beginners corner

Should Ex-Dividend Dates Be Treated the Same as Earnings Report Dates?

Covered call writers and put-sellers must be aware of dates and ex-dividend dates but for different reasons. A golden rule in the BCI methodology is never to sell an option if there is and earnings report date prior to contract expiration. In July 2017, Terry sent me an email asking if ex-dividend dates should be treated in the same manner.


Terry’s email question

Would you treat a stock with an upcoming in the same manner as a stock with an upcoming earnings report? For example, TOL has an Ex-Dividend date July 12th. Would you:

 – Consider TOL as a covered call candidate as normal

– Exclude and move on to other candidates

– Wait until after Ex-Date to consider

– Buy stock now uncovered and cover after Ex-Date


Why avoid earnings report dates?

A disappointing earnings report can cause a huge gap-down in stock price resulting in a significant loss. Covered call writing and put-selling are conservative option strategies geared to retail investors with low to moderate risk tolerance. Since we know the date of the risky event, we avoid it and get back “in the game” after the report. The screenshot below shows earnings report gap-downs in August and December of 2015 for Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL):


covered call writing and earnings reports

TOL: Earnings Reports Gap-Downs


Why avoid ex-dividend dates?

Ex-dates are the main reason for early exercise of options. We would look to avoid the ex-date if retaining the stock or capturing the dividend is a priority in our strategy. Avoiding sale of the underlying stock may be motivated to avoid tax issues if the underlying is of a low cost-basis. For me, it is not. My focus is solely on option premium and share appreciation in the case of out-of-the-money strikes. I’ll take it a step further…I consider it a positive if my shares are assigned early because that means I have maximized my current month trade and now have the cash available early to perhaps use to generate a second income stream in the same contract month.


How to deal with ex-dates

  • Weekly options (sell Weeklys during each week of the contract month except the week of the ex-date)
  • Selling options on or after the ex-date (especially if the ex-date occurs early in the contract month)
  • Selling 2-month options to avoid the contract month of the ex-date

These strategies are detailed in the portfolio overwriting sections of both versions of the Complete Encyclopedias.



Earnings report and ex-dividend dates are not treated as the same event. Earnings report dates are always to be avoided whereas ex-dates should be managed only when retention of the underlying security or capture of the upcoming dividend is a critical part of the strategy and trading style employed.


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The BCI team is thanking our members with a 10% discount off all items in the Blue Collar store for all orders placed from now through December 24th. Use promo code holiday10 to receive the 10% discount at checkout. Premium members, enter the store from the premium site to receive your additional member discount.


Coming soon

1- BCI Video membership (premium members do not need this subscription as you are already receiving these benefits)

  • Over 140 Ask Alan videos + 1 new video added each month
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3- Three new calculators for strategies detailed in the new book


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Market tone

US stocks moved up slightly this week with the CBOE Volatility index closing down at 9.59. A bullish jobs report on Friday capped a good week for stocks. This week’s economic  news of importance:

  • Factory orders for October came in at a better-than-expected (-)0.1%
  • The trade deficit was wider than expected ($48.7 B/ $47.6B)
  • Markit services PMI for November showed expansion (54.7) as did the ISM non-manufacturing index (57.4)
  • Weekly jobless claims came in lower than expected (236,000/240,000)
  • Non-farm payrolls for November was better than anticipated (228,000/200,000)
  • The unemployment rate remains at 4.1%
  • Consumer sentiment was lower than predicted (96.8/99.0)


Mon Dec 11th

  • Job openings (Oct)

Tue Dec 12th

  • Producer price index for Nov
  • Federal budget

Wed Dec 13th

  • Consumer price index for Nov
  • FOMC announcement
  • Core CPI

Thu Dec 14th

  • Weekly jobless claims
  • Retail sales
  • Markit manufacturing PMI
  • Markit services PMI

Fri Dec 15th

  • Industrial production

For the week, the S&P 500 rose by 0.35% for a year-to-date return of 18.43%


IBD: Market in confirmed uptrend

GMI: 5/6- Buy signal since market close of August 31, 2017

BCI: My portfolio makeup remains in a neutral bias, selling an equal number of out-of-the-money and in-the-money calls.


