Caterpillar is My Annuity

(A version of this article appeared in

Years ago I treated a teenager in the emergency room after an assault, re-implanting a tooth that had been knocked out during an assault.

His mother was so appreciative that before they left she had taken the time amd effort to sell me an annuity. Young and gullible and with discretionary cash, I signed on thinking “what a great idea.” I canceled that annuity within the three day window once I learned what an annuity actually was and soon after made my first stock investment.

When my son did an internship at a leading insurance company I refused to give him the names of any of my professional contacts, once he started telling me how great annuities would be for them. That valuable information on my enemies, however, were readily turned over I didn’t even give him my contact information.

To this day, I really dislike the idea of annuities, except if they’re unintentional and of my own making. I

‘m reasonably certain that no one on Caterpillar’s (CAT) Board of Directors thinks of it as a company in the business of providing annuities, but I do. I’m certain that their heavy equipment is excellent, but their artificial financial engineering products are even better.

My memory may be failing, but I can’t think of a company in the past year that has been disparaged more than has Caterpillar. It’s CEO, Douglas Oberhelm, has been generally pilloried and is frequently suggested as a leading candidate for “Worst CEO of 2013,” as Herb Greenberg collects nominations for that annual honor.

At this year’s Delivering Alpha Conference, famed short seller Jim Chanos presented a compelling argument for the reasons that Caterpillar was his choice as “short of the year.” While being in the running for worst CEO of the year is humbling enough, having your company in the crosshairs of someone willing to put their substantial assets to work in support of the thesis should be cause for further introspection. While perhaps true, it’s not entirely clear that Caterpillar has been engaged in any activities that are designed to help propel its shares higher, other than overpaying for shares as part of its share repurchase program.

It’s certainly not easy keeping a low profile when you’re a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Index as it spent much of the year hitting new record highs and your share price languished in a trading range. However, perhaps “Type A” personalities require a stock that is firing on all cylinders, but I prefer one that has settled into mediocrity and knows how to tread in place. Welcome to Caterpillar.

CAT ChartLet’s look at the simple 2013 YTD statistics. While the DJIA has advanced 20.2%, Caterpillar has fallen 4.0%, but only down 2.1% if you plow dividends back into the equation. Unfortunately for those 2013 Caterpillar statistics the company advanced a dividend payment from 2013 to 2012 in order to take advantage of a lower tax environment. (CAT data by YCharts)

While no one really cares about the sum of the absolute value of share price moves Caterpillar would be worshipped if they did. I have to admit having spent some time at the altar of Caterpillar, especially for most of 2013 as it rarely ventured far from home.

While the lack of performance is shameful, perhaps the real shame comes from exercising a buy and hold approach with a stock that has been so well suited for a covered call strategy, as it has traded in a range and has been repeatedly cited and chided for doing so.

Whenever you hear a stock criticized for being unable to break out of its trading range it’s time to think of creating your own annuity, rather than looking for an alternative investment.

Here’s why.

That range has created the opportunity to create your own annuity by serially purchasing shares when within that range and selling near the money or in the money calls. After all, why use out of the money calls in an attempt to optimize share gain when the real gain is from premiums? Collecting premiums and collecting dividends with occasional, albeit small gains or losses on shares over and over again has been an annuity in disguise. The income not only flows on a regular basis, but its accumulation can be significant and even make a celebrated short seller salivate.

In an 18 month period I have owned shares on 15 different occasions, sometimes holding different priced lots concurrently. In that time the average purchase price per share was $84.74, as compared to today’s $86.05 close. Adding dividends the 18 month return would be 5.2% for the buy and hold investor as compared to 52.7% for the aggressive covered option investor. During that same period of time the Dow Jones climbed 22.3%

Ultimately, every single argument being made against Caterpillar may be warranted and Oberhelm may, in fact, be deserving of an unwanted appellation. However, Caterpillar’s pricing behavior provides a good argument for remaining agnostic regarding the issues that others find so compelling.

Who knows, maybe even annuities can someday get beyond their “Worst Investment of 2013” status.

