Apple appeal: Some traders are trying to make extra money off the tech giant

Some traders are looking to make even more money from the world's biggest stock, even after Apple shares have surged nearly 12 percent in the past month.

While the prices of S&P 500 options have lingered around record lows, Apple options remain relatively well bid. This means traders collectively think Apple shares have a high probability of rising or falling, while the S&P 500 will remain stable.

In these market conditions, some see opportunity.

Stacey Gilbert, head of derivative strategy at Susquehanna, suggests a trade commonly called a "covered call" or an "overwrite," which combines ownership of the stock with the sale of a call option.

A call gives its buyer the right to buy the underlying asset for a given price within a given time period; buying a call, then, is a bullish trade. By selling a call, one receives a fixed amount of money and is obliged to sell the stock for a certain price no matter how high it rises. Doing this on its own results in unlimited risk to the seller, since any stock or ETF can theoretically rise to infinity. But when a trader sells a call against a stock she already owns, the only added risk comes in the more abstract form of foregone gains — since the losses on the call will be offset by the gains on the stock.

Such a strategy is always on the table for an investor. But its attractiveness at any given time will be determined by the amount for which the call can be sold and by the stock's perceived upside. And right now, both sides of the equation make the overwriting plan a good one, Gilbert argues.

"As everything else in the world is low volatility, Apple isn't as low as the rest of the world — so you can actually get some premium for those calls," Gilbert said Tuesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."

Further, the next iPhone is expected to be released in September, and "it isn't unusual to have a buy-the-rumor-sell-the-news situation."

"You can maintain your Apple position assuming it doesn't rally significantly," but the overwriting strategy will "offset [losses] if there is any short-term pullback here," Gilbert concluded.

A pullback could indeed be in the cards, warns Boris Schlossberg of BK Asset Management.

"I think their growth strategy of betting so much on China is really going to backfire against them," Schlossberg said on "Trading Nation." Given growing competition from Google's Android and other comers, "I think there's a tremendous amount of headwinds going forward, so I'm very, very leery of being long Apple at this point."

MKM Partners derivatives strategist Jim Strugger can also get on board with the overwriting strategy. His research shows that not only are Apple options expensive compared to S&P 500 options, but that Apple options are more expensive now than they have been in the past.

"Relative to itself [in the past], yes, it's a good time to overwrite AAPL," Strugger wrote to CNBC on Wednesday. Still, he notes that options prices on Apple remain lower than those on stocks like Alibaba and Nvidia, making it less juicy "in terms of the premium that selling a covered call will generate."

On Wednesday afternoon, October 175-strike calls on Apple are trading at about $1.55 per share. Traders selling those calls will get to keep that entire premium so long as Apple closes below $175 on Oct. 20.

Interestingly, even those bullish on options are using high options prices to their advantage. On Tuesday, Todd Gordon of sold put spreads in order to speculate on upside.


Trades to Watch

Trader Bios


Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

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