Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 3/13/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

The Calm Before The Fed

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes

Introduction

It's FOMC week yet again and the market is holding its breath. Today's action was yet another day drifting sideways, just below the newly set all-time high and just above near term support levels. While this week promises lots of potential market-moving events today was devoid of any; the Q4 earnings cycle is coming to a close, the Q1 cycle has yet to begin, there were no economic data releases and very little in the way of business activity.

International markets painted a positive picture. Asian indices were mostly up and led by the Heng Seng's 1.11% advance. The Nikkei was a laggard with a gain closer to 0.11%, hurt by poor machinery orders. The big news in that region was the ousting of Korean president Park of possibility of political reform in South Korea. European indices were also able to edge higher, gaining about 0.25% on average. Sentiment there is positive but cautious as traders eye the possibility Theresa May will invoke Article 50 (possibly as early as tonight/tomorrow), political unease in Belgium and France and the outcome of the FOMC meeting.

Market Statistics

Futures trading indicated a mildly negative open for the first half of the early electronic session and then flip-flopped to mildly positive for the second. The open was weakly bullish but buying topped out on the S&P 500 within the first 5 minutes of trading. Sellers took over from there but all they were able to do was keep prices within a tight range for the rest of the day. The S&P bottomed out with a loss of -4 points (-0.01%) and remained above that and below break-even until mid-afternoon when the SPX moved into the green.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

Nothing on the economic calendar for today but the next few days promises to be action packed. The PPI is released tomorrow morning, CPI Wednesday and then the FOMC meeting/announcement Wednesday afternoon. Also Wednesday morning is Retail Sales, Empire Manufacturing, Business Inventories and the NAHB Housing Index followed by a fully packed Thursday and Friday as well, so lots of reason for caution in today's trading. And that doesn't count Brexit/Article 50, elections in Europe and Trump's first budget which may come out this week too.

Moody's Survey of Business Sentiment rose 0.2% to 33.8 and the highest level since May of 2016. Mr. Zandi says global sentiment remains strong and stable with the usual regional variations. North America is strongest, South America weakest with Europe and Asia both positive but cautious. Looking to the past 6 months we can see that sentiment has been steadily rising with periodic spikes in optimism. To my technician's eye it looks as if sentiment may be building up to a break-out and if so will be a bullish signal.


More than 99% of the S&P 500 has reported earnings for the Q4 which basically brings the season and the year to a close. The results are good, not quite as good as I thought they would turn out but expansionary and a nice lead-in to the new year. The fourth quarter is pegged at 4.9% with little chance of movement from the last 2 or 3 companies to report. Full year 2016 comes in at 0.4%, much better than the 0.1% we started the reporting season with. Looking forward to next quarter, Q1 2017, outlook remains good although it has been falling in recent weeks.


Looking forward quarterly growth is expected to continue expanding into the end of the year, and into next year. Full year 2017 estimates remain healthy at 9.8% with that expanding to 12% in 2018. Full year 2017 estimates have been coming down with Q1 and Q2 estimates but full year 2018 estimates are on the rise, up 0.2% in the last 2 weeks.


The Dollar Index

The Dollar Index held steady today as traders await the FOMC meeting. The index closed with a gain near 0.1% after testing support at the short term moving average and the $101.00 level. The index has been creeping up in the near term on rising expectations of an FOMC rate hike but resistance is growing at the $102.50 area. The indicators are rolling over into a possible bear signal, consistent with resistance, but more consistent with range bound trading when looking back to the past 6 to 12 weeks. The question now is which way it will break and that will come down to the FOMC. A simple interest rate hike may not be enough to do it now, expectations are running greater than 95% for the March meeting and greater than 90% out for the next three meetings with a more than 50/50 shot at another hike to boot. A hike and hawkish commentary or changes to the statement may however renew the Trump trade and send the dollar back to test long-term highs.


The Gold Index

Gold prices also held steady in today's session. Spot gold hovered near $1,203, just above short term support levels, with dollar outlook pushing it lower and geopolitical issues fueling near-term flight-to-safety. A bounce from $1,200 would be bullish, first target for resistance near $1,230. A break below $1,200 would be bearish with downside target near $1,150 and all dependent on the FOMC meeting.

The gold miners moved slightly higher but not much and price action is not promising. The Gold Miners ETF GDX gained a full percent but created a small spinning top doji following a relief rally within a near-term down-trend. The relief rally may go on if gold prices are able to hold above $1,200 but upside target is the short-term moving average near $23.00. If not a test of support near $21.00 is possible with a break-through signaling further downside. The indicators are rolling over from a bearish low, consistent with a bounce support, but not suggestive of full correction at this time.


The Oil Index

Oil prices were flat today, WTI falling less than -0.1% at settlement, but look poised to move lower. The OPEC deal just wasn't enough to offset rising US rig counts, record US production and tepid demand. US rig counts jumped 12 last week, up 288 YOY, adding production capacity to an already ample supply, and show no signs yet of slowing. Until they do I expect to see downside pressure continue, providing of course that OPEC or Russia don't try to talk prices back up. Downside target for oil is $45 in the near to short-term.

