The Spread Trader: Bear Put Spread On Morgan Stanley (MS)

| May 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

MS OptionsHere we go again…

Investors are once again hitting the sell button in May.  It looks like the old Wall Street maxim, ‘Sell in May and go away’ is proving to be true once again.

Just last week, the S&P 500 had a bullish breakout from its April trading range.  And the large cap index appeared to be making a run at its recent highs.

But the bullish momentum didn’t last long…

Over the last four trading days, the bears took control of the market.  They sent the S&P tumbling 3% lower.  And by the end of the week, it was trading well below the bullish breakout level we saw earlier in the week.

Here’s the worst part…

The same stocks that were leading us higher last week were the same stocks leading the selloff lower.  For example, financials had been one of the best performing sectors when the S&P 500 was breaking out.  But they were among the biggest losers last week when the markets were falling.

Obviously, bumpy trading full of twists and turns and failed breakouts is frustrating for traders to say the least.  And the truth is, with the bears now firmly in control, the markets will likely head even lower from here.

The good news is options allow us to profit whether stocks are sinking or soaring.  So, let’s look at an options trade that will allow us to profit from further weakness in financial stocks.

The stock I have in my crosshairs is Morgan Stanley (MS).

As you know, Morgan Stanley is an investment bank.  And it’s had a rough run over the last two months.  It’s down about 25% from over $21 in March to $16 today.

Clearly, this is one financial stock showing weakness.

This looks like a great opportunity to do a bear put spread on MS.  This bearish strategy is made by buying one put option and selling another put option at a lower price.

Here’s what to do now…

Buy the MS July 2012 $16 put for $1.27 and sell the MS July 2012 $12 put for $0.24.

Remember, when buying a put spread, the maximum profit is the difference between the strike prices minus the amount paid for the spread.

This trade costs us $103 ($127 – $24) per contract.  Our breakeven on the trade is $14.97.  If MS is trading at exactly $14.97 on July 20th, we’ll get our $103 back.

We’ve also limited our risk to our initial $103 investment.  If MS is trading above $16 on July 20th, we’ll lose $103.  But no matter how high MS goes, we can never lose more than our initial investment.

Now for the good part… profits!

Our maximum profit of $297 comes if MS is trading at or below $12 on July 20th.

In other words, we’re risking $103 for a chance to make $297.  And according to our tracking system, there’s a 40% chance of this trade making money.  That’s a good risk/reward in my book.

Good Investing,

Corey Williams

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Category: The Spread Trader

About the Author ()

A former banking executive, Corey Williams is the Chief Options Strategist and co-editor of our well-known daily newsletter, Options Trading Research. Corey’s extensive experience with options goes all the way back to his days in corporate finance. It was this decade in banking where Corey discovered the most important skill an options trader can have– the ability to analyze a company or sector to determine its likely future direction. And now he’s brought this background, experience and love of options to Options Trading Research, the unique daily e-letter devoted exclusively to helping individual investors profit from the very lucrative options market.