Good afternoon. This is James Cordier of OptionSellers.com with a market update for June 1st. Well, lo and behold, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, and Fox Business are, once again, talking about Greek bonds, Italian bonds, and Spanish debt. Once again, Europe is smack dab in the middle of the radar screen. It’s so interesting that after practically 10 years of quantitative easing through the Euro zone, their economies still are struggling to get their heads above water. Some nations still have negative interest rates. Here we are, looking at some of the German economic numbers, consumer confidence is falling dramatically, PMIs throughout all the nations in Europe are doing basically a swan dive at a time where you would think of 8 or 9 years of quantitative easing they would really be forging ahead. It doesn’t seem to be the case.
That could be the reason we’ve had $80 crude oil and, of course, all of Europe needs to import energy from other nations. $80 oil, of course, is quite a tax on the consumer and, of course, industries as well. What is this doing? This is probably slowing the global economy both here in the United States as well as in Asia. It’s just the first glimpses of it. It doesn’t appear to be a slowdown here yet, though we do seem to be in a bit of a stall speed in the U.S. and some of the foreign nations. Of course, interest rates in the United States are ticking up, approximately every 3 months. Whether they raise rates this year 3 or 4 times doesn’t really matter that much. It is underpinning the U.S. dollar and what that’s doing for us is providing a very stable commodities market. As clients, you all know we have many positions on. Where we’re actually predicting stable market prices.
Identifying fairly value markets in gold, silver, crude oil, coffee, soybeans can be a great mainstay for option selling. Of course, as you know, we have $800-$900 strangles around gold. Gold over the last 6 months has barely budged. The silver market so far this year has been lopped into a $1 an ounce trading range. We have approximately an $18 strangle around that market. We really do like the idea of a strong U.S. dollar throughout the rest of the year, and that’s creating very stable commodity prices which, I think, is going to be very fruitful going into the 3rd and 4th quarter of this year.
One market that’s finally coming around is the coffee market. We do have a trucker strike in Brazil and that is keeping some of the coffee off of the market. Of course, investors and speculators are racing in to buy coffee. We love the idea of selling coffee calls above $2 for later this year and early 2019 expiration. We think that’s going to be a great idea and we expect coffee prices to be half of the strikes that we’re selling right now. Our old friend coffee is becoming what I think is going to be a very good opportunity going forward. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Anyone wanting more information from OptionSellers.com can visit our website. If you’re not already a client of ours and wish to become one, you can contact our headquarters in Tampa, Florida about possibly becoming one. As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you and looking forward to doing so again in 2 weeks. Thank you.
Ben Lichtenstein: We’ve got a real treat here for you this morning, traders. We’ve got the founder and head trader of OptionSellers.com. Traders, we’ve got James Cordier with us this morning. James, welcome to Futures with Lichtenstein & Hincks. It’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I want to dive right into it. When we’re talking futures versus options I kind of think of it as futures for me are kind of easy versus options. It’s sort of like driving a VW versus flying a Cessna. Talk to us about some of the benefits of trading options and why they’re appealing to you, considering what we’re seeing here in the energy markets as of recent.
James: You know, I think that’s a great question. So often, people talk about options and they kind of go like this. I understand they are puts and calls, but I think the gentleman you had on just a moment ago is just a great example as to why selling options can be a good idea for mainstream investors. The gentleman prior to me was talking about trading in currencies and he talked about close stops and you’ve got to watch your lows and watch your highs, and you need to have a close stop on all of your positions. Shorting options and selling premium is just the opposite of this. If you want to take a long-term fundamental view on gold, as you’d just been describing, or crude oil, this is the way to do it because perfect timing, I’ve been in this business for almost 30 years, I don’t know anyone who knows how to do that… not on a consistent basis; however, we’re looking at energy prices right now. The crude oil market is extremely frothy, especially with slowing global growth. Europe right now is probably what brings us to mind right now, as far as the oil price, might be at a reflection point. With PMIs going south, with consumer confidence in Germany, I was just in both Italy and Germany this past week and, while pizza sales were really good, and I can attest to that, the rest of the economies are not doing so well. $80 and $82 oil Brent is going to probably be very detrimental to European economies. We’re looking at a possible reflection point right now in crude oil. Instead of trying to pick the exact copy, because of course no one else is of course able to do that, we’re going to start looking at selling a call premium on crude oil. We’re going to go out 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, sell the $90 calls and the $95 calls and that way we don’t need perfect timing, but we simply need to be right the market eventually. A lot of the fundamentals we’re seeing in oil going forward into the 3rd and 4th quarter lead us to believe that we’re going to be right on this.
Kevin Hincks: Good morning, James. Thanks for coming on the show. It’s always a pleasure for me to talk about options when I’m on this show. I spent most of my career doing that. So, you are talking about the 90 calls above the market, right? Selling something very safely above the market here, about $18-$19. You also talk about selling the 45 put so you’re creating a short option strangle, right? Where you basically want a range-bound trade in between your strikes. Now, the question that option traders have is, “Do you think, based on the risk that you’re assuming, now you’ve given yourself a nice wide in between the navigational beacons, I call it, of your short strikes. Are you getting paid enough for the risk that you’re putting on?”
James: That is such a great question. So many of your investors, I’m sure, are familiar with selling options on stocks. I hear about this all the time. When we have a new investor they’ll say, “James, I was introduced to short options through my stock broker. We started writing covered calls and then I got a little creative and started selling options on stocks. I hear that you’re selling options 2%, 3%, 5% out-of-the-money.” In commodities, crude oil, gold, coffee, we’re selling options 50-60% out-of-the-money in some cases. When we’re identifying a strangle, the window is just absolutely enormous. The crude oil market, based on fundamentals right now, is not going to fall into the 40’s. We have, of course, Brent around 80 right now, WTI right around 70-71, but it’s not going to go above 90 and that is just a fantastic window for the market to stay in. Identifying fairly priced commodities is probably the most wonderful thing that we do for our clients. Often, an expert comes on and he talks about, “Well, the coal market’s about to go to the moon” or “Soybeans are going to go to zero.” As we all know, quite often that’s not the case. Finding a window that a market is going to stay inside is just a fabulous way to create a strong performance at the end of the year. We’re collecting $600-$700 for the $90 calls. We’re collecting $600-$700 for the 45 puts. Basically, selling a strangle, as you know, is one position babysits the other while you wait. So many investors want to get paid right now and when they’re talking about selling options on commodities they need to get in “right now”. We don’t do that. We want to sell options much further out in price and much further out in time than most people, but we get paid to do it.
Ben Lichtenstein: Yeah, James, I know that you think that 85 is a bit of a tipping point, and possibly that tipping point that would bring Europe back into a recession. Talk to us and tell us a little bit more about why you think that.
James: What’s interesting is all you have to do is look at the Euro, and you look at banking stocks in Italy and Germany right now. That tells us that the European Union cannot withstand $80 oil. OPEC right now has to have another discussion. 2 years ago, they discussed cutting production. That has worked tremendously. They need to not be too greedy right now. $80 oil, everyone is making a ton of money producing oil here in the United States and everywhere else. Pushing Europe into a possible recession could absolutely kill the golden goose, if you will. Other producing nations produce oil for $35-$40 a barrel. It’s trading at $80. The last thing they need is a recession in Europe because you know what’s going to happen after we start talking about Greek bonds and Italian bonds? Then the stock market starts to dive and $80 oil prices will be history if that happens.
Kevin Hincks: Hey James, as you know, when it comes to the oil markets that there’s a mid-June OPEC meeting coming up where they’re going to re-look at or re-investigate the production cuts. Here’s my question for you: Is the most important person coming to the June OPEC meeting a non-OPEC member, being Russia? I think that they’re chomping at the bit to up their production and get back in this game, back to their old levels. Are they the most important player in this mid-June OPEC meeting?
James: Yes, they are. Saudi Arabia and Russia have been just great partners recently. Saudi Arabia’s probably the smartest OPEC nation in the room and they are going to be siding along with Russia. We’re looking at the spigots opening up. They have to. They are very extremely great traders and they understand that throwing a slow-down in global economy is the last thing that they need right now. I think they would be very happy with a $72-$74 Brent price. I think producing more oil, especially in Russia, is going to help that happen. We do see, at least by the 3rd quarter, production cuts going away and oil prices probably settling down $5-$7 from where it is right now, at least.
Ben Lichtenstein: All right. Lastly, James, I’m curious your thoughts on Shale production because everybody’s dialed in on the increased production up about 10 million barrels per day as we’re nearing 11 million barrels per day, but, you know, not everybody’s focused on the fact that without this added production levels that we probably see crude oil at a lot higher prices. A lot of people are saying, “Why hasn’t this increased production, keep the price of crude down?” Is it your thought or opinion that without all of this added supply that we’d be up and through this at $75 level right now in the WTI. Is that production what’s actually holding us down a bit?
James: What’s holding us down right now is the production. If 11 million barrels a day were being produced in a country that is a third world nation and doesn’t have a huge population of drivers and such, that would make a big difference, but, you know, we are using basically all the oil we need. What really changed the market recently is the fact that the U.S. is now exporting oil and that has really made it more of a global market. The fact that we see such a discount to WTI versus Brent tells us that oil production in the United States is around 11, adding up to 12, and, at that point, $80 oil for Brent and $70 for WTI is not going to last very long. We really see Brent down, like I was saying, $5-$10 this year. What’s going on in the United States right now will keep oil prices from doing the super-spike and I think we’re at a reflection point pretty soon.
Ben Lichtenstein: Yeah, we’re watching that spread closely, too, right around 7 ½ right now. Traders, that’s James Cordier joining us this morning and he’s the President and Founder of OptionSellers.com. He’s also the author of The Complete Guide to Option Selling. James, it’s always a pleasure to have you on the show. Really good insightful thoughts there in terms of options and the energy markets.
Michael: Hello everyone and welcome to your June edition of the Option Seller Podcast. This is Michael Gross of OptionSellers.com. I’m here with head trader James Cordier. James, a lot of talk this month about bull market in commodities. It’s been getting a lot of media attention, obviously crude oil has been leading the charge, but what are your thoughts on that? Are we in a bull market right now or is it just speculation?
