Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 2/7/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Mixed Highs

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

The Nasdaq indexes both made new highs but the Dow and S&P struggled to gain ground.

Market Statistics

The Dow spiked to 20,155 intraday and a new high. Unfortunately, sellers appeared almost immediately to knock the index back below 20,100 for the rest of the day. Both the Nasdaq indexes posted solid gains and closed at new highs. The S&P failed to even touch the critical resistance at 2,300 and gained only half a point for the day. The Russell 2000 lost another 6 points to be the biggest loser for the second consecutive day.

There is clear divergence between the indexes with the Nasdaq continuing to lead the markets higher while the other indexes are struggling just to hold their gains. Oil prices and the strong dollar weighed on the markets and that problem is not likely to go away soon.

The economic reports for the day were less than exciting. The CoreLogic Home Price Index for December showed a 7.2% rise year over year compared to 7.1% in November. That is the fastest gain since March 2014. The index has posted consecutive monthly gains for the last two years. The report was ignored.

The international trade deficit for December declined slightly from -$45.7 billion to -$44.3 billion. Analysts expected a deficit of $45 billion. The average has been about $42 billion over the last year with November's level the largest deficit for the year. Exports totaled $190.7 billion and imports $235.0 billion.

The Job Openings & Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for December saw the job openings rate decline slightly from 3.7% to 3.6%. Job openings fell only slightly from 5,505 million to 5.501 million. Hires rose from 5,212 million to 5.252 million. Separations declined from 5.018 million to 4.968 million. Quits also declined from 3.077 to 2.979 million. Layoffs rose slightly from 1.619 to 1.635 million. This report was neutral for the market and it was ignored.

Consumer credit for December fell from $24.5 billion to $14.2 billion. That was well below the $20 billion analysts expected. The weak holiday shopping season is probably shown in these numbers. Consumers were not rushing out to spend more on their credit cards. The report was ignored.

The calendar for the rest of the week is also uninspiring. There are no market moving reports.

The earnings calendar is also lackluster. Tesla reports after the close on Wednesday and Twitter on Thursday, will be heavily watched. Humana, Yum and Whole Foods on Wednesday should also attract some headlines. The lackluster calendar this week and next should contribute to post earnings depression. The excitement is fading from the market and traders will be trimming positions and deciding what they are going to sell to raise money for taxes.

After the bell Dow component Disney (DIS) reported earnings of $1.55 compared to estimates for $1.49. However, revenue of $14.78 billion missed estimates for $15.26 billion. ESPN continued to be a thorn in their side with revenue from the cable segment at $6.23 billion and below estimates for $6.42 billion. Cable network income declined -11% to $864 million. Disney said this was due to lower advertising revenue on ESPN and higher programming costs. The lower advertising came from a lower number of impressions and a decrease in average viewership.

Studio income fell -17% to $842 million because of super strong comparisons from the Star Wars movie in the year ago quarter. The Force Awakens earned $936.7 million and is now the number one all-time domestically according to Box Office Mojo. Income from the parks segment rose 13% to $1.1 billion.

CEO Bob Iger said he was open to staying on past his scheduled retirement in 2018 because the business was going to a series of major transformations and they do not have anyone that is clearly defined as a possible successor. That was good news for investors but shares still declined in afterhours. Shares dipped to $105 but recovered to close at $108.60 after Iger said there is way too much pessimism about ESPN.

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) saw their shares plunge in after hours on disappointing earnings. The company reported earnings of 87 cents compared to estimates for $1.27. That is correct, not a typo. Revenue of $494.2 million missed estimates for $515 million. The company guided for the full year for earnings of $5.60 to $6.00 per share. The CEO said the restaurant environment had been challenging and December was especially rough. She said store traffic worsened considerably in December. Same store sales fell -4% and analysts were expecting -1.7%. The company also saw a sharp increase in wing costs from $1.81 per pound to $1.99 in Q4. The company also said it was under pressure from activist investor Marcato capital Management, which owns 5.2%. The board is under pressure with two members stepping down and three new members added. Marcato nominated four additional members.

Gilead sciences (GILD) reported adjusted earnings of $2.70 compared to estimates for $2.43. Revenue of $7.32 billion beat estimates for $7.17 billion. Hep C drug sales were $3.2 billion, down 35% from the year ago period. Sales of Hep C drugs for all of 2016 were $14.8 billion and a 23% decline. The company guided for total revenue in 2017 of $22.5-$24.5 billion and analysts were expecting $28 billion. Guidance for Hep C sales was $7.5-$9.0 billion and analysts were looking for $12 billion.

Panera Bread (PNRA) reported earnings of $2.05 compared to estimates for $2.00. Revenue rose 5% to $727.1 million and met expectations. The company guided for the full year to income of $7.45 to $7.70 per share and analysts were expecting $7.67. Personally, with revenue just matching estimates and guidance below expectations, I would have expected the stock to decline. Shares rose $5 in afterhours.

YUM China (YUMC) reproted its first quarterly earnings as a separate company. They had earnings of 17 cents that beat estimates for 10 cents. Same store sales were flat after a 3% increase at KFC and a 7% drop at Pizza Hut. Analysts were only expecting a +0.1% increase overall so it was not much of a miss. Revenue was $1.978 billion. Yum China said they approved a $300 million stock buyback. Shares declined -2.4% on the news. YUM Brands reports earnings on Wednesday.

