Buy-write describes a hedging strategy in which a security is simultaneously bought and call options are written for the same security. Options are considered to be extremely risky, and used with caution and professional advice.
A recent study at the Center for International Securities and Derivatives Markets at the University of Massachusetts’ Isenberg School of Management determined that a buy-write strategy consistently improved risk-adjusted performance over a ten-year period (Jan. 18, 1996 to Nov. 16, 2006).
The study compared the Russell 2000 Index with one-month on-the-money buy-write strategy as well as a 2% out-of-the-money strategy and a 2% in-the money strategy.
The index overall performed better than the buy-write strategies over the ten-year period, returning 10.67% annualized, while the buy-write strategies performed similarly on a risk-adjusted basis, particularly the on-the money strategy, ranging from 9.21% (ATM) to 10.60% annualized (OTM).
During the unfavorable market conditions (January 1996-Febryary 2003), however, the buy-write strategies handily outperformed the index.
Significantly, the buy-write strategy lowered volatility enough to show that the strategy can outperform the index by neutralizing the effects of market fluctuations, while not sacrificing the gains of an up market.
The study does, however note that returns for the buy-write strategy are less normalized than those of the index, and, therefore, risk measures other than volatility may be more appropriate. Further, the study suggests that a more active approach, based on valuations and call selection, may significantly boost returns, both absolute and risk-adjusted.
The complete study can be found at the center for Institutional investors at the Options Industry Council.