James: You know, most often, Michael, at the 3rd and 4th and 5th year of an expansion economically is usually when prices of commodities start going up. There’s usually a glut of commodities during a recession. As years go by, a lot of the excess commodities are then purchased and consumed, and usually that is when you start normally getting higher prices. I do believe we’re in a bull market in commodities. It is lead by energies, which of course was pretty much facilitated through OPEC cuts in production, but let’s face it, practically everything comes from a barrel of oil. Whether it’s cotton or soybeans or coffee or what have you, everything derives off of a barrel of oil or a gallon of gasoline. Of course, energy prices have really risen quite a bit over the last 18 months. That leads us to believe we are in a bull market in many commodities. There are 1 or 2 that have certainly oversupply in them, but the commodity market has been in a nice uptrend. Usually, this does happen 3 or 4 years after the beginning of an expansion and its kind of textbook so far.
Michael: So, we have oil markets possibly leading the charge here. Some of the grains have been aided by some weather issues. Do you see this spreading to all commodities or is it primarily limited to a few sectors?
James: I think it’s limited to a few sectors. If you look at the price of sugar or coffee, we’ve got just massive production expected in South America this year. The coffee market recently hit a 12 month low, the sugar market recently hit a 12 month low, so it is really a market that needs to be picked, if you will, to be in a bull market. A lot of commodities do have up trends, but some of the major commodities that we follow are over supplied. I think that’s why we really enjoy doing what we do best, and that is analyzing fundamentals on the different markets, simply buying a basket of commodities or selling a basket of commodities. I think you can be more sophisticated than that, and that’s what we try and do here, of course.
Michael: Yeah, in the media they like to get a story line, “Bull Market in Commodities” and that’s what they tag and they really maybe only focusing, as you said, on a few markets, some of the other markets. That’s why you get that play within the commodities where they’re not really as correlated to each other as maybe stocks.
James: Certainly not. That’s where diversification comes in. If you’re long or short the stock market, basically you’re living or dying by if it goes up or down. Of course, in commodities, we follow 4 different sectors about 10 different specific commodities and they really do have their own individual fundamentals, and that’s what makes following the same commodities for so long very prosperous, because you do get to know them. They all do have personalities. You don’t simply buy a basket of commodities like you do stocks. It’s different than that.
Michael: So, the person watching at home now and they’re saying “boy, it’s a bull market in commodities. This must be a good time to sell options”… that’s really kind of irrelevant if you’re an option seller, isn’t it?
James: You know, the interesting commodities, I think, is what bodes well for us. Whether you’re selling options on your own or you’re doing it with ourselves, it does increase premiums of options on both puts and calls. Certainly, the interest by the speculator, whether it’s a bank in London or whether it’s a hedge fund somewhere in San Francisco, it does increase the value of the options. If you are picking up bull or bear market, it allows you to get in at very good levels, sometimes 40-50% out-of-the-money depending on which market it is.
Michael: So now matter which side of the market it’s on, the media coverage of prices going up brings in a lot of public speculators and that drives premium.
James: Whether you’re selling options on your own or you’re doing it with us, it really plays into your hands… it really does.
Michael: Great. We’re going to take a look at a couple of these markets that’ve moving pretty good to the upside or we feel we have some pretty good opportunities to look at this month. Why don’t we go to the trading room and get started?
Michael: Welcome back to the market segment of this month’s podcast. We’re here in the trading room with head trader James Cordier. The title of this month’s podcast is taking advantage of the bull market in commodities, and we’re going to feature a couple of markets this month that are leaders, what’s driving the bull market in commodities, but how to take advantage of it might not be exactly how you think it would be. A lot of people might think, “Oh, well I’ll just go out and buy a commodities index fund or maybe I’ll buy some individual commodities stocks or what have you”, and the problem with that is, one, as James mentioned earlier, sometimes these commodities aren’t all going to move together. So, you may buy one commodity and it’s not going to participate in that bull market like other stocks wood. Also, we don’t know when this bull market might end, so we want to position ourselves so, yes, we can keep taking advantage of this if the bull market continues, but also if it stops tomorrow we still want to be able to make money. So, we’re not going to position how just a common traditional investor might try and position. We’re going to talk about selling options here. Let’s go to the first market for this month… the cotton market has been one of the leaders of the commodities bull here. Obviously we’ve had a pretty sharp rally here since last October, James. We’re up almost 25% in prices through this week. What’s going on here as far as prices go?
James: Cotton’s another example of one of the bull markets of 2018. We do have some more demand out of Asia than we thought. They were speculators that thought that supplies in China were slightly less than what early was previously expected. Cotton production in China is supposed to be down slightly because of some weather. Of course, the big news is we had just an incredible drought to start out the planting season here in west Texas. Basically, commodities like soybeans and cotton, everyone’s so concerned about the weather and when they talk about dry conditions or there’s drought going on, speculators come and bid up the market. A lot of the end users then need to get insurance and they’ll buy futures contracts for cotton, as well, and that really boosts up the price usually right as growing season is beginning. That’s what we’re here looking at again today for the cotton market in 2018.
Michael: Okay. So, that drought has been pushing up prices, but here in the last couple of weeks, that started to lessen a little bit. We’re looking at a map here of Texas, west Texas, big cotton growing region. If you would’ve looked at this map, the darker colors indicate a severe drought portion, so we still have some going up in northern part of Texas, but if you would’ve looked at this chart 3-4 weeks ago, almost half of Texas was in that red. So, this has mitigated quite a bit to where we are right now and that has allowed a lot of these planters to really make some progress in planting over the last couple of weeks. As a matter of fact, stats we just pulled today, James, at the end of the week of May 13th they were 28% planted. At the end of the week of May 20th, Texas farmers were 43% planted, so that’s a lot of progress to make up in a week and that’s due to that they finally got some moisture. They were able to get the crop in the ground. 5-year average is only 33%, so they’re actually ahead, quite a bit ahead, of where they normally are in a 5-year average, so that moisture they did get has really done a lot of good for the Texas crop. USDA just came out with their most recent/first estimate for the ’18-’19 crop. You’ll see here, James, ending stocks actually above last year is what they’re targeting.
James: Really a weather market right now. Anyone who lives in the United States, especially in the eastern half of the United States, I know we have clients and viewers from all over the world, but here in the U.S. it’s raining all the time. Precipitation is just dominating the weather market right now and, in the chart you just mentioned, for the Texas state, that was truly an extremely dry condition and that has mitigated quite a bit. We’re now 5-6% above the 5-year average for plantings. We now have precipitation coming in. We’re going to wind up having a larger crop than a lot of people thought about and then we’re going to have carry-over in the United States, the highest level in 10 years. I know a lot of people are going to look at this, “well, the carry-over was much higher 8-9 years ago”, but cotton was also around $0.40-$0.50 a pound then, too. That’s a big difference.
Michael: One other thing we should probably bring up that’s really carrying a lot of weight here is that cotton also has a very strong seasonal tendency. Actually, it doesn’t even really start to break until about mid-June. What’s usually behind this? What causes this?
James: Just as we were describing, Michael, if there’s any type of weather fears in Alabama, Mississippi, this year it was Texas, generally speaking, until the crop is planting and until the weather conditions look favorable for production that year, generally speaking that’s going to be the high point of the year as planting’s taking place in the southern states of the United States. As the planting is completed, it’s 85-95% completed, which will be probably in the next 2-3 weeks, weather comes in, the dramatic dry conditions no longer are pushing up prices. Sure enough, as you start harvesting the crop in October, November, December, big crop once again, U.S. farmers are the best in the world, and once again we had a lot bigger crop than most people anticipated. That’s what’s winding up in timing right now looks perfect for the seasonal average and it’s setting up the same way into this year.
Michael: Yeah, it does seem to be lining up pretty well. If the rains continue, we don’t have a big drought surprise, this seasonal looks like it’s set up to be pretty close. So, we’re looking at a trade here. I’ll let you talk about the trade, James, but you’re looking at a December call right now.
James: Exactly. We have cotton trading in the low-mid 80’s recently. There was a recent spike up with a lot of discussion about the problems in Texas. Generally speaking, we do have the market rally May, June, and then July it usually rolls over. We are now looking at really decent call buying by speculators and hedgers alike at the $1 and the 105. There are no guaranteed investments in this world, but selling cotton at 105 looks like a pretty darn good one and if it does follow along with the seasonal, if it does follow along with the idea that supplies are going to be at 10-year highs at the end of this year, cotton will go from 80’s to a 105 looks very slim chances to us. We think this is going to be one of the better positions going into the 4th quarter of this year.
Michael: So, when you’re talking about taking advantage of a bull market rather than buy into cotton, what James is talking about is the bull market creates interest in these deep out-of-the-money calls. So, how you take advantage of it and sell these deep out-of-the-money calls, we don’t know if the drought’s over. It sure looks like it’s taking a lot of big steps towards mitigating, but if we’re wrong and they don’t get rains and somehow the second half of the planting doesn’t go as well, cotton can still go higher from here. So, we don’t want to bet on that it’s going to turn around right now, right on seasonal. It could keep going. We’re just going to sell calls up here and it can do whatever it wants. It can keep going, it can mitigate, or it can roll over with the seasonal. Either way, there’s a pretty good chance these calls are still going to expire worthless.
James: We really like that as an opportunity selling those calls.
Michael: Okay. If you’d like to learn more about trading these types of markets, taking advantage of upward markets by selling calls, you’ll want to pick up a copy of our book The Complete Guide to Option Selling: Third Edition. You can get it now on our website at a discount than where you’ll get it in the bookstore or on Amazon. That’s www.OptionSellers.com/book. James, let’s move into our next market we’d like to talk about this month.
Michael: We’re back with out second market we’re going to talk about here in our June Podcast- How to take advantage of the bull market in commodities. That second market is one we talked about here last month… that’s the crude oil market. We’re going to update this trade a little bit to give you some insights into how these type of strategies work. James, last month you talked about selling a strangle on the crude market, the February 45/90 strangle. Why don’t you update us on how the market has done and how that trade is doing?