Akamai (AKAM) reported earnings of 72 cents that beat estimates for 58 cents. Revenue of $616.1 million beat estimates for $605.7 million. Performance and security solutions rose 17% to $367 million and cloud security revenue rose 41% to $102 million. Shares were very volatile in afterhours.

Zillow Group (ZG) reported earnings of 14 cents compared to estimates for 11 cents. Revenue rose 34% to $227.6 million compared to estimates for $222.3 million. Unique visitors rose 13% to 140 million. They guided for Q1 to revenue of $232-$237 million. Analysts were expecting $235.9 million. That produced a major drop in afterhours of nearly -10%.

Twilio (TWLO) reported breakeven earnings compared to estimates for a 5-cent loss. Revenue of $82 million beat estimates for $74.2 million. They guided for Q2 for a loss of 6-7 cents and revenue of $82-$84 million. Analysts were expecting a loss of 4 cents and $78.3 million. Shares initially dropped -3% but ended the session about breakeven.

Crude prices have declined about $3 since Monday's high at $54.13 on worries about oversupply. Numbers are starting to come in from the OPEC production cuts and they only achieved about half of the targeted cuts for January. Active rig counts are shooting up and inventories are rising.

The API weekly inventory report tonight showed oil in storage in the U.S. rose by 14.2 million barrels and more than five times what analysts expected. Gasoline rose by 2.9 million barrels and nearly three times expectations. For the first three weeks of 2017, inventories rose 21 million barrels. If the EIA report on Wednesday confirms the API gains that would put the January gains at close to 35 million barrels.

Gasoline prices are already falling because refiners are trying to push as much oil through the system into refined products as possible. Oil, distillates and gasoline inventories are already at multi-month highs.

The rising dollar is also putting pressure on prices for oil and other commodities. The dollar index has rebounded for the last three days and is back over the 100 level.


The markets tried to rally at the open but gave back most of their gains. The Nasdaq managed to make a new closing high but the other indexes were weak. The Dow spiked to 20,155 at the open but faded to close at 20,090. The resistance at 20,100 is strong.

The S&P failed to even touch the resistance at 2,300 and ended with only a half point gain at 2,292. The S&P is the index to watch with the 2,300 level the new Dow 20,000. If the S&P punches through 2,300 the rest of the indexes should follow it higher. Support is back at 2,275 and 2,268.

The Dow managed the new intraday high but the 20,100 level still has a grip on the index. Support is well back at 19,850. With Disney down a couple bucks after the close, there should not be a material impact to the Dow on Wednesday. IBM and Boeing were the major supporters for the Dow on Tuesday. IBM could continue higher but is currently testing new high resistance at $178.66, just 20 cents over today's close. Boeing gapped up $3.50 and faded to close up +$2.50. Shares also have new high resistance at $169 with the close at $166.50.

With oil prices down sharply tonight, Chevron and Exxon will probably be negative at the open and offset some bullishness. The Dow futures are down slightly tonight.

The Nasdaq Composite closed well off the intraday highs but it was enough to notch another new high at 5,674. That was 16 points off the intraday high. The Nasdaq 100 almost hit 5,200 intraday and closed at 5,185 and a new high. The big cap tech stocks are currently leading the market.

The Nasdaq 100 has strong uptrend resistance at 5,200 and a breakout there could be a powerful market motivator. The same resistance level on the Nasdaq Composite is 5,700. That means both indexes are facing a strong challenge to any continued gains.

The Russell 2000 remains the biggest loser with another decline today. However, there is decent support at 1340-1350 and as long as those levels hold, the big cap indexes could continue to gain. A break below 1,340 could spell real trouble for the overall market.

The S&P futures are down -3.25 and falling late Tuesday. There is still a lot of darkness before morning and anything can happen. We have seen double digit declines erased on some headline from overseas. The problem that concerns me is the post earnings depression phase. Expiration week in February and the week that follows have been weak in the past. With the big names already reported there is nothing to really draw in investors off the sidelines. The more analysts call for a correction the less those fence sitters will feel like buying the market highs. RBS was a big name on Monday warning of an impending correction.

Everybody has an opinion but not all opinions are accurate. I recommend we continue following the trend until it ends but be aware that the market does feel heavy and resistance is strong on the Dow and S&P. That means if we were to break out there could be some significant short covering and price chasing. Remember, there have been no serious sellers. We have seen shallow dips but buyers have been waiting.

With earnings news slowing, that means other news will take on a greater significance. That means political news, of which there is no shortage, could be a market driver.

Enter passively, exit aggressively!

Jim Brown

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New Plays

Tempting Fate

by Jim Brown

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Editor's Note

The market is not giving us any clear sign of future market direction. While I believe the market could push though the current resistance, the impending uptrend resistance on the Nasdaq could complicate the outlook. The continued decline in the Russell 2000 is troubling and adding additional small cap stocks could be tempting fate.

I scanned my list of several hundred potential plays and there was nothing that just jump out and screamed "buy me" so I am not recommending anything new today. We have some decent positions both short and long so there is no need to tempt fate by adding a new one in a market with no direction.


