Question about index credit spreads that go in-the-money (ITM) and possible adjustments

Question:   If for some unfortunate reason we let a spread expire in the money, will the broker PUT the index shares to us, or because of the nature of the spread, will they only take the entire Maintenance? 

Answer:   In a very rare occasion that we get stuck with ITM credit spreads, we will usually roll them and keep them alive….and eventually get 50% to 70% of our money back.   Unfortunately, and fortunately, I’ve become an expert on rolling because some of my spreads went ITM during the Oct 2008 crash, and after rolling them I got back 65% of my maintenance.   Not bad for a total melt-down.  (Just as a side note, most credit spread traders, including editor-in–chief’s from other credit spread newsletters don’t have experience in rolling because most just throw in the towel and let their subscribers take a total loss.  I personally hate to lose money and will fight to the end to get back at least some of my money) 

Answering your question specifically, if some of our spreads went ITM and we didn’t want to roll them but just let them expire, the credit spread on the RUT and SPX (classified as broad based indexes) are cash settled, so cash would be withdrawn from our account.   If the spread went completely ITM and we let it expire, we would lose all of our risk capital, which is the required maintenance less the premium collected.

Per options on the SPY and IWM (which are ETFs that track at 1/10th the value of the S&P 500 and Russell 2000 indexes, respectively) the ETF shares would be PUT to us where we have to buy the shares at the strike price and the shares would be deposited into our account.

Again, in general with this situation, and this is only for the emergency case where the stock market crashes 12% or more in just a few days and we get stuck with ITM bull put spreads, we will roll our spreads month to month and there is a very good chance we’ll get back at least half of our money, and more like 60% to 70%.

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