How Does Greece Affect the US Economy?

Greece in and of itself does not directly do much business with the United States. Greece does not have manufacturers that compete with the US, such as S. Korea, China, and Germany have. Greece does, however, greatly impact the European Union not only because of the size of its economy but more importantly due to the thought of a collapsing EU. The EU (European Union) was created in 1993 and has 28 member states. If Greece exits, it will raise the spectre of other economically weak countries like Italy and Spain leaving – this will shatter the Euro and send investors running for the hills. It will make the US dollar much stronger which will hurt US exports, which in turn will affect US international companies negatively. It will also hurt US tourism as it will be much more expensive for Europeans to visit the United States.

The thought of a collapsing economy and certainly the fact that Greece has stopped people from withdrawing their money from their own bank accounts may have a ripple effect across other countries in Europe and possibly the world. The 2% drop in the Dow Jones on Monday and the 2.5% drop in the Nasdaq does not bode well for an actual Grexit (The new term used to describe Greece’s exit from the Eurozone). Stock markets that are already priced too high in terms of price earnings ratio will feel more pressure to correct themselves. A falling stock market means less market capitalization in companies which is used to fund their operations, which may in turn lead to job losses. The stock crash of 1929 led the way for the Great Depression in the United States, which is an extreme example of what happens when a stock market crashes.

If a stock market crashes then confidence is lost, and the likelihood of new jobs is dampened.

 

Reading the above you might think it’s time to head for the hills, but I think that a more important and less pronounced threat is the United States debt and trade deficit which will not be helped by a European crisis. Ways to protect yourself include but are not limited to:

  • Shifting out of stocks and into cash, whose value will most likely increase relative to the rest of the world unless the Federal Reserve doesn’t increase interest rates and comes out with another stimulus package
  • Making sure that your portfolio does not include European investments

Of course, these protective measures may limit your upside potential, but will most definitely defend you against a downside. If you’re courageous enough, you can always short individual stocks. Please read my disclaimer below and have a nice day.

Is The Bear Here?

Is the bear here? Have six years of solid yields in the stock market going to be wiped away by a massive correction? Should you be worried?

I have no idea, but I’m prepared to a certain extent whether or not a bear yields its ugly face. You can do the same, as long as you are approved for options trading.

 

Strategy #1: Make sure you have put options covering or exceeding the amount of shares you have in companies – for example if you are holding 100 shares of Apple which is worth around $106.25 after falling almost 7% in the past five days, you should hold at least one put option of Apple. The strike price for the put option is where a lot of the magic comes into play, as if you buy a put option with a strike price above Apple’s current market value you are making a very conservative play that will be handsomely rewarded if Apple stock price falls but costs a moderate amount more than an option with a strike price around $100 for example.

In my real-price example I will use the March 20th, 2015 expiration date. The Put option with strike price of $110 (above the market price of AAPL which is $106.25) costs $850. The put option for $100 costs $370. The difference is $480, which is less than the difference in share price for a given options “basket” which is $625. That means that It makes more sense to buy the more expensive put option if the stock falls, because even if it falls past the lower strike price you will be making more money.

Let’s say Apple falls to $90 per share by March 20th – with the more expensive put option you make $20 per share in your basket minus the commission which comes out to a profit of $1150. If you had purchased the cheaper lower strike price option you would make $630. Of course you stand to lose more if Apple goes up by March with the first option, which is why options being supported by a long ownership of Apple makes sense.

Strategy #2: Short the stock market. Sell  shares of a company you don’t own with the intent of buying them back later at a lower price. This is a highly risky strategy as shorting a stock makes you liable to pay any dividends they issue from your account and without a call option to secure the short position the loss potential is astronomical. One company that is heavily shorted is Herbalife Ltd., which some hedge fund managers consider to be a pyramid scheme soon to be busted by the government. If you short the stock market you will make money in a bear market.

Strategy #3: Sell all of your stocks and invest in corporate bonds or bank CDs. This is sort of like giving up on high yield investing, find a bond that suits your risk level or go with a municipal bond that may offer tax savings at the state level. Even more risk averse you can put money into T-Bills, which is what countries like China have done to protect the value of their huge cash surplus.