Weekend Update – December 29, 2013

How do you follow up a year in which the market has advanced nearly 30%? If you look at the historical data the year after a great year such as the one we’ve just had tends to be quite good, too – just not as good. While comparison isn’t really worthwhile, after all, it’s the accumulation of assets that really has meaning from year to year, you can’t help but feel some disappointment when comparisons are made to a stellar year.

As I look at charts I’m struck by how similar so many charts look as the year draws to a close. So many stocks are at or near their highs for the year, making it hard to find any bargains and making it especially hard to find value among well regarded stocks.

From my jaded perspective that sets one up for disappointment, even if the direction is still higher.

Buying at the high isn’t a great strategy, it also tends to set you up for disappointment, but there may not be very many alternatives. Similarly, buying after a significant run higher nay not be a good strategy, but that’s how some are starting the new year as demonstrated by MolyCorp (MCP), a stock that I do own. Shares roared ahead nearly 15% to end the week, reportedly upon the rationale in an article published in Seeking Alpha, that suggested it would be the beneficiary of the “January Effect.”

Based on Molycorp’s performance in 2012, the same expectation could have been made for the January Effect this past year and it did, in fact, last all of six days, but was not preceded by a similar price surge. After that sixth day shares were below where they had ended 2012, which in turn was about 60% lower where the year had started, while this year thus far shares are down a mere 41%.

While I would love to see MolyCorp sustain and even grow that price leap, particularly since I decided not to use it as a strategic tax loss, I have a hard time understanding those that climbed aboard that runaway train late in the process. But that may be exactly the same potential fate awaiting many as the new year is ready to start.

As MolyCorp demonstrated last year, even if you get off to a good start it doesn’t preclude you from flaming out.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum and “PEE” categories this week (see details).

While believing in Santa Claus may be a tall order for anyone reading these pages, believing in the Santa Claus Rally and further believing in the January Rally may be far easier and offer reason to continue looking for investment opportunities. If those traditions do continue there is a certain degree of impunity even at such high levels and so I feel a little less concerned about some of this week’s selections. Due to the shortened trading week’s proportionately lower weekly option premiums I am also looking to use expanded options, where possible and hoping the January Rally continues to at least the tenth of January.

I was all set to purchase Apple (AAPL) last week, thinking that there was no real catalyst in the near term to send shares moving significantly in one direction or another. Then on Sunday came word of the China Mobile deal and shares advanced about 4% the next day and there went my plans to add shares. I mistakenly believed that the China Mobile deal had already been reflected in the share price, particularly since official web sites had heavy handedly starting taking orders for the iPhone before the deal was acknowledged. But even them the rise of 4% seemed relatively subdued, given the potential ability to add to Apple’s fortunes.

The more I look at Apple the more I now see a stock that will continue being a covered option play, just as it was not for most of 2012. I expect its rise to continue and am not deterred by this week’s gain, that was attenuated a bit as the week wore on. If Starbucks (SBUX) can rise effortlessly from $45 to $80, why can’t Apple do the same from $450 to $800?

While I don’t feel a compelling need to own any Apple products, I also don’t get excited about Starbucks’ offerings. Yet, I’ve been waiting too long for its shares to stop their ascent and return to what may have been irrationally low levels. After a small drop of about 4% over the past month that may be the best that I can hope for, at a time when discovering opportunities is increasingly challenging.

I’m currently woefully under-invested in the financial sector and have been waiting for a while to add correct that situation. However, that hasn’t been a terribly easy thing to do as financials climb higher and may be poised to add even more as interest rates begin their climb. Morgan Stanley (MS) has certainly had a transformation over the past two years and has seen its share price more than double and is near its yearly high. The latter would tend to have me shy away from shares. However, as the year begins I think the sector will get a boost if the overall market stays true to form and interest rates continue tes
ting the 3% level. Any interest I may have in Morgan Stanley are fueled by short term considerations only, as earnings are announced on the final day of the monthly option expiration.

I jumped the gun a bit by purchasing Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) last Friday, hoping to capture a bit more in premium as both last week and this week are short trading weeks and as a result have even lower option premiums. Shares also go ex-dividend before New Years and my hope was either for quick assignment and re-investment or capturing both dividend and premium, while getting a portion of the dividend related reduction in share price underwritten by the option buyer. I had been considering the purchase of shares for a couple of weeks, but unfortunately couldn’t find the reason to do so. While within striking distance of its yearly high, the upcoming dividend and premium offset some of the concerns, especially going into the New Year.

