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The long-suffering metals and mining sector was largely left out of this bull market thanks to global growth concerns. But the group quietly began to stage a recovery in the second half of 2013. SPDR S&P Metals & Mining ETF (NYSE: XME) has bounced 22% from the summer lows.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA) is one stock that has certainly lost its luster. The aluminum producer and former Dow component traded above $40 a share in 2008. The stock has spent most of the past year under $10 and lost its blue-chip status in September when it was booted from the Dow 30.
An $8 support base formed during the past two years. And a bullish wedge pattern targets a move to $10.50.
An upside breakout to new 52-week highs is the first step in the march north to $13, the objective from the five-year chart. AA has tracked sideways between $18 and $8 since 2009, which means midpoint resistance of that range sits at $13.
The $13 target is about 39% higher than recent prices, but traders who use a capital-preserving, stock substitution strategy could see a 100% return on a move to that level.
One major advantage of using a long call option rather than buying a stock outright is putting up much less capital to control 100 shares -- that's the power of leverage. But with all of the potential strike and expiration combinations, choosing an option can be a daunting task.
You want to buy a high-probability option that has enough time to be right, so there are two rules traders should follow:
Rule One: Choose a call option with a delta of 70 or above.
An option's strike price is the level at which the options buyer has the right to purchase the underlying stock or ETF without any obligation to do so. (In reality, you rarely convert the option into shares, but rather simply sell back the option you bought to exit the trade for a gain or loss.)
It is important to buy options that pay off from a modest price move in the underlying stock or ETF rather than those that only make money on the infrequent price explosion. In-the-money options are more expensive, but they're worth it, as your chances of success are mathematically superior to buying cheap, out-of-the-money options that rarely pay off.
The options Greek delta approximates the odds that an option will be in the money at expiration. It is a measurement of how well an option follows the movement in the underlying security. You can find an option's delta using an options calculator, such as the one offered by the CBOE.
With AA trading near $9.35 at the time of this writing, an in-the-money $7 strike call option currently has about $2.35 in real or intrinsic value. The remainder of the premium is the time value of the option. And this call option currently has a delta of about 83.
Rule Two: Buy more time until expiration than you may need -- at least three to six months -- for the trade to develop.
Time is an investor's greatest asset when you have completely limited the exposure risks. Traders often do not buy enough time for the trade to achieve profitable results. Nothing is more frustrating than being right about a move only after the option has expired.
With these rules in mind, I would recommend the AA Jan 2015 7 Calls at $3 or less.
A close below $8 in AA on a weekly basis or the loss of half of the option's premium would trigger an exit. If you do not use a stop, the maximum loss is still limited to the $300 or less paid per option contract. The upside, on the other hand, is unlimited. And the January 2015 options give the bull trend more than a year to develop.
This trade breaks even at $10 ($7 strike plus $3 options premium). That is less than $1 away from AA's recent price. If shares hit the $13 target, then the call option would have $6 of intrinsic value and deliver a gain of 100%.
Recommended Trade Setup:
-- Buy AA Jan 2015 7 Calls at $3 or less-- Set stop-loss at $1.50-- Set initial price target at $6 for a potential 100% gain in 13 months
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