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thinkMoney/05


random musings
for thinkorswimmers
Spring 2009

INSIDE THIS ISSUE



SHUT UP AND TRADE!/10

GAMMA SCALPING TIPS/24

THE DIARY OF JOE TRADER/28

VIX SPECIAL:
EVERYTHING YOU
WANTED TO ASK BUT WERE
AFRAID TO KNOW/ 35
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SA
ACCEPT NO
N SUBSTITUTE.
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thinkMoney/05

04


Contents

Photograph by
Fredrik Broden

thinkorswim.com

p. 10
Shut up and Trade!

While buy and holders


bicker about where the
bottom of the market is,
volatility traders are
swimming in opportunity.
Sure, the markets have
changed—But for us, the
rules are the same.

STYLING BY JULIE WHITMIRE


thinkMoney/05

07

Columns


Contents 16/Volatility Watch
With 2008 behind us as

the year that couldn't
Cover photograph by happen, but did–What
Fredrik Broden cont. are the volatility indica-
• tors telling us about the
thinkorswim.com future?

Features

10/Shut Up and Trade! 18/T.O.S. News


& Views
For all the noise out there about market bottoms,
in a nutshell, it's anyone's guess. No doubt it's Sneak peaks, new prod-
been cold, murky waters for the buy and hold ucts, bad opinions and
crowd–But for volatility traders, it feels like oppor- traders' misunderstood
Valentine's gifts. Yup,
tunity.
it's all here.

Miscellaneous

08/A Quick Howdy


24/Gamma Scalping: Eyes 21/Gear Head
Predict the future with
40/Capiche?
Think you can beat
Wide Open thinkAI and trade from expensive American
Though a favorite amongst some option traders, your iPhone with our options by trading their
this strategy can either trickle in some cool profits, newest trading plat- "cheaper" European
help you redeem a bad trade, or if you're not form, iSwim. As if you counterparts? Think
watching carefully, wind up earning income for didn't have enough rea- again. Things aren't
your broker. sons to jump for joy. always as they seem.

15/Dear Swim
Wacky letters from you
28/Now, I'm a Trader 22/Trading Game
Play "Magic Monkey!"
42/The Last Page
What type of trader
Thinking of leaving your old life behind to become
to yours truly –Our latest time killer is are you? Take the TOS
a trader? One rookie did. Armed with only a
sure to cure your Trader Proficiency
rudimentary knowledge of options and a small
lunchtime blues and feed Test to help you deter-
account, the lessons learned over his two week
your happy hour antics. mine what you're really
trial by fire is sure to inspire.
made of.

35/VIX Special 33/Hey Monkey!


Our resident primate's
Contact Info You Could Use
Main Office 866-839-1100
VIX OPTIONS EXPLAINED Technical Support 866-839-1100 ext. 3290
got a few things to say Forex Support 866-839-1100 ext. 3400
To be able to trade these brilliant new products,
about mark to market •
best to understand them first. General Help: help@thinkorswim.com
accounting, Pearl
PLUS: Getting Started: account@thinkorswim.com
Awards, and SXSW. Retirement Account: iraaccounts@thinkorswim.com
STRATEGY FOCUS All the places you can go to
Account Transfer Help: acats@thinkorswim.com
analyze volatility on TOS. Account Funding Help: funding@thinkorswim.com
Q&A Answers to questions about VIX options ACH Transfer Help: ACHTeam@thinkorswim.com
you didn't know you had. Trading Help: tradedesk@thinkorswim.com
Forex-related Questions: fx@thinkorswim.com

General Mailing Address
thinkorswim, Inc.
600 W. Chicago Ave., Suite 100
Chicago, IL 60654-2597

thinkMoney is published quarterly. If you prefer not to
receive this publication, please call 773-435-3210.
thinkMoney/05

08

the products and services you get


for free, such as live data, news, the
trading platform, service, etc. In fact,
TD Ameritrade does not currently
charge for any of its platforms,
• either. You’ll always be able to call
A Quick Howdy our trade desk for help. We’ll going
• to be adding a number of experi-
www.thinkorswim.com enced traders to our desk to handle
the increasing trading volume and
support requests.
thinkMoney The product development
EDITORIAL DIRECTOR schedule will also proceed full-
Kevin Lund
EDITOR
steam ahead. Our development
Thomas Preston team is going to remain intact, and
ART DIRECTOR
Tom Brown we’ll continue to hammer out new
ASSISTANT EDITOR releases, with enhancements and
Jennifer Agee
DESIGNER trading toys, every month as we
Jennifer Roberts
always have. And yes, you’ll still be
• able to trade complex option
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Thomas Preston, Tony Battista
spreads, futures, and FX on the
Mark Ambrose, Kendall Hamilton platform. We’ll even continue to
CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
Fredrik Broden expand the list of products you
PHOTOGRAPHY STYLIST
Julie Whitmire
can trade. As for the option mar-
gins and ability to trade in IRAs,

PUBLISHER
that will stay the same.
Kevin Lund
T3 Publishing, LLC
We’ll also be expanding our
Email: info@t3publishing.com educational products
www.t3publishing.com
A Note from and classes to a much
edit. the Prez wider audience, as well
as the number of advi-
ADVERTISING CONTACT You’ve probably already heard sors that we will sup-
sales@t3publishing.com
the news that TD Ameritrade is port for auto-trading.
• in the process of buying thinkor- The bottom line–
The information presented in this publication does not consider your swim. So, let me take this opportu- this monkey ain’t going
personal investment objectives or financial situation; therefore this
publication does not make personalized recommendations. This infor- nity to answer some questions that anywhere. Now, I have
mation should not be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation to
buy any security. The investment strategies or the securities may not I get asked frequently. to get back to answer-
be suitable for you. We believe the information provided is reliable,
however, thinkorswim, Inc. and its affiliated companies do not guaran-
tee its accuracy, timeliness or completeness. Any and all opinions
The main thing people want to ing emails.
expressed in this publication are subject to change without notice.
In respect to the companies or securities covered in these materi-
know is whether we’ll still be send-
als, the respective person, analyst or writer certifies to thinkorswim
that the views expressed accurately reflect his or her own personal
ing out the monkeys. That’s a board Yours truly,
views about the subject securities and issuing entities and that no
part of the person’s compensation was, is or will be related to the spe-
decision. As of this writing, it’s about Tom Sosnoff
cific recommendations (if made) or views contained in this publication.
thinkorswim, Inc. and its affiliates, their employees, directors, con-
40% for and 40% against. We’re President, thinkorswim
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Options transactions involve complex tax considerations that
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key side by the next meeting. We PHOTOGRAPH: FREDRIK BRODEN; STYLING: JULIE WHITMIRE

The risk of loss in trading securities, options, futures and Forex can
be substantial. Customers must consider all relevant risk factors
think we’ll be able to pull it off.
including their own personal financial situation before trading. Options
involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. A copy of Characteris-
Then, what about commissions?
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Scott Garland at 773-435-3270 or 600 W. Chicago Ave. Suite 100, There has been a lot of thought
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level of risk as well as its own unique risk factors. Please read the make any guarantees, we believe Unsure which way the markets are moving? You can use
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thinkMoney/05

10


Feature #1

thinkorswim.com

cov.
story

TOSAYTHEWORLDHASCHANGED
ISANUNDERSTATEMENT.
TOSAYTHATYOU’REAFRAIDTO
DIVEBACKINTHECOLDWATERS,UNDERSTANDABLE.
BUTHAVETHINGSREALLYCHANGED
MUCHFORVOLATILITYTRADERS?
IT’STIMESLIKETHESE
WHEREYOUMAYJUST
HAVETOEMBRACEYOURFEAR,
PLUGYOUREARS
ANDJUMPONIN.
Words by Mark Ambrose
Photograph by Fredrik Brodén
thinkMoney/05 which is why some traders decide that they don’t need

