Option Investor
Newsletter

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 4/27/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Market Wobbles On Shaky Data

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes

Introduction

The indices tread water near break-even after weaker than expected economic data raises fear of weak 1st quarter GDP. Both Durable Goods Orders and Pending Home Sales came in below expectations, adding to concerns the economy stalled in the 1st quarter, but neither giving sign of economic meltdown. As I've said in the past, GDP figures are rear-looking so not too important in the overall scheme things. What is important is if the economy is trending higher, and if the forward outlook remains positive, which it does.

International indices were generally buoyed by Trump's tax plan but not overly excited. Asian indices fared best, rising about 0.3% on average led by a 0.49% gain in Hong Kong. European indices were in the red right from the start as traders anxiously awaited the ECB's policy decision and press conference. The bank decided to keep policy unchanged citing downside risk but did make note of improvement within the region. At press conference he himself was positive on the EU economy but qualified his comment saying the ECB had not discussed removing QE measures. Indices in the region closed with losses in the range of -0.25% to -1.15% led by the FTSE International Index.

Market Statistics

Futures were fairly flat for most of the morning and ahead of the ECB announcement. Bias was to the upside however, lifted by earnings with volatility induced by the data. Going into the open the indices were indicated to post small gains which turned out to be roughly 2 points for the SPX. The first hour of trading saw the indices fall to break-even and bounce, the second hour saw them fall back to break-even and then dip below following the release of Pending Home Sales data. The low of the day was set just prior to noon but only about -0.1% below yesterday's close. A small rally formed going into the lunch hour that carried the indices back to the highs of the day, about +0.2%. The high was hit just before 1PM, marking the top of the day's trading range. The indices moved sideways from there, closing near the mid-point, but in positive territory.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

Initial claims rose by 14,000 to hit 257,000. Last week's figure was revised lower by 1,000 for a net gain of 13,000 from last week's report. The four week moving average of claims fell by -500 to hit 242,250 and is just off the 43 year low set a few month ago. On a not adjust basis claims rose by 6.8% versus an expected gain of only 1.3% and are down -1.4% on a YOY basis. Despite volatility in the data over the past 2 to 3 months, and the possibility that initial claims have bottomed, claims remain very low relative to the recovery and consistent with labor market health.


Continuing claims rose by 10,000 to hit 1.988 million, last week's figure was revised lower by -1000. The four week moving average of continuing claims fell by -16,000 to hit a new 17 year low. There has been some volatility in this figure as well but not as bad as with the initial claims. The long-term downtrend remains intact at this time, consistent with ongoing labor market recovery.

The total number of claims fell by -96,380 to to hit 2.081 million, the lowest level since last November. This drop is consistent with long-term and seasonal trends, and evidence of ongoing labor market health. Looking forward we can expect to see this figure continue to decline into the spring, setting a multi-year seasonal low near 1.80 million.


Durable Goods orders were positive, led by transportation equipment, but below expectations. The headline number came in at 0.7% for March versus an expected gain of 1.2% and down from February's 2.3%. Ex-transportation durable orders were down -0.2% in the month versus an expected gain of 0.4%. Shipments and unfilled orders both increased, led once again by transportation, but both also below expectations.

Pending Home sales dipped in March by -0.8%. Despite the decline however, indications within the report suggest that the market is still hot and/or heating up. The numbers were blamed once again to rapidly diminishing inventories of homes, a situation that sooner or later will result in more home-building. On a year over year basis the March number is up 0.8%, and also the 3rd strongest read in the last 12. First time home buyers continue to be priced out of the market as inventory numbers spur increased competition for houses along with rising prices.

The Dollar Index

The Dollar Index held steady and traded in a range nearly identical to that of yesterday's. The index was supported by a slightly weaker euro while the weaker than expected data provided some downward pressure. Today's action was at the bottom of the short-term range, testing support at the $99 level and managing to close above. The index is now waiting for the FOMC meeting next week for direction. Tomorrow's GDP announcement may cause some volatility but should not move the index much unless it sways FOMC sentiment too far in one direction. Looking to next week's meeting there is a chance they will be not be overly hawkish and could cause the dollar to weaken further. A fall below today's level would be bearish with downside target near $97. A bounce will be bullish with upside target near $100 and then $101.


