Weekend Update – September 18, 2016

 

Everyone has been there at one time or another in their lives.

Maybe several times a day.

There is rarely a shortage of things and events that don’t serve or conspire to make us crazy.

Recurring threats of a government shutdown; the 2016 Presidential campaign; the incompetence in the executive suites of Twitter (TWTR) and pumpkin flavored everything, for example.

I add the FOMC to that list.

Although his annual Twitter campaign against pumpkin flavored everything has yet to start this year, there is scant evidence that Marek Fuchs, a wonderful MarketWatch columnist, has actually gone crazy.

However, as opposed to the hyperbole that typically characterizes the situation when someone is claiming to be made “crazy,” traders may be actually manifesting something bordering on the insane as members of the Federal Reserve toy with the fragile flowers they are in real life.

The alternating messages that have come from those members, who at one time, not too long ago, were barely seen, much less heard, have unsettled traders as the clock is ticking away toward this coming week’s FOMC Statement release.

Couple their deeply seated. but questionably held opinions regarding the timing of an interest rate increase, with the continuing assertion that the FOMC will be “data dependent,” and a stream of conflicting data and if you are prone to be driven crazy, you will be driven crazy.

Or, at the very least, prone to run on sentences.

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Weekend Update – August 28, 2016

I’m not entirely certain I understood what happened on Friday.

While it’s easy to understand the “one – two” punch, such as memorialized in Tennessee Ernie Ford’s song “Sixteen Tons,” it’s less easy to understand what has happened when a gift is so suddenly snatched away.

After not having attended the previous year’s Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank hosted soiree in Jackson Hole, this year Janet Yellen was there.

She was scheduled to speak on Friday morning and the market seemed to be biding its time all through the week hoping that Friday would bring some ultimate clarity.

Most expected that she would strike a more hawkish tone, but would do so in a way as to offer some comfort, rather than to instill fear, but instead of demonstrating that anticipation by buying stocks earlier in the week, traders needed the news and not the rumor.

The week was shaping up like another in a string of weeks with little to no net movement. Despite the usual series of economic reports and despite having gone through another earnings season, there was little to send markets anywhere.

Most recently, the only thing that has had any kind of an impact has been the return of the association between oil prices and the stock market and we all know that the current association can’t be one that’s sustainable.

So we waited for Friday morning.

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Weekend Update – May 31, 2015

The one thing that’s been pretty clear as this earnings season is winding down is that the market hasn’t been very tolerant unless the bad news was somehow wrapped in a currency exchange story.

It was an earnings season that saw essentially free passes given early on to those reporting decreased top line revenue and providing dour guidance, as long as the bad news was related to a strong US Dollar.

As earnings season progressed, however, it became clear that some companies that could have asked for that free pass were somehow much better able to tolerate the conditions that investors were willing to forgive. That had to raise questions in some minds as to whether there was a little too much leniency as the market’s P/E ratio was beginning to get a little bit ahead of where it historically may have been considered fully priced. Not punishing share price when earnings may warrant doing so can lead to those higher P/E ratios that so often seem to have had a hard time sustaining themselves at such heights.

On the other hand, plunges of 20% or more weren’t uncommon when the disappointment and the pessimistic future outlook couldn’t be easily rationalized away. Sometimes the punishment seemed to be trying to make up for some of those earlier leniences, although if that’s the case, it’s not a very fair resolution.

In other words, this earnings season has been one where bad news was good news, as long as there was a good reason for the bad news. If there was no good reason for the bad news, then the bad news was extra bad news.

This past Friday’s GDP report was bad news. It was the kind of news that would make it difficult to justify increasing interest rates anytime very soon. That. of course, would make it good news.

The market, though, interpreted that as bad news as the week came to its close, while the same news a month ago would have been likely greeted as good news.

Same news, but take your pick on its interpretation.

