Weekend Update – April 27, 2014

“The Bear” is waking up.

Whether you interpret that to mean that Russia is seeking to return to some of its faded and faux glory left behind as its empire crumbled, or that the stock market is preparing for a sustained downward journey, neither one likes to feel threatened.

As we prepare for the coming week the two bears may be very much related, at least if you believe in such things as “cause and effect.”

It now seems like almost an eternity when the first murmurings of something perhaps going on in Crimea evoked a reaction from the markets.

On that Friday, 2 months ago, when news first broke, the DJIA went from a gain of 120 points to a loss of 20 in the final hour of trading, but somehow managed to recapture half of that drop to cap off a strong week.

Whatever happened to not going home long on the brink of a weekend of uncertainty?

Since that time the increased tensions always seemed to come along on Fridays and this past was no different, except that on this particular Friday it seems that many finally went home with lighter portfolios in hopes of not having lighter account balances on Monday morning.

As often is the case these kind of back and forth weeks can be very kind to option sellers who can thrive when wandering aimlessly. However, while we await to see what if any unwanted surprises may come this weekend, the coming week packs its own potential challenges as there will be an FOMC announcement on Wednesday and the Employment Situation Report is released on Friday. Although neither should be holding much in the way of surprise, it is often very surprising to see how the market reacts to what is often the lack of news even when that is the expectation.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.

With the prospects of some kind of uncomfortable beginning to the coming week there may be reason to stay away from those companies or sectors that might have enhanced risk related to any kind of escalating “tit for tat” that may occur if events in and around Ukraine and Russia deteriorate.

Bed Bath and Beyond (BBBY), which as far as I know has little exposure east of Bangor and west of Los Angeles, is one of those companies that suffered the wrath of a disappointed market. Like many that stumble, but whose underlying business, execution or strategies aren’t inherently flawed, there comes a point that price stability and even growth returns. While it has only been 2 weeks since earnings, Bed Bath and Beyond has withstood any further stresses from a wounded market and has thus far settled into some stability. While some may question the legitimacy of using this past winter’s weather as an excuse for slumping sales, I’m not willing to paint with a broad brush. In fact, I would believe that retailers like Bed Bath and Beyond, typically not located in indoor malls would be more subject to weather related issues than mall based, one stop shopping centers.

Having been to a number of other countries and having seen the high regard in which coffee is held, it’s not very likely that Keuring Green Mountain (GMCR) would feel any serious loss if exports to Russia were blocked as part of sanctions. At the current high levels, I’m surprised to be considering shares again, but I have had a long and happy history with this very volatile stock that has taken on significantly greater credibility with its new CEO.

Because of its volatility its option premiums are always attractive, but risk will be further enhanced as earnings are scheduled to be reported the following week. Shares are approaching that level they stood before its explosive rise after the most recent earnings report.

Aetna (AET) for a brief moment looked to be one of those reporting earnings that was going to capitalize on good news. Following a nice advance on the day of earnings it started on this past fateful Friday with another 1.5% advance on top of a nearly 6% advance the day before. Within 10 minutes and well before the market started its own decline, that early gain was completely gone.

As pro-Russian militias may say if they believed that any expatriate nationals might be threatened in France, “C’est la vie.” While that is certainly the case, such unexpected moves re-offer opportunity as the health care insurers are in a position to bounce back from some recent weakness. With earnings now out of the way and little bad news yet to be reported regarding the Affordable Healthcare Act transition, Aetna can get back to what health insurance companies have always been good at doing, besides lobbying. Although it’s dividend is on the low side, Aetna is a company that I could envision as a long term core holding.

Dow Chemical (DOW) also reported earnings this past week and beat projections the old fashioned way. They cut costs in the face of falling revenues. While that says nothing good about an economy that is supposed to be growing, Dow Chemical’s value may be enhanced as it has activists eyeing it for possible break-up. On the other end, defending the status quo is a hardened CEO who is likely to let little fall through the cracks as he pursues his own vision. While shares are trading near their highs the activist presence is potentially helpful in keeping shares trading within a range which entices me to consider shares now, after a small drop, rather than waiting for a larger one on order to re-open a position. With its option premiums, generous dividend and opportunity for share appreciation, Dow Chemical is one stock that I would also consider for longer term holding.