12
• insurance in the form of defined risk trades, and they put
on trades whose maximum loss can’t be known with cer-
YOU JUST WON’T GET AS MUCH
tainty. The loss on those types of positions can be enor- POTENTIAL REWARD FOR
mous. You don’t need that. You can read about those types THE RISK YOU’RE TAKING AS WHEN
of losses in the newspaper. Use defined risk trades where VOLATILITY IS HIGH. THE CRASH
you know the maximum loss you might incur if the market USHERED IN A TIME OF GREAT back to back crashes. But the option premiums have.
does something you pray it won’t. OPPORTUNITY TO CAPTURE LOTS They’re bigger now. And the reality is, they might not stay
• The second point, which is an extension of the first, is OF POSITIVE TIME DECAY. big. That’s not to say that you can’t sell iron condors or ver-
Feature #1 that you have to make sure that if all your positions lose ticals when the VIX is lower, but you just won’t get as
• their maximum amount, you can absorb that loss and con- much potential reward (credit) for the risk you’re taking as
Photograph by tinue to trade. In other words, the crash taught us the when the volatility is high. When you look at it like that, the
Fredrik Broden importance of risk management (see “Risk Management: A crash ushered in a time of great opportunity to capture lots
• Trader’s Least Fun Job”, thinkMoney/03). Hey, even mort- of positive time decay. That time might not, and probably
thinkorswim.com gage derivatives probably looked attractive at one point. will not, last forever.
For a bank, maybe $1 million of exposure was ok. Maybe
even $10 million. But $10 billion? You know how that story ONE M ORE T HOUGHT
ended. Defining the max loss for one short spread is The fourth point is something most people don’t think
straightforward. Deciding how many spreads to sell is about, but savvy traders use to their advantage. When
STRATEGY BOX: THERE’S A REASON THEY CALL THEM “CRASHES”. another question. Multiply the max loss by the quantity of stocks and indices are moving around, the prices of individ-
Whether they happen in the market or in your car, no one spreads you’re considering, and think about that number. If ual options and option spreads move around, too. That
Short Vertical A defined-
risk, directional spread strat- ever sees them coming. In retrospect, you start to convince you lose that much, can you continue trading, or do you means that sometimes you can get much better fills than
egy, composed of an equal yourself that there was some sign. The road was icy. Or it have to go back to saving up for another stake? when the market is slow. For a spread, forget the “natural”
number of short (sold) and
long (bought) calls or puts in
was foggy. Or maybe it was just that the guy in the other The third point is that the increased volatility can actu- price based on the bid of one option minus the ask of the
which the credit from the car was an idiot. But the second-guessing doesn’t really do ally create trading opportunities. Now, that may sound like other option. Think about an “inside” price where the mar-
short strike is greater than you much good when you have to get to work on Monday a dorky business motivational poster, but when it comes to ket makers will trade a spread. You can’t see what that
the debit of the long strike,
resulting in a net credit morning. You have to get back in the car (or loaner) and option trading, it’s fairly easy to see why. price is. But you can enter an order at the “mid” price, which
taken into the trader’s drive. Sure, you’re jittery, and you realize how bad things represents fair value for a spread, and as the underlying
account at the onset. Short can get when you or someone else makes a mistake. You SAME T RADE, D IFFERENT D AY stock or index moves around, that mid price might suddenly
call verticals are bearish
while short put verticals are also realize that if you succumb to the fear, you'll never get Look at three different volatility environments: one with be a price that another trader is willing to buy or sell at. Put
bullish. The risk in this strat- out of bed in the morning; and in all likelihood, others in VIX, the CBOE volatility index, in the low teens, one with another way, when you’re working a big order, say 2,000
egy is typically limited to the
difference between the
your household just aren’t that into you (pets included). VIX in the mid 20s, and one with VIX above 50. Back in spreads, and call down to the exchange floor to see what
strikes less the credit taken So instead of putting a moratorium on driving ever early 2007, when the VIX was barely above 10% and the the market is, a market maker might say, “I’ll pay 0.40 for
in. The trade is profitable again, you use the fear to become a little smarter, a little SPY was 143, you could sell a one point put vertical (on them with SPY at $88.50”. The bid/ask for the spread
when it can be closed as a
debit for less than the credit more aware, and start driving again...And be glad that SPY) with thirty days to expiration with a short strike 5% might be 0.38 - 0.42 based on the N.B.B.O. (National Best
received. Breakeven is calcu- you have insurance. out of the money for .05. Thirtydays later, the SPY was Bid and Offer) and the SPY might be trading at $88.48. If
lated in a short put vertical 1.89% higher and the short put vertical expired worthless. the SPY ticks up 0.02, the market maker will accommodate
by subtracting the credit
received from the higher LESSONS L EARNED In August of 2007, with the VIX in the mid 20s and the the large order, even though the 0.38 - 0.42 doesn’t
(short) put strike, or in the The Crash of 2008 wiped out a lot of market value. You can SPY at 145, a one point put vertical with thirty days to go • change on the screen. Now, let’s say you’re wanting to sell
case of a short call vertical,
adding the credit received to
think back to last summer and see the things that might and with a short strike 5% out of the money was worth The information contained in That position would have gotten creamed in October a 20 lot of spreads. Do you just sell them at the bid of 0.38?
this article is not intended to be
the lower (short) call strike. have triggered it. The continued failures in the banking and .15. 30 days later, the SPY was 4.7% higher and the short investment advice and is for
2008. But in those three scenarios, the SPY moved less in No! Put them in at 0.40. Maybe you’ll get filled. But here’s
mortgage sectors...the specter of deflation. Forget it. put vertical expired worthless. This last November, with illustrative purposes only. Multi- 30 days when the VIX was highest. If you had been bullish the key: when the market is sluggish and not moving
Iron Condor A market- ple option strategies such as
neutral, limited risk strategy, Leave the “whys” to the academics and the economists. the VIX in the 60s and the SPY at 87, that put vertical, with those discussed in this article
at those three times, you would have profited because around very much, maybe some other trader won’t see the
composed of a short put They get paid to fill blank pieces of paper with text. Traders thirty days to go and 5% out of the money, was .35. Thirty will have additional costs due to your speculation was correct, and you would have prof- SPY trade at a price that makes 0.40 an attractive buy for
vertical spread and a short don’t have that luxury. We have to get up in the morning, days later, the SPY was 1.1% higher and the short put ver- the additional strikes traded. Be
ited significantly more when volatility was highest. You her. When the market’s volatile, the SPY might be bouncing
call vertical spread. The sure to understand all risks
strategy assumes the fire up the TOS platform, stare at the flashing numbers, and tical expired worthless. involved with each strategy, would have also had a smaller maximum risk when the around so much that it hits that critical number, and she
including commission costs,
underlying will stay within a try to find a way to make a profitable trade. You might be When vol was low, the short verticals a certain percent- before attempting to place any
volatility was higher because you would have received a lifts your offer.
certain range (between the
strikes of the short options),
more scared now, more jittery, about putting on positions. age away from the current index price were dramatically trade. Customers must consider larger credit. This tells you that you shouldn’t necessarily Traders who want to sound cool sometimes use the
all relevant risk factors includ-
in which case, as time Losing money stinks, no matter how long you've been doing cheaper than they were when volatility was high. Another ing their own personal financial
shy away from trading when volatility is high. That fear phrase “the quick and the dead”, thinking that it refers to
passes and/or volatility this. But it’s a part of the business. So, post-Crash of 2008, way of looking at it is that you could get the same credit situation before trading. might be causing you to give up opportunity by not trad- gunslingers. But it’s a Biblical phrase that uses an old
drops, the spreads can be Options involve risk and are not
bought back cheaper than what have we learned that we can use in the future? for a short vertical much further out of the money when suitable for all investors. A copy
ing during such times. True, staying out of positions will meaning of the word “quick”, which meant “alive”. When
the credit taken in or expire The first thing to realize is that nothing can predict a vol was high than when it was low. The market is reward- of Characteristics and Risks of allow you to avoid loss. But the larger profits you might markets are volatile, they’re alive and ripe with opportuni-
worthless, resulting in a Standardized Options can be
crash. Nothing. So, you always have to be insured. No ing you for taking on risk when volatility is high. obtained by contacting Scott
make when vol is higher could make up for losses that can ties for good fill prices, good credits, and yes, even
profit. The two breakeven
points at expiration are cal- naked risk positions (if you must, refer to “Swimming The point is not that selling put spreads with 30 days Garland at 773-435-3270 or happen otherwise. reduced risk. The game hasn’t necessarily changed–it's
600 W. Chicago Ave. Suite 100,
culated by adding the total Naked”, thinkMoney/04). Use defined risk spreads where to go and 5% out of the money is a great trading strategy. Chicago IL 60610.
So, the strategies really don’t change, but the way just that the the goal posts have moved. It’s a time to
credit received to the call
strike and subtracting the
you know what the max possible loss is before you do the you apply them might. That is, you might sell fewer trade. It’s when the market’s “dead” that it’s time to pull
credit from the short put trade. No matter what the probability models say, no mat- iron condors with the short strikes the same percentage out the crossword puzzle.
strike. ter how much homework you’ve done, no matter that the away at a higher price, and generate the same credit for
market has never moved so big, so fast, it can happen. Indi- the fewer iron condors that you would get with more iron
vidual stocks, commodities, currencies, indices – you name condors at a lower vol.
it – can all do brand new, unexpected, unpredictable things The market hasn’t necessarily changed. The possibility
in the future. The vast majority of the time, they don’t, of another crash is still there. Then again, we’ve never seen
thinkMoney/05

15

• My 2 1/2 year old in my lap,


playing online toddler games,
looks down at the TOS mouse
pad, points his little finger at the
“It’s transparent, regulated and deeply •
Dear Swim
red logo and says, "stock market
Daddy, stock market." Made me
• forget about all that Tribune (toi-
liquid. Trading forex at the CME Group A collection of our
best love notes from
Swimmers to the
let) paper I have... thank good-
ness I never heard of Madoff ....
Trading Desk. Charles

gives me an edge in the market.” •


Photograph by
Fredrik Broden
• I just want you guys to know
that thinkorswim is providing me
I find incredible irony in the arti-
cles "Do Adjustments Really
with more financial independence Work?" and "Why Commissions
and security than any of my col- Don't Matter." Not many months
JOHN PERSON lege degrees. ago I had an account that was
Trader and author of Forex Conquered Laurel completely managed by RedOp-
tion. The heroic multitude of
• I appreciate your financial insight adjustments burned through
and lighthearted nature when it commissions like a California
comes to discussing the vast wildfire driven by the Santa Ana
world of trading. What I did not winds. I now think of RedOption
lttrs. appreciate in your last issue was as part of TOS the same way I
finding nudity in your magazine. I think of the Mafia as part of the
am utterly disappointed knowing construction business.
that my fees not only helped pay Larry
for this magazine but were also
John P Person
erson n relies
relies on CME Group
Group – the
the • [Excerpt from a live customer used to distribute this garbage. I CNBC is a bunch of crooked jour-
service chat] have a family of three kids that I nalists who parade out naked
w orld’s largest
world’s largestt regulated
regulat
l ted
d fforeign
oreign
i e xchh
hang
exchange e handodd: Can I trade FX in my actively discuss trading with (we short sellers who have ruined our
mark etplace with $1
marketplace 00 billion ttraded
$100 raded IRA? even dressed up our cat with the country...Good luck and call Jim
hja: you may not thinkorswim monkey T-shirt and Chanos or Stevie Cohen on how
daily –for
– for fast,
fast, transparent
transparent trading,
trading, tight
tig
ght
handodd: Tom S. said in August took pictures)...Clearly I cannot to rob the country with CNBC’s
b id/ask s
bid/ask preads, and fully disclosed,
spreads, disclosed, flat that TOS was "working on it." Do trust your company to make good help...Take me off your email list...
ffees.
ees. With
With the
the proven
proven safety
safety and s ecu urity
security you know if this may be a possibil- moral decisions and stay focused Anonymous Angry Guy #2
ity in the future? on trading and education.
o
off CME Clearing,
Clearing,
a traders like
traders like Person
Person can
can For
Fo FREE rreal-time
eall-time
ti pric
prices
i es and
d fforex
orex educa
education
d ation
ti hja: Tom WHO? Joe
virtually eliminate
elim
minate counterparty
counterparty credit
credit risk. materials,, v
materials visit
isit cmegroup.com/tradeforex.
cmegroup.com/tradeforex x. handodd: Tom Sosnoff Got a quip? Send
hja: that Monkey? • I am 76 years old, so you can us your best at
editor@thinkmoney-
handodd: I guess; haven't known imagine my horror at opening mag.com.
FAST
F
FA ST LIQUID SECURE
S E C URE
him as a monkey but I can see the your magazine and seeing this
Enter and confirm
Enter confirm trades
trades With $1
With $100
00 billion tr
traded
aded daily
d
daily,, Virtually eliminat
Virtually eliminate
e eccounterparty
ounterparty
similarity! naked butt. I do not subscribe to •
instantly on CME Globex.
instantly Globex. get in and out o
get off markets
markets credit risk
credit k with CME Cle aring.
Clearing.
quickly and easily.
easily. porn and shame on you for such The comments above are
• Here we go again. I can't get pitiful standards. excerpts of e-mails sub-
mitted by thinkorswim,
access to your end-of-week dis- Sharon
Inc. clients as their views
cussion. Why don't you use the and may not reflect the
thinkorswim traders’ lounge? At • [Our sincerest apologies if views of thinkorswim,
least it works. This never does. the artwork in the article Inc. Testimonials may not
Don't you guys get it? Use some- referred to here (“Swimming be representative of the
experience of other
thing that works. Tech wise you Naked,” thinkMoney/04), was clients and is no guaran-
Regulated
Regulated by
by CFTC.
CFTC. suck. Can't you get it right? taken out of context or tee of future perform-
CME Gr oup is the trademark
Group trademark of
of CME Gr oup, Inc.
Group, Inc. The Globe logo, Globex® and CME® ar
logo, Globex are
e Anonymous Angry Guy offended our readers. Going ance or success.
trademarks
trademarks of of Chicago
Chicag go Mercantile
Mercantile Exchange,
Exchange, Inc. CBOT® is the tr
Inc. CBOT trademark
ad
demark ooff the Board
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Trade
rade forward we’ve implemented a
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rights eserved.
thinkMoney/05

16

Everything you
wanted to ask
about the VIX but
were afraid to
know begins on
• page 35.