No New Bullish Plays


No New Bearish Plays

In Play Updates and Reviews

Biggest Loser II

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The Russell 2000 fell -0.4% to be the biggest loser again on Tuesday. The Russell 2000 has fallen and cannot get up. Today was not as bad as Monday but the Dow and Nasdaq were making new highs while the S&P was only 1 point away. The small caps are not cooperating.

I looked at several hundred small cap charts today and more than 90% were bearish. There will have to be a complete reversal of sentiment to turn this index around. If it declines below support at 1,340 I would expect it to drag the broader market lower. The big cap rally has not been able to lift the small caps.

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

EMES - Emerge Energy Services
The long position was stopped at $19.85.

FCX - Freeport McMoran
The long stock position was stopped at $15.45.

FRED - Fred's Inc
The long stock position was stopped at $14.65.

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

Short term Calls and Puts on equities = Option Investor Newsletter

Credit spreads and naked puts = OptionWriter

Long term option investments = LEAPS Investor

3-6 month Option Trades = Ultimate Investor

Iron Condors = Couch Potato Trader

BULLISH Play Updates

AKS - AK Steel - Company Profile


No specific news. Down with the sector today.

Original Trade Description: February 4th

AK Steel Holding Corporation, through its subsidiary, AK Steel Corporation, produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel, and tubular products in the United States and internationally. It produces flat-rolled value-added carbon steels, including coated, cold-rolled, and hot-rolled carbon steel products; and specialty stainless and electrical steels in sheet and strip forms. The company also produces carbon and stainless steel that is finished into welded steel tubing, which is used in the automotive, large truck, industrial, and construction markets; buys and sells steel and steel products, and other materials; and produces metallurgical coal from reserves in Pennsylvania. It sells its flat-rolled carbon steel products primarily to automotive manufacturers and to customers in the infrastructure and manufacturing markets, including electrical transmission, heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, and appliances; and coated, cold-rolled, and hot-rolled carbon steel products to distributors, service centers, and converters. The company sells its stainless steel products to manufacturers and their suppliers in the automotive industry; manufacturers of food handling, chemical processing, pollution control, and medical and health equipment; and distributors and service centers. It also sells electrical steel products to manufacturers of power transmission and distribution transformers, as well as for use in the manufacture of electrical motors and generators. Company description from FinViz.com.

Shares spiked from $5 to $11 after the election on hopes for a surge in infrastructure projects, lower regulations and a growing economy. AK shares peaked early and traded sideways for a month. The week before earnings they began to decline as analyst said the market gains were overdone.

The reported earnings of 25 cents on January 24th that beat estimates for 7 cents. Revenue of $1.42 billion was slightly lower than estimates for $1.43 billion. Shares spiked on the earnings news and collapsed on guidance that shipments to automakers had declined in Q4. The next day a spokesman clarified that saying the "decline in shipments compared to 2015 was primarily the result of a 41% decline in shipments to the distributor and converters market as the company intentionally reduced sales of commodity products." In other words, AK wanted to focus its efforts on the higher margin products and reduce exposure to low margin products.

Shares quit declining after the clarification and bottomed just under $8. Friday's close was right on the verge of a 7-day high. One more positive day and we could see a rebound begin.

Earnings April 25th.

The optional option position is for a longer-term holder with a June expiration. Very limited risk in terms of dollars invested and could be a decent winner if AKS returns to the $11.25 highs or higher on infrastructure stimulus headlines.

Position 2/6/17:

Long AKS shares @ $8.18, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

Optional long-term option:

Long June $10 call @ 59 cents. No stop loss.

BOX - Box Inc - Company Profile


No specific news. New 52-week high.

Original Trade Description: January 21st.

Box, Inc. provides cloud-based mobile optimized enterprise content collaboration platform that enables organizations of various sizes to manage their enterprise content from anywhere. The company's platform enables users to collaborate on content internally and with external parties, automate content-driven business processes, develop custom applications, and implement data protection, security, and compliance features. Box, Inc. offers its solution in 22 languages. It serves healthcare and life sciences, financial services, legal services, media and entertainment, retail, education, energy, and government industries. Company description from FinViz.com.

Box is rapidly growing its customer for document management for companies with a global workforce. They are competing with other companies for cloud collaboration and access. More than 69,000 companies worldwide now use Box. They have broken into the media sector and now many production companies use Box for storing and distributing their production content. This has given Box a new niche in the market. Box has partnered with Salesforce.com, IBM and Microsoft in the cloud space. Their goal is to partner and grow with them rather than compete with those giants.

The company reported a smaller than expected loss for Q3 and expect to post an even narrower loss for Q4. Their guidance for Q4 is a loss of 13 cents on revenue of $109 million. That is better than the 26 cents loss in Q4-2015.

Earnings March 1st.

Shares broke out to a new 52-week high on January 12th before pulling back slightly with the market. They closed 5 cents below a new 52-week high on Friday.

Position 1/23/17 with a BOX trade at $17.10

Long BOX shares @ $17.10, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

CX - Cemex - Company Profile


No specific news. We will continue to hold the call in the Lottery Play section.

