29 June 2009

Naked Puts - A Horror Story

Original Content Sigma Options


My last couple of posts have been concentrating on removing some of the misconceptions and erroneous assertations regarding the risk of naked puts. I hope I have been carefull enought to stress that you can crank up your risk to unreasonable levels with naked puts. (the same is true of many derivatives).

To illustrate this point, I'm using an example from 2005, because it involved someone I knew.

Background: I had posted up a chart of Elan (ELN:NYSE) in February 2006, on a trading forum I frequent. The stock had been going sideways for two or three months and was trading at ~$27.00. I wanted to get a sense of what folks thought was a good option strategy and generate a bit of options discussion.

Amongst the various replies, one chap said:

Trader: Sell 100 $22.50 puts for about $2000 credit.

Me: That's potentially 10,000 deltas if the stock gets smacked down hard and goes DITM.

Trader: It'll never get there.

The rest as they say, is history.

That's about $143,000 down the pan in one night.

It is important to note that the massive loss is nothing whatever to do with naked puts per se. An equivalent size covered call position would have similar losses, as would a CFD position of similar face value, even more in fact.

The loss was a conequence of "leverage".

I don't know whether the chap took the trade or not, but he was conspicious by his absense on that particular forum from then on. :-(


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