The Oil Index looks set to continue a correction driven by falling oil prices. The index posted a margial gain in today's session but looks poised to move down to the 1,120 level. This would take the index back to a firm, long-term, support level built up over many months leading into the OPEC-deal driven rally. My long-term outlook for the sector remains bullish, earnings growth is still expected, but the near-term looks bearish. The risk now is that prices will move lower, and stay lower, ending hopes for the explosive earnings growth that is expected to-date.


In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Intel made news in the early hours when it announced the purchase of Mobileye. Mobileye is a chip-maker focused on the self-driving car industry, its purchase is a move by Intel to get into and stay ahead of that market. The deal values Mobileye at up to $16 billion, shares of that stock jumped more than 28% on the news. Shares of Intel fell a little more than -2% to trade just above near-term support.


Citrix Systems jumped nearly 7% this afternoon on news it was in talks with Goldman Sachs about a possible sale. The company is a leading provider of application and management software and services. Potential buyers are not yet known but will likely include top names.


The VIX continues to trade sideways and near long-term lows. Today's action saw gains at the open that were erased by the close. The indicators remain consistent with range-bound trading with a bias to the downside.


The Indices

Today's action in the indices was calm and quiet. For the most the indices moved sideways, two closed with gains while two closed with losses. The laggard is the Dow Jones Transportation Average which posted a loss of -0.41%. The index created a small black bodied candle below the moving average but closing above the 9,250 support line. The index looks set to move lower in the near term but as yet is still above support. The indicators are bearish and pointing lower, consistent with a test of support, but also showing early signs of reversing. A break below 9,250 is bearish near-term with downside target near 9,000. A bounce from 9,250 would be bullish with upside target near 9,600.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average also closed with a loss but only -0.10%. The blue chips created a small black bodied spinning top candle, just above near term support. Near term support is near 20,800. The indicators are moving lower suggesting support will be tested again with a possible move down or sideways to the short term moving average. A bounce from current levels would be bullish and trend following with upside target at the current all-time high.


The S&P 500 made the smallest gain in today's session, 0.04%. The broad market created a very small and doji-like spinning top candle extending the bounce from near term support begun last Thursday. The indicators are consistent with a test of support and showing sign of bouncing from support but little more at this time. Short and long-term outlook remains bullish out to 2018, near term is more questionable. A move lower, breaking below 2,355, would be bearish with downside target near 2,325. A bounce from this level would be bullish and trend following with upside target at the all-time high.


The NASDAQ Composite made the largest gain, 0.24%, and looks the most bullish. The index created a small white bodied candle moving up from a support bounce within an uptrend. The indicators remain bearish but are rolling over, consistent with such a bounce. Near term target is the current all-time high, only a few points above today's close, with the possibility of new all-time highs to follow.


The market is at a juncture. The next FOMC policy announcement is only 2 days away and it is largely expected to be a quarter point increase. The question is, will the rate hike cause the market to rally or will it cause the market to continue correcting? In the past, last year, a rate hike was a reason for fear, today that is not the case. Then, rate hikes were the demon to end easy-money policy and crush the bull market. Today they are a sign of economic health and the need for normalization. The rate hike and statements may cause a knee-jerk sell-off and they may not, if they do it will likely be the next great entry for long-term bullish positions. If it doesn't the rally will continue from here. I'm bullish, cautious ahead of the Fed, waiting for the next bullish signal.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes


New Option Plays

Breakout Ahead

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

Disney has shaken off all the naysayers and rebounded from the post earnings depression to close at a new high on Monday. A breakout could be imminent.


NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

DIS - Walt Disney - Company Profile

The Walt Disney Company, together with its subsidiaries, operates as an entertainment company worldwide. The company's Media Networks segment operates cable programming services, including the ESPN, Disney channels, and Freeform networks; broadcast businesses, which include the ABC TV Network and eight owned television stations; radio businesses consisting of the ESPN Radio Network; and the Radio Disney network. It also produces and sells original live-action and animated television programming to first-run syndication and other television markets, as well as subscription video on demand services and in home entertainment formats, such as DVD, Blu-Ray, and iTunes. Its Parks and Resorts segment owns and operates the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and the Disneyland Resort in California. This segment also operates Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line, and Adventures by Disney; and manages Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and Shanghai Disney Resort, as well as licenses its intellectual property to a third party for the operations of the Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan. The company's Studio Entertainment segment produces and acquires live-action and animated motion pictures for distribution in the theatrical, home entertainment, and television markets primarily under the Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and Touchstone banners. This segment also produces stage plays and musical recordings; licenses and produces live entertainment events; and provides visual and audio effects, and other post-production services. Its Consumer Products & Interactive Media segment licenses its trade names, characters, and visual and literary properties; develops and publishes games for mobile platforms; and sells its products through The Disney Store, DisneyStore.com, and MarvelStore.com, as well as directly to retailers. Company description from FinViz.com

Disney reported earnings of $1.55 on revenue of $14.78 billion. Analysts were expecting $1.49 and $15.26 billion. The comparisons to the year ago quarter were tough because of Frozen and Star Wars, The Force Awakens in that period. Star Wars was the first billion dollar film for the current fiscal year. The studio segment generated $2.52 billion in revenue. In January, after the December quarter ended, the company said it had more than $7.6 billion in global box office gross thanks to Star Wars: Rogue One, Captain America: Civil War and Finding Dory. CEO Bob Iger downplayed the concerns over ESPN saying they were very overblown because ESPN was still in demand by consumers, networks and advertisers.