This past week was one that i couldn’t decide how to interpret anything that was unfolding. Listless pre-open futures trading during the week sometimes failed to portend what was awaiting and so eager to reverse course, at the sound of the opening bell. While I tend to trade less on holiday shortened weeks usually due to lower option premiums, this past week offered me nothing to feel positive about and more than a few reasons to continue to want to wish that i had more in my cash reserve pile.

As the new week is getting ready to start, it’s another with fairly little to excite. Like this past week, perhaps the biggest news will come on the final trading day, as the Employment Situation Report is released.

Another strong showing may only serve to confuse the picture being painted by GDP data, which is now suggesting increased shrinking of our economy.

A weak employment report might corroborate GDP data, but at this point it’s hard to say what the market reaction might be. Whether that would be perceived as good news or bad news is a matter of guesswork.

If the news, however, is really good, then it’s really anyone’s guess as to what would happen, as a decreasing GDP wouldn’t seem to be a logical consequence of strongly expanding employment.

While the FOMC says that it will be data driven and has worked to remove any reference to a relative timeframe, ultimately it’s not about the data, but rather how they chose to interpret it, especially if logic seems to be failing to tie the disparate pieces together.

While markets may change how they interpret the data from day to day, hopefully the FOMC will be a bit more consistent and methodical than the paper fortune teller process markets have been subjected to of late.

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

Kohls (NYSE:KSS) is one of those companies that didn’t have a currency exchange excuse that could be used at earnings time and its shares took a nearly 15% plunge. Best of all, if not having owned shares, in the subsequent 2 weeks its share price has barely moved. That lack of movement can either represent an opportunity that hasn’t disappeared or could be the building of a new support level and invitation to take advantage of that opportunity.

With an upcoming ex-dividend date on Monday of next week, any decision to exercise an option to grab the dividend would have to be made by the close of trading this week. With only monthly options being sold, that could be an attractive outcome if purchasing shares and selling in the money June 2015 calls.

The potential downside is that the dramatic drop in Kohls’ share price still hasn’t returned it to where it launched much higher a few months ago and where the next level of technical support may be. For that reason, while hoping for a quick early assignment and the opportunity to then redeploy the cash, there is also the specter of a longer term holding in the event that shares start migrating lower to its most recent support level.

Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) is ex-dividend this week and represents a company that had a similar plunge nearly 2 years ago, but still has shown no signs of recovery. In its case the price plunge wasn’t related to poor sales or reduced expectations, but rather to the collapse of artificial price supports as the potash cartel was beginning to fall apart.

Mosaic, however, has traded in a fairly narrow range since then and has been an opportune short term purchase when at or below the mid-point of that range.

Those shares are now at that mid-point and the dividend is an additional invitation to entry for me. With its ex-dividend day being Tuesday, it may also be an example of seeking early assignment by selling an in the money weekly call in the hopes of attaining a small, but very quick gain and then redeploying cash into a new position.

I recently had shares of Sinclair Broadcasting (NASDAQ:SBGI) assigned and tried to repurchase them last week in order to capture the dividend, but just couldn’t get the trade executed. However, even with the dividend now out of the picture, I am interested in adding the shares once again.

While so much attention has recently focused on cable and content providers, Sinclair Broadcasting is simply the largest television station operator in the United States. The tightly controlled family operation shows that there is still a future in doing nothing more than transmitting signals the old fashioned way.

While I usually prefer to start new positions with an eye toward a weekly option or during the final week of a monthly option, Sinclair Broadcasting is one of those companies that I don’t mind owning for a longer period of time and don’t get overly concerned if its shares test support levels. I would have preferred to have entered the position last week, but at $30/share I still see some opportunity, but would not chase this if it moved higher as the week begins.

With old tech no longer moribund, people are no longer embarrassed to admit that they own shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Instead, so many seem to have re-discovered Microsoft before the rest of the world and no longer joke about or disparage its products or strategies. They simply forgot to tell the rest of the world that they were going to be so prescient, but fortunately, it’s never to late to do so.

