Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 7/20/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

A Double Dose

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes


A resilient market withstands a double dose of central bank meetings and another twist in the Trump scandal. Meetings from the ECB and BOJ produced no changes to policy but did deliver commentary furthering a growing divide between the two. On the domestic front special counsel Robert Mueller has begun to investigate Trump finances in relation to the Russia scandal. That news at got the market moving to the downside but buyers quickly stepped in to take advantage of the dip.

Asian indices closed mostly higher aft er the BOJ decided to hold its rates steady. The bank also indicated that its inflation target has been lowered which basically means we can expect easy money policy to continue indefinitely. The Nikkei led with gains near 0.6%. European indices were no so buoyant following the ECB meeting and comments from Mario Draghi. He says the bank will likely begin discussing a taper this fall. Indices there fell marginally save for the FTSE which posted a gain near 0.75%.

Market Statistics

Futures trading was flat to positive all morning. The SPX was indicated to open with minimal gains to start with that growing to about 3 points going into the open. The open was a little hectic, the index opened with gains as expected and the moved higher only to quickly reverse itself and begin moving lower. The move lower was precipitated by the Mueller news and hit a low shortly after 10:30. The day's low was less than -5 points for the SPX and turned out to be support. The index bounced from that level and was able to move back up to the early high by mid afternoon. The indices weren't able to hold the highest highs of the day but there were able to remain near them into the close.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

The July read on the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey is 19.5. This is below the expected 22 and the previous 27.6 but is the 12th month of positive reading. All sub indices were positive although they also all fell, showing a slower pace of growth this month than last. Looking forward the 6 month outlook gained 5.6 to hit 36.9.

Initial claims for unemployment fell -15,000 to 233,000. This is on top of an upward revision of 1,000 to last week's figure. The four week moving average of claims fell -2,250 to 243,750. On a not adjusted basis claims fell -9.9% versus an expected -3.9% and are down -4.4% over last year. This week's drop is positive sign of labor market health within a tight and tightening market, consistent with long term trends.

Continuing claims for unemployment rose by 28,000 on top of an upward revision of 4,000 to hit 1.977 million. The four week moving average of claims rose by 8,750 to hit 1.959 million. This week's gains brings the continuing claims figure up to a 3 month high but it remains low relative to the long term trend and consistent with labor market health.

The total number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits fell -28,728 to 1.872 million. This week's drop is consistent with seasonal trends and likely precedes a small uptick in claims expected over the next few weeks. Year over year claims are down -9.9% and low relative to long term trends.

The Index of Leading Indicators was released at 10AM and came in much better than expected. The June read on forward expectations rose by 0.6% versus an expected 0.4% and the previous 0.2%. The previous month's read was revised lower by 0.1%. Economist at the Conference Board say the continued strength seen in the index points to accelerated GDP growth in the 2nd half of the year. The Coincident and Lagging Indices both rose by 0.2%.

The Dollar Index

The dollar went on a wild ride today. The Dollar Index was first up on the BOJ decision, then up a little more on the ECB decision, and then down down down on Mario Draghi's comments. The two decisions effectively weakened their respective currencies as it reinforced the divergence in current easy money policy from that of the FOMC. The Draghi comments firmly put tightening on the table with an expected starting date sometime next year. The Dollar Index fell nearly a half percent to hit a 12 month low with bearish indicators and looks like it could go lower. Support may be at the 12 month low, near $94.25, a break of which would be bearish. If support is broken downside target becomes $92. Risk now is the FOMC meeting next week. They are not expected to change policy but they could move the market on a change of tone.

The Gold Index

Gold prices dipped on early strength in the dollar but were able to recover the losses. Spot price fell about -0.25% to test the $1,235 level and then recovered the loss following Mario Draghi's comments. Gold is now trading just above $1,240 and drifting higher in the near term. Upside target is $1,250, near the mid point of the 6 month range. The next potential catalyst for gold is next week with the FOMC meeting. They aren't expected to change policy but they are expected to deliver a statement and the wording of it will be important. A break above $1,250 will be bullish with upside target at the top of the range near $1,300.

The gold miners are on the rise and trying to move higher. The miners ETF GDX rising a little more than a half percent in today's action. Although near term action is bullish I remain skeptical of this move. The indicators are bullish in support of it but momentum remains weak, stochastic is overbought in the near term and both remain consistent with range bound trading. A break above resistance, at today's close, would help confirm further upside but even that would face resistance at the long term moving average and then the middle of the 6 month range near $24.

The Oil Index

Oil prices tried to set a 6 week high in early trading but the gains did not hold. Drawdowns of US stockpiles have helped support prices ahead of OPEC's meeting next week but traders are getting cautious ahead of said meeting. WTI closed the day with a loss near -0.70% creating a small black candle falling from resistance. Resistance is near $46.75 and the current 6 week high, the OPEC meeting begins on Monday and is in St. Petersburg. A thought; when OPEC curbs production they aren't making oil disappear, it's still in the system, it just remains at the source.

The Oil Index tried to break above near term resistance today. The index opened with a gain near 0.5% and at a new 1 month high only to fall back to support and close with a loss near -0.5%. Support is now the 1,120 level which was broken yesterday. For those of us looking for reversal in the index today's action is promising but not confirmation. The indicators are in support so prices may continue to rise. A bounce from support would be bullish and confirm a double bottom reversal. Upside targets are 1,150 and 1,200 in the near term, both of which may prove to be strong resistance. The OPEC meeting is a likely catalyst however, once again, by only meeting market expectations they may create a sell-the-news event.