The Gold Index

Between the data, the ECB and ongoing geopolitical concerns gold prices were a bit choppy today but held relatively steady near $1,266. The metal has now pulled back to support at the February high and is waiting for the next move. Fundamentals suggest to me that the risk is to the downside, the US is still on track for economic growth and a stronger dollar which should equate to lower gold prices. The risk is in the geopolitics which has already helped to inflate prices, and in next week's FOMC meeting. A fall below current levels would be bearish with downside targets near $1,250, $1,235 and $1,200. A bounce would be bullish with upside target near $1,300.

The Gold Miners ETF GDX fell nearly -2% despite stability in gold prices. The ETF created a medium sized black candle and is sitting on support just below $22.00. This support is the bottom of the short-term trading range and likely to be tested further. The indicators are both pointing lower with only the barest hints that support is present. A break below this level would be bearish in the near-term with the possibility of short to long-term decline. Downside targets are $21, $20 and $18.50. Should the range hold, resistances are near the short-term moving at $23.30 and the top of the range near $25.


The Oil Index

Oil prices fell today, shedding more than -1% in the process. WTI is now trading near $49 as supply, production and capacity continue to outweigh demand. Today's news included the restart of Libyan production which could add as much as 500,000 BPD to swollen markets and a big build in gasoline inventories, contrary to expectations of a draw. OPEC remains in the back ground, scheming to support prices I am sure, but until something changes oil prices are likely to remain under pressure with a possible move to $45.

The Oil Index continues to wallow at support while oil prices remain in turmoil. The index fell in today's session, losing more than -1% intraday, but managed to confirm support levels once again. Today's move touched support at 1,150 and created a small hammer doji, the 5th time this level has been touched in the past 2 months. Support is in a tight range near the top of last years trading range and has so far been confirmed by the indicators. At this time MACD and stochastic are set up for the weak buy signal, a signal that would confirm with a bounce higher from current price levels. I remain bullish on the sector due to long-term earnings growth outlook but wary in the near-term. A break below today's low would be bearish with downside target near 1,100, a bounce would be bullish but face resistance at 1,200.


In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Today was a big day for earnings both before the opening and after the closing bells. Ford reported a top and bottom line beat, but this is of course after they slashed guidance a month or so ago. EPS of $0.39 beat consensus by 3 cents on 3.7% YOY revenue growth. Shares of the stock jumped in premarket action but the gains were taken as a chance for profit-taking/capital preservation which caused shares to sink during the day. Ford closed with a loss near -1.25%.


UPS also beat on the top and bottom lines. The ubiquitous delivery service reported strong US and international results driving 6.2% revenue growth and 3.9% EPS growth YOY. Profit was hit by rising fuel costs, up 43%, but full year guidance was maintained. Shares of the stock opened with a small gain, dipped down to test support, bounced and moved back up to close with a gain near 1.25%


Comcast reported earnings that beat consensus by more than 20% and up 23% from this same time last year. Revenue came in strong as well, up 8.9% and also ahead of expectations. This was driven by a 10% increase in subscriber numbers and strength in the amusement park segment, NBCUniversal. Shares of the stock jumped to a new all-time closing high but created a wicked looking pin-bar in the process.


Earnings action was hot after the close as well. Reports from Google, Amazon and Starbuck top the list. Google and Amazon both reported top and bottom line beats, both fairly substantial, sending shares higher in after hours trading. Amazon gained more than 4.5% on strength in cloud, retail and just about everything they do. Starbucks reported in line with estimates on weak revenue on weaker than expected comp store sales. Shares of the stock fell more than -2.5% on the news.

Also from the tech front were reports from Microsoft and Intel. Intel beat EPS by a penny on as-expected revenue. Shares of the stock fell -2.5%. Microsoft beat by nearly a nickel on a revenue miss, news that sent this stock moving lower by -1.75%. The Indices

The indices were a bit choppy today, but in a very tight range. Te day's leader was the NASDAQ Composite with a gain of 0.39% and a new all-time high. The tech heavy index extended its bounce from the long-term trend line and looks like it could go higher. The indicators are both pointing higher following bullish, trend following, strong entry signals. Upside target is 6,100 in the near to short-term.


The Dow Jones Transportation Average came in second today, up 0.28%, but not setting a new all-time high. Today's action created a medium sized white bodied candle moving up from the support of the short-term moving average. The indicators are generally bullish but showing near-term weakness following the mid-week fall from resistance. A move up from here would be bullish but a break above resistance at 9,300 is needed for entry to new positions. A bounce from this level would confirm the double bottom reversal from the longer term 150 day moving average.


