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I'm researching options strategies and I started paper trading a $SPY options. Here's my strategy:

Set up a strangle 5% above and below the market price expiring a month from the day of trade. 12 contracts total.

On Feb 20th, I looked at the cost of that setup:

Actual price of the stock ($SPY) = $336.40
Sell a Call 5% above the market (SPY200320C00355000) = $0.13 x 100 x 12 = + $156.00
Sell a Put 5% below the market (SPY200320P00319000) = $1.42 x 100 x 12 = + $1,704.00
So on Feb 20th, I would have received $1,860.00 for selling those options.

A month later, the idea is that one of those options would be worthless and the other one cheaper than the price paid (of course this was not the case with the current market/Covid-19)

On Mar 20th, I would have to pay back

Current price of the stock ($SPY) = $244.41
SPY200320C00355000 is now worth $0.01 = $12
SPY200320P00319000 is now worth $77.10 = $92,520.00

leaving me with a total of $ -90,660.00

Although it is clear that this strategy backfired given the current situation, I would like to understand if my calculations are right.

More specifically, do I have to consider the fact that for every point that an index option goes beyond the strike, I will have to pay/earn $100? If this is the case, I would have to pay an additional 9,200 per contract (?), or $110,400

Since starting, I learned that an Iron Condor is much more secure than a Strangle and I'm planning to paper trade that strategy for a while.

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  • If you want to learn more about the trade, I agree that you should look at the iron condors. That's even the structure that some professionals use to limit their risk. If you have an investment account with one of the banks they'll have backtests of these strategies that they should be able to send you. – RWP - Down by the Bay Mar 19 '20 at 20:38
  • The classic sayings about selling covered calls are (1) It's like collecting pennies in front of a steamroller and (2) Most of the time you eat like a bird and occasionally you sh*t like an elephant. By extension, a covered call is synthetically equivalent to selling a naked put (which is half of your position). The other half is a naked call which is the mirror image trade with similar risk in the opposite direction (similar meaning difference b/t price of the underlying and zero). – Bob Baerker Mar 19 '20 at 21:59
  • AFAIC, for the average retail guy, selling an OTM put is appropriate only for when you want to acquire the underlying at a lower price. The asymmetric R/R of a naked put or a naked call is not good. – Bob Baerker Mar 19 '20 at 22:02
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I think there's a few things you may be misunderstanding about selling a strangle.

First:

A month later, the idea is that one of those options would be worthless and the other one cheaper than the price paid (of course this was not the case with the current market/Covid-19)

The ideal scenario behind selling a strangle is that both options expire OTM, as they were OTM when you sold them to begin with (in your example, on February 20th). This would result in you keeping all of the premium you initially received, the $1860.00 (not including commissions associated w/ selling these options, which can vary depending on your account, but we'll assume no commissions for the sake of the theoretical scenario).

Second part:

More specifically, do I have to consider the fact that for every point that an index option goes beyond the strike, I will have to pay/earn $100? If this is the case, I would have to pay an additional 9,200 per contract (?), or $110,400

One, SPY isn't an index and if you wanted to sell options on an index, you could simply sell them on $SPX. Two, I think you're neglecting the fact that movements in the underlying are not the only factor that affects the value of an option, you also have time, and volatility (in a simplified sense) that affect the value of the option you sold. So you can't simply just use this rule of thumb without taking these into account, unless you're saying you are only concerned with what the price the option is on the day of expiration. In this scenario, then yes you'd be only concerned with the difference between the underlying, and the strike price of your option.

So regarding the 319 Put that was sold at $1.42 a contract, then on the day of expiration (March 20th) this put would be worth $74.59 a contract, and in your example, this could either get exercised against you (if you let it) and in that case, you'd have to buy 100 * 12 = 1200 shares of SPY at $319.00 which would cost:

$319.00 * 1200 = $382,800 and then your position is actually currently worth $244.41 * 1200 = $293,292 so your loss would be:

$(293,292 - 382,800) + $1860 = $-87,648 (recall the $1860 in premium you received initially)

Or more commonly, you would have to buy back the option to close out the contract (since you sold to open the contract), which would cost: $74.59 * 100 * 12 = $89,508. Note that the call would expire OTM (worthless) and you don't have to buy it back. But, recall that you initially received $1,860.00 in premium when you sold these two contracts, so your total loss is: $87,648.

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  • Good explanation but your math is off (he sold the $319 put not the $320 put) – Bob Baerker Mar 19 '20 at 21:54
  • Thanks! Good catch, I edited the post and corrected the math such that it reflects the potential loss for the 319 put :) – user95212 Mar 19 '20 at 22:03

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