Best Friends Forever

What a day Friday turned out to be.


The ISM numbers came out at 10 AM and the market never looked back. The Michigan Consumer Sentiment numbers were basically chopped liver, but the ISM was prime cut.


But I ended up not being a very happy camper. My week at the Four Seasons was instead transformed into a downpour at KOA.


Before those numbers came out I was smugly tapping myself on the back, thanks to a collagen disorder that gives me ungodly elasticity, for a job well done.


Reminds me of that old joke, “Why does a dog lick its balls?”.


Like a young Zynga employee already counting his stock options profits, I was looking at successful sales of last minute call options and the prospects of still getting to keep my shares for another weekly cycle. Best of all, they would also be right at the strike prices of the week before.


Long story short. No more shares. No licking. No tap.


Not quite tapped out, because I still had a nice gain for the week in addition to my options premiums, but I definitely left more than I would have predicted on the table for someone else.


My personal trickle down. If the Federal Reserve wasn’t going to initiate QE 3, then who better to take it on as a personal project than me?


You’re welcome.


There really wasn’t any great news for the day. Granted the ISM numbers were surprising, but I was more surprised that it sustained a fifth day of rallies until the very close of trading. More significantly, it’s as if no one had ever heard of the concept of closing long positions ahead of a holiday weekend.


The presumption is that the rest of the world will stop its tightly wound spring out of respect for our 235th birthday.


With my Jeckyl and Hyde personna, now I’m hoping for a nice opening plunge on Tuesday so that I can get back in the game at some decent prices. I already have my eyes on Williams Sonoma, Deere, British Petroleum and more shares of Mosaic.


I’m also thinking of picking up shares in McCormick & Co. for the first time. I know that its just come off of its price high, but he stock goes ex-dividend on Thursday (2.25%) and has about another 1% options premium for barely a 2 week holding period.


We’ll see. Last week I was going to do the same with Riverbed Technology, but didn’t, as I watched it go from $32 to $39. I won’t complain, since I picked up shares of Halliburton instead.


But as Friday was winding down, the only real bits of news at first semed unrelated, but proved otherwise as the day progressed.


Vick and DSKThe villified, Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Michael VIck were front and center.


Exiting from the courthouse this morning, Strauss-Kahn was all smiles as some dirt came out questioning the credibility of his accuser. The details were pretty extensive and seemed to show a pattern of less than honest behavior on her part.


Such a person could therefore never be the victim of rape.


The fact that she lied about being the victim of a gang rape in her native Guinea was probably not a factor in the decision to release Strauss Kahn from his house arrest. The fact that she was looking to cash in on the allegations and had already put out a DVD, “Raping to the Oldies” was a more central factor in the Manhattan DA’s decision.


It was fascinating to watch the accuser’s attorney stand outside the courthouse and detail the specific events that he claims proves his client’s accusations. I’m sure the people at CNBC were grimacing as the attorney very graphically detailed the genital-centric evidence. The stick figure crayon drawings with the wildly exaggerated breasts were probably poorly conceived, however.


Meanwhile, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys, on some other courthouse steps didn’t stop short of calling those details outright lies. They were, however, much more diplomatic that Raj Rajaratnam’s attorney, John Dowd, who gave a one finger salute to the CNBC interviewer. Granted, he was on the losing side of a court decision and was still upset about Dennis Kneale’s CNBC departure.


For now, though, ankle bracelet removed, Strauss-Kahn has been somewhat rehabilitated and if he ever gets his passport back may just go back to France and be a serious presidential contender.


After this victory, when asked by the camera crew what he had planned on doing, Strauss-Kahn said “I’m going to Euro-Disney and force myself on Minnie Mouse”.


MurrayNot far away, another kind of rehabilitation was taking place.


Nike, his one-time sponsor, re-signed Michael Vick to an endorsement deal. After removing his product from stores some 5 years ago, Nike decided that in light of the dog’s recanting their original stories of abuse, it was time to get Vick back into the fold.


That and the fact that Vick appears bankable, once again.


It also didn’t help their case when it was discovered that the dog’s had lied about previously being forced into dog fights in their native Pitbullonia, as part of their political amnesty application.


Look, I don’t blame Nike. I started a website Road to Vicktory as soon as the Eagles signed Vick to a contract. A bucks a buck. Even a fallen angel should be exploited if the opportunity is there.


To slightly soothe my guilt, I also put a picture of our beloved Golden Retriever, Murray,  on the site. It’s amazing how money can soothe those sort of things.


Sometimes I wish that I had taken a wrong path, likes today’s featured BFF’s. Rehabilitation can be so sweet and rewarding. Maybe Nike will sign Strauss Kahn to an endorsement deal, as well. You know, what athletic shoe would you prefer to wear to get the best traction when standing and thrusting on the edge of a bed while on a freshly waxed hardwood floor?


Well Nike, of course. For those times that you need to maintain your hard wood.


Swoosh.


Instead, as I pound away for this blog before we set out for the fireworks show, there’s nothing market rattling coming along the way. It seems that tomorrow will just be another July 5th. The Asian markets all closed up in a big way, although the European markets were a bit more subdued.


For now, I’ll probably put my hopes for a downturn tomorrow on hold and wonder how it was that people knew not to lighten up on their holdings over the long weekend.


Maybe the bull is being rehabilitated, too.


It’s probably time to become BFF’s with it, before I miss the party.


 


 
















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A Pretty Penny

What’s in the Szelhamos Portfolio?








Find a pennyMost of us who grew up when cash actually exchanged hands for things other than drug transactions, probably remember the old saying “Find a penny, pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck.”


Just as an aside, people who are accustomed to transacting their drug deals on the street rarely concurrently engage in reciting such pithy sayings.


Being somewhat analytical, I tried searching for any evidence that this old adage was actually data driven, but could find none.


In fact, I couldn’t even find anectdotal evidence.


Somewhat nervous about what my internet searching history may say about me, I want to warn people not to seach for “Penny Pick-up”.


In an age when absolutely everything is documented, videotaped and then posted on the internet you would think that the evidence would exist.


If not in the affirmative, maybe the data would exist to contradict the expression. But even a search through Tosh.0 archives could show no videos of someone picking up a penny from the ground and then getting flattened by a baby grand piano falling out of a window.


You also remember the old saying about how those pennies add up.


When I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line I first encountered the ubiquitous “take a penny, give a penny” dish in all of the 7-Eleven’s that lined every thoroughfare. None of the cash register people could explaiin the concept to me, but that was because most had only been in the country for two weeks or less and I definitely have an INS look about me.


I still have no idea of how that works or what utility it carries. My paranoia tells me that if I take a penny out of the dish, I’ll find out that it was all an FBI sting operation and I’ll be going away for a long, long time.


Every few years as the price of copper fluctuates, we also hear talk about discontinuing production of the penny, which in everything but the world of old sayings, is thought to be pretty useless.


Of course, useless as it may be, talk of discontinuing its production brings out all sorts of characters and experts on both sides of the argument. Equally compelling are the counter arguments related to the role of the penny in either promoting inflation or promoting deflation.