Original Trade Description: January 25th

CEMEX, S.A.B. de C.V. produces, markets, distributes, and sells cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates, and other construction materials in Mexico and internationally. The company also offers various complementary construction products, including asphalt products; concrete blocks and roof tiles; architectural products; concrete pipes for storm and sanitary sewers applications; and other precast products comprising rail products, concrete floors, box culverts, bridges, drainage basins, barriers, and parking curbs. In addition, it provides building solutions for housing projects, pavement projects, and green building consultancy services; and information technology solutions and services. The company has operations in Mexico, the United States, Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, South America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Company description from FinViz.com.

Bernstein Research researched all the contractors that could supply materials for a border wall. In the Bernstein map below Cemex is represented by the red blocks. Building 1,000 miles of wall, which is what Trump has promised will take a lot of concrete.

Cemex is one of the world's largest suppliers of cement and readymix concrete. Analysts believe the wall will cost between $15 to $25 billion to build and concrete would be a major expense. Based on various comments about what Trump is asking for, analysts expect 7 feet deep and up to 40 ft high for 1,000 miles. That will take 7.1 million cubic meters of concrete worth $700 million. However, engineers believe it would be easier and cheaper to build precast panels like the wall in Israel and other places. That would allow the panels to be constructed close to Cemex locations and not have 1,000 concrete trucks rotating up and down the wall every day. The picture below is the Israeli wall made with concrete panels and it stretches 420 miles.

Regardless of how the wall is constructed, it will take a lot of concrete and Cemex is going to be a supplier. Cemex has a large presence in the U.S. so it is immune from the US First rule.

Update 2/2/17: The secretary of Homeland Security said they are planning to complete the border wall in less than two years. They plan on a crash construction project in the heavily traffic areas and then fill in the blanks over the next two years. That means once construction begins it could be in multiple locations at once and the velocity could be extreme in order to get most of it done before the 2018 elections.

Earnings Feb 9th.

CX shares have already spiked in January once it became apparent the wall was actually going to happen. The stock broke out to a new high on Wednesday and probably has a long way to go.

Position 1/26/17:

Closed 2/6/17: Long CX shares @ $9.42, exit $9.05, -.37 loss.

Optional: Long July $11 call @ 52 cents. No initial stop loss.

EMES - Emerge Energy Services - Company Profile


The $1.25 drop at the open on profit taking and falling oil prices stopped us out of the position with a $1.40 gain.

Original Trade Description: January 31st

Emerge Energy Services LP acquires, owns, operates, and develops a portfolio of energy service assets in the United States. The Sand segment is involved in the production and sale of various grades of industrial sand primarily used in the extraction of oil and natural gas, as well as in the production of building products and foundry materials. Company description from FinViz.com.

Emerge recently sold off its fuel division to Sunoco and it now a pure play on frac sand. According to analysts the demand for frac sand was in the 63 billion pound range in 2016. That is expected to grow to 107 billion pounds in 2017 and 146 billion in 2018. The prior peak was in 2014 at 106 billion pounds.

Selling a commodity that every energy producer needs is similar to store merchants getting rich during the gold rush by selling picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. There is very little risk in sand as long as energy prices are stable over $50.

Emerge raised $167 million through its sale of the fuel business and another $34 million in a secondary offering in November. Funds were used to acquire more sand and continue development of their SandMaxx technology, which is a proprietary fluid for keeping sand in a liquid state while fracking. Normally sand sinks in water so some sort of suspension liquid is needed to keep it in the fluid while it is circulated through the well.

Emerge pays a dividend that yields 15.25% at current prices.

Earnings Feb 27th.

Shares were up on Tuesday despite a weak market.

Position 2/1/17:

Closed 2/7/16: Long EMES shares @ $18.45, exit $19.85, +$1.40 gain

FCX - Freeport McMoran - Company Profile


No specific news. The metals and mining sector was down hard today because of the strong dollar. FCX shares broke support to stop us out of the stock position. We will continue to hold the call in the Lottery Play section.

Original Trade Description: January 31st

Freeport-McMoRan Inc., a natural resource company, acquires, explores, and develops mineral assets, and oil and natural gas resources. The company explores for copper, gold, molybdenum, cobalt hydroxide, silver, and other metals, as well as oil and gas. It holds interests in various mines located in the Grasberg minerals district in Indonesia; Morenci, Bagdad, Safford, Sierrita, Miami, Chino, Tyrone, Henderson, and Climax in North America; Cerro Verde and El Abra in South America; and the Tenke Fungurume minerals district in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa. The company's oil and gas operations include oil production facilities in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico; oil production facilities onshore and offshore in California; onshore natural gas resources in the Haynesville shale in Louisiana; natural gas production from the Madden area in central Wyoming; and a position in the Inboard Lower Tertiary/Cretaceous natural gas trend onshore located in South Louisiana. As of December 31, 2015, its consolidated recoverable proven and probable mineral reserves included 99.5 billion pounds of copper, 27.1 million ounces of gold, 3.05 billion pounds of molybdenum, 271.2 million ounces of silver, and 0.87 billion pounds of cobalt; and its estimated proved oil and natural gas reserves totaled 252 million barrels of oil equivalents. Company description from FinViz.com.