Microsoft continues to have what has made it a great covered call trade for many years. It still offers an attractive premium and it offers dividend growth. Of course the risk is now greater as shares have appreciated so much over those years. But along with that risk comes an offset that may offer some support. In the belief that passivity or poorly conceived or integrated strategies are no longer the norm it is far easier to invest in shares with confidence, even as the 52 week high is within reach.

While new share heights provide risk there is also the feeling that Microsoft will be in a better position to proactively head into the future and react to marketplace challenges. Even the brief speculation about a buyout of salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) helped to reinforce the notion that Microsoft may once again be “cool” and have its eyes on a logical strategy to evolve the company.

For the moment it seems as if some of the activist and boardroom drama at DuPont (NYSE:DD) may have subsided, although it’s not too likely that it has ended.

The near term question is whether activists give up their attempts at enhancing value and exit their positions with respectable profits or double down, perhaps with new strategic recommendations.

While the concern about Trian exiting its position may have been responsible for the steep price decline after the shareholder vote last month, it’s not entirely clear that the Trian stake was in any meaningful way responsible for DuPon’t share performance, as they like to credit themselves.

It’s apparently all a matter of interpretation.

In fact, from the time the Trian stake was first disclosed nearly 2 years ago, DuPont has only marginally out-performed the S&P 500. However, from the beginning of the market recovery in March 2009 up until the points that Trian’s stake was disclosed, DuPont’s share performance was more than 50% better than that of the S&P 500.

So while the market has clearly shown that they perceive Peltz’s position and strategy to be an important support for DuPont’s share price and they may have already discounted his exit, CEO Kullman’s strategic path may have easier going without activist distractions

Finally, following the release of some clinical trial results of its drug Opdivo in the treatment of lung cancer, shares of Bristol Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) fell nearly 7% on Friday. Those shares are still well above the level where they peaked following an earnings related move in October 2014, so there is still some concern that th
e decline last week may have more to go.

However, the results of those clinical trials actually had quite a few very positive bits of news, including significantly increased survival rates in a sizeable sub-population of patients and markedly lower side effects. On Friday, the market interpreted the results as being very disappointing, but after a few days that interpretation can end up becoming markedly different.

As we all know too well.

Traditional Stocks: Bristol Myers Squibb , DuPont, Microsoft, Sinclair Broadcasting

Momentum Stocks: none

Double-Dip Dividend: Kohls (6/8), Mosaic (6/2)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

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

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Weekend Update – June 29, 2014

There wasn’t much going on last week, but for what there was, you can be certain that there was a role played by some branch of government.

By no means I am a libertarian and I certainly understand the need for a beneficent government to protect those things that we hold dear, from assets to zoning, but this past week government seemed to be the singular driver of news during a week that was otherwise devoid of news.

For starters, we received yet another revision to the first quarter GDP, indicating a 2.9% decrease. That’s not the sort of growth that engenders much confidence in the economy, but it’s also the sort of report that doesn’t engender much confidence in the reporter.

Certainly for a market that is said to discount the future, learning that what you believed to have been true was patently false has to also shake confidence, particularly when you begin to wonder whether your own government’s reporting of economic data is any better than that from the nation we so readily disparage for the veracity of its reporting – China.

With the economic calendar so important each week, this coming week’s early Employment Situation Report, which has been fairly inconsequential for the past 6 months, may prove otherwise if either it offers data consistent with the  abysmal GDP statistic or is qualified by large downward revisions of previous months.

But with objective data reporting out of the way, the early part of the week was focused on Supreme Court rulings that were scheduled to be released as the current session comes to its end. The decision regarding the novel technology behind the Aereo product that delivers broadcast transmission to any internet enabled device was ruled unconstitutional and any company with local broadcasting interests soared on the decision. Essentially, the Supreme Court said that an antennae that is leased and captures broadcasts is illegal, while an antennae that is purchased and captures broadcast television is not.

Then the Internal Revenue Service came into focus as it ruled favorably on Iron Mountain’s (IRM) request to convert to a REIT, which was especially surprising since it had tentatively given an adverse opinion last year. The result was a surge in share price confounding those who believed that the price already fully discounted the opinion. This ruling could open the way for others to consider separating that portion of their business that generates revenues in corporate owned facilities into a REIT and enjoy those tax benefits.

