Editor's Note:
The profit taking that began just ahead of New Year's continued on Friday. Fortunately traders were in a buy the dip mood and stocks pared their losses by the closing bell.

SMH hit our stop loss on Friday.


Current Portfolio:


BULLISH Play Updates

Freescale Semiconductor - FSL - close: 25.50 change: +0.27

Stop Loss: 24.65
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Entry on December -- at $---.--
Listed on December 27, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 2.5 million
New Positions: Yes, see below

Comments:
01/03/15: FSL bounced near round-number support at the $25.00 level on Friday, which is encouraging. We are still on the sidelines and waiting for a breakout past resistance at $26.00. Our suggested entry point is $26.15. FSL could rally soon as investors turn their attention back to tech stocks this week. The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) starts and everyone will be raving about the hot new tech gadgets. Most of those gadgets will be connected to the Internet of Things, which is good news for FSL.

Earlier Comments: December 27, 2014:
Headquartered in Austin, Texas, FSL has operations in more than 20 countries. According to the company, "Freescale Semiconductor (FSL) is a global leader in embedded processing solutions, providing industry-leading products that are advancing the automotive, consumer, industrial and networking markets. From microprocessors and microcontrollers to sensors, analog integrated circuits and connectivity – our technologies are the foundation for the innovations that make our world greener, safer, healthier and more connected. Some of our key applications and end-markets include automotive safety, hybrid and all-electric vehicles, next generation wireless infrastructure, smart energy management, portable medical devices, consumer appliances and smart mobile devices."

FSL has beaten Wall Street's earnings estimates every quarter this year. Back in October they beat estimates by seven cents. FSL's CEO Gregg Lowe said, "Each of our five product groups has grown at double digit rates so far in 2014, and we are well positioned to continue gaining market share." Unfortunately management also lowered their Q4 revenue guidance into the $1.075 billion to $1.13 billion range. That was below Wall Street's estimate of $1.18 billion. The good news is that investors don't seem to care. Shares of FSL have been soaring from their October lows.

A couple of weeks ago Bernstein Research upgraded FSL and raised their price target from $11 to $31 a share. Forbes also ran a bullish article on FSL. According to the Forbes author FSL is extremely well positioned to take advantage of the growing use of semiconductors in automobiles. FSL is the number two player in automotive chips with 22 percent of the market. Right now every car built in the world averages about 29 semiconductor chips and six of them are from FSL. That means FSL averages about $13.75 in sales per car, globally. The Forbes article also noted that automotive semiconductor sales are expected to grow +10.8 percent over the next three years. That's 50 percent more than communication chips, which is the next fastest growing segment.

The relative strength in FSL is impressive. The stock is up significantly from its October lows. Yet after the mid-December consolidation FSL does not look quite so overbought. The point & figure chart is bullish and forecasting a long-term target near $44.00.

Today FSL is hovering just below the $26.00 level. This was resistance back in April 2014. A breakout past $26.00 could spark some serious short covering. The most recent data listed short interest at almost 20% of the 107 million share float.

Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $26.15. We will plan on exiting prior to the Q4 earnings report due out around the very end of January or early February.

Trigger @ $26.15

- Suggested Positions -

Buy FSL stock @ (trigger)

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Buy the MAR $25 CALL (FSL150320C25)

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart:


GNC Holdings - GNC - close: 46.42 change: -0.54

Stop Loss: 44.90
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: -1.5%
Entry on December 31 at $47.15
Listed on December 30, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 1.5 million
New Positions: see below

Comments:
01/03/15: Recent winners in the stock market were seeing some profit taking on Friday. Shares of GNC briefly traded below technical support at the 10-dma before paring its losses. Traders may want to wait for a new rise past $47.15 before initiating positions. More conservative traders may want to wait for a new breakout above $47.40 instead.

Earlier Comments: December 30, 2014:
GNC is part of the services sector. According to the company, "GNC Holdings, Inc., headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, is a leading global specialty retailer of health and wellness products - including vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplement products, sports nutrition products and diet products."

Currently GNC has over 8,800 locations with more than 6,500 of them inside the United States. Overall they have sales in over 50 countries. That is part of the upside. GNC has a lot of opportunity to grow overseas.

It seems like all the bad news is priced in for GNC. The stock is down -20% in 2014. That's after we factor in the $16 bounce from its July-August lows near $30.84 (that's a +52% bounce from its 2014 low). The company has been struggling with too much inventory and slower sales. In February and July this year they missed Wall Street's earnings estimates and GNC management lowered their 2014 guidance. After analysts finally lowered the bar enough GNC beat estimates by a penny when they last reported earnings in October. Analysts at Goldman Sachs believe that GNC's new CEO Mike Archbold will be successful in turning the company around and growing GNC's gross margins.

Someone is buying the bullish case for GNC as shares have developed a bullish trend of higher lows and higher highs. Technically the 50-dma crossed up through its 200-dma a few weeks ago, which is a bullish longer-term signal. GNC has managed to chew through a ton of overhead resistance and the point & figure chart is bullish with a $62 target.

GNC could benefit from a seasonal bias. 2015 begins this week. Millions of people will be making their New Year's resolutions. How many people are vowing to lose weight and be more active this year? That could give GNC a boost in the first quarter.

