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现在入市晚不晚?

(2009-03-31 12:40:34)
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财经

分类: 财经
国股市这两周的上涨幅度是1938年以来从未有过的,这时,我突然收到投资者发信来问:现在是不是太晚了?

哼,两周前我直截了当地让他们买进的时候,这些人在哪儿呢?如果他们依照我数年来在《投资之我见》(Common Sense)栏目里多次介绍的那些策略行事,在目前标普500指数比近期低点高出17%的情况下,他们应该考虑的是卖出,而不是买入。他们应该低买高卖,这是常规做法的基本要义。

我希望他们能吸取重大教训。不过,对这些迟到的家伙,我也有些建议。

当然啦,这波上升行情是否会继续存在不确定性。就我来看,这波行情已经走完。尽管市场对财政部长盖特纳(Timothy Geithner)公布的有毒资产清理计划细节一开始很有热情,不过,打击全球经济的系统性问题似乎并未在过去两周内得到解决。(尽管如此,许多指责盖特纳的人应该向他道歉。)没有人知道市场短期会何去何从,记住这一点总是很有用。虽然许多投资者很渴望确定性,但他们在投资股票的时候从来没有感到过很确定。我们所能知道的是,随着时间的推移,在各类投资品种中,股票能实现的收益最高。

从这个角度来看,即使经过近期上涨之后,股票似乎仍有吸引力。截至本周,它们仍比2007年10月创下的高点低了50%还多。有朝一日,股市指数将再度创新新高,回过头来看,现在的道指8,000点、标普500 800点、纳斯达克综合指数1,550点都还是便宜的。

即便如此,今天的市场风险仍比两周前更大,当时,股市似乎在消化灾难的影响,华尔街处于我所见过的最悲凉的气氛之中。降低风险的一个办法是购买股票的同时卖出该股的看涨期权。现在这一策略尤其值得考虑,因为波动性仍然很高,这意味着投资者可以得到较高的期权费。这一手法能降低股票的实际买入价,就像让时钟回到当初股价比较便宜的时候。不过,这种方法也有代价,那就是投资者必须愿意收益受到限制。

在具体解释这一手法具体怎么操作之前,我应该强调,这是一种降低风险而不是提高风险的保守策略。每次我提到期权的时候有些人就会感到惊慌,似乎这是赌场里的某种赌局。一些期权策略的确风险很高,但我从未推荐过这类策略。

记得2月份的时候,我第一次推荐买进亚马逊(Amazon.com)的股票,当时价格是每股62美元。我觉得价格有点高了,于是我等到大约两周前买进,那时该股略降至60美元。之后就像我文章中写的那样,我仍认为亚马逊的价格已经到位了,于是在60美元买进该股,并同时卖出该股的看涨期权(所谓看涨期权,即在特定日期以某个特定价格买入该股的权力)。我以每股4.50美元价格卖出了该股7月份每股80美元的看涨期权,也就是说,如果到7月份期权到期的时候该股股价在80美元或更高,我就可以一手交割股票,一手拿到每股80美元的现金。同时我还保留出售期权时得到的每股4.5美元。

也可以这样来看:我持有该股的净价格是每股55.50美元(60美元减去4.5美元)。如果我7月份以每股80美元交割股票,我的利得是24.5美元。这相当于5个月获得了44%的回报率。那么我为此放弃的是什么?是回报高于44%的机会。但在如今的形势下,我不会太贪婪。这么短的时间能实现44%的回报我已经非常开心,折算成年率的话接近150%呢。到这周亚马逊的股价升到了73美元左右,而7月/80美元期权的价格是7.10美元。如果你按这些价格买进该股、卖出期权,你的净价是65.90美元。这个价格与两周前我劝读者买进股票时亚马逊的股价差不多。就像我说的,这就像将时钟拨回到当初你应该买进的那个时候。如果你到7月份的时候必须按每股80美元交割股票,那么你还可以赚14.10美元,收益率是21%。怎么样,也不算差吧?