Shares have recovered from the post earnings depression and are poised to continue making new highs, market permitting.

Earnings may 9th.

Buy May $115 call, currently $1.75, initial stop loss $108.50.


NEW DIRECTIONAL PUT PLAYS

No New Bearish Plays



In Play Updates and Reviews

Hugging the Flat Line

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The Dow and S&P failed to generate any excitement with a narrow intraday range. The Dow lost 20 points and the S&P gained less than a point. This was a very flat day with a narrow range as investors wait for the events later in the week. The Nasdaq was positive again and the strongest index. The Russell shook off its weakness to post a 5-point gain. Today was simply a watch and wait day. Volume just barely broke 6 billion shares.

The problems ahead are the FOMC meeting on the 15th, which is the same day the debt ceiling suspension expires. Either or both could present problems for the market. The chance of a March rate hike has more than tripled over the last two weeks to 91% today and that is almost a guarantee it will happen. That is sure to cause some political tweets and could upset the market.



Current Portfolio


Stop Loss Updates

Check the graphic below for any new stop losses in bright yellow. We need to always be prepared for an unexpected decline.


Profit Targets

Check the graphic below for any profit stops in green. We need to always be prepared for a profit exit at resistance.





Current Position Changes


ATVI - Activision Blizzard

The long call position was entered at the open.

ITW - Illinois Tool Works

The long call position remains unopened until a trade at $135.25.

IWM - Russell 2000 ETF

The long call position remains unopened until a trade at $133.75.



If you are looking for a different type of option strategy, try these newsletters:

Credit spreads and naked puts = OptionWriter

Long term option investments = LEAPS Investor

3-6 month Option Trades = Ultimate Investor

Iron Condors = Couch Potato Trader

Long and short equity trades = Premier Investor



BULLISH Play Updates

ATVI - Activision Blizzard - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. New high close.

Original Trade Description: March 11th

Activision Blizzard, Inc. develops and publishes online, personal computer (PC), video game console, handheld, mobile, and tablet games. The company operates through two segments, Activision Publishing, Inc. and Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. The company develops, publishes, and sells interactive software products and content through retail channels or digital downloads; and downloadable content to a range of gamers. It also publishes subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing games; and strategy and role-playing games. In addition, the company maintains a proprietary online gaming service, Battle.net that facilitates the creation of user generated content, digital distribution, and online social connectivity in its games. Further, it engages in creating original film and television content; and provides warehousing, logistical, and sales distribution services to third-party publishers of interactive entertainment software, as well as manufacturers of interactive entertainment hardware products. The company serves retailers and distributors, including mass-market retailers, consumer electronics stores, discount warehouses, game specialty stores, and consumers through third-party distribution, licensing arrangements, and direct digital purchases in the United States, Canada, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, China, and internationally. Company description from FinViz.com

Activision reported Q4 earnings of 92 cents that beat estimates for 73 cents. Revenue of $2.45 billion beat estimates for $2.35 billion.

The new Overwatch game was the fastest Blizzard title to hit 25 million registered players. Monthly active users (MAU) rose 5 million at Activision to reach 51 million. Bllizzard's MAU fell 1 million to 41 million but set a record for Q4. Kind Digital users fell from 394 million to 355 million. Since King Digital is phone games the numbers tend to be volatile. Users spent 43 billion hours playing ATVI's suite of games in Q4 compared to the 45 billion hours peopls spent watching Netflix.

Shares spiked despite weak guidance. They guided for Q1 for $1.05 billion and earnings of 18 cents. The street was looking for $1.2 billion and 31 cents. For the ful lyear they guided for $6.3 billion and $1.85 in earnings. That missed street estimates for $6.68 billion and $2.03. Fortunately, ATVI normally guides low and then crushes the estimates when they report.

Earnings May 11th.

Activision has not just one or two but seven game franchises worth more than $1 billion each. It is hard to argue with success. Also, the gamers currently playing those games are always waiting for the next version or the next big game that takes technology a step further. The gaming business is one of massively recurring revenue. They not only sell new game but expansion packs to existing games, maps, tools, and other game content that helps users better enjoy the experience.

Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft and Destiny are cash cows that generate steady streams of recurring revenue. More than 74% of ATVI's $6.6 billion in 2016 revenue was from subscriptions, in-game purchases and other digital items where the ongoing costs are next to zero. Five years ago that number was 34%.

With $2.2 billion in annual free cash flow the company can continue to develop new content and look for other acquisitions to broaden the brand.

The company is now branching out into E-sports with an Overwatch League. There are tens of thousands of gamers that will pay just to watch a pro play their favorite games. Having those pros compete with other pros is even better.

Activision is making new highs but with everything they have going for them, I believe they will keep making new highs. The options are cheap so we do not have much to lose if the stock or market suddenly takes a turn for the worst.

Position 3/13/17:

Long May $50 call @ $1.99, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


AZN - AstraZenaca - Company Profile

Comments:

Good article in the WSJ about AZN helped to power the stock through resistance. Read it here.