Then there was the matter of the refiners that awoke Thursday morning to the shocking news that the US Department of Commerce was going to allow essentially unrefined oil to be exported, even without a license, thereby likely reducing margins at the refiners. That sector saw some brutalized victims and some clear victors from the decision.

Then there was the case of Verizon (VZ) that had a contract in Germany canceled for fears that the NSA could use the devices as an easy conduit for surreptitiously gathering intelligence. 

Finally, Barclays (BCS) drew attention from local government as the New York State Attorney General’s office filed suit against Barclays claiming “fraud and deceit” in the manner their dark pool trading was executed. Of course, when there’s one cockroach you can be certain that there are more to be found, so the financial sector becomes more widely suspect as Barclays is scrutinized.

But to be clear, I was certainly on the side of government when Janet Yellen, just the previous week gave reason to believe that interest rates would remain low, thereby suggesting that equities would be a more advantageous investment vehicle than bonds. Unfortunately, as soon as this past week started, that news was old and long forgotten, as the message had no carry over to this week’s trading.

While some of last week’s events were scheduled, others came as a surprise in more than their content. Hopefully this week will be one when the hand of government will remain invisible and allow the market to trade on something that hasn’t been seen in a long while – fundamentals.

However, now isn’t the time to hold one’s breath and it’s not necessarily likely that next week’s beginning of another earnings season will be the time to do so, either.

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

Holly Frontier (HFC) was one of those brutalized refiners whose shares plummeted upon the news that certain unrefined products could now be exported. The share drop has brought Holly Frontier to the lower end of the range in which it had been trading and in which I currently own shares. I’ve done so on five occasions this year and have watched shares go up and down in alternating quantum stages during that time. While I believe the reaction to the news may have been overdone and would like to add shares, as Holly Frontier has an appealing option premium, regular dividend and routinely pays a special dividend, as well, I would likely await to see some stability in its price as the week opens before making the decision.

I’ve been waiting a while to re-purchase shares of DuPont (DD) and after its surprise announcement of a lower earnings forecast on reduced seed sales that time may have arrived. At one time DuPont was a very frequent holding, but it’s been nearly two years since that last purchase. Since that time DuPont has started offering weekly options and much more recently expanded weekly options, greatly increasing its appeal. Like many other stocks that I consider for purchase, DuPont has that nice troika of option premium, dividend and price stability that can serve to minimize some market tremors.

Another major decliner this week was Dollar General (DG), which plunged upon news that its CEO was planning to retire sometime in 2015. Presumably, the rational for that plunge was that the company was therefore, less likely to be involved in a buyout or merger with Family Dollar Stores (FDO) as has been rumored, in the near term.

That doesn’t really seem to make very much sense to me. If the union of those two companies makes sense, as many believe that it does for both companies, it’s not terribly likely that a company would giv
e up on the idea and simply go on hiatus. They would most certainly get the process moving at an appropriate time, while ensuring that CEO succession was closely aligned with the objectives defined by the board, which will continue to be chaired by its current CEO who has indicated he would stay on during the transition period.

I actually purchased some shares in the final couple of hours on Friday in the belief that I could get a quick assignment while shares recovered and anticipated doing another purchase this coming week.

Instead, shares stumbled while trading in a wide range in the final hour and I eventually rolled over shares. However, I think that the reaction was very much not only an over-reaction, but also the wrong reaction to what was really benign news. That leaves me in a position to consider further adding shares this week.

Verizon seems to be paying a price for the US government’s alleged spying on German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and is reportedly losing government contracts in Germany to Deutsche Telecom (DT) over concerns that Verizon cell phones may be eminently capable of doing the NSA’s bidding overseas. A late day recovery restored shares above $49, but I would be anxious to purchase shares if approaching that level again, mindful of its ex-dividend date the following week.