In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Abbot Labs reported before the bell. The maker of products for the professional and retail pharma industry beat on the top and bottom lines. The company reported a 25% increase in revenue driven by a near 90% increase in medical device revenue. The really good news was an increase in guidance to a range above consensus. Shares of the stock popped on the news gaining nearly 3% to trade at a new 2 year high. The stock is moving higher on strong momentum and fast approaching the all time high set 2 years or so ago.

After hours reporting was busy, releases from EBAY, MSFT, V and COF had stocks moving. Ebay is the only one to disappoint. The company was only in line with expectations and provided light guidance. They did announce a $3 billion dollar buyback program but it was not enough to support prices. Shares fell more than -4%.

Visa beat on the top and bottom lines, as did Capital One. Visa says payments volume is up 38% from this same time last year with an 11% growth in cross border transactions. Results were strong enough for management to raise guidance for full year EPS growth of 20%. Shares of the stock rose more than 1%. Capital One grew earnings by 16% over last year and beat estimates by more than 5%. Results were driven by an increase in revenue and decrease in costs. Share prices jumped more than 5% on the news.

Microsoft reported an impressive top and bottom line beat on 97% growth of the Azure platform. Azure is their cloud computing solution and outperforming expectations, total EPS came in at $0.98 or 38% above consensus. Shares jumped on the news, gaining more than 1.5% in after hours trading.

The Indices

While most of the market held steady near yesterday's highs one index fell nearly a full percent. The Dow Jones Transportation average shed -0.97% to fall to a 3 week low below 9,500. The index is sitting on the short term moving average with a chance of falling through. The indicators are bearish and pointing lower so a test of support is expected. A break below the moving average could go as low as 9,300 or 9,125 in the near term.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average made the next largest decline but is more flat than not. The index closed with a loss of -0.13% after flirting with positive numbers throughout the day. The index created a small red bodied spinning top candle just beneath resistance at the long term up trend line. This is the fifth day the trend line has provided resistance and the indicators are showing it. Both stochastic and MACD and rolling over in evidence of near term weakness and in danger of forming bearish crossovers. A drop from resistance would be bearish near term with downside target near the short term moving average.

The S&P 500 made the smallest decline, only -0.02%. The broad market created a small red bodied candle and set a new all time intraday high while doing so. The index continues to creep higher in line with prevailing trends with indicators in support of the move. There are some signs of weakness emerging but still no indication of fall. Signs of weakness include stochastic %K showing resistance to higher a flattening of MACD that may indicate near term peak. If prices continue higher next target is 2,500, if they fall support is likely near 2,440 and the short term moving average.

The NASDAQ Composite posted the only gains today and is likely to rise tomorrow based on today's after hours reports. The index closed with a gain of 0.08% and set a new all time high. Today's candle is a small spinning top doji and one that may indicate near term consolidation or pull back is near. The indicators are both bullish but also both showing signs of near term weakness that could limit gains.

There is no economic data tomorrow so trading will be all about earnings and options expiration. After hours reports from MSFT, Visa and Capital One are likely to help lead the market higher but there could be some volatility. The market has risen more than 2.5% in the last 3 weeks and now is as good a time as any to trim some profits. I remain firmly bullish for the long term, cautiously bullish for the near waiting for next week's FOMC meeting.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes

New Option Plays

Expiration Bias

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

Expiration Friday's do not normally produce a directional move in the markets. Traders are closing positions rather than looking for new positions to open. This is also a summer Friday and volume has already declined to low levels despite the new highs. On Wednesday there was only 5.7 billion shares and all the indexes closed at new highs. There was not as much participation as it appeared on the surface. With more earnings disappointments than expected that is another reason there may not be a rush into new positions on Friday. I am recommending we let this expiration pass and enter new positions on Monday.


No New Bullish Plays


No New Bearish Plays

In Play Updates and Reviews

Pause to Regroup

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

Home Depot and Travelers caused a 60-point drag on the Dow and that soured the overall market. Amazon struck again with their deal with Sears to combine their Alexa smart speaker with Kenmore appliances. Sears shares spiked 15% at the open and Home Depot fell $7 on the assumption that people would begin to buy Kenmore again rather than the brands sold at Home Depot. I do not understand why being able to tell Alexa to set the oven for 350 is such a big deal.

In the tech sector Qualcomm fell 5% after disappointing on earnings. Checkpoint (CHKP) bear on earnings but fell $8 on a weak outlook. The earnings express took a minor detour and hopefully it will be back on track on Friday thanks to Microsoft's good earnings and afterhours gains.

The upgrade to Nike, comments on ANF selling on the Alibaba portals and the spike in Sears, caused us to be stopped in NKE and BBBY when the sector got a lift from the headlines.

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

VIX - Volatility Index
The long call position was entered at the open.

ATHM - Autohome
The long call position was closed at the open.

BBBY - Bed, Bath & Beyond
The long put position was stopped at $29.65.

MKC - McCormick
The long put position was stopped at $93.25.

NKE - Nike
The long put position was stopped at $59.25.

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

Credit spreads and naked puts = OptionWriter

Long term option investments = LEAPS Investor

3-6 month Option Trades = Ultimate Investor

Iron Condors = Couch Potato Trader

Long and short equity trades = Premier Investor

BULLISH Play Updates

AAPL - Apple Inc - Company Profile


Shares had a volatile session and a decline at the close cemented a minor 68 cent loss. There was a new rumor out today that Apple will have an unexpected product launch in August where they will update the iPhone SE. This is the compact iPhone that is popular in Europe and Asia. The last update was in March when they upgraded the memory options from 16gb or 64gb to 32gb and 128gb for $399 and $499 respectively. Also in this rumor from iGeneration is that the second product launch will be in October rather than September. That takes the pressure off the iPhone Pro manufacturing process by a month.