Freeport has had its share of problem over the last couple years. They bought back their spinoff oil and gas company in 2014, just as the price of oil began to crater. They bought the dip and added additional reserves in the deepwater gulf but the dip was not over. They tried for a year at the worst of the market to sell the energy business and could find no takers. Finally in Q4 they sold the deepwater assets to Anadarko Petroleum for $2 billion and far less than they were worth but at least they stopped the bleeding.

The decline in the global economy caused prices for copper to fall sharply and they were forced to sell some copper reserves as well as some other mining properties. Copper was selling for less than it cost to mine it so mines shut down and the industry restructured.

After copper bottomed at $1.93 in early 2016 it remains just over $2.00 for nine months until the surplus inventories started to deplete. Copper was $4.50 back in 2011. With copper prices at a 52-week high this week, Freeport shares also made a new 52-week high today.

Freeport has also had a battle with the government of Indonesia. With copper a major export, the government implemented a program a couple years ago that only allowed refined copper to be exported. The idea was to have the multiple mining companies build huge copper smelters and hire a lot of workers at decent wages. The miners battled the government to a standstill several times and production slowed to a crawl. With copper revenue crashing the government relented to some extent. However, Freeport reported with earnings that the pressure was on again and they were going to be forced to shut down production if the government did not allow them to export. A multiweek standoff occurred. On Tuesday, the government said it was going to exempt Freeport from some of the rules and shares rose.

Freeport is actually in good shape right now. The global economy is accelerating and commodity prices are rising. They have reduced debt and refocused their priorities. I expect shares to continue climbing.

Update 2/3/17: Freeport provided an update on the progress of negotiating with the Indonesian government on the new rules for exports the government put in place in January. Freeport warned that an unsuccessful outcome could reduce production by 70 million pounds of copper and 70,000 ounces of gold per month until approvals are received. This a high stakes game of chicken. The government wants to limit production and export of raw material and increase the amount that is smelted in Indonesia. However, there is not enough capacity at the jointly owned smelter and the mining companies do not want to commit millions of dollars to build a new smelter unless they are guaranteed an operating contract longer than five years, which is what the government is offering. The government is offering the option of a five-year extension but it is not guaranteed. Also, at the end of ten years the miners must have sold at least 51% of their business to Indonesian investors. So, spend millions to build a smelter, live under our austerity rules for the next five years and maybe we will let you continue but after 10 years controlling interest in your business belongs to Indonesia. Freeport has been fighting government rules for years and typically the government buckles because they need the export income and the jobs.

Earnings April 26th.

Position 2/2/17:

Closed 2/7/17: Long FCX shares @ $16.69, exit $15.45, -1.24 loss.


Long April $18 call @ $.99, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

STM - STMicroelectronics - Company Profile


No specific news. Minor gain to open the position.

Original Trade Description: February 6th

STMicroelectronics N.V., together with its subsidiaries, designs, develops, manufactures, and markets semiconductor products, and subsystems and modules worldwide. The company offers a range of products, including discrete and standard commodity components, application-specific integrated circuits, full-custom devices and semi-custom devices, and application-specific standard products for analog, digital, and mixed-signal applications, as well as silicon chips and smartcards. It also provides subsystems and modules, including mobile phone accessories, battery chargers, and ISDN power supplies for the telecommunications, automotive, and industrial markets; and in-vehicle equipment for electronic toll payment. The company sells its products through its distributors and retailers, as well as through sales representatives. Company description from FinViz.com.

STM is Europe's third largest chipmaker. The company reported revenue of $1.86 billion, an 11.5% increase. The also raised guidance for Q1 saying they expect 12.5% growth. The CEO said, "Based on market forecasts, a positive booking trend, and a strong performance at our distributors, we see the momentum from the second half of 2016 continuing as we enter 2017."

The chipmaker said improved efficiencies and product mix lifted gross margins from 33.5% to 37.5%. Their smartphone market share helped increase sales in that division by 17.8%. The automotive and industrial products segment saw sales increase 12.5%. STM is a supplier to Apple, Cisco Systems, HP, Seagate and Western Digital. Every one of those companies are reporting stronger sales and new product lines, all of which helps STM. They also make chips for drones, 3D printing and a wide variety of IoT products.

The consensus earnings estimates are for 103.4% growth in 2017.

Earnings April 27th.

Shares have caught fire because of expectations for a large boost in chips for the iPhone 8 or X whatever they end up calling it.

This stock is not cheap with a PE of 75 but the outlook is so strong that volume is exploding and the stock will not go down. We are going to hold our nose and buy it. A safer way to play this would be to buy the call option. That way your total risk is 70 cents a share.

Position 2/7/17:

Long STM shares @ $14.22, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

Optional longer-term play:

Long April $15 call @ 65 cents. See portfolio graphic for stop loss.

BEARISH Play Updates

CONN - Conn's Inc - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares still holding over support at $10.

Original Trade Description: January 26th

Conn's, Inc. operates as a specialty retailer of durable consumer goods and related services in the United States. It operates through Retail and Credit segments. The company's stores provide home appliances comprising refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and ranges; furniture and mattress, including furniture and related accessories for the living room, dining room, and bedroom, as well as traditional and specialty mattresses; and home office products consisting of computers, tablets, printers, and accessories. Its stores also offer consumer electronics, such as LED, OLED, Ultra HD, and Internet-ready televisions; and Blu-ray players, and home theater and portable audio equipment. Conn's, Inc. also provides repair service agreements, installment credit plans, and various credit insurance products. As of March 29, 2016, the company operated approximately 100 retail locations in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Company description from FinViz.com.