The 6-month charts point to a neutral outlook. In the past six months, the S&P 500 was up 10% while the VIX (9.59) moved down by 5%.

Much success to all,

Alan and the BCI team


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.

36 Responses to “Should Ex-Dividend Dates Be Treated the Same as Earnings Report Dates?”

  1. Mike December 9, 2017 11:10 pm #

    Hello Alan!

    Great video series. I’m wondering how you feel about a trailing, say 8%, stop limit on the underlying stock of a covered call position to protect against loss in the underlying security. That would convert the covered call to a naked call but the exercise would be unlikely given the reduced stock price (assuming relatively short time frame to expiration and no rebound in the share price).


    • Alan Ellman December 10, 2017 7:36 am #


      After establishing our covered call positions and share price drops in value, the first leg to be closed is the short call, not the stock. Although exercise is unlikely as you point out, why take a chance and open ourselves to risk should price rebound? There are 2 additional factors to consider:

      1- Most brokers will not permit retail investors to be in a “naked options” position. This will require a higher level of trading approval.

      2- If share price declines significantly, the cost-to-close the short call will be small.

      In these scenarios always close the short call first and, in our BCI methodology, we use the 20%/10% guidelines to dictate when that should occur. At that point, selling the stock is one of the follow-up choices we have available.


  2. Paul December 9, 2017 11:11 pm #


    I’m reading the Exit Strategies book—I have a question for you—-

    When you buy a stock and sell a covered call—if the value of the stock goes below your basis and I buy back the option and try to hit a double,etc or whatever exit strategy—-

    It appears like you focus on just selling for more premium (assuming the technicals,etc of the overall market and stock are right) and don’t seem to worry as much
    About losing on the stock—-am I understanding this right? I’ve been worrying more about not losing on the stock than just selling for more premium.


    • Alan Ellman December 10, 2017 7:52 am #


      Focusing in on share price is a critical aspect of the BCI methodology. Once the short call is bought back, we can roll down to a lower strike or wait to “hit a double” But selling the stock is also one of our choices based on factors like corporate news, chart technicals and stock performance compared to overall market performance. See the exit strategy sections in my books and DVDs for detailed real-life examples of all scenarios.


  3. Adrian December 9, 2017 11:51 pm #

    Alan, You had already told me that when there is a power cut that you ring the broker to put on the trades.But what if I can’t even get to analyse the charts first, what do I do then?

  4. Barry B December 10, 2017 4:24 pm #


    You can use your broker’s mobile platform. Every brokerage house has a mobile platform that will enable you to enter both stock and options trades over your smartphone. Most of the mobile platforms have decent charting capabilities built into them.

    As soon as you experience a power loss, use your smartphone to log into your brokerage account and take a look at the charts for each of the positions that you own. You then can make the appropriate decisions.



  5. Adrian December 11, 2017 1:35 am #

    Thanks Barry, I wasn’t expecting any reply as this test question didn’t first show up. But that’s alright, and I think that is really the only choice I have with a power-cut, and to be famillier with it first.

  6. Barry B December 11, 2017 4:14 am #

    Premium Members,

    This week’s Weekly Stock Screen And Watch List has been uploaded to The Blue Collar Investor Premium Member site and is available for download in the “Reports” section. Look for the report dated 12/08/17.

    Also, be sure to check out the latest BCI Training Videos and “Ask Alan” segments. You can view them at The Blue Collar YouTube Channel. For your convenience, the link to the BCI YouTube Channel is:


    Barry and The BCI Team

    [email protected]

  7. Earl December 11, 2017 10:56 am #

    Hello Alan.

    Thanks for all your great resources. I am selling weekly covered calls.

    I have a question about the Elite calculator, specifically when the price of the underlying stock goes up for a few weeks in a row.