Original Trade Description: March 2nd

AstraZeneca PLC engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of prescription medicines for the treatment of respiratory, inflammation, autoimmune, cardiovascular, metabolic, oncology, infection, neuroscience, and gastrointestinal diseases worldwide. Its marketed products comprise Accolate, Bricanyl Respules, Bricanyl Turbuhaler, Daliresp, Duaklir Genuair, Eklira Genuair/Tudorza/Bretaris, Oxis Turbuhaler, Pulmicort Turbuhaler/Pulmicort Flexhaler, Pulmicort Respules, Rhinocort, Symbicort pMDI, and Symbicort Turbuhaler for respiratory, inflammation, and autoimmunity diseases; Atacand1/Atacand HCT/Atacand Plus, Brilinta/Brilique, Crestor2, Plendil, Seloken/Toprol-XL, Tenormin3, and Zestril4 for cardiovascular disease; and Bydureon, Byetta, Farxiga/Forxiga, Kombiglyze XR, Komboglyze, Onglyza, Symlin, Xigduo, and Xigduo XR for metabolic disease. The company's marketed products also include Arimidex, Faslodex, Iressa, Lynparza, Nolvadex, Tagrisso, and Zoladex, as well as Casodex, Cosudex for oncology disease; Fluenz/FluMist, Fluenz Tetra/FluMist Quadrivalent1, Merrem/Meronem2, Synagis3, and Zinforo4 for infection disease; Diprivan, EMLA, Movantik/Moventig, Naropin, Seroquel IR, Seroquel XR, Vimovo1, Xylocaine, and Zomig for neuroscience disease; and Losec/Prilosec and Nexium for gastrointestinal disease. It serves primary care and specialty care physicians through distributors and local representative offices. The company's pipeline includes 146 projects, of which 125 are in the clinical phase of development. It has collaboration agreements with Celgene Corporation; Immunocore Limited; Heptares Ltd.; Foundation Medicine, Inc., French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm); and FibroGen and Astellas, as well as a research agreement with Eli Lilly. Company description from FinViz.com.

In their recent earnings AZN reported $1.21 compared to estimates for $1.14. Revenue of $5.585 billion was in line with estimates.

Shares fell after the CEO warned that generic sales of Crestor were crushing sales of the original drug. Sales of Crestor were down 53% in the quarter. The company said because of the Crestor decline there would be low to mid single-digit declines in revenue in 2017 and low to mid-teens percentage decline in core EPS.

However, the company has a lot of drugs coming to market and several are "life changing" for cancer, respiratory and metabolic diseases. He said AZN was at an inflection point for the anticipated return to long-term growth built on a solid pipeline.

Earnings May 4th.

AZN just received approval from the FDA on a type-2 diabetes drug called Qtern, a once daily tablet for a disease that affects 29 million Americans. They also said Lynparza, a breast cancer treatment, proved to be more effective than chemotherapy in treating metastic breast cancer.

Investors are buying AZN for the pipeline and ignoring the decline in Crestor. They have had years for that decline to appear and now it is old news.

AZN is a slow mover and the options are cheap. If the market rolls over we will not have much at risk. If the market rebounds we should be in the money in a couple days.

Update 3/3/17: AZN entered into a deal with Sanofi to market MEDI8897 for the prevention of resipiratory synctial virus (RSV) in newborns and infants. AZN will get 120 million euros up front and 495 million upon the achievement of sales related milestones. All costs will be shared equally.

Position 3/3/17:

Long May $30 Call @ $1.10, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


AZPN - Aspen Technology - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares have spiked to a new high at $59.50 five times in the last eight days but cannot hold the gains. Somebody is sitting on that level with stock to sell. Eventually they will run out of shares. The minor rebound on Monday is a good sign.

Original Trade Description: March 1st

Aspen Technology, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides software and services to the process industries in the United States, Europe, and internationally. It operates through two segments, Subscription and Software, and Services. The company licenses integrated process optimization software solutions and associated support services designed to manage and optimize plant and process design, operational performance, and supply chain planning. Its software suites include aspenONE Engineering, and aspenONE Manufacturing and Supply Chain, which are integrated applications that allow end users to design process manufacturing environments, forecast and simulate potential actions, monitor operational performance, and manage planning and scheduling activities, as well as collaborate across these functions and activities. The company also provides software maintenance and support, professional, and training services. Its customers consist of companies, which are engaged in process industries, such as energy, chemicals, engineering, and construction, as well as consumer packaged goods, power, metals and mining, pulp and paper, pharmaceuticals, and biofuels. Aspen Technology, Inc. was founded in 1981 and is headquartered in Bedford, Massachusetts. Company description from FinViz.com.

Aspen reported Q4 earnings of 52 cents on revenue of $119.9 million. Estimates were for 43 cents and $117.6 million. Annualized revenue rose 4.5% to $450 million at the end of the quarter. Operating margins were 50.8%. The company repurchased 1.3 million shares in the quarter for $70 million. They ended the quarter with $140 million in cash and generated $27 million in free cash flow.

Earnings April 27th.

They are a small but growing company that provides software for manufactures to optimize plant operations. They acquired a new product in the quarter called Mtell, which offers machine learning based technology.

Shares have doubled over the last 12 months and they closed at a new high on Wednesday.

Position 3/2/17:

Long Apr $60 call @ $1.60, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


BMY - Bristol Myers - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Negative forecasts about the new healthcare proposal tanked the entire drug sector. BMY lost $1.39.

