Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Monday, 4/24/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

A Sigh Of Relief

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes

Introduction

The market breathed a sigh of relief in the wake of Le Pen's first-round loss. Le Pen is slated to run-off against Macron but not to win. The news helps to alleviate fears of further instability within the EU and takes a major worry off the minds of traders. With that weight gone indices around the world were able to move higher. Now it's time to look toward the rest of the week, and next, for the next round of major market-moving events.

This week the economic calendar is light with the ECB meeting on Thursday and 1st estimate for 1st quarter GDP Friday topping the list. Next week's calendar promises lots of potential catalysts including the FOMC meeting and a host of monthly macroeconomic data. Between then and now will be two of the busiest weeks of the earnings season and the possibility of Trump news including healthcare reform, tax reform, trade deals, a possible government shut-down and Korea.

Global markets cheered the Le Pen loss. Asian indices were mostly higher led by the Nikkei's 1.37%. Chinese indices were mixed, Hong Kong posted smalls gains while the mainland index posted a loss near -1.40%. European indices were more firmly bullish with gains in the range of 2% to 4%. The DAX was strong at 3%, the FTSE a little less so at 2%, the French CAC gained nearly 4% and all led by the pan-European FTSE MIB's near 4.25% gain.

Market Statistics

Futures trading was indicating a strong open all morning, in the range of 1% for US indices. There was no economic data and little earnings to move markets before the bell so the trade was fairly steady. At the open the SPX gained just over 22pts and then proceeded to drift higher before entering a tight sideways trading range. The index held gains of 1% all morning, pulling back from the highs a bit after lunch, but holding strong all day.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

No data today and only a little this week, relative to the massive amount due out next week anyway. Tuesday is New Home Sales and Consumer Confidence, nothing on Wednesday, Thursday is weekly jobless claims, Durable Orders and Pending Homes Sales and then Friday wraps it up with GDP, Michigan Sentiment, Chicago PMI and the Employment Cost Index.

Moody's Survey Of Business Confidence gained a half percent to hit 33.3. This is not a new high but is trending near a multi-month high. Mr. Zandi says responses indicate global business sentiment is strong and stable, supported by buoyant financial markets and growing above its potential.


There was no update from Factset or Reuters on earnings this week, they both tend to take a week off early in the reporting season. That being said the general run of reports that came in last week was positive and gave no indication the season would not end at least as good as expected. Forward outlook remains positive with growth expanding into the end of next year.


The Dollar Index

The Dollar Index fell a full percent in today's action as the anticipated Le Pen loss led to an unwinding of flight-to-safety. The dollar was able to gain versus the yen but both the dollar and the yen fell versus the euro, leading to today's declines. The index has now reached the bottom of its 6 month trading range and support target at the $99 level, a break of which would be bearish. The indicators are pointing lower, suggesting a further test of support, but are not strong and do not suggest a break of support. The current MACD peak is consistent with potential support, making a higher low while the index makes an equal low, while stochastic is showing a weak bullish crossover while in overbought territory.

This week the ECB is most likely to move the index, one way or the other, and is not expected to make a policy move. The FOMC meeting is next week and also not expected to make a move. The combination of the two is likely to cause volatility however the long-term outlook remains tilted in favor of the dollar. The next meeting still carries a low probability of FOMC hike, about 4%, but longer term the chances are rising. June and July are now both near 70%.


The Gold Index

Gold prices extended their slide from recent highs on declining risk-off flight-to-safety trading. The spot price fell a little more than -1% to trade near $1,275, the lowest price in over 2 weeks. Now that geopolitical fears are subsiding gold prices can revert back to more normalized levels in line with dollar trends, perhaps as low as $1,250 in the near term.

The Gold Miners ETF GDX created a white bodied candle today, but had to fall more than -2% to do it. The ETF opened with loss, and below the short and long-term moving averages, and then tried to move higher from there. The market was able to regain a small portion of the loss but no more. The indicators are consistent with lower prices, MACD reconfirming today with another bearish crossover. Downside target is near $22 and the low end of the short-term trading range.


The Oil Index

Oil prices tried to hold their ground today but were not able to do it. Rising US production, rising US rig counts and high levels of global capacity continue to outweigh the OPEC production cut and any hopes of further cutting. Now that WTI has fallen below the $50 level and begun to move lower a deeper decline is likely with downside target near $45.

The Oil Index gained a little more than 1.25% despite the fall in oil prices. Today's move reconfirms support at the top end of last year's trading range but did not move high enough to escape potential resistance. The sector is being supported by forward earnings outlook which, despite this most recent fall in oil prices, remains robust. I remain bullish on the sector long-term, very very cautious in the near.


In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Hasbro reported after the bell and is not playing around. The toy maker blew away results reported last week by Mattel, beating on the top and bottom lines. Sales in NA were up 2% while international was flat, however, there was regional strength such as 16% growth in Latin American. Gaming revenue was strongest in terms of product segment, growing more than 43%. The news was well received and helped drive the stock up by more than 6%, as well as sparking speculation of when Hasbro may make a bid to take over Mattel.


T-Mobile reported after the closing bell delivering results hard to compare with last year, which led the exchange to halt trading long enough for the market to dig into the details. The company reported another year of +1 million in customer growth, record low churn in post-paid and pre-paid customers, total revenue growth in excess of 11% and service revenue growth of 11%. EPS of $0.80 per share is well above consensus of $0.35. The stock fell in after hours trading, marginally, but remains at a new all-time high.


The VIX fell a whopping -25.9% today, reversing the April increase and coming to rest just above the 11 level. Today's action reveals a major unwinding of “fear” in response to the French elections and may indicate the Trump Rally is back on. The indicators confirm today's move with a strong sell signal indicative of lower prices so I would not be surprised to see the VIX make a new low in the near to short-term.


Alcoa reported after the bell and crushed it, despite falling short in terms of revenue growth. Revenue growth came in at a stellar 24.99% YOY but fell short of consensus by -11%. EPS came in at $0.63; about 20% better than expected, a full $0.10 better than consenus and reversing last years loss of ($0.62). Shares surged on the news, adding another 2% to an already strong day.

Humana reported after the bell and beat top and bottom lines. The company was also able to raise full year guidance but there are caveats. Much of the quarter's gains can be attributed to strength in the consumer segment but fees accrued in the wake of the failed merger attempt played a role. Shares of the stock jumped 2% on the news.