I’m on the fence over Cypress Semiconductor (CY). I currently own shares and always like the idea of having some just as it trades near it strike price. It has a good recent habit of calling $10 its home and works hard to get back to that level, whether well above or well below. However, befitting its high beta it fell about 5% on Friday and has placed itself quite a distance from its nearest strike. While I generally like paying less for shares, in the case of Cypress I may be more enticed by some price migration higher in order to secure a better premium and putting shares closer to a strike that may make it easier to roll over option contracts to June 2014, if necessary. Holding shares until June may offer me enough time after all of these years to learn what Cypress Semiconductor actually does, although I’m familiar with its increasingly vocal CEO.

This is another week replete with earnings. For those paying attention last week a number of companies were brutalized last week when delivering earnings or guidance, as the market was not very forgiving.

Among those reporting earnings this week are Herbalife (HLF), Twitter (TWTR) and Yelp (YELP).

There’s not much you can say about Herbalife, other than it may be the decade’s most unpredictable stock. Not so much in terms of revenues, but rather in terms of “is it felonious or isn’t it felonious?” With legal and regulatory issues looming ahead the next bit of truly bad news may come at any moment, so it may be a good thing that earnings are reported on Monday. At least that news will be out of the way. Unlike many other volatile names, Herbalife actually move marginally higher to end the week, rather than plunging along with the rest. My preference, if trading on the basis of earnings, would be to sell puts, particularly if there is a substantive price drop preceding earnings.

Twitter lost much of the steam it had picked up in the early part of the week and finished at its lows. I already have puts on shares having sold them about a month ago and rolled them forward a few times in the hopes of having the position expire before earnings.

However, with its marked weakness in the latter part of the week I’m interested in the possibility of selling even more puts in advance of earnings on Tuesday. However, if there is price strength on Monday, I would be more inclined to wait for earnings and would then consider the sale of puts if shares drop after earnings are released.

Yelp is among those also having suffered a large drop as the week’s trading came to its close. as with Twitter, the option market is implying a large earnings related move in price, with an implied volatility of nearly 15%. However, a drop of less than 21% may still be able to deliver a 1.1% return.

For those that just can’t get enough of earnings related trades when bad news can be the best news of all, a more expanded list of potential trades can be seen.

Finally, Intel (INTC) and Microsoft (MSFT) are part of what now everyone is affectionately referring to as “old tech.” A few months ago the same people were somewhat more derisive, but now “old tech” is everyone’s darling. Intel’s ex-dividend date is May 5, 2014, meaning that shares would need to be owned this week if hoping to capture the dividend. Microsoft goes ex-dividend during the final week of the May 2014 cycle.

Both stocks have been frequent holdings of mine, but both have recently been assigned. Although they are both trading near the top of their price ranges, the basic appeal still holds, which includes generous dividends and satisfactory premiums. Additionally, bit also have in common a new kind of leadership. Intel is much more focused on operational issues, befitting the strength of its new CEO, while Microsoft may finally simply be ready to “get it” and leverage its great assets, recognizing that there may be some real gems beyond Windows.

Traditional Stocks: Momentum Stocks: Aetna, Bed Bath and Beyond, Dow Chemical, Microsoft

Momentum: Cypress Semiconductor, Keurig Green Mountain

Double Dip Dividend: Intel (ex-div 5/5)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Herbalife (4/8 PM), Twitter (4/27 PM), Yelp (4/30 PM)

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 – April 20, 2014

I really didn’t see this past week coming at all.

Coming off of an absolutely abysmal week that saw the market refuse to follow up good news with further gains and instead plunging some 400 points in 2 days there were so many reasons to believe that markets were finally headed lower and for more than just a quick dip.

