beginners corner

Covered Call Writing: Managing Stocks That Have Gapped Down

Every once in a while, when using our covered call writing strategy a stock will gap up or down. A gap is a break between prices on a chart that occurs when the price of a stock makes a sharp move up or down with no trading occurring in between. Gaps can be created by factors such as regular buying or selling pressure, earnings announcements, and changes in an analyst’s outlook or any other type of news release. Here is a chart of BCSI which gapped down after an earnings report disappointed:

BCSI gaps down

From $29 per share this stock gapped down to $22 per share. Now for those Blue Collar Investors who follow my system you would not have been hurt by this precipitous drop because we avoid earnings reports for this very reason. However, a stock can gap down for some of the other reasons just mentioned. If there are many more sellers than buyers, a stock will gap down. A stock gaps in price when a blank space is left on the chart where no trading occurred.  A gap up is when the current bar’s low is above the previous day’s high.  A gap down is when the current bar’s high is below the previous day’s low.  Stock gaps occur as a result of excessive buy or sell orders which forces prices either up or down.

How to manage a stock that has gapped down:

When a stock gaps down, human nature is such that you want to get your money back with this same equity. In this way, it will no longer be perceived as a loss. As a result, many investors will not unwind their position and just ride it to wherever it goes. This approach is misguided in some instances. Think back to stocks like Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Citi, Bear Stearns, Lehman and many others. Holding positions in these companies spelled disaster even though these corporations were considered pillars of our economy at one time. Circumstances change and so we must be willing to change our perspectives as well. When a stock drops from $29 to $22 as it did in the figure above, we now have $2200 in cash per contract. We no longer have $2900 per contract. That was yesterday, not today.  The question becomes “where do we want this cash to be placed to give us the best chance for a successful investment?’ It may or may not be with this same security. So step one is to determine what caused the gap down. We must check the news to see what precipitated this unexpected turn of events. If it is a serious matter like corporate fraud, a key member of the Board of Directors leaving the company, the loss of a patent, the FDA disapproving a new drug, new legislation that negatively impacts that company or other events that dramatically alter the prospects for that company, it is time to hand that cash over to a new financial warrior. If, on the other hand, it dropped in price due to a less serious matter like a single analyst downgrade or guidance being amended slightly and a market over-reaction followed, we may opt to stay with the same equity.

Let me give you an analogy for those of you familiar with casino blackjack. In this hypothetical you hold a “15” and your prospects look bleak. This is analogous to the stock after it has gapped down. The dealers hand represents the circumstances that will dictate how to manage the gap-down. Now do you stay with the “15” or do you make a change? Well that depends on the cause of the event or the dealers hand. If the dealer has a “5”, the event was not a serious one and the corporation remains a great opportunity in your eyes. Therefore you hold your position as there is a good chance the dealer will “go bust” or go over “21” with his next card. Your investment outlook by holding your position looks positive. If, however, the dealer is sitting with a “10”, the cause of the gap down was a serious blow to the stock and holding would be a poor decision as the dealer has great prospects of having a “20” and destroy your prospects of a successful investment. Therefore, we must change financial soldiers and take another card. The point here is that given the same hand but different conditions, we must make different decisions. In much the same way, once we determine the cause of the gap down, we must have the non-emotional flexibility to make a change if that approach is indicated.

You decide to keep the stock:

If your decision is that the cause of the gap-down was not serious and you still have a great opportunity with the same equity, we first buy back the option. Since the price has declined dramatically, the price of the option has also done so. If we are mid-contract or earlier, I will wait for a bounce back and resell the same strike to hit a double. If the stock is slow to recover, we can roll down to a lower strike price that is still above the current market value. In the example above, selling the $22.50 strike will generate income to help offset the share value depreciation. If we are correct and the stock continues to recover, we can nurture this security up by selling out-of-the-money strikes.

When we decide to hold a stock that has gapped down, we are employing a strategy I have named technical nullification. In a manner similar to jury nullification, where a jury ignores the facts and opts for an atypical conclusion, we will be ignoring the technicals like the chart pattern and accumulation/distribution (A/D) and others and still hold this equity. Let’s look at a chart of BCSI three weeks after the gap-down where it is consolidating and forming a base from which it may head back north:

BCSI after gap-down

Notice how BCSI after the huge gap-down (red arrow) has been trading sideways between $22 and $23.50. Using technical nullification and feeling the prospects of a return to previous pricing will lead us to selling out-of-the-money calls, in this case the $25 strike. The option chain shows a return of near 2% for the next month out-of-the-money $25 call:

BCSI- option chain

In addition to looking at the short term technicals of the stock after the gap down, we should also compare its price performance to that of the broad market. If it is consolidating (trading sideways) but well-underperforming the general market, I would view that as a negative and consider selling the stock. In the chart below, we see however, that BCSI has equaled the recent price performance of the S&P 500, re-enforcing the confidence we may have in this equity.