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.

Fastenal is Fascinating

(A version of this article appeared in TheStreet)

Actually, that may be a little bit of an over-statement. Fastenal (FAST) is fairly staid, at least on a conceptual level.

In a previous life, one that included legitimate employment, I flew into a New England city on a weekly basis and would pass a Fastenal store on a lonely back road with equal frequency. On the occasional daytime landings I noticed that the parking lot and sidewalks would sometimes be packed, sometimes empty and never thought twice about it, otherwise.

During an economic period when businesses opened with great expectations and closed with great disappointment, that solitary Fastenal store was there for at least the 7 years that I drove past it. Nothing terribly fancy nor ostentatious about its appearance, just a utilitarian building, presumably delivering the literal and figurative goods.

Back then I had no idea what exactly Fastenal did, nor whether it was a publicly traded company. My assumption was that it had something to do with fasteners. “Fasten All. we fasten everything,” I envisioned their ad campaign for people in need of fasteners not knowing where else to go. I’m just smart that way.

Its location certainly couldn’t be associated with high profile consumer items and the word “technology” wasn’t anywhere to be found on the building’s edifice. But at least in the recent aftermath of the dot com bust it still had a building with its name on it. Little did I know that there were many of those buildings in the kind of places or beaten paths that I didn’t frequent very often and that they had lots more than hardware and fasteners.

Years later, when I had devoted myself to full time portfolio management I happened to pass another Fastenal site, this one in rural Delaware. On that particular day the lot was packed. A year later the same lot was empty and a few months later packed again. I may be smart in certain ways, but sometimes a sense of curiosity is helpful, as well. I don’t have much of the latter, but the laws governing osmosis are difficult to avoid.

At some point following all of those sightings I had a reasonable idea of what Fastenal was about and aware that it was about lots more than fasteners. Yet, even with a little bit of knowledge in hand I had never taken the leap and invested in shares. It’s just not one of those companies that you hear discussed very much, but it casts a fairly wide footprint among those people that actually do something tangible with their skill sets, like building and improving things that we may often take for granted.

In a world that takes great pride in and expects pant waists to ride at or above the actual waist, Fastenal was treading in a world where slippage may have been more the norm.

At some point casual observations can lead to intrigue. Certainly the idea of channel checking has some merit, but the occasional glimpse of a single store is probably not the sort of thing that channel checkers would trumpet as validating their work. Additionally, as hard as I might try to find an association or correlation to suggest that Fastenal could serve as a proxy to herald changes in GDP or broad market averages, the thesis was just lacking.

Looking at every potential investment from the perspective of a covered option writer and having started following Fastenal shares, as is my custom when my interest is piqued, for 6 months or more, I finally decided to purchase shares in June 2013 and am currently on my fifth lot of shares in that time.

The average purchase price for those 5 lots was $47.27 with the average strike price of the lots being $47.80. Based on today’s closing price of $46.41, the average price of all shares, including those of previously assigned positions is $47.45. If somehow I could magically close the book on the positions today the cumulative return would be 23.6% when shares themselves are actually trading at a loss compared to the average cost. During that same time frame the S&P 500 has advanced approximately 8.5%.

FAST ChartWhy am I telling you any of this? Sure, boasting is one reason, but despite the lack of a coherent thesis to urge the use of Fastenal as a predictive tool, what now captures my attention with regard to future opportunities is a quick look at Fastenal’s chart over the past 5 weeks.

The banality of variation during that time is exactly what excites a covered option strategist. While a consistent flat line wouldn’t do very much to encourage option buyers to ante up the premiums, the occasional paroxysms of price, up or down, make selling Fastenal call options an appealing complement to an overall strategy of trying to optimize share returns and dividends. More importantly, the setting of a strike price at which options are sold establishes a discipline by creating an exit point and doing what is often left undone – taking profits. While Fastenal may be staid, most of us would consider the idea of profits to be fascinating regardless of how often we would have to be subject to them.


