Friday, March 24, 2023
HomeMarketA Strategy to Reduce Stock Risk and Protect Future Gains

A Strategy to Reduce Stock Risk and Protect Future Gains

An ASML clean room in Veldhoven, Netherlands.

- Advertisement -

Courtesy of ASML

When in doubt, get out—or take some profits and rent exposure to your stocks.

The approach helps investors to proactively manage risks and rewards in the stock market. Investment risk is real, and profits don’t exist until they are realized. Still, most everyone focuses on how much money that they can make, even though profits are a digital illusion that exist in brokerage accounts until a stock is sold to secure the gains.

If everyone added just a little discipline to their investment process, rather than musing about how much money they are going to make, they would have much better outcomes.

The stock-replacement strategy—that is, selling stock and buying bullish call options as a proxy for the position—is one way that investors can define and manage risk and realize profits without forgoing the potential of future gains.

ASML Holding
(ticker: ASML). The Dutch semiconductor equipment maker’s stock is up 24% this year. The company said that it expects sales to grow by 25% in 2023, even though many investors are concerned that efforts to limit China’s access to chips could broadly curtail semiconductor stocks.

ASML’s year-to-date stock gain is more than three times that of the
S&P 500 index.
PHLX Semiconductor Index
is up 21% over the same period.

That big a stock gain in about a month is significant. The question is whether the momentum is sustainable, especially if the global economy succumbs to a recession. The answer isn’t clear. Investors who don’t want to wait for the answer can sell the stock and replace it with a call option that expires in six months.

To do so, an investor would first sell the stock to secure the profits. A position of 500 shares is worth about $339,265. To keep the example simple, assume the stock was bought at the start of the year, and the profit realized when the stock was sold was about $81,000.

To maintain exposure to ASML, which expresses the view that the stock could keep rising, an investor could buy the June $700 call, which cost about $52 when the stock was trading at $678.53. During the past 52 weeks, ASML has ranged from $363.15 to $714.62.

To replicate the number of shares that were sold, an investor would buy five June $700 calls. Each options contract represents 100 shares of the associated stock. The calls cost about $26,000, thereby reducing the realized profit on the stock sale to about $55,000.

However, if ASML stock is at $800 at expiration, each call is worth $100, giving you an additional total call profit of about $45,000.

The stock-replacement strategy will strike investment novices as an asymmetrical idea with many moving parts to track. It’s simpler than it seems. The call options essentially act like the stock they replace—with some critical distinctions.

Options cost less money than stocks. Owning a call means that an investor has reduced the amount of money at risk at a time when the stock market’s next move is hard to predict. In return for that benefit, call owners forgo the stock dividend. Unlike equities, options don’t produce dividends.

The strategy is a potential antidote to the hand-wringing about inflation, earnings multiples, and the Federal Reserve’s intentions. It will probably generate a tax bill, but so be it. If people tried to avoid investment losses the same way that they try to avoid triggering tax bills, it would radically change their finances.

Steven M. Sears is the president and chief operating officer of Options Solutions, a specialized asset-management firm. Neither he nor the firm has a position in the options or underlying securities mentioned in this column.



- Advertisment -

Most Popular