You decide to sell the stock:

If you feel that the cause of the gap down was a longer term issue, buy back the option and sell the stock. We then utilize the cash generated from this sale to enter a new covered call position.

Both management decisions can be re-evaluated as time progresses using the same exit strategy maneuvers discussed in my books, Alan Ellman’s Encyclopedia for Covered Call Writing, Cashing in on Covered Calls and Exit Strategies for Covered Call Writing.

Conclusion: After a stock gaps down as a result of an unusual event we have the choices of either unwinding our position or keeping the stock. We base our decision on the reason for the gap-down. Should we consider keeping the stock, it will require technical nullification, monitoring the technical pattern of the stock after the gap-down and comparing the price action to that of the broad market.

Available in kindle:

My latest book, Alan Ellman’s Encyclopedia for Covered Call Writing is now available in kindle format:

http://tinyurl.com/covered-call-encyclopedia

2012, A Look Ahead:

My team and I are planning major enhancements to this site. Our goal is to augment the information we share with each other and present it in a user-friendly manner. Members who have been with us for years know that we listen to you and make upgrades whenever possible. This year you will see this reflected in an important and compelling manner. With your support The Blue Collar Investor will continue to be one of the top go-to sites for covered call writers.

Radio Interviews:

A re-broadcast of my interview on the Business Author’s Program is now available:

http://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShowBusiness.html

Another interview with cdtv.net is also playing:

http://www.cdtv.net/users/content/investment-strategies-featuring-exit-strategies-covered-call-writing

Market tone:

With only one more week of economic reports remaining in 2011 the trend seems apparent. The US economy is improving while the global economy is struggling. This week’s reports were much more positive than negative:

  • The GDP grew at an annualized rate of 1.8% in the 3rd quarter, less than expected
  • Final sales (GDP – change in inventories) was a strong 3.2%
  • Sales of exisiting homes rose by 4.0% in November, the highest level in 10 months
  • Sales of new single-family homes increased by 1.6% in November and October sales were revised upward for the highest pace since April surpassing analyst expectations
  • New residential construction increased by 9.3% in November, better than anticipated
  • The Conference Board’s Index for leading Economic indicators rose by 0.5% in November, better than expected
  • Increases in building permits suggests that the housing decline may be turning around
  • New orders for durable manufactured goods rose by 3.8% in November better tha expected for the 4th rise in 5 months
  • Personal income and consumer spending grew by 0.1% in November, less than expected

For the week, the S&P 500 rose by 3.7% for a year-to-date return of 2.7% including dividends.

Summary:

IBD: Confirmed uptrend

BCI: Cautiously bullish but maintaining a defensive posture using low beta stocks and exchange-traded funds in conjunction with in-the-money strikes.

Happy holidays to our BCI community, our extended family,

Alan and the BCI team (alan@thebluecollarinvestor.com)

Tags:

About Alan Ellman

Alan Ellman loves options trading so much he has written four top selling books on the topic of selling covered calls, one about put-selling and a sixth book about long-term investing. Alan is a national speaker for The Money Show, The Stock Traders Expo and the American Association of Individual Investors. He also writes financial columns for both US and International publications along with his own award-winning blog.. He is a retired dentist, a personal fitness trainer, successful real estate investor, but he is known mostly for his practical and successful stock option strategies.

19 Responses to “Covered Call Writing: Managing Stocks That Have Gapped Down”

  1. Barbara December 24, 2011 3:31 pm #

    Can anyone recommend a reliable site for news on specific stocks.

    Happy holidays.

    Barbara

  2. Barry B December 24, 2011 6:00 pm #

    Barbara (#1),

    Take a look at http://www.finviz.com. This is a great site…lots of data, charts, and news…and…free!

    Barry

  3. Barry B December 24, 2011 6:01 pm #

    Premium Members,

    The Weekly Report for 12-23-11 has been uploaded to the Premium Member website and is available for download.

    Best,

    Barry and The BCI Team

  4. FrankK December 25, 2011 11:15 am #

    Check out the Free Stock Screener on finviz.com among other things on this great site

  5. Evan December 25, 2011 11:41 pm #

    I have avquestion on covered calls vs. selling the equivalent put.

    With a covered call, you collect the dividend. When you sell a put, you also indirectly get the dividend because it is built into the price of the put. This is my observation upon looking at option chains but perhaps I am in error.

    The BCI team said in he past that the collection of dividend was an advantage of writing a covered call over selling a put.

    Which is correct?