While I strongly believe in not following along with the crowd there has to be some bit of you that tells the rest of you not to completely write off what the crowd is thinking or doing. On horse racing, for example, the favorite does still have its share of wins and the Cinderella long short story just doesn’t happen as often as everyone might wish.

To completely ignore the crowd is courting disaster. At least you can occasionally give the crowd their due.

But this past week wasn’t the week to have done so. This was absolutely the week to have ignored virtually everyone. Unfortunately, this was also the week that I chose not to do so and went along with the crowd. The argument seemed so compelling, but that probably should have been the first clue.

What made this past week so unusual was that hardly anyone tried to offer a reason for the inexplicable advance forward. Not only did the market climb strongly, but it even reversed a late day attempt to erase large gains and ended up closing at its highs for the day. We haven’t seen anything like that lately, as instead we’ve seen so many gains quickly evaporate. For the most part I felt like an outsider because i didn’t open very many new positions last week, but it was rewarding enough to have heard such little pontification, as few wanted to admit that the unexpected had occurred.

With the S&P 500 now less than 2% from its high, it does make you wonder whether the concept of a correction being defined on the basis of a 10% decline is relevant anymore. Although its much better to think in terms of relative changes, as expressed by percentages, but perhaps our brains are wired to better understand absolute movements. Maybe we interpret a 400 point move as being no different from any other 400 point move, regardless of what the baseline is for either and simply take the move as a signal to reverse.

It’s tempting to think that perhaps we’re simply returning to the recent pattern of small drops on the order of 5% and then returning to unchecked climbs to new records. Of course, that would be in the realm of the "expected."

I have little expectation for what the next week may bring, as trying to figure out what is now driving the markets seems very futile of late. While I don’t think of "going along for the ride" as a very satisfying strategy I may be content to do so if the market continues moving higher for no apparent reason. But without any real indication of a catalyst I’m not terribly excited about wholeheartedly endorsing the move higher in a tangible way.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or "PEE" categories.

Not all stocks shared in last week’s glory. JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and Unitedhealth Group (UNH) in part accounted for the DJIA lagging the S&P 500 for the week.

JP Morgan and Unitedhealth both felt some backlash after some disappointing earnings reports. For JP Morgan, however, it has been about a year since there’s actually been anything resembling good news and yet its stock price, up until the past week had well out-performed the S&P 500. I’ve been waiting for a return to a less pricey entry point and after the past week it’s arrived following a 9% drop this month. With little reason to believe that there’s any further bad news ahead it seems to offer low enough risk for its reward even with some market weakness ahead.

Unitedhealth Group’s decline was just slightly more modest than that of JP Morgan and it, too, has returned to a price level that I wouldn’t mind owning shares. I haven’t done so with any regularity but the entry price is getting less expensive. As more news emerges regarding the Affordable Care Act there is potential for Unitedhealth Group to go in either direction. While its most recent earnings disappointed, there may be some optimism as news regarding enrollments by younger people.

Fastenal (FAST) is a company that I like very much, but am a little reluctant to purchase shares at this level, if not for the upcoming dividend that I would like to capture. I’ve long thought of Fastenal as a proxy for the economy and lately shares have been trading near the upper end of its range. While that may indicate some downside weakness, Fastenal has had good resilience and has been one of those monthly contracts that I haven’t minded rolling over in the past, having owned shares 5 times in the past 6 months.

You probably can’t get much more dichotomous than Kohls (KSS) and Abercrombie and FItch (ANF). While Kohls has reliably sat its current levels and doesn’t live and die by fads and arrogance, Abercrombie has had its share of ups and downs and always seems to find a way to snatch defeat from victory. Yet they are both very good covered option trades.

With Kohls having recently joined Abercrombie in the list of those stocks offering expanded weekly options it is an increasing attractive position that offers considerable flexibility, good option premiums and a competitive dividend.

Abercrombie, because of its volatility tends to offer a more attractive option premium, but still offers an attractive enough dividend. Following some recent price weakness I may be more inclined to consider the sale of puts of Abercrombie and might be willing to take assignment of shares, if necessary, rather than rolling over put contracts.