James: Let’s talk about both sides of this investment. Just 6-12 months ago, there was considered a 300 million barrel oil surplus globally. That has evaporated to approximately 30 million barrels. The market is practically absolutely flat right now. Every barrel of oil that’s being produced right now has an owner before it even comes out of the ground. That fundamental will not be changing in the next 3-6 months. They’re not just going to find oil, it’s not going to go from a 30 million barrel surplus to a 300 million barrel surplus overnight. That’s not going to happen. That’s going to keep oil well above the $40 level. The $45 put that we sold, I think, is excellent sales-ship, not ownership… you don’t want to own those. Crude oil over the next 6 months is likely not going to this level. The call side, what’s developing over the last 60-90 days really is what’s going on in Europe. Basically, the European Union has been dealing with quantitative easing for as long as the United States have. Of course, now we’re no longer doing QEs. The U.S. economy is doing extremely well. Europe? Not so much. We have quantitative easing still in Europe and PMIs in Germany, England, Italy are going straight south. Consumer confidence in Germany is at one of its lowest levels in years. The European economy is starting to roll over while it has quantitative easing. Europe produces practically no oil whatsoever and they are very susceptible to oil shocks. Oil at Brent commodity is up to $80 a barrel. In the United States it’s around $71-$72. That level is practically double of where it was 12 months ago and Europe is really feeling a brunt about that. What OPEC is very keen to know is to not kill economic growth. Oil just went from basically $45-$50, recently now up to $80 on Brent, and economies in Europe, especially, can’t sustain that. We’re looking again about discussion about Greek bonds and if that market rolls over again, and if Europe goes into slight recession going on in the next say 4th quarter of this year 1st quarter of next year, stock markets start to slide, U.S. economy starts to slide. Then, OPEC can basically claim a big part in slowing economic growth. They don’t want that. OPEC is producing oil for $35-$40 a barrel. Rent is up to 80. They’re likely going to start rolling back some of the production cuts and that’s what makes the $90-$95 calls a great sale, as well. Oil is likely not going to be hitting $90 going into the 4th quarter of this year. That’s the shoulder season, that’s when demand worldwide is at its lowest. That should make the $95 a very good sale. We like being short in 90 and 95. We love being long at 40 and 45. This is probably one of the best strangles available right now in all of commodities and the reason why those premiums are so high, as you mentioned Michael, is because the bull market in commodities. It gets people out buying options that they normally wouldn’t, reaching out for higher levels than normally they would, and that’s what makes cherry-picking in puts and calls, selling commodities in options right now, I think, the timing is just about perfect.
Michael: Yeah, the trade we recommended last month, you were talking about this trade… 45/90 February. You’ll notice last month we were about here, so the market has bumped up about $3 a barrel, but it’s still right in the middle of the strangle and this strangle is actually profitable now from where we recommended it. So, just what we talked about last month, we’re not trying to pick highs or lows or guess what the market’s going to do. We don’t care as long as it stays between these levels. This strangle is performing just about optimally as how you’d want it.
James: This form of investing is much more simplistic than trying to pick exactly where all these markets are going. This could look like Apple stock and trying to figure out what Apple is going to do next week or next month. Basically, selling options, especially on a strangle, you’re throwing the football to where you think the market is going to be. So, if you’re in the lower 3rd of the trading range and you still think the market has got a little bit higher to go, look where we’re winding up right now with the $2 or $3 rally. We’re right in the middle of the strangle… right where we like to see it.
Michael: Okay. Now you did mention you think oil prices could be starting to slow here over the next several months. Again, we’re not calling a talk, but you think as it goes along there’s going to be a second conversation here with OPEC as far as their quotas.
James: I really think so. 2 years ago, Saudi Arabia and Russia got together and said, “We’ve got to try something. We just saw oil for under $40 a barrel, we’re basically making little money.” They basically said, “Let’s try and reduce production by 3%, 4%, 5% and see what happens. The U.S. is now the largest producer. We have to do something or the market’s going to stay low.” That conversation worked extremely well… oil at Brent to $80. The second conversation now is let’s not get greedy. If the oil goes up another $2, $3, or $4 a barrel what difference does it make to you as a producer? If you’re making $40 a barrel or $42, it doesn’t make that much of a difference, but to consuming areas like the Euro area, another $3, $4, or $5 can tip that economy over and that is a big deal. I think that’s the conversation they’re going to have in June when OPEC meets.
Michael: James, you just gave this talk you had on the oil markets to TDAmeritrade and they’re, what, 11 million trading customers?
James: Yeah, we had a lot of investor eyeballs on us today. It’s quite interesting how many people actually do invest in commodities. There is an advertisement on TV recently… people aren’t investing in this and they aren’t investing in that and they aren’t investing in commodities. They really are investing in commodities and we certainly saw that this morning with the viewership that we had talking strictly about options on commodities. We really blew it off the charts today.
Michael: Great. You can see that interview on our website probably later this week or early next week. It’ll be on the blog. The full interview will be posted there and you can take a look at that. If you’d like to learn more about some of the things we’ve been talking about here, you’ll want to take a look at the June OptionSeller Newsletter. That should be out on or before June 1st. If you’re already a subscriber, it’ll be in your e-mail box and your physical mailbox around that time. Let’s go ahead and move into our Q & A section and see what our readers have to ask this month.
Michael: Welcome back to the Q & A portion of this month’s podcast. James, we’re going to take some questions from some of our viewers and readers here and see if you can answer what they have to ask. Our first question this month comes from Omar Fallon of Galveston, Texas. Omar asks, “Dear James, I am currently selling options with the assistance of your excellent book, The Complete Guide to Option Selling. I’m also following your 200% rule that you recommend. My question is, do you still follow the 200% rule when you’re writing a strangle or is there a different risk strategy for a strangle?”
James: Okay. Omar, thanks for the question. We often consider that every time we do write a strangle. From time to time, of course, one side or the other goes against us slightly while we’re waiting… patiently waiting in most cases. I do like using the 200% rule on the total value of the strangle itself. If you take into consideration the fact that both sides of the put and the call combined premium has to first double before you exit the trade, that is truly putting a lot of room between you and the market and giving you a lot of time, hopefully, to hold onto that position. I do recommend using a 200% rule on the total value of both the put and the call sale.
Michael: And that’s primarily because if the market starts moving against one of your strikes, that option on the other side of the market is balancing that out. So, you can afford to let it go a little further because you’re making some of that up on the other side of the market.
James: Exactly right. Omar, if you sold your option fairly well, you’re going to have a really good opportunity for the market to stay inside that strangle and, as you approach option expiration, if you choose to hold on to it the very last day, we don’t always do that; however, that window should be extremely large and I do like giving the whole 200% risk tolerance on both the put and the call. If you sold the option fairly well, the market should wind up inside that window when it is time to close them out.
Michael: Let’s go to our next question. This one comes from Jonathan Hartwig from Springdale, Arkansas. Jonathan asks, “Dear James, I’ve noticed from your videos that you seem to focus more on some commodities and less on others. I traded commodities about 11 years ago and did markets like hogs and orange juice, even pork bellies. Is there a reason you don’t feature these markets and how many markets do you actually trade at your firm?”
James: Jonathan, great question. It sounds like questions from my favorite movie, Trading Places… orange juice and pork bellies. Those are certainly near and dear to our hearts here. Basically, we ant to be in the most liquid commodity markets that there are. Pork bellies, lean hogs, orange juice is a very domestic trade here in the United States. Orange juice, of course, is produced 90% in the United States, pork bellies is certainly a U.S. domestic commodity in market. Lean hogs, of course, is a U.S. domestic market. What that does is it allows the fundamentals to change dramatically in a very short period of time. We like investing in crude oil produced in so many nations. Gold, silver, sugar is produced in over 2 dozen different nations and coffee is produced all over the world. Wheat is produced in almost every nation of the world. So, if the fundamentals or dry conditions in one zone of the United States or in part of Asia, 90% of the world is going to have a different weather pattern or a different structure that’s causing the market to move. That’s going to give the commodity a lot more stability. We always want to sell options based on fundamentals, and the fundamentals in every sector of the world rarely are going to change at the same time. Where if you’re trading a domestic market like orange juice or pork bellies, a small freeze, a terrible draught in a certain location, swine flu in Iowa can determine the entire investment. Here at OptionSellers, we want to be in markets that are extremely liquid and will not have changing fundamentals on a small whim. We sell options based on a 3, 6, 12 month time period. If you’re trading and investing in options that are based on commodities that are grown all around the world, produced all around the world, you’ll rarely have a really brief quick change in fundamentals. Right up our alley for the way we do things.
Michael: Yeah, a lot of people are surprised when they’re asking about what commodities you actually trade. There’s really only about 10 or 12 that we follow and those are those high volume markets you’re talking about. It’s not like we’re following 500 stocks here. There’s 10 or 12 markets, you just get to know them really well.
James: They all have personalities, Michael. I’ve been trading silver and gold, coffee and sugar, natural gas and crude oil for decades. That doesn’t mean we’re right all the time, but they do have a personality. You get to know the fundamentals and when there’s a little headline or blip here or there it really doesn’t rattle you, nor should it with your investment.
Michael: So, the point is, Jonathan, if you’re selling options you’ll probably want to stick to your highest volume markets that are going to have the highest volume, most liquidity in the options. That’s where you’re going to get the safest type of trades. If you’re watching this at home, thank you for watching this month’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed what you learned here today. James, thank you for your insights on the markets.
James: Of course. Always.
Michael: If you’d like to learn more about managed option selling portfolios here with OptionSellers.com, you’ll want to be sure to request your Option Sellers Discovery Pack. This is available on our website for free. It comes with a DVD. You can get that at www.OptionSellers.com/Discovery. As far as our account openings go, we still have a couple openings left in June for consultations. Those would be for our account openings in July and August. So, if you’re thinking about possibly, you want to make an allocation this summer, now is the time to give a call and get your consultation/interviews scheduled. You can call Rosemary at the office… that’s 800-346-1949. If you’re calling from outside the United States, that’s 813-472-5760. Have a great month of option selling and we’ll talk to you again in 30 days. Thank you.
Good afternoon. This is James Cordier of OptionSellers.com with a market update for May 5th. Well, we are starting to receive some very interesting economic data just recently. Not so much here in the United States, but definitely in the EU. Both German and Great Britain numbers recently are really showing some signs of slowing. It’s very interesting that with quantitative easing still in place throughout the European Union we have slowing already in some of the main economies, namely Germany.