The potential dividend payers for the week are Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY), Medtronic (MDT) and Sysco (SYY).

Bristol Myers is a frequent holding and I currently own two lots, having saved one from assignment specifically because I wanted to retain the dividend this week. It has traded in a range recently as some good news about a drug used in the treatment of melanoma has lifted shares from the low end of that range that I believe may carry shares back toward the $52 range if the overall market doesn’t fade. 

Medtronic has been much in the news lately due to its proposed $43 billion buyout of Covidien (COV), an Ireland based company. While inversions are increasingly in our lexicon these days, this merger makes sense on more than just a tax basis.

Trading near its yearly highs isn’t generally a place I want to be when opening a position, but I don’t foresee any near term threat to Medtronic’s share price and it does offer a decent dividend, made more appealing if shares are assigned relatively quickly. 

Sysco is just one of those companies that is everywhere you probably don’t always want to be. It’s non-flashy, utilitarian and below the radar, yet it is fairly indispensable and reliable in terms of what if offers to a broad range of customers. Shares have only recently begun trading weekly and expanded weekly options and while offering a nice dividend and option premium, also offers some opportunity for share appreciation, as well.

Finally, Whole Foods (WFM) also goes ex-dividend on July 1, but purchasing for the purposes of capturing the paltry dividend may be as bad of an idea as it has been for me to have purchased shares in the past. I currently own shares and have watched them tumble as the company faced increasing competition, bad weather and significant expansion efforts. In addition, an occasional comment too many and too controversial by one of its co-CEOs does nothing to help it recover its former glory.

Whole Foods is one of those rare companies that has previously recovered its lost glory, although it did take nearly 7 years to return to its 2005 price peak. I don’t really have the kind of patience, but the extent of the climb isn’t as steep as in the past.

I think that it’s bad news is behind it and it has shown some stability at its current price. While I often like to purchase shares after a price drop, especially if I already own shares, I haven’t found the reason to do so with Whole Foods while watching its value erode.

Unless there’s a report coming from government agencies next week citing health hazards of organic food, I’m finally ready to add to my Whole Food holdings and may as well take that puny dividend for my troubles.

Traditional Stocks: DuPont, Holly Frontier, Verizon, Whole Foods

Momentum: Dollar General

Double Dip Dividend: Bristol Myers Squibb (7/1), Medtronic (7/1), Sysco (7/1)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

 

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

 

 

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Weekend Update – May 4, 2014

The instant the Employment Situation Report was released and news of the creation of 288,000 new jobs was known, the spin and the interpretations started like wild.

Even partisans have to notice how detached they and their counterparts are from a true grasp of reality as they contrive ways to take credit or lay blame without regard to truth, in the expectation that no one will notice.

Whenever substantive economic news is released you can be certain of the immediate race to blanket the media with a version of the "truth" and talking points to reinforce one side’s continuing infallibility over the other.

Never before has the "participation rate" received so much attention as those seeking to downplay the robust numbers found their voice. Others focused on having cake and eating it too, while pointing to increased jobs and increasing insurance enrollments under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s always the same and thrives in a world where classic comments like "I was for … before I was against it," barely get noticed and flip-flops are never considered as anything other than recreational footwear.

For those paying attention those flip-flops have been increasingly frequent in the markets as "risk off" and "risk on" are again concepts in vogue. They alternate with one another for investor favor on a very regular basis as there’s little indication of direction, other than the expectation by some that the relentless move higher will simply continue.

With better numbers than expected the initial positive reaction from the market quickly gave way to  the interpretation of their meaning with regard to the Federal Reserve’s Qualitative Easing taper and the forward momentum was quickly lost. As the day progressed it was clear that the thought process of the past, that "good news is bad news" and bad news will make us wealthy, was returning.

More importantly, however, in helping to shape up the day was the fact that it was a Friday. Just as Tuedays are once again pre-ordained to be market gainers, so too are Fridays recently consigned to the loss camp.