    Thanks

  6. admin December 26, 2011 6:16 am #

    Evan,

    Your observation is correct but dividend capture IS generally considered an advantage for stock owners and therefore covered call writers over put selling. The reason for dividends having an impact on option value is as follows:

    A stock will drop in value an equivalent amount when the dividend is distributed. This will devalue call options and increase the value of a put option. This is accounted for in option pricing weeks or months prior to the distribution…it is anticipated. Deep-in- the-money put options increase in time value more than out of the money put options. This is because deep- in- the- money put options with a delta of close to (-1) would gain nearly dollar for dollar on the decline of a stock. Therefore, deep-in- the- money put options would rise in time value ALMOST as much as the dividend rate itself while out- of- the-money put options may not change since the dividend effect may not be strong enough to move the stock down to take those out- of -the- money put options to in-the-money status.

    Excellent observation!

    Alan

  7. Frank December 26, 2011 5:13 pm #

    TCBI has a bid/ask spread of 1.25 – 1.55. Where would be a good place for a limit order? I used to go with market orders but I’m learning. Thanks.

    Frank

  8. admin December 26, 2011 6:35 pm #

    Frank,

    As a guideline, I would place my limit order slightly below the mid-point of the spread. Since the mid-point is $1.40, a limit order of $1.35 has a good chance to be executed. Be sure NOT to check the ‘all or none” box on your trade execution form.

    Alan

  9. admin December 27, 2011 6:42 am #

    ORLY:

    On October 26th ORLY reported a stellar earnings report with net income up 27% and revenues up 8%. Earnings came in10% ahead of analyst expectations. On November 16th the company expanded its share buy-back program by $500 Million to a total of $1.5 Billion. The stock is trading at a high PE of 21.4 x forward earnings. Our premium report shows an industry segment rank of “A” and a beta of 0.53.

    Alan

  10. admin December 28, 2011 10:45 am #

    To our members:

    Due to temporary issues with our host server, the blog was not operating at 100% efficiency since Tuesday afternoon. We believe these matters have been resolved. All comments sent in that time frame have NOT been published. We apologize for this inconvenience.

    Alan and the BCI team

  11. Fred December 28, 2011 10:47 am #

    Alan,

    What do you think of the BXY index compared to BXM?

    Happy New Year.

    Fred

  12. admin December 28, 2011 3:14 pm #

    Fred,

    BXM uses SLIGHTLY out-of-the-money strikes while BXY uses strikes 2% out-of-the-money. Initial returns for BXM will be greater but share appreciation opportunity is better with BXY. Bottom line: BXY outperforms BXM in bull markets.

    Alan

  13. admin December 28, 2011 6:31 pm #

    The blog will undergo an update this evening after 10PM EST and will be back shortly thereafter. Thanks.

    The BCI Team

  14. Jean December 29, 2011 8:19 am #

    Alan,

    I recently started reading your book and see you use 20 and 100 day moving averages. I always used the 50 and 200 day averages. What is your reason for selecting these time frames?

    Jean

  15. admin December 29, 2011 2:30 pm #

    Jean,

    In my view, 50-d and 200-d simple moving averages are excellent parameters to use for longer term investing. However, since the critical time frame in the BCI methodology is 1-month or 20 trading days (25 in some cases),the technical parameters must be adjusted.

    I use a 20-d exponential moving average as it mirrors the 1-month time frame and a 100-d ema as a longer term frame of reference. Exponential moving averages are more sensitive to recent price changes.

    There are a myriad of technical parameters. It is important to select the ones that work best for you, believe in them and then benefit from the skill of technical analysis. It will set you apart from most other traders.

    Alan

  16. admin December 29, 2011 4:34 pm #

    Premium members:

    This week’s 6-page report of top-performing ETFs and analysis of ALL Select Sector Components has been uploaded to your premium site.

    For your convenience, here is the link to login to the premium site:

    http://www.thebluecollarinvestor.com/member/login.php

    Not a premium member? Check out this link:

    http://www.thebluecollarinvestor.com/membership.shtml

    Alan and the BCI team

  17. admin December 30, 2011 1:29 pm #

    Volatile markets: Investors turn to bonds:

    Premium members may have noticed several bond ETFs coming up in our weekly reports of top-performing ETFs in 2011. When investors are nervous about volatile markets and left tail risk associated with events such as we see in Europe, they will oftentimes turn to bonds. Overall this year, total assets under management in U.S. fixed-income exchange-traded funds grew by $41.3 billion to $177.8 billion.

    Alan

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Avoiding Earnings Reports: Two Common Sense Perspectives | The Blue Collar Investor - February 11, 2017

    […] these quarterly publications is that a disappointing report can result in a dramatic decline or gap-down in share value wiping out the option credit and potentially much more. We must avoid this […]

  2. Earnings Reports and Rolling Options | The Blue Collar Investor - September 23, 2017

    […] to roll up in order to capture additional future share appreciation. The most common reason for a gap-up in price is a favorable earnings report. In mid-May 2017 Tim wrote me about a series of trades he […]

Leave a Reply

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)