The Indices

The indices were buoyant today. Relief Europe would not see increased turmoil paved the way for economic and earnings fundamentals to lead stocks higher. The day's leader was the Dow Jones Transportation Average with a gain near 1.75%. The transports gapped up from the short-term moving average and created a small white bodied candle just under potential resistance. This move breaks the baseline of a head&shoulders pattern formed along the moving average over the past month and reversing the near-term correction. The indicators confirm this move with a strong buy signal that was itself confirmed today by an up-tick in the stochastic. A break above 9,300 will be bullish in the near to short-term and trend following with upside target at the current all-time high.


The NASDAQ Composite also gapped up from the short-term moving average, closing with a gain near 1.30% and at a solid new all-time high. This move is confirmed by the indicators which are indicating a strong trend-following buy with upside targets near 6,400 in the short to long-term.


The S&P 500 made the third largest gain, just shy of 1.20%. The broad market gapped up to open above the long-term trend line that had been providing near-term resistance, moving up from the short-term moving average. The indicators confirm the move with a trend-following strong buy signal that fired today with stochastic's tic higher and MACD's zero-line crossover. Upside target is the current all-time high with the potential for additional new all-time to come.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average brings up the rear with a gain of only 1.10%. The blue chips were able to regain the upper side of a long-term up trend line in a trend-following move confirmed by the indicators. Both MACD and stochastic are both set-up for the strong trend-following entry with only MACD left to confirm, and confirm it will provided tomorrow's action is not a major reversal of today. Upside target is the current all-time high, just above 21,000, with the possibility of new all-time highs to come.


I think it a little too soon to declare the correction over and the Trump Rally back on. That being said, today's action was very promising and the market looks set to rally on, providing nothing too scary emerges over the next two weeks. The next two weeks are going to be action packed. There is a lot of data due out, a lot of earnings, a lot of central bank meetings and a lot of potential for Trump news; all potential market movers. I remain firmly bullish in the short to long-term, cautiously bullish in the near. As for this week, be wary of negative earnings surprises, the ECB meeting and economic data on Friday.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes


New Option Plays

Dividend Drop

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The market spike on Monday did not cover all stocks. Dividend stocks fell hard. The theory is that a rising equity market means higher returns than slow growing dividend stocks.



NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

HCN - Welltower Inc - Company Profile

Welltower Inc. is an independent equity real estate investment trust. The firm engages in acquiring, planning, developing, managing, repositioning and monetizing of real estate assets. It primarily invests in the real estate markets of the United States. The firm primarily invests in senior living and health care properties. It invests across the full spectrum of health care real estate, including senior living communities, medical office buildings, inpatient and outpatient medical centers and life science facilities. The firm conducts in-house research to make its investments. It was formerly known as Health Care REIT, Inc. Welltower Inc. was founded in 1970 and is based in Toledo, Ohio with additional offices in Brentwood, Tennessee and Dallas, Texas. Company description from FinViz.com.

The REIT stocks have been in a strong uptrend over the last several months on expectations for the market to correct when/if President Trumps policies failed to be implemented. The tax reform, infrastructure spending, health care reform, etc are all fraught with months of complicated negotiating in the House and Senate. Once equity investors realize tax reform may not happen until 2018 the market is likely to crash.

Add in the geopolitical risk with Syria and North Korea and these REITs were a flight to safety play. They crashed on Monday as investors jumped into other equities or simply cashed out to cover losses in their shorts.

I believe the future remains bright for the REITs. There is likely to be some challenges for the broader market over the next several months and they will become a safe haven once again.

Earnings May 24th.

One other benefit to the REITs is that the options are cheap because they do not move fast. They move slowly without a lot of volatility. If I am wrong in my assumption we will not have much premium at risk.

Buy June $72.50 call, currently $1.65, initial stop loss $70.85.


NEW DIRECTIONAL PUT PLAYS

No New Bearish Plays



In Play Updates and Reviews

One Day Wonder

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

I am cheering the gains from the monster short squeeze but I am seriously doubting it will continue. The French event risk is gone for two more weeks. It will return ahead of the May 7th runoff. The right two candidates finished at the top and the market expects Macron to win the runoff. He is the establishment candidate and so the market celebrated.

The U.S. markets gapped open and after some minor consolidation intraday they closed almost exactly where they opened. There was no follow through buying. This was purely a short squeeze.

The Dow and S&P closed over their recent consolidation ranges but still below resistance. The Nasdaq exploded higher with a 73 point gain making a big new high. If the Nasdaq can hold the majority of those gains the rest of the week it would be very bullish.

Monster event driven short squeezes rarely last. Many times they are followed by identical declines in the days ahead. With the government funding battle in Washington this week we have plenty of event risk on our own that could induce selling.



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


MSM - MSC Industrial
The long call position was entered at the open on Monday.



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BULLISH Play Updates

ADBE - Adobe Systems - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares spiked with the market to close at a new high.

Original Trade Description: March 23rd.

Adobe Systems Incorporated operates as a diversified software company worldwide. Its Digital Media segment provides tools and solutions that enable individuals, small and medium businesses, and enterprises to create, publish, promote, and monetize their digital content. This segment's flagship product is Creative Cloud, a subscription service that allows customers to download and install the latest versions of its creative products. This segment serves traditional content creators, Web application developers, and digital media professionals, as well as their management in marketing departments and agencies, companies, and publishers. The company's Digital Marketing segment offers solutions for how digital advertising and marketing are created, managed, executed, measured, and optimized. This segment provides analytics, social marketing, targeting, advertising and media optimization, digital experience management, cross-channel campaign management, and audience management solutions, as well as video delivery and monetization to digital marketers, advertisers, publishers, merchandisers, Web analysts, chief marketing officers, chief information officers, and chief revenue officers. Its Print and Publishing segment offers products and services, such as eLearning solutions, technical document publishing, Web application development, and high-end printing, as well as publishing needs of technical and business, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) printing businesses. The company markets and licenses its products and services directly to enterprise customers through its sales force, as well as to end-users through app stores and through its Website at adobe.com. It also distributes products and services through a network of distributors, value-added resellers, systems integrators, independent software vendors, retailers, and OEMs. Company description from FinViz.com.

