Expiration week breeds its own craziness. The greatness of the craziness is that for 9/10 of our readers, it is totally irrelevant and can produce some phenomenal buying or selling opportunities. For the daytraders/swing traders or whatever nomenclature you may be using, however, expiration is just a minefield.
I don't want to address the latter issues. What I want to spend some time on is the former, which is why this is a "Smarter Money" piece. Because of the bizarre way the futures and the options interact, you get stocks that act wildly for mere nanoseconds. These swings occur because there are insensitive-to-price buyers and sellers out there. They don't really care where individual stocks go out, provided that, at the end, they have either sold all the stock they need to equal the future, or bought all of the stock they need to cover the future. You do not need to know how they interact, you only need to know that they create opportunities.
How can you leverage this to your advantage? Let's say you have a list of stocks you really like. Beginning now, until Friday at the close, there could be some massive swings in stocks. If they are listed stocks (not
, which doesn't handle these limit orders well in my opinion), stick some bids in well below the market. You might get hit by a freak sale of stock. Same with the long side. If you are in a stock you want to lose, stick an offering in well above the market. You might get taken. Chances are that you won't get hit or lifted. (Those are the words we use for buying and selling.)
But this method is something I do regularly, and I have gotten great prices on a host of blue-chips that I love because of the imbalances that happen around expiration.
So, for example, let's say I like
and I hate
. Which is true. I might stick a $38 bid for Pepsi underneath the market each day between here and expiration. And I might have a $50 offering for Coke, just in case we get a fluke program moving these stocks.
I've done this kind of trade for years. Typically, I have not had the luxury of getting filled, or having the trade executed. But the markets have gotten much thinner of late and I am betting that this time around there could be much more volatility of the type I am suggesting around expiration.
Hence, I share with you this strategy and wish you good fishing between now and the expiration bell.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund was long Pepsi. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at