Here in the United States we still do have a fairly robust recovery developing. While there are some economic numbers here showing that it’s not taking off to a great extent, it’s still on firm footing. This has created a much stronger U.S. Dollar just recently. Which has brought a lot of commodity prices back into check. Earlier this year, we were having fears of the U.S. Dollar falling in value and investors rushing into precious metals, gold, silver, platinum, and the like, and as the U.S. Dollar now becomes “King Dollar” once again gold prices and silver prices have backed off markedly. What’s so interesting is if quantitative easing is still in place throughout the European Union, how is that area slowing already? That certainly is a big point for us looking forward to help decide economic growth. Globally, in China of course we have tariff talk, not that tariffs are going to necessarily take place to a great extent but, what that often does is it creates anxiety amongst major players and I think that’s what’s going on in Europe right now.
We do see decent demand for commodities going forward. The energy patch continues to be relatively strong but we do see that plateauing as well later in the summer. June, July, and August is often the high for demand in energy across the United States and we see that possibly slowing this big rally that we’ve seen in crude oil recently. We love the idea of putting a very large strangle around crude oil prices. We have a nearly fifty dollar strangle around that market. We think that’s going to be an excellent opportunity going forward and we have sales in precious metals some fifty, sixty, and seventy percent above current prices. With a strong dollar, we think that’s going to be an excellent way to go into the last half of 2018. We will just have to wait and see. We really like the way portfolios are positioned right now. We did a lot of rebalancing over the first quarter and a half and we think that we’re going to be bearing fruit here going forward over the next six months.
Anyone wanting more information from OptionSellers.com can visit our website. If you’re not already a customer of ours and would like to become one, you can certainly visit our website or contact Rosemary about possibly becoming a client if you wish. As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you and looking forward to doing so again in two weeks. Thank you.
Michael: Hello everybody. This is Michael Gross of OptionSellers.com. I’m here with head trader James Cordier. We are here for your monthly May video podcast from OptionSellers.com. James, welcome to the monthly show.
James: Thank you, Michael. Can you believe we’re going into May already?
Michael: It sure went fast. This last month here we saw some key developments in the markets. We have a lot of tensions between China and the U.S. over trade, and then we’re, lately, looking at 10-year treasuries going over 3%. A lot of people are wondering how this may affect commodities. What’s your take on that?
James: Well, the trade wars that are supposedly about to take place, I think, are simply negotiation. President Trump mentioned many times going into the election that he was going to do “the art of the deal” and get us some more fair playing field, especially with China. Certainly the deficit that many goes out to China and doesn’t come back is something that he’s going to work on and, I believe, it’s more negotiating than it’s actually going to be major changes, as far as trade tariffs and such. Will some be put in place and some enacted? Probably so, but I know Mr. Mnuchin is going to China I believe in the next week or two, and he’s going to have probably the checkbook ready so he can basically get an olive branch going out. Needless to say, everybody wants a strong economic global growth and a trade war is not going to help that; however, getting a more fair and balanced trade, especially with China, I think is a really good idea and I think that’s what we’re going to get over the next month or two. All the discussion about it, I think, is going to be more of just that: just discussion.
Michael: So, you don’t see any major changes in any commodities in the immediate term? Any immediate strategies people should be doing right now or as a result of that or, primarily, do you just see things leveling out here?
James: Michael, the discussion of a trade war, like in soybeans or something that’s going to affect the demand for oil, I think a person or an investor should use that to look at the idea that it’s going to be settled. It’s not going to be a large disruption to production or demand in any of these commodities. When the price of a commodity is affected by discussion of it, I think you should take advantage of that. 3-6 months later, the fundamentals that we see now are going to be in place then, and basically it was hype that was going on and I think it’s going to offer opportunities. For markets that you’re following, if there’s trade discussion that’s going to move up or down the market that you were hoping to sell either puts or calls on, I think that’s going to be great picking in order to do that.
Michael: Okay. Well, for those of you watching, we have an exciting show for you ahead this month. We’re going to be addressing a very common question we get. A lot of times, people sell an option, they get into the trade, the option moves a little bit against them, and then the question is “Well, what do I do now? Do I adjust the trade? Do I get out of it? If so, where do I get out of it?” What we’re going to do this month is we’re actually going to take you into some of our real trades we are doing in portfolios. Some of these, you’ve probably seen us talk about before. Pull back the curtain a little bit and show you a risk-parameter we might use and then recommend something you can use at home, as well, if you’re trading on your own or just get a little bit better insight into how we might do it professionally. A good analogy, and, James, I know you can comment on this, is we all saw the incident with Southwest Airlines this month where they had the problem with the engine. Certainly a tragedy for the people involved that it effected; however, one thing that really stuck out to me is the pilots that landed that plane and saved all those people. Have you heard the transcripts? They’re just cool as a cucumber. They knew exactly what to do, they had processes in place for every situation or condition, and you pilots out there that are clients, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When people are trading, and you know this more than anyone, James, you should have a contingency. Anything that happens, you should have a plan for that happening and have that type of control. That’s how you avoid that “what should I do” when you get into certain situations. When you’re trading, you deal with the same thing, James, am I right?
James: I certainly do, nothing like that pilot was facing this past week, but in a similar note, you do have a plan. We are generally positioned in anywhere from 8-10 commodities and when one is causing the plane or the bow to veer right or veer left you simply need to make the adjustment. It shouldn’t be a huge deal to your portfolio. You should really be able to make a minor adjustment. If you’re in 10 commodities and 1 is going really in a direction you weren’t thinking, you should have a plan for that. It shouldn’t be a panic. It shouldn’t be large turns like this. You should just be turning the wheel like this and we’ve got an adjustment that needs to be made, the cocoa market or the coffee market or the silver market, and you just steer the plane and get it flying level again. Your portfolio, whether you’re having a portfolio with us or you’re investing with one on your own, you should never have a position that makes that much variance to your account. If you have 1 position in your account, name the commodity- it doesn’t really matter, and if it moves 5-10% in a short period of time, if that makes your account move larger than it really should be, it shouldn’t have a large variance because the market moved 5% or 10%. If it is doing that, you’re simply not positioned correctly. Always have in your portfolio 8-10 commodities and if 1 is making the plane go like this then you just pull it back like that. You should never have a position on your account that you can’t, in order to make the plane fly smoothly again, if you would. It happens all the time. We’re not right all the time. We’ll have 8-10 commodities in a portfolio and by-goodness, 1 is going to be causing this to happen and you just straighten the plane. Just like that brave pilot did, he knew exactly what to do. My goodness, 1 engine went out and he was able to do that. We have 10 engines on our plane. We should never have one commodity or another commodity make the plane go like this. It really shouldn’t happen. For your investors at home, if that’s happening to your portfolio you don’t have a diversified portfolio, and that is something that we at OptionSellers.com always strive to have so that when something happens that was unexpected, there’s a big headline in a certain commodity, you just straighten the plane and that’s what we do.
Michael: That’s what we’re going to talk about today. If you’re trading at home or you’re checking out this strategy, one of the biggest advantages you have as an option seller is that flexibility James was talking about where if you’re trading, and say you are worried about a Chinese trade war or this or that, you have the ability to build out a strategy that can benefit from nearly any type of economic condition. It’s one you should use if you’re an option seller. We’re going to address and use a specific example this month from a market we talked about. We’ll show you how to adjust a trade if you do get into those type of situations where it’s not working exactly the way you hoped it would, and we’re going to give you a couple examples here of how to do just that. James, why don’t we move into the trading room and we’ll talk about our markets this month.
James: Sounds good.
Michael: Welcome to the markets segment of the OptionSellers.com May Podcast. We are going to talk about a market this month that we featured in last month’s podcast and that we’ve got a lot of questions on over the past month so we’re going to talk a little bit about it. This does go into the topic of this month’s podcast, which is how to turn a losing trade into a winning trade. So, first let’s talk about the market… this is the cocoa market. You saw us feature this market in last month’s podcast. Cocoa we talked about selling the 32 December call options. The markets rallied a little bit since then, did not threaten a strike, but it’s up a little bit. James, do you want to tell us what’s going on with this trade and this market?
James: Michael, what’s going on with cocoa right now is the last several years we’ve had a production surplus worldwide. In 2018 and 2019, some of the largest cocoa analysis around the country is predicting the first deficit in quite some time for world production. Basically, high prices cure high prices and low prices cure low prices. The initial trade is that we’re going to have a production deficit this coming year and then the market must go much higher because we’re running out of cocoa, but in all actuality what happens when the price of something is rising that is dampening down demand. So, for example, when cocoa was trading around $2,000 and $2,100 a ton, chocolate manufacturers were purchasing cocoa. As it rallies, they purchase less and less and less, and the demand has already taken place. So, when we do get an announcement of a production deficit, that usually gets the last of the buyers, the headline traders, to get involved with the market. We saw a spike here recently in the last day or two where cocoa was threatening $2,900 a ton. Keep in mind that’s up almost 50% in price over the last few months. Basically what that does is commercial demand then starts to fall and then basically it’s a speculatively driven market. Usually a market that has moved 50%, we have just a couple percent difference in production, 2-3 years ago up until now, and yet we’ve had a 50% increase in price; thus, we think that’s a temporary move in the market. While we were suggesting selling the $3,200 calls last month, the market did not get anywhere near that level but, as some of the viewers and readers have mentioned, the price of those options are up slightly from, maybe, when we discussed selling them.
Michael: Sure. I think that goes back to a good point is, we always say this, we don’t know where the top or bottom of a market’s going to be. That’s why we are selling options in the first place. We’re not trying to pick that anymore. You don’t have to pick that either as an option seller. It’s an important point to make as an option seller… you’re not trying to call the market, you’re just picking a window where you think prices should remain and then selling options outside that range.
James: Exactly right. Fundamentally, the price of cocoa over the next 3-6 months should be at this level. The price of coffee or crude oil based on fundamentals will be at a certain level, as well. Basically, you’re selling option premium that puts you out-of-the-money sometimes 40-50-60%, and some 8 times out of 10, that leeway is all you’ll ever need. As a matter of fact, anyone listening to us right now and, of course, our clients are long-term investors. So, if you are, like we discussed just recently, you are flying a plane and you want it to have several engines, okay? Your portfolio should have several commodities; however, when one does exceed a level that you thought it would, you can roll up your position. For example, each day that cocoa gets more and more expensive, the likelihood of it staying above its fundamental value diminishes. So, if you did short cocoa prices at, for example, $3,200 a ton by selling the $3,200 call, you may choose to roll it up to the $3,400 or the $3,500 if in fact it’s something that if you want to stay with the market or you want to stay with your position, but speculatively the market is driven higher than we thought it would do. That is certainly one approach that we often take and someone who maybe has that position on right now might want to take that, as well.