Everybody knows Adobe or at least they did 20 years ago. Photoshop and Illustrator were the key pieces of software everyone needed to create content for magazines and print media. What would Sports Illustrated have done without Photoshop for their Swimsuit Edition?

Fast forward to 2017 and Adobe has so many different pieces and partners that you cannot even describe them all. With annual revenue at $7 billion and growing they are rapidly outpacing everyone's earnings expectations.

Adobe is hosting its annual Digital Marketing Summit. At that event they announced several new partnerships and the integration of multiple "cloud" entities into one platform.

This description is from a Real Money article.

Headlining these moves is the creation of a common platform, known as the Experience Cloud for all of the products that to date had been grouped within Adobe's "Marketing Cloud." Going forward, Marketing Cloud will comprise one of three parts of Experience Cloud, and feature products such as Experience Manager (used to create and manage marketing content across platforms), Target (lets marketers personalize user experiences) and Social (used to run social media marketing campaigns).

Another part of Experience Cloud, known as Advertising Cloud, lets companies run and optimize search, display and video ad campaigns. It pairs Adobe's Media Optimizer search and display ad-buying tools with recently-acquired TubeMogul's video ad-buying platform. The third part, known as Analytics Cloud, combines the popular Adobe Analytics tool for uncovering insights from customer data with Audience Manager, a platform for creating customer/audience profiles.

Advertising Cloud has gotten a lot of attention, since it more firmly makes Adobe a player in an ad tech space where Alphabet/Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) loom large, and where independent players such as The Trade Desk (TTD) and The Rubicon Project (RUBI) are also present. Adobe is pitching itself as an independent alternative to Google and Facebook, which of course are also giant sellers of ad inventory, while arguing that integrations between the three parts of Experience Cloud set it apart from both independent ad tech players and marketing software rivals such as Salesforce.com (CRM) and Oracle (ORCL).

In their earnings last week, they reported a 21.6% rise in revenue to $1.68 billion and the 12th consecutive increase in revenue from the Creative Cloud graphics software. Earnings were 94 cents and analysts had been expecting 87 cents and $1.645 billion in revenue. Adobe said annualized recurring revenue rose by $265 million to $4.25 billion. That is based on continuing subscription growth.

Earnings June 15th.

Shares spiked after earnings from $122 to $130 and then faded back to $125 over the next week. They have started to rebound again because finding 20% revenue growth in the market is hard to do.

Position 3/24/17 with an ADBE trade at $127.50
Long May $130 call @ $2.61, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


ADP - Automatic Data Processing - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Market spike to close over resistance.

The option has declined to only 10 cents so I removed the stop loss. It is a May call so we have plenty of time for it to recover. We gain nothing by exiting now.

Original Trade Description: March 17th.

Automatic Data Processing, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides business process outsourcing services worldwide. The company operates through two segments, Employer Services and Professional Employer Organization (PEO) Services. The Employer Services segment offers a range of business outsourcing and technology-enabled human capital management (HCM) solutions, including payroll services, benefits administration services, talent management, human resources management solutions, time and attendance management solutions, insurance services, retirement services, and tax and compliance solutions. This segment's integrated HCM solutions include RUN Powered by ADP, ADP Workforce Now, ADP Vantage HCM, and ADP GlobalView, which assist employers of all sizes in all stages of the employment cycle from recruitment to retirement; and ADP SmartCompliance and ADP Health Compliance. The PEO Services segment provides a human resources (HR) outsourcing solution through a co-employment model to small and mid-sized businesses. This segment offers ADP TotalSource that provides various HR management services and employee benefits functions, such as HR administration, employee benefits, and employer liability management into a single-source solution. Company description from FinViz.com.

ADP reported earnings of 87 cents that rose 57% and beat estimates for 81 cents. Revenue of $2.99 billion rose 6.4% but missed estimates for $3.01 billion. They surprised analysts with revenue growth guidance for 2017 at 6%, down from prior forecasts of 7% to 8%. They blamed the revenue miss and lowered guidance on uncertainty over the elections and the impact of the Trump election. They also see a 1% revenue hit from the sale of their CHSA and COBRA businesses in 2016. They guided for earnings growth of 15% to 17% for the full year. They currently serve 637,000 clients in 125 nations. The number of employees serviced rose 2.3%. PEO Services employees rose 12% to 452,000. These are "co-owned" employees managed by ADP for clients.

They repurchased 4.6 million shares at a cost of $422 million. They expect to repurchase $1.2-$1.4 billion in shares in 2017.

Earnings May 3rd.

ADP holds a dominant position in the payroll processing sector. With employment expected to rise again in 2017 this could be an attractive investment for funds that are tired of chasing industrials and bank stocks in the current rally.

ADP rallied nearly $1 on Friday in a weak market and closed at $105.12 and a new high. It was also just over the $105 strike. I am recommending we reach out to the $110 strike since it appears ADP is about to move higher after three weeks of consolidation. This option price is very cheap and there will be no initial stop loss.

Position 3/20/17:

Long May $110 call @ 75 cents, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


CRUS - Cirrus Logic - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Market spike lifted CRUS to a new high.

Original Trade Description: April 6th.

Cirrus Logic, Inc., a fabless semiconductor company, develops, manufactures, and markets analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits (ICs) for a range of consumer and industrial markets. It offers portable audio products, including analog and mixed-signal audio converters, and digital signal processing products for mobile applications; codecs-chips that integrate analog-to-digital converters and digital-to-analog converters into a single IC; smart codecs, a codec with digital signal processer; amplifiers; and micro-electromechanical systems microphones, as well as standalone digital signal processors. The company offers its products for mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, digital headsets, wearables, smart accessories, and portable media players. Its products are also used in laptops, audio/video receivers, home theater systems, set-up boxes, portable speakers, digital camcorders, musical instruments, and professional audio products applications; and serve the automotive market, which include satellite radio systems, telematics, and multi-speaker car-audio systems. In addition, the company's products are used in industrial and energy-related applications, including digital utility meters, power supplies, energy control, energy measurement, and energy exploration applications. It markets and sells its products through direct sales force, external sales representatives, and distributors in the United States and internationally. Company description from FinViz.com.

Cirrus is a major component contributor to Apple, Samsung and other smartphone manufacturers. They also supply chips to dozens of other types of products.

In 2014 Apple provided for 80% of Cirrus annual revenue. In 2016 that declined to 65% and continues to shrink. Samsung made up 15% of 2016 revenue.

