The following is a list of the current base prices of AAPL, GOOG, MSFT and a few others for comparison including a possibly interesting play with HPQ as well followed by various January 2014 calls.
The mathematical dissection of which options have the best value compared to expected volatility I don’t think gives much of an incremental advantage in selection. I’ve chosen for example 100 point increments in the strike prices of similarly priced GOOG and AAPL which demonstrates a bit more expected volatility in Apple than Google.
Apple, Google and Microsoft are in the very unusual situation of having immensely strong technological positions and insane amounts of cash. Hewlett Packard anyone else with a scent of exposure to the PC market (DELL obviously) is also trading at historically low P/E ratios. It is hard to imagine situations outside the more dire macroeconomic scenarios where both of these companies emerge as big losers (though a re-elected Obama administration that steps up taxation and doesn’t enable a repatriation of foreign cash holdings is sufficiently dire for them to wildly appreciate.) The asymetric upside is good growth and increasing P/Es could lead to one or both doubling.
Of the three I would feel most comfortable with GOOG as a buy-and-forget play now which is of course an option. Their market lock in feels strongest with the most innovative (most productive? We’ll see) R&D and promising new fields to come.
One another play would simply be to get NASDAQ 100 calls. The grossly undervalued large caps included the above named as well as CSCO and QCOM add up to approximately 50% of the index, though you get BIDU and WYNN and other plays that are not as salient to the thesis: do you feel lonely in the QQQ, Kraft Foods? There are a number of companies in the index such as Amazon (3.5% of the index and IMHO grossly overvalued) The QQQ closed at 68.16 today; this idea train has already left the station this year but probably plenty of track ahead:
This looks a touch ahead of itself going into a volatile September; still, QQQ Jan 14 LEAPS now:
70 – 5.92
80 – 2.29
90 – 0.63
100 – 0.13
This strategy would have fallen short in companies like Microsoft and Oracle and others in the lost decade of stocks 2002-2012 but as the economy generally picks up and if Europe were to return from the brink would pay off big. For my current positions short S&P if there is a steep downturn in September I would pull the trigger on a strategy such as this.