Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Wednesday, 4/21/2010

Table of Contents

  1. Market Wrap
  2. New Option Plays
  3. In Play Updates and Reviews

Market Wrap

Another Lackluster Day For Stocks

by Todd Shriber

Click here to email Todd Shriber
Considering that a host of marquee names, including four members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, delivered earnings reports before the bell this morning, Wednesday was by most accounts, a fairly lackluster day for equities. The Dow managed a meager gain of almost eight points to close just below 11,125 while the Nasdaq gained just 4.3 points the day after Apple (AAPL) reported another set of astounding financials. The S&P 500 did not participate in the gains as that index lost 1.24 points to settle at 1205. 93.

Stats Table

To put things bluntly, Greece continues to be a problem. There is simply no getting around that. The country began talks today on its $61 billion bailout package and the International Monetary Fund called this quagmire a ''wake-up call'' for sovereign debt risks. I mentioned two weeks ago that spreads on Greek 10-year bonds had blown out to record levels over German bunds. After retreating a little bit since I covered the topic, yields on Greek bonds rose 8% today. According to Bloomberg, that is the highest level in 10 years and double the rate on German bunds.

Greek Bond Spreads

The Greece situation has of course sparked concerns over a wider contagion and today the Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, and the IMF voiced their concerns regarding that scenario. Next up on the list of troubled Eurozone economies that may be a thorn in the side of equity bulls appears to be Portugal, the ''P'' in the now ubiquitous PIIGS acronym. Yields on Portuguese bonds rose to their highest levels in 13 months today and the spreads between these bonds and German bunds is now 166 basis points. Back to Greece for a minute as I continue to wonder how this country can have such a profound impact on U.S. stocks. A debt load of $61 billion is less than a third of what California has to contend with. Put another way, if you wanted to buy New York's Central Park, $61 billion would probably cover about 12% of the tab.

So what we are left with is a market that really is not reacting to good earnings reports. Roughly 83% of the S&P 500 members that have reported earnings thus far have beaten expectations, one of the strongest levels since 1993, according to Bloomberg data. Still, the S&P 500 is negative for the past week and the Dow is barely positive.

Speaking of the Dow, with four members delivering earnings today, including the fourth through sixth most valuable members of the index in terms of price, this really should have been a much stronger day for industrials. AT&T (T) did not do much to help the cause. Despite the fact that Ma Bell has exclusive rights to the iPhone (how much longer that will last is anyone's guess), AT&T reported its lowest level of subscriber growth in six years. The company gained 512,000 new customers in the first quarter, down 43% from a year ago.

It was not readily apparent how many of the new customers opted for the iPhone, but at least one analyst said it was hard to be excited about AT&T's results if the iPhone was taken out of the equation. Excluding one-time items, AT&T earned 59 cents a share on sales of $30.6 billion. Analysts had expected the company to earn 54 cents a share on revenue of $30.7 billion.

Some of the company's first-quarter profits were due to cost reductions as AT&T lowered its headcount by more than 6400 workers. Again, that is not the formula investors want to see and the stock was down more than 1% today.

AT&T Chart

For as much of a dog of the Dow AT&T has been, Boeing (BA) has been the polar opposite. In the past three months, the aerospace giant has gained almost 25%, more than twice the Dow's run. Boeing touched a new 52-week high of $74.65 today before closing at $74.16, still good for a gain of almost 4% and good for the best performance in the Dow today.

Boeing said its first-quarter earnings fell to $519 million, or 70 cents a share, from $610 million, or 86 cents a share, a year earlier. Today's number includes a 20-cent charge related to the new healthcare reform bill. Boeing had previously announced that charge, so it was priced into the stock and the company's results beat the consensus estimate of 67 cents a share. Sales fell to $15.2 billion from $16.5 billion.

The company also said that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has expanded its inspection of the 787 Dreamliner, an important step for the much-maligned plane's debut. Boeing said it is still on schedule to deliver the first 787 later this year. The company said it expects top line growth next year and operating cash flow of $5 billion. Boeing did deliver fewer planes in the first quarter than it did a year earlier but booked orders rose and the order backlog now stands at 3350 planes worth $250 billion.

Boeing Chart

McDonald's (MCD) was another Dow issue making a new 52-week high today on the back of a strong quarterly update. The world's biggest fast-food chain said same-store sales in March rose 4.2%, the metric's biggest gain in a year. McDonald's earned $1.09 billion, or $1 share in the first quarter, compared with $975 million, or 87 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales jumped 10% to $5.61 billion. Analysts had been expecting a profit of 96 cents a share on revenue of $5.52 billion.