    It seems to me that in the “price you paid” for the shares cell, I should be entering the price at which I bought back my calls, rather than the original price to buy the underlying shares originally. Is this correct?


    • Alan Ellman December 11, 2017 1:48 pm #


      When initiating trades, the stock price is the price of the stock at the time the trade was executed whether it was higher or lower in the past. This gives us the opportunity to compare this investment to others we could potentially enter with the same amount of available cash. These is not the stats we use for tax purposes. For tax purposes, use the Schedule D of the Elite Calculator.

      Since there are 12 tabs in the Elite Calculator, if you let me know which tab you are referring to I can give an example.


  8. Sébastien December 11, 2017 12:45 pm #

    Hello Alan,

    I have a question about investor business Daily.

    In your book you said use only stock with « o » before price. It’s mean it’s possible to trade option with this stocks.
    But my broker have option of all stocks, even these who don’t have « o » in IBD.

    Thanks for your answer.


    • Alan Ellman December 11, 2017 4:05 pm #


      Not all stocks have options associated with them. Most stocks listed in the IBD 50 will have options but not all. For example, in the latest IBD 50 list, the # 19 listed stock is SUPV which shows no “o” (options. If you go to Yahoo/Finance (for example) you will note no listings for options as shown in the screenshot below.



  9. Larry December 11, 2017 3:56 pm #

    I have a quick question for you or Barry. In the weekly report what is the significance of the beta column. What parameters are the norm, volatile, etc…?


    • Alan Ellman December 12, 2017 8:05 am #


      Beta is a secondary parameter in our screening process and one that was suggested by several members years ago and so we added it to our reports. It describes historical volatility compared to a market benchmark and specific time frame. BCI defaults to a 1-year time frame and uses the S&P 500 as a benchmark. Other resources may reflect different time frames or other benchmarks (like the Russell 2000, for example).This is why we may see different betas for the same stock depending on the resource we are viewing.

      A beta of “1” means the underlying performs similarly to the S&P 500. The guideline is that stocks with betas above “1” will outperform in bull markets and betas below “1” will outperform in bear markets.

      I put more emphasis on implied, rather than historical, volatility (IV) as (in my view) because it is more relevant for our 1-month (or weekly) positions. It reflects the market’s expectation for stock price movement moving forward but does not define direction.

      IV can be measured by calculating time value returns of our positions and I use 2-4% monthly time value return to assure that the volatility stays within the framework of my personal risk-tolerance. In bull markets, I may go as high as 6%, but no higher. If I am deciding between a few stocks that appear similar in most requirements, I may use beta as a “tie-breaker” and favor low-beta stocks in bear markets and high-beta stocks in bull markets.


  10. MarioG December 12, 2017 3:00 am #

    Larry and to all:

    Great question on beta. I know Alan has answered similar questions and I know he will respond to your question soon. The following will also give you some answers.

    Your questions solved another problem I have had in my mind. I was going to ask it Alan, but I just answered it myself with a little thinking (I do that sometimes!).

    BCI has a Search Facility at the top of the browser page. I have never tried using it. So obvious now.

    So I first opened a new tab by right-click on the HOME link at the top and selected “open new tab” ( I do want to lose my current browser page). I selected the new tab and in the search windows I typed in “Beta Premium Report” and the many results came back. The first result was titled “Using Beta To Capture Higher Premium Returns” from February 2015.

    It works also great with searching the blogs. I did not realize we had this powerful tool. I use Google all the time to search the internet. I even type in the name of a member in the blog and it found search results. For example: “Barry Collar” gave me comments from Barry on collars.

    From now on I will be using this often to track down questions I have.

    Powerful Searching Tip:
    Here is a valuable tip for doing searches. Many do not know this from my experience and this will save you a lot of time.. I typed in the search the following:

    Alan “mid contract unwind”

    Since I put the 3 last words in quotes, the results will only come back where those three words are the exact same order together in an article. If you do not put in the quotes, those three words can appear in any order separately in an article, which is what you do not want. I use the quotes many times doing google searches in the Internet. You can then get rid of the junk that comes back and get answer you want.