你可以对任何一只有期权的股票如此操作。你还可以从一系列行权价格和到期日中做选择,具体取决于你的风险承受意愿。你可以做点计算;潜在回报率越高,风险也越大。如果亚马逊或你买的其他任何股票到期的价格低于行权价,你将继续拥有这些股票,但你持有的价格将比你当初直接买进时的价格有所降低。我对这样的结果会觉得满意,因为我仍然认为亚马逊是一个不错的长期投资。我只对你愿意长期持有的股票推荐这种操作手法。

所以,如果你觉得你错过了前不久的上涨行情,别灰心。现在加入进来还不算太晚。
With stocks in their sharpest two-week rally since 1938, I'm suddenly hearing from investors who want to know: Is it too late?

Where were they two weeks ago, when I explicitly urged them to buy? If they'd been following the Common Sense system, which I've outlined repeatedly over the years, they'd be thinking of selling, not buying, now that the S&P 500-stock index is 17% above its recent lows. They'd be selling higher after buying lower, which is the essence of the Common Sense approach.

I hope they've learned an important lesson. Nonetheless, I have a strategy for these latecomers.

There is, of course, no certainty that the rally will continue. For all I know, it's already run its course. Despite initial enthusiasm over details of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's toxic-asset plan, it isn't as if the systemic problems afflicting the global economy have been solved in the past two weeks. (Nonetheless, plenty of Geithner-bashers owe him an apology.) It's always useful to remember that no one can know where the market is headed in the short term. Though many investors long for it, they can never have the comfort of certainty when investing in stocks. All we know for sure is that over time, stocks have yielded the highest returns among investment classes.

Viewed from that perspective, stocks appear attractive even after the recent run-up. As of this week, they were still more than 50% off the highs reached in October 2007. Someday the averages will again hit new highs, and by then, the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 8000, the S&P 500 at 800, and the Nasdaq Composite at 1550 will look like stocks were bargains.

Even so, there's a lot more risk in the market today than there was two weeks ago, when stocks seemed priced for catastrophe and the mood on Wall Street was as bleak as I've ever experienced. One way to reduce that risk is to buy stocks now but also sell calls on those stocks, a strategy known as selling covered calls. It's especially attractive now since volatility remains high, which means investors can sell calls for a rich premium. This strategy has the effect of lowering the purchase price -- in effect, turning back the clock to a time when stocks were cheaper. Yes, there is a price to be paid: Investors must be willing to cap their gains.

Before showing exactly how this works, I should stress that this is a conservative strategy that reduces risk rather than heightens it. Some people panic every time I mention options, as if it were one step from casino gambling. Some options strategies are high risk, but none that I'd ever recommend.

Recall that in February I first recommended buying Amazon.com stock, then selling for around $62. I thought the price was a little rich then, so I waited to buy until a little over two weeks ago, when the stock had dropped modestly to $60. As I reported then, I still thought Amazon was fully priced, so I bought the stock at $60 and simultaneously sold calls, which conveys the right to buy those shares at a specified price for a specific time period. (Selling a call is the opposite of buying one.) I sold the July 80 calls for $4.50 each. That means that if Amazon shares are trading at $80 or above when the options expire in July, I will deliver the shares and collect $80 for each. I will also keep the $4.50 I got for selling the calls.

Here's another way of looking at it: My net price for the shares was $55.50 ($60 minus $4.50). If I have to deliver the shares in July for $80, my gain will be $24.50. That's a 44% return in five months. What did I give up in return? Anything above 44%. But in this environment I'm not going to be greedy. I'll be delighted with a 44% return in such a short time, which is nearly 150% annualized. By this week Amazon had jumped to about $73, and the July 80 calls were $7.10. So if you buy the stock and sell the call at those prices, your net price is $65.90 a share. That's about where Amazon was trading two weeks ago when I urged readers to buy stocks. As I said, it's like turning back the clock to the time you should have been buying. If you have to deliver the shares for $80 in July, your gain will be $14.10, or 21%. How bad is that?

You can do this with any stock that has options. You also can choose from an array of strike prices and expiration dates depending on your appetite for risk. You can do the math; the higher the potential return, the greater the risk. And if Amazon or whatever stock you buy isn't trading at or above the strike price when the options expire, you'll still own the shares, but at a lower cost than if you had just bought them outright. That outcome would be fine with me, since I continue to believe Amazon is a good long-term investment. I only recommend this approach for stocks you'd be happy to own for the long term.

So if you feel you missed the recent rally, don't despair. It isn't too late to join the party.

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