This week there are a number of companies reporting earnings that may warrant some consideration. A more complete list of those for the coming week are included in an earlier article that looks at opportunities in selling put contracts in advance of, or after earnings. Of the companies included in that article the ones that I’ll most likely consider this week are Cree (CREE), Facebook (FB) and Deckers (DECK).

All are volatile enough in the own rights, but especially so with earnings to be released. I have repeatedly sold puts on Cree over the past few months with last week having been the first in quite a while not having done so. It can be an explosive mover after earnings, just as it can be a seemingly irrational mover during daily trading. It has, however, already fallen approximately 8% in the past month. My particular preference when considering the sale of puts is to do so following declines and Cree certainly fulfills that preference, even though my target ROI comes only at a strike level that is at the very edge of the range defined by its implied volatility.

Deckers has only fallen 5% in the past month and it, too can be explosive at earnings time. As with Cree, for those that are adventurous, the sale of deep out f the money puts can offer a relatively lower risk way of achieving return on investment objectives. In this case, while the implied volatility is 10.1%, a share drop of less than 13.2% can still return a weekly 1% ROI.

Facebook has generally performed well after earnings announcements. Even the past quarter, when the initial reaction was negative, shares very quickly recovered and surpassed their previous levels. As with all earnings related trades entered through the sale of puts my goal is to not own shares at a lower price, but rather to avoid assignment by the rollover of put contracts, if necessary, in the hope of waiting out any unforeseen price declines and eventually seeing the put contracts expire, while having accumulated premiums.

Finally, it seems as if there’s hardly a week that I don’t think about adding or buying shares of Coach (COH). Having already owned it on 5 occasions in 2014 and having shares assigned again this past week, it’s notable for its stock price having essentially stayed in place. That’s what continually makes it an attractive candidate.

This week, however, there is a little more risk if shares don’t get assigned, as earnings are reported next week and Coach has been volatile at earnings for the past two years.

For that reason, this week, Coach may best be considered as a trade through the sale of puts with the possible need to rollover the puts if assignment seems likely. That rollover, if necessary, would then probably be able to be done at a lower strike price as the implied volatility will be higher in the week of earnings.

Traditional Stocks: Momentum Stocks: JP Morgan, Kohls, United Healthcare

Momentum: Abercrombie and Fitch, Coach

Double Dip Dividend: Fastenal (ex-div 4/23)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Cree (4/22 PM), Deckers (4/24 PM), Facebook (4/23 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 – April 13, 2014

Volatility is back!

Barely a month ago there was much talk about rising volatility in the face of a declining market. Those that would tend to use charts to predict the future suggested that the then rise in volatility was the precursor of the correction we had all been expecting.

Now we’re at it again.

A month ago there were clearly identified catalysts that were weighing heavily on the markets. Disappointing economic news from China coupled with the unfolding crisis in Crimea mixed the economic realm with the geo-political one.

However, back then it appeared that the rise in volatility may have been reminiscent of previous smaller “mini-VIX” rises that occurred on a regular basis, nestled between larger rises that also came on a regular basis.

As it turned out, that was precisely the case, as the volatility rise seen at that time quickly gave way and the market did what it has repeatedly done over the past 18 months. It simply recovered from short lived setbacks and went on to new highs.

An extension of the chart presented last month to illustrate the cyclic nature of the “maxi-VIX and mini-VIX” pattern shows that would was a possible “mini-VIX” in the making turned out to be exactly that and as short lived as its predecessors and its rise ended at a level right where previous smaller VIX rises had ended.

Now, the question has evolved into whether the current rise in volatility is part of a developing “maxi-VIX” formation. The timing is right and certainly few would disagree that it has been a long time since we’ve had a downward move that could be classified as a “correction.”

The significance, of course, is that the market tends to go lower as volatility rises. While people may disagree as to whether volatility is predictive in nature or simply a by product of events, it does paint a picture of the health of markets.

The glaring difference between this month’s rise and that of last month is that there are no obvious catalysts, although that would never stop those from offering hypotheses.

