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Three-Legged Bears Tackle Emerging Markets Options

 January 19, 2011 04:36 PM
 


Today's tickers: EEM, MRVL, BCSI & XRT

iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index ETF (EEM) – A number of large-volume spreads on the emerging markets fund this morning signal investor pessimism on the sector through February expiration. Shares of the EEM, an exchange-traded fund designed to measure equity market performance in the global emerging markets, fell 0.50% to $47.62 by 12:20pm in New York. Three-legged bearish spreads, wherein investors sold out-of-the-money calls to partially finance the purchase of put spreads, are popular with strategists populating the EEM today. The larger of two similar bearish plays involved the sale of 15,500 calls up at the February $52 strike for a premium of $0.05 each, purchase of the same number of puts at the February $47 strike at a premium of $0.96 apiece, and the sale of 15,500 puts at the lower February $43 strike for premium of $0.19 each. The net cost of the transaction amounts to $0.72 per contract and positions the responsible party to profit should shares in the EEM decline another 2.80% from the current price of $47.62 to breach the effective breakeven point to the downside at $46.28 ahead of February expiration day. Maximum potential profits of $3.28 per contract are available to the trader should shares in the ETF drop 9.7% lower to trade below $43.00 before the contracts expire next month. A like-minded tactician established a similar spread, but sold call and put options at closer-to-the-money strikes to further reduce the premium required to take a bearish stance on the fund. This options player sold 14,000 of the February $50 strike calls, picked up 14,000 puts at the February $47 strike, and sold the same number of puts at the February $43 strike. The trader paid a net premium of $0.24 per contract and breaks even on the spread if the EEM's shares decline 1.80% to trade below $46.76 ahead of expiration. Maximum potential profits of $1.76 per contract pad the investor's wallet should shares dip below $45.00 at expiration next month. Selling calls at the February $50 and $52 strikes reduces the cost of the bearish spreads, but is not a riskless tactic to employ. Investors are on the hook to deliver huge quantities of the underlying stock if the calls land in-the-money by expiration day. But, this is a risk they are willing to take perhaps because shares of the fund have not traded above $50/$52 since the middle of 2008.

[Related -Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (MRVL) Earnings Preview: Can Q2 Results "Marvell" Investors?]

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Marvell Technology Group, Ltd.


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