Volatility Watch •
• that date, you’ll notice that the
Analyzing the markets huge moves in the index can
through the eyes of happen when the VIX is high or
volatility–sans charts. low. You can even look at dif-
ferent time frames in the
index. The VIX doesn’t do a
great job at predicting black
swan events.
So, can we safely ignore
vol. the VIX? Not likely. It does a
•How many times do you see a respectable job at forecasting
black swan in your lifetime? In the volatility of the market for
2008, I could count two: the S&P the next 30 to 45 days or so,
500 crashing down and the VIX, the CBOE’s most of the time. Once in a
volatility index, crashing up. Both of those while, a colossal event occurs
moves were bigger than anything I’ve seen in because of some unforeseen
20 years of trading. I suppose I knew theoreti- set of circumstances (i.e. , the
cally that they were possible, but I always collapse of the of US financial
thought they were unlikely. Did the VIX pro- system), that the VIX can’t
vide any hint of the coming rara avis? Not that predict, then things go back to
I saw. The VIX was rising from the 20s to the normal. That kind of fits in
30s in late summer, and was hovering around with the oscillating behavior of
35% or so when the market started to col-
lapse after September expiration. Sure, the Frequently is the VIX itself. It tends to go up
and down in a range, some-
VIX rallied when the market was crashing, but
it hit a high in late October as the fear was
greatest and just before a bounce in the mar-
the New Never times wider, sometimes nar-
rower, around some average
level. Then, the world changes,
ket. Then it dropped below 50% right before • and the VIX ratchets up or
the market crapped out again in the middle of Anything that couldn’t happen did happen down to a new average and
November. When that happened, the VIX duti- in 2008. So what did we learn? Don’t oscillates around that for a
fully rose back to the 70s, expecting more put your faith into any one indicator, but while. What’s the new range
huge price swings in the S&P 500. Did it hap- don’t dismiss it entirely either. that the VIX is trading in now?
pen? Not really. The period between Novem- It seems that we’ve seen the
ber and January expirations has seen a highs of 80 or so when fear
relatively range-bound market. heated up. Rather than being predictive, the was at its worst last fall, then lows in the 40s
Harumph...is the VIX useless at forecasting VIX seemed to be much more reactive. It didn’t when everyone became a little more confi-
market volatility? Well, don't blame the VIX rise ahead of the big moves down. It rose dent in the economy. Now, the VIX seems like
itself, which is simply a calculation based on while the big moves were occurring. So, what it might trade in a range between 40 and 60
the prices of out-of-the-money SPX options do we watch the VIX for? or so. That is pure speculation, of course, and
(see page 39 for more on this). The VXO, Using the VIX as a contrary directional another shock to the market could send it
which is the symbol for the “old” VIX that was indicator is, to put it technically, iffy. If the back to 80, or an improving economy could
a weighted average of the implied vols of at- market goes down and the VIX rallies, the send it back to the 20s.
the-money OEX options, didn’t do any better thinking goes that the market is due to rally •
at forecasting what might happen. Blame the because it has dropped so far. But anyone The views in the section above are those of a
traders instead, who seemed to be betting who bought stocks in September of 2008 thinkorswim employee, but are not necessarily
that things would cool down right before they when the VIX rose from 20% to 35% and the views of thinkorswim, Inc. and is not intended
to be specific investment advice.
expected that the jump in the VIX would sig-
Words by Thomas Preston nal a rally in the market got whacked. How is it
Photograph by Fredrik Broden for forecasting the big moves?
If you look at a scatter plot of the price of
the VIX on a particular date and the percent-
age change in the S&P 500 thirty days after
thinkMoney/05

nws.
18

fyi.

Traders’
Misguided

TOS News+Views

Valentine’s

A hodge-podge of stuff
that matters to you When President
(or so we think)

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT
Carter appointed
Volcker as Fed Chair, Day Gifts
you could argue that
Disco it put the market’s 1. Letting her take the other
side of your trades
Déjà Vu interest ahead of
labor, consumers,
• borrowers, etc. 2. Candlelit tutorial on TOS
Toys for TOS 1979: It was a Carter knew that Analyze page
New treats story of question- Volckernomics
for swimmers able music, a bleak would be tough 3. Promise that this month,
wasteland, and hard- medicine for a des-
really, you'll move out of your
Active Trader with working innocents perate economy. But
Time & Sales and mowed down by he had the courage
mother's house
Price Ladder undisciplined evil. to do it anyway.
• Shows you every Then a lone ranger 4. Offer to monitor positions if
trade, tick by tick, with
came to the rescue— Fast forward to she goes back to the gym
price and quantity for
stocks and futures. You Paul Volcker. Fed 2009: The eco-
can even filter trade Chairman from 1979 nomic difficulties 5. Love poems using bad option
size to weed out small to 1987. The tough today are just as bad, metaphors like “deep in the
transactions.
thinkScript
love killer of “stagfla- if not more so; mak- money”, “long”, and “slippage”.
tion” who pushed ing President
Person's Pivots
interest rates from Obama’s selection of
• You can tweak the
parameters of one of 11% to 20% Volcker as an eco- 2009 might be a TOS TOYS COMING SOON
between ’79-’81, nomic advisor more range-bound year,
Drag and drop bracket and OCO group orders • New chart interface with
the most popular stud- To catch up on all
ies created by market the new TOS toys
resulting in the infla- interesting than sim- and gadgets
painful choices to without enough fear
guru John Person to
come up with your own
tion swan dive and
arguably one of the
ply Obama trying to
bolster his youthful
released, go to
our Release Notes
get the economy
growing again.
to resume the bear
market, but not
drag and drop studies and drawings • Customizable p/l tracking • Enhanced
variations of his model.
Single-Click greatest economic ranks with an octo-
archives at
thinkorswim.com Will the new enough gumption to account statement with user-defined report generator.
Heading Change expansions, and a genarian. It’s a signal > Support> Soft- administration do start a new bull.
bull market that ran to the markets that ware Support. the things, or maybe 2009 could also be
• A single click at the Select the link at
top of each column on for over 15 years. Obama won’t be the top following, more importantly, the year when
the Trade page will let
you choose which field
their natural enemy. "Looking for
Release Notes".
NOT do the wrong investors start to Pot Shots Go Green Tax Cuts Infrastructure Regulation R&D
But it could also indi- things, to turn the get long. If the Presi- Obama's Top 5
you display in each col- •
umn. This lets you tailor cate that the new economy around? dent and Congress Stimulators
the trade information President will not Already, at the time are tough enough to
you want to see for shy away from mak- of this writing, Dem- give the American
maximum efficiency. ing difficult and ocratic House and economy the bitter •
KEY:
Senate leaders are medicine it needs, Yup, a solar panel on Sounds great! And Nothing beats a Obama as the When capitalists
urging him to roll the next round of 2 Buy Tickets = every roof sounds the investment freshly paved nation's "scold"– turn out to be
back immediately expansion could be great, but does that bankers could pay stretch of highway, who's to say he won't sissies, it's Uncle
TRADERTRIVIA THENYSEWASESTABLISHED the Bush tax cuts for
people with income
impressive. And the
market may just go
1 Buy Ticket =
also mean a tofu
chicken in every
less in taxes on the
ginormous bonuses
and think of all the
new working-class
stop at banks, and
cast a disapproving
Sam the rescue.
Hey, who do you
IN1792THROUGHTHEBUTTONWOODAGREE- over $250K. Obama along for the ride. pot? they don't deserve! ballads that Bob eye at your industry? think paid to build
MENT–ADOCUMENTSINGEDBY24BANKERSAND isn’t so sure that a de
facto increase in
1 Sell Ticket = Seger could write. the Internet?

MERCHANTSONWALLSTREET.THEFIRSTLISTED taxes is the right


STOCKWASTHATOFTHEBANKOFNEWYORK,AND thing to do in a weak
2 Sell Tickets =

LITERALLYTRADEDUNDERABUTTONWOODTREE. economy.
And the market?
thinkMoney/05

21


• To learn about
all the latest
Gear Head
and greatest
• new TOS tools,
Cool things to do with view the
what we’ve got. archived

Education always
Release Notes
at thinkor-
swim.com, then
follow the path
to
Support>Soft-

pays dividends Crystal Balls &


ware Support.

especially in a down market. iSwimming the closest) to see


how much they
• diverge. When there
are a lot of charts
Forecast the future and trade that are very close to
with TOS from your iPhone? the current chart, the
No, you're not dreaming—Go on, confidence bound is
pinch yourself. HOW TO thinkAI: For intraday price forecasts, go to the top Trade tab (1), select narrower, indicating
“Active Trader” in the right drop-down (2), type in the symbol, and view the blue shaded that thinkAI sees the
Sign up for a FREE* 2-hour You’ll discover: area in the chart (3) for a forecast of the next 15 minutes to 2 hours. projected price path
is more likely to hap-
How to find opportunities in a turbulent
pen. If there are
class with Investools. or down market patterns from historical price data, and fewer close matches, the confidence interval
How to decide for yourself what to buy, when tech. match the current day's price action to one widens out.
Were you born an investor? Able to compare of the historical patterns. Think of it like this:
to buy, and when to sell thinkAI thinkAI looks at the current intraday price iSwim
valuation models and judge market criteria? One of the most unique chart, then looks at the universe of charts If you have an iPhone, go to the App store and
How to minimize risk and maximize return
Probably not, unless your name ends in Buffett. things in the industry that TOS has added to with the same intraday time frame (1 search for iSwim. iSwim, our new trading appli-
How to follow your head, not your heart, for the trading platform is what we call thinkAI, minute, 5 minute, etc.) that have occurred in cation designed specifically for the iPhone.
Investing isn’t rocket science. But it takes a greater investing success where “AI” stands for “artificial intelligence”. the past. The past chart that comes closest Get quotes, set and receive alerts, build and
sound knowledge of trading fundamentals. The idea is that the tool “learns” as new to the pattern of the current chart is used as view watch lists, check positions and P&L, cre-
Education equals confidence, enabling you to be Join the more than 350,000 investors who have market data develops. It uses that new data the forecast for the rest of the day. As the ate and send stock and complex option orders
benefited from our seminars. We’ll also provide to try to make more accurate forecasts of current trading day passes and more infor- from anywhere you can get a phone signal.
calm when there’s panic in the market. short-term market direction. You use thinkAI mation becomes available, thinkAI keeps Using the native technology of the Apple
professional tools for stock evaluation and
to assist in short-term entry or exit deci- looking for the past chart that comes clos- iPhone software, iSwim lets you change fields
In two hours, we’ll teach you more about portfolio acquisition. Learn. Prosper. Practice sions for stocks or futures, as a tool to back est to matching the current day’s pattern. by dragging your finger on the screen, tap the
investing than most people learn in a lifetime. mind over market. up other technical indicators, or on its own thinkAI is available on intraday charts and screen to switch between functions, and has
as a speculative tool. generates price estimates for the next 15 an overall “cool” look and feel that will make
thinkAI uses proprietary pattern match- minutes to 2 hours into the future. It waits you the envy of the mobile trading set. It’s still
ing algorithms and artificial intelligence until the first 5 minutes of data are collected in its demo phase, but we’ll be making it live
Register for our FREE* 2-hour class today. Seats are filling up. technology to project a possible intraday for the day, then begins with a 15-minute soon and adding functionality quickly. So,
Go to investools.com/thinkmoney or call 1.800.530.4845 price path for a stock or index. The model projection. As the trading day passes and tune in and tap on.
attempts to identify predictable intraday more data is collected, thinkAI extends its
projection up to 2 hours.
thinkAI also generates upper and lower
*This class is a condensed representation of the Investools Investing Foundation Course, a fee-based program of study.
Copyright 2008 © Investools Inc. All rights reserved. Terms of use apply. Reproduction, adaptation, distribution, public display, exhibition for profit, or storage in any electronic
confidence bounds for the day's price action
storage media in whole or in part is prohibited under penalty of law. Neither Investools nor its educational subsidiaries nor any of their respective officers, personnel, represen- by comparing the current price pattern with
tatives, agents or independent contractors are, in such capacities, licensed financial advisers, registered investment advisers or registered broker-dealers. Neither Investools other previous charts that are close (but not
nor such educational subsidiaries provide investment or financial advice or make investment recommendations, nor are they in the business of transacting trades, nor do they
direct client futures accounts or give futures trading advice tailored to any particular client’s situation. Nothing contained in this communication constitutes a solicitation,
recommendation, promotion, endorsement or offer by Investools, or others described above, of any particular security, transaction or investment.
thinkMoney/05