Like most economic arguments, just take your pick. When they say “A penny for your thoughts” they’re probably referring to the value placed upon financial and economic opinions.


But the value of those pennies, just like in the cult classic, Office Space, was really driven home today as trading was shortly halted in shares of both Visa and MasterCard.


I have a long history with both as an investor. MasterCard was actually the first stock that I sold call options on, probably some 5 years ago or so. For a while, I just concentrated on MasterCard, Apople and Google, all expensive stocks, as far as prices went, but all with great options premiums back at that time.


I’m still inappropriately seeking to exact revenge for not receiving an IPO allocation for Visa.


Bygones being what they are, I’ve almost continuously owned Visa shares since the IPO, but have not owned MasterCard in at least a year. In fact, my Twitter profile page is adorned with a Visa price chart as its wallpaper.


As with most everything I do these days in the markets, I don’t really seek much in the way of capital gains on the underlying stock. To me, the stock is just a means of delivering income. When it’s all said and done, I’m agnostic as to whether the stock moves up or down, just that it move somewhere and then eventually return near to where I got started with it.


Visa has been a great stock for behaving according to script.


Having just pocketed the premium for the options that expired on June 24 for Visa, which was a 1% gain, I sold $75 July 1 calls at about a 2.5% premium. My purchase price for the lot purchased on Jiune 20 was $74.06


Interestingly, the premium for the weekly July1st expiration was much better than for the end of cycle option on July 15th, due to the uncertainty that was being baked into the price related to the upcoming Federal Reserve rules decision on debit swipe fees.


Well, the rules came out today and trading was halted in both Visa and MasterCard as they gapped up significantly.


So while I’m on the hook for letting go of my Visa shares at $75, they closed the day at $87, up about $12, I won’t tell you how many shares I own, because I don’t want to short circuit my laptop with tears. Neither will I go to my Keurig and drown my sorrows in a nice hot cup of coffee, because the same thing happened not to long ago with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, as Starbucks became a Kissing Cousin.


It seems that pennies really do add up in the case of debit cards. The final Federal Reserve rules on swipe fees sets the per transaction cap at 21 cents, higher than the expected 12 cents, but still much lower than the banks had previously enjoyed.


But it wasn’t really clear why the stocks moved as they did, especially when JP Morgan released a statement that said that the won a battle in this decision, but lost the war.


That was a surprising kind of statement, because you don’t usually lose a war if you won the final battle.


And the retailers don’t seem to happy about the rules either.


But wait, if you order now, there’s more.


Why did MasterCard rise as much as it did, albeit a litlle less on a percentage basis than Visa? Especially since Visa has a very significant debit side business, whereas MasterCard doesn’t.


Why would American Express go up at all? Discover? really, Discover? Why did they go up? Did someone actually make a purchase?


In all, the reaction seemed overblown for all parties. But that seems to be par for the course. If I had some free cash right now, I would think about buying Visa puts, although i don’t buy puts as a general rule.


I have no idea how those pennies will ultimately add up, but then I realized that sometimes I play for pennies, as well. One of my trading rules in Option to Profit is to not let a penny here or there make a difference between executing or missing a trade.


I rarely get bogged down because of that level of greed. I just want to make the trade.


But where the pennies come in is on a derivative play of the Option to Profit strategy, one that is implemented during the last two days of an options cycle.


In this case, the cycle is this Friday, July 1st.


With both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan up nicely today, well in advance of the Federal Reserve news, I decided to sell options expiring in just 2 days. $0.10 premium on JP Morgan and $0.44 on Goldman.


In the case of Goldman, the sum total was pretty much in pennies, as well, as I’m at my lowest holding of those shares in years. The JP Morgan total was better than that as I had 8 times as many shares.


Still, no big whoop. But whoops are like pennies. They do add up.


With a couple of days now left to go until this Friday’s expiration, I’m in the position of hoping for share prices to go down, not just on Visa, but on a few others after this past three day run-up.


But the nice thing is that even if they don’t, one of my other old reliable stocks from the past is probably at a good enough place now to warrant its repurchase, knowing that someday Visa will shed a few thousand pennies and be ripe for the taking, once again..


Pennies may be from heaven, but on days like this I curse the rogue angel that showered them down.


No matter. Tomorrow, I will again be a slave to the man and cut off from my sea of information, but at least a few of those employment related pennies will come my way.


All the more to buy you, my pretty.


 


 


 




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Is Ignorance Good?

I spent much of the day in an unusual environment cut off from the simplest pleasures to which I have become accustomed.


I believe that it’s called “work”. Since it’s not really something that I have to do anymore, it’s not really servitude, it’s just work. Although I’ve been very fortunate in always having had good jobs and having been associated with very good people, it was still work.


Forget about the fact that for 20 of those years I actually expanded my mind, gained some professional stature and actually accomplished some worthwhile things, I would rather have been in my underground vault counting the day’s receipts and profits.


I continue to get a kick out of people who profess to really enjoy what they do for a living. Not that it isn’t possible, it’s just that it seems so highly unlikely.


Even Mel Brooks, who for a while really had his pulse on human behavior, got it wrong, when he said “It’s good to be the King”. I’m sure that these days, even King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia must wonder who’s serving whom when he has to release $135 billion in funds to pacify the populace with social program spending.


Not too long ago, one of my sons convinced me that I really needed to watch “It’s Always Sunny in Phildalephia”.


I was somewhat resistant because I don’t want to emotionally commit to a new show and then see it get cancelled. Besides, if it wasn’t on CNBC or Comedy Central, I wasn’t really interested.


Poor Paul Reiser. I still grieve.


But this carried very little liablity, because the show had already been on for 5 years or so and now was being run in syndication on Comedy Central.


IgnoranceNow, as I’ve become a fan, the characters of this show are the ulimate representation of ignorance.


Since I have been to Philadelphia, I agree with that characterization, but the weather forecast would be more accurate if the show was entitled “It’s Always Sunny in Riyadh”. Surely, ignorance knows no national boundaries.


Today, though, I was the “Mayor of Ignorance”.


For the previous 30 years I hadn’t really appreciated how delightful being a stay at home empty nester could be. The ability to trade as needed made staying a home a true and profitable delight. Maybe not as profitable as toiling away on a regular basis, but as a bonus, it’s something that is far from being “work”. I was actually getting a kick out of being me.


But today was different. As much as I looked around there wasn’t a single La-Z-Boy to be had. Although I did have a computer to call my own, there was no familiar background news of an ever-running television tuned to CNBC. I was beginning to question my decision to not drag along my laptop and stream CNBC through the Power E*Trade trading platform.


No coffee machine, no beautifully soft double ply toilet tissue and no dog in my lap.The people surrounding me were nice, but I had to wear socks and real shoes.


Still, trading opportunities weren’t denied to me.


Although I knew that the pre-opening was portending a positive open, I had no idea why the market performed so well throughout most of the day. I was cut-off from all forms of meaningful communication.


I was trading, but had no idea of why. All I saw were the price movements.


