Sunday, September 2, 2007

Judging Whether You Can Profit From a Put Option, Part 3

In this example, you would lose $300 by not following your own standard and bailing out at 4. Even if the stock did fall later on, time would work against you. The longer it takes for a turnaround in the price of the underlying stock, the more time value loss you need to overcome. The stock might fall a point or two over a three-month period, so that you merely trade time value for intrinsic value, with the net effect of zero; it is even likely that the overall premium value will decline if intrinsic value is not enough to offset the lost time value.

The problem of time value deterioration is the same problem experienced by call buyers. It does not matter whether price movement is required to go up (for call buyers) or down (for put buyers); time is the enemy, and price movement has to be adequate to offset time value as well as produce a profit through more intrinsic value. If you seek bargains several points away from the striking price, it is easy to overlook this reality. You need a substantial change in the stock's market value just to arrive at the price level where intrinsic value will begin to accumulate.

Example: Good Trend But Not Enough: You bought a LEAPS put for 5 with a striking price of 30, when the stock was at $32 per share. There were 22 months to go until expiration and the entire put premium was time value; you estimated that there was plenty of time for the price of the stock to fall, producing a profit. Between purchase date and expiration, the underlying stock falls to 27, which is 3 points in the money. At expiration, the put is worth 3, meaning you lose $200 upon sale of the put. Time value has evaporated. Even though you are 3 points in the money, it is not enough to match or beat your investment of $500.

The further out of the money, the cheaper the premium for the optionand the lower the potential to ever realize a profit. Even using LEAPS and depending on longer time spans, you have to accept the reality: The current time value premium reflects the time until expiration, so you will pay more time value premium for longer-term puts. That means you have to overcome more points to replace time value with intrinsic value.

If you buy an in-the-money put and the underlying stock increases in value, you lose one point for each dollar of increase in the stock's market valueas long as it remains in the moneyand for each dollar lost in the stock's market value, your put gains a point in premium value. Once the stock's market value rises above striking price, there remains no intrinsic value; your put is out of the money and the premium value becomes less responsive to price movement in the underlying stock. While all of this is going on, time value is evaporating as well.

Tip: For option buyers, profits are realized primarily when the option is in the money. Out-of-the-money options are poor candidates for appreciation, because time value rarely increases.

Whether you prefer lower-premium, out-of-the-money puts or higher-premium in-the-money puts, always be keenly aware of the point gap between the stock's current market value and striking price of the put. The further out of the money, the less likely it is that your put will produce a profit.

To minimize your exposure to risk, limit your speculation to options on stocks whose market value is within five points of the striking price. In other words, if you buy out-of-the-money puts, avoid those that are deep out of the money. What might seem like a relatively small price gap can become quite large when you consider that all of the out-of-the-money premium is time value, and that no intrinsic value can be accumulated until your put goes in the money.

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