Daily Market Update – March 24, 2014




Daily Market Update – March 24, 2014 (9:00 AM)

It’s another week that seems to be getting ready to start off with a calm opening, although the past three weeks have been anything but calm when it comes to cumulative activity. After the previous few weeks have been done, all after the initial news of trouble in Crimea, markets have ended strongly lower and strongly higher, despite what appeared to be calm beginnings.

My preference, if there’s going to be some tumult, tends to be a down Monday to start the week, especially after lots of assignments.

With all of that cash now sitting and waiting to be re-deployed the challenge is not giving in to the temptation to do so all at once. There’s nothing worse than catching the top of a single stock, much less the top of a basket of stocks or an entire market, especially when it can be avoided with just a little bit of self-discipline.

A cash reserve of almost 50% creates lots of opportunity, but not all opportunity is good. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone on a spending spree after a week of lots of assignments and I don’t think I’ll be going on one this week either, but I am willing to get down to a 30% cash level. That would be about 10 new positions, although lately the number has been far less.

As mentioned at last week’s close I will be increasingly looking at the opportunity to  squeeze premiums out of as many positions as possible that are currently uncovered, through the use of strike levels below cost basis. That means a need for greater maintenance of positions, including the possibility of rollovers at a net debit, as may be appropriate to help work a position back toward an acceptable ROI. Doing so is simply a modification of the DOH strategy. Maybe I’ll call it a “mini-DOH.”

As with the DOH strategy it helps to have volatility showing some increasing level in order to make the premium more closely offset the risk of assignment or rollover at a net debit, so not all positions may be created equally in being candidates, although that could change from week to week.

This week I’m not terribly interested in risk other than possibly taking advantage of any position that takes a sudden hit to price that may appear to be overdone or some potential earnings related trades. Otherwise, I think this may be a week to go with reasonably boring stocks, although even those are often at or near their price peaks.

The market’s pre-open trading seems to indicate that little of market moving potential outside of the markets themselves are knocking on the door. For know, Crimea is quiet, there’s no additional disappointing news coming from China and the coming week has little in the way of important economic reports.

With earnings season near its end and the new one still a few weeks away it’s almost like being inlimbo, but we all know that won’t last. Despite the appearances of quiet and calm the market frequently finds its own reasons for dysfunction and over-reaction.

While I do like to complain about that, it’s that very lack of predictability which creates the volatility that I don’t complain about when it’s developing.

With already eleven positions set to expire this week and almost nothing thereafter, I would like to populate some of those out weeks with contracts, if only the volatility would make those premiums a little more inviting.

Based on the past year the periodicity between the “mini-VIX” peaks that I pointed out last week to the “maxi peaks” has been about 6 weeks and we just passed a “mini-peak.” If that stays true to form then better premiums may be on the way, but as often is the case, that comes at the expense of better stock prices.

That may re-inforce some caution when looking to spend all of that cash that’s now on the sidelines, although there still may be some time to party between peaks.

It’s those kinds of discussions and analyses that makes me glad I don’t spoend more time looking at charts.

















Dashboard – March 24 – 28, 2014






MONDAY:   Another week with a seemingly quiet start, but which may belie anything but a quiet week. Enhanced cash reserves meet opportunity? Maybe, but  only in moderation.

TUESDAY:     This market doesn’t seem to want to give in. Futures strength in the pre-open is the tone for early trading with no disappointments seen in the immediate future.

WEDNESDAY:  Yet another day that appears to begin with an upward bias during a week with no obvious headwinds other than the unexpected

THURSDAY:    More indecision seems to be on hand to start the day, but as yesterday showed, the pre-open knows nothing of what may be to come, although anything would be a surprise this week.

FRIDAY:  Another quiet start being indicated by the futures to bring an end to a confused week








Sneak Peek










Weekend Update – March 23, 2014

There was a time when the Chairman of the Federal Reserve did not hold press conferences.

In the past that would have been a very good thing, as the last Chairman to not have held press conferences, Alan Greenspan, was cryptic. When he did speak, such as during congressional testimony, he could send markets gyrating to opposite extremes before even having uttered a single verb. 

When Ben Bernanke succeeded him and introduced the concept of a regularly scheduled press conference people were thrilled with the idea that there would be a new era of transparency and an end to the use of words shrouded by their own opacity.