Early in the morning, I actually bought back the Freeport McMoran shares that had been assigned to me, yet at a price lower than the assigned price.


As Freeport then climbed later in the aftrenoon, although still trailing the market, I sold in the money calls with a Friday expiration. If I could get 2% return on every stock every week just by getting lucky like that, I wouldn’t have to write this blog. I wouldn’ty have to share my ignorance with anyone.


But I still wondered.


Was there news of a resumption of Chinese growth? Were copper prices going to sky-rocket? Was Pizar coming out with a Freeport McMoRan movie in 3-D?


No clue. I traded purely out of ignorance, fascinated by numbers red and green.


I also sold Visa call options expiring this Friday at an incredibly nice premium. Why were they so high relative to the next week’s premiums? Don’t know. Ignorance reigned.


Now before I try to portray ignorance as a bad thing, I did want to digress a bit toward my new found world of social media.


It was about 6 weeks ago that my son convinced me that I needed to “Tweet”.


Up until that point, I thought that Tweeting was only a means to let people know about the mundane things going on in Ashton Kutcher’s life.


He also convinced me to finally open up my “friend vacant” Facebook account and use it, together with my Twitter account to shamelessly promote my book.


Done and done.


On top of that, I just got a FourSquare account, as well, having entiltled my home address as “La-Z-Boy”.


Here’s where the ignorance is bliss part comes in, though.


Now that I have “friends”, I get to see what’s going on with them.


Most of all, I get to see what going on my my oldest son, who has always been quite the party animal. Fortunately, the youngest son is doing Army basic training right now, and it’s not very likley that he’s doing anything beyond the pale, other than learning how to impale.


Not only do I now know what my son is up to, I also get to see what his frends are doing. What kind of debauchery and havoc they are wreaking.


I’ve also learned alot about the world of Twitter hashtags and acronyms.


#PMGDDO is “Puking my God-damn dinner out”. It took a little bit of concerted effort to figure that one out.


Context is everything, especially if it ends up on your shoes.


Do I really need to know this?


Here’s one place that ignorance would be a good thing.


What little I could garner from today’s events came from the New York Times web site. I learned that Michelle Bachmann, who announced to the world on Sunday that she would be announcing her presidential candicacy yesterday, actually announced her candidacy yesterday.


Reading between the lines, it would have appeared that she did so on Sunday.


Reminds me of the extraordinarily unsuccessful bank robber who would pass a note to the teller:


“This is a stick-up. I’ll be back tomorrow at 10 AM to rob you formally”


When Chris Wallace asked Michelle Bachmann if she was “a flake” on his Sunday broadcast, he was also leaving a question on the table.


Yes, she’s ignorant, as well. Just listen. You’ll see.


But it doesn’t really seem to matter, as she is now an official candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, who somehow was able to participate in the recent Repu\blican presidential candidate debate without being a candidate.


Another place that ignorance seems to have reigned. Apparantly, being smarter than a 5th grader is not a requisite for a legitimate candicacy.


But as the day came to a close, ignorance didn’t seem to be so bad. No breaking news stories to deal with, no local cable advertisements and no disingenuous talking heads seeking the world’s approbation.


All of a sudden, I’m not so distressed about working again later this week and twice the week after.


By then, I should be FourSquare’s “Mayor of Ignorance”.


           




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WWMD






WWMD?


Is this some kind of a stuttering reference to “Weapons of Mass Destruction”?. Of course not. Szelhamos believed that you should never talk about sex, politics, religion or money. So it would be inappropriate to talk about WMD’s, due to the political controversy it evokes. Somehow, however, I can rationalize talking about money. Don’t ask me how, but is alright to do so. And somehow, Szelhamos could always rationalize talking about sex, politics, religion or money.


Guidelines were clearly meant to be broken.


WWMD?, quite simply is the question of the day. It stands for “What Would Moses Do?”. And that truly is an appropriate question for this coming day, a day of biblical proportion.


Everytime that I’m ready to make an investment or divest from one, first I just glance at the bracelet on my left wrist and ask “What Would Moses Do?”


Moses Parting the Red SeaAm I prone to exaggeration? What was so epic about any one day that you could even slightly consider it to be of such grand importance? Does it rank up there with the Great Flood? If there are parallels to that occasion, one thing that I know for sure, is that I would leave all of the seers and financial analysts behind. Let them fend for themselves. If our world doesn’t miss the dodo, it’s not likely that we will be less well off due to the extinction of that class of predator. My favorite was a few years ago, still before the sub-prime debacle whenone fine and esteemed analyst went from a new downgrade of IBM to a recommended buy, within a 24 hour period.


I used to pay much more attention back then.


To continue in the biblical metaphor arena, “what the market giveth, the market taketh away”. Just as Moses was the only one capable of parting the Red Sea, thereby taming it for everyone’s benefit, so too must we rise to the occasion to deal with today’s sea of red. Where there is red, there is opportunity, but not for the faint of heart.


Did you look at the action last week? It was awash in red and some green, and then red. If you were paying attention during the last hour on Wednesday, things can change rather quickly.


Moses never lost faith. Mine of course, is rooted in the world of pessimism and cynicism. But nonetheless, it is faith. Just faith that things will go badly.


The past two months have been abysmal. Even days when the early morning futures were pointing in the right direction would see my 5 digits gains evaporate into losses.


And those were the good days.


Every bit of economic and political news has been taken badly. Granted, there was a momentary euphoria over the prospects of a short term resolution to the Greek crisis, but ever since Bernanke’s press conference, we’ve been drowning in a sea of uncertainty.


Do you remember when the market loved China and Chinese stocks? I’ve never invested in any, but have consistently owned shares in companies that revel in worldwide economic growth. Rio Tinto, Freeport McMoran and Mosaic are currently in my portfolio. 


Well those three are good reasons why you really can’t love stocks. They are fickle.  Don’t get me wrong. I still am very appreciative of how they’ve treated me in the past,  but I have to stay distant. It’s much to easy to see your hopes and dreams dashed.


I suppose that my emotional attachment would be further dimished if I hadn’t been selling calls along the way, although so far, I haven’t dsold any on my Mosaic this options ctcle.


But I did so something very uncharacteristic for me today. It will probably lead to a bad outcome. But despite knowing that, I went ahead and followed a “stock tip” today. I’ve never done that before, but this one made sense.


The tip came from someone who has freely passed tips on before. Skeptical as I am, I never made a move on anyone’s “hot” tips. But what I have always done, upon anyone’s unsolicited recommendations, has been to follow that “tip”. Back in the days when I used to receive lots of cold calls from brokers, I would ask them to give my 5 stocks for recommended purchase and their time frames for reaching their stock’s target price. Those were in the days before Caller ID and Do Not Call Registries. My trusty spreadsheets proved to me that there was never a reason to stray from Bob Shapiro’s advice and to never disconnect the Caller ID.


Greatest invention, ever.


If you don’t know who Bob Shapiro was, get the Option to Profit book. His full identity is hidden in the book. I just called him “Bob”.