As was the case when rival Yum! Brands (YUM) reported results last week, McDonald's profits were buoyed by international markets. Sales at U.S. restaurants were up just 1.5% in the first quarter. On the other hand, sales soared 5% in Europe and gained 5.7% in Asia/Pacific, Africa and the Middle East. While McDonald's has been a solid performer, investors may be viewing Yum! as the better play on emerging markets as Yum's shares are up 25% in the past three months compared to a 10% run for McDonald's.

McDonald's Chart

Financials saw some dour trade today as the Goldman Sachs (GS)/SEC battle is still on the minds of investors. Throw in a congressional panel issuing a subpoena to ratings agency Moody's (MCO) for failure to comply with a request for information and a mediocre profit report from Wells Fargo (WFC) and it was not the best of days for the sector at large.

Wells Fargo's results can truly be labeled a disappointment, especially when measured against rivals like JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC) and US Bancorp (USB). The California-based bank earned $2.55 billion, or 45 cents a share in the first quarter, down from $3.05 billion, or 56 cents a share a year earlier. The consensus estimate called for a profit of 42 cents a share.

Wells said that costs related to its acquisition of Wachovia were one reason for the glum numbers. A bad excuse considering that purchase was paid for in large part by a TARP loan. Even worse, Wells said its provision for credit losses rose 13% to $4.53 billion in the first quarter. This was a significant faux pas on the bank's part given that none of its comparable rivals have set aside more cash for credit losses, so it may be a positive sign that Wells shares were down only 2% on the day.

Wells Fargo Chart

Morgan Stanley (MS) was one bright spot among financials, gaining more than 4%. Bolstered by strong fixed income trading, Morgan Stanley showed that Goldman Sachs is not the only game in town when it comes to profitable trading. Morgan Stanley's fixed income sales and trading revenue soared to $2.7 billion in the first quarter from $1.2 billion a year earlier.

The company earned $1.4 billion, or 99 cents a share, compared with a loss of $578 million, or 57 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, Morgan Stanley earned 82 cents, handily beating the average analyst estimate that called for a profit of 57 cents a share. The firm is also taking steps to lower its compensation ratio, which was 41 % of revenue in the first quarter, compared with 65% in 2009.

In addition, investors may have bid up Morgan Stanley on speculation the company is poised to steal some business from its arch rival Goldman as the latter deals with the SEC fraud case. Of course, Morgan Stanley did not comment on that, but the other side of the coin is the bank is not in the crosshairs of federal regulators. At least not yet and Goldman is.

Morgan Stanley Chart

It was a busy after-hours session for Nasdaq constituents with eBay (EBAY), Netflix (NFLX) and Qualcomm (QCOM) reporting earnings, among others. Starting with the bad news, eBay gave a tepid outlook for its full-year results, saying it expects to earn $1.63 to $1.68 a share on sales of $8.8 billion to $9.1 billion. Analysts had been forecasting a profit of $1.67 a share on revenue of $9.1 billion.

For the second quarter, the company expects to earn 37 cents to 39 cents a share on revenue of $2.15 billion to $2.2 billion. Analysts were expecting a profit of 40 cents a share on $2.2 billion in sales. Obviously, this is not the environment in which to be issuing lower guidance and as such, eBay shares are down about 8% in after-hours trading.

eBay Chart

Fortunately, there is some good news and it comes in the form of Netflix, which has been on a parabolic rise over the past few months. On January 29th, this was a $49 stock. The shares closed just below $87 on Wednesday and are up to $88.16 in the after-market session on the back of a strong first-quarter profit report.

Netflix said added 1.7 million new subscribers in the quarter. The company has added 5 million new customers in the past 18 months. Netflix said it expects to add another 1 million subscribers by July and even that estimate could prove to be too low. Speaking of estimates, the company guided higher for 2010, saying it could earn as much as $144 million, or $2.61 a share. That is up from previous guidance of $137 million, or $2.50 a share.

More customers are opting for Netflix's Internet service over the traditional postal delivery and that is proving to be a boon for the company. The company said 55% of its customers used the Internet service in the first quarter. That is the first time more than half of its customers used that option. Hey, this way of delivering movies saves Netflix a lot of money on postage.

Netflix Chart

There is something to this outlook theme and if the other examples did not convince you of that fact, perhaps one final example will. Qualcomm (QCOM) said it expects to earn 51 cents to 55 cents a share in its fiscal third quarter, but analysts were expecting 55 cents a share. That news had Qualcomm shares down $3.44, or 8%, to $39.19 in extended trading. If there is any silver lining it is that the company raised the low end of its full year guidance to $1.71 a share from $1.56 a share, but the top line forecast was unchanged at $10.4 billion to $11 billion.

