Posts filed under “Options”

Jon Markman: Buffett in Trouble?

I’m not so sure I believe the wild speculation part of this (last para), but I know Jon Markman, and he is a thoughtful and sober guy.

He writes:

Shares of Warren Buffett’s insurance holding company are on the ropes this month, plunging 30% in part because the famed investor dabbled in an area of the market he has long publicly derided: derivatives. And due to a tangled web of financial relationships, they may be taking Goldman Sachs shares down with them.

Investors are concerned about a $37-billion bet that Buffett made last year that U.S. and world equity values would be higher in 15 to 20 years than they were then, when the Dow Jones Industrials were trading around 13,000. Through his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett sold option contracts, known as “naked puts” to an undisclosed group of investors for around $4.85 billion, reportedly using Goldman as broker.

The buyers saw the puts as a type of insurance that would pay off royally if stocks fell over the next decade. They were seen by Buffett as an easy way to pocket a quick $4 billion-plus, which was booked much like an insurance premium, even though he is famous for scoffing at derivatives as “weapons of mass financial destruction.”

But easy money is the worst kind. The problem is that stocks worldwide have gone downhill in a hurry, and with a lot of the sort of volatility that makes put contracts swell in value. And due to accounting rules, this has made Buffett already need to mark down a $6.7 billion loss on the trade even though the trade has another 14 years to work out.

Because of its solid-gold credit rating, Berkshire Hathaway was not required to put up collateral to make this trade. But now rumors are flying on Wall Street that the owners of the contracts have demanded that broker Goldman Sachs put up collateral for the rest of the amount due. Since the value of the trade could be enormous, the collateral demands are said to be very large, and fears that Goldman will struggle to make good on its obligation has panicked shareholders.

Indeed one theory making the rounds this week is that Buffett put $5 billion into Goldman at around $125 per share in September not as an investment but to help provide funds for the collateral.

It is interesting nonetheless . .


Buffett’s huge derivatives bet proves costly
Jon Markman
MSN, Nov 20 2008, 12:48 PM

Category: Derivatives, Markets, Options, Valuation

Revulsion or Lack of Interest?

Andrew Lees of UBS writes: Yesterday’s equity rally was fascinating; not because of the excitement it has caused but because of the sheer lack of interest and belief. Having spoken to half a dozen people this morning about it, without exception no one either bothered to try and explain it or thought anything of it,…Read More

Category: BP Cafe, Markets, Options, Psychology

Good News on Stock Options & AMT

If you received and exercised stock options, and had to pay taxes on the phantom income, I have got some good news for you: Buried in the $700b TARP Bailout is this AMT tax amendment: “Their tax nightmare was created by a provision of the Internal Revenue Code called the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT….Read More

Category: Bailouts, Options, Taxes and Policy, Wages & Income

VIX Slips Below 50

> Who could have predicted that traders would be celebrating the decline of the Chicago Board Options Exchange’s volatility index below the 50 mark? We saw the VIX peak late October, coincident with the worst of the credit freeze and market panic. The VIX closed yesterday at 47.76, down 11%, for the first close below…Read More

Category: Contrary Indicators, Markets, Options, Psychology, Technical Analysis

Look For Expiry Driven Volatility Today

Category: Markets, Options

Intrade Election Update, 9/20/08

Category: Options, Politics

Betting on Bear’s Bust

Category: Options, Psychology, Short Selling, Valuation

Impact of Eliminating Uptick Rule

Category: Options, Technical Analysis, Trading

Options and Monday’s Lows

Category: Markets, Options, Trading

Backdating Options Scorecard

Here’s a nice free feature courtesy of the online  They posted an updated look at more than 120 companies that have come under scrutiny for past stock-option grants. Note: This list contains companies that have disclosed government probes, misdated options, restatements and/or executive departures. Some companies that have undertaken or disclosed internal probes but…Read More

Category: Corporate Management, Earnings, Options