In the Q3 earnings cycle, Conn's reported a smaller than expected loss of 12 cents. Analysts were looking for -19 cents. Revenue of $308.4 million and below the $395.23 million in the year ago quarter. They guided for Q4 same store sales to decline -10%. At the end of Q3 analysts were expecting a profit of 13 cents and revenue of $453.44 million. The odds of them beating this forecast are slim. Zacks said the analyst estimates have declined significantly to a loss of 52 cents for Q4. They have dropped 11 cents in just the last 30 days.

Conn's sells electronics along with appliances and furniture. Electronics sales are being dominated by Amazon and Best Buy. The furniture sector has been slow and appliances are hit and miss. With appliance prices rising sharply it has cut down on buyers that can afford the big ticket items.

Earnings March 7th.

I believe Conn's will continue lower. Shares broke to a two month low on Thursday when support at $10.75 failed.

Position 1/27/17:

Short CONN shares @ $10.50, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

No options because of wide spreads and no open interest.

FRED - Freds Inc - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares spiked over $1 intraday to stop us out for a minor gain of 32 cents.

Original Trade Description: January 23rd.

Fred's, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, sells general merchandise through its retail discount stores and full service pharmacies. The company, through its stores, offers household cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, disposable diapers, pet foods, paper products, various food and beverage products, and pharmaceuticals to low, middle, and fixed income families in small- to medium- sized towns. It also sells general merchandise to franchised Fred's stores. As of January 30, 2016, the company operated 641 company-owned stores, which included 60 express stores in 15 states and 18 franchised stores under the Fred's name, as well as 372 pharmacies and 3 specialty pharmacy facilities primarily in the southeastern United States. It also operates 18 franchised stores under the Fred's name. Company description from FinViz.com.

Freds has been in retail trouble for over a year. Their same store sales continue to decline since every grocery store, Walmart and Target in America has added a pharmacy. Shares had been in decline until Walgreens/Rite Aid agreed to sell Fred's 865 Rite Aid stores in an effort to get FTC approval for the WBA/RAD merger. That would make Fred's the third largest drugstore chain in the U.S. and shares doubled on the news.

A funny thing happened on the way to the merger. The FTC said last week they did not believe that was enough of a consideration to approve the merger. Walgreens has 8,200 stores and Rite Aid has 5,000 stores. Selling Fred's 865 Rite Aid stores was not enough. The combined WBA/RAD would have more than 12,500 stores to Fred's 1,500. CVS would become number two at 9,655 stores. The FTC believes the post merger environment would create two heavyweights that would dominate their respective areas.

Shares of Fred's have been in decline for a week on the worry the FTC will either block the merger OR they will be forced to sell a much larger block of WBA/RAD stores to Fred's and the company will not be able to complete the transaction or they will become too big too fast and begin losing money like crazy as they try to ramp up distribution and management to handle the suddenly increased store count.

Fred's announced a secondary offering on Friday to raise money for the acquisition. If the deal changes that causes additional problems. If the deal were to triple in size, Fred's would have to do another secondary to raise the additional cash and it could be a whopper of an offering.

Earnings March 9th.

I believe Fred's will continue to give back those monster gains from the December headline. If the WAG/RAD merger approval gets extended that creates more indecision for Fred's.

Update 1/26/17: The Walgreen's CEO said the company remains "actively in discussions" with Rite Aid about the regulatory concerns. We are discussing "all the instruments and actions we can put in place to facilitate this process." The merger agreement is set to expire on Friday and he did not say whether it would be extended.

Update 1/30/17: Walgreens and Rite Aid announced a restructuring of their merger agreement. Walgreens said in order to satisfy the FTC they may have to sell more stores, possibly a lot more. Fred's is contractually liable to buy any stores that Walgreens or Rite Aid decide to sell. Over the long term this would be positive for Freds but over the short-term it means they would have to take on more debt and probably make another secondary offering. That should be negative for the stock price.

Update 1/31/17: Evercore expressed doubt that Fred's could financially complete the acquisition of additional Walgreen's stores as required in the WBA/RAD merger. The new agreement contemplates Walgreens may have to sell an additional 335 stores. That is nearly 50% more than the 865 Fred's has already agreed to buy. Evercore said that may be too large of a commitment for Fred's.

Update 2/2/17: Fred's reported a 5.6% decline in sales for January and same store sales fell -4.8% compared to a 0.7% gain in the year ago period. Total sales for Q4, which ended on Jan 28th, declined -4.3% to $530.7 million. Q4 same store sales declined -3.6% compared to a +1.7% rise in the year ago period. They blamed everything and everybody for their sales decline including a drop in food stamp benefits, delayed tax refunds even though this was January, warm weather, mild cold and flu season, intense competition, a change in distributors for certain products, etc. Since none of the decline was their fault (sarcasm) the stock rose 4 cents instead of crashed.

Position 1/24/17:

Closed 2/7/17: Short FRED shares @ $14.97, exit $14.65, +.32 gain.

GNC - GNC Holdings - Company Profile


No specific news. New closing low on worries they are going to miss on earnings.