For the most part Ben Bernanke’s press conferences were yawners. Not because of a lack of interesting subject matter, but because the markets rarely reacted to any new insights and inadvertent slips of strategic policy intentions just weren’t going to come from someone who carefully measured every word.

Now it was Janet Yellen’s turn and there had even been talk of her holding such press conferences after each FOMC minutes release and not simply on an alternating monthly basis.

Yellen performed admirably, once you get over the fact that with your eyes closed she sounds like Woody Allen’s sister, never batting an eyelash when one questioner twice referred to the FOMC members as “you guys” and then herself once referred to the cultural phenomenon of “shacking up,” it was what she said or didn’t say or maybe meant or maybe didn’t mean that sent the market abruptly tumbling at 3:04 PM Wednesday afternoon.

What was learned was that in a world of imprecision, especially when discussing time frames, any lapse that leads to a more precise time frame can create reactions from people that claim to loathe uncertainty but are really more afraid of certainty. The very idea that interest rates might begin to rise as soon as 6 months from now as part of a strategic plan by the Federal Reserve was a momentary reason to panic.

But was it really because of what Janet Yellen said or more a case of traders going to a second or even third derivative of the consequences of whatever it is that she may have said or may have meant.

That seems like good enough reason to exercise the emotional part of a coherent investing strategy.

The market’s response this week showed that it is very much on edge and harbors a significant amount of nervousness, but it also shows impressive reparative ability. 

Over the past few weeks it is that reparative ability that has repeatedly been tested and repeatedly met the challenge. 

With continued challenges in mind, this week more of my attention is focused upon positions that may be less susceptible to a breakdown in the event of a market giving into some of the challenges that may await. While in recent weeks I haven’t been adverse to more risky or volatile positions, I once again find myself not being attracted to risk as the market is again near all time highs, despite its seeming resilience and resistance to challenges.

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).

The world of a stock analyst continues to confound me. On the one hand, I saw this week’s decline in shares of Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) as an opportunity to consider bringing it back into my portfolio, particularly since I need additional healthcare representation. However, this week came a curious assessment from analysts at The Jeffries Group who raised their price target of shares to $48 and issued a “hold” rating on shares.

Since a $48 price target is about 10% below the Friday’s close, which itself is 8% lower than where shares started the month, it does beg a question or two. 

Rather than asking those questions, I like what appears to be an opportunity, having waited for shares to return to my comfort level. The fact that Bristol Myers will be paying a dividend shortly further encourages me to consider going for the trifecta; an increase in share value, an option premium and the dividend, during what is hoped to be a short period of ownership.

British Petroleum (BP) is another stock that has seen its shares fall about 8% this month. I haven’t owned shares since November 2012, but have been anxious to do so since that time, futilely hoping that it would return to the $43 level at which I had repeatedly traded its shares. Sometimes you may have to give up some hopes and perhaps come to the realization that after its 8% fall that may be the biggest gift that is to come. While its option premium is less rich than I would like the enticement of its dividend makes it one of those companies that I don’t mind owning for more than an occasional short term fling, particularly since it doesn’t appear to be poised to present undue risk, even in a falling market.

While British Petroleum may now seem to have much in the way of added risk, Holly Frontier (HFC) is not exactly be a prototypical stock to consider when looking to avoid risk. It certainly trades with some sudden and rapid moves in both directions and does so on a regular basis. Yet despite that kind of behavior it seems to also be very capable of finding its way back home. Having owned several times in the past few months and having just had shares assigned this past week, I’m interested in restoring them to my portfolio. The single caveat is that it is near the top of the range that I’ve had comfort initiating a position.

With the attentions of Nelson Peltz and Carl Icahn, Mondelez (MDLZ) and eBay (EBAY), respectively have seen their initial bursts of share appreciation moderate of late. Until Icahn came onto the scene eBay was one of my very favorite covered call trades as it
so reliably traded in a range. His sudden interest and unimaginative plan to spin off the PayPal unit was initially news divulged by eBay upon its earnings announcement and it shifted focus from mediocre performance to activist investing.

Following some fairly nasty exchanges, including a battle of words with Marc Andreessen, who sits on the board of eBay, the share price has started moderating a bit, having gone down approximately 5% from its peak earlier this month. That’s still on the high end of my trading range, but the interest is returning and would be greatly enhanced with any further drop.