I went from being an avid share holder of Anadarko (APC) to a disappointed one as word came out of a large judgment in a nearly decade old legal case involving a company that Anadarko had purchased. While the size of that judgment may still be reduced, it appears that the uncertainty associated with the issue has now been removed. Of course, for most people, before the judgment was announced the entire issue had already been forgotten, When looking for a difficult to find bargain, Anadarko may be the poster child for 2014. Now that shares seem to have stabilized I’m ready to consider adding more shares in an attempt to sacrifice them for their premiums and help to whittle down the paper losses on some older shares.

Marathon Oil (MRO) isn’t as exciting as Anadarko has made itself, but it, too, is a company that I look forward to owning after some price retracements. Now offering weekly and expanded weekly options it has become more appealing to me as I increasingly try to stagger expiration dates in order to not be held hostage by a sudden and sizeable market move and having too many eggs in a single basket. Marathon Oil is down approximately 5% from its recent high, which is about half the size of its largest retracements. While there may be some more downside potential the shorter term time commitment when considering the sale of options adds greater flexibility.

EMC Corporation (EMC) also isn’t terribly exciting, certainly less so after its spin-off of VMWare (VMW) several years ago. But in the world of covered call selling “exciting” is unnecessary. Boring and predictable is far more profitable, as long as there are some occasional hiccoughs along the way. EMC is one of those companies that does have those occasional hiccoughs, often courtesy of VMWare, that helps it to continue having an acceptable option premium, despite its fairly steady share performance. Additionally, while its dividend is also not terribly exciting, it does go ex-dividend the following week. For those considering the use of a monthly option the ROI can potentially be bumped up a bit, as a result.

Finally, LuLuLemon Athletica (LULU) is now two weeks post announcing its CEO succession and its disappointing earnings. Since then it has treaded water and that makes it an appealing consideration. Similar to last week’s discussion of Cree (CREE), if I purchase shares of LuLuLemon, I may not immediately write calls or may only do so on a portion of my shares, as I believe the next move will be decidedly higher. However, even if LuLuLemon continues to tread water it can be a very profitable holding for those that do write call options on their shares and then have the opportunity to repeatedly rollover from week to week while the stock is deciding what to do with its life.

Traditional Stocks: Anadarko, Apple, EMC Corp., Marathon Oil, Starbucks

Momentum Stocks: LuLuLemon Athletica, Morgan Stanley

Double Dip Dividend: Bristol Myers Squibb (ex-div 12/31)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

Remember, these are just guidelines for the coming week. The above selections may become actionable, most often coupling a share purchase with call option sales or the sale of covered put contracts, in adjustment to and consideration of market movements. The overriding objective is to create a healthy income stream for the week with reduction of trading risk.

Weekend Update – December 22, 2013

With word this week of the passing of a famedend of the worldprophet, it may be logical to wonderwhat now?”

Is there life after the destruction of the world is canceled?

As far as we know even after the most dire of events there is a future yet to come, but like anything in the future it can never be known, even if clues abound, but that won’t stop the predictions

The overwhelming opinion whenever thought of the end of Quantitative Easing was considered was negative, as it alone was thought to be propping up the stock market. As with those preparing for earthly catastrophe, investors of that belief took the opportunity to sell positions, because as we all know in the postapocalyptic world, cash is king.

But the clarion call announcing the coming of the dreaded taper finally came and it turns out not to be the end of the world. However, as opposed to that now deceased selfanointed prophet, after two recent failed predictions of the earth’s destruction, he decided to get out of the prophesy business. That’s not likely to be the case for those who prophesied market doom in the event that the Federal Reserve punch bowl was depleted.

Those predictions will keep coming.



I don’t know what challenges are on the near term horizon but I’m hopeful that there will be a sea of calm for a while, as the DJIA is again at an all time high. Strictly speaking there is still tim
e
for a Santa Claus Rally this week, although Ben Bernanke may have provided the rally last week, helping the market recover from the depths of a less than 2% decline.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum andPEEcategories this week (see details).

I don’t really know what the next catalyst will be to propel shares of Apple (AAPL) higher, even as there are renewed calls for $700. Ever since Carl Icahn entered into the equation shares have fared very nicely, despite having given up some of those gains over the past few days. What I do know is that for those that bought shares at their price peak the last day to have qualified for short term capital losses was nearly 3 months ago. At that time a sale would have resulted in a loss of about $225. However, another way to look at it is that the sale afforded as much as a nearly $90 tax credit for some investors on the Federal side alone. Adding that credit to the sale price brings shares above Friday’s closing price. To a large degree selling pressure has been greatly relieved going forward. That’s good enough for me to consider adding shares going into the final week’s of trading for the year, particularly since the last three quarters have predictably seen a rise in shares in the 6 weeks prior to its exdividend date.