I am raising the stop loss again. We are only up $1 on the option and earnings are 10 days away. With the market failing to pick a direction today, I want to avoid giving back our limited gain.

Original Trade Description: June 28th.

Apple Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets mobile communication and media devices, personal computers, and portable digital music players to consumers, small and mid-sized businesses, and education, enterprise, and government customers worldwide. The company also sells related software, services, accessories, networking solutions, and third-party digital content and applications. It offers iPhone, a line of smartphones; iPad, a line of multi-purpose tablets; and Mac, a line of desktop and portable personal computers. The company also provides iLife, a consumer-oriented digital lifestyle software application suite; iWork, an integrated productivity suite that helps users create, present, and publish documents, presentations, and spreadsheets; and other application software, such as Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro X, and FileMaker Pro. In addition, it offers Apple TV that connects to consumers' TV and enables them to access digital content directly for streaming high definition video, playing music and games, and viewing photos; Apple Watch, a personal electronic device; and iPod, a line of portable digital music and media players. Further, the company sells Apple-branded and third-party Mac-compatible, and iOS-compatible accessories, such as headphones, displays, storage devices, Beats products, and other connectivity and computing products and supplies. Additionally, it offers iCloud, a cloud service; AppleCare that offers support options for its customers; and Apple Pay, a mobile payment service. The company sells and delivers digital content and applications through the iTunes Store, App Store, Mac App Store, TV App Store, iBooks Store, and Apple Music. It also sells its products through its retail and online stores, and direct sales force, as well as through third-party cellular network carriers, wholesalers, retailers, and value-added resellers. Company description from FinViz.com.

This play is not going to take a lot of explanation. Shares rallied to $156 in May and then stalled at that level as various rumors continued to circulate over a potential delay in shipping the iPhone 8. Analysts routinely debated the various pros and cons of the Apple outlook. Shares fell to $144 and they have been trading at $145 for the last three weeks. On Tuesday's decline the stop lost $2, which was immediately recovered on Wednesday.

Apple is expected to report earnings on August 1st. The stocks always ramps up into earnings. Since Apple is expected to announce multiple iPhone models in September, a shipment delay on the big iPhone 8 will not be a disaster. We will be out of the position before the August earnings so that will not impact us either way.

The plan is to capture the ramp into the earnings and then exit. Having Apple dormant at $145 for the last three weeks shows there is plenty of support under that level and a rebound could start at any time. Fortunately, because of the dormancy, the options premiums have shrunk.

Apple is a sleeping giant. When it awakes, there could be plenty of price chasing.

Update 7/5/17: Nomura said iPhone 7 demand was weak but it was ok because of the pent up demand for the iPhone 8, expected out in a couple months. The analyst said the model 8 would provide sufficient upside in both volume and price to more than compensate for the current weak sales in the model 7.

Update 7/6/17: Qualcomm is seeking to ban imports of some iPhones in their long running patent dispute with Apple. The news was announced after the bell and shares of Apple declined about 10 cents. This will not impact any current phones or the iPhone 8 because the case will not even begin to be heard until spring of 2018 or later. The two companies will eventually settle out of court. This is just legal sparring.

Update 7/7/17: Canaccord Genuity said it was seeing "steady" iPhone 7 sales ahead of the company's earnings on August 1st. The analyst said the pace of sales is consistent with prior estimates for 42 million in Q2 and 47 million in Q3. They have a $180 price target. A Raymond James analyst said their survey found strong consumer interest in the watch, and Apple speakers including the Beats wireless speakers and the upcoming HomePod smart speaker. The survey found that 14% of iPhone owners plan to buy the HomePod when it goes on sale in December. They also found that 12% of consumers plan to buy the Apple Watch, the highest level since the watch was announced.

Update 7/10/17: An Apple analyst said the iPhone 8 could start at $1,200 and go higher from there. This is definitely going to put a crimp in iPhone 8 sales but Apple should still post higher revenue and profits thanks to the high price. The iPhone 8 is rumored to be available in four colors. There is a continuing rumor that Apple may drop the fingerprint sensor from the model 8 because of space considerations. There are so many features packed into the model 8 that there is no physical room for the sensor in the new screen configuration. Just a rumor but it refuses to go away.

Update 7/11/17: Susquehanna Financial warned that higher prices and stronger competition from Android models, were going to dent Apple's sales. The analyst also said talks with suppliers in Asia confirmed that Apple is trying to put too many things in the iPhone 8 and there is not enough room. The finger print sensor is looking much more likely to be dropped from the top of the line OLED iPhone 8 model. Apple only has a very few weeks to either work out a solution or drop the feature or risk production delays of 2-3 months while engineers go back to the drawing board on the internal hardware configuration.

Deutsche Bank also dumped on Apple's parade saying the expectations for the iPhone 8 are too high. DB warned that the iPhone 8 supercycle was probably only going to be a regular upgrade cycle. DB is expecting sales of 230 million phones in FY 2018. Peak sales were 231 million in FY 2015 and DB is expecting that to be a ceiling because of price, availability and competition. The bank said it was confused about where the new buyers were coming from, especially at a $1,200 price point.

Update 7/12/17: Bank of America and Keybanc both posted notes saying the iPhone 8 production could be delayed. BAC lowered iPhone sales estimates by 11 million units for Q3 and 6 million for Q4 because of the expected delivery delay of 3-4 weeks or longer. They raised the estimates for Q1 by 10 million units. The firm Fast Company said there is a "sense of panic" among iPhone team members as they rush to try and fix software bugs impacting the next release. RBC Capital, Cowen, KGI and Drexel Hamilton believe the announcement could be delayed until October or November.