Michael: So, what you’ve just explained is how to turn a losing trade into a winning trade, the title of our podcast here today. Let’s go back and just explore that briefly. When we talked about selling the call here, we talked about selling it and we were right about here, now the market has rallied a little bit. As you said earlier, it really hasn’t threatened the original strike. In fact, I don’t even think the original premium has doubled yet.
James: No, they hadn’t.
Michael: Yet, we got a handful of people writing, “Ah, I sold a cocoa call. What do I do now?” Well, there’s 2 points to that. One, we’re not really an advisory service, we are managed fund here, so we can’t really instruct you all the way through the trade. The bigger point here is when we went back to the beginning of the podcast that James just referred to, we talk about the pilot steering the plane. If you’re putting a trade like this on, you better have a plan for what you’re going to do for when you go into that trade if it doesn’t move the way you think. Now, the movement in cocoa right now, it hasn’t really been extreme, it is pressuring the strike price a little bit. James feels it’s still fundamentally justified trade, but if you’re getting uncomfortable or it keeps rallying or starts pressuring that, he’s talking about rolling the positions up. James, do you want to explain the mechanics of that if you were, or if somebody was holding a 32 call what they would do to recapture that premium?
James: Okay, so let’s say you sold 10 contracts of the 3,200 December call strike and the price is now exceeding your risk tolerance. Let’s say you sold them for $500 or $600. Let’s say you have the 100% rule for your portfolio, so the option has now doubled to approximately $1,000-$1,200. Now what I would do, if you were considering staying with a fundamental trade, which I think cocoa will probably be in the high 20’s at the end of the year and nowhere near 3,200; however, you buy back your $3,200 call and you can sell 20 now of the $3,400-$3,500 call. Eventually, the fundamental factors are going to slow this market down and we think that come November, when the December contracts expire, we’ll probably be in the high 20’s… like 2,800-2,900 at the most. So, if we do exceed 3,000 for a brief period, I would use that certainly as an option selling opportunity in cocoa calls. 3,400-3,500, I think, the market will not exceed that level in our opinion. We’ll have to wait and find out, but come November I think the market will be much below that.
Michael: So, you’re doubling up on those strikes. So, you sold 10 and then when you roll you’re selling 20. That allows you to, one, get back your original premium, but it also allows you to recover the loss.
James: That’s exactly right. Keep in mind as we discuss this, we always want to be in 8-10 commodities. We are selling options sometimes 40%, 50%, 60% out-of-the-money. You can’t, or you probably don’t want to, base your entire investment and the viability of this type of investment for you based on the idea that you sold 10 contracts of cocoa. Okay? We are selling commodity options in approximately 8-10 different sectors and, over the long-term, selling options 40%, 50%, 60% out-of-the-money is going to work out quite well, but, by all means, we stub our toe. We get kicked in the shin once in a while, but if you’re a long-term investor, and everyone should be, whether you’re long stocks or the real estate market or you’re selling options as an investment portfolio, you just know that 1 or 2 may not go your way and you definitely need to manage your portfolio. This is one way to do it. Another idea is, you know, taking a losing trade. If the investment idea wasn’t correct, we’ll take a look at it again. Let’s see if the market continues to rally, we’ll sell options on another day, or we’ll come and visit cocoa again next year. Have that ability to do that.
Michael: That’s an excellent point. If you’re watching some of the things we do and you’re trying to trade just at home online saying “Oh I like that trade. I’ll sell this and see how it goes”, that’s really not how these are meant to go. When we are putting trades on a portfolio, we are putting them on as part of an overall portfolio of, as you said, 6, 8, 10 different positions. Sometimes they’re hedged on the other side of the market, sometimes they’re balanced by a long or short position somewhere else. So, these are incorporated into a much bigger scheme. If you’re just taking them and you’re really selling them out of context, so if something like this does move against you it’s a big deal for your portfolio, where for us is just like the captain of the plane. It’s a flip of a switch, just something different you need to do to adjust the position.
James: Exactly, Michael. You should always be able to have both hands on the wheel and just make small adjustments. If you sold cocoa calls recently, your positioning should only be going like this and you shouldn’t be turning the wheel like this. If you’re doing that with your portfolio, you’re not doing it right.
Michael: And as we talked about earlier for managed clients, we are going to be taking a closer look at this market this month. It is starting to get interesting and maybe look to see what we can do there in the coming weeks here. Let’s talk about another market here for our second part of the podcast this month. That will be the crude oil market. If you want a market that has been in the news lately, one that has been in the headlines has been the crude oil market. We’ve been closing in on the $70 mark for the first time in 2014. It’s been one of the strongest commodities on the board since last fall. James, you want to tell us what’s going on here? What’s behind this rally? What’s been pushing prices higher?
James: Michael, Saudi Arabia has done just an incredible job leading the OPEC nations, as well as Russian production. Someone sat down with members of OPEC and said, “Listen. We cut production by 2-3%, we’re looking at the possibility of a 20%, 30%, or 40% gain in crude oil prices.” Lo and behold, that math sounded good to the OPEC producers, they did start cutting production, not a great deal, just a couple percent. Basically, we were looking at a 300-400 million barrel of surplus floating around the world, both in tankers and at storage facilities in some of the OPEC nations. After some 18 months of oil production cuts by OPEC and along with Russia, that 300-400 million barrel surplus is down to some 30 or 40 million barrels… just a huge gain for OPEC. Their ability to cut production has just paid off in spades. We have approximately 35-40% increase in oil prices. OPEC is very cohesive right now, something that a lot of analysts are quite surprised at and we are surprised at it, as well. The ability to keep that production offline when prices are going up, my hats off to OPEC, they’ve done a very nice job in order to do this. The market is now balanced. Basically, for every barrel that is being produced there is a consumer right now. We have a very balanced market and, as you can see, it’s up some $20-$25 from where we were just not that long ago.
Michael: Yeah, compliance has been surprising, too. I read somewhere that they’re at like 138% compliance. Before, they used to have trouble even getting half the members to hit their quotas, now they’re above 100%.
James: Someone did the math for the OPEC producers and said a small 2-3% cut can possibly increase the prices 20-30%. They nailed it. Here are the final results.
Michael: As you mentioned, that’s taking quite a bit of oil off the market. OPEC production down 11.4% since these started in January 2017. So, that’s a pretty good drawdown. That’s really, what James is saying, is behind this rally right now. That and we have a pretty good seasonal in effect that’s helping drive prices now, as well.
James: Basically, as we get into driving season in the U.S., the largest consumer of oil and gasoline in the world, you have a ramp-up of production where you’re cracking oil into gasoline and, generally, that happens between the months of March, April, and May getting ready for summer driving season. So, that cracking of oil takes oil production and supply off the market, turns it into gasoline, so you have, once again, a temporary shortage of oil as not only OPEC taking barrels off the market but also you have the largest refining season coming up going into driving times of June, July, and August here in the United States. This takes barrels of oil off the market, they are cracked into gasoline, and that’s why you usually have this seasonal rally going into May and June.
Michael: Which seems to be following it very closely this year, the seasonal tendency. Now, one thing we’re seeing this year, and you and I were talking about this earlier, is refineries are operating at a torrid pace right now. They’re really hitting it pretty hard as far as production goes. Right now, gasoline production running about 4.2% ahead of pace for where it normally is. So, you’re thinking that they may hit those levels earlier this year and we may see a topping action in crude a little bit earlier this year?
James: You know, consumption for gasoline in the United States peaks in June and July right around the 4th of July, or so it seems, but the price of crude oil will often top before then. Crude oil is clearly where gasoline comes from, and as those barrels come offline, in other words, they’re cracked into gasoline, the price of oil will often top before gasoline does. So, the demand is still there but it has already been produced. So, while the greatest demand in the United States is around the middle of the summer holidays, the demand for oil to produce that gasoline has already taken place and thus the seasonal comes down sooner than you would think.
Michael: Sure, and this chart’s showing you can see a top in crude any time between mid-May to early-July, as you said; however, if refineries are hitting those levels where they deem supply adequate, they’re going to cut back production sooner and that will hurt demand for crude.
James: And then the crude barrels start to accumulate more.
Michael: Okay. So, we have that and then also, on the other side of the coin, what we have coming up or what’s even surprised OPEC is the level at which the United States has been able to ramp up production. They’re taking advantage of these higher prices and you referred to high prices carrying high prices earlier. We’re seeing U.S. production just blowing up, going up about 10.5 million barrels a day. Is this having an affect right now on the supply?
James: Well, basically it’s balancing… the additional barrels coming from the United States is balancing what OPEC’s not producing. The fact that production in the United States is going to probably exceed 11 million barrels a day coming up in 2019 and 2020. We do see this plateauing and the excitement in oil right now is probably going to be rolling over. If the United States wasn’t the largest consumer, let’s say all these barrels were being produced on the opposite side of the globe, getting them to the United States would be difficult and then maybe the largest producer, now the United States, wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the fact that we’re producing it exactly where we need it, here in the United States, that will offset some of the global demand and price shock around the world. Everyone always talked about, “The United States is susceptible to what OPEC does”… well, we’re producing all the oil we need now, so the fact that oil is approaching $70 and here in the United States we can produce it for between $35-$45, how long is it going to stay above $70? It can only exceed it by a certain amount of dollars per barrel and for a certain period of time. If this level gets to 11 million barrels a day or 11.5 million barrels a day, oil will be coming back down into the low-mid 60’s at the very least, and probably setting up a sale here that’s looking like in May or June for option sellers.
Michael: Okay. So, your outlook for the intermediate turn, obviously we talked earlier and we’re not trying to predict what prices are going to do, only what they’re not going to do, but do you see a little more strength coming in and then weakening, or what’s just the general outlook for that window?
