Post COVID-19 -100% Options Win Rate

A total of 76 options trades were placed in May, June, and July as the market rebounded after the COVID-19 market lows. During this timeframe, all 76 trades were winning trades to lock-in a 100% option win rate with an average income per trade of $190 and an average return on investment (ROI) per trade of 7.6%. After the tumultuous market lows of March and into early April, leveraging a minimal amount of capital, mitigating risk and maximizing returns was paramount. The objective of an options-based portfolio can offer the optimal balance between risk and reward while providing a margin of downside protection with high probability win rates.

As the market continues to rebound, optimal risk management is essential when engaging in options trading as a means to drive portfolio performance. When engaging in options trading, risk mitigation needs to be built into each trade via risk-defining trades, staggering options expiration dates, trading across a wide array of uncorrelated tickers, maximizing the number of trades, appropriate position allocation and selling options to collect the premium income.

Getting creative and customizing your option trade structure is another element that can be layered into the overall strategy for long-term success in options trading. Maintaining disciple via continuing to risk-define trades, leveraging small amounts of capital while maximizing return on investment, is essential despite the impressive streak of 76 consecutive winning trades.

3 Months Post COVID-19 Results

After placing 76 trades throughout May, June, and July, a 100% win rate, 99% premium capture, and 7.6% ROI per trade was achieved. This was accomplished via leveraging a minimal amount of capital and maximizing return on investment with risk-defined trades. Deploying a combination of put spreads and custom put spreads was used to optimize the risk-reward profile for these 76 trades. Whether you have a small account or a large account, a defined risk (i.e., custom put spreads) strategy enables you to leverage a minimal amount of capital, which opens the door to trading virtually any stock on the market regardless of the share price. Risk-defined options can easily yield double-digit realized gains over the course of a typical one month contract (Figures 1, 2, and 3).

Figure 1 – Average income per trade of $190, the average return per trade of 7.6% and 99% premium capture over 76 trades in May and June
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Why It's Different This Time

The other day I completed a survey for my brokerage company, and one of the questions they asked was, "Is the current crisis worse than the 2008 financial crisis?" A couple of months ago, when our state and region were mostly in lockdown, I would have answered with a resounding and unhesitating, "Yes!"

Now I'm not so sure. Admittedly, I don't live in one of those states where the virus is now spiking, and things here are close to back to normal, so maybe my vantage point is too subjective. Nevertheless, I would have to say this crisis is far from as bad as the previous one, which may explain why the stock market has behaved the way it has, namely prices are off only a little from where they began the crisis, with only that short, sharp drop in February and March.

One reason, of course, is that the economy, as a whole, has rebounded strongly over the past couple of months as most of the country has reopened, at least to some degree, even as millions of people continue to work remotely. But the main reason is that that the lessons we learned from 2008 have been brought to bear in this crisis, namely that the government and the Federal Reserve have thrown much more money and resources at the problem than they did 12 years ago, which has mitigated the damage to a great degree.

As we've seen in the second-quarter earnings reports released so far by the big banks, the measures taken after 2008 to make sure they've built up enough capital to withstand another global crisis have paid off. Other than Wells Fargo (WFC) – which is still in the Fed penalty box, forbidden to grow assets – which reported a big loss, the other big banks reported flat Goldman Sachs (GS) or reduced JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), and Bank of America (BAC) earnings compared to a year ago. It could have been a lot worse. Who would have thought they'd be able to pull that off three or four months ago? Let's give the Dodd-Frank Act and Fed capital requirements the props they deserve. Continue reading "Why It's Different This Time"

The Financial Cohort and COVID-19 Dynamics

COVID-19 ushered in the real possibility of widespread loan defaults, liquidity issues, ballooning credit card debt (as banks hold the liability), and stressed mortgages. To exacerbate these COVID-19 impacts, a delicate balance between interest rates, Federal Reserve actions, potential yield curve inversion, and liquidity must be reached. The customer side of the business continues to be worrisome as the duration of this crisis continues to drag on with no signs of slowing. A segment of the consumer base is faced with lost wages and the real possibility of not being able to meet their financial obligations (i.e., car payments, mortgage payments, etc.), which will unquestionably have a negative impact on revenue and earnings for banks. The financial cohort is in a difficult space as the broader economic backdrop continues to dictate whether these stocks can appreciate higher. The initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the market capitalizations of many large banks to be cut by ~50%. Some of the largest banking institutions such as Citi (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan (JPM), and Bank of America (BAC) were sold off in the most aggressive manner since the Financial Crisis a decade earlier. As COVID-19 continues to drag in both spread and duration, share buybacks have now been halted, and dividend payouts arrested. The stability of dividend payouts is now in question as uncertainty continues to cloud this sector. Moving forward, how durable are the major financial names at these depressed levels, are the banks investable in light of the COVID-19 backdrop?