Update 7/17/17: Morgan Stanley reiterated an overweight rating and raised their price target to $182.

DigiTimes, normally a reliable Apple researcher, said the production on the iPhone 8 could be delayed by up to 2 months because yields at the Foxconn assembly plant are not yet sufficient to begin volume production. Full story

Update 7/18/17: Guggenheim reiterated a buy rating and $180 price target in a note titles, "Quit Worrying" any delay in the iPhone this fall just gets added to subsequent quarter's sales. "Loyal users will wait" for the next model. He said even if unit volume do not grow significantly the higher sales price will lift Apple's revenue 10%. He said the majority of Apple's revenue increases have been from rising prices since the first phone launched at $499 in 2007.

Update 7/19/17: JP Morgan reiterated a buy on Apple with a $165 price target. The analyst said the iPhone Pro (8) would be announced and ship on time but in low volume. Based on channel checks with suppliers, they did not expect volume shipments until November. He was targeting $1,100 for the price. He said limited production was not unusual for Apple and the limited availability only increased the hype once it was available. He said the Apple Pro would be a "very high end product."

Position 6/29/17:

Long August $150 call @ $3.00, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

AMAT - Applied Materials - Company Profile


No specific news. AMAT posted a minor gain. Shares are now closing in on new high resistance at $47.65.

Original Trade Description: July 17th.

Applied Materials, Inc. provides manufacturing equipment, services, and software to the semiconductor, display, and related industries worldwide. It operates through three segments: Semiconductor Systems, Applied Global Services, and Display and Adjacent Markets. The Semiconductor Systems segment develops, manufactures, and sells a range of manufacturing equipment used to fabricate semiconductor chips or integrated circuits. It offers products and technologies for transistor and interconnect fabrication, including epitaxy, ion implantation, oxidation and nitridation, rapid thermal processing, chemical vapor deposition, physical vapor deposition, chemical mechanical planarization, and electrochemical deposition; patterning, selective removal, and packaging products and systems that enable the transfer of patterns onto device structures; and metrology, inspection, and review systems for front- and back-end-of-line applications. The Applied Global Services segment provides integrated solutions to optimize equipment and fab performance and productivity, including spares, upgrades, services, remanufactured earlier generation equipment, and factory automation software for semiconductor, display, and other products. The Display and Adjacent Markets segment offers products for manufacturing liquid crystal displays, organic light-emitting diodes, and other display technologies for TVs, personal computers, tablets, smart phones, and other consumer-oriented devices, as well as equipment for flexible substrates. The company serves manufacturers of semiconductor wafers and chips, liquid crystal and other displays, and other electronic devices. Applied Materials, Inc. was founded in 1967 Company description from FinViz.com

Estimated earnings date August 17th.

AMAT is an old chip company founded in 1967. In chip terms this company is an antique. However, they are growing by focusing on new products rather than fight it out for low margin chip products everyone else is making. One of their focus products is OLED screens. The adoption rates for OLED screens means strong demand for chips to power those screens. By 2021 more than two-thirds of smart phones could have OLED screens. AMAT is shooting for 30% to 40% of the total addressable market two years from now. They currently have 15% share. They have grown their display revenue by 20% annually for the last five years.

The company said the demand for memory, which is currently off the charts, is just getting started. The coming of big data, IoT, streaming video and massive data storage requirements has caused a surge in demand that is just the tip of the coming iceberg. AMAT grew its memory revenue to 35% of the total in the last quarter. Manufacturers are raising prices by about 15% per quarter because of the shortages and there is no end in sight.

The upgraded analyst price targets after the big semiconductor show last week is now $65 on the high side and $55 on the low end. AMAT closed at $46 today.

Position 7/18/17:

Long Aug $47 call @ $1.30, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

ATHM - Autohome - Company Profile


No specific news. We closed this position at the open.

Original Trade Description: July 12th.

Autohome Inc. operates as an online destination for automobile consumers in the People's Republic of China. The company, through its Websites, autohome.com.cn and che168.com, delivers comprehensive, independent, and interactive content to automobile buyers and owners, including company generated content, include automobile-related articles and reviews, pricing trends in various local markets, and photos and video clips; automobile library, which includes a range of specifications covering performance levels, dimensions, powertrains, vehicle bodies, interiors, safety, entertainment systems, and other unique features, as well as manufacturers' suggested retail prices; new and used automobile listings, and promotional information; and user forums and user generated content. Autohome Inc. also offers advertising services for automakers and dealers; dealer subscription services that allow dealers to market their inventory and services through its Websites; and used automobile listings services, which allow used automobile dealers and individuals to market their automobiles for sale on its Websites. In addition, it operates Autohome Mall, an online transaction platform that facilitates direct vehicle sales and commission-based services; provides iOS- and Android-based applications to allow its users to access its content; and offers technical and consulting services. The company was formerly known as Sequel Limited and changed its name to Autohome Inc. in October 2011. The company was founded in 2008 and is headquartered in Beijing, the People's Republic of China. Company description from FinViz.com.

Expected earnings August 9th.

The company reported revenue of 1.348 billion yuan compared to estimates for 1.3 billion. This was a 23% increase over the year ago quarter. Earnings of 2.8 yuan rose 33% and beat estimates for 2.2 yuan. Free cash flow rose 205.4% to 495.2 million yuan ($71.9 million.) Average daily users rose 23% to 10.1 million on the website and 8.2 million on mobile devices. Average time spent on the application was 18 minutes per day. The company sold 3,658 vehicles from its direct sales inventory in the quarter.

