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Options Trading in Extremely Volatile Markets


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  • Options Trading in Extremely Volatile Markets

    The recent stock market crisis (2008) not only rocked the financial system and the world economy but also the pockets of countless options traders all over the world. Options traders who used to profit in the years prior to this market crisis broke their bank as none of their options strategies seem to work in this market anymore. So what is it about extremely volatile markets and how should one profit through options trading under such conditions?

    Extremely volatile market conditions not only produce unpredictable short term stock price swings but also open up the bid ask spread of individual stock options due to a lower liquidity and profiteering by market makers. This combined effect not only made it doubly hard for options traders to make a profit. Volatile options strategies, supposed to be meant for such conditions due to their ability to make a profit when the market moves up or down strongly and their ability to profit from an increase in volatility, also failed to produce any consistent profits due to the higher premium outlay and wide bid ask spreads, soaking up most of the profits. Unexpected rallies also crunch volatility to the extent of producing losses through decaying the premium of long legs at express speed. Short term (weekly, monthly) directional options strategies fared even worse as it not only became almost impossible to predict short term price swings but the high premium and bid ask spreads also took most, if not all, of the profits away even if the stock did move in the expected direction.

    So what works in an extremely volatile market condition such as this one?

    First of all, let's look at all the different ways to trade options. There are 3 main options trading methodologies; Swing Trading, Position Trading and Day Trading.

    Swing trading is a directional options trading methodology that aims to pick stocks that will move quickly and strongly within a short period of time in a predictable direction and then execute bullish or bearish options strategies in order to profit from these moves. As mentioned before, trying to profit from directional swing trading in an extremely volatile market is like swimming against the tide. Not only is directions hard to predict in the first place but the high options premium along with gapping bid ask spread all work against its favor.

    Position trading is more complex than Swing Trading as it aims to profit mainly (although there are also position trading strategies that are directional in nature) from volatility or premium decay through putting together several different options and / or stocks in order to produce a hedged, market neutral position. Position trading has produced some pretty profitable results for me in this market crisis as volatility soared and options premiums are high. This puts the disadvantages of an extremely volatile market condition in the favor of the options trader. Such positions include dynamically hedged delta-neutral as well as delta-gamma-neutral positions. Both of these position trading strategies aim to neutralize market movement such that unexpected swings do not affect the position significantly while the position safely takes the high options premium on the short legs into your pockets.

    Day trading is an extremely dynamic options trading method where options are bought and sold very quickly within one day in order to profit from the slightest intraday price swing or change in volatility. This strategy was a pretty hard one to profit from in low volatility market conditions as prices doesn't change enough within a day to produce significant profits. However, day trading becomes extremely profitable in the hands of seasoned options trading veterans in extremely volatile market conditions such as this market crisis as the Dow itself has produced intraday trading ranges of up to 10%! Yes, this is the kind of trading range and price range that cannot be realized in normal market conditions. Day trading often takes the form of simply buying or shorting call or put options and then quickly covering them when profitable. Day trading also avoids the extreme overnight uncertainties that so often catch swing traders by surprise in this market crisis. Sudden overnight good news can often gap the Dow up by a significant amount and closing it over 10% higher. This can wipe out all your profits if you had been betting in the opposite direction overnight. Day trading, however, is extremely risky for beginners in options trading as the price movement is so fast and dynamic that when things happen, beginners may not know what to do and be able to do it quickly. This is therefore not recommended for beginners.

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    "Step into the arena and hold on to your hat. Don't get discouraged if you don't make 8 trillion dollars in your first month. Trading is not a get rich quick scheme. Realize that trading is a skill and just like any other skill it takes time to learn. Have convictions in your decisions in life and trading. Ignore the comments and "advice" of those that have never traded a day in their life."

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