NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Southwest Airlines (LUV) is widely considered to be the best operator among the major airline carriers. The company was able to maintain profitability even during the Great Recession. Southwest sports a healthy balance sheet and just raised its dividend by 25%.
Earnings per share have been flying high, having surged from $0.43 in 2011 to $0.56, $1.05 and $1.64 during 2012 through 2014 respectively. Lower jet fuel prices allowed first-quarter 2015 EPS to hit $0.66 vs. $0.22 a year earlier.
It always seems scary to play a stock that has gone up significantly and then started pulling back. With fundamentals this good, however, the lower price appears to be a good second chance opportunity.
Buying Southwest shares while selling Jan. 2017, near-the-money covered calls and slightly in-the-money naked puts offered a very favorable total return potential on anything more than 3% rise over time.
Use the $35 call and put to reduce the initial cash outlay. Barring actual exercise, paid-up marginable equity can secure the put without incurring a greater than $2,238 outlay.
At the currently available option prices, however, our break-even point would be reduced to well under $29 a share. Anything less than a 16% decline would leave us with a profit if we simply liquidated right away.
No investments in stocks or options will ever be completely riskless. Setting up trades like this one, though, can help skew the odds in your favor.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published at 11:30 a.m. on Real Money Pro on June 10, 2015.