February 3, 2023
Making investment decisions in a volatile market can be a challenging and nerve-racking experience. But the very nature of these conditions creates unique opportunities. One way to capitalize on them is with a covered call strategy.
A covered call strategy involves holding a long position in a stock and then selling (or writing) a call option on the asset to generate income. The call option is a contract that gives one party (the purchaser) the right to carryout a specified transaction on a specified stock with another party (the seller or option writer). Each option has a:
To understand how to write a call option, let’s look at an example using CI Global Asset Management’s (CI GAM) 25% covered call strategy. CI GAM writes monthly call options up to 25% of an ETF portfolio. So, if an option “contract” consists of 100 shares, the portfolio must own at least 400 shares.
Total number of shares
Total portfolio value
*A strike price equal to the current stock price is called an “at-the-money” call option.
In this instance, since we’re writing options on 25% of the portfolio, the ETF would receive $200 as the premium (100 shares x $2). The remaining balance of the portfolio (75%) is “uncovered” and can earn capital appreciation for additional growth.
There are now three potential outcomes:
1. Pay off without exercise: If the stock price remains at $50 after 30 days, the call option will not be exercised, but the portfolio benefits from the premium received.
New portfolio value: original $20,000 portfolio value + $200 premium = $20,200
2. Break-even point: If the stock price drops to $49.50, the call will not be exercised. The portfolio value has dropped but still benefits from the premiums, bringing it to the break-even point.
New portfolio value: (400 shares x $49.50) + $200 option premium = $20,000
Any stock price below the break-even point ($49.50) will devalue the portfolio.
3. Pay off with exercise and capital appreciation: If the stock price rises above $50, say to $51, the calls will be exercised by the purchaser. The portfolio benefits from the premium, and capital appreciation on the 300 uncovered shares (75%) but misses the capital appreciation on the 100 exercised shares (25%).
New portfolio value: (300 uncovered shares x $51) + (100 shares exercised x $50) + $200 option premium = $20,500
CI GAM’s covered call strategies write monthly at-the-money call options on 25% of the ETF, which generally consists of an equal weight of companies targeting a sector or segment of the market. This time-tested process allows the strategy to generate attractive income while being exposed to the majority of upside potential.
As you can see below, the income currently being generated from the written call options and the ETFs’ dividends is substantial. In addition, the majority of the portfolios are uncovered, capitalizing on the appreciation of the underlying securities.
CI Gold+ Giants Covered Call ETF
CI Tech Giants Covered Call ETF
TXF / TXF.B
CI U.S. & Canada Lifeco Income ETF
CI Energy Giants Covered Call ETF
NXF / NXF.B
CI Canadian Banks Income Class ETF
CI Health Care Giants Covered Call ETF
FHI / FHI.B
Source: CI Global Asset Management
1Gross option premiums represent those received on January 20, 2023, calculated on an annualized basis. It is not the yield or the distribution investors will receive by virtue of an investment in the ETF.
2As of February 2, 2023. The Current Dividend Yield represents the gross yield on the ETF’s underlying portfolio of securities. It is not the yield or the distribution investors will receive by virtue of an investment in the ETF.
Covered calls are generally considered a conservative strategy because they decrease some of the risks associated with stock ownership. As we saw above, they’re also effective at generating income from the option premiums and dividend income from the underlying stock. However, the upside growth potential caps when the stock price increases above the strike price.
It’s also worth noting markets are currently experiencing higher than normal volatility, which has increased option premiums to levels rarely seen. This has amplified both the income benefits and downside protection covered call strategies can provide.
In an environment where yields are low and volatility levels are high, CI Global Asset Management Covered Call strategies provide a compelling solution to these challenges.
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Published March 22, 2022