22


Time Killer

Illustrations by
Randall Watson

thinkorswim.com SYMBOL KEY
Bull’s-eye: Player's
choice–fistful of wings
or two swigs.
Blue Button: Two
wings and change your
nickname to “Greasy” on
TOS
Orange Button: One
swig and force yourself
to watch the “Analyze”
page video again
Green Button: Three
wings and swear off
penny stocks
Yellow Button: Two
swigs and liquidate all
rapidly decaying long
positions
Pink Button: One
wing, one swig and stop
making stupid jokes
about naked risk

WARNING:
Instructions: This is what pit traders do when they’re not trading: eat wings and (ahem) take on fluids. When Supplies (not included): Chicken Wings – Can be fried, baked, BBQ, spicy, or mild. Quality doesn’t matter nearly as You should avoid this

LET’S PLAY
game if you are nursing
the trading day is over, lay this game board on a flat surface. Aim for the center monkey (it’s the big one winking much as quantity. Figure at least 100 wings per player.
losing positions, trying
at you) and bounce a game piece on the surface of the table outside of the board. The game piece will likely land on or Fluids – Can be either the “happy” kind or not; but typically whatever is close at hand. If you need to make a “run,” may we
MAGIC near a “magic monkey spot.” If you nail one, follow the directions using the key above. For multiple players, begin with the suggest something on the order of 80-proof minimum and costing no more than about $5 per bottle. While best left to
to avoid pregnancy,
suffer from irritable
MONKEY! player who come closest to either buying on the day’s high or selling on the low. Play then moves clockwise. your own discretion, quantity is typically correlated to the players’ total aggregate years of trading experience. bowels, or are sitting on
Game Pieces – One for each player. If you’re a profitable trader, use coins. If not, use something free and readily available, or near expensive
furniture or rugs.
Objective: To celebrate the winners and drown out the losers for as long as you can suppress the gag reflex. such as bottle caps, pebbles, bitten-off fingernails, etc.
thinkMoney/05

25


Feature #2

thinkorswim.com

OFTEN TALKED ABOUT, BUT RARELY


UNDERSTOOD, GAMMA SCALPING IS A CLEVER LITTLE
STRATEGY THAT CAN BE PRETTY USEFUL AT TIMES—THAT IS
OF COURSE, IF YOU CAN MAKE IT WORK.
Words by Thomas Preston
Photograph by Fredrik Brodén
thinkMoney/05 the stock moves $1.00. If the stock goes up to $87, the That’s gamma scalping.

26
• gamma manufactures positive 90 deltas (45 times a $2 Looking at this position, you can make
move in the stock) and theoretically, the delta of the money in a couple of ways.
straddle will now be 170. If I sell 100 shares of stock at First, if the stock moves up and down •
that point, the delta of my long straddle and short stock enough, those moves will give you oppor- Can’t get enough on right on the direction of the stock, the direc-
will be 70—roughly where it was when I initiated the tunities to sell stock high and buy it low gamma scalping? tion of implied volatility, and your timing. If you
Listen to author Tom
trade. (Gamma scalping, like all trading, is rarely surgically when you hedge your deltas. are wrong about any of these, then the profits
Preston’s extended
precise.) Now, if the stock drops from $87 back down to Second, you can make money from an discussion at drop, but the commissions don’t. With all those
• $85, the gamma manufactures -90 deltas and the delta increase in implied volatility, because that trades needed to get your delta back closer to
www.thinkorswim.com
Feature #2 on my straddle goes back to 80. But remember, I sold 100 straddle has positive vega. /thinkmoney zero, your commissions can be a significant
• shares of stock, so the delta on my position is -20. If I buy Third, you can make money with a very • cost to overcome.
Photograph by 100 shares of stock back to get my position delta back to big, one-direction move that you don’t
Fredrik Broden the original 80, what have I done? I have scalped 100 hedge with a gamma scalp. That can happen if the stock Advanced Gamma Scalping
• shares of stock for a $200 profit. Look what’s happening— gaps up or down overnight on some news event. If you Now, to get a little more advanced. Instead of using stock
thinkorswim.com I’m selling stock into rallies and buying stock into selloffs. find a stock that you think is going to exhibit that type of as the hedge, I could use single options—say buy puts
behavior, then you may have found a candidate for when the stock rallies and sell them again when the
that the coolest-sounding strategy name, or what? You gamma scalping. I made some money gamma scalping stock drops—or I could use verticals, which would “roll”
whip that one out at a cocktail party and all the covered- yen futures straddles ahead of Bank of Japan announce- one side of the straddle to a higher or lower strike. The
call grannies will choke on their olives. There are different ments, when they surprised the market and the yen advantage is that I can fine-tune the greeks of the posi-
ways you can make—and lose—money gamma scalping. futures gapped sharply higher or lower on the open. In tion more precisely using options. The disadvantage is
You can play it from the long side or the short side. You can these cases, I was also speculating that the implied that the commissions are typically higher than for stocks,
keep it simple, or you can get creative. And if you like the volatility of the options was low, and might not drop too and the execution is more difficult.
idea of “adjustments,” you’ll love gamma scalping—it’s all much when the news came out; and I was defending my If you’re the type of person who likes to hedge posi-
about the adjustment. You want to try it? Get a comfort- long straddle positions against negative time decay with tions like short iron condors, you might be gamma scalp-
able seat in front of your trading monitor, because you profitable gamma scalps. ing also. An iron condor typically starts out as a low delta
won’t be going anywhere. And keep your eyes wide open. trade. But if the stock or index moves to one of the short
One blink and you could miss the best part. There’s No Free Lunch strikes, the deltas can get very negative (if the stock hits
But as I said, gamma scalping is really a defensive tactic. the short call strike) or very positive (if the stock hits the
STRATEGY BOX: Broad Strokes The example we use assumes that the $2.00 price swing short put strike). The “negative” gamma scalp tries to get
Long Straddle A market
Very broadly, gamma scalping is a strategy of making in the stock happens in one day, but what if it happens in the deltas back to a smaller number, though rarely to zero
neutral, defined risk position, short-term directional trades around a core option position. three days? You might be making $200 on the gamma in practice. The hope is that the stock will rise back up to
composed of an equal num- That option could be a long straddle, or it could be a short scalp, but your time decay is, say, $160 per day on those the profit zone of the iron condor, but if it doesn’t, the
ber of long calls and puts of
the same strike price. The iron condor. The directional trade could be long or short 10 straddles. That means that you lose $480 on your negative gamma scalp offsets the loss.
strategy assumes the mar- stock, futures, single options, or spreads. The idea is that long straddle because of time decay, and only make If you’re negative gamma scalping and using stocks or
ket will break out one way or you start out with a position that has a delta close to zero, $200 on your gamma scalp. Now, in those three days, futures as the hedge, you really have to be on top of your
another, in which case, a
profit occurs when one side but has a positive or negative gamma. When the stock implied volatility may go up or down. The 10 straddles trading. In this case, the hedge can be riskier than the
of the trade gains more than moves, the delta goes from zero to positive or negative have a vega of, say, 200, and a 1.00 point increase or core option position. If you have an iron condor, and the
the other side loses.
Breakeven points are calcu-
because of gamma. You then get the position delta back to decrease in implied volatility will push the value of the stock has dropped to the short put strike, you now have
lated by adding and sub- zero with one of the directional trades. Simple, right? straddle position up or down by $200. That risk, com- positive deltas to hedge. If you short stock and the stock
tracting the total debit to Well...maybe not. bined with the negative time decay, may be only partially keeps dropping, great, your short stock is making money
and from the strike price of
the options. In my opinion, gamma scalping is primarily, but not offset by the profit from the gamma scalp. Suddenly, to offset the loss on the short put vertical. But if the
always, a defensive tactic, where you are looking to gamma scalping doesn’t look so easy. stock rallies, that short stock is losing point for point with
Delta The value an option recoup some losses on the core position with profits from That example also assumes that you play that stock the rising stock. And the loss may be much greater than
will move for each $1 move
in the underlying. Long calls gamma scalping. Let’s look at one of the most straightfor- like a fiddle, selling it on a high and buying it on a low. In the profit of the iron condor.
and short puts have positive ward examples: a long straddle, where you buy an at-the- fact, the bigger the move the stock has before you hedge
(+) deltas, while long puts
and short calls have nega-
money call and put. A long straddle has a lot going on: it your deltas, the bigger the potential profit from the Final Note
tive (-) deltas. The maximum has a pretty small delta, but it has a large gamma, a large gamma scalp. But that entails risk, too. If you get too Never heard of gamma scalping? If you have ever put on
deltas a single US option negative time decay, and a large positive vega. When the optimistic about the rally—say you want to wait until the trades to reduce the deltas of your portfolio ahead of a
contract can have is 100.
The total sum of all positions stock moves, the positive gamma makes the delta go from stock is $3.00 higher before you sell the stock to hedge, Fed announcement—something a lot of retail investors
in a portfolio is the portfolio close to zero to positive (when the stock goes up) or neg- but the stock only goes up $2.00 before it retreats back are learning to do—you’re applying some of the ideas of
delta. ative (when the stock goes down). For example, with the to where it started—you will miss your scalp, and you’ll gamma scalping. Understanding a little more about this
Gamma The measure of stock at $85, you buy the 85 put and the 85 call for suffer the full loss from time decay and changes in approach will make you more aware of the risks and
expected change in an $14.00. The max loss on that straddle is $14.00, and the implied vol. Remember what I said about “eyes wide potential rewards of your trading tactics, which might
option's delta per $1 move in
the underlying. Long options
breakeven points at expiration are at $71 and $99. If you open”? You always have to watch these positions. The just make you a better trader.
have positive gamma, while buy 10 of those straddles, the delta would be slightly pos- YOU HAVE TO BE RIGHT ON THE sooner I hedge, the smaller my potential profits, and the •
short options have negative
gamma.
itive at about 80. But the gamma is 45. That gamma DIRECTION OF THE STOCK, lower my risk, but the higher my transaction costs. The Customers must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal
financial situations, before trading. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all
means that theoretically, your delta changes by 45 when THE DIRECTION OF IMPLIED VOLATILITY, longer I wait, the larger my potential profits, the larger my investors. A copy of Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options can be
Vega The measure of
AND YOUR TIMING. IF YOU ARE risk, and ... no, the transaction costs stay the same. obtained by contacting Scott Garland at 773-435-3270 or 600 W. Chicago Ave.
expected change in an Suite 100, Chicago, IL 60610.
WRONG ABOUT ANY OF THESE, THEN One of the main detractions of gamma scalping is its
option's price per 1% change
transaction-intensive nature—read “commissions.” The
in implied volatility. Long
options have positive vega,
THE PROFITS DROP, BUT THE strategy, like many trading strategies, sounds great on
while short options have COMMISSIONS DON’T. paper. But when executing the strategy, you have to be
negative vega.
thinkMoney/05