Since I couldn’t quite figure out how to make a subliminal plug for the book, I thought I’d just get right out there with it.


Anyway, this one particular tipster, has had a pretty good track record. In reviewing his past picks, it appears that he is a chartist. A technician. All of his picks have had very similar charts. Interestingly, his picks have all been very timely. But even more interestingly, they outperformed the market during its doldrums and vastly underperformed the market during its journey to new highs. In fact, during the recent stretch of up days, the market climb’s slope was the antithesis of the slope of his other recommendations. Those stocks all declined! He was a chartist and a market timer. As far as I know, he has no relationship with anyone on the Dow Jones board. I should say “allegedly”.


Today’s recommendations, and they are his and not mine, are Crocs and Hansen Natural. No fly by night companies. Okay, maybe they are. Both just off a 52 week highs. Interestingly, I just wrote about my expanded Crocs collection just a few days ago, even proudly mentioning my faux-fur lined ones.


But I demurred. Would Crocs be the right choice to wade across the Red Sea if Moses turned out to be a crock? Is that really what I wanted to be found in if my lifeless body washed up the shores of Jericho? And with a non-recyclable can of Dragonfruit Sugar-free clutched in my hand?


Hmmm.


Then I remembered that I don’t believe in stock tips anymore.


Is this what Moses would have done in the face of a sea of red? Would he fully change his ways, views and beliefs? It’s sort of akin to worshipping at the feet of the golden calf. Would he have taken a tip from an idol worshipper?


I dont think so.


So how did it work out for Moses? It really depends on your perspective. He never made it to the Promised Land, although he made it possible for everyone else to get there. Maybe he should have changed his ways. Maybe he would have gotten to the Promised Land, although breaking those tablets was not a very wise thing to do. Figuratively, that was like dissing all of the commandments with one single action. Talk about efficiency. But he did make his point. At a price. A high price.


Come to think of it, if you threw a long maned wig on him and put a staff in his left hand, I think Ben Bernanke would make one fine Moses.


Me? I can change the definition of my Promised Land whenever I want. To me it’s a number. That number may be another two years until full retirement, it may be a 30th wedding anniversary, or it may be a cholesterol of 150.


Whatever it is, I’ll get there.


WWMD? He would make sure that even if he couldn’t get there, the others would. And that’s a good lesson, but there’s nothing wrong with getting there yourself and bringing others with you.


Next week, we answer the question, WWBD?


  


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What a Difference a Day Makes

Unless I’m missing the obvious, any consecutive two days in the markets these days would qualify for being the impetus for today’s blog title.


It’s becoming a truism that no two days are alike, unless you consider diametric opposition to be the sincerest form of flattery. A truism that’s repeated almost as consistently as hearing parents tell you just how incredibly different their children are in all aspects of their lives.


Wednesday was an absolute yawner. The fact that I was napping during the last hour of the trading session and missed that 60 point drop just means that it never really existed for me. When I woke up, nothing was really any different.


Today? Where do you start with decribing today?


Ted WilliamsWell, you probably need to start with some sort of baseline. What represents the world’s greatest change from one day to the next?


Some would argue that the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima was such an event that so markedly distinguished between before and after.


Others might point to the assasination of John F. Kennedy, the day that an entire nation lost its innocence and left Camelot, never to return.


I think that Ted Williams, the man with the golden voice, best describes the transition that can be seen from one day to the next.


The photo that you’re looking at is not the cryogenically gone bad head of the baseball Ted Williams. If your memory fails you, that’s the picture on the day he was spotted at the intersection off ramp.


Here’s what he looked like after you blinked your eyes just a few times: Ted Williams - What a Difference a Day Makes


 


Quite a difference, no?


Well how does yesterday’s market action stack up next to Ted Williams?


It certainly was no flash crash and we’ve certainly seen volatility in the markets before. But today was at the very least not like the day that preceded it.


Obviously, I’m not prone to hyperbole.In fact, no one is less prone to hyperbole than me.


Today’s action reminded me of speed dating, that is, if I did that sort of thing. We got to see a little of everything and exaggerated reactions to just about everything. There was also plenty of opportunity to make bad situational decisions.


Bad employment numbers, more Greek worries, less Greek worries, release of strategic oil reserves, resolution of Greek crisis, capture of Whitey Bulger and visions of Barney Frank and Ron Paul toking on a big one in a congressional hot tub.


These are a few of my favorite things.


I know that I’m not very smart when it comes to micro and macro-economic issues, but I’m still having a really hard time understanding the plunge in crude oil futures based on the graduated release of 60 million barrels of oil.


Oh, I see. A few days of reserves, over a few months.


Sure, that should tip the markets upside down. The fact that the Saudis had no great opposition to the symbolic move and the little bit of a squeeze it may theoretically place on Iran and Venezuela makes it all worthwhile.


Besides, now that I’ve had to modify my diet in response to the sludge like cholesterol induced blood that I have, I’ve cut out at least that much oil from my deep fryers in less time.


Maybe I’m just not following the right people on Twitter.


The only one that made the case that the reaction to the strategic oil reserve release was ridiculously overblown was Dennis Kneale from FOX News and FOX Business.


I’d say “Bravo”, but that’s an NBC property and they might take litigation against me for using that word in a direction laudatory of Dennis Kneale.


At least I can still say “WINNING” without hesitancy.


But maybe it was something Bernanke said in the after press conference party that got people worried. Do you think that maybe after a few kirs, he started spouting that not even QE 12 was going to get the economy out of the “Loo”?


Somehow, I have a hard time seeing that possibility. I know with great certitude, that the Federal Reserve Chairman would have used the word “crapper”, owing to his southern heritage.


I also know with great certitude that I never used the word “certitude” prior to last week.


Whatever the cause, the volatility was there today. One measure, the ProShares Short-term VIX ETF was all over the place today. It traded in an 8% range today, finishing just pennies off its lows. It’s June 2011 options were equally volatile, although that probably shouldn’t be overly surprising, should it?


Like Riverbed Technology and Home Depot, the VIX ETF was still up all day. I only mention the latter two, because I had mentioned this past Friday that I was planning to purchase shares in both.


As I further mentioned on Monday, I didn’t, having instead added shares in Halliburton, Freeport McMoran and Sallie Mae, instead. I’m not sure why I bother making those kind of disclosures.


Well, there’s always tomorrow. After all, isn’t that the theme?


In today’s trading, it seemed as if there were really two transformative events, or non-events.


The oil reserve release and the reported Greek financial crisis resolution.


A tale of two absurdities.


The belief that a cultural way of life enjoyed by Greek citizens will be abolished by decree and banking fiat is probably not terribly realistic. Just more of the same. Kicking it down the road.


The fact that the per capita debt of the United States is actually $1,000 more than that of Greek citizens can’t have too much relevance. Otherwise, we’d be doing something about it now, instead of tomorrow.


From my perspective, I don’t care if our injudicious and wreckless fiscal actions effect my great-great-great granchildren. My reasoning is that I’m not very likely to have that strong of an emotional connection to them to be worried about how they’ve been left holding the bag for our frivolous ways and neither will my own kids.