    I just tried another search refining you question about Beta to Alan but his time I added in quotes the last two words:

    Beta “Premium Report”

    Only articles that have those last two words together appeared.

    Came back with an article from April 4, 2012 titled:

    Beta: Another Tool to Enhance our Covered Call Returns

    Perfect answer, even has a snapshot of a premium report page.
    . What a power tool for me to use from now on.



    • Alan Ellman December 12, 2017 8:11 am #


      Thanks for pointing out the value of our Google search tool, a resource we are very proud of. Another tool that we haven’t alluded to in a while is the availability of this site in 80 languages as we have members from 89 countries outside the US. As with investment strategies there are pros and cons to this latter tool…from time-to-time I will get questions in foreign languages and that’s an issue I haven’t as yet resolved…

      Below is a screenshot showing the location of these tools.



  11. Roni Schott December 12, 2017 10:07 am #

    Hi Alan,

    I have a tough question:

    Normally when a stock gaps down in the first half of the contract cycle, I will buy back the call, following the 20/10 guideline.
    If it looks like it may come back, I will wait a couple of days, and will have no qualms to sell and move on.

    But this month, 7 out of my 10 positions gapped down, for different reasons: Data breach, stock split, aquisition, and so on.

    Now I am still holding all the positions because I was unable to decide to take the losses, and because it became difficult to evaluate which one to sell.

    My question: What is the best way to act in such a situation ?


    • Alan Ellman December 12, 2017 5:21 pm #


      The 3 reasons you gave for share decline are very different. A data breach, depending on the severity of the event, is most likely a reason to sell and move on. Stock splits are usually a positive event and share price decline is compensated for by an increase in the number of shares. It’s possible that you may not be in such trouble with this equity based on the way the option strikes were altered. This can be checked with your broker or here:

      The same holds true for acquisitions where buyers and sellers of options are made “whole” by the option exchanges.

      When there is a gap-down unrelated to one of the corporate events you mentioned and it is late in the contract, our choices are limited because the time value components of all options expiring are approaching zero. In these cases, we must decide whether to sell based solely on the potential for continuing share decline as we would if we simply owned the stock. Chart technicals are helpful in these situations. For example, bearish moving average cross-overs and gap-down on volume surges are 2 examples where I would be more inclined to sell and “get out of Dodge”


      • Roni Schott December 13, 2017 7:58 am #

        Thank you Alan,

        I am checking each position carefully before taking action.
        Also waiting for expiry Friday to evaluate the whole situation.


  12. Jim December 12, 2017 3:19 pm #


    Not sure what to do with this one. On Oct 10th, I sold this:

    Sold 1 UCTT Nov 17 2017 30.0 Put @ 2.05

    The underlying stock began a steep down trend on Oct 26th. The stock was put to me on Nov 14th. It’s current price is $20.37.

    What can I learn from this? Should I sell calls on the shares at a strike below my purchase price? Wait til the stock recovers?

    Thanks for your comments.


    • Jay December 12, 2017 4:52 pm #

      Hey Jim and Roni S.,

      You both asked great questions I have lived through and screwed up in the past :)!. I suspect others have too: what do you do when the under lying in either a CC or a CSP goes against you?

      I look forward to Alan/Barry’s comments to both of you also.

      Now the first step for me is check the news wires. If it sounds like a fluke thing I hold the stock and often double down speculating with a call buy or further OTM CSP if I would not mind adding more shares. I did that with PYPL recently. If the news is a game changer it’s hard not to join the panic selling :). But even that usually gets a bounce for a better exit than capitulating on a down day.

      My experience has been when you have a gap down or even a several day slide start bigger picture and drill down: any geo-political events? How is SPY? How is the Sector? How are the stock’s closest competitors? What news is out on this stock? Is that news a passing thunder cloud or an earthquake?