The strong sales of the iPhone 7 and the expected blowout sales for the iPhone 8 and Samsung 8 this year should produce millions in additional revenue. Sales rose 28% in 2016 and analysts expect 31% revenue growth in 2017. Earnings are expected to rise 82% for 2017

With the iPhone 8 expected to post blowout sales numbers, that means component demand over the next 9 months will also be strong. Suppliers normally begin shipping components in the last week of June but this year there are indications they have been requested a month earlier so that Apple can have more phones on hand when sales begin.

Earnings May 3rd.

With earnings in early May, this will only be a three-week position. We will exit before earnings. On the chart, the spike on February 1st was earnings of $1.87 compared to estimates for $1.63. The immediate decline the next day was on guidance for revenue of $300-$340 million and analysts had been expecting $331.9 million. That dip has been forgotten given all the hype over the iPhone 8 and Samsung 8. A move over that level should trigger additional short covering.

Update 4/11/17: We were stopped out on the knee jerk move in Apple suppliers after Dialog Semi was cut when news broke Apple was going to make some of their own chips for their phones. This was simply a reaction to a headline. Even if Apple did decide to make their own chips it would take until 2019 for it to have any impact and Cirrus Logic would not be affected because of the type of chips they supply. We reloaded the position at the open on 4/12.

Update 4/12/17: After the close today, Pacific Crest said Cirrus, Broadcom, Qorvo and Skyworks would be exempt from Apple's in-sourcing of its own chips. The chips these companies make are highly sophisticated and protected intellectual property.

Position 4/11/17:

Long May $65 call @ $2.93, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

Previously Closed 4/11/17: Long May $65 call @ $3.30, exit $2.65, -.65 loss.


CVX - Chevron - Company Profile

Comments:

Chevron said it was selling its assets in Bangladesh to Himalaya Energy. No price was given but Bloomberg said the fields were worth about $2 billion. Chevron is planning on selling $10 billion in non-core assets in 2017. Himalaya is owned by a consortium of Chinese state owned firms. Bangladesh has a right of refusal on any deal and they said they were not done with their evaluations yet. The three fields held in the Chevron subsidiary produce 720 million cubic feet of gas and 3,000 barrels of condensate per day.

Original Trade Description: April 16th.

Chevron Corporation, through its subsidiaries, engages in integrated energy, chemicals, and petroleum operations worldwide. The company operates in two segments, Upstream and Downstream. The Upstream segment is involved in the exploration, development, and production of crude oil and natural gas; processing, liquefaction, transportation, and regasification associated with liquefied natural gas; transportation of crude oil through pipelines; and transportation, storage, and marketing of natural gas, as well as operates a gas-to-liquids plant. The Downstream segment engages in refining crude oil into petroleum products; marketing crude oil and refined products; transporting crude oil and refined products through pipeline, marine vessel, motor equipment, and rail car; and manufacturing and marketing commodity petrochemicals, and fuel and lubricant additives, as well as plastics for industrial uses. It is also involved in the cash management and debt financing activities; insurance operations; real estate activities; and technology businesses. Further, the company holds interests in power plants, as well as operates geothermal plants; and engages in the transportation of refined products primarily in the coastal waters of the United States. The company was formerly known as ChevronTexaco Corporation and changed its name to Chevron Corporation in 2005. Company description from FinViz.com.

Chevron is one of the U.S. energy majors with billions of barrels of reserves. The company pays an annual dividend of $4.32 or 4.07% yield. They are totally committed to preserving and raising the dividend. This makes them a top pick by nearly every major analyst.

Chevron is coming out of a major project cycle where they spent over $25 billion a year on capex building out monster projects. Now that the projects are nearly complete and ramping up production, the company can reduce its capex significantly and still increase production as those projects come online.

Chevron has amassed a two million acre position in the Permian Basin with 9 billion barrels of reserves. The company is currently operating 11 rigs in the Permian and will be adding 9 more in the coming months. They plan on ramping up their Permian production from the current 80,000 bpd to 700,000 bpd over the next few years. Chevron's Permian acreage is said to be worth more than $43 billion. It was acquired in pieces at much lower prices by predecessor companies over the last several decades. The Permian was never a big focus for Chevron as they concentrated on megaprojects elsewhere. They are increasing spending in the Permian by $2.5 billion in 2017. They are not hedging their oil production because they believe prices will rise.

Earnings on April 28th are expected to be a miss because of the sharp decline in oil prices in March. This is expected to lower earnings and force misses for the major producers. Since this is a well-known fact, I suspect it it being priced into the stock ahead of the report.

Thursday's decline of 3% put the stock right at light support at $106. If this level fails, there is strong support at $100.

Oil prices should begin to rally any day now. Refinery utilization of back over 90% and it is time to begin pushing summer blend fuels into the distribution system. We should begin to see inventory declines every week and that should last through July. August is normally when crude prices top out. OPEC should extend the production cuts because they are right on the edge of a reduction in inventories and an extension would guarantee it.

Chevron shares should rebound with crude prices. If they were to surprise with earnings, shares should rebound quickly.

The option is cheap and we are going to hold over the earnings report.

If the market tanks at the open on Monday, please do not enter this position until the S&P is positive.

Update 4/19/17: Chevron shares crashed with the entire energy sector after a nearly $2 drop in crude prices on weak inventory numbers from the EIA. WTI only declined -1 million barrels and gasoline rose 1.5 million compared to an expected decline of -1.6 million. The EIA said gasoline demand was down -0.8% from the same period in 2016.

Update 4/22/17: Chevron lost a court case in Australia for $260 million. The case ruled on the deductibility of interest on a $2.5 billion loan made from the parent company between 2003-2008. Chevron Australia paid 9% interest on the loan from Chevron and the parent company borrowed the money at a lower rate. The court said Chevron Australia could only deduct the interest at the parent's borrowing rate. Chevron said they would appeal.

Position 4/17/17:

Long June $110 call, currently $1.45. See portfolio graphic for stop loss.


DIS - Walt Disney - Company Profile

Comments:

Disney was downgraded by Loop Capital from buy to hold saying there was no room for Disney to move higher. Apparently, they do not live on the same planet we do or their chart program is broken. You may remember Goldman Sachs added Disney to their conviction buy list last week. The Goldman analyst reiterated his rating today with a $138 price target.