James: What’s so interesting right now is in some global economies, especially throughout Europe, they are going to feel this large gain in the price of oil. Japan is going to start feeling this large gain in the price of oil. Basically, they are 100% consumers and produce nothing, so oil going from $45 up to $70 will start slowing demand from these major consuming nations. At the same time, when the United States is now producing the most they ever have and now the largest producer in the world, we see oil kind of plateauing here this summer right around maybe June or July, but not falling a whole lot. The fact that we had a 400 million barrel world surplus and it’s not approximately 40 million barrels, the market’s extremely well balanced right now. So, we see some of the excitement that’s going on now in crude oil plateauing somewhat, maybe coming down some $3-$5, but not falling through the floor by any means. Oil production right now is down with OPEC. They have been rewarded for keeping barrels off the market, and I don’t think they’re going to forget that any time soon. I don’t see them going back and ramping up production. They’ve been rewarded so well, they’ve learned a great lesson by keeping, at first, some 3% oil barrels off the market, now it’s up to some 9%, 10%, or 11% of barrels off the market. They’ve learned a great lesson and they’re being rewarded for it, so we don’t see production swamping this market. We see oil possibly trading at about a $10 trading range from where it is now throughout the end of the year.
Michael: All that media coverage and, of course, the price rally has increased the volatility, which is what we like to see as option sellers. Taking a look at a trading strategy, how to trade that exact scenario you just described, you’re looking at one of your favorite strategies, a strangle.
James: It certainly is. You discussed, just now, headlines and OPEC and trade wars with China and the value of a dollar. All of this really has the volatility of petroleum, especially crude oil, at record levels that I haven’t seen almost since I’ve been investing in commodities, but right now you have put premium extremely high, even with a bullish fundamentals, and you have call premium through the roof right now. My favorite position in crude oil for the rest of the year is practically a $45-$50 strangle around the price of oil. So, in other words, we would be selling calls at the $90 level and selling puts at the $45 level. We think that the idea that strong fundamentals right now will keep the market from falling, but yet the fact that prices are high right now and that’s going to start curtailing demand. My prediction for the rest of the year is about a $10-$12 trade range for crude oil and here we have one of the best opportunities I’ve seen to position in crude oil in a long time. That’s putting a $45-$50 strangle around oil. We’re not right all the time and every once in a while we don’t get it right, but for oil to stay between 45 and 90 through the end of the year, I think, is an incredibly high probability position and that’s something that we’re taking advantage of, as you know, Michael, right now.
Michael: You couldn’t do that a year ago. You didn’t get that wide of window, and now we have it, it’s on the table, and you want to take it.
James: Michael, that volatility is your friend. I know when it first happens and you already have positions on, “Oh, it’s too volatile for us”… that’s what you like. A year ago, 2 years ago, 3 years ago, the widest strangle you would write on crude oil was approximately $15-$20 and now you’re writing a $45 strangle. We, as well, are going out slightly further in writing and $50 strangle around crude oil. We’re pretty confident it’s going to stay inside that window. We’ll have to wait and see.
Michael: And again, watching this at home, this is an example. We are not recommending this to you personally as the perfect trade. In our portfolios, we are diversified over December, January, February, and March. Different strategies and different risk management techniques, but in going out to a month like February, a lot of people think that’s a long time out. We’re about 9 months out, but your plan isn’t to necessarily hold these until February or March or whatever you’re writing out there. Often times, with the right decay, you can be getting out of these a few months early.
James: Michael, as we discuss with our clients when they first become clients, we will sell options 6 months, 9 months, 12 months out into the future, but not with the idea that we’re going to stay into that position until the very last day and try and collect the very last dollar. It’s really not important to do that. If we select options fairly well, for example, on the position that we’re looking at right here, after maybe let’s say you sell options 9 months out, if you selected them fairly well, 5-6 months later you should have collected about 85-90% of the potential premium. That is a great place to ring the register and lower your risk and be happy with the position and get out of the trade and buy it back early. Often, we look at February or March or April when we’re talking about selling options. Basically, you’re Tom Brady and you’re throwing it to where the market is not going to be. That is what we’re doing. So, when Michael discusses layering different months and different commodities that’s what we’re doing. To own a portfolio like that, it looks like a great deal of layering in the market and that is what it is and it allows you to have 10 engines on your plane so that when one goes a little bit awry you have other positions to make sure that 80% of your portfolio is going the right direction. This is a great example of doing that.
Michael: Great advice. If you would like to read more about the crude oil market, what we’re recommending there this month, or going into our managed portfolios, you will want to read this month’s newsletter… that’s the May edition of the OptionSellers Newsletter. That comes out May 1st. It should be in your e-mail box or showing up in your hard copy mailbox a couple days after that. Of course, if you want to learn more about the strategies we discussed here or the rolling or strangle or some of the other concepts James mentioned, if you don’t have it yet, The Complete Guide to Option Selling: Third Edition, you can get it on our website at a discount, on Amazon, or the bookstore. The link to that is www.OptionSellers.com/book. Let’s move into our closing section for this month.
Michael: Thank you for watching this month’s edition of OptionSellers TV. James, thank you for those insights on the cocoa and the oil markets. You have any predictions for the upcoming month?
James: The month of May 2018, Michael, I think is going to be the realization that the U.S. dollar is not the weakest currency in the world. The U.S. is looking at probably 2 or 3 rate hikes this year. The U.S. economy is still doing quite well and its counterparts, especially in Europe, the economies in Germany, Italy, France, and England have been doing pretty well over the last 12-18 months, but the expansion in countries like Germany especially, the major driver of the European economy, is showing signs that it may be peaking already. Consumer Confidence in Germany is down, a lot of the sales in Germany is down right now, and not that it’s going into recession, if it does that would be the shortest-lived recovery ever, now don’t see that happening, but the U.S. economy still is on this footing and the European economy is fluttering already. That is going to make the U.S. dollar more buoyant than a lot of investors thought it would be and that is going to stabilize a lot of the commodities. So, getting into short options right now, whether it be puts or calls on precious metals, energies especially, and some of the foods, I think it will be a great calming effect in the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year. So, any discussion about the U.S. dollar isn’t doing so good, any discussion about inflation, I would fade those ideas and sell options on those ideas and, I think, later on this year you’ll be well rewarded.
Michael: Sounds like a good outlook. We’ll have to keep an eye out for that. Also, May is a very active month in the grain markets. We have corn and soybean plantings going on here in the United States, so that can often create opportunities there, as well, for option sellers, sometimes on both sides of the market.
James: Practically every year we have large influx of volatility in corn, wheat, and soybeans and we are ready and waiting for that to happen.
Michael: Excellent. For those of you interested in finding out more about managed option selling portfolios with OptionSellers.com, you can call to request a consultation. At this point, we are booked out through July for our upcoming consultations; however, I believe we still have some spots left for consultations in June for those July account openings. I believe I misspoke there. The consultations are open in June, the account openings are for July. So, if you are interested in those upcoming openings, feel free to give our office a call here and speak with Rosemary. The number is 800-346-1949. If you’re calling from overseas, the number is 813-472-5760. James, again thank you for your insights this month.
James: My pleasure, Michael. It’s always great to give our wisdoms and our insight. We’re not right all the time, but I do like the landscape for selling options here in May and June.
Michael: Perfect. We’ll look forward to the month of May and we’ll talk to all of you again in 30 days. Thank you.
Good afternoon. This is James Cordier of OptionSellers.com with a market update for April 20th. Well, a lot in the news lately concerning tariffs and a possible trade war with the likes of China, of all countries, the second largest economy in the world. The Trump administration, I think, is basically playing a game of chicken and getting them to lower tariffs in their country and getting more of a fair trade platform. I think everyone is pretty much in favor of that.
We’ve had a lot of questions recently… What would a trade tariff mean to some of the positions that we hold in commodities? Wouldn’t that be bearish for commodity prices? Good question. Over the last several weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about it and, primarily, soybeans are one of the target commodities that a lot of people are discussing. A tariff against soybeans and putting a premium on them would probably be negative to prices here in the United States and probably neutral to bullish in countries like Argentina and Brazil.
Our commodities that we trade here, of course, are on U.S. exchanges. We are actually positioned for soybeans to fall later on this year, so a tariff against soybeans would actually probably help our position there, so we’re certainly not too overly concerned about that, but we do watch and wonder what implications might mean to the different commodities and we’re certainly abreast of that. Quite often, a lot of investors look around the country for different aspects of what can move the markets.
Interestingly, right now is the incredible snow and rain in the northern parts of the United States right now. Generally speaking, that will be bullish for large prospect for corn and soybean harvests later this year. So, as we are hoping for a very large crop in soybeans, some October-November of this year, and lower prices, which would actually profit our accounts, our hats are off to those of you in the northern United States bearing the cold and the wind and the rain and the snow. That is helping all of our accounts later on this year.
So, for those of us around the world and in the southern half of the United States, our hats are off to you. Thank you very much. We do anticipate that actually helping our accounts later on this year. That should be a nice addition to the strangles that we’ve applied recently in silver, some $13-$14 around the price of silver, practically 100% of the underlining price. In crude oil, we’re looking at strangles of $52 and $53 wide on barrels that are now worth $60. Basically, we’ve been reloading accounts after a really nice 2017. We’ve spent the last 90 days positioning in markets like that with what we think are going to be great opportunities that will certainly be bearing fruit later this year. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Anyone wanting more information from OptionSellers.com can visit our website. If you’re not already a client and wish to become one, you can certainly contact Rosemary at our headquarters in Tampa, Florida about possibly becoming one. As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you and look forward to doing so again in 2 weeks. Thank you.
Good afternoon. This is James Cordier of OptionSellers.com with a market update for March 30th. Well, when everyone first opened their account and we had a new account call, the two of us, three things were always discussed, and that is fundamental analysis that we do at our company. We are trying to analyze and discover commodities that are underpriced. Of course, in that case, what we would do is sell put premium. In cases of finding commodities that are overpriced, we are going to sell call premium, but the most important discovery of all is identifying markets that are fairly valued. That is truly our favorite positioning for adding premium and return to your account. Two weeks ago, we spoke about Goldilocks environment in commodity option selling and let me describe a little bit more what that is because we have identified and now have extremely high premium in three or four of those markets.
Gold, for instance, we have a situation in gold that it will probably be well supported because of financial activity around the world. We have very good buying of several commodities both in Europe and in Asia and a strong economy here in the United States. That will likely keep gold supported. At the same time, of course, when gold made its big run to nearly 2,000 several years ago, that was based on the idea of quantitative easing creating a great deal of inflation. What we have right now is quantitative tightening. We have a very strong global economy, which should keep gold prices supported and we have quantitative tightening right now for interest rates and money around the world, which should definitely keep a cap on any large rally on gold.