The broad market S&P 500 comes in third today with a gain of 0.05%. The index created a small spinning top doji just below resistance at the current all-time high. It appears set to move higher following a bounce from a long-term trend line but will need to move past resistance. The indicators are bullish following a strong buy signal earlier this week. A break above resistance would be bullish and and trend following with upside target near 2,465 in the near-term.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average made the smallest gain today, only 0.02%. The blue chips created a small doji spinning top just below the all-time high and appears set to move higher. The index has formed a small consolidation within a near-term uptrend that is confirmed by both indicators. Both MACD and stochastic are moving higher following bullish crossovers, consistent with rising prices. A break above the all-time high would be bullish and trend-following with upside target near 21,750.


Despite today's lackluster action the indices appear poised to continue the near, short and long-term rallies. They are moving up off of long-term support levels, supported by the indicators and driven by earnings. So long as the forward outlook for earnings remains intact, and nothing today has changed that, my outlook for the market remains bullish. I'm cautious for the near-term, there is still some resistance to break through, but firmly bullish short to long-term.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes


New Option Plays

Distribution or Consolidation

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

This has been in interesting week and Friday could provide the exclamation point. The big cap indexes have moved sideways for two days after the massive short squeezes on Monday/Tuesday. Volume is elevated and we could be seeing a distribution process.

The tech titans reported earnings after the close and the Nasdaq futures surged in the afterhours session but have now turned slightly negative. Amazon and Google both gained more than $30 in afterhours and that should suggest a positive open at least for the Nasdaq. However, Microsoft and Intel both declined in the afterhours session.

Friday could either be another blowout day for the Nasdaq or a day of profit taking because all the expectations are over. Everyone was waiting for the tech titans and now there are no catalysts for Friday.

With North Korea back in the news on Thursday we will have the geopolitical event risk fears again on Friday. Given the profits from early in the week, we could see the normal Friday afternoon swoon.

I could not find anything today that was screaming "buy me" and we already have 15 positions. I have a growing fear that we are eventually going to be hit with a big down day that stops out half of them at the same time. I hate to just keep adding positions just because it is a newsletter day. I am suggesting we wait until the weekend when there will hopefully be a little more clarity.



NEW DIRECTIONAL CALL PLAYS

No New Bullish Plays


NEW DIRECTIONAL PUT PLAYS

No New Bearish Plays



In Play Updates and Reviews

Amazing Resilience

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

After two days of choppy trading the Dow and S&P are still holding their short squeeze gains. There has not been any material effort to sell the market but buyers are also holding back. Volume the last three days has been over 7.2 billion shares and moderately strong. We have not had three days over 7 billion since March 1st.

This could be a distribution process or just an orderly consolidation process. Distribution is when funds dole out their shares in an orderly systematic process in order not to spook the market. They are counting on the new high sentiment to convince retail buyers the market is still going higher. If there was a rush to exit they would just push the sell button and the prices would tank.

Next week begins May as in "Sell in May and go away." It will be interesting to see if the sellers appear given the lack of potential upside catalysts after this week's earnings.

For technical traders this is the perfect week to exit the market with the indexes at new highs and the major stocks reporting good earnings. This creates the positive sentiment they can sell into before the sell in May cycle begins.

If this is distribution we could see a sharp decline next week. If it is simply consolidation, it could take a couple weeks to run its course.



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


SAIC - Science Applications
The long call position was entered at the open.



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Long and short equity trades = Premier Investor



BULLISH Play Updates

ADBE - Adobe Systems - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares posted a minor gain.

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. Minor gain but a new closing high.

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. Almost 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:

No specific news. Earnings on Friday. We will hold over.

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.

Update 4/24/17: 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.

Position 4/17/17:

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


DIS - Walt Disney - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. New closing high.

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.

Update 4/25/17: Disney announced the release dates of multiple blockbuster movies that could be potential blockbusters. Lion King 2, Star Wars: Episode IX, Indiana Jones, Wreck it Ralph 2, Frozen 2 and a bunch of "untitled" movie dates that will eventually be assigned a name. The dates released were in 2018-2020. Analysts claim 2018 and beyond will be the largest slate of hit movies Disney has ever released. List Here

Update 4/26/17: Disney shares rose in a weak market after they said they would be cutting more than 100 on air reporters and commentators from ESPN. These are high dollar positions and with ESPN viewership falling, they can save money and bring in some fresh talent. I saw several twitter posts praising the move because the network had become too liberal and focused too much on people like Colin Capernack and Caitlin Jenner rather than the actual sports.

