Earnings Season – To Trade or Not to Trade?

Earnings season is upon us, and I know many of our traders will be trading it! As you probably know, earnings trades can be more unpredictable than normal. So how do our traders do it? They minimize their risk and aim for high probability setups using their unique combinations of analysis, strategies and trades. In general, they analyze prior earnings moves, combined with their individual technical analysis methods, and intuition from years of experience to trade this season.

John, Henry, Bruce and Chris actively trade earnings season. Neil and Carolyn prefer to stay away from earnings. The key, as always, is figuring out what works for you with some help and guidance from our experts along the way. Earnings can be daunting – but making plays for earnings is the same as playing setups during any other time of the year. You just need a high probability setup that is backed analysis, and a plan to enter and exit your trade.

There are three different ways to play earnings, and you’ll notice our traders trade them in slightly different ways, while looking at similar points to make their decisions. You can make a play in anticipation of the announcement, hold through the announcement, or play price action after the announcement has been made. Check out this summary to get an idea of how they make their bets, and tune in to their live sessions to see how they place these trades real time!


John loves the opportunities that come around four times per year with each earnings season, and he has specific strategies that he utilizes during this time based on patterns he’s learned overtime.

John’s technical analysis tools:

* Overall Trend – He goes into earnings trades with the overall view that hedge funds are smart, if a company is doing well, hedge funds know it and buy it going into earnings.

* Chart Patterns- John is all about using past patterns and results to raise his probabilities to play future setups.

* IV Percentile – He places high importance on IV values because he loves the vol crush.

* Prior Earnings Announcement– What does the stock’s average move around earnings look like? Has it been all over the map, or largely statistically similar?

* Expected Move – What is the expected move? Has the stock stayed within it’s expected earnings move before?

* Options Activity – Open interest and volume.

Pre-Earnings Play (selling before the announcement): He likes to play the IV rise into earnings on strong stocks, going into earnings. He likes to use long calls to make this play.

Pre-Earnings (holding through announcement) – John likes to utilize ATM call or put credit spreads after he’s made his judgement call on which direction he believes the earnings report will take price action. He does this to get a 1:1 risk/reward ratio. These trades are risky because it can easily go to a max loss if you’re wrong on direction, but by defining your risk and having caution with your position size, this is how you mitigate the play.

Post-Earnings Play – John’s favorite earnings trade is the after earnings setup. If a stock moves about 2 times the market-maker expected move, he expects the stock to continue grinding higher over the next 4-6 days. As such, buying calls or selling put credit spreads is the way he plays this.


Bruce is a fan of earnings, because as he states, he can get three solid trades out of a single stock that are all very different. He is much more of a long-distance hitter and he looks for earnings traders probably 4-5 weeks out, going through the announcement and holding after-earnings plays for another 5 weeks after the announcement. For the most part, it’s all about the volatility.

Bruce’s Technical Analysis Tools:

1. Volatility – He’s looking for both high and low volatility, and where we are at currently based on the previous high and low. He especially compares implied volatility to historical volatility.

2. Prior Earnings Announcements – Bruce likes to go back 1-3 years in time to compare earnings history.

3. Overall Market View – Is the overall sentiment of the market trending higher or lower?

4. Overall Stock Trend – Is the trend up or down?

5. Options Activity – pick a direction, put/call ratio, volume and open interest

6. The Greeks – The Greeks can tell you everything about where you are and where you’re going in a trade.

7. Expected Move – Only important going into the week of earnings

Pre-Earnings Play (selling before the announcement): – This is all about catching the volatility run into earnings. He uses his favorite strategies, calendars, diagonals and butterflies to make his play.

Pre-Earnings (Holding through announcement) – Bruce likes to play the vol crush with a strategically placed butterfly or a credit spread.

Post-Earnings Play – This is a completely different play because now you know the reaction to the announcement, you have the vol crush, and you’re able to reload on your positions. At this point, he will utilize various strategies that could include long calls, diagonals or butterflies.

Be on the lookout for Bruce’s future earnings class so you can learn these strategies live! (Class date not yet scheduled.)


“When you’re trading earnings, you always have to remember that all of these trades could go to zero tomorrow. Trade small, trade often, and try to keep your wits about you.”

Henry likes to play earnings that come out after market close, and typically places his trades right before market close.

His technical analysis tools consist of:

* Overall Market Sentiment – Henry likes to take trades going in the direction of the overall market trend to choose the highest probability setups.

* Price Action and Chart Patterns – When making his trades, Henry always keeps in mind the overall chart pattern on larger timeframes.

* Moving Averages – Where is price in relation to moving averages? This is a great indicator of the strength of the trend.

* Expected Move – What is the predicted expected move, especially in relation to the support and resistance from voodoo lines and targets based on Fibonacci extensions.