Imagine, if you will, in 2018 a $100 trading range for the gold market. That is what we see. We are also now looking at gold strangles that are $800 wide. There you are. Silver in 2018 having a $1.50-$2.00 trading range for the entire year and a $15 strangle around that market. Exactly. Crude oil. Fundamentals now are extremely supported because the United States is now exporting oil. At the same time, we’ll be producing 11-12 million barrels. That is also identifying a fairly valued market because the United States can now be the largest producer and, by quite some large number of barrels, oil should not run up to the 70’s or 80’s this year, we don’t think.
At the same time, the fact that the United States is now exporting oil, we don’t have the bottleneck happening in the Houston area, which used to bring oil prices down. We see oil in approximately a $10 trading range throughout the rest of 2018. We have just identified a $50 strangle around crude oil. So, when we talk about identifying fairly valued markets, that’s what we’re referring to, and that, I think, is going to offer great premium collection in 2018 and should be a very good return at the end of this year. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Anyone wanting more information from OptionSellers.com can visit our website. If you’re not already a client of ours and wish to become one, you can contact Rosemary at our headquarters in Tampa, FL about possibly becoming one. As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you and looking forward to doing so again in two weeks. Thank you.
Michael: Hello everyone. This is Michael Gross of OptionSellers.com here with head trader James Cordier here for your April Option Sellers Video Podcast. Well, James, we didn’t see any abatement in the volatility in the stock market this month. In fact, Fed chairman Jerome Powell last week coming out, maybe spooking investors, talking about asset prices and maybe even financial markets being overvalued here… a little ghost of 2007. What do you think is going on here?
James: Michael, it’s interesting... for the first time since quantitative easing was first announced practically a decade ago, investors and money managers now actually will have an option of not just pouring money into long stocks but fixed income is going to now be some of the talk. The tenure is approaching 3%. With what Jerome Powell said this past week, we will be reaching 3%, possibly 3.25 and 3.5 coming up over the next 6-12 months. With that in place, does the stock market have now still a free ride to the upside? Investors are going to be putting some of their money into fixed income and for the first time in practically a decade there’s an alternative from just being long the stock market.
Michael: Obviously at this point, a lot of investors, especially high net-worth investors, are always looking to diversify into alternative asset classes. Physical commodities as hard assets always seem to have an appeal in any type of environment really but especially in this type where you have a lot of the jitters about paper assets.
James: There’s probably more jitters now than I can think of over the last decade. As you know, we have investors contacting us on a daily basis, I think, just for that reason. Investors wanting to diversify right now from the stock market, I think, is hitting a really great stride right now. Wanting to get into markets that are uncorrelated to what the DOW does and what the S&P does is not only really popular right now but a lot of the real investors, you know, the people with millions of dollars under management, they are looking for alternatives now and I think they’re going to find some, not only in yield bearing accounts like fixed income but certainly in commodities like what we do, as well.
Michael: Of course, we are in springtime now in the commodities markets. That means there’s a lot of things that happen in a lot of the physical commodities in the springtime, especially the agriculture markets and energy markets. We have some great seasonal tendencies, as well, in the spring.
James: We do. Needless to say, a lot of people look at commodities and they think about the weather. Over the next 90 days the weather will be a really big factor. Quite often, end users for soybeans, corn, and wheat, they need to get insurance and make sure that they’re going to have these products for what they do and basically for animal feed. Of course in the United States, the largest producer of corn and soybeans, the weather is key. Often, they build in a certain premium during the months of May, June, and July just in case the farmers in the United States don’t do exactly what they would have hoped each year. Of course, later on in the year, once again the U.S. farmers are the best in the world and the spring rallies that often happen normally are just great sales for doing what we do.
Michael: Speaking of those rallies or markets, we have a couple we’re going to feature this month that are maybe a little ahead of themselves. Now we have some of that inflated call premium. If you are one of those investors, it’s just learning how to sell options or learning how to sell options on commodities, these are two markets we think are really going to help you... Good opportunities, actually markets we are taking advantage of now in our management portfolios. We are going to cover those for you here in just a minute. Thank you.
Michael: Okay everyone, we are back with our Market Segment for this month’s podcast. The first market we’re going to discuss this month is the soybean market. Soybeans have been in a strong rally the past couple of months primarily as a result of some things going on down in South America. James, do you want to talk a little bit about that and what’s driving prices right now?
James: Michael, corn, soybeans, and wheat are all about the weather. The third largest producer in the world is Argentina. They’ve had a very dry growing season this year. For that reason, they do have reduced yields and we’re going to have a little bit of tightness out of that South American country. They are the third largest producer in the world and basically the U.S. weather is normally the big catalyst for the market moving up or down. This year, Argentina, which of course they have the opposite season here in the United States, their summers/our winter of course, and while there’s not much to talk about in the United States, traders look elsewhere. In South America, especially in Argentina, they had a really dry season. For that reason, the soybean prices have been bumping up to nearly 12-month highs over the last couple weeks.
Michael: Yeah, we have seen some reduced yield expectations right now. We were at 60 million metric tons out of Argentina just a couple of years ago, now we are hearing it might be down as low as 40 million… it’s not reflected yet here. I guess that has been driving prices substantially higher, but we’re nearing the end of that growing season there now, aren’t we?
James: We really are. Quite often, traders and investors will price on the worst-case scenario, so then once the corn and soybeans are actually harvested, often the weather wasn’t as bad as people thought and then the market readjusts to the current level of the production it actually turns out to be.
Michael: So what you’re saying is although we’ve had some problems out of Argentina, they do about 50% of the production done in the U.S. or Brazil. From what I’m hearing, they’re thinking that production out of Brazil may make up some of those losses out of Argentina already. Is that correct?
James: Unlike Argentina, just to the south of Brazil, Brazil has had just wonderful growing conditions for cocoa, coffee, soybeans, orange juice, sugar. Brazil is just a wonderful garden right now for growing soybeans. I think the Brazilian harvest will be larger than expected and that will make up probably a quarter and a half of what we’re going to be losing out of Argentina this year.
Michael: Of course, as South American harvest is under way, we get started with planting here in the United States. The market probably starts focusing on what’s going on with the U.S. crop here pretty soon. If they do, the United States has some pretty big supplies heading into the planting season this year.
James: We’re certainly going to have harvest pressure probably starting September-October of this year, and the Argentinean drought it probably going to be a forgone memory at that point. Supplies are going to be more than plentiful in the United States, and of course the U.S. is going to be the supplier to the world because of our ending stocks here in the United States, which is something I know we want to talk about as well.
Michael: Starting off the year, we have the second highest ending stocks in the last 30 years and the highest in over a decade, so we’re already starting off the year with big supply. Now, the planting intentions, which we’ll know more for sure the 29th of March when that report comes out, but right now estimates are we’re going to have at least as many acres planted as last year, 90 million with estimates now at 90-92 million, so if we even have average yields we could be looking at all-time record ending stocks for next year. Like you said, that harvest pressure coming in… if they’re harvesting that size of a crop you’ll get some pretty substantial harvest pressure. So, the trade you’re recommending here right now, you’re thinking that this rally is probably going to fizzle and we’re going to see steadier lower prices. What are you looking at to trade here?
James: Michael, we think that come October-November, soybean prices will probably be below $10 a bushel. We’re trading around $10.40-$10.50 right now. Basically, on the dry conditions in Argentina, we’re thinking that soybeans have a little bit of a chance to rally another 20-30 cents. They could get to the mid-upper dollar region. We love the idea of selling soybeans at the $13 level, so we’re going to be recommending soybean calls at $13 and $13.25 thinking that while soybeans might have a big of a rally going into May and June, we love the idea of being short in fall. So kind of like football, we’re not exactly throwing the ball to where we think the market is right now, but we’re selling options to where we think the runner’s going to be, and the runner being a huge harvest in the United States come September and October. $13 level for soybeans, you’ve got to bet on something, and boy we don’t see that happening nowhere being near that price.
Michael: Yeah, that’s a pretty big cushion there to be wrong. The USDA itself has average on-farm price this year at $9.25, which is down here. So, that seems like a pretty safe bet. Let’s go ahead and move on to our next market right now, and that would be the cocoa market.
Michael: James, cocoa is another one of these markets that has had a pretty good run here over the last several weeks. What’s going on here with prices?
James: You know, similar to soybeans that we just talked about, one of the main producers of cocoa is the Ivory Coast. They are the largest producer in the world. They’ve had dry conditions this past year and, while those dry conditions certainly will reduce some of the pods yielding this year, we have what’s estimated to be 2% less cocoa being produced worldwide in 2018; however, a 2% drop in production has now caused and created a 30% increase in price. The balance doesn’t quite weigh out but we do have speculators buying, we have commercials buying on the idea that the Ivory Coast crop is going to be smaller, and it is certainly trading above what we think is going to be fair value in price later this year, probably be a couple hundred dollars a ton.
Michael: So, while this west African crop got hit somewhat, you’re saying global production is probably going to make up for a lot of that?
James: It is. A lot is always made at the Ivory Coast because they are the largest producer. Sometimes they have political turmoil. Sometimes they have the weather that’s not quite right. 2018 and 2019 there’s supposed to be a world production surplus for cocoa. So, all this discussion about the Ivory Coast being too dry is eventually going to take the back seat to the fact that the world does have enough cocoa. It’s not as tight in supply as a lot of people think. Rallying from $2,100-$2,200 a ton all the way up to $2,600 a ton, we think that the rally is overblown and probably, starting in August and September, we’re going to be quite a bit lower than where we are right now.
Michael: There’s the numbers you were talking about. That’s the latest from the ICO (International Cocoa Organization) and it’s showing only 2.3%, so that’s a pretty good rally for the bigger picture short fall.
James: It’s interesting. Commodities do have a reputation for overshooting on the downside and overshooting on the upside, and I think cocoa is a prime example of that here in 2018. Let’s say the cocoa production falls off 2.5-3%... we’ve had a nearly 30% increase in price and I think things will come into equilibrium the 3rd and 4th quarter of this year.
Michael: So, how do you recommend that option sellers at home take advantage of this?