So let’s just do what we need to do today, to make tomorrow just another day of great denial.


Not denial of things that we value, like things, just denial of things that are irrelevent, like the concepts of truth and facts.


I guess in that way today and tomorrow don’t really need to be that different.


 

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Yawn

I don’t get bored very easily.


That’s in very clear contra-distinction to my Sugar Momma.


Selhamos used to describe her as having “a flea in her tuchas”, meaning she just couldn’t sit still.


Even Pigs need to YawnNever getting bored can either be a blessing or a curse. I see it as a blessing, others see it as a curse, because I’m more than content to just camp out on my La-Z-Boy and watch the leaves change as the seasons come and go.


I never find myself asking “so, what are we doing today?”


Some people find that level of commitment to inertia as being annoying, as opposed to one that respects the state of the established order.


But I was bored today. Very bored.


Not that I was planning to go anywhere today, because I rarely venture out between 9:30 AM and 4 PM, but I lent my car to a neighbor for the next few days as his needed some unexpected and major repairs.


Maybe knowing that I was homebound contributed to that feeling of boredom. A very strange feeling.


Obviously, the day in the markets did nothing to capture my interests. Not even that patented “Bernank-O-Meter” unveiled on CNBC could keep me from constantly checking the time. I never did figure out what exactly that Bernank-O-Meter was supposed to represent, but I was too bored to investigate.


Of course, that ticking clock in the lower right hand corner of the screen that counted down the 7 hours until the Federal Reserve Chairman’s press conference didn’t help to speed up the perception of time. It was soporifc. Must SleepTV, to put a spin on the old NBC slogan from years ago.


Logically, not much happened, as the countdown clock ticked away until the scheduled Bernanke press conference at 2:15 PM, after the FOMC meeting.


For the first 30 minutes not much happened during the press conference either. A series of heavily accented questions, none of which really pierced anyone’s armor, did little to move markets, although there was a very slow downward bias as time went on. However, as it became clear that the press conference was nearing its end without any incredible revelations, the direction slowly changed and started heading back to baseline.


In the meantime, once again giving into The Beast, I just had to make a trade.


I didn’t have much available cash, but I once again picked up some ProShares Ultrashort Silver and then just as quickly sold some in the money calls.


Sometimes dealing with things like currencies, Treasuries, puts and these Ultrashort products requires trading in a mirror or suspending yourself upside down in order to re-route your thought processes.


I’m a reasonably smart guy, have always had a way with numbers, even read Adler’s Number Theory in 9th grade, but I’ve always been a bit confused about currencies and Treasuries.


Of course I know the inverse association between interest rates and bond value and yes, I know that when the dollar goes down in value against the Euro for example, the dollar to Euro ratio goes up, etc., etc. and etc.


But I have to think about it. even if only for a second, I still need to divert some rapidly dimishing cortical resources toward interpreting the data.The basic question becomes, “Which way is up?”. That question makes me feel so stupid.


Basically, like most everyone else, the interpretation is on a dichotomous scale. Is it good for me or is it bad for me?


As boredom was setting in and the mind was shutting down, trying to make those interpretations was really unnecessarily difficult.


Going long the ProShares Ultrashort silver means that the bet is that the price of silver is heading down. Selling the call is a bet that the price of the underlying stock will stay flat or go down, which in itself means that the price of silver either stays flat or goes up.


Understand?


I didn’t say that my trade combination had to make sense, but at least there were some trades, using the same logic as in the May 2011 cycle. In fact, I still don’t know if that trade combination makes sense. To know so, would require far too much thought. It did make money last time, so why not do it again. The logic behind the trades can wait, since the outcome is far more important than the process.


So, if the option is not exercised, that means that silver increased in value.


Maybe I bought the position so that I would put my mind into some kind of endlessly looped thought just to keep me from getting bored.


The problem is that I don’t really have the patience to try and understand what it is that I want and I’m apparantly past the prime of life when all of the nuances would have been intuitive.


So let’s just leave it at I traded, because the flea needed tickling.


By a couple of minutes after 3 PM, the press conference was over. I looked at my computer screen and decided that nothing worthwhile was going to happen and so I dozed off.


Barely an hour later, the market was down another 60 points.


It doesn’t appear that I missed anything during that inopportune time to sleep. The only trade that I had been looking at was one to sell call options on Praxair. I had been hoping for a move up to $105 and that never happened.


In a way, I’m glad that I fell to sleep. Had I not, I probably would have made the Praxair trade at a pice less than I wanted, just for the sake of making the trade, as if E*Trade would disappear without me and my totally unnecessary trades.


Interestingly, in my search for a germane photo to illustrate today’s topic, I couldn’t find a photo of a bull or a bear yawning. Plenty of babies, dogs, cats and other assorted mammals. I don’t know if there was some kind of hidden message there, because it seems as if yawning is a fairly universal action.


I never considered myself to be in the “pig” category when it came to investing. I’m really not certain why a pig needs to yawn, as if we really know the true utility of a yawn, but assuming that it’s from boredom, you would think that investing pigs would be in a perpetual state of yawning. Never satisified with the price of their stock and never excited about its trajectory. Always wanting more and more and ceratin that it’s going to happen that way.


What a sad state to be in. Seems that boredom may be the best way to express a world in which excitement may be just around the corner.


For me, that corner may arrive as early as tomorrow.


As for today, 80 points is like $153 million to JP Morgan. Nothing terribly exciting. There’s always tomorrow to see a really nice market gain or violate SEC and banking regulations in a really tremendous way.


So here’s to tomorrow. A day perhaps filled with excitement, meaningful trades requiring little thought and best of all, profits.


I’ll even take more meaningless and boring trades, if it means profits.


How piggish.


 


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Making the Difficult Decisions

“That’s why you get the big bucks” was always the statement made when someone was ready to pass the buck on decision making. Maybe funny the first or second time that phrase was ever used. it no longer seems to elicit even a forced chuckle.


Most people recognize that behind those words are the human sins of jealousy and wrath.


Cynics always say that behind every joke is the truth.


Whereas I used to believe that there were only two kinds of people, the ones with tattoos on their knuckles and those without, I now have a very different outlook on society.


DecisionsWe’re essentially comprised of decision makers and those who would be quick to jump on the guy making the big bucks for a chance to make big bucks of their own.


For about 20 years I made decisions, but I never was faced with the aspect of someone waiting for a decision to go the wrong way for their own chance to become “the decider”.


I was lucky in that way.


For the past 10 years I really haven’t had to make much in the way of workplace decisions and I’ve come to like that kind of slothenly existence, even though that also qualifies as a human sin.


Actually, I haven’t even had to be in any kind of workplace other than my own La-Z-Boy for most of the past couple of years, thanks to Sugar Momma and her faith that I could be more than just a love machine.


Today was a bit different, as I was uncharacteristically faced with a number of looming important decisions.


It all started with the realization that I’d be cut off from information today, yet again. For the second time this week I was going to be working, but at least I wouldn’t have to make any workplace decisions.