28


Feature #3

Photograph by
Fredrik Broden

thinkorswim.com

TAKE AN ORDINARY JOE WITH NO PRIOR


TRADING EXPERIENCE, $5,000 BUCKS, TWO WEEKS AND
STYLING: JULIE WHITMIRE

200 POUNDS OF GUMPTION,


AND WHAT DO YOU GET? WE DIDN’T KNOW EITHER,
BUT THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO FIND OUT.
words by Kendall Hamilton
thinkMoney/05 NOT THE MAN I USED TO BE. 13%. Not ruinous, by any means, but it
The man I used to be was not an

30
• occurs to me that I’ve picked up bigger bar
options trader. He was a writer—and tabs and had far smaller hangovers, which is
to say that the psycho-emotional factors in
trust me, nobody with any idea about making Can it really be this easy? Buoyed by talk of trading can’t be overestimated. It’s easy to
money would choose to work as a writer. The old Obama’s planned infrastructure invest- mesmerize myself staring at the colorful
me restricted his investments to a few mutual ment, I buy more calls—this time XLB, the numbers on the screen, wrap myself in

funds and the occasional long-term stock position. materials sector ETF. Again, I buy about charts and studies, bathe in a relentless

Feature #3
Options? Please. The only things I’d ever traded $500 worth, but this time, they don’t stream of news—but this game, it occurs to
move. It’s an up day in the market, and I’m me, is being played largely inside my head.

came with bubblegum. Three weeks ago, I knew watching other stocks—including two I’d And my toughest opponent is me.
Photograph by
absolutely nothing about trading options. Two almost picked—move up nicely, while XLB
Fredrik Broden weeks ago, I started trading them. sits around on its no-account ass. It’s Half-Time
• It began as an experiment, a lark: What would happen beyond frustrating: holding hands on prom night. I need I spend the weekend thinking things over. I
thinkorswim.com if a novice like me were unleashed on the options markets action, baby. I have to get more cash in play, in the right need to get less twitchy, more reasoned.
for two weeks, armed only with a $5,000 bankroll, some place, but still stick to my $500 loss limit. I’m in and out of my positions on whims
rudimentary instruction in the form of a basic 65-page and snap judgments—especially early in
book and whatever else I could pick up along the way? Day 3/ WEDNESDAY the day, when the chaos that seems to
Maybe I’d get lucky. I’d heard there were guys flying I decide to make a bigger bullish bet, going long on SPYs, define the first hour of trading makes me
around in Gulfstreams who’d started trading with buying five calls for about $2,500, but putting in a stop particularly prone to rash moves. On bal-
$5,000. But really I wanted to see whether I, a total new- loss order to sell if the option price drops by a dollar— ance, it’s as though I’m in a rush to lock in
bie, could figure out the basic mechanics of trading, what voilà, $500 loss limit. Well, um, sort of. As I watch the losing trades. Oh, that one’s down a bit—for
I’d learn from my mistakes, and how far I could progress. If SPYs slide a bit, I get nervous. By lunchtime, I realize this God’s sake, hurry up and close it out before
I finished with my trading skills above their 10-day SMA, position has eaten up half my buying power, radically it goes back up! I need to learn to stick to
I’d consider the experiment a success. That’s a metaphor I reducing my ability to get into other trades. I’m also con- the plan until I have a real—rather than an
wouldn’t have understood—let alone used—two weeks cerned that the stop order I’ve entered will expire at the emotional—reason to change it. I also seem
ago, so there’s one thing I learned, but far from the only end of the day. I’ll need to remember to reenter it the to have a deeply ingrained bias toward bull-
thing. The lessons didn’t always come easily. I won some, next morning (maybe this time as a good ‘til canceled). ishness. Though I understand it intellectu-
and I lost some. I learned about trading and I learned But what if the market gaps down at the open? My $500 ally, I can’t get the reptilian part of my
about myself. But mostly, I learned that, hey, I think I limit could be moldy old toast by the time I get out. This brain—the subconscious dictator who’s
could actually do this. Not as a day job just yet, but cer- seems like too much risk. I exit the position at a $225 moving my money around with simple
tainly as a way to leverage a small amount of risk capital loss, and, in the process, use up one of the three day mouse-clicks—to accept that down moves
into some very nice returns. And if I can do it, believe me, trades I’m allowed in any five-day period, which limits my can be equally good opportunities. I decide
you can, too. flexibility for the rest of the week. I’ve got to hoard those it might also be a good idea to hedge. If I’m
day trades, use them only for great opportunities or real, bullish in a couple of positions, maybe I
Day 1/ MONDAY rather than imagined, disasters. want a bearish position just, you know, in
My first day as a trader, I’m nervous, but also fired up. I’ve Seeking comfort, I return to an old friend, Halliburton, case. A hedge a day to keep the liver away.
read my overgrown pamphlet and practiced with the which is heading up again despite an overall down mar-
thinkorswim platform’s PaperMoney function for a few ket. This seems auspicious. I decide to experiment with a THE NEXT MORNING, THERE’S Day 6/ MONDAY
hours, familiarizing myself with a key subset of its many, vertical spread to capture what looks from the charts to SOMETHING IN MY MOUTH. IT In a bid to drag out my inner bear—and faced with plenty of
many different screens, functions, and order procedures. be some remaining upside, while limiting my losses (and TASTES LIKE LIVER. IT PROBABLY bad news, along with a market that’s dropping at the
It’s all fairly intuitive, even for me, but now that I’m going cash outlay) for real this time. With the stock just under open—I lead off week two by shorting the S&P, selling an
live, there’s no ego-redeeming “reset all positions” button $21, I sell six in-the-money February 22.5/25 put spreads
IS LIVER, MY LIVER, GIVEN HOW at-the-money February 86/87 SPY call spread. The market
to erase my mistakes. I have $5,000 in real money ready to for a premium of $1.68. My maximum profit here is FAST I’M DROPPING HERE. promptly rebounds, leaving me down slightly at the close.
rip, and a virginal $0.00 annual P/L just waiting to get dirty. $1008, maximum loss $492, figures helpfully confirmed My outlook hasn’t changed, though, and I’ve vowed to get
Halliburton looks like a comer to me—I’ve heard of it, for me on the TOS trade-confirmation screen. This seems more patient, so I decide to leave the position alone.
anyway—so I break the ice with some out-of-the-money like a favorable payout to me, until I realize the strike my shoulder is shouting about Owens Corning. I fire up
February calls at .70 apiece. Since I’ve decided to risk no prices are so far in the money that the chance of captur- the TOS platform’s Prophet screen, check out the chart Day 7/ TUESDAY
more than 10 percent of my stash on any one trade, I buy ing all that profit within my time frame is slim. I’m getting and quickly scan the handful of technical indicators I’ve Tuesday, the market drops—whew—and the position starts
seven contracts for a total of $490. I spend the next six 2:1 odds on what, when I think about it, I’d call a 10:1 managed to figure out between trades—various flavors to pay off. I decide to add a few trades, spread my bets
hours staring at flickering prices. When HAL pops up over shot. Las Vegas was built—and lavishly furnished—on of moving averages, Bollinger Bands, RSI, ROC. I sell around. I want things that will move, and solar energy
$20, I’m thrilled. When it drops to $19.99, I despair. It’s transactions like this. another put spread, hoping for a run-up in days to come. stocks have been atomic yo-yos lately. I’ve been watching
amazing what a psychological difference a penny can a few, including First Solar (FSLR) and Sun Tech Power
make. At the close, I’m up $100, but I’ve sweated every Day 4/ THURSDAY Day 5/ FRIDAY (STP). First Solar has been the most volatile; so volatile, in
cent. Trading is exciting, no doubt about it—but, seriously, My first week deteriorates from there. Thursday’s a down The next morning, there’s something in my mouth. It tastes fact, that as a beginner it intimidates me. At about $11,
I need to calm down. day, but in the afternoon, I notice the Dow has bounced like liver. It probably is liver, my liver, given how fast I’m drop- Sun Tech’s more my speed. It opened down, near recent
twice off what looks like “support”, around 8,665. I ping here. There’s been a bad jobs report and the market’s lows, but the price is bouncing back and there’s plenty of
Day 2/ TUESDAY decide we’ve hit a low. Friday, I think, will see the market headed to Mexico, taking my positions with it. In a moder- headroom before we hit a high. I resolve to put on a bull put
The next morning, Halliburton pops at the open. It’s my up. I go long DIA, selling an 88/91 put spread—again, in- ate panic, I close out everything but the Halliburton posi- spread if it goes positive for the day. It does and I do. What
first trade and I want to protect it like a father. I sell, real- the-money, but not by too much, especially if I’m right. I tion, which I decide to keep as a science experiment: I’m else? The tech sector has shown signs of life, and Research
izing a $200 profit, which isn’t going to put the kids hang on to the HAL spread, and make a snap decision to going to stash that sucker in my locker to see how just how in Motion (RIMM) has moved up, even as the overall market
through college on this continent, but it is a 40% return. add another bullish position. Some joker on the TV over smelly it gets. At week’s end, I’m down about $650, or has declined. It’s up again early today. Another bull put
thinkMoney/05 my order. After a few minutes, it’s clear it’s not coming back. thinkMoney/05 word for it when you

32
• I decide to revise my price, bumping it up to try to get filled. say the house you into their grasp.

