Hedging Strategies Through Options By Hussman

I have been contemplating how I can hedge my portfolio with less risk. I decided to take a look at how Hussman mutual fund managers do it. Using from their semi-annual report, I found out that they had the following outstanding option positions:
Effectivley Long: Call on 10000 S&P 500 index option, expiring 2/17/07 at $1420 strike price.

    Effectively Short:

  1. Put on 8000 Russell 2000 index option, expiring 03/17/07 at $780.
  2. Put on 10000 S&P 500 index option, expiring 03/17/07 at $1330.
  3. Put on 6000 S&P 500 index option, expiring 03/17/07 at $1400.
  4. Sold Call on 8000 Russel 2000 index option, expiring 03/17/07 at $700.
  5. Sold Call on 6000 S&P 500 index option, expiring 03/17/07 at $1250.
  6. Sold Call on 10000 S&P 500 index option, expiring 03/17/07 at $1330.

Whether Hussman had gains or losses from these trades, it really depends on how well he timed the market. First, I’m just going to study the hedging strategy these options provide to his portfolio.

His long position basically cancel out short position #2, without regard to the difference in the calendar dates. The rest of positions, only Put can provide full downside protection. Selling calls only allow your downside protection to the strike price. The thing to note here is that at the time when this report is out (12/31/06 I supposed), the price for S&P 500 was at 1418.30, and Russell 2000 was at 787.66. If you take a look at the calls that were sold, all of them were deep in the money. When deep-in-the-money calls are sold, it basically amounts to short-selling with less time premium (but more downside protection to the strike price). The puts that were purchased were mostly at-the-money. With this combination of calls & puts, Hussman is able to provide a downside protection from both of his calls & puts, assuming that S&P 500 stays above 1250/1330, and Russell 2000 stays above 700. The total hedging power assuming that S&P 500 stays above 1330 would be roughly (6000 + 6000 + 10000) * $100 per contract * S&P 500 value + (8000 + 8000) * $100 per contract * Russell 2000 value = 4.38 billion. (S&P 500 and Russell 2000 values are from 12/31/06). Or 2.96 billion if S&P 500 falls below 1330, but stays above 1250. Since the total NAV is 2.84 billion, and total common stock value is $2.89 billion, Hussman had his portfolio fully hedged.

Now if I look at the actual gain/loss from his positions, his effectively long position lost about $5.8 million, and his puts lost about $5.1 million, while his sold calls lost about $8.8 million. If he has not closed out his hedging positions since 12/31/06, his hedging positions would be losing more money by now since overall the market has moved higher. Obviously, his long stock positions are moving higher too to counter the losses from the hedges. But with a total loss of about $19.7 million, he is able to pretty much fully hedge a portfolio value of $2843 million or 2.843 billion. That’s a loss of about 0.7% (on 12/31/06).

Such hedging strategies definitely provide a very good protection when the market falls. However, because of the hedging, Hussman strategic growth fund has been underperforming the general market in the last 2 to 3 years. Such is the cost of being a market timer when the market does not cooperate with your actions.

In the next post “The price of a free(?) hedge”, I will look at my own hedging strategies using stock options of calls & puts in a similar fashion that Hussman has done. It’s certainly much easier to study what others do than putting everything in action. One can be so grandiose about the term hedging, but after all, what it really means is selling out in a certain way. Whether this “certain way” is smart or not, the performance will speak for itself.

P.S. By the way, the pricing/cost between options on futures market and options on stock market is similar (or else someone can arbitrate between the two). The only difference in cost may be simply the brokerage commissions.

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