Wednesday, January 06, 2016

5 Ways to Protect Yourself From a Stock Market Crash

Bear Market
Don't be the fish in a Bear Market
The first day of this year, 2016, the stock market tanked. As I write this on Wednesday, January 6, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 237 points.

If you are concerned about the stock market and you think we are heading into a bear market, there are certain ways to protect yourself on the downside.

Here is a list of five ways to trade which can provide some protection during a period of falling stocks.

Short Stocks 

1. You can short stocks. If you have never shorted a stock before, this is what happens in simple terms. You borrow stock, you sell the stock, and eventually you have to buy the stock back eventually to return the stock that was borrowed, hopefully at a much lower price. (You don't actually see all this happening; it all happens electronically.) The different between what you sale the stock for and the price you buy it back is your profit (or loss). Traders should be aware that this can be a very risky trade and the potential loss from selling short is infinite.

Buy Put Options 

2. You can buy put options to protect stocks that you currently own, or you can buy a put on a stock you believe is going to drop. A put is the right to sell a stock at a certain price within a set period of time.

Here is an example. A stock is trading at 50, you buy a put with a strike price of 49. The strike price is the price at which you can put the stock to someone. You pay 1 for the option. If the stock drops to 45, your one dollar option increases to at least 4 (the difference between the 49 and the 45). If the stock closes at 49 or higher, then the option expires worthless, so your loss is limited to the cost of the put.

Writing Covered Calls

3. Writing calls against your stocks is one way to help protect your portfolio on the downside. Maybe you don't want to sell out of you stock positions, but you want some way to help reduce the loss on the downside. You can write covered calls. There is the chance that your stock could get called away if the stock starts to rally, but it just means that you made money on the transaction.

An example would be if the stock sells at 50 and you write a call with a strike price of 51 for 1. If the stock remains at the same price at option expiration, you make 1 per share. If the stock goes up to 53, you will get called away at 51 making 1 on the stock plus you collect another 1 for the sold option, for a total profit of 2. If the stock drops to 47, you lose 3 on the stock but you make 1 on the sold call for a net loss on 2. Without the written call, your net loss would be 3 on the stock.

Bearish ETFs 

4. Bearish exchange traded funds, also known as Bearish ETFs are investments that have a goal of providing the daily inverse of a stock index. The bearish ETFs are very volatile investments that are designed for short term trading, and not as long term investments. They achieve their performance through the use of various financial instruments including futures contracts, options,  collars, swap agreements, short positions, and other derivatives.

Double and Triple Bearish ETFs 

5. Double and triple bearish ETFs can provide a 200% or 300% opposite return of a sector or market. Listed at are over a dozen commonly traded triple bearish ETFs which investors can use to get a 300% play.

An example is the Direxion Daily S&P 500 Bear 3X Shares ETF (SPXS). This ETF has the goal of making 300% of the inverse of the performance of the S&P 500. What that means is, if the S&P 500 drops 2% in one day, the ETF should go up in value by 6%. Alternatively, if the S&P 500 rises by 2%, the ETF should drop by 6%, which would be a significant loss.

Another one of the bear market protection tools is an ETF called the ProShares Trust UltraPro Short QQQ ETF (SQQQ). The goal of this fund is to replicate three times the inverse of the NASDAQ 100 index using various types of derivatives. An example of what that means is that if the stock market, in terms of the NASDAQ 100 drops by 1%, this ETF should rise by 3%.

This index includes such stocks at Amgen (AMGN), Apple (AAPL), Baidu (BIDU), Cisco (CSCO), eBay (EBAY), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Intel (INTC), Microsoft (MSFT), Netflix (NFLX), Starbucks (SBUX), Tesla (TSLA), Whole Foods (WFM), and Yahoo (YHOO).

Investors can be more specific in terms of what sectors will drop, or will drop the most. If you think energy stocks will tank, you could buy the Daily Energy Bear 3X Shares ETF (ERY), which attempts to track 300% of the inverse of the Energy Select Sector Index. For financial services companies, an option is the Daily Financial Bear 3X Shares ETF (FAZ).

For those that are bearish on gold, a triple bearish gold ETF called the Daily Gold Miners Bear 3X Shares ETF (DUST) is available. The ETF's objective is to make 300% of the opposite of the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index.

For a free list of the most commonly traded triple bearish ETFs which can be downloaded, go to

Just remember that losses on the double and triple bearish can be substantial when the stock market rises.

One other option is to just ride out the market drops. Let's hope for a nice bull market for this year.

Disclosure: Author has various positions, including bullish, bearish, and neutral option positions, in DIS, AAPL, EBAY, YHOO, and TWTR.


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