33

This is easy—I use the cancel/replace order function, manu- bought last year for That’s not a game I
ally boosting the price, in this case to just under the current mky. $500,000 is now want to play. So,
mark, still trying to catch a break. But the market keeps worth a million even though I don’t or sell short (if you
moving away, now with astonishing speed. My gains are because you like the When ex- think there are any have a short put)
dissolving. I get rattled. I decide I don’t have time to chase neighborhood? Or politicians outstanding war- stock to offset a pos-
spread. I’m hoping these two will be good for a few upside the galloping market with order after order, so I revise does the CEO of IBM rants on my furry lit- sible assignment, or
• points, while my SPY vertical will keep making money as again, to a market order. Just dump it. Now. Sure enough, • get to decide the
start opining tle butt, I sat tight at not. You could be left
Feature #3 the overall market declines. It should also serve as a hedge the order fills instantly—but I get slaughtered on the “mar- Hey Monkey! stock’s worth
about real- home and cele- with stock position
• if I’m wrong on RIMM and STP. ket” price, giving up my entire gain on the trade. Note to • $1,000 a share world trading brated with a second Monday morning if
thinkorswim.com self: I will never again use a market order in a fast-moving Got a question about because he thinks losses, I figure glass of 25-year-old the option is
Day 8/ WEDNESDAY market, nor will I try to chisel on the price when I need to anything? Ask Monkey, sales are going to it must be a scotch. Tasted even assigned and you
On Wednesday, the market heads down again, which helps get out. That was wishful thinking. our resident primate. trading industry for soar in a crappy slow day at better than the first. don't offset, or if you
my SPY position. RIMM is holding strong—it’s actually up The good news is that RIMM is up a whopping four • decades. It basically economy because of the recount do offset and the
nicely in the early part of the day. So far, so good. STP, bucks on the day. Yee-haw! It’s nearing its recent top, so I Or visit the Monkey says that your posi- some new printer? office.
though, starts to tank. When it drops below $10, which I’d think it’s almost done. I close the position—no drama this Brains blog at tions are worth No. The problem
figured as a likely bottom, I sell the position for a $150 loss. time—snag a 20% return on my trade, and pat myself on www.thinkorswim.com what the market isn’t mark to market,
the back for what feels like a perfect trade from start to • says they’re worth it's a lack of trans-
THE NEW ME, THE OPTIONS finish. I saw it, I did it, I stuck with it, and I got out at the Illustration by today. Not what you parency and stan-
TRADER, KNOWS IT DOESN’T TAKE right time, in the right way, for the right reason. If I can do Evonrude think they’re worth, dardization. Instead
A DUMP TRUCK FULL OF DOLLARS, that once, I can do it again. but what the actual of griping about
tradable price is. It some sensible regu-
SUPERSECRET INFORMATION,OR Day 10 /HOME STRETCH works beautifully lations, offer some
LONG YEARS OF EXPERIENCE TO Friday, my last day, I choose not to trade at all—nothing I’m with exchange- solutions for creat-
START MAKING MONEY. looking at tempts me enough—and I’m pleased with myself traded things like ing a real market for
again, this time for resisting the urge to trade for the hell of stocks, futures, and these things.
it. I feel like a fat man who finally knows when it’s time to options; not so
Then RIMM goes bad, giving up its early gains and heading pass on dessert. It’s all about discipline. I finish the week beautifully with Q: Hey Monkey! I
down as much as a dollar. All hail the SPYs, my hedge. Last down $350—half what I gave up in my first week, which Q: Hey Monkey, things like houses hear you’re being
week when I got hit, I had my guts in my mouth. Today, feels like a triumph. Take away a few mistakes I doubt I’ll Newt Gingrich and financial instru- replaced by that
nothing—and nothing never tasted so good. ever make again (and that you now need never make) and said that mark- ments cooked up by guy from Law and
I’d have been right around breakeven. to-market overpaid geniuses. Order? Yuk yuk!
Day 9/ THURSDAY accounting The argument A: Who, Fred
Of course, in the markets as in life, it’s one step forward, So my two-week trial by fire is over, but my trading days are caused the mort- against mark to mar- Thompson? I hear
two steps back. Thursday confirms this. The market’s down not. I’ve proven to myself that I—me, the writer, the market- gage crisis. Mon- ket for mortgage you can get two-
again, so the SPYs keep making me money. And RIMM is phobic walk-on with experience measured in hours—can key, say it ain’t securities is that for-one speaking
now taking off like a rocket, just as I’d bet it would. But by make winning trades. Not every time, but probably, as I so. because they don’t engagements with
now, the HAL position is really starting to reek. So much for improve, often enough. Most of my losses were avoidable, A: Hoo boy, where trade frequently and him and Newt.
science experiments; I don the haz-mat suit and resolve to the product of squishy psychology and correctable human do I start with that there are no industry
throw it out. As I do, I expose an embarrassing chink in my error. And I was amazed, in the end, at just how easy it was one? When ex-politi- standards for pricing Q: Hey Monkey,
technique. Exiting my vertical spreads, I’ve been “legging to get started. Options trading wasn’t the arcane, impene- cians start opining the more esoteric since when do
out,” as they say—selling one half, then immediately buying trable province of the pros the old me imagined it to be. I about real-world derivatives, the peo- they give Pearl
back the other half. So far that hasn’t caused any problems. mean, who am I? Some guy in his basement 1,800 miles trading losses, I fig- ple most qualified to Awards to ani-
But today, it trips me up—and costs me an extra $90. After from the nearest trading pit. Yet there I was, with all the ure it must be a slow attach a value to mals? Talk about
selling the long leg, I’m briefly exposed with no hedge on information and data I could have ever wanted or needed, day at the recount them are the ones a popularity con- Hey Monkey, option is not
For more Monkey busi-
the short leg, and, in that small amount of time—20 sec- along with seamless, immediate access to the markets, as office. Among the who actually have test. ness of daily market
what is "pin risk"? assigned. The not
onds maybe—the price moves against me. I’d have done well as my own refrigerator. The new me, the options trader, dozens of reasons positions in them. A: When I heard that wraps and trading A: Pin risk occurs knowing part is what
much better to close out the position by buying it back as a knows it doesn’t take a dump truck full of dollars, super- the credit markets So, who can properly thinkMoney was ideas, visit the Monkey right at expiration traders call “pin risk”.
Brains blog at
vertical—something that would have been easy to do on secret information, or long years of experience to start collapsed, mark-to- account for the pro- going to win an www.thinkorswim.com when the stock is
the TOS platform had I realized it made a difference. I now making money. And next week, mark my words, I’ll prove it. market accounting jected cash flows, award at some cere- by going to the path right at, or a couple Hey Monkey,
know it can. I’ll be up. I know it. I can actually feel it, deep down. Unless, of isn’t one of them. defaults, etc.? Er, mony, I thought it Support tab > Monkey- pennies away, from SXSW. You there?
Brains Blog.
Backstep two comes later. Around midday the SPYs are course, that’s my liver acting up again. Mark to market has excuse me? I may was one of those the strike price of A: Dude, I am SO

bouncing around a low. I think about taking my profits. I go • been used in the have been born at tricks that the sher- your short option. there this year. I hear
get a cup of coffee. I make a phone call. I dilly-dally. I stroll The views in the section above are those of the author, but may not be those of night, but it wasn’t iff’s office plays The option isn't Primal Scream will be
thinkorswim, Inc. and are not intended to be specific investment advice. Customers
back to my computer and check the screen. Uh oh. The must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, last night. That’s when they want to clearly in or out of the playing. Look for me.
SPYs are now up significantly off the day’s low—definitely before trading. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. A copy of part of what got us lure some fugitive money, so, you may I’ll be the chimp in
Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options can be obtained by contacting Scott
time to bail. Past time to bail, really, but I can still come out Garland at 773-435-3270 or 600 W. Chicago, Ave. Suite 100, Chicago IL 60610. into this mess. When or may not be the Oakleys.
ahead. I enter an order to sell the spread—all at once this you apply for a home assigned. The choice
time. The TOS platform automatically configures the order equity loan, does you have is to buy (if
as a limit order, priced to the current market. But the SPYs the bank take your you have a short call)
are heading up quickly now and the price moves away from
thinkMoney/05

35

OVER 16 YEARS OF DATA ON
MORE THAN 2,500 UNDERLYINGS
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AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD •
Special VIX Focus
• FOCUS:
UNDLY
SPX
CLS
SXY
EXPR_DT
20070317
STRIKE
1350 C
HIGH
56.90
LOW
46.90
OPEN
56.90
LAST
46.90
Photograph by
Fredrik Broden vix.
SPX SXY 20070317 1355 C 52.40 47.20 52.40 47.20 •
SPX SXY 20070317 1360 C 41.60 41.60 41.60 41.60 thinkorswim.com
SPX SXY 20070317 1365 C
SPX
SPX
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20070317
20070317
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38.50
37.00
32.40
28.00
38.50
37.00
32.40
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SPX
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1380 C
1385 C
1390 C
31.50
24.00
23.30
28.00
20.00
18.00
31.00
24.00
23.30
28.00
21.00
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SPX SXY 20070317 1350 P 10.20 4.70 5.00 10.20
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SPX SXY 20070317 1380 P 18.00 9.50 11.00 18.00 words by Thomas Preston
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thinkMoney/05 expire to the same VIX settlement price on the same day. was the genius trade of the century, you’re wrong. Traders puts. When the VIX was trading in the teens, you could sell

36
• Because the VIX futures are the hedge, the market makers who think that don’t understand VIX options, and many of puts that were a couple strikes out of the money for 0.20
use them to value the options. them are out of business because of it. While the max loss or 0.30, depending on the expiration. The risk is if the VIX
That said, the VIX future expiring in 6 days was trading of a long calendar spread in equity options is defined to the drops below the short strike, which is possible. But consider
at 51.30, the one expiring in 60 days was trading at 46.20, debit of the spread, the max loss on a VIX calendar spread the likelihood of the worst-case scenario for a naked short
and the one expiring in 90 days was trading at 42.90. is indefinable. put—VIX at 0%. In a world where out-of-the money SPX
Hmm ... the further-month futures contracts were trading Here’s what can happen. Say you buy that VIX call cal- options are 0.00 bid at 0.00, and all market risk is gone,
lower than the front-month future? Well, the different VIX endar for a credit of 1.00, hoping that the VIX stays around that’s when the VIX would be 0%. No more terrorists,
• futures trade up and down based on traders’ expectations 50. Everything looks fine until a few days before the expi- crooked CEOs, or wacky court rulings? You get the picture.
VIX Focus FOCUS:
of what the VIX will be in the future. The longer-dated VIX ration of the front-month option—when the market VIX at 0% is almost a complete impossibility. But don’t go

Photograph by
vix. futures had a lower price because traders felt that volatil-
ity would be lower in the coming months. Sometimes you’ll
crashes and the VIX goes up to 80. The front-month VIX
future spikes higher, but the back-month future goes up
and whack every bid they show you on those puts. Make
sure that you can handle the loss if the VIX settles at a his-
Fredrik Broden see longer-dated VIX futures trading higher than the front only a little bit because the market thinks the rise in volatil- toric low of about 9%.
• months. That’s because traders think that volatility might ity will be short-lived. That means your short front-month One of the things you might notice is that the VIX

