Two Ways of Hedging Apple and Research In Motion

By -

Hey fellow Slopers,

Back in November, when Apple was about 40 points higher than it is now, Tim wrote what now looks like a prescient post about how the stock's best days were behind it ("How Apple Became Japan"). Here's how Tim concluded that post:

As for the stock price, I suspect it'll resemble the Nikkei chart found
way above, although perhaps not as dramatically. I imagine AAPL will be
in the low 400s next year and will meander around relatively trendlessly
for years to come. Its multi-thousand percent gain will be a part of
financial history, just like similar gains enjoyed many years ago by

Although Apple has slid since then, surprisingly, shares of its smart phone maker competitor Research In Motion (RIMM) have nearly doubled.


Hedging AAPL With Optimal Puts In August

Back in August, I tweeted from the Portfolio Armor twitter account the optimal put* to hedge Apple against a greater-than-20% drop over the next six months:

That put is getting a little long in the tooth now, but since AAPL has dropped 22.9% since then, it has done its job: if an AAPL long who purchased that put on August 17th were to exercise it now, his loss would be limited to 20%, taking into account the initial cost of the put. Since the put still has some time value left (see the screen cap of the Yahoo quote page for it below), he'd have a smaller loss if he sold the put and his AAPL shares now — in that case, his loss would be limited to 17.7%.

AAPL Feb Put
Hedging AAPL And RIMM With Optimal Puts Now

If an AAPL long wanted to hedge against another 20%+ drop in his shares from here, he'd be able to find optimal puts to do that now — and for a fairly low cost, considering Apple's recent slide. But despite RIMM's recent rise, it is currently too expensive to hedge against a greater-than-20% drop from here:



Since the cost of hedging RIMM against a greater-than-20% drop was itself greater than 20% on Friday, Portfolio Armor indicated there were no optimal puts available for it (there was an optimal put available to hedge RIMM against a >21% drop, but the cost of it, as a percentage of position value, was 20.15%). This is a case where — for longs willing to cap their potential upside — being able to scan for an optimal collar** would come in handy.

After an embarassingly long delay,that capability is now live on the website, and coming soon to the iOS app. It has been generating some interesting results, including a number of instances where the optimal collars are zero cost, or even have negative net costs (i.e., the income from the calls you sell as part of the collar is greater than the cost of the puts you buy, so you are getting paid to hedge). Below we'll take a look at the optimal collars to hedge $50,000 positions in AAPL and RIMM against greater-than-20% declines from here, for investors willing to cap their potential upsides from here at 15%. 


Hedging AAPL and RIMM With Optimal Collars Now

As you can see in the screen captures below, for longs willing to cap their potential upsides at 15% while limiting their potential downside risk to drops of no more than 20%, the optimal collars are negative cost collars in both cases: the investors would get paid to hedge.


Taking Requests

I plan to explore optimal collars more in future posts, but in the meantime, if you'd like me to scan for an optimal put or optimal collar for a particular postion you have, feel free to mention the ticker, number of shares, threshold (the lowest % by which you'd be willing to see the position drop), and cap (the minimum upside you'd be willing to accept if your stock or ETF appreciated significantly) in the comments, and I'll post a few more examples to Social Trade. (Editor's note – gracias!)

*Optimal puts
are the ones that will give you the level of protection you
want at the lowest possible cost. Portfolio Armor (available on the web and as an Apple iOS app),
uses an algorithm developed by a finance Ph.D to sort
through and analyze all of the available puts for your
stocks and ETFs, scanning for the optimal ones.

**Optimal collars are the ones that will give you the level of protection you want at the lowest net cost, while not limiting your potential upside by more than you specify. The extension to the Portfolio Armor algorithm to find optimal collars was developed by a post-doctoral fellow in the financial engineering department at Princeton University.