Annaly Mortgage (NLY) is one of the first companies I bought when starting to manage my own portfolio, but I haven’t owned shares in more than 5 years. I don’t think I ever really understood the strategy behind Annaly, as I’ve never really understood bonds, other than to know that bond traders are probably the smartest of all, even if performance doesn’t always indicate that to be the case. For most, the appeal of Annaly has been its dividend, which was just reduced, as its stock price has fallen on hard times in the year since the passing of its cofounder and CEO.

Although I don’t spend too much time looking at charts, for those that follow MACD as an indicator, Annaly’s share price crossed over the signal line, providing a bullish signal. For me, the signal is this week’s dividend, some share price stability and an option premium enhancing the dividend. Less leveraged and more hedged than in the past this may be a good time to begin interest in Annaly once again, despite a rising rate environment.

As long as I’m not going to spend too much time looking at charts, I may as well mention that Cree (CREE) did catch my attention, as it too crossed over the MACD signal line. It’s price chart is also interesting as it demonstrates some significant and sudden moves up and down over the past few months. I think that the stock is poised for a sharp move higher and this may be one of those infrequent occasions that I don’t immediately sell call options on shares, or may not cover all shares. Its lighting products are increasingly capturing aisle space and newspaper mention as incandescent bulbs fade away.

Despite still owning a much more expensive lot of Walter Energy (WLT), it has become a favorite stock of late as it has regularly bounced higher and then dropped lower, helping to create attractive option premiums at a time when those are rare finds. Of course, with those premiums comes significant risk. For those that have the tolerance it’s shares can be rewarding, but I would temper some of the reward by greatly reducing the risk by using deeper in the money strike prices and short term contracts, although expanded contracts may actually level out some of the day to day risk and still provide a meaningful premium.

Target (TGT) hasn’t recovered quite as quickly from its recent earnings drop as many, including me, believed would be the case. A strong day Wednesday, undoubtedly buoyed by the postFOMC buying hysteria, was quickly quelled the following day on news of Target customers having their credit card security breached. What I find encouraging is how quickly Target has responded and how they are using the incident as an excuse for an additional 10% discount in the days before Christmas, hoping to lure even more shoppers for price cuts that probably would have been offered even without the security breach.

A subtopic this week is food as represented by YUM Brands (YUM), Campbell Soup (CPB), Whole Foods (WFM) and Darden Restaurants (DRI).

YUM Brands has continued to show
great
resilience to news, which invariably is greeted with negative reactions that prove to have been short sighted. Whatever the obstacle or whatever the Chinacentric thesis, YUM has shown that once people get a taste for fast food it’s really difficult to break the addiction. Short of widespread public health outbreaks in China, there are few barriers to performance. YUM Brands, besides offering a nice option premium and going exdividend later in the month, has continued seeing its beta fall and may offer less risk than before if facing a general market decline.

Whole Foods (WFM) which had been on a one way upward climb since its shares split has come down about 5% since its recent earnings report. It is embarking on a more mainstream expansion strategy while also reenforcing its perceived commitment to a higher standard, as it announced plans to remove a very popular yogurt brand from its stores. While the exit of Jim Chanos from a long position last month may be a signal to some, the performances of stocks he sold and bought since the filing date has been mixed, at best. I’ve grown somewhat tired of waiting for shares to retreat and now think that its recent earnings related drop may be all in store, especially in an otherwise flat or rising market. Like a number of other positions this week its MACD indicates a recent buy signal which may complement an otherwise weak option premium and dividend.

Campbell Soup (CPB) may be an anachronism. Once ubiquitous in households, a panoply of alternatives, including those perceived t
o
be more consistent with healthy lifestyles are available and come without cobwebs. On the positive side of the ledger Campbell has an appealing dividend right after New Years, offers an attractive option premium, low beta and it too, has recently crossed the MACD signal line. Since you don’t have to buy the product to qualify for share ownership

Finally, Among the conversations these past weeks has been talk of the worst CEO of 2013. While Clarence Otis of Darden Restaurants. was only a runner up he has fallen a long way in recent years. Shares moved up nicely several months ago when news of an activist investor’s interest became known. Shares did less well after announcing disappointing earnings at its flagship Red Lobster and Olive Garden units. However, under activist pressure Darden plans to spin off its low growth properties. Their plan may not be enough to satisfy the activists and Darden may need to explore more measures, including exploiting its real estate holdings. The good news is that Darden goes exdividend during the January 2014 cycle and appears to be able to maintain that dividend.

