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Keeping Up with Tradition

In all of our OTA courses, regardless of which asset class, we teach the importance of record keeping. For those faithful enough to do this, after several years of trading and recording both winners and losers, you will have a valuable bank of data. Based on that data bank, a trader could make some very interesting observations about the market as well as about one’s performance, such as in which quarter over the years does a trader tend to perform the best and which quarter the worst. This kind of scrutiny can also be done with a monthly or even a weekly focus rather than just quarterly.

One particularly interesting thing I have observed in my trading during that low volume week between Christmas and New Years is as follows. The Bear Call (short vertical) tends to work almost impeccably within that specific week. Without giving too many statistics, I will focus on some facts which might be quite revealing.

Gathering the facts could be quite easy if one utilizes TradeStation. On TS under the Insert Tab, when on the Chart Analysis window, we can select the functionality Paint Bar. From all the choices given by Paint Bar we can specifically select First Bar of Year. The chart below shows the daily chart of IWM with the painted pink bars being the first trading session of the year. Whereas the focus of this article is on that low-volume-week between Christmas and New Year; notice the yellow oval on the volume for the last five daily trading sessions of each year.

How to use TradeStationFigure 1: IWM Daily

Anyone using Technical Analysis should be able to verify the accuracy of the facts listed in the table below.

Price Outcome for the IWM

Date and Year Action
Fri Dec 31, 2010 Down
Thurs Dec 31, 2009 Down
Wed Dec 31, 2008 Up
Mon Dec 31, 2007 Down
Fri Dec 29, 2006 Down
Fri Dec 30, 2005 Down
Fri Dec 31, 2004 Down
Wed Dec 31, 2003 Down
Tues Dec 31, 2002 Down
Mon Dec 31, 2001 Down
Figure 2

Basically between 2001 and 2010, the IWM on the last trading session was down, or a red bar, nine out of ten times; the only exception being 2008, which was an abnormal year due to the subprime crash. This means that on the last day of the year, we should not be getting long, short-term. I shall come back, in a moment, to what this insight means for us option traders.

However, if on the chart the time interval gets changed from daily bars to weekly, the Paint Bar functionality will still show in pink the first (weekly) bar of the year, while the bar before would be that low-volume-week between Christmas and New Year. In this case statistical data can be pulled out again and observed that a majority of the time the weekly bar of the last week of the year tends to end up red.

Year Action
2010 Up
2006 Up
2003 Up
2001 Up
Figure 3

Six out of the 10 years the weekly bars were red. The years on which the weekly bars, on the IWM, were green are listed above. Just because those were green bars does not mean that short verticals would have been an incorrect strategy. The next valid point to be made is that a Bear Call should be done based on Technical Analysis and the sold leg should be above resistance, which means that we should be selling an OTM leg. (The article referenced above, however, involved a Bear Call that had sold an ATM leg, which is somewhat aggressive.)

For instance on the current daily chart of the IWM resistance is below 76; hence the sale of a 76 call could be done and then the purchase of a higher leg would be technically supported. Assuming that at the end of the year there tends to be a drop, it would be reasonable to expect that the 76 level of resistance will not be easily broken. On the ES that level of resistance is 1260 to 1266; on the OEX and XEO it would be 575. All the majors are facing similar levels, and building on the previous observation that the volume is low, the bearish bet sounds logical.

It is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on the extent of the drop, yet a valid assumption is made that historically there tends to be a pull back. In the case of this year, 2011, an IWM Bear Call with a sold 76 call and protection with a higher strike price, the price action that is expected at the close of Friday Dec 30 this year would be lower than 76 – period. How much lower, is truly irrelevant because the payout is the same. The payout truly depends on where the Bear Call entry was made.

In the second day of our Professional Trader course we teach three possible short entries. The Figure below is taken straight out of the manual, Day 2 slide 88. Only some minor modifications are made.

types of trade entriesFigure 4:

The first entry (#1) is considered the most aggressive one because there is no confirmation that the price action will indeed turn around and head lower. In such case the risk is greater which is disadvantageous to us. The second short entry (#2) which is entered after price is no longer rapidly climbing up into resistance but is slowing down. On the charts this would be represented by multiple dojis (which is very much what the IWM is currently doing on 12/26/2011). The #2 entry is considered moderately risky, while the third (#3) is the conservative entry. However, if we wait for the #3 entry, especially when selling short verticals, we might have already missed the rich premium that was there when there was less certainty. Due to that uncertainty, think of it as volatility, the premium was juicier.

Although a Pro-Trader short entry could be used when trading options, a trader needs to be aware of the inner workings of the option premium. There are three Greeks that we need to keep in mind: the Delta (intrinsic value and direction), Theta (time until the expiry), and Vega (volatility of both overall market and the individual underlying). The short entries #1 and #2 are superior to #3 for a Bear Call with less than a week until the expiry. In conclusion, a trader may want to revisit this article just before Christmas next year and review whether or not to add this end of year strategy to their trading arsenal. Have green trading and a Happy New Year.

– Josip Causic

DISCLAIMER This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.

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