A bull put spread, otherwise known as short put vertical spread, is one of my favorite risk-defined options strategies.
As the name of the strategy implies, a bull put spread is, well, a bullish-leaning strategy.
But it is important to note that the strategy doesn’t require the security to move higher to make money. With bull put spreads you not only have the ability to make a return when a security moves higher, you can also make money if the stock stays flat or even if the stock pushes slightly lower.
The first step in placing a bull put spread, or any trade, is making sure the security we are interested in is highly liquid. We always want to use the most efficient products possible. It just doesn’t make sense to have to make 5% to 15%, possibly more, to get back to breakeven.
iShares Trust Russell 2000 ETF (IWM)
IWM is a highly liquid product, as a result, we can move forward with a potential bull put trade.
With IWM trading for 226.40 and near all-time highs I want to place a bull put spread with a high probability of success.
Let’s take a look at the options chain for IWM going out 28-65 days until expiration.
It looks like the July 23, 2021 expiration cycle with 31 days left until expiration fits the bill. As a result, let’s take a look at the put strike with approximately an 80% probability OTM (out-of-the-money), otherwise known as the probability of success on the trade.
It looks like the 212 put strike with an 80.07% probability of success is where I want to start. The short put strike defines my probability of success on the trade. It also helps to define my overall premium or return on the trade.
Once I’ve chosen my short put strike, in this case the 212 put I then proceed to look at a 3- strike wide, 4-strike wide and 5-strike wide bull put spread to buy.
The spread width of our bull put helps to define our risk on the trade. The smaller the width of the spread the less capital required. When defining your position size knowing the overall defined risk per trade is essential. Basically, my spread-width and my premium increase as my chosen spread-width increases.
For example, let’s take a look at the 5-strike, 212/207bull put spread.
The Trade: IWM 212/207 Bull Put Spread
Sell to open IWM July 23, 2021 212 strike
Buy to open IWM July 23, 2021 207 strike for a total net credit of roughly $0.52 or $52 per bear call spread
- Probability of Success: 80.07%
- Total net credit: $0.52, or $52 per bull put spread
- Total risk per spread: $4.48, or $448 per bull put spread
- Max Potential Return: 11.6%
As long as IWM stays above our 212 strike at expiration in 31 days, I have the potential to make 11.6% on the trade.
In most cases, I will make slightly less, as the prudent move (and all research backs this up) is to buy back the bull put spread prior to expiration. Typically, I look to buy back the spread when I can lock in 50% to 75% of the original credit. Since we sold the spread for $0.52, I want to buy it back when the price of my spread hits roughly $0.26 to $0.14.
Of course, there are a variety of factors to consider with each trade. And we allow the probabilities and time to expiration to lead the way for our decisions. But, taking off risk by locking in profits is never a bad decision and by doing so, we have the ability to take advantage of other opportunities the market has to offer.
Since we know how much we stand to make and lose prior to order entry we have the ability to precisely define our position size on every trade we place. Position size is the most important factor when managing risk, so by keeping each trade at a reasonable level (I use 1% to 5% per trade) allows not only the Law of Large Numbers to work in your favor…it also allows you to sleep well at night.