Of particular interest was the launch of the augmented reality showroom during the March auto festival. This was highly received and they increased the options and presentation for the June auto festival.

Shares have risen to $47 where they have held for the last three days. The chart pattern suggests there is an impending breakout over that level.

Position 7/13/17:

Closed 7/20/17: Long August $50 call @ $1.75, exit .93, -.82 loss.

BABA - Alibaba - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares declined slightly for the second day. Time for the dip buyers to appear.

Original Trade Description: June 10th.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited, through its subsidiaries, operates as an online and mobile commerce company in the People's Republic of China and internationally. It operates Taobao Marketplace, an online shopping destination; Tmall, a third-party platform for brands and retailers; Juhuasuan, a sales and marketing platform for flash sales; Alibaba.com, an online wholesale marketplace; Alitrip, an online travel booking platform; 1688.com, an online wholesale marketplace; and AliExpress, a consumer marketplace. The company also provides pay-for-performance and display marketing services through its Alimama marketing technology platform; Taobao Ad Network and Exchange (TANX), a real-time bidding online marketing exchange in China; and data management platform through TANX for marketers to execute their campaigns with proprietary and tailored data. In addition, it offers cloud computing services, including elastic computing, database, storage and content delivery network, large scale computing, security, and management and application services through its Alibaba Cloud Computing platform; Web hosting and domain name registration services; payment and escrow services; and develops and operates mobile Web browsers. The company provides its solutions primarily for businesses. Company description from FinViz.com

Alibaba is the poor investor's Amazon. With shares at $135, the options are at least reasonable but not cheap. Alibaba is growing as fast or faster than Amazon and tries to copy everything Amazon does.

When the company reported earnings for the last quarter at 63 cents, they missed estimates for 68 cents. Revenue of $5.6 billion easily beat estimates for $5.2 billion. Other than the earnings miss it was a solid quarter with ecommerce up 47% and cloud computing up 102%. Digital media growth was up 234%. Mobile MAUs rose from 493 to 507 million. That is important because 90% of China's ecommerce occurs on a mobile device.

The company announced plans to buy back $6 billion in stock over a two-year period.

Earnings August 18th.

Shares dipped on the earnings miss then spiked on the guidance to $125.50, which was a new high. After a little more than two weeks of post earnings consolidation, shares returned to that $125.50 level and closed at a new high.

There was an analyst day last week and that kicked the stock up to another level with a $10 gain. The company guided for 45% to 49% revenue growth in this year and analysts were only expecting 37%. MKM partners raised the price target to $177. Pacific Crest raised their price target to $160 from $137. Needham raised their target to $155. The Benchmark Company is targeting $175.

Shares declined on Tuesday on no news. With the stock overbought after the analyst meeting we could be seeing some simple profit taking. I am going to put an entry trigger on the position. If shares continue lower I will revise the entry.

Update 6/20/17: Alibaba is hosting a forum for 3,000 entrepreneurs in Detroit to explain how easy it is for them to begin selling products on Alibaba's websites. CEO Jack Ma said in another interview he expects to employ 1 million workers in the USA.

Update 6/27/17: JP Morgan initiated coverage with an overweight rating and $190 price target. Barclays said it valued Alibaba in a sum of the parts method at $200 but their price target for the parent is $175 with an overweight rating.

Update 6/29/17: Mott Capital said Alibaba could be worth $210 on a fundamental basis. A "source" in China said Alibaba will launch a device similar to Amazon's Echo but Chinese speaking, next week. That should give the stock a decent pop.

Update 7/5/17: Alibaba announced the Alexa clone called Genie X1, which will be available to the first 1,000 people for a one-month trial. The cost will be $73 during this live test and it only speaks mandarin.

Update 7/10/17: RBC analyst Mark Mahaney raised his price target on BABA from $140 to $160 and reiterated an outperform rating saying fundamental trends remain impressive. Alibaba said recently it is targeting $1 trillion in gross merchandise volume in 2020. Alibaba's Singles Day promotion is 40 times larger in sales than Amazon's Prime Day, which starts tonight.

Position 6/19/17 with a BABA trade at $139.50

Long Aug $145 call @ $5.95, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Short Aug $155 call @ $2.92, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Net debit $3.03.

PYPL - PayPal - Company Profile


PayPal announced a partnership with JP Morgan to better use credit and debit cards online and in the PayPal app. PayPal will also have the ability to process payments on ChaseNet, a closed loop payment network.

Original Trade Description: June 21st.

PayPal Holdings, Inc. operates as a technology platform company that enables digital and mobile payments on behalf of consumers and merchants worldwide. It enables businesses of various sizes to accept payments from merchant Websites, mobile devices, and applications, as well as at offline retail locations through a range of payment solutions, including PayPal, PayPal Credit, Braintree, Venmo, Xoom, and Paydiant products. The company's platform allows consumers to shop by sending payments, withdraw funds to their bank accounts, and hold balances in their PayPal accounts in various currencies. Company description from FinViz.com.

PayPal started out as a payment system for Ebay. Since then they have moved into dozens of areas including credit cards, peer to peer payments. Instead of being locked into one business model, they are rapidly expanding to multiple business models. Recently they partnered with MasterCard and Visa to have their digital payments processed on their systems. The company is expanding the scope of its Venmo payment platform, which handled $6.8 billion in Q1, up 114%. This peer to peer app will now allow you to pay for goods at any merchant that accepts the app, just like Apple pay.

In Q1 PayPal revenue rose 17% to $2.975 million and earnings rose 5%. Total accounts rose 23% to 203 million. As a comparison, Mastercard's revenue was less at $2.7 billion. That is a shocker to most people.

With their Q1 earnings, PayPal committed to buy back $5 billion in stock.