The past week saw a 600 point reversal in the DJIA in the latter half of the week. That move was framed in the context of elation tied to an FOMC that appeared to be supportive of continued lower interest rates to the fears that interest rates would rise.

It was a week that saw clear flight to safety before the elation and “risk on” behavior the very next day, which then gave way to universal flight.

Whatever the cause for the abrupt turnaround it did validate the old aphorism that you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, as this past week was a rare one in which I had no positions assigned, after having already plotted exactly how I would be spending all of that money that at mid-week I knew would be pouring in from assignments.

While the coming week may have even more of the “bargains” that have been lacking lately, I’m neither as anxious to commit toward their ownership nor do I have as much in my cash reserves as I would like to really capitalize on opportunities.

If a “maxi-VIX” pattern is in the making it would be reasonable to expect even lower prices in the coming weeks. Although this past week was fairly dreadful, mitigated somewhat by hedging positions, the 4.1% decline from the recent high is still far from satisfying the expectations of those awaiting a standard correction. I’ve been waiting for one of those so long that I may also learn the truth of another aphorism and learn to regret what I had been wishing for.

The potential benefit of increasing volatility for the option seller is that premiums are likely to perk up and that may especially become apparent for the longer term options, such as for the standard monthly variety. During a period of uncertainty the use of longer term contracts can help to ride out any near term weakness while paying you to wait.

While the aphorism “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” may be true, at least the premiums from those option sales offer a bit of a discount.

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

In a week that was fairly indiscriminate in which stock was dragged lower the one that really received my attention was one that I was certain would be assigned on Friday. MetLife (MET) was one of those that fell victim to fears of rising interest rates and fell more sharply than it had risen on the immediately preceding belief that rates would remain low. Whether the elation or the fears were warranted sometimes it is possible to simply have an overly exaggerated reaction and MetLife had them in both directions during the week as it went along for the rides. Any respite in interest rate theories, regardless of what direction, should allow MetLife to show some stability, which in the past has made it an excellent covered option position.

Perhaps it’s just an unintended juxtaposition that would have discussion of the merits of an insurance company precede discussion of Lorillard (LO). Since Lorillard only offers monthly option contracts I’m especially drawn to it during the final week of a monthly cycle or before an ex-dividend date. In this case it’s the former, but it’s appeal goes beyond the time of month. Potentially in play as a take over target die to its reported lead in the e-cigarette area, much of that premium in its price has now been discounted, due to the tangled web of relationships between the various tobacco companies. Instead, Lorillard is simply a cash machine that is seeking to expand its user base, despite denials of that strategy.

Of course, while e-cigarettes may or may not enhance the need for fastidious oral hygiene, the real thing does and while Colgate Palmolive certainly makes products other than toothpaste, as a one time Pediatric Dentist, that’s the one that I can readily associate with Colgate. What I can also associate with shares is its dividend and potential refuge for those seeking safety. It goes ex-dividend this week and offers an attractive premium. The single caveat is that shares are trading near the yearly highs and earnings are reported the following week. However, as with some other positions being considered this week, there is added reason to consider the sale of May 2014 option contracts to secure additional premium and insulate oneself s a little from near term market weakness.

In retail, The Gap (GPS) and L Brands (LB) frequently infuriate me and delight me, respectively.

The Gap is yet another company that I had expected to be assigned this past week. For some reason it continues to provide monthly same store sales statistics and for me, their timing is usually less than fortuitous. However, The Gap always seems to have a way of reversing the disappointments and has been a very reliable covered option trade, despite the histrionics displayed by an investing community that interprets each month’s worth of data as being reflective of the company’s prospects in perpetuity.

L Brands, on the other hand is a company that simply executes among its various brands, although it, too, provides those comparable sales statistics. Down about 8% in the past week in part as a result of lower same store sales, L Brands is a company that I frequently like to consider owning during the final week of a monthly option cycle, as with Lorillard, particularly if its price has moderated. A nice dividend, good option premiums and reliable management is a good combination, especially when the market itself can’t be trusted to act rationally.

