Friday, May 1, 2009

Selling Put Options

Selling puts is a strategy that can generate an annualized yield in the neighborhood of 30 percent to 50 percent. When executed properly, this strategy can be highly profitable and carry very low risk. That is especially true in the kind of market we have today, where fear is high and option prices are elevated.

This is a great way to buy stocks at a discount. Let's say you would love to buy IBM at $81 a share, but it's selling at $89 a share. In this case, you could sell the $81 put option. If the price falls below $81 before the option expiration date, you get your shares at the price you like. If the price stays above $81, you keep the premium and you can repeat the process.

You can also sell puts with the goal of generating income. In this case, you'd want the puts to expire worthless so you can capture the option premium. To accomplish this goal, you sell puts that are "out of the money" on stocks you believe to have very little downside risk... and which you would be willing to purchase at a much lower price.

Here is an example...

Let's assume that stock XYZ is selling for $13. We'll also assume the stock has already fallen by a significant amount (not too hard to find in today's market) and you believe the rock bottom liquidation value of the company is $8.

With the stock trading at $13, the July $10 put option is well out of the money and selling for $1.50. You decide to sell those puts. When the trade closes, $150 will automatically show up in your account for every put contract you sold.

The only way you could lose money on this trade is if XYZ trades below $8.50 ($10 minus $1.50) on or before the option expiration date in July. That would be a 35 percent drop from the depressed level the stock is trading at when you sell the puts.

And in the unlikely event that you are obligated to purchase those shares below $8.50, you should still come out okay. After all, the liquidation value of the company is $8 a share, which makes the downside risk very small.

This strategy should be employed on stocks where you believe the downside risk is minimal. And you should only employ it on stocks that you would be glad to own at a price below where you sell the put.

You should also have a reasonable understanding of the true valuation of the company. For this reason, I would exclude most financial and insurance companies, as few people (including insiders) have any idea how much these companies are worth or what is on the books.

By selling put options, you could buy super-high-quality stocks as much as 50 percent cheaper than today's historically low prices. Plus, you'll get cold, hard cash deposited in your account instantly... adding to your annual income!

Larry Potter

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