Mondelez, on the other hand, has made some peace with its activist and its shares have stagnated ever since. As with eBay and so many other stocks, I like stagnation, especially if punctuated with occasional bursts of activity that keeps traders and especially potion buyers ion their toes. Mondelez goes ex-dividend this week and that has been a good time to consider entering into a new position or adding shares.

A Court of Appeals ruling on Friday regarding debit card swipe fees was greeted by differing levels of enthusiasm for shares of Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) that appeared to adversely impact MasterCard well out of proportion to the favor found in Visa. Despite the acknowledged greater market share that Visa controls in the debit card area, analysts predominantly noted an incremental benefit to MasterCard as well, however its shares fell sharply, placing it back in the attractive price range

LuLuLemon Athletica (LULU) reports earnings this week. With a new clothing line recently released and with new leadership, as an existing shareholder with much more expensively priced shares, my hope is that they will provide guidance that casts an optimistic light on its future fortunes. No stranger to large earnings related moves there is, however, the possibility that this earnings report could be the kind that a new CEO often uses for advantage by dumping all of the bad news and dead weight so that, by comparison, future earnings reports are glowing and reflect upon the new CEO.

The option market is implying a 10.5% move when earnings are announced. By some of its own historical standards that may be an understatement of what its shares are capable of doing and the direction has been predominantly on the downside. The 1% ROI that may be able to be obtained even with a 14% drop in share price may make that risk worthy for some, especially if you believe, as I do, that this earnings report will be greeted in a positive manner.

Family Dollar Stores (FDO) has not had a good month ever since a downgrade to “sell” and disappointing earnings from Dollar General (DG). Now near its yearly lows volatility has returned to its option premiums helping to balance the risk that may be associated with this purchase, despite its historically low beta level. I already own shares and have been fighting back its price drop by attempting to take advantage of that enhanced option premium. While there may be some disagreement about what an improving retail sector means for the lower echelon of retailers, such as Family Dollar Store, I subscribe to the “high tide theory” particularly since economic recovery is leaving many behind and increasingly tethered to the lower echelon of retail.

Other than being named as one of the world’s most ethical companies, there really was no other bad news to have accounted for International Paper (IP) being unable to capitalize on the market’s advance this week. It’s current price places it close to the lower end of its trading range and makes it increasingly appealing to own. With more spin-offs of its assets planned within the next few months in pursuit of a successful strategy that has seen a number of such assets spun off, International Paper has created and optimized value without the need for outside agitation and has been a good candidate for a covered option strategy in the past year.

Finally, GameStop (GME) reports earnings this week. It received a blow to its share price when Wal-Mart (WMT) announced that it was encroaching on GameStop’s core business by offering to exchange Wal-Mart shopping credit for used video games. Whether Wal-Mart believes that they have a potentially profitable product line in used video games or simply plan to use customer entry into the stores as a means of enticing them toward other Wal-Mart purchases isn’t clear, but I think that impact on GameStop will be far less than the market has already assigned.

Wal-Mart, priding itself on offering the lowest prices, isn’t likely to offer the highest prices on its game repurchases. Secondly, only the most desperate of families is going to garnish their kid’s video games, which through some tradition have become the property of kids to do with as pleased and then trade them in for a chance for even more Wal-Mart goods. The rightful owners of those games, the kids, are going to need a really compelling reason to go into Wal-Mart.

Adult gamers, on the other hand, may not have enough energy to re-direct their inertia and change their game swapping habits.

The option market is implying a 5.5% move upon earnings release and GameStop is certainly no stranger to large price swings. However, the sale of a put option at a strike price about 11% below Friday’s closing price can still return a weekly ROI of 1%. That’s the sort of fun that could have me easily glued to the ticker crawl on my stock screen.


Traditional Stocks: Bristol Myers Squibb, British Petroleum, eBay, Family Dollar Store, Holly Frontier, International Paper, MasterCard

Momentum Stocks: none

Double Dip Dividend:  Mondelez (3/27)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: GameStop (3/27 AM), LuLuLemon Athletica (3/27 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.

Daily Market Update – March 21, 2014




Daily Market Update – March 21, 2014 (9:00 AM)

The Week in Review will be posted by 6 PM and the Weekend Update will be posted by noon on SUnday.