Traditional Stocks: Apple, Campbell Soup, Darden Restaurants, Target, Whole Foods

Momentum Stocks: Cree, Walter Energy, Yum Brands

Double Dip Dividend: Annaly Mortgage (exdiv 12/27)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

Remember, these are just guidelines for the coming week. The above selections may become actionable, most often coupling a share purchase with call option sales or the sale o
f
covered put contracts, in adjustment to and consideration of market movements. The overriding objective is to create a healthy income stream for the week with reduction of trading risk.

Weekend Update – December 15, 2013

People tend to have very strong feelings about entitlements.

Prior to this week there were so many people waiting for the so-called “Santa Claus Rally” that you would have thought that it was considered to be an entitlement.

After the week we’ve just had you can probably add it to the other market axioms that haven’t really worked out this year. If anything, so far it appears that you should have taken your vacation right now along with Santa Claus, who must have not realized that his vacation conflicted with the scheduled rally. You also should probably not taken the wizened advice to vacation months ago when the traditional prevailing attitude implored you to “sell in May and go away.”

The past week saw the S&P 500 drop 1.7% to a closing level not seen in a 22 trading sessions. This week’s drop places us a full 1.8% below the recent record high. Yet, like during a number of other smallish declines in 2013, this one is also being warily eyed as being the precursor to the long overdue, but healthy, 10% decline. We have simply become so accustomed to advances that even what would ordinarily be viewed as downward blips are hard to accept.

For those that have a hard time dealing with conflict, these are not good times, as the Santa Claus Rally is being threatened by the specter of a correction in the waiting. While there’s still time for the traditional rally it’s hard to know whether Santa Claus factored the thought of an outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman presiding over his final FOMC meeting and holding his final press conference.

Oh, and then there’s also the little matter of possibly announcing the beginning of the taper to Quantitative Easing. Just a week earlier the idea that such an announcement would come in December was considered highly unlikely. Now it seems like a real possibility and not the kind that the markets were altogether comfortable with, even as they expressed comfort with the previous week’s Employment Situation Report.

While I admire Ben Bernanke and believe that he helped to rescue the world’s financial markets, it may not be far fetched to cast him as the “Grinch” who stole the Santa Claus Rally if the markets are taken off guard. Personally, I don’t believe that he will make the decision to begin the tapering, in deference to Janet Yellen, his expected successor, privilege to decide on timing, magnitude and speed.

However, I’m not really willing to commit very much to that belief and will likely exercise the same caution as I did last week.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum and “PEE” categories this week (see details).

Last week was one of my slowest trading weeks in a long time. Even with cash to spend there never seemed to be a signal that price stability would temper downward risk. Moving forward to this week comes the challenge of trying to distinguish between value and value trap, as many of the stocks that I regularly follow are at more appealing prices but may be at at continued risk.

With lots of positions set to expire this week, the greatest likelihood is that whatever new positions I do establish this week will be with the concomitant use of expanded weekly options or even the January 18, 2014 option, rather than options expiring this coming Friday. The options market is certainly expecting some additional fireworks this coming week as option premiums are generally considerably higher than in recent months.

Microsoft (MSFT) is one of those stocks that has come down in the past week, but like so many still has some downside potential. Of its own weight it can easily go down another 3%, but under the burden of a market in correction its next support level is approximately 8% lower. Since the market’s recent high just a few weeks ago, Microsoft has slightly under-performed the market, but it does trade with a low beta, perhaps offering some relative down side protection. As with many other stocks this week its option premium is far more generous than in the recent past making it perhaps more difficult to resist, but with that reward comes the risk.

There’s probably not much reason or value in re-telling the story of Blackberry (BBRY). Most already have an idea of how the story is going to end, but that doesn’t quiet those who dream of a better future. For some, the future is defined by a weekly option contract and Blackberry reports earnings this week. The options market is implying about a 12% move and for the really adventurous the sale of a put with a strike level almost 17% below Friday’s close could yield a weekly ROI of 1.4%. On a note that shouldn’t be construed as being positive, as the market itself appears a bit more tenuous, Blackberry’s own beta has taken a large drop in the past 3 months. The risk, still remains, however.

