Earnings Season Starts This Week, What to Expect

by Options Sensei |

Earnings season kicks off this week with the big banks such as “JPM Morgan (JPM)”, “Bank America (BAC)” and “Goldman Sachs (GS).

The following week things shift into a higher gear as tech names start taking center stage with “Netflix (NFLX)” and “IBM (IBM)” two of the notable names reporting.

This quarter’s reports will be like no other as the future has become untethered from most projections and the past has no bearing on the future.

The numbers from the current quarter, which only includes the first week or two of the shutdown and will be dismissed out of hand; there will be no value to playing the “meet or beat” game.

Further clouding process is that almost all companies that comprise the “SPDR 500 (SPY – Get Rating)” have all pulled forward guidance which is typically the most important item in determining how a stock will react in the following report.

Even under the best of circumstances earnings can be very tricky to trade as there are many moving and unknown parts; will the company miss or beat expectations, what will be the guidance, will traders ‘sell the news’  or buy into the unknown on the belief the recent decline has priced in a near worst-case scenario?

But there is one predictable pricing behavior that savvy options trader uses to produce steady profits.  And given all recent volatility, and still, so many unknowns mean options premiums will be at record high levels as market makers need to price options for outsized moves.

So how does one trade earnings in a world without guidance? Here’s a quick guide and it rests on taking an options-centric approach.

Use the Post Earnings Premium Crushed

The one item we can count on is that no matter what a company reports or how the stock reacts the options will undergo a Post Earnings Premium Crush (PEPC) which is my label for how the implied volatility contracts sharply immediately following the report no matter what the stock does.

You can see the repeating pattern of the implied volatility of Netflix’s options spiking and retreating on the quarterly reports.

Stock chart

Source: iVolatlity.com

You’ll often hear traders cite what percentage move options are “pricing in” o the earnings.  The quick back of the envelope calculation for gauging the magnitude of the expected move is to add up the at-the-money straddle.

This article does a great job of explaining how to use the straddle to both assess expectations and potentially profit. Once option traders are armed with this bit of knowledge, they to advance to use spreads to mitigate the impact of PEPC when looking to make a directional bet.

Some will graduate to getting this predictable pricing behavior in their favor by selling premium via strangles or the more sensible limited risk iron condors.  But these strategies still carry the risk of trying to predict if not the direction, then the magnitude of the move.

Here’s a list of the historically most volatile stocks following earnings reports.  This means they are likely to see both the largest increase in implied volatility leading up to earnings and the largest PEPC.

The Pre-Earnings Trade

The true professionals pursue a safer and more reliable path of positioning in anticipation of the increase in implied volatility that precedes earnings and avoids the actual event altogether.  Just as PEPC is predictable so is the pumping up of premium leading into the event; it’s just more subtle in that it occurs incrementally over the course of many days.

One strategy for taking advantage of rising IV leading into earnings is… Continue reading at StockNews.com

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