Today’s possible outcomes include:


AssignmentANF, COH, FAST, HFC, INTC, LB ($44), MSFT, TMUS

RolloverAPC, BBY, LB ($47.40), TWTR (put)

ExpirationCHK, FDO, GM, LULU, RIG, WFM

Trades, if any, will be attempted to be made prior to 3:30 PM (EDT)

















Daily Market Update – March 20, 2014 (Close)




Daily Market Update – March 20, 2014 (Close)

After yesterday’s late day swoon following some confusion and maybe too much candor from new Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen, it looks as if the market is willing to forget the brief pseudo-panic and move forward.

After a few years of press conferences in which very little was said that surprised anyone or took the markets for a ride, it was an unexpected reminder of how tentative and fickle prices may be at any moment in time.

The market’s initial reaction to yesterday’s confusion was a good example of the perils of trading at or near historical highs even when there is news to support such highs. When the support is less than compelling it probably doesn’t take too much to see a sudden shift in gear.

What you never know and sometimes sit in fear of, is at what point do you reach a breaking point or when frenzy begins to feed upon itself. In the case of a short squeeze most of us like that kind of self-feeding frenzy, but when the market is heading lower it’s a completely different set of emotions.

However, there was never really a true sense of panic at any time during the 56 minutes or so of reaction and the market did recover nearly half of its very quick loss, so the news can’t be all bad.

At least today, after trading was ended, we were moved a bit further away from any mythical breaking point as the market spent most of the day slowly working its way to a 100 point gain until giving a little back b y the close.

When these kind of things happen, as yesterday’s sell-off as one example, it does have to make everyone watching increase their personal level of unease, even if you can put somewhat of a positive spin on the outcome. Even if the phenomenon is short lived it has to leave at least a little bit of an imprint on people’s minds and maybe a little bit of hesitancy regarding increasing risk levels or the kind of risk taken on.

On the flip side you’ll find those who will now say that some of the uncertainty regarding interest rates may now have been removed and that lifting of uncertainty clears the way for the market to move higher.

Today they were right.

The nice thing is that either of those scenarios will eventually come true. One or the other. Unlike 2011 when the market finished unchanged for the year or when green comes up on the roulette wheel, something is likely to happen and one group will be able to point to their visionary prowess while the other will conveniently ignore their position and pretend to be unwounded and just move forward.

What you can be certain of is that some algorithms are being re-tweaked and certain words in official statements, speeches, or off the cuff remarks will be given new weightings based on yesterday’s comments. That’s despite the fact that there is no definitive intent confirmed in yesterday’s comments. Instead, they’ve been interpreted in any number of ways.

For me, my vision runs out at the end of each week. I just want to get to that endpoint and start wiping off the lenses to see what may be on the next near term horizon , which generally happens to be a week or two away. I’m not thinking ahead to this Fall, nor much less to the Fall of 2015, as those focusing on interest rates have suddenly set their sights.

What my vision didn’t foresee was another onslaught on Walter Energy.

Yesterday it was about 8% higher as news came out that it was ready to bring notes to market following news the previous week that it was granted a further lending facility. Shares took a hit after that news and it was nice to see that the actual announcement of the event was met with some kindness. AS with everything else, Walter Energy gave up most of its gains in the final hour of trading after the Federal Reserve “mis-speak.”

This morning, however, I was stunned to see a large decline in the pre-open. What made this different from other large pre-open price indications was that there was actually heavy volume to support that move, as opposed to a transaction of 100 shares at a ridiculous price.

It took a couple of hours before finally finding the reason behind the drop, having received a link from a subscriber regarding a Bank of America downgrade of the sector, with especially haqrsh words for Walter Energy.

By the close of trading its rop was almost as large as the one taken this past June 2013.

The good news is that the last time it recovered that loss by the second day after.

Hopefully history repeats itself, but today was especially discouraging on that front, while the rest of the day turned out to be fairly pleasant.

With the pre-open trading suggesting that a reasonably calm opening looked likely that provided some level of comfort that yesterday’s sell off wouldn’t do irreparable damage to the ability to see respectable numbers of assignments and rollovers tomorrow.

Thankfully, there is more than Walter Energy.