, agrees:

 

“There are many examples of extraordinary large earnings-related price spikes that are not reflected in pre-announcement prices. Unfortunately, there is no reliable method for predicting such an event. The opposite case is much more common – pre-earnings option prices tend to exaggerate the risk by anticipating the largest possible spike.”

 

Related Articles:

How We Trade Straddle Option Strategy

Buying Premium Prior to Earnings
Can We Profit From Volatility Expansion into Earnings
Long Straddle: A Guaranteed Win?

 

We invite you to join us and learn how we trade our options strategies in a less risky way.

 

Start Your Free Trial

What Is SteadyOptions?

Full Trading Plan

Complete Portfolio Approach

Diversified Options Strategies

Exclusive Community Forum

Steady And Consistent Gains

High Quality Education

Risk Management, Portfolio Size

Performance based on real fills

Try It Free

Non-directional Options Strategies

10-15 trade Ideas Per Month

Targets 5-7% Monthly Net Return

Visit our Education Center

Recent Articles

Articles

  • Probability and Option Risk

    A lot is said about probability of profitable outcomes in option trades, but do we truly understand what probability is or how it works? Options traders can become better informed and even wiser by looking a step beyond the well-known conclusions.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 248 views
  • Using ORATS in Anchor Testing

    The purpose of the below piece is to demonstrate how Lorntine Capital uses ORATS (Options Research and Technology Services) in our own backtesting. Note: ORATS does not pay me for writing this but has requested that if we like the software, we assist in promoting it.

    By cwelsh,

    • 1 comment
    • 350 views
  • Calculating the Probability of Option Payoff

    A calculation of “breakeven” as well as maximum profit or loss, sets up a single system for modeling and comparing one option to another. But it might also require traders to adopt an unrealistic assumption about outcomes based on best-case or worst-care scenario.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 382 views
  • Realistic Expectations: Using History as A Guide

    One of the biggest challenges I come across with the typical investor is maintaining realistic expectations and being able to properly understand the tradeoffs between risk and return. We all want high returns with low risk and there’s no limit to the efforts we’ll make to find it.

    By Jesse,

    • 0 comments
    • 410 views
  • CAPM As an Alternative Option Pricing Model

    Options traders endlessly debate the merits of the Black-Scholes pricing model. Some swear by it and others don’t even try to use it. Given the many profound flaws in the model, it is not an accurate tool for developing a sense of where price is likely to move in the future. But there are alternatives.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 581 views
  • Option Payoff Probability

    Options traders must, naturally, be concerned with the likelihood of payoff for a strategy. Ironically, one of the most often cited statistics about profit and loss is simply incorrect. That statistic is captured in the headline of a story posted online “Trading Options: Data Shows That 75% or More of Options Expire Worthless.”

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 675 views
  • The Minimum Effective Dose (MED) For Cash Flow Planning

    Financial planners can usually give generic advice that will be appropriate for the majority of Americans, and that’s the goal of this article. If we can get the fundamentals of cash-flow planning right (where to put your money after you earn it and pay your taxes and bills), we’re 80% of the way towards maximizing our financial situation.

    By Jesse,

    • 0 comments
    • 672 views
  • Are You Breaking Even? Or Losing?

    Among the good reasons to trade options is the need to meet or surpass your breakeven yield. This is the yield you need just to preserve your purchasing power; and it higher than most people think. In fact, most people relying on moderate to conservative yields from stocks, mutual funds, real estate and savings accounts might be earning well below this breakeven level.

    By Michael C. Thomsett,

    • 0 comments
    • 772 views
  • Buy When You Have the Money, Sell When You Need the Money

    Money can be quite an emotional topic for many of us. Emotions can enhance our experiences and relationships in many ways, but they can act as mental roadblocks especially when trying to make wise financial decisions. One of the most common emotional roadblocks I come across when working with individuals is an unwillingness to invest idle cash to meet long-term goals.

    By Jesse,

    • 0 comments
    • 1,561 views
  • Strategy Selection vs. Risk Management

    "A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money." Everett McKinley Dirksen. Let’s begin with the bottom line: When I talk to anyone about the concept of choosing an option strategy (or two) to adopt for trading, I stress that the strategy should have certain characteristics.

    By Mark Wolfinger,

    • 0 comments
    • 743 views

  Report Article

We want to hear from you!


Yes. We played post-earnings calendars couple of times. But I found it much less consistent and more risky than the strategies we employ currently.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Kim,

Thank you so much for the information. As a novice options trader, I learned the hard way not to hold a straddle through earnings after getting hit with IV crush for the first time(they don't teach that in undergrad business school!) I have a question regarding timing our entry into the position. You recommend 5-7 days prior to earnings. Is this actual days or market trading days? I imagine this would make a difference in our expected return. Otherwise, I plan to sell the day before earnings on stocks that popped at least 5% in the past with the option expiring 2 weeks after announcement. Anything else a novice should keep in mind? Thanks again for the fantastic articles!

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

One more follow up! As an example, say after looking at upcoming earnings I decide to do this with eBay. Isn't the open interest and volume too low on the Feb 10 weeklys? ebay question.PNG

ebay question.PNG

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you for your comments.

I'm usually referring to calendar days. But this is really just an estimate. Sometimes we enter 2 weeks before earnings, sometimes just 1-2 days. it depends on the stock, on the prices etc. We do extensive backtesting to determine which stocks to use and how long in advance to enter.

Regarding your second question - yes, sometimes weeklys are not liquid enough and you need to use monthlies. It really depends on the stock. Some stocks don't have big OI, but still are easy enough to trade even on weeklys. 

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting.  I have been doing just the call side of your strangle trade and have had good results. Any thoughts on an upward bias going into earnings?

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites

It can definitely be done, we just prefer to stay delta neutral. Doing calls only would be much more risky and speculative trade.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account. It's easy and free!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

Options Trading Blogs