Expected earnings July 26th.

Shares dipped with the Nasdaq tech crash but are recovering. Their recent high was $55 and shares closed at $53.50 today. Options are inexpensive.

Update 7/5/17: Payment processor, Vantiv, offered $10 billion to buy London based Worldpay. That immediately boosted Paypal and Square on thoughts there may be other combinations in the future. Paypal has a market cap of $66 billion and Square $5 billion so Paypal is not likely a potential target but they could benefit from acquiring a smaller player.

Update 7/12/17: PayPal announced a partnership with Apple to use PayPal in the iTunes App Store. This will let users with Paypal accounts buy songs, movies, etc from iTunes. This is a good deal for both companies.

Update 7/13/17: Analyst at Monness, Crespi, Hardt published a note saying PayPal was his "top pick" for 2017. Shares rallied $1.35 to a new high.

Position 6/22/17:

Long August $55 call @ $1.58, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

THO - Thor Industries - Company Profile


No specific news. THO is reactive to the Dow's movement. Shares posted a minor gain despite the minor Dow decline.

Original Trade Description: July 15th.

Thor Industries, Inc., through its subsidiaries, designs, manufactures, and sells recreational vehicles, and related parts and accessories primarily in the United States and Canada. It operates through Towable Recreational Vehicles and Motorized Recreational Vehicles segments. The company offers travel trailers under the Airstream International, Classic Limited, Sport, Flying Cloud, Land Yacht, and Eddie Bauer trade names, as well as Interstate and Autobahn Class B motorhomes; gasoline and diesel Class A and Class C motorhomes under the Four Winds, Hurricane, Chateau, Challenger, Tuscany, Axis, Vegas, Palazzo, Synergy, Quantum, Compass, Gemini, A.C.E, Alante, Precept, Greyhawk, and Redhawk trade names; and fifth wheels under the Redwood and DRV Mobile Suites trade names. It also provides conventional travel trailers and fifth wheels under the Montana, Springdale, Hideout, Sprinter, Outback, Laredo, Alpine, Bullet, Fuzion, Raptor, Passport, Cougar, Coleman, Kodiak, Aspen Trail, Voltage, Cameo, Cruiser, ReZerve, Sunset Trail, Zinger, Landmark, Bighorn, Sundance, Elkridge, Trail Runner, North Trail, Cyclone, Torque, Prowler, Wilderness, Shadow Cruiser, Fun Finder, Stryker, Sportsmen, Spree, Venom, Durango, SportTrek, Connect, Sportster, Sonic, Jay Flight, Jay Feather, Eagle, Pinnacle, Seismic, AR-One, Launch, Autumn Ridge, Travel Star, Highlander, Roamer, and Open Range trade names. In addition, the company offers equestrian recreational vehicle products with living quarters under the Premiere, Silverado, Ranger, Laredo, Trail Boss, and Trail Hand trade names; lightweight travel trailers and specialty products under the Camplite and Quicksilver trade names; and Class A motorhomes under the Insignia, Aspire, Anthem, and Cornerstone trade names, as well as provides aluminum extrusions and specialized component products. Company description from FinViz.com

In a weak economy, Thor is kicking butt. The company reported earnings of $2.11 which rose 41.6% compared to estimates for $1.87. Revenue of $2.02 billion rose 57% beat estimates for $1.96 billion. Operating cash flow rose 26.2% and gross profits rose 45.5%.

Sales of towable travel trailers rose 52.6% and sales of motorized RVs rose 78.7%. There was no bad news in the Thor report.

Estimated earnings date September 4th.

With the company posting record earnings the stock spiked from $94 to $104 on June 6th. When the market dipped, shares only pulled back to $102. In late June they rebounded to $110. During the market volatility over the last three weeks they dipped back to $102 and found support there once again. Now that the market has turned positive shares are rebounding.

I am using the September strike because of the September earnings date. We will exit well before then but that date will keep the premiums inflated.

Position 7/17/17:

Long Sept $110 call @ $3.00, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

VIX - Volatility Index - Index Profile


After a minor lift at the open, the VIX trended lower in the afternoon despite the Dow and S&P moving into negative territory.

Original Trade Description: July 12th.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX Index) is a key measure of market expectations of near-term volatility conveyed by S&P 500 stock index option prices. Since its introduction in 1993, the VIX Index has been considered by many to be the world's premier barometer of investor sentiment and market volatility. Several investors expressed interest in trading instruments related to the market's expectation of future volatility, and so VX futures were introduced in 2004, and VIX options were introduced in 2006.

The VIX closed at a 24-year low on July 14th at 9.51. The index has been spending a lot of time under 10 over the last three months and this is highly abnormal. The VIX typically trades up to 20 or more three times a year or more. That has not happen since the days before the election. This period of abnormal volatility WILL eventually end.

With the Trump administration getting more desperate to achieve some legislative goals there is always the risk they will go to extremes to get them accomplished. Add in the unknown but rapidly expanding Russian probes and anything is possible. We saw the Dow fall triple digits intraday on just the release of 5 emails from Trump Jr. If the probe actually uncovered something material, it could cause a major market meltdown.

The debt ceiling and the budget expire on Sept 31st. If Congress cannot get a budget passed and raise the debt ceiling, the government would shut down on October 1st. We have seen this before. The last time it happened the U.S. lost its AAA credit rating and the market declined sharply for more than a week.

What about North Korea? Military force could be used at any time but North Korea seems dead set on testing another nuke and expanding its ICBM tests. If fighting breaks out between the U.S. and North Korea it would cause a significant market decline because of the geopolitical concerns and the potential loss of life in Seoul, South Korea.