Best Buy (BBY), while certainly a volatile stock over the past few years has lately settled into somewhat of a comfort zone, punctuated by flights higher and lower. While I may not want to be holding shares in advance of earnings, that is still 5 weeks away and in the interim there’s not too much reason to believe that it will be disrupted for long from its recent path. After weakness last week it’s price is at the lower end of that range and seems to be offering a good entry point even in a rocky market.

Among those reporting earnings this week are Yahoo (YHOO) and SanDisk (SNDK).

Yahoo has fallen about 15% in the past month and it’s not likely that they will be in a position to blame the winter weather for their quarterly results. Other than the promise of riches from its piece of Ali Baba which will be coming public, it’s hard to know what drives Yahoo forward, just as it’s hard to know whether its CEO, Marissa Mayer, warrants accolades for any initiatives that are increasingly difficult to categorize. A weakening IPO market may disproportionately impact Yahoo share prospects and would certainly detract from Mayer’s scorecard.

With the option market implying an approximate 7% earnings related move in shares, there may be some opportunity in the sale of puts outside of that range, but the opportunities, that is the risk/reward balance would be more enticing if the overall market was not in continued deterioration.

SanDisk, on the other hand is also seeing an implied move of 7%, however, it does offer a slightly improved reward for the risk. Perhaps more importantly, in contrast to Yahoo, its strategic direction is clear. While Yahoo passively rescued itself from oblivion through its Ali Baba stake, SanDisk rescued itself from the oblivion of commoditization through active and creative product development. Since shares also go ex-dividend later in the month, if making this earnings trade through the sale of puts and being faced with assignment, I might consider that possibility, whereas ordinarily I would seek to roll over puts and await a price turnaround and subsequent exit from the position via expiration.

Finally, to me it almost seems ironic that during a week that saw a less than gracious welcome for IPO offerings, one of the most recently memorable disappointing IPOs, that may have signaled a market top comes to mind. Blackstone (BX) reports earnings this week and has been increasingly responsible for this era’s new initial public offerings. This week, for example, La Quinta (LQ) went public again to less than enthusiastic demand. The cynical might suggest that Blackstone’s use of the IPO process for its own properties is an example of opportunism at its very finest and might suggest that a market top is in the vicinity.

To that I would argue that opportunism at its finest is when you use IPO proceeds to completely cash out. While that may not currently be the case, one does have to wonder whether there will be enough dinghies for all of us once we come to realize what Blackstone has in the past so well demonstrated that it is capable of doing.

Meanwhile, as opposed to many earnings related  trades that I would make via the sale of put contracts and prefer to execute only as part of a very short lived strategy, Blackstone is one that I could envision a longer relationship. While in general reluctant to take possession of shares if put to me, Blackstone is one that is far more than a vehicle to exploit excesses in option premiums.

Traditional Stocks: L Brands, Lorillard, MetLife, The Gap

Momentum Stocks: Best Buy

Double Dip Dividend: Colgate Palmolive (ex-div 4/17)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: SanDisk (4/16 PM), Yahoo (4/15 PM)

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 – April 6, 2014

This week started on such a positive note with the reassuring words of a dove, yet ended so harshly.

This time of the year it’s supposed to be the other way around with the lamb having the final word as months of a less threatening nature await ahead.

Instead, after Friday’s close, whatever optimism may have been generated by setting even more record highs earlier in the week, had given way to caution and perhaps preparation for some ill winds.

Back when I was in college it wasn’t meant as a compliment if you were referred to as being a “dove.” and the proverbial lamb was always being led to slaughter.  In fact, if you were called a “dove,” that was only in polite circles. Otherwise, the words used were far more descriptive and derisive.

By the same token, the doves out there may not have had the kindest of words for the hawks, but in nature, it’s usually the hawk that triumphs. In fact, recalling the recent mauling of a peace dove that had been just released by Pope Francis and some children, it didn’t really even require a hawk. A seagull and a lowly crow were enough for the task.

