Tag Archives: option strategies

Volatility is the New Asset Class-How To Harvest

MarketsMuse Strike Price curators are always looking for smart perspectives on how to bring more asset managers and institutional investors to better understand and embrace the use of options in a responsible manner. According to Todd Hawthorne,  lead portfolio manager of Boston Partners, volatility [which some immediately and sometimes, misguidedly associate with the CBOE VIX Index], has created a new asset class for institutional and retail investors, and like all other asset classes, there are opportunities to harvest returns. In this case, the tools to implement volatility strategies are found via the use of options contracts.

Todd Hawthorne, Boston Partners
Todd Hawthorne, Boston Partners

In a recent submission to Pensions & Investments, Hawthorne writes, “These volatility strategies, when viewed as their own discrete asset class, are designed with the goal of delivering returns that are in line with historical assumptions for equities while maintaining a far narrower range of performance (i.e., a substantially higher Sharpe ratio) and downside protection that can limit losses. Moreover, in a market in which yield has become difficult to find, the construct of equity buy/writes, coupled with bottom-up fundamental analysis, can create a synthetic yield instrument that delivers uncorrelated returns and manages to capitalize on volatility rather than being subjected to it.”

Adds Hawthorne, “Traditionally, when retail investors discuss “low volatility” strategies, they are referring to an approach that combines diversification with systematic and regular rebalancing. These more traditional approaches — be it Shannon’s Demon, the Kelly Criterion, or other variations — are more about circumventing volatility than actually capitalizing on it with true downside protection and improved return profiles…

However, other strategies that combine both equities and equity call options — or buy/write securities — can more effectively “harvest” returns out of swings in sentiment, while providing more predictable, and often better, performance even as volatility ramps up. The concept of creating synthetic yield isn’t necessarily new, as portfolio managers will often invest in buy/writes on a basket of stocks tied to an index as a way to generate returns that are in line with the market over time, but at slightly reduced volatility and with the added benefit of options income..”

To read the entire P&I article, please click here

Macro-Strategy Insight to Latest Events in Hong Kong and..”What about $GLD?”

MarketsMuse Editorial Note: Below is extract from Oct 1 edition of macro-strategy commentary courtesy of Rareview Macro LLC’s daily publication “Sight Beyond Sight”..We often profile this content from macro strategy expert and author Neil Azous, simply because since we first started following SBS commentary, it has become one of those most highly-regarded independent research pieces subscribed to by more than a few of the “sharpest knives in the drawer.”

Neil Azous, Rareview Macro LLC
Neil Azous, Rareview Macro LLC

“….One simple way to measure the market impact of the growing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong is to look at future assumptions for corporate dividend streams.

Specifically, we are watching the HSCEI Dividend Point Index Futures (symbol: DHCZ5) that trade on the Hong Kong Futures Exchange.

Because most of the “terminal outcome” is already in the price of the futures contract, based on the modeling of expected dividend payouts, the front-month futures contract should generally show the most acute reaction to a fast-developing live event. Put another way, the “gap risk” is much higher at the front versus the back of the futures curve.

Now, to be fair, this product is generally used by regional investors with $50-300 million in AUM as the futures are not liquid enough for the larger players. However, the fact that smaller is at times synonymous for “weaker hands” highlights that the local and small player is not yet really concerned by the protests. And what that tells us is that the possible contagion from these protests is actually lower than most people think, at least for today. Continue reading

What’s Next?..Options Trading On Facebook (FB)

Options on Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) will be available as early as May 29th. With volatile price action in FB after its IPO, traders will look to options strategies to profit

In the next several months FB is going to face pressure to grow into its current 100 Billion dollar valuation. As a growth stock trading over 100 times earnings, any sign of slower growth in Facebook will cause the stock to plummet quickly.Traders who do not think Facebook can hold its current valuation have a number of options strategies to profit from any fast downside price action.

Depending on implied volatilities of FB options, traders can be either short or long volatility. It is unlikely that FB stock will increase or decrease in value by more than 30% in one year. If options are trading will implied volatilities greater than 30%, traders should be net sellers of options. Selling vertical call spreads, which involves selling call options at strike prices above the current price and buying a call option at strike prices even farther out from the current price. This strategy will be profitable if FB maintains its price or decreases.

Notes WallachBeth Capital’s Randy Sharringhausen, an institutional options market expert, “Even if the company’s fundamentals don’t come close to justifying its IPO price, this is a company that has 450 million customers that visit every day and a corporate treasury flush with enough currency to finance any number of  major acquisition to better monetize its customers.  This should prove to be an interesting name to trade by the hedge fund and risk arb community, as well as the long/short managers.”

Continue reading

UK’s Abydos Hedge Fund Using Options to Prepare for Iran Strike

(Reuters) – Abydos Capital, a new hedge fund run by a former partner at one of London’s most high-profile oil investors, is worried about a potential military strike against Iran and plans to use options to protect his portfolio.

Jean-Louis Le Mee, Chief Investment Officer of Abydos, told Reuters he thinks there is a 25 to 50 percent chance of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear capabilities, an act that would likely send stock markets tumbling and drive up oil prices, hitting hedge funds that hadn’t protected their portfolios.

Le Mee, one of the first hedge fund managers to discuss such a strategy, said he was planning to use options to profit from a spike in oil prices and a fall in equities via the S&P 500 index .SPX if Iran was attacked over its nuclear programme.

“There’s a high chance that something will happen either this summer in June/July or after the U.S. elections,” said Le Mee, whose former firm BlueGold made headlines in 2008 by calling the peak of the market. “If talks break down, then the Israelis could do something very quickly.

A typical hedging policy could see a fund buy call options, the right to buy at a certain price, on an asset it expects to rise, and buy put options, the right to sell at a predetermined price, on assets it expects to fall. Continue reading

Institutions Eye Options: Buy-Writes and Butterflies

Yes, the equities markets are on a roll; the bulls are boisterous, and the “buy and holders” are popping champagne corks. Given this scenario, who would even suggest the idea of a fiduciary fund manager employing option-based hedging strategies that can potentially cut into upside returns?? After all, even though major exchanges throughout the globe have facilitated option-based hedging products for almost 30 years, options are “too complicated,” right?

OK, I’ll admit that I’m hearing about the “growing number” of large institutional managers that are using options, but options are just too complicated for all but those few MIT-educated portfolio managers who have found themselves working for a select group of forward-thinking and open-minded institutions.

Am I right?? I mean, gee–if I’m a long-only hedge fund, an RIA, an endowment, a pension manager, a family office, or a corporate treasurer, I have to not only figure out what a strike price is, but I need to figure out the difference between a call and a put, I have to consider tax implications, calculate break-even points, and I have to worry about the risk of stocks being “called away”, and when that happens, I lose out on the gains that I know will come, because I only pick stocks (or ETFs) that will go up at least 10%-15% within a few months of buying them, and more likely, 20%-30% over the next two or three years.

Well, if you’re a fund manager that’s been walking and talking the markets for more than a few years, you might know that bulls and bears make money, and pigs get slaughtered. Other than single stocks such as AAPL, equities markets (just like any other asset class) are cyclical. Prices go up, down, or they go side-ways.

Surprise! After almost 30 years of tepid use by fund managers handcuffed by mandates, the use of options by responsible and conservative institutions is finally gaining traction. Continue reading