Original Trade Description: March 13th.

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.

Update 3/15/17: Disney has upped its ownership to 85.7% and said it was going to buy out the rest of the investors and offered them a premium to the current value of their shares. Some investors are complaining. Euro Disney has significant debt and Disney said it would recapitalize 1.5 billion euros once it had full control. The actual park management loves the plan because it would put Disney back into control and provide it solid financial backing. This is just a temporary hiccup in the stock.

Update 3/20/17: Beauty & the Beast took in $170 million in ticket sales on its opening weekend. That was a record high for a family film. Disney has 11 other animated classics that it is planning to remake with human actors. The success of Beauty & the Beast will make theses 11 films a reality.

Mulan, Aladdin, Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, Sword in the Stone, Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo and a sequel to Marry Poppins.

Update 3/23/17: CEO Bob Iger agreed to a one-year contract extension until July 2019. He was previously going to retire in July 2018.

Update 3/24/17: Rumors and suggestions are starting to circulate suggesting Apple could buy Disney instead of Netflix in order to acquire a content generating machine and level out the earnings/cash flow. Currently Apple has very big fluctuations in revenue because of their cyclical production nature. If they owned a company like Disney they would have steady and predictable earnings. Disney has a market cap of $177 billion and Apple has $230 billion in cash. Liberty Media Chairman John Malone suggested if Disney spun off ESPN, Apple would buy Disney. That suggests an outright Apple purchase would also resort in an ESPN spinoff.

Update 3/30/17: Disney is relaunching Club Penguin, a game with hundreds of millions of users into Club Penguin Island. The original game had to be shutdown when browser technology began to limit what developers wanted to do inside the game. Now they are restarting in an app for Android and IOS. The basic game will be free but there is a $4.99 per month subscription fee it you want the advanced features. If only 100 million of the prior users signed up for the advanced package that would be $500 million a month in additional revenue. What kid cannot get dad to pay $4.99 per month for hours of peace and quiet?

Update 4/11/17: Goldman Sachs put Disney on their conviction buy list with a $138 price target. The company cited their best upcoming calendar of movies ever. In FY 2018 they have 4 Marvel films, 2 Star Wars films and 3 animated films. Goldman expects record profits from the studio in 2017 and 2018. The analyst said Disney was seeing accelerating profit growth at ESPN and record profits from the theme parks. Avatar Land, Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land all making debuts over the next couple years, the parks are going to be flooding the company with cash.

Earnings May 9th.

Position 3/14/17:

Long May $115 call @ $1.83, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


FIVE - Five Below - Company Profile

Comments:

The company opened 9 new stores in the Los Angeles area last week. New 7-month high.

Original Trade Description: April 10th.

Five Below, Inc. operates as a specialty value retailer in the United States. It offers accessories, including novelty socks, sunglasses, jewelry, scarves, gloves, hair accessories, athletic tops and bottoms, and T-shirts, as well as beauty products comprising nail polish, lip gloss, fragrance, and branded cosmetics; and items used to complete and personalize living space, including glitter lamps, posters, frames, fleece blankets, pillows, candles, incense, and related items, as well as provides storage options for the customer's room and locker. The company also provides sport balls; team sports merchandise and fitness accessories, such as hand weights, jump ropes, and gym balls; games, including name brand board games, puzzles, toys, and plush items; and pool, beach and outdoor toys, games, and accessories. In addition, it offers accessories, such as cases, chargers, headphones, and other related items for PCs, cell phones, and tablet computers; books, video games, and DVDs; craft activity kits; arts and crafts supplies that consist of crayons, markers, and stickers; and trend-right items for school comprising backpacks, fashion notebooks and journals, novelty pens and pencils, and everyday name brand items. Further, the company provides party goods, gag gifts, decorations, and greeting cards, as well as every day and special occasion merchandise products; assortment of classic and novelty candy bars, movie-size box candy, and gum and snack food; chilled drinks through coolers; and seasonally-specific items used to celebrate and decorate for events, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and St. Patrick's Day. It primarily serves teen and pre-teen customers. As of January 28, 2017, it operated approximately 522 stores in 31 states. Company description from FinViz.com.

Five Below is an expensive Dollar Store. Everything in Five Below is $5 or less. That gives they a wider range of products and still keeps them somewhat Amazon proof because buying it online requires shipping.

Five Below is a bargain hunter impulse store. Customers rarely walk in with a specific product in mind but looking for a bargain instead. This is a kid magnet because they stock a lot of stuff that appeals to adolescents.

They reported earnings of 90 cents that beat estimates for 89 cents. Revenue was $388.1 million and that narrowly beat estimates for $387 million.

They guided for Q1 for earnings of 12-14 cents and analysts were expecting 13 cents. For the full year, they guided for $1.55-$1.61 per share and analysts expected $1.58. Revenue guidance was $1.21 to $1.23 billion.

They currently operate about 550 stores and plan to open 100 in 2017. They expect to increase that to 2,000 stores over time. They were primarily in Texas Florida and the North East but they have begun to expand into California and the feedback has been outstanding. Nothing costs under $5 in California so their stores are hot locations.

Earnings June 21st.

Shares closed at a 7-month high on Monday and just over resistance at $44.50. If the current rally holds the next resistance test would be $52.

Update 4/12/17: Five will open the first nine stores in California next week with stores at Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Compton, Hawthorne, Montebello, Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, South Gate and Redlands.

Position 4/11/17:

Long May $45 call @ $1.90, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


LB - L Brands - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. The next resistance level will be $51.25.

Original Trade Description: April 17th.

L Brands, Inc. operates as a specialty retailer of women's intimate and other apparel, beauty and personal care products, and accessories. The company operates in three segments: Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works International. Its products include loungewear, bras, panties, swimwear, athletic attire, fragrances, shower gels and lotions, aromatherapy, soaps and sanitizers, home fragrances, handbags, jewelry, and personal care accessories. The company offers its products under the Victoria's Secret, PINK, Bath & Body Works, La Senza, Henri Bendel, C.O. Bigelow, White Barn, and other brand names. L Brands, Inc. sells its merchandise through company-owned specialty retail stores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Greater China, which are primarily mall-based; through its Websites comprising VictoriasSecret.com, BathandBodyWorks.com, HenriBendel.com, and LaSenza.com; and through franchises, licenses, and wholesale partners. As of January 28, 2017, the company operated 2,755 retail stores in the United States; 270 retail stores in Canada; 18 retail stores in the United Kingdom; and 31 retail stores in the Greater China area. It also operated 203 La Senza stores in 24 countries; 159 Bath & Body Works stores in 30 countries; 23 Victoria's Secret stores in 12 countries; 391 Victoria's Secret Beauty and Accessories stores in 70 countries; and 5 PINK stores in 3 countries. Company description from FinViz.com.