Although I discussed the possibility of purchasing shares of Joy Global (JOY) in last week’s article after they reported earnings, I didn’t do so, as it fell hostage to my inactivity even after a relatively large price drop. Despite a recovery from the low point of the week, Joy Global, which has been very much a range bound trading stock of late is still in the range that has worked well for covered call sales. The same is a little less so for Caterpillar (CAT) which is approaching the upper end of its range as it has worked its way toward the $87.50 level. However, with even a mild retreat I would consider once again adding shares buoyed a little bit with the knowledge that shares do also go ex-dividend near the end of the January 2014 option cycle.

Citibank (C) was another that I considered purchasing last week and following a small price drop it continues to have some appeal, also having slightly under-performed the S&P 500 in the past three weeks. However, despite its beta having fallen considerably, it is still potentially a stock that could respond far more so than the overall market. Its option premium for an at the money weekly strike is approximately 18% higher than last week, suggesting that the week may be somewhat more risky than of late.

While my shares of Halliburton (HAL) haven’t fared well in the past week, I am looking at reuniting my “evil troika” by considering purchases of both British Petroleum (BP) and Transocean (RIG), which are now also down from their recent highs. Following in a week in which Anadarko (APC) plunged after a bankruptcy court ruling from a nearly decade old case, the “evil troika” is proof that there is life after litigation and after jury awards, fines and clean up costs. While oil and oil services have been volatile of late, both British Petroleum and Transocean share with Microsoft the fact that they have already under-performed the S&P 500 during this latest downturn but have low betas, hopefully offering some relative downside protection in a faltering market. Perhaps even better is that they are beyond the point of significant downward movement emanating from judicial decisions.

Coach (COH) hasn’t been able to garner much respect lately, although there has been some insider buying when others have been disparaging the company. Meanwhile it has been trading in a fairly well defined range of late. It is a stock that I’ve owned eight times during 2013 and regret not having owned more frequently, particularly since it began offering weekly and then expanded options. Like a number of stocks that I’m considering this week, it too is still closer to the upper end of the range than I would normally initiate new positions and wouldn’t mind seeing a little more weakness.

Seagate Technology (STX) may have a higher beta than is warranted to consider at a time that the market may be labile, however it has recently traded well at the $47.50 level and offers an attractive reward for those willing to accept the frequent movements its shares make, even on an intraday basis. My expectation is that If I do consider a trade it would either be the sale of puts before Wednesday’s big events or otherwise waiting for the aftermath and looking at expanded option dates.

Finally, and yet again, it seems as if it may be time to consider a purchase of eBay (EBAY). While I’ll never really lose count of how many times I own a specific stock, going in and out of positions as they are assigned, eBay is just becoming the perfect example of a stock trading within a range. For anyone selling options on eBay, perhaps the best news was its recent downgrade that chided it for trading in a range and further expecting that it would continue range bound. Although you can’t necessarily trade on the basis of the absolute value of price movements of a stock, the next best way to do so is through buying shares and selling covered calls and then repeating the process as often as possible.

Traditional Stocks: British Petroleum, Caterpillar, eBay, Microsoft, Transocean

Momentum Stocks: Citibank, Coach, Joy Global, Seagate Technology

Double Dip Dividend: none

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Blackberry (12/20 AM)

Remember, these are just guidelines for the coming week. The above selections may become actionable, most often coupling a share purchase with call option sales or the sale of covered put contracts, in adjustment to and consideration of market movements. The overriding objective is to create a healthy income stream for the week with reduction of trading risk.

Weekend Update – December 8, 2013

Sometimes good things can go good.

Anyone who remembers the abysmal state of television during the turn of this century recalls the spate of shows that sought to shock our natural order and expectations by illustrating good things gone bad. There were dogs, girls, police officers and others. They appealed to viewers because human nature had expectations and somehow enjoyed having those expectations upended.

That aspect of human nature can be summed up as “it’s fun when it happens to other people.”

For those that loved that genre of television show, they would have loved the stock markets of the last few years, particularly since the introduction of Quantitative Easing. That’s when good news became bad and bad news became good. Our ways of looking at the world around us and all of our expectations became upended.

Like everyone else, I blame or credit Quantitative Easing for everything that has happened in the past few years, maybe even the continued death of Disco. Who knew that pumping so much money into anything could possibly be looked at in a negative way despite having possibly saved the free world’s economies? While many decried the policy, they loved the result, in a reflection of the purest of all human qualities – the ability to hate the sinner, but love the sin.

Then again, I suppose that stopping such a thing could only subsequently be considered to be good, but rational thought isn’t a hallmark of event and data driven investing.

With so many believing that all of the most recent gains in the market could only have occurred with Federal Reserve intervention, anything that threatens to reduce that intervention has been considered as adverse to the market’s short term performance. That means good news, such as job growth, has been interpreted as having negative consequences for markets, because it would slow the flow. Bad news simply meant that the punch bowl would continue to be replenished.