What I had to decide was whether to bring my own laptop and modem to work today to complement the PC available to me. I thought that perhaps I would just stream CNBC and in someway recreate my at-home trading lair. I felt so lost on Monday without those literal and figurative tools of the trade.I just had to have more than one screen and just had to have the background noise, occasional gem of a segment and the screen crawl.


For a moment, I even thought about bringing the La-Z-Boy with me.


I stood over one of the laptops this morning, faced with the realization that in order to stream CNBC I would have to use the premium E*Trade platform, rather than the middle of the range one that I much preferred.


MarketTrader, the platform that I like has all of the views pre-arranged. Not much in the way of customizing necessary or possible. By contrast, the premium platform is fully customizable and can have as many pages as you like with their uniquely positioned and chosen tools and fields. Charts galore, research tools, pretty colors. You name it. Even the whistles have whistles.


It’s just E*Trade’s way of saying that frequent traders need and are more likely to appreciate a more advanced approach to trading. I suppose that’s true,  but to do so requires lots of decisions.


So, easy decision.


I wanted no part of having to accustom myself to a different interface, even if it meant that I would miss out on what was going on in the world.


But that’s why I get the big bucks, because I can make those kind of difficult decisions without agonizing myself into inaction.


With that problem solved it was time to lay out the day’s trading strategy. My illness requires that I make trades even if there is no rational reason for doing so.


I was fully expecting some kind of retracement today. If this was a dead cat bouncing it didn’t know the meaning of gravity. I actually had an image of Wile E. Coyote running past the edge of a cliff and somehow staying airborne until he realized there was nothing below him to stop the plummet.


But that’s not what happened. It was just more of that unbridled enthusiasm that Greenspan had warned us about and that we hadn’t seen for a while.


With the end of the trading week, I decided to follow yesterday’s theme of exalting the lowly penny.


Today, the bet being made was that the prices for British Petroleum, General Electric and QQQ would retreat from their current levels by the close of trading today.


For some reason I decided that would be a good idea, even in the face of advancing prices. After all, at some point, Wile E. has to drop.


Coupled with the fact that the premiums for barely a days worth of time were really low, it seemed that the correct decision would have been to just keep riding the horse that’s pulled us this high over the past few days.


Maybe making the difficult decision means making the wrong decision in the face of over-whelming facts, so obviously I was the perfect person to be making those decisions to sell call options on those shares.


My only connection to reality today was the Twitter feed that I was getting, but for some bizarre reason I seemed to be getting alot of re-tweets about horses today.


Horses?


So Twitter wasn’t of that much help today.


I also noted two recurring rumors. One about Steve Jobs being hospitalized and the other about Tim Geithner stepping down as Treasury Secretary.


Since neither Apple nor the broad markets seemed to react to either of those rumors I decided to ignore them, even thought they kept coming fast and furious. At least the previous day’s rumor of Steve Ballmer stepping down from Microsfot had come to an end.


Then I went to StockTwits. Amazingly, then couldn’t find anyone similar to me to suggest that I follow.


Twitter always has plenty of suggestions, most of which fall into the lunatic range and so I don’t take their advice, but at least that counts as another decision on my part. 


In all, despite the 152 point Dow gain, I was underwhelmed, maybe because my earlier decision to sell call options for Freeport McMoran left me wishing that I hadn’t. I started questioning the decision to bearishly sell those call options and bemoaned the great likelihood that I wouldn’t be enjoying the full benefit of their substantial price rise these past few days.


Until it hit me.


 I came to the understanding that I was living the best of all worlds. Not only was I getting paid today to go through the motions of working, but I was also helping those pennies pile up in the background by making these non-sensical and uninformed trades.


But best of all came the ultimate realization.


What better position is there to be in than to not only be the decision maker but to also be the one passing the buck and then questioning the wisdom of the decision.


Now comfortably perched back in my La-Z-Boy I can appreciate that no one is going to pounce on me for having made a bad decision, if that’s the way it turns out by the time of today’s closing bell.


There’ll be plenty more bad decisions to come, but I’ve decided I can take that kind of responsibility.


And that’s my final decision. 


 




 





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What do you do About Good Feelings?

Yesterday was an all around good feeling day.


Happy


First, more book sales showed up in the daily reports. Secondly, I didn’t show up in this morning’s New York Times obituary pages.


So that’s already a pretty good day.


But what I really mean is that time specifically between 9:30 AM and 4 PM. Those times both ended by the ringing of bells. For a change, it wasn’t an opening or closing gong representing some kind of Chinese reverse merger company, either. Just real authentic opening and closing bells at The New York Stock Exchange, with lots of green in between.


You know that kind of good feeling. The kind where you just want to roll over and go to sleep, with a big contented smile plastered on your face.


Maybe a generation ago you would have lit up a cigarette.


I snuggled a bit with my LCD monitor as I took in the numbers. I watched “40 Year Old Virgin” once again the other night and decided that I would limit it to snuggling until we have 20 straight advancing sessions.


If that day comes, I’ll probably unplug the monitor just to be on the safe side.


By the time I looked at the closing numbers and entered the day’s data into one of my spreadsheets I wondered when was the last time I had such a good day. With the S&P 500 up about 1.4% today, my holdings were up a full 3%.


Before you get overly impressed, don’t be.


Fortunately, there’s no requirement that I tell you how much they were down over the past two weeks, but to give you some idea, my big movers were the likes of Mosaic, Williams Sonoma, British Petroleum and Rio TInto. And that doesn’t take into consideration some of the losers I shed in the last couple of days like Research in Motion and Hewlett Packard.


I think you get the idea. They were pretty hard hit over the past couple of weeks. And they definitely had a lot of energy stored up in them for a bounce or two. I could care less about dead cats, as long as the bounce is in one direction only. Had Newtown bothered to hang around long enough, he would have seen some of those apples rise.


Curiousity did get the best of me and I saw that the last time I had a day quite this good was May 27th, 2010. On that particular day, the Dow Jones was up 284 points (3%) and the S&P was up 3.1%. Interestingly, yesterday was yet another of those index disconnects, as the Dow was up by only 0.9%.


Just like Monday’s market.


I have no idea what the significance of that kind of pattern is, not that two days makes for a pattern, but it must mean something, like maybe Hewlett Packard continuing to underperform.


The problem during the course of this feel good day was that I really didn’t know what to do.


You know, do you stay the night? Do you leave a $20 on the night table and discretely slip out? Do you go through gut wrenching pangs of guilt because you made some money while Sally Struthers is still trying to raise some for Biafra?


But when you predominantly sell calls on your holdings you’re never quite sure what to do or how to feel.. Normally, whenever possible, I try to sell calls into a rally. There’s no better way to get an optimum premium and thereby provide a better cushion for the inevitable price retracement.


That’s the intellect part of me.


But some of the prices had fallen so much, instead of thinking about generating options premium and perhaps also getting some small stock capital gains and maybe a dividend or two, I really wanted to hit those home runs.


That’s the emotional part.


The call writing strategy is one of singles. Just lots of them. But we were so far behind after the last couple of weeks, I really wanted to get back into the game quickly.