      When I use that thought process I invariably make better sell/hold/add decisions than if I just react to price. – Jay

      • Roni Schott December 13, 2017 8:02 am #

        Thanks Jay,

        I am waiting for expiry Friday and FED decision before taking action.
        No panic.
        Let’s see what happens.


        • Jay December 14, 2017 12:03 am #

          Great stuff Roni S. – panic is never a strategy :)!

          I will venture a prediction: after the expected incremental rate hike I suspect a buyable opening dip tomorrow but a solid new expiry after Friday which includes the Santa Rally.

          I will be seasonally cheery, buy strong things on weakness and over write sparingly OTM on strength as I always do this time of year. I continue to like Defense, Banks, Internet and Industrials.

          Conventional wisdom suggests utilities, bonds, divy stocks, retail and discretionaries ( XLU, TLT, XLP, XRT and XLY) should back off more than other SPY sectors the rest of the week. So we shall watch that. The IBD 50 ETF “FFTY” out performed today. I continue to hold some of that even though it is not yet optionable. I’ll add a few more shares to my holiday stocking on it’s next dip!

          In my opinion if folks took their sold options profits on stocks that went down this expiry I would put the safety lock on my stock sell trigger for the moment :). Hold the shares to next expiry since seasonality tends to pick up steam after Friday.

          If you over write those shares or new ones you buy Monday with Friday’s settlement proceeds favor OTM to give Santa extra parking room on your roof for his sleigh :). – Jay

          • roni December 14, 2017 2:08 pm


            at this point, 5 out of my 7 losers are recovering slowly, and nearing my BEP. My plan is to wait for Barry’s next list to decide if I should sell and replace them or hold and sell next cycle CCs against them.

            The other 2 (CGNX and IPGP) are under probation, and may get liquidated any minute now.

            I hope you are right about Santa rally.


          • Jay December 14, 2017 8:06 pm

            Hey Roni,

            I am glad to hear 5 of your temporary dip stocks are on the mend!

            Today probably did not help but it helped me as a dip buyer. I added some IWM near the close. Yesterday I had bought some puts because I have found there is usually indigestion after Fed meetings. I sold them today near the close for some Holiday cash :). I wish it was always that easy….

            I remain bullish through the first week of January. I reserve the right to change my mind after New Years :). APPL has had a pattern of January weakness. It can influence the market single handedly. And if the tax cuts for corporations stall out a January hangover like the one in 2016 will not surprise me at all. – Jay

          • roni December 15, 2017 8:33 am

            Hi Jay,

            smart move on yesterday’s late dip. Congrats.

            I’m eager to see what happens today.

            Good luck – Roni 🙂

        • spindr0 December 14, 2017 11:53 am #

          Jim and Roni,

          There are tough decisions to be made your stock drops far more than the premium received for a covered call. While it sounds good on paper to re-evaluate the stock, in all honesty, if we were any good at that, would we be in this in this depressed share price situation now? Stuff happens in the market and it’s beyond out control. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. So what to do when it happens?

          1) If further losses trouble you, pick a stop loss price and get out if price reaches it

          2) Buy & Hope: wait for a recovery that allows you to resume selling CCs without locking in a loss

          3) Sell calls at a lower strike that locks in a loss, hoping that you can whittle down your cost basis without losing the stock via assignment

          4) Utilize a no cost (if available) Repair Strategy to lower your break even, enabling you to get out flat with a more modest share price recovery

          And FWIW, a stock split, whether it be traditional or reverse, does not affect the value of your equity position. All existing options are also adjusted for the split so the split causes no material change in their value either.

          • roni December 14, 2017 2:21 pm

            Thank you Spin,

            I will do all the 4 alternatives you described, and try to reduce my losses as best as possible.

            Also I will report soon, to tell you the end of this story.

            The stock split I mentioned was CGNX, my worst paper loss at the moment.