Original Trade Description: February 21st

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company discovers, develops, licenses, manufactures, markets, and distributes biopharmaceutical products worldwide. It offers chemically-synthesized drug or small molecule, and biologic in various therapeutic areas, including virology comprising human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV); oncology; immunoscience; cardiovascular; and neuroscience. Its products include Baraclude for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus infection; Daklinza and Sunvepra for the treatment of hepatitis C virus infection; Reyataz and Sustiva for the treatment of HIV; Empliciti, a humanized monoclonal antibody for the treatment of multiple myeloma; Erbitux, an IgG1 monoclonal antibody that blocks the epidermal growth factor receptor; Opdivo, a fully human monoclonal antibody for non-small cell lung and renal cell cancer, and melanoma; Sprycel, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor for the treatment of adults with Philadelphia chromosome-positive chronic myeloid leukemia; Yervoy, a monoclonal antibody for metastatic melanoma; Abilify, an antipsychotic agent for adults with schizophrenia, bipolar mania disorder, and depressive disorder; Orencia to treat rheumatoid arthritis; and Eliquis, an oral factor Xa inhibitor targeted at stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation. Its products pipeline includes Beclabuvir, a non-nucleoside NS5B inhibitor for the treatment of HCV; BMS-663068, an investigational compound that is being studied in HIV-1; and Prostvac, a Phase III prostate-specific antigen to treat asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. The company has clinical trial collaborations with Calithera Biosciences, Inc. and Janssen Biotech, Inc.; and a research collaboration with GeneCentric Diagnostics, Inc. Company description from FinViz.com.

BMY reported earnings of 63 cents that missed estimates for 67 cents. They guided for 2017 for earnings of $2.70-$2.90 and analysts were expecting $2.97. The shares were crushed with a $9 drop over five days. Complicating the earnings was news that sales of two drugs were slowing because of competition. However, what was not said was that BMY has dozens of other drugs currently being sold and dozens more in the pipeline. BMY has one of the richest pipelines in the business.

Fund manager Dodge & Cox did an extensive analysis of BMY and said the recent problems have just been a temporary setback and the strong pipeline of drugs plus their immuno-oncology business makes them particularly attractive and they initiated a large position. They said BMY has capitalized on its recent problems to become a focused biopharmaceutical company that is positioned to grow.

Multiple analysts have now called BMY an acquisition target. Icahn said that was one of his reasons for opening the position.

Earnings April 27th.

Shares are starting to rebound from the $46 low and they have plenty of ground to cover. The biotech sector is actually positive over the last week as through investors believe the danger from Trump and drug prices may have passed or at least moved into a new stage.

I am choosing a $60 June option with earnings in April. The option is cheap enough that we can hold over that earnings report if we decide to do that in April. If by chance there is a big gap higher on Wednesday, switch to the $60 strike.

Position 2/22/17:

Long June $57.50 call @ $2.78, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


ITW - Illinois Tool Works - Company Description

Comments:

No specific news. Second day of gains.

This position remains unopened until a trade at $135.25.

Original Trade Description: March 6th.

Illinois Tool Works Inc. manufactures and sells industrial products and equipment worldwide. It operates through seven segments: Automotive OEM; Test & Measurement and Electronics; Food Equipment; Polymers & Fluids; Welding; Construction Products; and Specialty Products. The Automotive OEM segment produces components and fasteners for automotive-related applications. The Test & Measurement and Electronics segment provides equipment, consumables, and related software for testing and measuring of materials and structures. This segment also offers equipment and consumables used in the production of electronic subassemblies and microelectronics. The Food Equipment segment provides commercial food equipment and related services. The Polymers & Fluids segment produces adhesives, sealants, lubrication and cutting fluids, and fluids and polymers for auto aftermarket maintenance and appearance. The Welding segment produces arc welding equipment, consumables, and accessories for various industrial and commercial applications. The Construction Products segment produces engineered fastening systems and solutions. The Specialty Products segment provides beverage packaging equipment and consumables, product coding and marking equipment and consumables, and appliance components and fasteners. Company description from FinViz.com.

ITW reported earnings of $1.39 compared to estimates for $1.37. Revenue of $3.4 billion matched estimates. Earnings were impacted by a 2% hit from the strong dollar.

The company reaffirmed their 2017 guidance for organic revenue growth of up to 3.5% and revenue from $13.8 to $14.1 billion. Operating margin is expected to rise 100 basis points to 23.5%. Free cash flow is expected to be $2 billion and $1 billion will be used in 2017 for stock buybacks. Q1 earnings guidance was $1.39 to $1.49. They ended the quarter with $2.472 billion in cash.

Earnings April 26th.

The commentary was positive and stock spiked sharply after earnings. Over the next four weeks, traders took profits and shares traded sideways. On the February 13th they declared a quarterly dividend of 65 cents payable April 11th to holders on March 31st. Shares ticked higher and began to make new highs.

I believe the economy is accelerating. The Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey last week was the highest since 1984 after three months of rapid growth. The new president is doing everything he can to spur growth in the USA and this is going to be contagious throughout America. Tool demand is going to rise.

Shares spiked to a new high after the president's speech and have held those gains.

Earnings are late April and I am reaching out to June for the option (no May strikes) and because of the market weakness I am putting an entry trigger on the position. We want to make sure the stock and market are moving higher before we enter the play.

With an ITW trade at $135.25

Buy June $140 call, currently $2.25, initial stop loss $132.65


IWM - Russell 2000 ETF - ETF Profile

Comments:

Minor rebound, closed off the highs and we are still untriggered.