Two weeks ago, Citigroup downgraded LB from buy to neutral saying the retailer is operating in too many failing and underperforming malls. The analyst said their entire year would come down to how they perform in the second half of 2017 after an ugly shopping season in 2016.

The company beat on Q4 with earnings of $2.18 compared to estimates for $1.90. Revenue of $4.5 billion matched estimates. Same store sales fell -3% at Victoria Secret. However, they guided for 2017 earnings of $2.05-$3.35 and analysts were expecting $3.61. They reported mid to high teens percentage same store sales declines in February. They also said the exit from swimwear will cost them another 6% in sales in April.

On April 6th, LB said same store sales in March fell -10%. However, they had an excuse. They blamed 2% to 3% of that drop on the later than normal Easter that would have normally produced some late March sales. They also said sales were lowered by the exit from the swimwear and apparel business had a negative 7% impact. Victoria Secret sales declined -13%, compared to analyst estimates for a 10.8% decline. Bath and Body Works sales were flat and analysts expected a 2% decline. Investors bought the excuses and the stock did not decline.

Earnings May 24th.

Oppenheimer came out swinging on the LB buying opportunity with a $62 price target. The analyst said patient investors will be well rewarded because the low March numbers were predicted in advance and the recent sell off was overdone. Changes in inventory levels and content after a slow January, made an immediate difference in traffic and revenue.

In April, the stores are transitioning into a Mother's Day theme featuring new and seasonal products in body care, home fragrance, soaps and sanitizers.

Shares rebounded to $47.50 on the better than expected same store sales when accounting for discontinued swimwear. They have held at that level for seven days and are showing no signs of a decline. The next move appears to be higher. If we make an entry now before that move begins, we can get a lower option premium.

There are no June options.

Position 4/18/17:

Long August $50 call @ $2.70, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


MSM - MSC Industrial Direct - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares gapped open to $91.11 but we were not hit too bad on the option. The premium jumped from the $1.40 at Friday's close to $1.71 and that was very reasonable. Now we just need the move to continue.

Original Trade Description: April 22nd.

MSC Industrial Direct Co., Inc., together with its subsidiaries, markets and distributes various ranges of metalworking and maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) products primarily in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The company's MRO products comprise cutting tools, measuring instruments, tooling components, metalworking products, fasteners, flat stock, raw materials, abrasives, machinery hand and power tools, safety and janitorial supplies, plumbing supplies, materials handling products, power transmission components, and electrical supplies. It offers approximately 1,000,000 stock-keeping units through its master catalogs; weekly, monthly, and quarterly specialty and promotional catalogs; brochures; and the Internet, such as its Websites comprising mscdirect.com and use-enco.com. The company serves primarily through its distribution network of 85 branch offices and 12 customer fulfillment centers. In addition, it distributes fasteners and other consumables for customers in manufacturing, government, the Department of Defense, transportation, and natural resources end-markets. The company was founded in 1941 and is headquartered in Melville, New York. Company description from FinViz.com.

MSC reported earnings of 93 cents compared to estimates for 90 cents. Revenue of $703.8 million beat estimates for $696.8 million. They guided for the current quarter to revenue of $734-$748 million and analysts were expecting $735 million. They declared a quarterly dividend of 45 cents. Shares fell $18 on the news.

The earnings were great and guidance was good. Why did the stock crater? Shares had vastly outperformed the market with a $35 post election gain. The earnings turned into a sell the news event as investors captured all that built up profit.

Shares bottomed at $86 last week and began to move slightly higher. Having just released earnings they to not report again until July 6th. We have plenty of time.

Just to be sure the rebound has begun I am going to put an entry trigger on the position.

Position 4/24/17:

Long June $95 call @ $1.71, no initial stop loss because of wide spreads.


SYMC - Symantec - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Minor gain but closed over recent resistance.

Original Trade Description: March 16th

Symantec Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, provides cybersecurity solutions worldwide. It operates through two segments, Consumer Security and Enterprise Security. The Consumer Security segment offers Norton-branded services that provide multi-layer security and identity protection on desktop and mobile operating systems to defend against online threats to individuals, families, and small businesses. Its Norton Security products help customers protect against complex threats and address the need for identity protection, while also managing mobile and digital data, such as personal financial records, photos, music, and videos. The Enterprise Security segment provides threat protection products, information protection products, cyber security services, and Website security offerings. Its products protect customer data from threats, such as advanced protection threats, malicious spam and phishing attacks, malware, drive-by Website infections, hackers, and cyber criminals; prevent the loss of confidential data by insiders; and help customers achieve and maintain compliance with laws and regulations. This segment delivers its solutions through various methods, such as software, appliance, software-as-a-service, and managed services. The company serves individuals, households, and small businesses; small, medium, and large enterprises; and government and public sector customers. It markets and sells its products and related services through direct sales force, e-commerce platforms, distributors, direct marketers, Internet-based resellers, system builders, Internet service providers, wireless carriers, retailers, original equipment manufacturers, and retail and online stores. Company description from FinViz.com.

You cannot even turn on your phone or PC without being subjected to dozens if not hundreds of potential attackers. Worse than stealing your ID and maybe being able to cause you grief down the road, the biggest attacks today are the ransom ware attacks. If you click on an email link or leave your PC unguarded by a security program, the hacker encrypts all your files and charges you a fee to get them back. All of your documents, pictures, bank account info, Quickbooks, etc, all disappear in a heartbeat. Even if you pay the blackmail, you still may not get them back.

Symantec is the leading cybersecurity vendor for personal computers and small business servers. Enterprise class operations will normally go with higher fee organizations like Fire Eye, Palo Alto Networks, etc. Symantec has the entire personal computer space to themselves. There are some competitors like PC Magic and McAfee but they are distant competitors. Since Intel partnered with McAfee an TPG in September, they are improving but Symantec has a big head start.