This week, though, it was the dove that ruled the day and set the tone for the week. Well, at least most of it, until its fragile nature beset itself.

A fragile market can be equally susceptible even to less formidable foes, as Friday’s sell-off had little basis and came on the day of the Employment Situation Report, which for the past 20 months or so has been strongly correlated to a higher moving market on the day of release and for the week as a whole. While the week as a whole did show an advance, the former correlation stood for only a short time before strong selling set in.

Whatever doubts there may have been regarding where Janet Yellen stood on that continuum from dove to hawk following her initial press conference, she made it clear that on issues of the Federal Reserve’s actions to help lower the unemployment rate, she was an unabashed dove and while there may be more dissenting voting members than before sitting on the Federal Reserve, she still controls the hawks, but probably keeps at least one eye wary at all times.

The stock market loved that re-affirmation of policy the way we love the beauty of a dove, even though like short sellers, we may privately relish its obliteration by a swooping predator hawk.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend and Momentum categories, with no “PEE” selections this week (see details).

While this was an especially brutal week for stocks on the NASDAQ and particularly for many of those stocks that had borne a disproportionate amount of everyone’s attention as they moved ever higher, many others were included in whatever wrath took hold.

With earnings season beginning this coming week there may be some return to fundamentals, however, disappointments, particularly if weather hasn’t been fully factored in or discounted may further exploit market fragility.

MasterCard (MA) was one such casualty of the stampede. There was little to account for its 2.5% drop on Friday, bringing it to its 5 month low. The previous week, faced with some potentially adverse decisions regarding swipe fees it reacted well, yet this week it did otherwise without any new challenges being sent its way. While it goes ex-dividend on Monday it’s puny dividend isn’t something that’s likely to be missed by those entering into new positions as shares find themselves at a 5 month low. Believing that last week’s selling was overdone I would consider a slightly longer option contract and the use of an out of the money strike as a means to allow some time for price repair while collecting an option premium while waiting.

While not falling quite as much as MasterCard on Friday, shares of Starbucks (SBUX) also succumbed to selling pressure. While the past week was filled with news regarding other players entering into the breakfast marketplace, including offering free cups of coffee, there was really an absence of Starbucks specific news. While breakfast taco waffles may garner some attention, Starbucks has become as much a way of life as it has a product provider. It’s current price is one where it has shown considerable strength and it too may warrant the use of slightly longer term option contracts and an out of the money strike.

Apollo Education (APOL) was a stock that I highlighted last week as a possible earnings trade. As usual, I prefer those through the sale of well out of the money put contracts prior to earnings, especially if share price is trending downward prior to earnings. In Apollo’s case shares had instead shown strength prior to the earnings release, so I stayed away from selling puts at that time. After earnings shares did sustain a drop and I then sold some out of the money puts in the hope that the drop wouldn’t continue beyond another few strike levels. While there was almost a need to roll them over on Friday as the market was crumbling, Apollo shares showed resilience, even as the market did not.

While I still don’t have much confidence in the product it offers nor the manner in which it generates its revenues, that’s largely irrelevant, as it continues to offer some reasonable returns even if shares continue to experience some decline. Once again, however, I would most likely consider the sale of puts rather than an outright purchase of shares and concomitant sale of calls.

There’s probably very little that can be added to make a discussion of Herbalife (HLF) newsworthy, but when there is, it will really be worth paying attention. While Herbalife has been a good target of put sellers following the severe price drop in the wake of regulatory and legal investigations that are being escalated, it has recovered very nicely with the realization that any real news is likely to be in the distance. It too, is a position that I would likely consider entry through the sale of out of the money puts.

This week’s dividend stocks for consideration are two that

I haven’t owned for a while, as I’ve been waiting for them to return to more reasonable price levels. Sometimes the realization comes that waiting only prevents being an active participant. Aetna (AET) Abbott Labs (ABT) have long been absent from my portfolio despite continually thinking about adding them back.