Over the past two months you could be equally certain that the final trading day of the week was most likely a Friday and that the trading week would end with renewed concerns of some escalating conflict involving Russia. Why things seem to stay quiet during the week and then come to a head on Fridays is somewhat of a mystery, but that’s been the clear trend since the onset on the crisis in Crimea.

Amazingly, yet another week that was fairly quiet during the first four trading days saw a flare up of tensions overseas on Friday and again had an impact on the markets, taking some luster off what were otherwise predominantly positive weeks. The key is that it has only been the luster, thus far, as the market hasn’t been taken down to its bare, perhaps rusting metal base.

So powerful has this trend been that another well established trend is flailing by comparison. After an impressive run of nearly two years where the markets were statistically significantly more likely to have a higher move on the date of the release of the Employment Situation Report, this Friday marked the second consecutive month where that wasn’t the case, although the pattern of the entire week of the report release being positive continued.

While economic reports are released, the FOMC announces and Russia foments, earnings are being released. Thus far, there hasn’t been very much to suggest that there is a growing economy, yet we keep reaching new market highs. The recent GDP report didn’t add anything to that belief, either, although as the ever optimistic like to point out, "it is a backward looking measure," as if forward looking measures have greater validity than that which was actually measured, rather than fantasized about.

We’ve seen this scenario before. While there are signs of  tiring market the retreats to safety, such as utilities or consumer staples hasn’t lasted very long and risk is re-embraced after only the briefest of absences. While the most risky of all have been exhibiting some bubble-like behavior that brings back memories of days past and those memories aren’t necessarily good ones.

While the uncertainty continues, to me it also continues to be surprising of the relative confidence that exists that saw this Friday close with only  a modest loss. While the precious metals market was demonstrating some nervousness the equity markets thought it safe to go home for the weekend and discounted the likelihood of a meltdown in overseas decorum, despite the signs that it was already occurring.

In the past, that would have been unusual, but now it is just more of the same, as nothing can stop the relentless march higher.

We’ve all heard that before, too.

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

While I’m not thrilled about the prospects about buying Apple (AAPL) shares after their significant run higher fueled by the announcement of a 7 to 1 split and an 8% increase in the dividend, I do like its reasonably predictable pattern of behavior in its peri-ex-dividend period. While not a certainty, that behavior tends to see price increasing going into the ex-dividend date and then shortly thereafter. With that ex-dividend date this week I would like to consider a purchase and hopefully a quick exit from the position.

While many are of the belief that Apple shares will continue their appreciation after the split, I think those waiting for the split are likely to be disappointed as the money will have been made by those taking some profits by selling their appreciated shares to those clamoring for a piece of the pie.

Lately, pharmaceutical companies are hot. Imagine being so confident that you would consider a $100 billion buyout offer to be insufficient. Yet, while they are in play there are also concerns about even more regulatory pressure, but this time over sky high pricing for potentially life saving drugs.

Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY) straddles the worlds of "big pharma" and bio-pharma and its shares have found a nice home in this price range for the past 6 months. With earnings having been reported I think this is a good time to enter or add shares, not just for the option premium, but also for share appreciation as the sector is suddenly of interest. 

MetLife (MET) also just reported earnings and is currently trading a little above the mid-point of its recent comfortable range. It has actually held up nicely while interest rates have fallen and the 10 Year was testing the 2.5% level. MetLife would have been expected to also lose some luster in a falling rate environment, but it has shown very nice resilience. In addition to its usually attractive option premium shares are ex-dividend this week, compounding its lure.

Starbucks (SBUX) also is ex-dividend this week and I’ve resigned myself over the past month that shares won’t be returning, hopefully, to the levels that I previously thought represented fair pricing. I’ve only owned 3 lots of shares in 2014, but each time I hear Howard Schultz speak the more inspired I get regarding his vision for the company that goes well beyond ingestibles. It has become one of those companies upon which I like to use out of the money call options when adding shares, as I think there is always room for its short term appreciation.

eBay (EBAY) is one of those companies that so many people love to disparage. Of course it’s decision to repatriate foreign cash this week and pay taxes is somewhat puzzling, although perhaps should be cheered as being patriotic, it evokes policy discussion, particularly as other companies seek tax inversion benefits by moving offshore.