IF
thinkorswim.com be higher in the future. option soars and your long back- often bounces back and forth around an average level.
you hadn’t heard of the CBOE’s [Side note: The relationship between VIX futures prices month option languishes. And oh, That’s known as reverting to a mean. In practice, the VIX
VIX before last fall, you almost cer- at different expirations is due only to speculative pres- by the way, VIX options are Euro- does that for a while, then the world changes (i.e., financial
tainly did during the Crash. A lot of sures, not the cost-of-carry charges that you see in other pean-style, which means that meltdown or peace and prosperity forever) and the aver-
mainstream (read “non-trading”) futures products.] you can’t exercise that back- age moves to a higher or lower level. The VIX then oscil-
media latched onto it as the story But, you say, I can’t see VIX futures prices on the trad- month option and have it turn lates around that new average. When you think
du jour when it hit all-time highs, ing platform. How do I know what the futures prices are? into the cash value of the intrin- “range-bound,” you tend to think of short premium option
and commentators were looking This one’s easy. You can eyeball it by pulling up the VIX sic value relative to the VIX index. strategies that generate time decay and make money if
to answer the “the chicken or the egg” riddle—was the mar- option chain on the TOS platform and simply use the fol- Remember when I said that the the stock or index doesn’t move much. But when you think
ket collapsing because of the high VIX, or was the VIX high lowing formula: VIX index itself doesn’t matter “world changes,” you need to think of defined risk.
because the market was collapsing? That sort of simplified much? When this happens, the Defined risk spreads, such as verticals and iron condors,
analysis may make for good TV, but it won’t do much for your Call price – put price + strike price = VIX futures price calendar spreads invert, and the which aren’t subject to the inter-month pricing factors, can
trading. With options, a little bit of knowledge can be a dan- losses can be enormous. be ways to speculate on the direction of the VIX. You can
gerous thing. And with VIX options, it can be very dangerous. I can create a synthetic long future by buying a call and The European-style aspect of use the same criteria you use for selecting those types
TradingVIX options can leave even experienced traders selling a put at the same strike price and expiration. If I add VIX options, which means you of trades in equity options, and exercise sound risk
scratching their heads. This article will hopefully give you the the net price of the call minus the put to the strike price, I can’t exercise them prior to expi- management principles to make sure that one bad VIX
knowledge you need either to use VIX options to your get the synthetic futures price. Notice that if you do that ration, combined with their value trade doesn’t knock you out of business.
advantage as they were intended,,or to avoid them. with the option prices in the example, the calculated syn- being driven by futures, means
To traders accustomed to trading equity options, a thetic future is equal to the actual VIX future. that some VIX options can look Word of Caution
chain of VIX options can present temptations that can lead When you know what the futures prices are, suddenly like they’re trading under parity, By the way, don’t ever, ever keep short call options or
to their undoing. Let’s look at some VIX option prices: the VIX option prices start to make sense. The VIX options or less than their intrinsic spreads until expiration. Even if you think that the VIX is
with 6 days to expiration are priced off the VIX future with value—another no-no for equity too far away to have the settlement close beyond your
STRATEGY BOX VIX index = 50.00 6 days to expiration, the VIX options with 60 days to go are options. [For more on this con- short strike, think again. Not only can the market make a
Calendar Spread (Long) 6 days to expiration, 50 call = 3.90, 50 put = 2.60 priced off the future with 60 days to go, and so on. The 50 cept, see p. 40]. The 40 strike huge move down in one day that could send the VIX soar-
A market-neutral, limited- 60 days to expiration, 50 call = 5.50, 50 put = 9.30 call with 90 days to expiration is cheaper than the 50 call call options with 90 days to expi- ing; it is also possible for institutions to influence the set-
risk strategy, constructed 90 days to expiration, 50 call = 4.50, 50 put = 11.60 with 60 days to expiration because the VIX future with 90 ration were worth 8.50 with the tlement price of the VIX by bidding for far
by selling an option (typi-
cally front-month) and buy- days is cheaper than the VIX future with 60 days. Notice VIX index at 50. Based on the VIX out-of-the-money SPX options. It’s a risky thing to do, but
ing an option with a more A couple of things don’t look quite right here. The call how this really doesn’t have anything to do with the value index, that option seems to have an intrinsic value of it can artificially push the settlement of the VIX higher.
distant expiration date of
the same class (i.e., calls or
with 60 days to expiration is worth more than the call with of the VIX index itself. But as the VIX futures get closer to For an extended 10.00. But compared to the VIX future at 42.90, they have Close those short call positions. But given the nature of
90 days to expiration, which makes no sense in the tradi- expiration, their price will begin to converge with the VIX discussion on trading only 2.90 of intrinsic value, and the options aren’t under- the VIX to spike higher from time to time, you might want
puts). The strategy
the VIX, go to
assumes the underlying tional equity option world. And the 60- and 90-day puts cash price. On that funky expiration day, the expiring priced at all. Those, like the calendars for credits, are like Old to just hang on to those worthless, expiring call options as
thinkorswim.com
will remain relatively
unchanged during the life are trading much higher than the calls. If these were equity options and the expiring futures will look to the same VIX /thinkmoney Scratch offering profits that are not only illusory—they’ll a lottery-ticket type of trade.
of the trade, in which case, options, that would signal something like a huge dividend settlement price. take your trading soul away. After reading this, it’s understandable that you may
time premium decays and or maybe a stock that was really hard to borrow. But the For example, with the VIX at 50, you could sell the have some reservations with trading VIX options at all.
the spread can be sold at
some point in the future for VIX doesn’t pay a dividend, and isn’t tradable like stock. 35/40/60/65 iron condor with 30 days to expiration for Strategies to Cure Your VIX Fix They are tricky. However, they do offer unique opportuni-
more than the original 1.70. That would have a max profit of $170, a max loss of So, with all that under your belt, what do you do with VIX ties unlike anything else you may come across. If you do
debit. The breakeven points
can’t be manually calcu-
Price is Everything $330, and breakeven points of 38.30 and 61.70. But if you options? Well, based on what we’ve seen, it’s unwise to trade them, heed the warnings and apply the lessons. You’ll
lated easily, so consider The first thing you have to learn about VIX options is that sold the 35/40 put spread when the VIX was 45, you could short naked calls in the VIX. The reason is that the VIX avoid some painful mistakes.
using the Analyze feature you have to ignore the VIX index itself—for the most part. take in 1.20 for it, and if you sold the 60/65 call spread crashes up, not down, like most equities and equity indices.
in the TOS software. •
That’s because the market makers, who are creating the when the VIX was at 55, you could take in 1.30 for that. It acts more like a physical commodity like wheat or corn, Multiple option strategies such as those discussed in this article will have extra costs
bid and ask prices you see for the VIX options, don’t look at Assuming you’re lucky and you get the back-and-forth where shortages can drive prices dramatically higher in a due to the additional strikes traded. Be sure to understand all risks involved with each
strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade. Be aware
the index; they look at the VIX futures. VIX futures are moves in the VIX, you would have that iron condor on for a short amount of time. Look at the VIX behavior during the that assignment on short-option strategies discussed in this article could lead to
traded on the Chicago Futures Exchange, which is owned 2.50 credit, with a max profit of $250, a max loss of $250, Crash of 2008, and you’ll see it moved up from 20% to unwanted long or short positions on the underlying security. Customers must con-
sider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, before
by the CBOE. The VIX futures, and some other volatility and breakeven points of 37.50 and 62.50. 30%, then to 80% without pause. Those are the situations trading. Options involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. A copy of Character-
index futures, are basically the only thing traded at the that will wipe out a trader who’s short naked calls. If you istics and Risks of Standardized Options can be obtained by contacting Scott Garland
at 773.435.3270 or 600 W. Chicago Ave. Suite 100, Chicago, IL 60610.
CFE. Anyway, VIX option market makers hedge their VIX Too Good to be True: Calendars on the VIX don’t think the VIX will go up, you can try selling call verti-
option positions with VIX futures. Even though the VIX So, if you thought that selling the 60-day call and buying cals, not naked calls.
options are cash settled, so are the VIX futures, and they the 90-day call to create a long calendar spread for a credit On the other hand, it can be reasonable to sell naked
thinkMoney/05

38

Answerstoquestionsaboutthe
THE VIX
VIXyoudidn'tknowyouhad.