Original Trade Description: January 28th

GNC Holdings, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty retailer of health, wellness, and performance products. The company operates through three segments: Retail, Franchise, and Manufacturing/Wholesale. Its products include vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplement products; and sports nutrition products, diet products, and other wellness products. The company sells its products under the GNC proprietary brands, including Mega Men, Ultra Mega, Total Lean, Pro Performance, Pro Performance AMP, Beyond Raw, GNC Puredge, GNC GenetixHD, and Herbal Plus, as well as under third-party brands. It operates a network of approximately 9,000 locations under the GNC brand worldwide. The company sells its products through company-owned retail stores; Websites, including GNC.com and LuckyVitamin.com, as well as Drugstore.com; domestic and international franchise activities; third-party contract manufacturing; and e-commerce and corporate partnerships. Company description from FinViz.com.

On January 19th GNC was cut to a sell by Goldman saying the already reduced earnings estimates were still too optimistic. GNC tried to sell itself last year and the deal fizzled. Then they announced a restructuring of the brand and the store format. As part of the relaunch of GNC they slashed prices across half their product line and discontinued many products entirely. The company also ended its Gold Card loyalty, which had been in effect for more than a decade. Six million members were paying $15 a year in exchange for discounted prices.

The GNC CEO said "the new GNC leaves the old, broken model behind" but we know "it will take time for the changes to take hold and translate into improved financial results." That is an implied earnings warning for the next couple quarters.

Earnings Feb 9th.

With earnings in two weeks this will be a short-term position. After looking at the cart I doubt many investors will want to hold the stock into the earnings event and that should cause a further decline next week.

Updare 1/31/17: The NFL rejected GNC's proposed advertisement. The NFL said they had a standing policy not to promote supplements. The NFL said GNC was on a list of prohibited companies because they promote products banned by the league.

FOX has been getting an average of $5 million per 30 seconds of airtime and that is a fee GNC will no longer have to pay but the ad was supposed to be a kickoff of their new marketing campaign.

Position 1/30/17:

Short GNC shares @ $8.77, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

No options recommended because of the distance from the stock price. However, the Feb $7.50 put is only 25 cents. That might be an interesting lottery play to hold over their earnings report. If they get slammed on earnings again that could be a winner.

IWM - Russell 2000 ETF - ETF Profile


The Russell posted a strong decline but remains well out of range for our put. The rebound over the last week probably doomed our position. However, we are only 1 point out of the money so another big move would puts us back in play.

Original Trade Description: December 10th

The IWM ETF seeks to track the investment results of the Russell 2000 Small cap Index.

The Russell is up +232 points or 20.1% in the last 22 trading days. It is grossly over extended and many small cap Russell stocks are up 30% to 40%. I understand the bullish sentiment that believes the economy will be better in 2017 but it will not be because of President Trump. His proposals will take months to get through the House and Senate and there is likely to be some major battles. Obamacare will not go away until 2018 or longer because it takes a long time to plan and execute a change that big. Lower taxes will not happen until 2018 because it will take months for both houses to vote on an acceptable tax bill. I seriously doubt they will change rates in the middle of the year. Any change will not occur until 2018.

I could go on but you get the picture. Typically, there is a honeymoon phase after a new president is elected. This phase has run its course. There are 14 trading days left in 2016 and any new highs are likely to be made before Christmas. After Christmas, investors may begin to worry and once into January and a new tax year, the selling could be dramatic. Do you remember January 2016? The market was not nearly as overextended as it is today and the Dow fell -2,150 points in just two weeks. Entering into a new tax year allows traders to capture profits and invest that money for another year before paying taxes.

Dow - January 2016

We also have the potential for a really messy inauguration or even a terrorist attack at the event. That potential will give cautious investors another reason to take profits in January.

I am recommending a long put on the Russell ETF. There is no stock vehicle we can use other than the VXX to capitalize on a market sell off. The VXX is flawed and while it may go up, it may not go up enough to make it worthwhile and it is volatile from day to day. I chose the Russell ETF because the premiums are cheap and the volatility should work in our favor. If you cannot use options then I suggest you buy the VXX shares at the first sign of market weakness after Christmas.

There is also another trigger factor to consider. The Dow is approaching 20,000 and that could be a massive sell the news event given the big gains. Since the Dow could hit that level this week I am recommending we initiate our long put position in advance.

Because the market could still rise, I want to follow the IWM higher and enter the position only when the ETF rolls over.

The ETF has short-term support at 137.75 and again at $137.25. I am recommending we enter the position with a dip to $137. If the Russell continues higher, I will continue raising the entry point as needed.

Position 12/12/16 with an IWM trade at $137.00

Long Feb $134 put @ $3.38, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

SHLD - Sears Holdings - Company Profile


No specific news. New 14-year low. Credit default swaps rose to $4.5 million annually to insure $10 million of Sears debt. While nobody is likely to actually pay that fee, it is another confirmation point that Sears is headed for default. Kiffen Worldwide said they expect a Sears default in 2017.