Certainly Carl Icahn can’t be terribly pleased with what eBay is doing, as he likely interprets the decision as a squandering of his billions, so I expect things to heat up at eBay. However, even without the tax issue and even without Carl Icahn as part of the equation, eBay has been as reliant of a covered option play as can be found and with some patience can be a very reliable partner in the creation of an income stream. The only thing that would make its shares more appealing to me would be the initiation of a dividend, so I hope Carl Icahn is reading.

Chesapeake Energy (CHK), speaking of Carl Icahn, reports earnings this week. It has long been one of my very favorite covered option trades, but my last lot was assigned more than $2 ago. As opposed to many trades that I like to make when earnings are announced and which are done through the sale of put contracts, with no desire to own shares, I wouldn’t mind ownership of shares.

As the week begins its trading it will simply be a question of whether a covered call position or the sale of puts provides a better rate of return and future prospects for continuing generation of income or quick closure. At the moment I’m more inclined to consider the sale of puts, however the initial market sentiment may shift my own, especially if shares open and stay higher.

Also reporting earnings this week is Nu Skin (NUS). Unlike Chesapeake, and much more like Herbalife (HLF), I’m not terribly interested in owning shares. NuSkin last reported earnings just 2 months ago after a delay of about a month in reporting its previous earnings. That;s never a good thing. In addition, its business practices are also occasionally called into question even by governments, as it has significant interests in China, which has alleged that the business ay be a pyramid scheme.

NuSkin, for its part, has re-started its distributor recruitment after nearly 3 months of abeyance in China. WHile earnings may  adversely impacted, and its shares certainly dived after the initial news in January 2014, I believe that it is already baked into expectations. What I do expect is positive guidance, even though there’s possibly reason not to believe much from companies in those kind of business. While I can’t make a compelling case for owning shares, there may be a case for selling puts prior to earnings or for the more cautious, doing so after earnings if there is a plunge in reaction to the report.

GameStop (GME) reports earnings later this month. Since January 2014 its chart looks very similar to NuSkin, which is not meant as a compliment. It is one of those companies that makes you wonder how it is that it still exists in this world of streaming data. it’s most recent challenge was news of Wal-Mart (WMT) getting into the used video game business in exchange for Wal-Mart vouchers. I sold puts at that time following the sharp drop in shares and happily saw the position quickly expire,as so often the initial response has little reason to  head in the same direction as cooler heads prevail.

With well known short interest that is always mentioned in the same breath as its name, GameStop had fully recovered from its Wal-Mart induced loss, but has recently faltered again. It appears to have some decent price support within about $3 of its current price and the kind of option premiums that could make that risk – reward proposition appealing for some, although May 22, 2014 earnings do add to the potential risk.

Finally, I was watching the action of JP Morgan (JPM) closely during the final hour of trading on Friday. That’s because I was expecting shares to be assigned, but a late decline in shares was threatening to see it dip below the $55.50 strike level. Ultimately shares closed at $55.58, but after the closing bell immediately slumped about a dollar lower as it announced the expectation that its trading revenues would drop 20% in the next quarter and that it had some exposure in the Russian market. 

Part of the covered call strategy that I like to employ is the serial or recurrent purchase of positions. Nothing seems to work better than having shares assigned and then buying them back at lower prices.

Those kinds of opportunities are always serendipitous and you certainly can’t take credit when they occur, but they do occur with reasonable frequency. Any further erosion in shares on Moinday morning may be a good opportunity to welcome shares back after a weekend apart.

Traditional Stocks: Bristol Myers Squibb, eBay, JP Morgan Chase

Momentum: GameStop

Double Dip Dividend: Apple (5/8) , MetLife (5/7), Starbucks (5/6)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Chesapeake Energy (5/6 PM) , NuSkin (5/6 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.

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