For the very briefest of periods, basically lasting during the time that it wasn’t clear who would be the successor to Ben Bernanke, the market treated news on its face value, perhaps believing that in a state of leadership limbo nothing would change to upset the party.

It had been a long time since good news resulted in a market responding appropriately and celebrating the good fortune by creating more fortunes. This past week started with that annoying habit of taking news and believing that only a child’s version of reverse psychology was appropriate in interpreting information, but the week ended with a more adult-like response, perhaps a signal that the market has come to peace with idea that tapering is going to occur and is ready to move forward on the merits of news rather than conjecture of mass behavior.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum and “PEE” categories this week (see details).

Coming off a nearly 200 point advance on Friday what had initially looked like relative bargains were now pricey in comparison and at risk to retrace their advances.

While last week was one in which dividends were a primary source of my happiness, unfortunately this week is not likely to be the same. As in life where I just have to get by on my looks, this week I’ll have to get by on new purchases that hopefully don’t do anything stupid and have a reasonable likelihood of being assigned or having their calls rolled over to another point in the near future. The principle reason for that is that most of the stocks going ex-dividend this week that have some appeal for me only have monthly options available. Since I’m already overloaded on options expiring at the end of the this monthly cycle my interests are limited to those that have weekly options. With volatility and subsequently premiums so low, as much as I’d like to diversify by using expanded options, they don’t offer much solace in their forward week premiums.

While the energy sector may be a little bit of a mine field these days, particularly with Iran coming back on line, Williams Companies (WMB) fits the profile that I’ve been looking for and is especially appealing this week as it goes ex-dividend. Williams has been able to trade in a range, but takes regular visits to the limits of the range and often enough to keep its option premium respectable. With no real interest in longer term or macro-economic issues, I see Williams for what it has reliably been over the course of the past 16 months and 9 trades. Despite its current price being barely 6% higher than my average cost of shares, it has generated about 35% in premiums, dividends and share appreciation.

Another ex-dividend stock this week is Macys (M). Retail is another minefield of late, but Macys has not only been faring better than most of the rest, it has also just hit its year’s high this past week. Ordinarily that would send me in the opposite direction, particularly given the recent rise. With the critical holiday shopping season in full gear, some will have their hopes crushed, but someone has to be a winner. Macys has the generic appeal and non-descript vibe to welcome all comers. While I wouldn’t mind a quick dividend and option premium and then exit, it is a stock that I could live with for a longer time, if necessary.

Citibank (C) is no longer quite the minefield that it had been. It may be an example of a good stock, gone bad, now gone good again. When I look at its $50 price it reminds me of well known banking analysts Dick Bove, who called for Citibank to hold onto the $50 price as the financial meltdown was just heating up. Fast forward five years and Bove was absolutely correct, give or take a 1 to 10 reverse split.

But these days Citibank is back, albeit trading with more volat
ility than back in the old days. I’m under-invested in the financial sector, which didn’t fare well last week. If the contention that this is a market that corrects itself through its sector rotation, then this may be a time to consider loading up on financials, particularly as there are hints of interest rate rises. Citibank’s beta inserts some more excitement into the proposition, however.

Like many others, Dow Chemical (DOW) took its knocks last week before recovering much of its loss. Also like many that I am attracted toward, it has been trading in a price range and has been thwarted by attempts to break out of that range. Mindful of a market that is pushing against its highs, this is a stock that I don’t mind owning for longer than most other holdings, if necessary. The generous dividend helps the patient investor wait on the event of a price reversal. For those a little longer term oriented, Dow Chemical may also be a good addition for a portfolio that sells LEAPs.

Like all but one of this week’s selections, I have owned shares of International Paper (IP) on a number of occasions in the past year. While shares are now well off of their undeserved recent lows there is still ample upside opportunity and shares seemed to have created support at the $45 level. My preference, as with some other stocks on this week’s list is that a little of the past week’s late gains be retraced, but that’s not a necessary condition for re-purchasing International Paper.

Baxter International (BAX) has been also in a trading range of late having been boxed in by worries related to competition in its hemophilia product lines to concerns over the impact of the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices. Also having recovered some of its past week’s losses it, too, is trading at the mid-point of its recent range and doesn’t appear to have any near term catalysts to see it break below its trading range. The availability of expanded options provide some greater flexibility when holding shares.