Qualcomm Chart

In the past two days, the Dow has seen seven of its constituents report earnings and the index has not made any noteworthy gains due to those reports. Verizon (VZ) reports tomorrow before the bell and American Express (AXP) and Microsoft (MSFT) after the close, but at this point, it is hard to envision these reports really moving the needle for the Dow. Even if resistance at 11,150 is cleared, round-number resistance at 11,200 looms.

Dow Chart

The S&P 500 still hovers above 1200, but with the split decisions we saw in after-hours earnings today and the potential for the same scenario to repeat before the market opens tomorrow, the index could just as easily move to resistance at 1214 as it could drop below 1200. First support is at 1185 should 1200 be violated.

S&P 500 Chart

If nothing else, tomorrow should be an interesting day for the Nasdaq as investors absorb the aforementioned earnings reports along with that of Starbucks (SBUX), whose report was pretty bullish. Amazon (AMZN) joins Microsoft among the marquee Nasdaq names to report after the bell tomorrow. For now, 2500 is holding sort of and the index needs to run another 14 or 15 points to see its next resistance point.

Nasdaq Chart

If this week has proved anything, it is that pinning one's hopes on robust earnings reports to lift stocks higher is a futile endeavor, sans Apple of course. The three G's, Goldman, Greece and guidance are real problems for the broader market to contend with, so even if the major U.S. indexes finish the week close to where they currently reside, that might be considered a moral victory.


New Option Plays

This new play is on an alternative beverage maker.

by Scott Hawes

Click here to email Scott Hawes


NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

Hanson Natural Corp. - HANS - close 41.24 change 0.00 stop 39.25

Company Description:
Hansen Natural Corporation (Hansen) is a holding company. The Company, through its subsidiaries develops, markets, sells and distributes alternative beverage category natural sodas, fruit juices, juice blends, juice drinks, energy drinks and energy sports drinks, fruit juice smoothies and functional drinks, non-carbonated ready-to-drink iced teas, children’s multi-vitamin juice drinks, Junior Juice juices, Junior Juice Water and flavored sparkling beverages under the Hansen’s brand name. Hansen operates in two segments: Direct Store Delivery (DSD), whose principal products comprise primarily energy drinks, and Warehouse (Warehouse), whose principal products comprise primarily juice based and soda beverages. It develops, markets, sells and distributes energy drinks under the brand names, Monster Energy; Monster Hitman Energy Shooter and Lost Energy brand names, as well as Rumba, Samba and Tango brand energy juices.(source: company press release or website)

Why We Like It:
HANS is approaching an upward trend line and a recent support/resistance level at about $40.50. In addition, the stock is forming an ascending triangle and is approaching the bottom portion of an upward channel that has been intact since mid 2009 (see weekly chart below). I am waiting for HANS to trade to $40.50 which I suggest readers use as a trigger to buy calls. I believe the stock will bounce from these levels as long as the overall market is cooperating. However, if there is overall market weakness I urge readers to use caution when entering long positions. The company also reports earnings on May 6 so we will be out of this trade prior to the report. Let's use a stop of $39.25. Our target is $43.40 and our time frame is 1 to 2 weeks.

Trigger to buy calls at $40.50

Suggested Position: Buy MAY CALL $42, current ask $1.35, estimated ask at entry $1.00

Annotated Weekly Chart:

Entry on April xx at $ xx.xx
Earnings Date 5/06/10
Average Daily Volume = 854,000
Listed on April 21, 2010


In Play Updates and Reviews

GT and DSX Perform, Stopped on SPG

by Scott Hawes

Click here to email Scott Hawes

Editor's Note:

Good evening traders. Today's price action in the S&P 500 tested the will of traders with a short bias in the market. The index briefly peeked its head above yesterday's high and then spent the remainder of the day making lower highs and lower lows. It appears that a downward channel may be starting to form on the shorter term intraday charts, but the S&P 500 needs to make new lows below 1,199 early tomorrow for this statement to hold water. The futures were under pressure as of this writing on Wednesday evening. Often times when markets whipsaw back and forth it is a warning signal that a trend change may be happening. Whether the recent volatility is in fact warning us, or it is simply because of the earnings and news driven markets, has yet to be determined. Stay nimble with your position management.