Original Trade Description: March 8th

The iShares Russell 2000 ETF seeks to track the investment results of an index composed of small-capitalization U.S. equities.

The IWM has declined from more than $140 on Wednesday the 1st of March, to $135.90 as of Wednesday's close. The Russell has declined for five consecutive days. There is major support in the $133.50-$134.00 range. With the large cap indexes refusing to decline materially, we should see some buyers appear when that IWM support is reached. Secondary support is about $130.50. We will use a break of that level as evidence the trade is broken and I will place the stop loss slightly below $130.

The small caps rallied 21% after the election and after today's decline that has dropped to 15%. The small caps were the most bullish because the president's policies will benefit small businesses the most. This is why I do not believe the Russell will go into full meltdown mode.

The risk to this trade is that the tax overhaul gets pushed well into the future, possibly 2018. That could happen because of the war currently underway on the new healthcare proposal. If the proposal does not get a vote within the next 30-45 days, the wheels will come off the effort and the president's agenda dies a slow death. Democrats have vowed to slow walk it and stop it if possible.

The second risk is the expiration of the debt ceiling suspension on March 15th. This is not currently being discussed in the news headlines but once it arrives it could be another congressional disaster.

I considered buying puts on the SPY/IWM, etc because of these problems. However, premiums are already high and the large cap indexes are showing strong relative strength. I believe any dip over the next several days will be shallow and brief. If the risks above materialize it should be weeks from now and hopefully after an initial rebound has formed. That will give us an opportunity to exit if the market turns negative again.

Obviously, all of this is just speculation. Nobody can accurately pick market direction in advance. We try hard but the market has a mind of its own. This is a speculative recommendation. Do not enter the position if you cannot afford to lose all or part of your premium.

With an IWM trade at $133.75

Buy May $136 calls, estimated to be $3, initial stop loss $129.50


PAYC - Paycom - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares rebounded slightly from support.

Original Trade Description: February 27th

Paycom Software, Inc. provides cloud-based human capital management (HCM) software solution that is delivered as software-as-a-service for small to mid-sized companies in the United States. It provides functionality and data analytics that businesses need to manage the employment life cycle from recruitment to retirement. The company's HCM solution offers a suite of applications in the areas of talent acquisition, including applicant tracking, candidate tracker, background checks, on-boarding, E-Verify, and tax credit service applications; and time and labor management, such as time and attendance, scheduling/schedule exchange, time-off requests, labor allocation, labor management reports/push reporting, and geofencing/geotracking applications. Its HCM solution also provides payroll applications comprising payroll and tax management, Paycom Pay, expense management, garnishment management, and GL Concierge applications; and talent management applications that include employee self-service, compensation budgeting, performance management, executive dashboard, and Paycom learning applications. In addition, the company's HCM solution offers HR management applications, which comprise document and task management, government and compliance, benefits administration/benefits to carrier, COBRA administration, personnel action forms, surveys, and affordable care act applications. Company description from FinViz.com.

Paycom targets companies in the 50-2000 employee range in order to provide HR and payroll processing. Companies do not have the time or the manpower to keep up with the impact of Obamacare on employees and the company. As the new administration moves away from Obamacare and into some other form of health service, there will be significant uncertainty along the way as old rules change and new rules are implemented. Paycom provides their Affordable Care Act (ACA) dashboard application that tracks everything Obamacare related. This is giving Paycom a boost. The company guided for a 28% increase in revenue in 2017.

Q4 earnings of 15 cents easily beat estimates for 9 cents and nearly double the year ago quarter. Revenue of $87.8 million also beat estimates for $86 million. Recurring revenues rose 35.7%. Adjusted gross margin was 82.4%. During the quarter they repurchases 634,506 shares.

For Q1 they guided for revenues of $114.5 to $116.5 million. Analysts were expecting $114 million. For the full year, the company guided for $422 to $424 million in revenue compared to estimates for $417 million.

Shares spiked to $52 after the Feb-9th earnings and have moved up steadily to $55 and a new high. There is nothing to keep the shares from moving higher given the raised guidance and strong performance. The Obamacare uncertainty will continue to be a tailwind for the company.

Position 2/28/17:

Long May $57.50 call @ $2.69, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


SLCA - U.S. Silica Holdings - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares did not decline despite a continued drop in oil prices.

Original Trade Description: March 9th

U.S. Silica Holdings, Inc. produces and sells commercial silica in the United States. The company operates through two segments, Oil & Gas Proppants and Industrial & Specialty Products. It offers whole grain commercial silica products to be used as fracturing sand in connection with oil and natural gas recovery; and resin coated proppants, as well as sells its whole grain silica products in various size distributions, grain shapes, and chemical purity levels for manufacturing glass products. The company also provides ground commercial silica products for use in plastics, rubber, polishes, cleansers, paints, glazes, textile fiberglass, and precision castings; and fine ground silica for use in premium paints, specialty coatings, sealants, silicone rubber, and epoxies. In addition, it offers other industrial mineral products, such as aplite, a mineral used to produce container glass and insulation fiberglass; and adsorbent made from a mixture of silica and magnesium for preparative and analytical chromatography applications. The company serves oil and gas recovery markets; and industrial end markets with customers involved in the production of glass, building products, foundry products, chemicals, and fillers and extenders. Company description from FinViz.com.