James: You know, like we’re looking at on the chart here, $3,000 a ton, $3,100 a ton, yet a large leap above where we are right now, those options right now are fetching $500, $600, $700 each. We think those are a great sale. The market, needless to say, is still in an uptrend. It could still go slightly higher, but as harvest around the world starts taking place we will have harvest pressure again and a lot of the commercial and speculative buying will probably back off. We expect cocoa to probably be around $2,300-$2,400 later this year. If we’re short from $3,100 by selling those calls at $3,000 and higher, we think that’s going to be a really good way to position in this market.
Michael: Yeah, especially I see the speed this moved up… probably really goosed those option premiums up there. Maybe just like the market, they’re probably overpriced too now at this point.
James: Michael, it’s interesting. As you know, we follow 10 commodities. We don’t trade all 10 all the time. Cocoa is on our radar screen. It is one of the markets we follow extremely closely. When you have extremes in this market, cocoa is an absolute necessity to many households and many consumers around the world. Cocoa is not so much an exotic. It is a market that everyone is in touch with and the fact that we’ve had that large increase in a very short period of time, those options now open up to large premium and, we think, we’re going to be taking advantage of those in a very good way over the next 30 days.
Michael: I know for me chocolate is a necessity, so I know how those people feel. Okay, let’s go ahead and move into our Q&A session now and answer some of our questions from readers.
Michael: We’re back with out Q&A with the Trader section and, James, our first question this month comes from Orson Falck of Manchester, New Hampshire. Orson asks, “Dear James, I noticed when you talk about positioning an account, you say you keep a large cash reserve for your client accounts – fifty percent I believe. Are your published results based on the entire amount in the account, including the non-invested cash, or is it based on the amount you have invested?”
James: Orson, that’s a good question. If you’ve been following our materials over the last period of time, we follow 8-10 commodities. We rarely find opportunities in all of them at one time. Therefore, Orson, what we do, for example, we want to keep our margin levels at 50% or lower so that when we do have an opportunity in cocoa or soybeans or coffee positions that we don’t currently hold, we have dry powder in which to take advantage of them. Even when we are fully positioned and we are in 2 energies, 2 metals, 2 foods, and 2 grains, we still don’t raise our margin level to much more than 50%. There’s not a right way or a wrong way to do this. For us, that’s been the sweet spot for margin and leverage. I know how we did last year, I know how our returns were last year, and that was on less than 50% margin. Our client is never going to receive a margin call, we’re never getting shaken out of the market because one market or another market moved a certain level. We like the comfort of that. That allows us to make the yield curve as flat as possible so that we have smaller equity swings in people’s accounts that have invested with us. To answer your second question, the published results last year and years prior is on the total amount of money invested, not just the amount of money that is put up as margin. It is the 100% of exactly what the client invested.
Michael: Very good. I get that question a lot. People, especially stock investors, that aren’t used to how those margin fluctuations, they aren’t used to that big cash cushion, and knowing how to use leverage in commodities is really one of the biggest keys to being successful in it. This is how you use leverage properly, by keeping that cushion there.
James: Absolutely. There’s no reason to push this type of investment product. I know how we’ve done the last several years, being invested less than 50%, I know what the results were, and I don’t feel the need to really push that envelope. I like the ability to be nimble in the market. If we have something on that we need to add to, we have extra cushion to do that. If a market moves against us slightly it doesn’t really mess up a portfolio to any great extent, and that is why we utilize the 50% rule. We rarely are going to be invested above that.
Michael: Let’s go to our second question. Our second question this month comes from Harold W. Corson. Harold is writing in from Monterey, California. Harold asks, “Dear James, Thank you for your outstanding book that introduced me to selling options on commodities contracts. So far, I’ve sold options in oil, gold, and just started out in wheat. So far, so good. I’ve noticed some commodities don’t have much trading volume. How many commodities do you typically recommend trading in an option selling account?”
James: The four sectors that we follow are energies, metals, foods, and grains. Generally, we’re watching about 8 or 9. We are often in 5 or 6 of these commodities, as I mentioned in the last question. Rarely are we in all 8 or 9 at a time. I like being in all 4 sectors. We definitely want to be in the grain market, that is the main staples, of course, in the world. Precious metals, energies are extremely high-volume trades. Great liquidity there, very large premiums generally, and in the foods, as well. Basically, volume is going to be mostly in these 8 commodities. We don’t like straying outside of them. Liquidity and volume is very important. Basically, you want to look at the round strikes. For example, if you’re managing your own portfolio and you’re looking at crude oil you’re going to be looking at the $70 strike. Don’t look at the $71. In gold, don’t look at the $1,825 option, look at the $1,800 or the $1,900 option. Easy tricks like that to find the volume in the open interest will help you get in and out of the market if you choose to do this on your own.
Michael: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great point you make that, again, going back to stock traders and stock option sellers, they’ve got 2,000 or more stocks they can pick from. We’ve got 10-12 commodities we watched and maybe 6-8 you’re trading at any given time. So, there’s not a big universe there. You focus on the ones with the highest volume. Obviously, there are markets like lumber and aluminum or what have you that there’s really no volume there for option sellers, so you don’t have to bother with them.
James: Right. The 8 or 10 that we follow are just absolute staples of life both here in the United States and abroad. They have excellent volume and excellent open interest, for the most part, and that’s where you want to be. The exotics so much, you know, every once in a while there’s an opportunity there, but having liquidity for our clients is of the utmost importance and it should be for you, as well.
Michael: A couple resources if you are interested in learning more about selling options on commodities… obviously our book, The Complete Guide to Option Selling. You can get it on our website at a discount to where you’ll get it at the bookstore or Amazon. That link is www.optionsellers.com/book. If you’re not yet a subscriber to our newsletter, you can get a free copy by going to www.optionsellers.com/newsletter and get some of these trades we’ve been talking about and also more answers to option selling questions. That does it for our Q&A section for this month. We’re going to go ahead and move into our final section of the podcast.
Michael: Thank you for joining us for the April podcast. We hope you’ve enjoyed what you saw here today. Next month, we’re going into May and we have even more seasonals coming up. James, some of your favorite markets come into some major seasonals next month.
James: We will look at an active calendar starting in May, certainly. Soybeans and corn are probably the main feature. We’re selling options and call options during the next 60 days. Of course, cocoa is on our radar screen right now with 2% smaller production and an increase of 30% in the last several months. We’ve got a lot of activity going on in the next May, June, and July it really looks like.
Michael: We also have the energy markets coming into play, as well, so there’ll be a lot to talk about next month. We’ll probably continue talking about some of these great seasonals that happen during the spring and how you can take advantage of them here. For those of you that are interested in how the accounts work here or may be interested in becoming a client of OptionSellers.com, we do recommend you get our free Discovery kit. That’s an information pack for investors. It’ll tell you all about our accounts and how you can invest directly with OptionSellers.com in a managed option selling account. If you’d like to get that, the website link is www.optionsellers.com/Discovery. Speaking with Rosie, we do have all our April consultations booked, so there is no further availability for them; however, we do have consultations still available in May. If you’re interested in discussing an account with OptionSellers.com, you can call Rosemary at the main office. That’s 800-346-1949 or Internationally at 813-472-5760. Depending on availability, Rosemary can get you scheduled with a consultation. As a reminder, our minimum account level did go up this month. The minimum account level is now $500,000. James, thanks for all of your insights this month.
James: My pleasure, Michael. Always fun and very insightful to help our viewers and listeners out with this.
Michael: We’ll talk to you right here in 30 days. Thank you.
Good afternoon, this is James Cordier of OptionSellers.com with a market update for March 16. Well, in reading the Wall Street Journal this past week, and maybe some of you have read the same article that I was reading, it was talking about the end of Goldilocks. They were referring to interest rates creeping up towards 3% on the 10 year. Basically, they’re forcing investors and money managers to consider some fixed income. Goldilocks, of course, was interest rates at basically 0. They’re only real investment idea was to go along with the stock market. And, of course, US stocks and stocks abroad have done extremely well over the last several years.
And now, with the idea of fixed income becoming parts of certain portfolios, the stock market, while it still may climb in the coming year or two, will likely have to do it on its own accord – not just basically a free ride, which in case it probably has had them in the last year or two. Going forward, commodity option buyers love uncertainty. In our thoughts going forward, we do have a Goldilocks environment going forward for us. A vibrant US economy, a vibrant Asian economy, and of course the European economies are doing extremely well just recently. Along with rising interest rates, certainly not a rapid pace of raises, but probably a quarter here and a quarter there, that is Goldilocks for what we do here at OptionSellers.com.
A lot of option buyers love uncertainty. We see certainty ahead in many fronts. We thank 2018 for some of that reason. It’s going to be quite good. We do have seasonal trades coming up in the next 30 to 60 days, one being soybeans. We love the idea of being short that market going forward. We are going to have an abundance of soybeans this fall, and we think using strength in that market over the next 4 to 8 weeks is going to be an excellent idea. We think that’s going to definitely help pads accounts in 2018. Anyone wanting more information about OptionSellers.com, can visit our website. If you’re not already a client of ours and would like to become one, you can contact Rosemary at our head quarters in Tampa, FL about possibly becoming one. As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you, and I look forward to doing so again in 2 weeks. Thank you.
Good afternoon. This is James Cordier of OptionSellers.com with a market update for March 2nd. For those viewers today who have read The Complete Guide To Option Selling, possibly Chapter 10, which describes the credit spread, our favorite form of positioning accounts in short options and commodities, we describe it as the Maserati of all option positioning. Basically, the credit spread allows you to add premium to the account and have a safety measure of having one long position versus possibly three or four short sales. Basically, what the long position does is it babysits the position until later on the market decays. We normally buy back the position and then we offset our one long position getting some of the premium that we purchased it for back and put into the account. Basically, what this does is it smooths out the equity curve in times of high volatility. The high volatility sometimes scares people but what that does is it allows us to sell options much further out in time and much further out in price than we would normally be able to do. 2017 we did extremely well during the low volatility times but we were selling strikes quite close, and in 2018 and 2019 it looks like we’ll be able to sell options even further out of the money and with all the luxury of having a long position on to protect it. We started doing that this past week in gold, and silver, and crude oil, and we’re now looking to position the exact same way utilizing the rally that’s going on in the wheat market right now – something we really feel is going to be an attractive position later this year. We think that the credit spread is going to offer great returns in 2018. We’ll just have to wait and see. As always, it’s a pleasure chatting with you and looking forward to doing so again in two weeks. Thank you.