Even if none of those events occurred, there is always the risk of a 10% market decline just because we have not had one in a very long time. With August and September the worst months of the year for the market, the potential for a correction this year could be higher than normal. The Nasdaq is already up 18% and the Dow 9% for the year. The FAANG stocks are at record highs, which many say are unsupported by fundamentals.

There are so many potential opportunities for a market disaster. It only makes sense to take out some protection while the volatility is at record lows. I am recommending a November call to get us past the Aug/Sep period and the potential for a debt ceiling event in early October.

Position 7/20/17:

Long Nov $15 call @ $1.85, no stop loss. Target $22 to exit.

BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)

BBBY - Bed Bath & Beyond - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares rebounded on several upgrades to other retailers and we were stopped out at $29.65.

Original Trade Description: July 10th.

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates a chain of retail stores. It sells a range of domestics merchandise, including bed linens and related items, bath items, and kitchen textiles; and home furnishings, such as kitchen and tabletop items, fine tabletop, basic housewares, general home furnishings, consumables, and juvenile products. It also provides various textile products, amenities, and other goods to institutional customers in the hospitality, cruise line, healthcare, and other industries. As of February 25, 2017, the company had a total of 1,546 stores, includes 1,023 Bed Bath & Beyond stores in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada; 276 stores under the names of World Market, Cost Plus World Market, or Cost Plus; 113 buybuy BABY stores in 35 states and Canada; 80 stores under the CTS name; and 54 stores under the Harmon name. It also offers products through various Websites and applications, such as bedbathandbeyond.com, bedbathandbeyond.ca, harmondiscount.com, christmastreeshops.com, buybuybaby.com, buybuybaby.ca, harborlinen.com, t-ygroup.com, and worldmarket.com. In addition, the Company operates Of a Kind, an e-commerce Website that features specially commissioned limited edition items from emerging fashion and home designers; One Kings Lane, an online authority in home decor and design that offers a collection of selected home goods, and designer and vintage items; PersonalizationMall.com, an online retailer of personalized products; Chef Central, an online retailer of kitchenware, cookware, and homeware items catering to cooking and baking enthusiasts; and Decorist, an online interior design platform that provides personalized home design services. Company description from FinViz.com.

Expected earnings September 21st.

In late June, the company reported earnings of 53 cents that missed estimates for 66 cents. Revenue of $2.74 billion missed estimates for $2.79 billion. Same store sales declined -2%. It was not a pretty report.

The management said they plan to increase the pace of store closings and cost cuts but so far that has not been working. They have been increasing their emphasis on online sales but to compete with Amazon they have to offer free shipping and that lowers their margins. Store traffic is slowing because more people are shopping online. Those that shop online have many websites to choose from and BBBY gets lost in the shuffle. One analyst called this an existential crisis for the company.

Position 7/13/17:

Closed 7/20/17: Long Nov $27.50 put @ $1.72, exit $1.16, -.58 loss.

MKC - McCormick & Company - Company Profile


Analysts started turning positive about the Reckitt deal and the stock rebounded at the open to sto pus out for a minor gain.

Original Trade Description: July 10th.

McCormick & Company, Incorporated manufactures, markets, and distributes spices, seasoning mixes, condiments, and other flavorful products to the food industry. The company operates through two segments, Consumer and Industrial. The Consumer segment offers spices, herbs, and seasonings, as well as desserts. This segment markets its products under the McCormick, Lawry's, Club House, Gourmet Garden, OLD BAY brands in the Americas; Ducros, Schwartz, Kamis, and Drogheria & Alimentari, and Vahine brand names in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; McCormick and DaQiao brands in China; and McCormick, Aeroplane, and Gourmet Garden brand names in Australia, as well as markets regional and ethnic brands, such as Zatarain's, Stubb's, Thai Kitchen, and Simply Asia. It also supplies its products under the private labels. This segment serves retailers comprising grocery, mass merchandise, warehouse clubs, discount and drug stores, and e-commerce retailers directly and indirectly through distributors or wholesalers. The Industrial segment offers seasoning blends, spices and herbs, condiments, coating systems, and compound flavors to multinational food manufacturers and foodservice customers. It serves foodservice customers directly and indirectly through distributors. McCormick & Company, Incorporated was founded in 1889 and is based in Sparks, Maryland. Company description from FinViz.com.

McCormick reported earnings of 82 cents that beat estimates for 76 cents. Revenue of $1.11 billion rose 4.8% mostly due to acquisitions in 2016. Analysts were expecting $1.1 billion. They reaffirmed their full year guidance for earnings of $3.94 to $4.02 but they did lower estimates for some of the other projections.

Expected earnings September 28th.

Analysts asked them repeatedly on the conference call why they did not lower earnings guidance when everything else was declining. The CEO said it was "too early" to make that call and they would review it at the end of this quarter. For analysts that was an admission that guidance would probably be lowered at a later date. Shares declined sharply.

Shares rebounded almost immediately but are now poised to move lower after closing at a 4-month low on Monday.

Update 7/19/17: We got the catalyst. MKC said it was buying the North American business from Reckitt Benckiser Group for $4.2 billion. Reckitt brands include French's Mustard, Frank's RedHot Sauce, among others. Shares imploded with a $5 drop because the acquisition price was 7 times sales and 20 times EBITDA. Normally major deals in the sector trade for 3 times sales and 16 times EBITDA. Analysts had previously expected the unit to sell for $3 billion. As the bidding closed, MKC was competing with Unilever and Hormel for the win. Moody's said it was reviewing MKC for a possible 3 notch downgrade because of the amount of debt required and the sharp increase in leverage.