Silica sells sand to drillers. The drilling activity has increased 50% since the low in May. The active rig count declined to 404 on May 27th and has rebounded to 756 as of last week. Many of these reactivated rigs are completing previously drilled wells that were never fracked and put in production. The IEA said there were more than 5,000 of these wells at the end of December. It only takes a few days to reopen a well and prepare it for fracturing and then move to the next. The sand demand to fracture these wells is off the charts.

Since the drilling boom in 2014 the amount of sand used in fracturing a well has risen about 400% because of two years of additional data and refinement of the process. A current well with a two-mile lateral requires as much sand as a 100 rail car train, called a unit train.

Sand providers claim they have drillers trying to lock in sand prices for a year in advance but there is not enough sand available to fill the demand. Prices are expected to rise 40% in the first half of 2017. Multiple analysts predict a sand shortage in 2018 with another 50% or more rise in prices.

U.S. Silica was crushed in late February when they missed on earnings. They spent a lot of money in the quarter acquiring additional sand reserves and merging in acquisitions from earlier in the year. They spent 2016 acquiring other sand companies and operations around the country so they would be ready when the drilling boom returned.

They were crushed again this week when oil prices fell 7% in just two days to the lows for the year.

Oil prices are down on record inventory levels. Inventories rose by 8.2 million barrels to 528.4 million barrels on Wednesday. However, this ALWAYS happens in Feb/Mar. Refiners go offline for spring maintenance in this slow demand period. For two months, inventories build until they restart at the end of March and begin consuming huge amounts of oil to make summer blend gasoline. The price of crude always declines in this period.

If I could, I would buy a longer dated call and hold on to this position until fall. However, this newsletter is not a buy and hold strategy. I am going to recommend the June calls and we will exit before the May earnings.

Earnings May 24th.

The decline over the last two days knocked the stock back to the 200-day and support from November.

Position 3/10/17:

Long June $50 call @ $3.20, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


VAR - Varian Medical systems - Company Profile

Comments:

Varian announced the sale of its advanced linear accelerators to Hungary's National Institute of Oncology.

Original Trade Description: February 18th

Varian Medical Systems, Inc. designs, manufactures, sells, and services medical devices and software products for treating cancer and other medical conditions worldwide. It operates through two segments, Oncology Systems and Imaging Components. The Oncology Systems segment provides hardware and software products for treating cancer with radiotherapy, fixed field intensity-modulated radiation therapy, image-guided radiation therapy, volumetric modulated arc therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, stereotactic body radiotherapy, and brachytherapy. Its products include linear accelerators, brachytherapy afterloaders, treatment simulation, verification equipment, and accessories; and information management, treatment planning, image processing, clinical knowledge exchange, patient care management, decision-making support, and practice management software. This segment serves university research and community hospitals, private and governmental institutions, healthcare agencies, physicians' offices, oncology practices, radiotherapy centers, and cancer care clinics. The Imaging Components segment offers X-ray imaging components for use in radiographic or fluoroscopic imaging, mammography, special procedures, computed tomography, computer aided diagnostics, and industrial applications. It also provides Linatron X-ray accelerators, imaging processing software, and image detection products for security and inspection purposes. This segment serves original equipment manufacturers, independent service companies, and end-users. In addition, the company offers products and systems for delivering proton therapy; and develops technologies in the areas of digital X-ray imaging, volumetric and functional imaging, and improved X-ray sources. Company description from FinViz.com.

Varian reported lower than expected earnings on January 26th and shares fell -$6 to $87. Two days later, they spun off Varex and shares fell to $77 as a result of the separation. Since that split the stock has been moving higher and the rate of climb has accelerated over the last two weeks as they signed multiple new deals around the world.

Varian guided for earnings of $2.94-$3.06 for Q2 through Q4. For Q2 earnings are expected to be 84-90 cents on a 4% to 5% increase in revenues. The split at the end of January complicates apples to apples comparisons for Q1.

Earnings April 26th.

On February 13th the company announced competitive bid wins for six Shanghai hospitals. Varian is the leading manufacturer of medical devices and software for treating cancer and will provide its state of the art advanced radiotherapy technology to those hospitals. On February 14th, Varian's Eclipse treatment planning software was named the 2017 category leader for oncology treatment planning by KLAS. KLAS is an independent research firm specializing in monitoring and reporting on healthcare vendors.

Varian is on track to return to its pre-split price of $90 if the current rally continues. Because of its decline in February, I believe it offers some protection against a potential market decline.

Position 2/21/17:

Long May $85 call @ $2.75, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


$VIX - Volatility Index - Index Description

Comments:

The VIX continued to decline as the market rebounded from the intraday lows. This market will not go down. Wednesday is going to be the key with the Fed meeting and debt ceiling expiration.

I think we need to hold this position as insurance against a larger decline that stops out other positions. If we ever do get a material drop, we will be glad we are holding the VIX calls.

Original Trade Description: Jan 26th

The VIX is a computed index, much like the S&P 500 itself, although it is not derived based on stock prices. Instead, it uses the price of options on the S&P 500, and then estimates how volatile those options will be between the current date and the option's expiration date. The CBOE combines the price of multiple options and derives an aggregate value of volatility, which the index tracks.

