Thursday, March 15, 2007

Final possession on Alberto-Culver option

Today was the penultimate trading day on my Alberto option and (coincidently) the first day of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. Watching my option come down to the wire is a bit like watching the final possessions of a basketball game. Early in the game, "fundamental analysis" such as per-possession offense and defense are the best ways to predict the outcome. By the end of the game, however, nearly everything that has happened to that point in the season is meaningless. Often games come down to a handful of possessions in the final minutes that determine which team will come out ahead. In other words, close games are determined by luck.

Yesterday, the odds of avoiding a "loss" on the option where roughly the same as a team up by 2 points playing defense with the shot clock turned off. Today, Alberto-Culver shares jumped 1%, which is sort of like hitting a three pointer. Tomorrow is the final possession of the game, since the option will expire if not exercised. If I'm to record a profit on the option, I need Alberto-Culver to drop by 0.22 or more in tomorrow's session.

Odds of -0.22% or greater gain of Alberto-Culver in one day

Notice that the curve is much smoother around the zero line than the graphs I showed yesterday. That's because I corrected the issue with excess 0% gains. (Basically, I use the adjusted close from Yahoo to avoid miscalculations due to splits and dividends. But that sacrifices precision, especially early in a stock's history. Therefore, if the two adjusted prices are the same and the actual closing prices are only a few percentage points from 0%, I now use the actual closing prices.)

Writing call options is a bit like playing a slightly better team. Over a long period of time, the stock market in general goes up. This graph is the odds that the S&P 500 will advance in a particular day.

Odds of 0% or greater gain of S&P 500 in one day

On the other hand, call options pay a premium, which is a little bit like being spotted a few points (or betting with a point spread). For the ACV option, the game is coming down to the wire. I think I made the right decision based on fundamentals, but I still might be on the wrong side of the trade tomorrow.

The odds the option will be exercised tomorrow are roughly 80%, so by Monday I should have the cash to make another purchase.

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