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Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy Update #5 – Mastercard (MA)

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When using the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy, one of the things we like to find is a stock about to announce earnings where the options have priced in a post-announcement price fluctuation which is greater than the historical average of the post-announcement changes for that company.

Our goal is to create two diagonal spreads at a credit (or slight debit) which allow for a profit to be made if the post-announcement fluctuation is within the historical average amount.  In the past few weeks, we have placed spreads that met these criteria on several companies, including Carmax (KMX), TD Ameritrade (AMTD), and Red Hat (RHT), and these plays were all profitable, with returns from 30% to over 70% including commissions in a single week.

This week, we are looking forward to taking a position in Mastercard (MA) which announces earnings before the market opens on May 2.  The 4May18 options have priced a 3.8% post-announcement price change while the average change for the last eight quarters has been only 1.1% (about $2 when the stock is trading about $175).

Here are the trades we made this week using the Diagonal Condor Earnings Strategy that is outlined here in case you missed it earlier. Here are the spreads we will place just prior to May 2 (prices as they exist now):

Buy To Open MA 1Jun18 170 puts (MA180601P170)
Sell To Open MA 4May18 175 puts (MA180504P175) for a credit of $.25 (buying a diagonal)

Buy To Open MA 1Jun18 182.5 calls (MA180601C182.5)
Sell To Open MA 4May18 177.5 calls (MA180504C177.5) for a credit of $.17 (buying a diagonal)

After paying a commission of $2.50 per spread at the commission rate charged to Terry’s Tips subscribers at thinkorswim, each pair of spreads will incur a maintenance requirement of $500 less the $42 plus the $5 commission, making it an investment of $463 (the maximum theoretical loss).  One of the spreads is guaranteed to make a gain no matter what the stock might do after the announcement.

Here is the risk profile graph for the above spreads, assuming that implied volatility (IV) of the 1Jun18 option series will fall by 3, from 28 to 25 after the announcement.  This compares to the current IV of the 4May18 series which carries an IV of 35.

MA Risk Profile Graph April 2018

MA Risk Profile Graph April 2018

The break-even range for these positions goes from about $170 to $183.  If the price ends up at any price within this range, there should be a profit.  Historically, the stock has fluctuated by an average of about $2, which would place it between $173 and $177.

If the historical fluctuation continues, these positions could deliver 60% or more on investment for a single week of waiting it out.

If the stock fluctuates more than we expect (and finishes outside of the break-even range), we would roll over the expiring options before they expire on May 4 and sell new weekly out-of-the-money options for the 11May18 series, and continue doing so until we took in sufficient new premium to make the entire experience a profitable one.  We would have five weekly opportunities to accomplish this.  Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but weekly fluctuations tend to be much more moderate once the earnings week has passed, and that is the kind of market where this kind of diagonal or calendar spreads do their best.

If the stock fluctuates more than $2.50 from the $166.36 price when we placed the spreads, you might want to adjust the strike prices by $2.50 in the same direction.

Final note: MA has been a good underlying for Terry’s Tips.  In 2017, one of our actual portfolios traded MA options, and the portfolio gained 152% for the year. You can get a full (and free) report on how this worked out by requesting it below.

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