Because of the daily headlines on cyberattacks, more and more consumers are reaching out and deploying more sophisticated antivirus programs. It is not just for the closet geeks anymore. Everyone needs a real security program.

Strangely, the biggest risk is still the individual. In a recent study of 19,000 individuals by Intel Security they showed each person 10 different emails and asked them to identify the real ones and the fake ones. Only 3% identified all ten correctly. That means 18,430 would have clicked on a phishing email. Clearly, everyone needs a security program to protect us from ourselves.

Update 3/23/17: Morgan Stanley raised their price target from $33 to $37 saying Symantec's recent wave of acquisitions, including Blue Coat Systems and LifeLock, have improved Symantec's position with their rivals. In June, they bought Blue Coat for $4.65 billion to beef up their enterprise offerings. In February, they paid $2.3 billion for LifeLock to enhance their consumer security business. Morgan Stanley expects Symantec to make more acquisitions after their recent $1 billion debt offering.

Symantec should continue to emerge as the big winner in personal computer security.

Earnings May 10th.

Position 3/17/17:

Long July $32 call @ $1.29, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


$VIX - Volatility Index - Index Description

Comments:

The VIX imploded as the weekend event risk from the French elections evaporated and the market roared higher. I considered closing the position but we still have the government shutdown risk coming up next Friday. If we get past that event, I will close the position.

While holding the VIX call is an insurance play for us, I hope we are never in a position to profit from it. That would mean a lot of our long positions would be under water or stopped out.

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 3/30/117
Long July $14 call @ $2.55, no stop loss.

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.
Previously Closed 4/10/17: Long Apr $13 call @ $2.30, exit $1.80, -.55 loss.


WDC - Western Digital - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Over the weekend, it was reported that WDC was in talks with Japanese banks and government funds regarding a joint acquisition of Toshiba. The battle is still in progress and WDC is not out yet.

Original Trade Description: March 29th.

Western Digital Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, develops, manufactures, and sells data storage devices and solutions worldwide. It offers performance hard disk drives (HDDs) that are used in enterprise servers, data analysis, and other enterprise applications; capacity HDDs and drive configurations for use in data storage systems and tiered storage models, as well as for use in storage of data for years; and enterprise solid state drives (SSDs), including NAND-flash SSDs and software solutions that are designed to enhance the performance in various enterprise workload environments. The company also provides InfiniFlash System, a system solution that offers petabyte scalable capacity with performance metrics; higher value data storage platforms and systems; datacenter software and systems; and HDDs and SSDs for desktop PCs, notebook PCs, gaming consoles, set top boxes, security surveillance systems, and other computing devices. In addition, it offers embedded NAND-flash storage products, including custom embedded solutions; and iNAND embedded flash products, such as multi-chip package solutions that combine NAND and mobile dynamic random-access memory in an integrated package for mobile phones, tablets, notebook PCs, and other portable and wearable devices, as well as in automotive and connected home applications, and NAND-flash wafers. Further, it provides HDDs embedded into WD- and HGST-branded external storage products; and NAND-flash products, which include cards, universal serial bus flash drives, and wireless drives. Company description from FinViz.com.

Hewlett Packard started the conversation saying there was a shortage of memory for computers and servers and the rise in prices would impact earnings in 2017. Micron (MU) confirmed it when they reported earnings on the 24th saying memory prices had risen an average of 20% because of a shortage and would add to profits for 2017.

Western Digital bought SanDisk last year and they were a primary manufacturer of memory of all types. This means not only will WDC have increased profits from the rising memory prices but their actual cost will be lower on other products like disk drives and solid state drives because they are now manufacturing their own memory.

They reported earnings in January of $2.30 compared to estimates for $2.13. Revenue rose 48% to $4.9 billion and beat estimates for $4.76 billion. Shares spiked to $81.25 on the news.

Update 3/30/17: Shares spiked on news that Toshiba would sell its flash memory business and that Western Digital could be a major bidder. With a shortage of memory in the market, this would help WDC fill that void and make them a major player in the future.

Update 4/4/17: WDC said it has increased the capacity of its Surveillance-Class hard drives to 10TB. According to IHS Markit, the growing number of high resolution monitoring cameras is causing a sharp uptick in the amount of storage required to archive the video footage. Some surveillance cameras are now HD and even 4K and that requires a lot of storage for a 24x7x365 bank of networked cameras. The new 10TB drive is optimized for 24x7 video from up to 64 HD cameras at once in security environments. 4K video surveillance cameras are estimated to be 2% of the current market today but expected to be 29% by 2020.

Update 4/6/17: WDC announced a new pocket sized SSD drive for portable data so developers and content creators can take their data with them wherever they travel. These are the fastest portable drives with speeds of up to 515 Mbps and come in 256gb, 512gb and 1TB capacities starting at $99. This is an amazing accomplishment and these will be hot products.

WDC also named Phil Bullinger as head of its data center business. Bullinger was formerly a general manager of Dell EMC storage business and before that he was in charge of Oracle's SAN/NAS storage business. Update 4/11/17: JP Morgan upgraded WDC from neutral to overweight and raised the price target from $80 to $116. The analyst said NAND memory prices are going higher and that was great for WDC. He also said the PC market was stabilizing and driving disk demand higher.

Update 4/12/17: WDC may have a trump card in the sale of the Toshiba memory business. WDC has invested more than $13 billion into a partnership with Toshiba in developing the NAND memory business. The company said the sale to a third party would be a serious violation of their joint venture agreement. WDC is bidding with Silver Lake Partners but currently has the lowest bid out of the four remaining bidders. Broadcom is the highest at $23 billion. Two Chinese companies are still in the bidding but would probably be declined because of national security concerns. That leaves Broadcom and WDC and WDC is already a part owner.

Update 4/14/17: Rumors broke early Thursday saying Toshiba had shut down all meetings and actions relating to the sale of its memory business. Shares of Toshiba fell 9%. Later in the afternoon Toshiba said it had not take that action and the report was incorrect. Toshiba's problem is that half the assets it is trying to sell already belong to WDC. Western has a "right to approve" clause in its joint venture contract with Toshiba and they can halt any sale. Reportedly, there are only three bidders left. Those are Broadcom at $23 billion and Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry at $27 billion. WDC is reportedly offering between $15-$18 billion but they have the hammer and the right to block any transaction. The Hon Hai bid would likely be rejected for national security reasons.

