Saturday, 23 January 2016


Experienced, sophisticated investors have a huge advantage over beginners. One of the prime reasons is that the novice tends to jump from one strategy to another, taking advice from whomever has a hot hand. What those new investors fail to understand is that past performance is seldom worth much in predicting future performance and thus, those who have recently performed well tend to do poorly as soon as market conditions change.
Instead of following an advisor who made money last month, last week, or yesterday, it makes far more sense for each investor to adopt a long-term basic methodology for putting his/her money to work.
One of the best ways for investors to have a less rocky ride -- as markets soar and plunge -- is to use options as a risk-reducing investment hedge.
One such strategy is buying puts as portfolio protection. If you like that idea, it is essential to have those options in your portfolio before the decline picks up steam. The reason why this is so important concerns the way that options are priced. If you are new to the options world, then the simple explanation is as follows:
Option prices are based on several factors, such as the stock price and the strike price of the options. However, the most important factor in option pricing is the expectation of just how volatile the market is expected to be in the future. When markets are calm or rising, most traders see little reason to expect market volatility to suddenly increase. For that reason, there is no special demand to buy options, and the supply is sufficient to match the demand.
As a result, option premium (price of options in the marketplace) makes it painless to buy options.
The problem is that, most traders/investors see no need to own options when markets are calm.
When markets are falling, investors tend to get nervous. Because markets (on average) fall faster than they rally, whenever any decline threatens investors with large losses, (think late 2008 or Jan 2016), there is suddenly a demand for put options.
Unfortunately for people who want to buy those options, the supply diminishes and it becomes necessary to pay much higher prices to get any options. There are two reasons for that. First, as stocks decline, puts are worth more. (Think about a stock that falls from 90 to 85. The right to sell stock at a specific price, a put option, is worth more when the stock is 85 than when it is 90). Second, fear that markets will become more volatile and that the decline will continue makes people raise their volatility estimates for the future. And volatility plays a very large role in the price of options. 
Those who wait to buy options until a decline is well underway are forced to pay big prices for their put options. And the price increases are not trivial. Using the CBOE Options Calculator for a stock priced at $100 per share, and paying no dividend, compare the estimated future volatility (referred to as the implied volatility of the option) of put options vs. the calculated fair value of the option.




    $ 3.91


    $ 5.89


    $ 7.86


    $ 9.83




The bottom line for investors who want to own put options as part of their portfolio, is that waiting until you need the puts can be very costly. That's especially true when the decline begins suddenly and demand overwhelms supply.

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