Joy Global (JOY) had been on an upswing of late but has subsequently given back about 5% from its recent high. It reports earnings this week and its implied price move is nearly 6%. However, its option pricing doesn’t offer premiums enhanced by earnings for any strike levels beyond that are beyond the implied move. While a frequent position, including having had shares assigned this past week, the risk/reward is not sufficient to purchase shares or sell puts prior to the earnings release. However, in the event hat shares do drop, I would consider purchasing shares if it trades below $52.50, as that has been a very comfortable place to initiate positions and sell calls.

LuLuLemon Athletica (LULU) on the other hand, has an implied move of about 8% and can potentially return 1.1% even if the stock falls nearly 9%. In this jittery market a 9% drop isn’t even attention getting, but a 20% drop , such as LuLuLemon experienced in June 2013 does get noticed. Its shares are certainly able to have out-sized moves, but it has already weathered quite a few challenges, ranging from product recalls, the announced resignation of its CEO and comments from its founder that may have insulted current and potential customers. I don’t expect a drop similar to that seen in December 2012, but can justify owning shares in the event of an earnings related drop.

Riverbed Technology (RVBD), long a favorite of mine, is generally a fairly staid company, as far as staying out of the news for items not related to its core business. It can often trade with some volatility, especially as it has a habit of providing less than sanguine guidance and the street hasn’t yet learned to ignore the pessimistic outlook, as RIverbed tends to report very much in line with expectations. Recently the world of activist investors knocked on Riverbed’s doors and they responded by enacting a “poison pill.” While I wouldn’t suggest considering adding shares solely on the basis of the prompting from activist investors, Riverbed has long offered a very enticing risk/reward proposition when selling covered calls or puts. It is one of the few positions that I sometimes consider a longer term option sale when purchasing shares or rolling over option contracts.

Finally, and this is certainly getting to be a broken record, but eBay (EBAY) has once again fulfilled prophecy by trading within the range that was used as an indictment of owning shares. For yet another week I had two differently priced lots of eBay shares assigned and am anxious to have the opportunity to re-purchase if they approach $52, or don’t get higher than $52.50. While there may be many reasons to not have much confidence in eBay to lead the market or to believe that its long term strategy is destined to crumble, sometimes it’s worthwhile having your vision restricted to the tip of your nose.

Traditional Stocks: Baxter International, Dow Chemical, eBay, International Paper

Momentum Stocks: Citibank, Riverbed Technology

Double Dip Dividend: Macys (ex-div 12/11), Williams Co (ex-div 12/11)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Joy Global (12/11 AM), LuLuLemon Athletica (12/12 AM)

Remember, these are just guidelines for the coming week. The above selections may become actionable, most often coupling a share purchase with call option sales or the sale of covered put contracts, in adjustment to and
consideration of market movements. The overriding objective is to create a healthy income stream for the week with reduction of trading risk.

Weekend Update – December 1, 2013

We may be on the verge of the Eve of Inflection.

Thanksgiving is that time of year when many sit back and think about all of their bounty and good fortune in the past year.

Sometimes the processes of reflection and introspection bring about inflection. Sometimes reviewing where you’ve been and where you appear to be heading are sufficient causes to consider a change in path or direction.

Nowhere is that more true than among many hedge fund managers now faced with the end of the year in sight and a stock market that has been out-performing their own trading and expertise. Many have already made the decision to increase risk taking behavior and eschew hedging in a last ditch effort to catch up to the averages and to secure their bonuses or save their jobs.

That may be more an example of desperation rather than introspection, but that kind of behavior may also herald an inflection point, not only in personal behavior but also in the very nature of the markets, especially if you take a contrarian view. When others change their behavior and begin to chase it may be time to take cover.

Sometimes that change in path is neither wanted nor welcome, but perhaps unavoidable. With the market hitting new highs on a nearly daily basis, what hasn’t escaped notice is that the rate of increase is itself decreasing. Most will tell you that in the case of a momentum stock a sign that its heady days are about to become a memory is when the rate of growth begins decreasing. In this case, it seems that it is the market as a whole whose rate of increase has recently been on the decline.

Depending on your perspective, if you are eternally bullish that decline is just a chance to digest some gains and prepare for the next leg higher. For the bears that slowing is the approach to the point of inflection.

Every roller coaster has them. Every stock market has them. On roller coasters, even when your eyes are closed you know when a change in slope direction is about to occur. It’s not quite as intuitive or simple in the stock market because human nature often believes that simple laws governing events can be suspended. No one thinks in a cautionary manner when the prevailing spirit is “laissez les bon temps rouler.”