Update 4/20/17: Bloomberg said WDC was negotiating with the state-backed Innovation Network of Japan and Development bank of Japan as well as the government over the acquisition of Toshiba's memory business.

Earnings April 26th.

After two months of post earnings depression, shares closed back at $81.39 and a new high on Wednesday. I believe a breakout is imminent. Earnings are four-weeks away and we could see a pre-earnings ramp on strong expectations.

Position 3/30/17:

Long May $85 call @ $3.25, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


WFM - Whole Foods Market - Company Profile

Comments:

An article in the Financial Times said Albertsons, owned by Cerberus Capital Management, had spoken with bankers about making a bid for Whole Foods. It appears everyone is circling the wounded WFM with Kroger, Amazon and Albertsons all mentioned as potential buyers. Shares were up nearly $2 intraday but faded at the close to a gain of 75 cents and a new high. We are nearing a point of excessive optimism given how far the stock has spiked. I am tightening the stop loss.

Original Trade Description: April 19th.

Whole Foods Market, Inc. operates natural and organic foods supermarkets. Its stores offers produce, packaged goods, bulk, frozen, dairy, meat, bakery, prepared foods, coffee, tea, beer, wine, cheese, nutritional supplements, vitamins, body care, pet foods, and household goods. As of March 8, 2017, the company operated approximately 460 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods Market, Inc. was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas. Company description from FinViz.com.

This is not a play based on Whole Foods fundamentals or earnings. This is a defensive play covering the next four weeks when the market could be volatile.

Shares of WFM spiked last week when news broke that Amazon had considered acquiring the chain to jumpstart its grocery business. Before that news we found out that Jana Partners had taken a huge stake and had given the firm until September to make some radical changes of they would launch a proxy fight.

A couple weeks before that Kroger (KR) was reportedly mulling over making a run at Whole Foods. Jana already had Kroger, Albertsons and Amazon on their list of possible acquirers they were suggesting to WFM management.

Normally shares spike up on a big set of news headlines like these and then roll over a few days later when nothing happens. WFM shares are continuing to rise. That suggests there may be continuing conversations that have not made it to the headlines.

Earnings are May 10th and I am recommending we buy the May $35 call because it is cheap, there is a reasonable chance of something happening in the acquisition area and if the market or stock tanks, we have very little at risk.

Update 4/20/17: Credit Suisse analyst Edward Kelly put out a note saying Kroger (KR) should write a check for WFM because they were the perfect partner and it would accelerate Kroger's market share. The analyst said accretion could be 40 cents per share before any reinvestment.

Position 4/20/17:

Long May $35 call @ $1.30, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


Z - Zillow Group - Company Profile

Comments:

The company launched a new national advertising campaign called "Finding Home." Shares closed at a new ten-week high.

Original Trade Description: April 8th.

Zillow Group, Inc. operates real estate and home-related information marketplaces on mobile and the Web in the United States. The company offers a portfolio of brands and products to enable people find information about homes and connect with local professionals. Its brands focus on various stages of the home lifecycle, including renting, buying, selling, and financing. The company's portfolio of consumer brands comprises real estate and rental marketplaces, such as Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy, HotPads, and Naked Apartments. It also owns and operates various brands comprising Mortech, dotloop, Bridge Interactive, and Retsly, as well as provides advertising services to real estate agents, and rental and mortgage professionals. Company description from FinViz.com.

Zillow reported earnings of 14 cents. This compares to a loss of 1 cent in the year ago quarter. Revenue of $227.6 million rose 34%. The guided for Q1 for revenue of $232-$237 million. Shares declined after the report because the guidance was slightly less than analysts expected.

In Mid March, shares declined again after a story appeared on Inman.com suggesting that Zillow's marketing programs may have violated RESPA rules. The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act was put in place in 2010 to protect potential homeowners from predatory lenders. Basically, if a lender or real estate agent pays somebody a kickback for a referral, it is illegal after 2010.

Zillow allows mortgage brokers to advertise on the websites. No problem there. Zillow also offers referral services. If you want a mortgage loan you can go to the Zillow site and enter some information like your loan amount and zip code where you are buying the home. Zillow then matches your request with lenders that pay to advertise on the site and you are given a list of referrals. The inman.com article suggested this was a recommendation for pay, which is illegal. However, Zillow contends it is just generic advertising that matches lenders and borrowers by zip code. The key point is that Zillow gets paid for the advertising whether a lender makes a loan or not. They get paid for the click rather than a loan. Several analysts have noted that Google does the same thing if you type in mortgage loan calculator. They show lenders on that page and Google gets paid for that impression even if no loan is ever made.

Shares declined to $33 on that story and have held there for three weeks. On Friday, Zillow closed at a post dip high. With this the active selling season, the expectations for their May earnings should be high and should lift the stock.

Update 4/19/17: Bridge Interactive, a subsidiary of Zillow, announced it had added 10 new multiple listing services to its platform. This added 180,000 agents to its 400,000 existing members.

Earnings May 9th.

Position 4/10/17:

Long May $35 call @ $1.45, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.



BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)

SPY - S&P-500 SPDR ETF - ETF Profile

Comments:

There was a major short squeeze in the U.S. markets and the SPY gapped open at $237.18. After trading all day the close was $237.17. This is a textbook short squeeze. The $2.58 gain erased two-thirds of our premium. I am leaving this position open until U.S. lawmakers pass a funding resolution to avoid a government shutdown. The lack of follow through buying after the open suggests the majority of investors were not convinced the market was going higher.

Original Trade Description: March 25th.

The SPDR S&P 500 trust is an exchange-traded fund which trades on the NYSE Arca under the symbol. SPDR is an acronym for the Standard & Poor's Depositary Receipts, the former name of the ETF. It is designed to track the S&P 500 stock market index.

The S&P-500 is in danger of a material drop, possibly to 2,250 or the equivalent 225 level on the SPY ETF. The chart is unsupported and we are entering into a typically volatile period of the year over the next five weeks. I am recommending we buy insurance with a put on the SPY only IF the SPY trades at a new five-week low of 232.75. That way if the market opens higher on Monday we can watch to see if that direction holds before putting money at risk.

I believe if the market goes lower next week it could be the beginning of a major decline.

Position 3/27/17:

Long May $230 put @ $3.49, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.




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