It’s tough when your intellect and emotion start doing battle. You know which one usually wins. That actually explains why there are ugly babies in this world. Well, that and alcohol.


Did you love her or did you love the sex? That sort of conflict. And you can’t answer “Both”.


But that’s exactly what I did. I hedged my hedges. Okay, there may have been sex involved as well.


I started by methodically looking at my purchase prices, especially for those that had multiple entry points. Having holdings like that isn’t unusual for me during a down market if I think my shares are being unnecessarily beaten down. So I just chase them to a degree and average down.


For example, instead of writing 40 Textron contracrts, I only sold 13 at a $23 strike. I won’t mind losing those if that means I’ll be able to get a decent premium on $24 or above Textron contracts.


I also sold a split amount of contracts on JP Morgan. But as the afternoon progressed, word came out that there would be an announcement about JP Morgan and the SEC. Soo I watched the shares fall in response and just bought back the call contracts making a decent profit for a couplel fo hours.


After it became pretty clear that the $154 million fine was a meaningless slap on the wrists, I re-sold the contracts.


The emotional side resisted doing the same for Mosaic and William Sonoma, but the intellectual side totally overwhelmed everything else and sold contracts on all of my Freeport McMoran and Rio Tinto shares.


There were some General Electrics thrown in, as well.


Unfortunately, I wan’t able to take my own advice about picking up shares of Riverbed Technology, as I opted for Halliburton instead, as  brothers from different mothers. Halliburton has done well, but Riverbed busted out today with a 6% gain.


But still, I felt good. Imagine that, compromised on my beliefs and I felt pretty good.


Today was unmitigated joy, tempered with a little pessimism and topped with a sea of green.


Nothing brings joy more than green. Of course, if that dead cat continues its one way bounce, that will really be one for the books.


Here’s to erasing May 27th, 2010 from my history books and for defeating the laws of gravity.


Sorry Isaac, but if it will make you feel any better, tomorrow we debunk the laws of conservation of matter and energy.


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Why is there so Much Bad Consumer Investment Advice






I probably shouldn’t say anything terribly negative about some of the popular on-line investment sites for consumer investors.


It would be like biting the hand that feeds you or maybe defecating where you eat, depending on your level of adolescence. Given the fact that I used the word “defecating” instead of some readily available alternatives, I’ve demonstrated my maturity to my own satisfaction.


I’m a little reluctant to saber rattle  because as I’ve been trying to raise awareness of the Szelhamos Rules blog and the Option to Profit book, I’ve been posting comments pretty much everywhere that I can, as you’ve come to realize if you’re on Twitter. It’s the current day version of subway grafitti, except without any artisitc merit.


Rant baby RantSo instead, I’ll rant, because I don’t really understand the imagery behind saber rattling.


Many of the postings are in response to articles that appear on such consumer investor sites. Interestingly, I don’t have the same opinion about broadcast investment stories. That may be the case because so much of it is just background noise and there’s really no great way to respond in a timely fashion.


The real reason that I should consider treading lightly is that a disproportionate number of clicks on this blog site and resultant book sales have come from readers of those sites.


Thank you readers. Laszlo the Dog feasts again tonight owing to your largesse.


As I wrote that, the adolescent in me thinks “Large Ass”.


I know that’s not really funny, but it really is.


I’m at a midway point in the investor spectrum. Compared to the individuals that I follow on Twitter, I’m woefully inept, at least in terms of jargon, understanding of technical analysis and depth of social media following. Most of my Twitter followers are there because I strategically used hashtags on such words as “prostitute”, “Charles Manson”, “Filipino Mail Order Brides” and “TeaBagger”.


Lord knows it’s not content related.


On the other hand, I’m very satisifed with my trading results, so I’m not terribly concerned about being a rube in a sea of city boys. I know that there’s nothing terribly sexy about going to the bank with unrolled nickles and dimes, while wearing my Crocs. I suppose that I’d have greater self-esteem if I had a bunch of Benjamins and wore Bruno Magli’s, but I’m okay with my ghetto investor status.


But compared to the cross section that I’ve seen on such sites as SmartMoney.com, I have a highly fissured brain, at least when it comes to investing, or at least as it comes to the perception that the editors and writers have of their audience.


By the way, I’m not referring to the audience.


Oh, and I have two pair of Crocs, one being faux-fur lined.


What particularly bothers me is the quality of advice that appears on these sites. So much appears to be counter to what reality says is real.


If you read this, please don’t expect much in the way of documentation. I save the arguments that I can back up on my “Premium Content” site.


Today was the day that really broke the proverbial camel’s back. I didn’t really bother keeping a log of all of the articles over the past few weeks, but they’ve given me many opportunities to respond and trumpet my own philosophy in a “What you talkin’ bout, Willis” kind of tone.


If you were to glance at some of the articles appearing in the past week you would have walked away with the belief that the individual investor should look to time the market, insofar as to know which sector to invest in and when.


Good luck with that timing strategy.


You would also be lead to believe that some stocks with high P/E ratios had little downside risk. Really? Green Mountain Coffee Roasters? The next drop in that one should be reasonably vertical. One disappointing word from Starbucks and GMCR late climbers on are going to jump ship and there’s really not a lot of support between $45 and $80.


Today there was an article on a new retirement caluclator, as if there was a shortage of those. The message in the article was that the new retirement calculator would lead you toward a path based on irrefutable knowledge.


After all, numbers don’t lie. Unless you picked the wrong numbers.


That path is based on the same kind of warrantless assumptions that every other calculator is based upon. You really may as well load your thought processes down with “your number”, either being placed into a false sense of security or a state of steady panic, leaving you paralyzed to act either proactively or otherwise.


Instead, the article completely ignored the fact that the assumptions may turn out to be wholly inaccurate, and to my thinking, they completely ignored the steps to take to accumulate the funds necessary to have a fighting chance of making it to retirement.


What really galls me is that there is a consistent bias that the average investor class individual doesn’t have the ability to take responsibility for their portfolio and by so doing, they consistently steer people toward those paths that are littered with return reducing obstacles.


Roll over retirement plans are consistently treated as vehicles that should be maintained in the same  sub-standard performing accounts offered by the employer du jour. Brokerage house recommendations ignore the existence of discount brokers. Independent thought and reliance on developing personal investment skills is ignored.


The reality is that if the professionals were so good, there wouldn’t be the wide range of price movements seen, particularly over short periods of time. It’s not the little guy or the uninformed investor that’s been disrupting markets with ill timed and ill advised investments.


It’s the professionals. The very same that cloak themselves with the sophisticated tools, algorithms and investing instruments.


The very same professionals who just came out today with downgrades of Research in Motion.


They’re the smart ones, though. Besides being a weatherman, what other job can you be so woefully bad at, yet still be considered a shining star?


Yet, the general investing public is too often considered to be unable to behave in a discerning fashion. As if they don’t know what crap is (crap just being another synonym used by one of a certain level of maturity).