We are hoping to exit our GT position tomorrow if it gets near our target. Our SPG short set-up failed so its time to step aside as our stop was hit today. We are intentionally keeping our portfolio narrow until we get a better sense of market direction. Staying on the sidelines is probably not a bad idea.

Current Portfolio:


CALL Play Updates

Diana Shipping Inc - DSX - close 15.15 change -0.02 stop 14.32

DSX retraced some the gains from Tuesday which triggered our entry to buy calls today. We our now long May $15.00 calls at $0.60 in the model portfolio. The stock traded as low as $14.96 but closed well off of its lows at $15.14. I am looking for the stock to follow through and test the highs from April 6 which is near our target of $15.65. A +50-cent move in the stock from here should garner about 30-cents in profit on our calls, which would represent a +50% gain. A second more aggressive target can be placed at $16.00. I envision this as a fairly quick trade lasting about one week. Our stop is $14.32 which is below Monday's low and all of the stocks moving averages.

Current Position: CALL MAY $15, entry at $0.60

Entry on April 21, at $ 0.60
Earnings Date 5/6/2010 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.2 million
Listed on April 20th, 2010


Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. - GT - close 14.57 change +0.28 stop 13.50

GT had a nice day closing higher +1.82% on the day. Our GT $1.90 GT calls our now worth about $2.20, or +15%. The stock made highs at $14.66 this afternoon which is only $0.09 away from our target. Considering the whipsaws in the market over the past several days I am suggesting readers tighten stops or sell their positions to protect profits. The delta on our option is .87 which means for every 10-cent gain in GT, our call value should increase 8 or 9 cents. So if GT hits our target of $14.75 (18-cents higher than today's close) our options should be worth another 10 or 15 cents depending on the bid/ask spread and where you get filled. This would yield a gain of +20% on the position. So I pose the question of whether it is worth squeezing out this additional gain of +5%, or just sell now to protect profits. A strategy I would consider is placing a good til cancelled (GTC) sell order on the option at $2.25 and I would be surprised if it is not filled tomorrow, unless of course the stock gaps down and doesn't trade higher. We are looking to exit the trade if GT trades into the $14.70 to $14.75 area which is our target. A more aggressive target is $15.90 but GT has earnings on April 28 so I doubt there will be enough time. There is a key pivot level at $14.00 that I would expect to hold as support if there is any weakness in GT, but I would not let the stock reverse on you at this point. I am not recommending new positions at this time. Our time frame is now one or two days.

Current Position: Long MAY CALL $12.50, entry @ $1.90

Entry on April 20th at $ 1.90
Earnings Date 4/28/10
Average Daily Volume = 4.3 million
Listed on April 19th, 2010


PUT Play Updates

SPDR S&P 500 Index - SPY - close: 120.66 change: -0.22 stop: 123.05

Today's price action in the S&P 500 tested the will of traders short the market. The index briefly peeked its head above yesterday's high and then spent the remainder of the day making lower highs and lower lows. It appears that a downward channel may be developing on the shorter term intraday charts, but SPY will need to trade down below $120 early tomorrow for this statement to hold water. Often times when markets whipsaw back and forth it is a warning signal that a trend change may be happening. Whether the recent volatility is in fact warning us, or it is simply because of the earnings and news driven markets, has yet to be determined. But I am willing to see how the coming days play out prior to closing this position. There is resistance from last week just overhead and I still suspect SPY may retreat from here. Conservative traders should consider moving up their target to $118.85 which is just above Friday's low. Should SPY trade to this level I will be looking to exit the position. A second target could be $117.75. Our stop remains 123.05 which is just above SPY's 200-week SMA.

Current Position: SPY PUT MAY $119.00, entry at $2.05

Entry on April 13th at $ 2.05
Earnings Date Not Applicable
Average Daily Volume = 164 million
Listed on April 12th, 2010


CLOSED BEARISH PLAYS

Simon Property Group - SPG - close: 89.99 change: +2.33 stop: 86.35

SPG has rallied $5.00 (+6%) since Friday's lows and hit our stop today. Our set-up looked promising on Monday as the stock rallied right up to our short entry trigger and retreated. However, the set-up failed with the amazing follow through on Tuesday and Wednesday. We are out of the position for a 95-cent loss. I suggest readers who may still have positions to place a stop above today's highs and see if SPG turns back down in the coming days.

Closed Position: MAY PUT $80.00 @ $1.25, entry at $2.20.

Annotated Chart:

Entry on April 19th at $ 83.75
Earnings Date 4/30/2010
Average Daily Volume = 2.6 million
Listed on April 17th, 2010