Thursday, August 16, 2007

Earnings Strategy: The Aftermath

So, Earnings for Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL), Garmin (GRMN), AMD (AMD), Amazon (AMZN), and Akamai (AKAM) were all done by August 1. I've delayed writing about my findings because I've been highly distracted by Harry Potter. I'm done with that now, though, so here it goes.

Even though GOOG moved down 30-40 points after earnings, no reasonable combination of 540-560 strike price options make money. For AAPL, I tried looking at further out of the money options. Once again, the movement wasn't large enough to make money. GRMN was interesting in that it had a spike up after earnings, but then kept rising another 10 points. I don't think I would have made money off the initial movement, though. I didn't do any real analysis of AKAM, but after the fact, I think it's movement of 20% would have resulted in some profit. AMD barely moved at all (meaning a large loss in strangle options), which I found surprising given it lost another $600M last quarter.

So, what did I learn? First, I learned a bit of new terminology. When you buy a put and a call option at the same strike price, that's called a straddle. When you buy a put and a call, both out of the money, it's called a strangle. Second, I learned that a very large price change is required to make either of these work through earnings. Third, my previous talk of increased volatility was mostly wrong. It turns out that statistical volatility will indeed increase, but implied volatility (IV) will plummet. Thus, options tend to lose half their value right after earnings, everything else being equal. Bummer.

In the future, then, I'm going to analyze longer-term options, which tend not to have such high IV shifts because of earnings. I'm also going to look at what is required to write both a put and call option to take advantage of the IV crush. Normally, to write a call, you have to have the 100 shares in your account. To write a put, you have to have the cash available to buy 100 shares at the strike price. I'm not sure what assets I need, exactly, to buy both, as I'd think they'd cancel each other out to some extent.

For now, my overall earnings strategy is GET THE HELL AWAY! Things are just too wild around earnings season. Now I just need the overall market to improve so I have money to invest again.