With a large number of existing positions already going ex-dividend this week I’m not as anxious to add any additional ones. However, of those two, Abbott Labs is more appealing for having a higher dividend rate and for having already come off some recent price peaks. In need of additional health care sector stocks, Abbott also carries that personal appeal at this point in time. However, it reports earnings the following week so my preference, if purchasing shares, would be a quick holding and given its current option premium would even be willingly accepting of an early assignment.

Aetna has simply left me behind in the dust as I’ve been waiting for it to return to what I believed was a fair price, but apparently the market has long disagreed. While it may be some time until we all realize whether new healthcare mandates are a positive or negative for the insurers, the one thing that most everyone can agree is that the long term is always positive when your fee structure is highly responsive to actuarial data. Add to that an increasing interest rate environment and the future may be bright for insurers.

Among the shares that I had assigned this past week were Comcast (CMCSA) and Coach (COH). Following the week ending sell-off I was grateful to have as many assignments as there were, especially to replenish cash reserves in the event of buying opportunities ahead. However, among those assigned, these two are ones that I’m eager to re-incorporate into my portfolio.

Comcast, despite my personal feelings about the product and service, has just been a spectacular growth story and has had great guidance under the control of the Roberts family. My celebration of “Comcast Liberation Day” a few years ago didn’t mean that I would boycott share ownership or overlook its attributes as an investment. It’s recent 10% price drop in the past two months from its highs has offered an opportunity to find some more realistic entry points. While I’ve been following shares for quite some time, it only recently began offering weekly and expanded weekly options. For me, that was the signal, combined with the reduced share price to start initiating positions.  I envision a similar opportunity with Comcast shares on a serial basis as I have experienced with Coach.

Coach remains a stock that I feel like I could happily buy most week in and out as long as it’s trading in a $48-$54 range and have done so repeatedly when it has done so. Despite a near absence of positive news in almost two years and the company having been written off as a loser in the competitive wars, especially with Michael Kors (KORS), for those who can recognize that multiple small stock gains can be very meaningful it has been a consistent performer. With earnings approaching at the end of the month I would be less inclined to use longer term option contracts at this time, as Coach has had a recent history of sharp and unpredictable moves following earnings.

While Coach has been unable to do anything right in the eyes of many, until recently, Under Armour (UA) could do no wrong. WHile it’s still not clear whether the design of their latest skating wear for US Olympians was in any way related to their disappointing performance, Under Armour’s CEO, Kevin Plank, was a perfect study in how to present his company when under public scrutiny. 

While it received a downgrade about 3 weeks ago and subsequently fell more than 7% in that aftermath, it fell an additional 9% from that sentinel point late this week as it was carried along with the rest of the deluge. As with many others the selling was in the absence of substantive news.

With earnings season beginning this coming week, Under Armour is among those announcing early in the process on April 17, 2014. It’s volatility is commanding a health option premium at a time when many others are languishing, however, the risk may be compounded during the following week. For that reason, if considering the purchase of shares I would likely use a weekly contract and if necessary roll that over to a longer term contract in anticipation of that enhanced risk. As earnings approach, Under Armour may also turn out to be a potential earnings related trade through the sale of out of the money put options.

Finally, a number of years ago I was studying two stocks with an eye toward adding one to my regular rotation in need of another energy sector position. They were Anadarko (APC) and Apache (APA). For a while I would get their stock symbols confused and really had a difficult time discerning their differences. I still have no real idea of what those differences may be, but for some reason I gravitated toward Anadarko.

This week, that dalliance may have come to an end, at least for the time being, as my shares were assigned following an untimely and unexpected end to the Tronox litigation that was an unwelcome part of its Kerr McGee purchase.

Whatever positive comments I would normally make about Anadarko relative to its prospects for trading in a range and offering an attractive premium can now be transferred to Apache. The best part, though, is that Apache is approximately 10% below its recent high and can make me forget about Anadarko for now.

Traditional Stocks: Apache, Comcast, MasterCard, Starbucks

Momentum Stocks: Apollo Educational, Coach, Herbalife, Under Armour

Double Dip Dividend: Aetna (4/8), Abbott Labs (4/11)

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.