Original Trade Description: January 9th

Sears Holdings Corporation operates as a retailer in the United States. It operates in two segments, Kmart and Sears Domestic. The Kmart segment operates retail stores that offer a range of products, including consumer electronics, seasonal merchandise, outdoor living, toys, lawn and garden equipment, food and consumables, and apparel; and in-store pharmacies. It provides merchandise under the Jaclyn Smith, Joe Boxer, and Alphaline labels; Sears brand products, such as Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard; and Kenmore-branded products. As of October 31, 2015, this segment operated approximately 952 Kmart stores. The Sears Domestic segment operates stores that provide appliances, consumer electronics/connected solutions, tools, sporting goods, outdoor living, lawn and garden equipment, apparel, footwear, jewelry, and accessories, as well as automotive services and products, such as tires, batteries, and home fashion products. It also offers appliances and services to commercial customers in the single-family residential construction/remodel, property management, multi-family new construction, and government/military sectors; appliance and plumbing fixtures to architects, designers, and new construction or remodeling customers; parts and repair services for appliances, lawn and garden equipment, consumer electronics, floor care products, and heating and cooling systems; and home improvement services, as well as protection agreements and product installation services. This segment provides merchandise under the Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, Covington, Canyon River Blues, Metaphor, Outdoor Life, Structure, and Apostrophe brands, as well as under the Roadhandler, Ty Pennington Style, and Alphaline brands. As of October 31, 2015, this segment operated 735 Sears stores. Company description from FinViz.com.

We played Sears as a short several times before. We were stopped out on Dec-30th when the CEO arranged a bridge loan to get them out of trouble temporarily. Now that the holiday numbers are starting to come in, the results are very dismal. Sears is eventually expected to file bankruptcy.

In November, they posted a GAAP loss of $748 million and an adjusted loss of $333 million. Gross margins fell to 19.2% compared to JC Penny at 37.2%. Sears is forced to severely discount items to attract what few shoppers they have. Same store sales at Kmart fell -4.4% and -10% at Sears. Revenue fell -12.5% to $5.0 billion.

Earnings March 9th.

Fitch warned Sears will burn through $1.5-$1.8 billion in cash this year and even selling off the Craftsman brand will only gain them an additional 12 months of life.

Sears closed at a new 14-year low on Dec-28th and the outlook is growing increasingly dim. Suppliers fear a bankruptcy in 2017 once the holiday shopping is over. Several suppliers have halted shipments to Sears on fears they will not be paid.

In early January, they announced they were closing 150 stores. There are 109 Kmarts and 41 Sears stores. Last week they announced the sale of the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $900 million but they get less than half of that in cash. The rest is paid out over the next 3-5 years. That shows how desperate they are for cash since they originally expected to raise $1.5 to $2.0 billion on the sale. Now they are looking to sell the Kenmore and Diehard brands.

With the Craftsman sale and the loan from the CEO and a new $500 million loan secured by real estate, they have developed about $1.5 billion in Liquidity. Fitch warned Sears will burn through $1.5-$1.8 billion in cash this year and even selling off the Craftsman brand will only gain them an additional 12 months of life.

When they announced the Craftsman sale at less than expected terms, the stock fell back from the early January gains. The outlook is grim despite the short-term cash inflows.

Update 1/11/17: In an OP-ED piece Forbes said the sale of Craftsman signaled the opening of the final chapter for Sears. They said the Craftsman sale and the potential sale of the Kenmore and Diehard brands represented a "going out of business" sale.

Update 1/19/17: Sears announced it was ending its decades old employee discount program. They are going to allow employees to earn points on purchases that will be good for future discounts. Currently they get a discount on items at the time of purchase. By scrapping that plan, the company gets the money up front and maybe the employee will use their points on future purchases. The point values differ on different types of merchandise. If Sears eventually files bankruptcy, the points would disappear. This is another sign the company is in trouble.

Update 1/21/17: Moody's downgraded Sears credit rating from Caa1 to Caa2. Moody's said Sears is running out of stuff it can sell for cash. They only have 211 properties that are unencumbered and worth about $2.5 billion. With the company burning cash at the rate of $1.5 billion they are rapidly approaching the end of the line. Moody's said they could raise cash with the sale of the Kenmore and Diehard brands but after that they are done. There is nothing left to sell that will produce a large inflow of cash.

Update 1/25/17: Fitch Ratings took another look at Sears and reiterated they expect a $1.6 billion cash burn for 2016 and $1.8 billion in 2017. The Barron's laid out the problems ahead for Sears and that tanked the stock on Wednesday.

Update 1/26/17: Moody's joined Fitch in another downgrade on Sears credit instruments. The debt instruments were cut from Caa2 to Caa3 because of accelerating cash burn and declining asset base. The WSJ had another article today negative on the outlook for Sears. Sales at companies like Mattel and Hasbro declined sharply in Q3 suggesting Sears and others did not reorder and earnings could be dismal.

Update 1/30/17: Sears announced a sale-leaseback arrangement with CBL & Associates for five Sears stores and two auto stores. A sale-leaseback is where the company sells the properties to raise cash and then agrees to lease them back from the buyer for a specific term. This is another sign Sears is continuing to have a cash crunch. This transaction leaves Sears with only 204 properties that are unencumbered and could be sold for cash out of the 1,680 stores they operate. Every time they sell a property they take on debt in the form of leases and that means the amount of cash burn increases with each deal.

Position 1/10/17:

Short SHLD shares @ $8.97, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

No options recommended because of price.

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