FAST data by YCharts

A Bullish Case Going Forward

(A version of this article appeared on

The bullish case? I can’t possibly make one, having been expecting a market correction similar to that seen in April 2012 since April of this year. Besides. I’m an inveterate covered option writer and by nature see the pitfalls of every single trade that I make or suggest.

After all, why would you need protection in the form of options if your stock thesis was sound?

After nearly 30 years of marriage my wife recently told me that only about 40% of what I say turns out to actually be correct. If it was only that good when it came to selecting stocks and getting the timing just right. I’d be in the pantheon of the world’s greatest investors instead of world’s greatest husbands.

Conveniently ignoring my track record of premature pessimism, the coming week holds lots of risk for portfolios.

At a time, albeit only for a day or two, that good news was actually interpreted by the market as being good news, it was a little disconcerting that the idea of a budget deal wasn’t greeted with great enthusiasm. In fact, even the architects of the deal seemed to minimize the achievement. Considering that the current Congress would even have a difficult time agreeing on what day to celebrate New Years if it fell on a Monday, one would be excused for thinking a budget deal, well ahead of a deadline was actually monumental.

Suggesting that the market had simply discounted the deal is also convenient, but clearly without basis. Certainly watching Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor take the opportunity to rail against the Affordable Care Act, when they addressed the nation, fighting yesterday’s war instead of rallying the markets by celebrating a rare accomplishment, wasn’t helpful.

At this point, however, that’s all yesterday’s news and other than painting a picture of a squeamish market, doesn’t offer any forward looking guidance.

Where the immediate risk enters is from the coming week’s release of the FOMC minutes and perhaps more importantly Chairman Ben Bernanke’s press conference that follows.

Having sold many options with an expiration date just two days after the FOMC release, I’m forced to recall two other occasions this year when I was smugly anticipating assignment of many positions and counting the cash, when the market turned on a dime and not in the right way, either.

Just a few days ago there were very few believing that there was any possibility that the dreaded “taper” to Quantitative Easing could begin or be announced in December. That may be why last week’s good Employment Situation Report was greeted as good news, despite the fact it was good news. Without the fear of the taper beginning much sooner rather than later, the market rallied. But remember, that in the previous days the market sputtered as a synthetic version of tapering, the rising yield on 10 Year Treasury Notes showed us what is in store when the real thing hits.

While the outcome of what awaits next week isn’t pre-ordained, I like to know when obstacles are ahead and what lessons can be learned from the past.

I normally spend Wednesday’s scouting out potential new positions for next week’s purchases in anticipation of weekly option assignments and cash flowing into my account. The question is whether it’s time to preserve the cash or simply look for the bullish case that always exists somewhere, although can disappear in an instant.

Since I never look to hit homeruns, the names that I gravitate to for short term plays are only to achieve small returns and are the names so often dismissed by those with traditional mindsets.

No one thumps their chest pounding about a proposed 1% ROI for the week on their recommeed trades.

COH ChartHowever, eBay (EBAY), Coach (COH) and Caterpillar (CAT) gravitate to the top even when the foundation around them may be weakening. Not because they necessarily have good fundamental stories, after all, they have all had their recent share of derision, but because they have been reliable in their mediocrity and have simply traded in a range for an extended period of time.

 That range is precisely what makes them valuable to an option seller. While exercising a traditional buy and hold approach to these would have been an exercise in futility of the past year, a punctuated form of ownership, essentially a serial buy and hold technique, characterized by repeated purchases, writing of calls and assignments could be an exercise in delight, as seen in these returns in eBay, Caterpillar and Coach. The predictability of that range is more reliable than being able to time a rally or decline. The consistency of trading, particularly over the past nine months or so is the sort of thing that dreams are made of, if you have nothing else to dream about.

They may be boring and they may be out of favor among, but sometimes the bullish case is made out of adding together lots of baby cows.

As I look toward the challenge of the coming week and the message sent by today’s market, I take my seemingly eternal pessimism, but am not inclined to shrink back into my shell. Rather, the time seems exceddingly right for small victories shared with old friends

COH data by YCharts

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 volatility 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.