If I were conspiracy-centric, I would say that this is just another example of “The Man” trying to keep the little guy down. It is almost like the concept of the company store. You become so indentured to your overlords that you never even think about venturing out on your own, or you just can’t.


Fortunately, I don’t harbor that kind of mentality.


Today I practiced what I preached. I used proceeds from some of my assigned shares to pick up downbeaten shares in some other companies. I also dumped shares of dead money stocks to take advantage of the tax losses.


If warranted, I may buy them back within a tax deferred account and then avoid the wash sales rule.


Every single position that I picked up today, I had previously owned within the past few months. Visa, Halliburton, Sallie Mae and some more shares of Freeport McMoRan. These were now all down to prices that I had originally purchased them at over the past year.


All of life is a big cycle and stock prices are no different.


I quickly sold call options on Sallie Mae, Visa and Halliburton and used proceeds to pick up even more shares.


One of the articles that I saw today raised the question of whether individual investors should use on-line brokerage accounts. The emphasis, obviously was on the lack of hand holding. What they didn’t discuss was how that hand holding is so restrictive. Where in the world would you ever find a broker to pull off the kind of trades you need to protect your portfolio from the wild gyrations induced by the smart city boys with the Bruno Magli’s?


Even though none of the above may sound like a real rant, I should let readers know that 3 LCD monitors were harmed in the writing of this piece.


 


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From Ashes Arose the Phoenix

What’s in the Szelhamos Portfolio?








 


My least favorite subjects in high school were English and what used to be called Social Studies. Given that I attended a high school that was internationally known for its emphasis on science and math, I’m not even certain why the non-science classes were taught. There’s really not that much in life that can be achieved with the written word.


Fast forward a generation and both of my kids are fascinated with history and have relatively little use for math and science. Fortunately though. they still have some use for me. The youngest one was able to make his first real phone call from basic training yesterday and it was a special Father’s Day treat.


My oldest son came over for a Father’s Day visit and did the barbecueing, which is something that I really dislike doing. It was great.


We also independently paid our visits to Selhamos. Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are sad days to visit cemetaries, especially when you see so many young kids there.


And there were.


Death is also not one of my favorite topics, even though I do love the obituary pages. I do, however, like the concept of resurrection, just not necessarily in a religious context, despite the fact that I spent 4 years in a Jesuit college. Clarence Clemons


If I could choose a resurrection for anyone that’s died in the past 24 hours, no doubt that I would choose Clarence Clemons. I last saw him and the E Street Band 2 years ago. I still wear a T-Shirt from that concert tour at least once a week.


Even though “The Big Man” had to be lifted onto stage back then, man could he wail.


But resurrection was not the sort of thing they taught at my public high school anyway, which back in those days was predominantly Jewish. What they did sometimes teach, however, really taxed the imagination and my patience for learning.


Within my least favorite classes was a subset of least favorite topics.


That was Greek mythology. That stuff was about as believable as the concept of the Greeks readily accepting the fact that their economy may no longer support the right to retire by age 35. But when you think about it, the EU could just as easily been in a position to bail out the Phoenicians, but for some simple twists of fate.


Hated it. Just couldn’t identify with any of the characters or gods, although that Oedipus fellow….Interesting.


So no one is more surprised that I am for the title of today’s blog, ripped right from the mythological headlines.


What’s somewhat fascinating is that I also once owned a Pontiac Phoenix.


It was one of the then new GM series X-Cars that was supposed to revolutionize the American automobile industry. Even then, I don’t think I knew what exactly about that series of car was so spectacular, but Consumer Reports gave it glowing reviews in its inaugural year, only to do a complete about face by the next year.


PhoenixMy Pontiac Phoenix caught fire while I was driving it on I-95 in Rhode Island at about 4:30 AM enroute from Boston to New York. I recall driving on a pretty deserted and dark road when I saw someone flashing their brights in my rearview mirror.


That car then pulled alongside me and started honking wildly.


When I didn’t respond as that driver thought I should, he turned his courtesy lights on so that I could see him and frantically made sweeping hand and arm gestures which I really can’t recreate on paper.


Since I wasn’t expecting to be playing Charades and was never very good at mime interpretation, I just kept on driving, ignoring the lunatic to my side as best I could.


As it turned out, the under-carriage of my car was on fire. At some point a combination of flames from the hood and smoke, on an otherwise smokless and flameless early morning, finally drove the point home.


Although I never did finish that drive home.


I’ll spare you the details, because I’ll probably end up using them for another blog, but in the days before cell phones, it took quite a while for help to arrive.


Ashes. Phoenix. There was no resurrection


And so we begin another new options cycle this morning in the aftermath of another miserable week and another miserable month. The June cycle may as well have all gone up in flames.


Oh wait. It did.


Sure, I know that the S&P 500 actually finished the week with a 0.1% gain, but most people still think of last week as having been the seventh losing week in a row.


I know that I do.


As much as I’d like to see Clarence Clemons resurrected for at least one more show, I’ve got no such hopes for June 2011.


The only thing that helped to make it less of a total loss of a month were some of those last minute options sales that were made in some pathetic combination of desperation and addiction. Those pulled in nearly as much as the previous three weeks.


Interestingly, it actually made me realize that there was an opportunity to return to the past. Back in the days when I ran a monthly service offering 4 or 5 trades in the 2 days before monthy options expiration. But I gave that up. Once a month was entirely too infrequent. But all of a sudden its become clear that the weekly options offered the opportunity to actually make those recommendations much more frequently.


So with that ever worsening ADHD I suppose that’s the next venture. Re-establishing that newsletter and the market for it. Yet another pile of ashes, albeit self-imposed, ready for resurrection.


But first, it’s July. Making something of the ashes left behind after 7 weeks of losses. Although those losses were mitigated a bit by the options sales, as I noted a few weeks ago, I was under-hedged, since I kept thinking that the market would reverse course.


It probably will come as a surprise to no one that was not the case.


Of those last minute call options that I sold in Mosaic, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Textron, DuPont and Dow, only the Microsoft and some of the H&P shares were assigned. I had been expecting and hoping for more and had planned on possibly picking up shares in Visa, Sallie Mae, Riverbed Technogy and Home Depot.


I actually bought Home Depot last Monday, just to pick up Tuesday’s dividend and then sold a call option. That was a good series of trades and I still think Home Depot may be a good holding, even at a slightly higher price. So I will likely pick up replacements for my assigned shares.


Beyond using the phrase “From ashes rose the Phoenix” I really didn’t do much research to see what the mythological context was or what lessons can be learned from the ancient tale. It just seemed like an apt thought.


That point was actually driven home as the new Szelhamos Rules blog just reached its 20.000th hit this Saturday.


I say “new” because the original version ran for precisely one year. After the first year, regular readers were redirected to a new site called “Csokoljmegasegem.com


You’ll have to use Google Translate to figure out what that means. It was one of Szelhamos’s favorite Hungarian expressions.


But from those ashes arose the new Szelhamos Rules, and as a Father’s Day gift, my son has said that he will oversee an entire re-design of the site.


Told you. A great Father’s Day.


I hope that you all had the same.


 


 


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