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How to Create Yield in a Low Interest Rate Environment

With the Fed slashing interest rates, high yields can be tough to find. So why not create yield? Here’s an alternative - and conservative - way to do it.

2019 Silver Cash

As the Fed Slashes Interest Rates, Yields are Getting Harder to Find. So Why Not Create Yield?

Last month the Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the first time in a decade, and just last week Fed Chair Jerome Powell hinted that more rate cuts could be coming. And the U.S. is not alone in these policies as central bankers across the globe are hinting that they too are ready to cut rates if needed. Because of this monetary policy, it’s still a challenge for savers to create yield. That said, there is an alternative way to create yield against your stock holdings: sell covered calls.

A Covered Call is an options trading strategy in which the trader holds a long position in a stock and sells a call option on the same stock in an attempt to generate income. This is a VERY conservative strategy. For example, if I owned 100 shares of Snap (SNAP) I could sell one call against my 100 shares. And when I sell that call I collect a premium (essentially collecting an insurance premium).

How to Sell Covered Calls

Below is an excerpt from a Bloomberg article about selling covered calls using Goldman Sachs research.

“Interest in an options strategy that involves selling bullish calls while holding the underlying stock to generate income has increased substantially over the past six months as slowing economic growth shakes investors’ faith in U.S. equities, according to Goldman Sachs.

“Overwriting, as the strategy is called, has historically outperformed the buy-and-hold approach when stocks trade within narrow price ranges or decline, according to Goldman derivatives strategists including Vishal Vivek. Their research found that selling one-month, 10% out-of-the-money covered calls on S&P 500 Index stocks has led to an annual outperformance of 1.4% on average over the last 16 years

“Of course, overwriting is not without its own risks. While the call options are covered by the underlying stock ownership, a rally through the strike price could translate into a sale as shares are called away, forfeiting further gains on the position.”

Create Yield with Snap (SNAP) Covered Calls

My Cabot Options Trader and Cabot Options Trader Pro subscribers have been selling covered calls against our Snap (SNAP) stock position for the last three months. Slowly but surely we have been creating yields of over 3% month after month. In this low interest rate environment, the ability to create yield of 3% every month is a home run!

But how do I determine which strike should I sell against my SNAP stock position?

There isn’t a surefire answer for each situation. But I will show you my general thought process.

These are the questions I ask myself (in this order) for choosing a strike price to sell:

  1. At what price am I willing to sell the stock? If I am willing to sell SNAP at 17, then I would sell the 17 strike. If I am willing to sell the stock at 18, then I would sell the 18 strike.
  2. If the market is stable, and trending higher, then I am more likely to sell a call further away from the current stock price. Perhaps I’d go with the January 18 strike for SNAP, which would net me a premium of $1.25. However, if the market is weak, I might sell a call at the 17 strike for $1.75, as this sale would net me a much bigger premium/insurance policy.
  3. Is this a trade that you hope will make a small premium quickly? If so, sell a short-term option as it will lose its value very fast. Perhaps the September 17 call for $0.35. If it’s a long-term stock position that you want to hold onto for a while, then sell further out in time and further out-of-the-money. Perhaps the SNAP January 20 Call for $0.75.

At the end of the day I think the #1 criteria above is most important. If you set a price target, and sell at that strike, then you have made a choice that you can live with. And you will have picked up a nice yield in the meantime.

If you have any questions about how to sell covered calls against your stock holdings or how to create yield with options, please don’t hesitate to email me.


Jacob Mintz is a professional options trader and editor of Cabot Options Trader. Using his proprietary options scans, Jacob creates and manages positions in equities based on unusual option activity and risk/reward.