* Prior Earnings Announcements – How has the stock reacted to earnings before the past few times?

* Voodoo Lines – Henry likes to keep in mind where major levels of support and resistance lie.

* Fibonacci Extension Targets – How does this line up with expected moves?

* IV Percentile – When selling premium, IV is considered to look for a vol crush.

Pre-Earnings Play (selling before the announcement): He likes to play the IV rise into earnings on strong stocks, going into earnings. He either buys calls, straddles or strangles to bet on the price of the options rising along with the price of the stock, into the announcement. This play depends on whether you’re playing direction and volatility, or purely volatility.

Pre-Earnings Play (Holding through announcement) – Risk/reward scenarios are always at the forefront of his mind when making earnings plays. He likes trading both directionally on earnings plays and neutral, utilizing most frequently butterflies,

unbalanced butterflies for a credit, or selling ATM spreads or iron flies. These strategies maximize your reward, while keeping your risk in check.


“We make more money, reacting the morning of earnings, or reacting after earnings. You don’t have to do pre-earnings announcement trades and hold through the event. If I don’t find any good ones, I won’t trade it. So, don’t have the urge to participate in every day of earnings.”

Chris does extensive research when looking for earnings candidates (and always), starting with a large number of stocks, and pairs them down until he finds a few good ones. He starts with the Earnings Calendar on Briefing.com and goes from there. What parameters does he use to find his favorites?

* Overall Market Direction – He always keep in mind major support and resistance areas in the $SPX as well as the daily MACD when deciding to take earnings plays or not? This week, since we are at resistance in the $SPX and the daily MACD is overbought you’ll concentrate solely on earnings ideas.

* Options Activity – Volume and open interest, as well as information in the time and sales can give a lot of tells. This is most important in the last half hour of the day, before earnings is announced.

* Support and Resistance – He likes to place neutral butterflies in the area between support and resistance, while ignoring plays that don’t have obvious areas.

* Companion Stocks (and their reaction to earnings) – If $AMEX comes out with great earnings, he wouldn’t short Visa.

* Takeover Rumors – A stock in the news tends to have muted earnings moves.

* Prior Earnings Announcements – Noting how the stock has reacted in previous announcements is important to consider in how it could act this time.

* Previous Option Activity – Analyzing options activity right before earnings can give you a heads up if someone knows something. For example, there were huge put buyers in $IBM right before the announcement and down she went.

Pre-Earnings Trade (Exiting before the Announcement) – Or, Chris likes to make plays going into earnings. For example, this season, he shorted $SLCA because of its weak pattern going into earnings for a steady profit.

Pre-Earnings Trade (Holding through Announcement) – When he decides to hold a trade through an earnings announcement, it’s generally a neutral call or put butterflies placed directly before the closing bell for announcements for that evening or the next morning. He looks for candidates that have a high probability of staying within their expected move range and support and resistance zones. These trades have limited risk, with an excellent risk/reward scenario – always keeping in mind your position size.

Post-Earnings Trade – When Chris plays a stock after its earnings are announced, he uses his technical analysis skills to jump on the ride to gain quick profits after the announcement.

What do I think? When I was a new trader, I considered it to be a gamble. My first few earnings seasons as a trader, I merely sat back and watched. After a while, I wanted a piece of the action. I saw the strategies that the traders used, figured out what fit my risk/reward parameters and tolerance, and started employing them myself. Now, I like trading earnings. I just always keep in mind that because of their unpredictable nature, I keep my position sizes smaller than usual, and spread my risk over various companies and trading days.

I hope this helped make earnings a bit less daunting and I hope to see you at our Live Trading Mentorship in Austin this June!

Early-bird discount ends this Sunday! www.simpleroptions.com/austin 

PS. If you call the office and mention you heard about this from Danielle, they’ll be sure to hook you up with an additional discount and some really cool bonuses!

Danielle Shay

Danielle Shay

Danielle got into options trading after being introduced to Simpler Options by her father several years ago when she needed a career change. She was determined to become a trader so she could work from home with her infant son, make money on her own terms and learn a skill that will last a lifetime. Trading was a rough road in the beginning, but with a lot of studying and hard work, she’s now exactly where she wants to be. She’s a former teacher and translator, having taught elementary school in Costa Rica, and ESL to refugee women in the US, and various youth programs. Teaching and helping others is her passion, and now she’s turned her attention to helping aspiring traders learn this amazing skill.

5 thoughts on “Earnings Season – To Trade or Not to Trade?

  1. Hi Danielle,
    This read is helpful. I was in the all day trading room with JC yesterday and I am using the Tripple and expected move tool. I have a trade I want to put on but want to run it by you to see if I am executing what I want to do. 603-496-4355.
    Joe Drinon

  2. Danielle,

    You are an excellent teacher and clarified my question very well. Thank you.

Comments are closed.