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Why Exxon Is a Nearly Perfect Option Trading Candidate

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The stock has a hugely active options series, trades in both monthly and weekly expiration series, and has bid/ask spreads that are just a few pennies wide.

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One of the most interesting aspects of options is the myriad opportunities presented for high probability trades for those who understand the details of options behavior.

For example, I have recently discussed the routinely observed collapse of implied volatility immediately following an earnings release. My firm has looked at several examples of profitable trades constructed to benefit from this expected decline in implied volatility.

Today I would like to review another group of trades based on a fundamental characteristic of options pricing. In order to understand this phenomenon, we need to review briefly the anatomy of the price of an option.

Remember that an option's price, while quoted as a pair of bid/ask values, is in reality the sum of two components. The current market price is the combination of the extrinsic and intrinsic components of the individual option contract.

The extrinsic component can comprise the entirety or only a variable portion of the market price of an option. All options contain at least a small amount of extrinsic component.

The intrinsic component of an option may comprise the majority of the value of an option, as, for example, a deep in-the-money option. Conversely, an individual out-of-the-money option routinely contains no intrinsic value whatsoever.

As an example, consider two current option prices from the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) option chain as the price of the stock is around $450. The deep in-the-money March 400 call is priced at $54; it consists of $50 of intrinsic premium and $4 of extrinsic premium. In contrast, the out-of-the-money March 500 call is priced at $2.60. It contains $0 of intrinsic value and $2.60 of extrinsic premium, or the entire price of the option.

One important consistent observation on the ratio of these premiums should never be forgotten because it is invaluable to remember in constructing potential trades. The at-the-money option contains the most intrinsic premium within any one expiration series. This occurs 100% of the time.

Another important point to realize, another characteristic about which there is no argument, is that the extrinsic premium goes to essentially 0 at expiration. Furthermore, there is a rapidly accelerating decline to 0 as the expiration date approaches.

My mental analogy is that the extrinsic premium is like a snowball rolling downhill; it starts slowly, gains mass, and rapidly accelerates as the end of the slope (the expiration date) approaches.

While in previous times this vanishing of extrinsic premium was confined to a single monthly cycle, the recent advent of weekly option cycles has come to mean this is a weekly event. The final smell of burning extrinsic option premium as it goes to 0 occurs every Friday for the most active issues!

The logical extension of this daily decay of extrinsic premium has a practical implication every Friday morning. Extrinsic premium that is present for options series expiring that day will go to 0 by the closing bell. Read that again! This weekly occurrence has great profit potential for your trading.

As an example of the power of this mandatory decay, let us consider last week's closing action in the Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) weekly option series. XOM has a hugely active options series, trades in both monthly and weekly expiration series, and has bid/ask spreads that are just a few pennies wide. It is, in short, close to an ideal option trading candidate.

XOM reported earnings shortly before market open on Friday, February 1. The stock initially sold off to $89.40 from its previous close at $90.24. Shortly following this bottom, the stock manifested an intraday rally and the option activity was tightly focused within the first hour of market activity at the 90 strike options, which were set to expire that day.

February 1 XOM Intraday Price Chart



February 1 XOM Option Chain



This strong, clear, and tight focus of options activity was a highly predictive factor that XOM would "pin" the 90 strike for the day.

At the time, XOM was slightly below $90 and the extrinsic premium existing in the 90 strike puts contained an extrinsic value of $0.28 and a total price of $0.32. I sold the 90 puts with only a few hours of life remaining until expiration. Within a few hours, XOM traded to a few cents above $90 and I was able to close these puts for $0.12.

This highly successful trade benefitted from both the resurgence in price correctly predicted earlier by the tightly focused options activity at a single strike price and by the relentless decay in extrinsic premium toward 0 as the expiration bell approached.

Editor's Note: JW Jones offers more content at OptionsTradingSignals.com.

For more on options trading, take a 14 day FREE trial to OptionSmith. Get access to veteran options trader Steve Smith's portfolio along with emailed alerts and strategy with every trade he makes. Learn more.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

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