    • Alan Ellman December 12, 2017 5:42 pm #


      Welcome to the club! This is a mistake I made several times back in the 1990s when I started teaching myself these strategies. There is a great learning lesson here and then a decision on how to mitigate.

      The gap-down was due to a disappointing earnings report. So the lesson is to never sell an option that has an earnings report due out prior to contract expiration. So this is one problem you will never have to deal with again.

      Now to mitigate: Check the news…what caused the gap-down? In this case, it was the report. Sometimes reports are fabulous but simply did not meet market consensus in which case we may decide to stay with the stock and write out-of-the-money calls. I would also look at chart technicals to generate a mosaic of trend and momentum indicators. In this case, momentum indicators are mixed but we have a bearish moving average crossover which makes the entire picture bearish.

      I ask myself, “is this a stock I would buy today for $20.37”?

      Have a look at the chart I created below which shows the report gap-down and chart technicals.

      We all hate losing money but if it results in a learning tool that will save and make us a lot more money moving forward, then it was well worth it.


  13. Alan Ellman December 13, 2017 5:28 pm #

    Premium members:

    This week’s 8-page report of top-performing ETFs and analysis of ALL Select Sector Components has been uploaded to your premium site. The report also lists Top-performing ETFs with Weekly options as well as the implied volatility of all eligible candidates.

    New members check out the video user guide located above the recent reports.

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

    NOT A PREMIUM MEMBER? Check out this link:

    Alan and the BCI team

  14. Carl December 15, 2017 2:33 am #


    Using TGT to do portfolio overwriting. I see today that the 58.50 call is selling for 4.20 when the stock is 63.30 right now. That is below intrinsic value! Why does that happen? Is it something to take advantage of?


    • spindr0 December 15, 2017 11:57 am #


      Assuming that there is no pending dividend, deep ITM options have wide spreads – the market maker is willing to underpay you if selling your option and make you overpay if buying.. That’s just a fact of life with these options. There’s no way to take advantage of this situation. However, you can avoid the haircut if you own the option. Read this for an explanation:

      If there’s a pending dividend, it’s a different story. Dividends increase put premium and decrease call premiums. AVGO is an example. It goes ex-div next Tuesday for $1.75. If you look at the deeper ITM calls for next week, they all trade at a discount to parity (less than intrinsic value) and yet the same strike puts all offer a credit. What gives? If you factor in the dividend, the covered call and the short put of the same strike will offer approximately the same return.

      The lesson here? Make sure that you are aware of ex-dividend dates when you evaluate the return of an option position which for this site, tends to be covered calls and cash secured puts. If you don’t, you’re not getting an honest picture and you may execute based on faulty information.

  15. Alan Ellman December 15, 2017 6:36 am #


    When a stock is trading at $63.30 and we sell the $58.50 call for $4.20, we are at a disadvantage. In essence, we are agreeing to lose $4.80 on the stock sale and in return, we are receiving $4.20. As expiration approaches, the time value component of options approaches zero and the option trades near intrinsic value (parity). Because of bid-ask spreads and the reality that market-makers will be making money on the spread, the bid can be less than intrinsic value and frequently is for deeper in-the-money strikes. There is nothing to take advantage of with the stats you alluded to.

    Also, for portfolio overwriting, we usually use out-of-the-money strikes to decrease the chance of exercise…depends on your goals and potential tax issues.


  16. Terry December 16, 2017 6:44 am #


    I liked your topic this week!


  17. IP December 22, 2017 10:25 am #

    My question is regarding not buying a stock and selling calls before earnings. Is there an exception to this rule if it’s a stock that I don’t mind holding long term. Let’s say, I enter with a small position and sell calls. If the stock drops after earnings, I’ll add to the position.

    • Alan Ellman December 22, 2017 11:41 am #


      A stock can be held through an earnings report in rare circumstances in our covered call writing portfolios. This can be considered if we have confidence in a favorable report based on historical precedence. In these scenarios, the call should not be written until after the report passes. In the long run, this will prove to be a favorable guideline for our portfolio returns.


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