- Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream ( DRYR) Sell 1 APR03 70 Call @ 2.3 Buy 1 SEP03 75 Call @ 1.3
When looking at any strategy, ask yourself when to use it to your advantage. For diagonal spreads, look for stocks that you think will consolidate for some time and then move sharply in one direction or the other. If you feel the move will be up long term, then you'd want to use calls. You would use puts if your outlook is flat and then down. In order to maximize your profits, you want to sell options that are overpriced and buy options that are underpriced. You'd find this out by looking at the implied volatility, or IV, of the stock's options. You'd like to see a skew between the IV for the front-month options and the back-month options. Just like when trading calendar spreads, you'd like to see this skew at 15% or greater. As the IV comes down on the overpriced front-month option, your profits increase. However, the largest advantage to a calendar or time spread is the passage of time. We often discuss how we don't want to buy options with fewer than 45 days until expiration. This is because time decay accelerates the last month of an option's life. By selling front-month options, we get to keep the premium received as long as the option doesn't move into the money at expiration. Thus, each month you feel the stock is going to consolidate, you can sell another month of premium to pay down the cost of the long-term option. The initial cost for a diagonal spread will normally be less than for a calendar spread. This is because we are buying a further out-of-the-money call or put. However, because there is risk between the sold option and the purchased option, your broker will require a margin account. However, the amount at risk is only the difference between strikes, so the margin required should be minimal. One reader posted the following trade on my
discussion board on Optionetics.com. Dreyer's is showing high IV for the front-month options because of an impending buyout. If the deal goes through, the stock could soar to the $85 level, but if it doesn't, it's likely to consolidate at a lower price. Nonetheless, while the debate continues about the buyout, this diagonal spread has little risk. You won't normally get a credit for entering a diagonal spread, but it all depends on the strikes and IV of the options. Overall, you can use diagonal spreads much like calendar spreads. You want to find stocks that are likely to consolidate for a few months before making a move. It also helps to have at least a 15% skew between the sold and purchased options.