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:

No specific news. 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.


HCN - Welltower Inc - Company Profile

Comments:

After the bell the company announced a quarterly dividend of 87 cents payable May 22nd to holders on May 9th.

Original Trade Description: April 24th.

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.

Position 4/25/17:

Long June $72.50 call @ $1.41, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


LB - L Brands - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Minor gain as shares move towards the next resistance at $53.50.

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 gave back a third of a point but not a big decline.

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.


SAIC - Science Applications Intl - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. The market negativity at the open was a gift. We were going to enter this position with a limit order at $2.50 and the option opened at $1.90.

Original Trade Description: April 26th.

Science Applications International Corporation provides technical, engineering, and enterprise information technology (IT) services primarily in the United States. The company's offerings include engineering; technology and equipment platform integration; maintenance of ground and maritime systems; logistics; training and simulation; operation and program support services; and end-to-end services, such as design, development, integration, deployment, management and operations, sustainment, and security of its customers' IT infrastructure. It serves the U.S. military comprising Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard; the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the U.S. Department of State; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The company was formerly known as SAIC Gemini, Inc. and changed its name to Science Applications International Corporation in September 2013. Company description from FinViz.com.

Back in late March, SAIC reported earnings of 79 cents that missed estimates for 80 cents. Revenue of $1.03 billion also missed estimates for $1.09 billion. Shares were knocked for a $16 loss. They paid a dividend of 31 cents and bought back 457,000 shares for $38 million.

The company explained in detail several different items that caused them to miss estimates including the constant challenges with government contracting. The government never does anything on schedule including awarding contracts or making payments when contracts are completed.

During the quarter, they received awards of $800 million and net bookings for the full year were $5.3 billion with a book to bill ratio of 1.2 and their strongest ever. Their order backlog at the end of the quarter was $8 billion.

Earnings June 29th.

This is a good solid company that was punished for some minor execution issues and for the calendar challenges of dealing with the government. Shares cruised along in the $72 range for three weeks and begin rising this week. I am sure the market short squeeze did not hurt.

Now that the shares have started to rebound we can take a position.

I am going to reach out to the August option cycle to get past their earnings date. Open interest is thin so I would use a limit order to enter the position. Once we get closer to June the volume will increase.

Position 4/27/17:

Long August $80 call @ $1.90, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


SYMC - Symantec - Company Profile

Comments:

Symantec, Google and Mozilla have reached an agreement on the life cycle of Symantec trust certificates. There is a push on in the browser community to shorten the duration of security certificates because of the proliferation of bogus websites. If the certificates expire faster then the websites have to be revalidated more often and the bogus sites will slowly be weeded out.

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.

Update 4/26/17: Symantec said cyber criminals were upping the fees to get your data back after they infect your computer with ransomware. The average fee in 2016 was $294 and that has risen to $1,077 in 2017. DON'T click those links in emails!!!

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 closed at a new 3-year low and we still have the funding battle in Washington on Friday. Unless they shutdown the government we could be in trouble on this 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.


WFM - Whole Foods Market - Company Profile

Comments:

Private investment firm, Neuberger Berman, urged Whole Foods to explore a sale. The company has a 2.4% stake in Whole foods. Jana Partners has a 9% stake and is demanding action now. Shares rose again.

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.

Update 4/24/17: 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. Update 4/25/17: An article by Bloomberg suggested Whole Foods was not going to be acquired because of the $13 billion price tag and the impact to the debt structure of both Kroger and Albertsons if they went the cash route. The article suggested Amazon could easily digest them in a cash deal but did not speculate on that outcome. Bloomberg article

I considered closing the position but our stop loss is pretty tight so I am going to let it run. I know as soon as I close it somebody will offer $40 for the company.

Position 4/20/17:

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


Z - Zillow Group - Company Profile

Comments:

Zillow surged to a new 9-month high after announcing new partnerships with four new MLS firms. Sandicor represents San Diego County, ABoR represents the Austin Noard of Realtors, NOMAR represents the New Orleans Metropolitan Association of Realtors and the Greater Baton Rouge Association of Realtors. All together, those MLS firms have more than 23,000 member realtors.

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:

The S&P is still moving sideways just under resistance and we are still facing the government funding deadline on Friday.

The Dow and S&P have reached levels where we should begin worrying about a potential double top in the markets. The rally this week has erased nearly all the option premium. There is no reason to close the position for 40 cents.

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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