Recent Federal Reserve Stress Tests

The Federal Reserve put new restrictions on the banking sector after the results from the annual stress test found that several banks could get too close to minimum capital levels in potential scenarios tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The largest banking institutions will be required to suspend share buybacks and arrest dividend payments at their current level for Q3 of 2020. For the first time in the 10 year history of these stress tests, banks are now required to resubmit their payout plans again later this year. This move is indicative of the unique and unprecedented landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading "The Financial Cohort and COVID-19 Dynamics"

Are We Ready For A Second Wave?

As we know well by now, the financial markets have recovered nicely from the initial wave of the coronavirus, at least until recently. After plunging by a third from its February 19 all-time high through its March 23 bottom, the S&P 500 has rebounded sharply, although it still remains about 10% below its record high. NASDAQ, however, has won back all of what it lost and now is solidly in the green for the year. Bond yields, meanwhile, have largely settled into a relatively narrow range, all of which signals that investors are fairly positive about the future.

Certainly, the most recent economic news has borne out that optimism. Retail sales jumped a record 17.7% in May after plunging 14.7% in April, the first increase in fourth months. Moreover, May sales in dollars were only 7.7% below where they were in February before the worst effects of the virus hit. In other words, after an extraordinary dip, spending is already close to where it was as more stores and restaurants reopen.

Elsewhere, the Conference Board’s index rose a better than expected 2.8% in May after falling 6.1% in April. Sales of newly-built homes jumped 16.6% while the National Association of Home Builders’ confidence index surged 21 points in June to 58. Sales of existing-home sales, by far the largest category, dropped nearly 10% in May, but that “reflected contract signings in March and April, during the strictest times of the pandemic lockdown,” the National Association of Realtors said, adding that “home sales will surely rise in the upcoming months with the economy reopening, and could even surpass one-year-ago figures in the second half of the year.”

While all of that is undoubtedly good news, is it sustainable? Right now, two main questions are facing the economy and the financial markets: How bad will a dreaded “second wave” of the virus be on both the nation’s health and economy and what happens now that the U.S. government’s stimulus programs have started to run out? Continue reading "Are We Ready For A Second Wave?"

COVID-19 - Capitalizing On Opportunities

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the markets, Ray Dalio was recklessly dismissive of cash positions, stating "cash is trash." Even Goldman Sachs proclaimed that the economy was recession-proof via "Great Moderation," characterized by low volatility, sustainable growth, and muted inflation. Not only were these assessments incorrect, but they were ill-advised in what was an already frothy market with stretched valuations prior to COVID-19 hitting the markets. The COVID-19 pandemic was a true back swan event that no one saw coming as far as its abruptness, scale, and impact. This COVID-19 induced sell-off was the worst since the Great Depression in terms of breadth and velocity of the sell-off.

The S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Dow Jones shed a third or more of their market capitalization through late March 2020. Some individual stocks lost over 80% of their market capitalization. Other stocks were hit due to the market-wide meltdown, and many opportunities were presented as a result. Investors were presented with a unique opportunity to start buying stocks and take long positions in high-quality companies. Throughout this market sell-off, I took long positions in individual stocks, particularly in the technology sector and broad market ETFs that mirror the S&P 500, Nasdaq, and Dow Jones. It was important to put this black swan into perspective and see through this event on a long term basis. Viewing the COVID-19 sell-off as an opportunity to buy stocks that only comes along on the scale of decades has proven to be fruitful. When using past recessions as a barometer, I started buying stocks when the sell-off reached 15% and continued buying into further weakness to improve cost basis.

Most Extreme and Rare Sell-Off Ever

Out of the 12 recessions that have occurred since May of 1937, the average sell-off for the S&P 500 was -31.6% with a range of -57% (2008 Financial Crisis) to -14% (1960-1961). The COVID-19 pandemic has crushed stocks beyond the average recession sell-off of -31.6%. The markets didn't reach the most severe sell-off levels by historical standards despite the possibility for more downside potential. Regardless, at initial recession levels of 15% declines, I began putting cash to work as that was the prudent action for any long-term minded investor. Continue reading "COVID-19 - Capitalizing On Opportunities"