The VIX closed at 10.63 and very close to record lows. You have to go back to June of 2014 for a lower recent close at 10.28. Before that, you have to travel back in time to Feb-2007 for a close at 10.05. The next lowest close was 9.48 in Dec-1993.

The point here is that volatility is near record lows only reached four times in the last 23 years. That qualifies for an abnormal event. I believe it is time we bought some VIX calls. The odds of the VIX remaining this low for the next two months are about as close to zero as you can get.

There is a very old saying in the market. "When the VIX is high, it is time to buy. When the VIX is low, it is time to go." You cannot get much lower than this.

The VIX is telling us that everyone expects the market to continue moving higher. Nobody is worried that some unexpected headline or event is going to trigger a significant market decline. When nobody expects an event is when we should be the most concerned.

Position 2/22/17:

Long Apr $13 call @ $2.30, no stop loss, profit target $17.

Previously Closed 2/1/17: Long March $12 call @ $2.60, exit $2.50, -.10 loss.
Previously Closed 2/22/17: Long March $12 call @ $1.75 adj, exit $1.65, -.10 loss.



BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)

TGT - Target Corp - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares trading sideways under $56.

Original Trade Description: March 7th

Target Corporation operates as a general merchandise retailer. It offers household essentials, including pharmacy, beauty, personal care, baby care, cleaning, and paper products; music, movies, books, computer software, sporting goods, and toys, as well as electronics, such as video game hardware and software; and apparel for women, men, boys, girls, toddlers, infants, and newborns, as well as intimate apparel, jewelry, accessories, and shoes. The company also provides food and pet supplies comprising dry grocery, dairy, frozen food, beverages, candy, snacks, deli, bakery, meat, produce, and pet supplies; and home furnishings and decor, including furniture, lighting, kitchenware, small appliances, home decor, bed and bath, home improvement, and automotive products, as well as seasonal merchandise, such as patio furniture and holiday decor. In addition, it offers in-store amenities, including Target Cafe, Target Photo, Target Optical, Portrait Studio, Starbucks, and other food service offerings. Target Corporation sells products through its stores; and digital channels, including Target.com. Company description from FinViz.com.

Target reported earnings of $1.46 compared with $2.31 in the year ago quarter. Analysts estimates were $1.50. Full year earnings of $4.58 was also below the 2015 total of $5.25. Sales for the holiday quarter declined -4.3% to $20.7 billion and also missed estimates. The company guided for 2017 same store sales to decline in low single digits with earnings at a mid range of $4.00, also below the 2016 total. Q4 same store sales fell -1.5%. For Q1 they guided for earnings of 80 cents to $1, below the year ago $1.29 and analyst estimates for $1.31. For the same period, Walmart saw same store sales rise 11.8%.

Earnings May 30th.

Shares are crashing because investors are worried Target will turn into Sears with the monster stores becoming ghost towns similar to the deserted stores operated by Sears. With guidance moving lower, analyst estimates moving lower and the biggest shopping quarter of the year behind them, it could be a long hot summer for Target's share price. Shares closed at a five-year low on Tuesday after breaking support at $56.

Position 3/8/17:

Long May $52.50 put @ $1.38, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


YELP - Yelp Inc - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Struggling with resistance at $34.65.

Original Trade Description: February 22nd

Yelp Inc. operates a platform that connects people with local businesses primarily in the United States. Its platform covers various local business categories, including restaurants, shopping, beauty and fitness, arts, entertainment and events, home and local services, health, nightlife, travel and hotel, auto, and others categories. The company provides free and paid business listing services to businesses of various sizes, as well as enables businesses to deliver targeted search advertising to large local audiences through its Website and mobile app. It also provides other services, including Yelp platform, which allows consumers to transact directly on Yelp; Yelp deals that allow local business owners to create promotional discounted deals for their products and services; and gift certificates products for local business owners to sell full-price gift certificates directly to customers. The company's Yelp platform enables consumers to complete food delivery transactions, book spa and salon appointments, order flowers, make winery reservations, and others. It also serves customers in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Company description from FinViz.com.

Yelp reported earnings on February 9th of 27 cents that easily beat estimates for 25 cents. Revenue of $194.8 million barely beat estimates for $194.3 million. With an earnings beat you would have expected the stock to rally strongly. That was not the case.

The company guided to revenue of $195-$199 million and analysts were looking for $204.4 million. Full year guidance was $880-$900 million.

The challenge was slowing growth. In Q2 they added 7,400 accounts. In Q3 6,600 accounts and in Q4 only 2,800 accounts. Yelp says its addressable universe is more than 20 million local businesses but they only have 138,000 active advertisers. It is far too soon for growth to be slowing at that fast a pace.

They are also seeing a decline in website traffic and app usage.

The problem is competition. Amazon, Google and Facebook are breaking into the market with new offerings. Other copycat sites like Munch Ado are stealing their customers.

Yelp pulled back from its focus on national brands and is concentrating on local business advertising, which is the bulk of their business. They are aggressively cutting costs as evidenced by the earnings beat but that only works so long if the new advertiser growth is slowing and consumer usage is fading.

Piper Jaffray called the guidance lackluster and said a "confluence of factors" will cause further decline in Yelp traffic in the future.

Earnings May 11th.

Shares have been declining steadily since earnings and have now moved under support at $35.

Position 2/23/17:

Long APR $33 put @ $1.55, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.




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