Position 7/11/17:

Closed 7/20/17: Long Sept $90 put @ $1.05, exit $1.20, +.15 gain.

NKE - Nike Inc - Company Profile


Morgan Stanley upgraded Nike from neutral to buy and a $68 price target. Shares gapped up almost $2 at the open to knock us out of the position. There is no way to hedge against this type of event. A random upgrade on a heavily shorted stock or a downgrade on a heavily long stock produces the same reaction as those holding positions opposite the ratings change, race to the exits.

Original Trade Description: July 5th.

NIKE, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, designs, develops, markets, and sells athletic footwear, apparel, equipment, and accessories worldwide. It offers products in nine categories, including running, NIKE basketball, the Jordan brand, football, men's training, women's training, action sports, sportswear, and golf. The company also markets products designed for kids, as well as for other athletic and recreational uses, such as cricket, lacrosse, tennis, volleyball, wrestling, walking, and outdoor activities. In addition, it sells sports apparel; and markets apparel with licensed college and professional team and league logos. Further, the company sells a line of performance equipment, including bags, socks, sport balls, eyewear, timepieces, digital devices, bats, gloves, protective equipment, golf clubs, and other equipment under the NIKE brand name for sports activities; various plastic products to other manufacturers; athletic and casual footwear, apparel, and accessories under the Jumpman trademark; action sports and youth lifestyle apparel and accessories under the Hurley trademark; and casual sneakers, apparel, and accessories under the Converse, Chuck Taylor, All Star, One Star, Star Chevron, and Jack Purcell trademarks. Additionally, it licenses agreements that permit unaffiliated parties to manufacture and sell apparel, digital devices, and applications and other equipment for sports activities under NIKE-owned trademarks. The company sells its products to footwear stores, sporting goods stores, athletic specialty stores, department stores, skate, tennis and golf shops, and other retail accounts through NIKE-owned retail stores and Internet Websites (direct to consumer operations), as well as independent distributors and licensees. Company description from FinViz.com.

Nike reported earnings last week of 60 cents that beat estimates for 50 cents. Revenue of $8.7 billion narrowly beat estimates for $8.6 billion. The earnings spike was due mostly to a lower tax rate.

The stock spiked $5 on short covering after they announced they were turning to Amazon to help them sell shoes and apparel. Some analysts believe this will lead to further discounting because Amazon is a cutthroat market. We have already seen a weak market for high dollar Nike models with sales at 50% off. Moving to Amazon will cause additional discounting in those high dollar models. They also believe it will lead to lower orders from distributors and cause them even more grief in the U.S. where sales were flat. The U.S. is Nike's biggest market where they face less competition from brands like Adidas, which is rapidly accelerating.

Futures orders were reportedly down -10% indicating weak orders from distributors. As Nike shifts more from wholesale sales to the direct to retail market, they are going to face an entirely different set of problems. They announced they were laying off 1,400 employees as part of their consumer direct offense strategy.

Expected earnings Sept 28th.

The earnings are over and the post earnings depression phase should be starting. With everyone else starting their earnings next week, traders will be leaving Nike to find a stock with positive momentum.

Position 7/6/17:

Closed 7/20/17: Long Aug $57.50 put @ $1.51, exit .67, -.84 loss.

ROST - Ross Stores - Company Profile


No specific news. The multiple upgrades to various retail stocks must have scared some of the shorts into capitulation and there was a minor gain. It was also a bullish market.

Original Trade Description: July 11th.

Ross Stores, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates off-price retail apparel and home fashion stores under the Ross Dress for Less and dd's DISCOUNTS brand names in the United States. It primarily offers apparel, accessories, footwear, and home fashions. The company's Ross Dress for Less stores sell its products at savings of 20% to 60% off department and specialty store regular prices primarily to middle income households; and dd's DISCOUNTS stores sell its products at savings of 20% to 70% off moderate department and discount store regular prices to customers from households with moderate income. As of March 6, 2017, it operated 1,363 Ross Dress for Less stores in 37 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam; and 198 dd's DISCOUNTS stores in 15 states. Company description from FinViz.com.

Expected earnings August 17th.

They reported Q1 earnings of 82 cents compared to estimates for 79 cents. Revenue of $3.31 billion beat estimates for $4.27 billion. Same store sales rose 3%. Operating margins shrank. The company is planning on operating 90 stores in 2017.

Unfortunately, they guided for the full year for earnings of $3.07 to $3.17 and analysts were expecting $3.15 at the midpoint. The guidance from Ross also includes an extra week in 2017 over 2016 and that means it is even weaker than it seems.

They guided for same store sales of 1-2% and well below the 3% in Q1. They also guided for margins to contract again from 15.2% in Q1 to 13.9%-14.1%. A week later regulators posted criminal charges against a California man that generated $8.2 million in profits on insider trading in Ross shares. The insider was not named. Shares rolled over and are still falling. Three analysts have cut their estimates for Ross since the earnings.

With the retail sector getting hit every day by some store closure notice or analyst downgrade, Ross could continue falling until their earnings report.

Update 7/14/17: Telsey Advisory Group upgraded Ross from market perform to outperform with a $70 price target. Shares spiked $1.60 at the open to stop us out but then gave back all but 34 cents. I am recommending we reload this position using the same option/strike.

Update 7/17/17: The company said they opened 28 new stores in June/July as part of their plans to open 90 stores in 2017. The company currently has 1,384 locations and are planning on 2,500 in the years ahead. That is a lot of additional overhead in a declining retail market.

Position 7/17/17:

Long August $52.50 put @ $.80, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

Previously closed 7/14: Long August $52.50 put @ $1.04, exit .65, -.39 loss.

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