When I first started trading options a number of years ago, I became very friendly with a great options trader, and an even greater human being by the name of Dan Harvey. Dan, a retired medical doctor, is one of the finest options traders I have ever met. He is very analytical, very calm and a very flexible thinker. When the market changes, Dan changes with it. He makes his living trading options– so he has to be adaptable to market changes. In fact one of the first things that Mike Bellafiore told me when I met him last summer was that one of the keys to his personal trading success was his recognition that you must constantly adapt to the marketplace in order to be successful long term as a trader. Any kind of trader.
I learned many valuable lessons from my good friend Dan Harvey, but one of the earliest points that he made to me also happened to be one of the most important. In my earliest days of corresponding with him, he made the following statement (and yes I’m paraphrasing a little bit): “The market will do whatever the heck it wants, whenever the heck it wants to”.
There is no rule that says an upward trend must continue and there is no rule that says a sell-off can not abruptly stop and turn into a raging rally. There is no rule that says that the market will not make a big move on a sleepy summer afternoon and there is no rule that says the market has to respond in a positive way to positive news. There are just NO rules at all around what the market will do next.
The importance of this lesson is very simple–you absolutely must assume that something dramatically negative COULD conceivably happen to your options positions at any time, particularly overnight. And therefore there is no getting around taking the proper precautions against such an eventuality.
This means that if you are going out to lunch on a slow market day, you MUST have contingent orders in for all of your positions. The chances are that nothing will happen. But the implications of your being wrong are way too disproportionate to the effort needed to guard against it.
It means that if a big sell off overnight would be devastating to an options spread, even though every technical indicator is pointing to a rally the next day, the position must be modified to deal with that possibility the day before . The same goes for a golf match on a beautiful spring day, when everyone is in a great mood and the market is slowly, gently drifting upwards. On the first tee, a small European country could announce that it is going into default on its sovereign debt, and all hell could break loose.
I could go on and on but I think my point has been made. Assume you know what is going to happen next in the market at your own peril. You won’t live too long as an options trader if you do–I can virtually guarantee that.
By the way, it’s only 6 days until we launch the SMB Options Training program–we’ll be teaching about how you can prepare yourself for the always unpredictable market and much more. The registration form for our free introductory webinar is on this page. Hope to see you then!
Director, SMB Options Training Program