While the overall market would likely find that a point of inflection would take it lower, there may be opportunity in stocks whose points of inflection may have been reached and are now bound to go higher or are already on their way.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum and “PEE” categories this week (see details).

Stanley Black and Decker (SWK) reported its earnings early in the most recent earnings season. It was the first to blame the government shutdown on its poorer than anticipated results and shares plummeted about 15%. Having recovered nearly half of that loss, with about another 6 weeks to go until the next earnings report, shares go ex-dividend this week. It has been a bit more than a year since the last time I owned shares, then too purchased in part because of its upcoming dividend. I think Stanley Black and Decker still has some room to move higher relative to the overall market and now offers good opportunity in advance of its next report.

To a degree Stanley Black and Decker and Fastenal (FAST) are related and dependent upon residential and commercial growth. This past week’s durable goods orders report didn’t necessarily send news of a robust economy, but Fastenal has been trading in a range of late which is always a reason to consider as part of a covered option strategy. I already own two lots of Fastenal, but continue to like it at its current price in anticipation that it will remain near that price.

The Gap (GPS) is one of those clothing retailers that still insists on releasing monthly comparison statistics. The past two monthly reports have sent shares moving in opposite directions as the report itself is the source of exceptionally high option premiums. With conflicting interpretations in two successive monthly reports there is little reason to believe that any volatility surrounding the monthly reports are indicative of systemic or irreparable issues at the retailer. Even with the prospect of another negative report this coming week, I don’t believe that the market will react as rashly as had occurred in October and from which point shares have now fully recovered.

While both AIG (AIG) and Halliburton (HAL) do go ex-dividend this week, their dividends alone aren’t appealing enough to focus attention on their purchase. Both, however, are sufficiently off from their recent high levels to warrant consideration. Both also represent stocks that appear to have set new baseline price levels as they have been slowly and methodically moved higher until very recently. Those are opportunities that get enhanced by the prospects of an inflection and their option premiums complemented by the possibility of also capturing dividends, albeit modest ones.

Dow Chemical (DOW) may also appear to be in the category of having fallen some from its recent high point and perhaps ready for a turnaround, with its current levels serving as that point of inflection taking the stock to a modestly higher level. While it may also be subject to some of the larger macro-economic issues such as those faced by Stanley Black and Decker and Fastenal, Dow Chemical’s dividend offers some protection during a
market decline and its option premiums help to provide a cushion during either bigger picture declines or stock specific missteps.

While the previously mentioned positions are all fairly sedate choices that may be expected to do better if there is an inflection in the market, there may also be room for consideration of some more volatile additions to the portfolio, particularly as part of short term trading strategies.

Freeport McMoRan (FCX) has reversed course from its nearly 15% climb in October, simply an example of successive points of inflection in a short period of time. I think that the selling is now overdone, not only in Freeport McMoRan, but in the metals complex and that shares of Freeport are once again getting ready for another period of inflection. While I have held some positions in Freeport McMoRan much longer than my typical holding, its dividend has made the holding period more tolerable. That dividend appears to be secure, even while there is some talk of gold miners being at risk of cutting dividends if ore prices continue to decline.

For the ones really enjoying roller coaster rides, Walter Energy (WLT) may be just the thing. Its recent drop for its near term high seems to be developing a new price floor that can serve as the point of inflection taking the price higher, although I would expect that based on its recent behavior such a move might be short lived. However, that rapid alternation in direction has made Walter Energy a very good recent covered call trade, although for some the sale of puts may be a more appropriate manner to take advantage of the share’s volatility.

Finally, it’s yet another week to consider eBay (EBAY). Despite a 2.5% gain on Friday, eBay is simply proving the analysts correct, in that it continues to be a moribund stock trading in a tight range. It was decried just two weeks ago for being unable to escape from that range while the rest of the market seemed to be thriving. In the meantime, those practicing a covered call strategy and owning shares of eBay, over and over again, have fared well. Responding to the analyst’s cry, eBay did test that lower range and has now bounced back nicely to the point that it is once again in the middle of that range. That’s an ideal position to consider opening a new position or adding to an existing position.

Traditional Stocks: Dow Chemical, eBay, Fastenal, The Gap

Momentum Stocks: Freeport McMoRan, Walter Energy

Double Dip Dividend: AIG (ex-div 12/3 ), Halliburton (ex-div 12/4), Stanley Black and Decker (ex-div 12/4)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

Remember, these are just guidelines for the coming week. The above selections may become actionable, most often coupling a share purchase with call option sales or the sale of covered put contracts, in adjustment to and consideration of market movements. The overriding objective is to create a healthy income stream for the week with reduction of trading risk.