speculate on dramatic
Q +A: responds precisely
and consistently to
• moves up or down in the changes in volatility.
Special VIX Focus stock. Q: What is the It is something like a
• Those per-expiration VIX settlement long straddle, which option pricing models
thinkorswim.com volatilities are used on the price symbol? has a lot of positive can yield different
Scan and Spread Hacker A: VRO. vega, and has a value implied volatilities for
FIGURE 1: Analyze implied
volatility in several places tabs in the “Vol Diff,” “Front that changes, in part, the same option.
on TOS. Use a VIX-style cal- Vol,” and “Back Vol” fields. The front and back Q: When do VIX Q: Why is there a with changes in Which is correct?
culation of vol, as in the month volatilities are simply the numbers options expire? margin requirement implied volatility. But That depends on
Analyze feature (above) to
help predict overall potential from the first two expirations. The Vol Diff A: This is one of the on long VIX calen- even if you eliminate what pricing model
of the underlying volatility, stands for “volatility difference,” and is the more screwy aspect dar spreads? the delta and theta you think is more
or a single-option measure
vix. of vol (below) to maintain-
Front Vol minus the Back Vol. If you are look-
ing for stocks whose front-month volatility is
of VIX options. They
expire on the
A: Because the
front-month VIX
aspect of a long
straddle, its vega is
accurate. But the
value of the VIX
consistency of the per-
The thinkorswim (TOS) strike calculations, such as higher than the back month, you would look Wednesday that is options can be worth not consistent. That doesn’t depend on a
greeks. Source: TOS plat-
platform uses the VIX- form for a positive value in the Vol Diff field. 30 days prior to the much more than the is, the vega of the pricing model, and
style calculation to arrive at volatility esti- So, why does thinkorswim use implied third Friday of the back-month options, long straddle when that makes it a uni-
mates for stocks and indices rather than the volatility measures across the platform, but calendar month calendar spreads can the stock is exactly at versal number that
at-the-money implied volatility. The reason no historical volatility numbers? Historical immediately follow- dramatically invert in the strike price is not anyone can calculate.
is that the VIX calculation incorporates much volatility refers to a volatility calculated from ing the expiration price. You may actu- the same as when
more of the information that the full option the percentage price changes of the stock or date of the options. ally have to pay the stock is, say, 20% Q: Can I trade VIX
chain contains, not just the at-the-money
strikes. Because VIX is the name of the Analyzing Vol on TOS index itself using some amount of past price
data (one week, one month, one year, ten
The CBOE Web site
has a list of the expi-
money to close the
trade, resulting in
above the strike price
of the straddle. A
futures or see the
quotes at TOS?
CBOE’s volatility index, TOS calls the volatili- years). The problem with volatility based on ration dates for VIX losses far greater variance swap is used A: At this point, no.
ties generated by the formula Vol Indices. A • previous data is that it doesn’t really contain options. than the original cost to have the same Our clearing firm and
Vol Index is calculated for each stock, ETF, or So much to say about vol, yet so little time to say it. So long any of the information that the market might of the calendar sensitivity to order execution part-
index that has options traded on it. as you can handle the geek-speak, let’s break out the cof- have of future news or events that might Q: Can I get spread. To protect changes in implied ners do not support
You can see the Vol Index of a particular fee and show you where to find it on TOS. impact the stock or the market. Consider bond assigned early on themselves, brokers volatility no matter VIX futures, and our
stock or index in a few places on TOS. The first options—Their implied volatility may start to short VIX options? use the margin where the underlying quote vendor does
is in the upper left-hand corner of the Proba- go up ahead of big economic numbers. But A: No. Because VIX requirement that stock or index goes. not include them in
bility Analysis window of the Analyze page. historical VIX-style volatility, the Vol Index, of the bond futures themselves don’t move options are Euro- would be applied to [Note: Implied volatil- its price database.
We tuck it up there because that is the volatil- the options of the symbol on the chart. Again, much because the traders don’t know pean-style, they can the short front- ity is the volatility However, you can
ity that’s used to calculate the probability we use that because we feel it is a better rep- whether the number might come out bullish be exercised only by month option as if it that, when plugged estimate the price of
cone on that page. You can also see the Vol resentation of the market’s forecast of volatil- or bearish. So, they buy options thinking that someone who is long were naked, and into a theoretical the VIX future by
Index as one of the fields on the Quotes and ity for the stock or index than a single implied the number might drive bonds limit up or an option on expira- apply that to the cal- option pricing model, adding the price of a
Stock Hacker tabs. bility numbers on the Risk Profile graph, volatility. The Vol Index data goes back down. The fact that the market looks forward, tion. Also, VIX endar spread. This makes the theoreti- call to the call’s strike
An important use of the Vol Index is in those are based on the Vol Index. approximately five years. at the potential impact of future events, options are cash-set- isn’t necessary with cal value of the price, then subtract-
the Analyze tab, where it is used to calculate That’s different than the probability num- On the Trade page, on the far right-hand makes implied volatility an arguably better tled, which means regular American- option equal to the ing the price of the
the probability numbers on the Risk Profile. bers calculated on the Trade page. Those side for each expiration, is a variation of the measure, of future stock or index price volatil- that if an option is in style equity options, market value of the put at the same strike
The Risk Profile shows you the profit and numbers use each option’s implied volatility as VIX-style calculation. That number uses the ity, and historical volatility. the money at expira- where the back- option.] price.
loss numbers for a particular position at dif- the input for the formula. The reason we do same VIX calculation for that expiration’s • tion, the cash differ- month option is You can get the full
ferent dates and underlying prices. Because that is to maintain consistency in the different options, and only that expiration’s options. The information contained in ence between the always worth more description of the VIX VIX future
this article is not intended to be
the risk profile may be based on the P/L for per-strike calculations, such as the greeks. While the VIX takes a weighted average of the investment advice and is for
VIX expiration settle- than the front-month calculation from a = call price
many different options, you want to use a The greeks (delta, gamma, theta, vega, and front two expirations, the per-expiration illustrative purposes only. ment price and the option, and calendar white paper on the + strike price
volatility input that represents the market’s rho) use each option’s implied volatility. So, we volatilities on the Trade page do not. They iso- option’s strike price is spreads don’t “invert.” CBOE Web site; - put price
forecast of the overall potential volatility of use the implied as well for the probability late the volatility for their particular expiration. added to (for long however, for our pur-
the underlying, not just the implied vol of a number for each option. Note that the proba- Those numbers can let you scan the different options) or sub- Q: Is the VIX based poses, the important
single option. The Vol Index provides that bility you see on the Trade page for a particu- expirations quickly and see if the volatility is tracted from (for on the implied thing to realize is that
single volatility number for each underlying lar option may be different from the dramatically higher or lower than any of the short options) your volatility of the SPX the VIX calculation
stock or index. So, when you see the proba- probability you see on the Risk Profile or Prob- other expirations. If the volatility is higher in account. options? does not use an
ability Analysis graph. There’s a difference one month, particularly the front-month expi- A: Strictly speaking, option pricing model
because the pages use different volatility ration, it can indicate that there is some news no. The VIX is actually (i.e., Black-Scholes,
numbers in the probability formulas. event that could have a big impact on the what is known as a binomial, Whaley, etc.)
Also, the Vol Index is what’s used for the stock price. The market knows that, and it “variance swap.” A and doesn’t really cal-
“ImpVolatility” study on the Charts page. That starts pushing up the values of the options as variance swap is a culate implied volatil-
study will show you a graph representing the traders look to hedge their stock positions or security that ity. Two different
thinkMoney/05

40

American vs.
European Exercise have no position left. But
the cost of my long stock is
the strike price plus the
• • price of the call, or $54.50. I
Capiche? No, this isn’t an exercise in diplomacy. sold the stock at $55. That
• But if you think you’ve found a way to beat means I made $0.50 in
Lessons from a profit. That’s an “arb,” and
veteran floor trader the system by trading “cheaper”
European options, think again. it’s something that market
makers won’t let you do.
That’s why you see the ask
cap. prices of American-style
options above their intrinsic
• As you probably know, I’m an old OEX trader. value.
When I left New York in the early 1980s to But because you can’t
trade options in Chicago, there was pretty exercise a European-style
much only one pit at the CBOE big enough for option before expiration,
me—the OEX. The index moved, there was a you can’t do that little arb.
ton of volume, and everybody was making There’s nothing forcing in-
money. Life was good. the-money European
Now, the CBOE knew it had a good thing, options to trade at least to
and naturally, it wanted more. The OEX is an parity, and that’s why I saw
index on the S&P 100, but all the institutional those in-the-money SPX
traders and money managers wanted options puts trade for less than their
on the S&P 500. So, the CBOE added the SPX intrinsic value. They’re Euro-
options and put the pit (smaller, by the way) pean style, like a lot of other
next to the OEX. So, I’m in the “O,” and I climb to cash-settled indices, such
the top step and I look over to the “S,” where all as the XEO, DJX, MNX, NDX,
the traders were a bunch of young punks. I and more. Not all in-the-
crane my neck to see how their markets are, money European style
and my eyes fall on some in-the-money puts. options trade under parity it
Now, I may not be a genius, but I know how to all comes down to the cost
calculate how much an option is in the money, of carry (see “Capiche,”
and its intrinsic value. And in my world, an thinkMoney/04 issue):
option doesn’t trade less than parity, which is
how much the option is in the money. So I see Strike price + call price =
the puts, and what do I see? They’re offered at Index price + put price +
less than parity! What a bunch of chuckle- cost of carry
heads! I turn to a buddy of mine to let him in on
the joke and I tell him he should see the in-the- Now, I had been trading the OEX options and To calculate the cost of carry for an index,
money puts in the “S.” He says, “Yeah, I was the occasional stock option, and had been multiply the strike price of the option by the
thinking about using them for the ‘one five,’ exercising them anytime I wanted to. That, I interest rate by the days to expiration divided
but they’re European style, so I have to figure learned, was an American-style option. You by 360. When the SPX was 850, the bid/ask
out how that works with the OEX.” So, I keep can exercise a long American-style option prices of the 2500 strike puts with 333 days
smiling, but inside I’m thinking, “European anytime you want, even before expiration. to expiration were 1644 to 1648, which is less
style? Armani?” I run over to my booth and ask The fact that you can exercise an Ameri- than the intrinsic value of 1650. The calls were
another guy what European style means. Let can-style option at any time means that it basically worthless. If you calculate the cost of
me clue you in. A European-style option can shouldn’t trade under parity, or less than its carry with the short-term interest rate at that
only be exercised at expiration, not before. intrinsic value. If it does, there’s an arb. For point, 0.15%, it comes out to about 3.50. Using
example, if an American-style call with a strike that formula, 2500 + 0 = 850 + put price +
price of $50 is trading for $4.50 when the 3.50. That makes the put price $1,646.50,
Words by Tony Battista stock is $55, that option is trading for less than which is smack dab in the middle of the bid/ask
Photograph by Fredrik Broden its intrinsic value of $5.00 (stock price minus spread. Funny how that works, huh?
strike price). I’ll buy that option for $4.50, sell
the stock short at $55, and exercise my long
call on the same day. Because I exercise the
call, I buy stock at the strike price of $50. That
long stock offsets the stock that I shorted. So, I
thinkMoney/05
end

42

AND...BEGIN:

1. 2.
The music of which In a bookstore, which
artist sends you into a department would you
paroxysm of rage? go to first?
• A. Jessica Simpson A. Adult periodicals
The Last Page B. Elton John B. The exit
C. Clay Aiken C. Careers (for broke
• D. Mozart retirees)
thinkorswim.com D. Travel (to countries
with liberal
extradition laws)

THE TOS 3.
If you look down and
4.
For a weekend getaway,
5.
What’s your favorite form of
TRADER notice a rash, do you: what’s always in your cheap intoxication?
PROFICIENCY suitcase?
TEST WHAT A. Consult a trained pro-
fessional, like a doctor A. Encased meats
A. Shorting index
options at expiration
KIND OF B. Consult an untrained B. Extra ammo B. Hypnotic tick-charts
TRADER professional, like your C. Spare kidney C. Expired medications
ARE YOU? neighbor
C. Call the thinkorswim
D. List of bail jumpers D. Malt liquor

• trade desk
D. Stay home and
After inter- scratch until it bleeds
viewing dozens
of scientists,
traders, and 6. 7. 8.
other dysfunc- Which option position If you could take delivery of For what are you most
tional person- conjures up the most painful any futures contract, which grateful?
childhood memories? would it be?
ality types, A. The trade you did do
we’ve devel- A. Unbalanced sibling
butterfly
A. 40,000 pounds of
savory lean hogs
B. The trade you
didn’t do
oped the B. Foreboding mother of B. 200,000 pounds of C. Spouse’s trust fund
proficiency all put spreads fragrant Class IV milk D. Kindly TOS trade
C. Unavailable dad/kid C. 60,000 pounds of desk staff
test to identify pairs trade sensuous soybean oil
your trading D. Junior prom of D. 2,500,000 vodka-
convertible Russian
profile. Just worthless calls.
rubles
answer the
following
questions and 9. 10.
Which is your favorite When the market goes up:
match your Japanese sports team?
answers A. Your long calls
A. Nippon Ham Fighters go down
to the profiles B. Toyo Carp B. Your short puts
below. C. Kashima Antlers don’t budge
D. Nagoya Grampus Eight C. It’s the day after
you gave up on your
long S&Ps
D. Markets go up?

SO, WHAT KIND OF TRADER ARE YOU?

IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY: IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY: IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY: IF YOU ANSWERED MOSTLY:

A s
The Speculator
B s
The Arbitrageur
C s
The Risk Manager
D s
The Newsletter Guru
Has a much better ring to it When the marks come back If it weren't for those stupid Hey, even a blind squirrel
than “unemployed” in to line I’ll be rich! traders, I'd have a had a finds a nut here and there.
You’ll see! You’ll ALL see!! bonus last year. Can you say “up-sell”?
PRSRT STD
thinkorswim, Inc. does not assume any liability resulting from actions US Postage
taken based on the information included in thinkMoney. Mention of a com- Paid
pany, issuer or security does not constitute an endorsement or recommen- Permit #505
dation or to be construed as such. Contributors to thinkMoney may have Bolingbrook, IL
active positions in securities, company’s or issuers discussed in this issue.
Risk Disclosure: The risk of loss in trading securities, options, futures and
forex can be substantial. Customers must consider all relevant risk factors
including their own personal financial situation before trading. Options
involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. A copy of the Characteris-
tics and Risks of Standardized Options can be obtained by contacting Scott
Garland at 773.435.3270 or 600 W. Chicago Ave. Suite 100, Chicago, IL
60610. thinkorswim, Inc., a FINRA registered broker dealer and NFA intro-
ducing broker, and its affiliated companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of
Investools, Inc.
thinkorswim
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