GNC has been consolidating just below short-term resistance at $47.00 the last few days. Tonight we're suggesting a trigger to launch bullish positions at $47.15. Plan on exiting prior to GNC's next earnings report in mid February.

NOTE: I am suggesting small positions to limit risk.

*small positions* - Suggested Positions -

Long GNC stock @ $47.15

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long FEB $50 CALL (GNC150220C50) entry $1.30

12/31/14 triggered @ 47.15
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart:


Sealed Air Corp. - SEE - close: 42.70 change: +0.27

Stop Loss: 41.65
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: +4.0%
Entry on December 09 at $41.05
Listed on December 08, 2014
Time Frame: Exit PRIOR to earnings on Feb. 10th
Average Daily Volume = 2.1 million
New Positions: see below

Comments:
01/03/15: As expected shares of SEE found support near $42.00. The stock bounced from this area on Friday and managed to outperform the broader market with a +0.6% gain. If you're looking for a new entry point this could be it. Keep in mind we want to exit prior to SEE's earnings report on Feb. 10th.

Earlier Comments: December 8, 2014:
SEE is part of the consumer goods sector. They're in the packaging and containers industry. The company describes itself as "Sealed Air is a global leader in food safety and security, facility hygiene and product protection. With widely recognized and inventive brands such as Bubble Wrap brand cushioning, Cryovac brand food packaging solutions and Diversey brand cleaning and hygiene solutions, Sealed Air offers efficient and sustainable solutions that create business value for customers, enhance the quality of life for consumers and provide a cleaner and healthier environment for future generations. On a pro forma basis, Sealed Air generated revenue of $8.1 billion in 2011 and has approximately 26,300 employees who serve customers in 175 countries."

The U.S. economy is improving and that should mean a strong tailwind for SEE. The company has seen earnings growth improve. The last two quarters in a row SEE has beaten Wall Street's estimates on both the top and bottom. If that wasn't good enough they also raised their guidance two quarters in a row.

SEE's most recent earnings report was October 29th. Analysts were expecting a profit of $0.45 a share on revenues of $1.94 billion. SEE said earnings were up +24% from a year ago to $0.52 a share. Revenues rose +3.3% to $1.98 billion.

Jerome A. Peribere, President and Chief Executive Officer of SEE commented on their quarterly performance. He said, "Our financial and operational performance in the third quarter exceeded our expectations across all key metrics. Net sales increased 3.6% on a constant dollar basis, Adjusted EBITDA margin surpassed 15%, and Adjusted EPS increased 24%. Adjusted gross profit margin increased 120 basis points as a result of our continued disciplines and value-added selling approach across all regions and divisions. Despite macro-economic uncertainties, currency headwinds and volume declines in the North American protein market, we are increasing our 2014 outlook for Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EPS and expect to generate approximately $540 million in free cash flow."

SEE's new 2014 guidance is $1.70-1.75 a share versus Wall Street's $1.65-1.70 estimate. The stock has been strong following this report. Instead of correcting lower in mid November SEE merely consolidated sideways. Now it's rested and ready to run. Shares are up five days in a row and ignored the market-wide weakness today.

Today's intraday high was $40.87. I am suggesting a trigger at $41.05 to open bullish positions. We're not setting a target tonight but I will note the point & figure chart is forecasting a long-term target of $61.00.

- Suggested Positions -

Long SEE stock @ $41.05

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long Jan $40 CALL (SEE150117C40) entry $1.90

12/27/14 new stop @ 41.65
12/22/14 new stop @ 40.85
12/11/14 new stop @ 39.95
12/09/14 triggered @ 41.05
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart:


Sprouts Farmers Market - SFM - close: 34.02 change: +0.04

Stop Loss: 30.85
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: + 2.9%
Entry on December 29 at $33.05
Listed on December 23, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 1.0 million
New Positions: see below

Comments:
01/03/15: SFM's extremely small four-cent gain on Friday means the stock rallied every day last week. Shares do look short-term overbought here. I wouldn't be surprised to see a pullback toward $33 or its 10-dma. Investors may want to start raising their stop loss.

Earlier Comments: December 23, 2014:
SFM is in the services sector. They operate in the grocery store industry. According to the company, "Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. is a healthy grocery store offering fresh, natural and organic foods at great prices. The Company offers a complete shopping experience that includes fresh produce, bulk foods, vitamins and supplements, packaged groceries, meat and seafood, baked goods, dairy products, frozen foods, natural body care and household items catering to consumers' growing interest in health and wellness. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, the Company employs more than 17,000 team members and operates more than 190 stores in ten states."

Back in the fourth quarter of 2013 the health food and natural grocery stores saw their stocks peak and begin a multi-month decline. The market was worried about growing competition. The organic and "natural" trend had allowed companies like SFM and WFM to enjoy wider margins than traditional grocery stores. Now everyone seems to be trying to cash in on the organic trend.

Shares of SFM were almost cut in half with their drop from its 2013 peak to the 2013 low this past spring. Since then it appears that SFM has found a bottom. That might be thanks to steady earnings growth. SFM has beaten Wall Street's bottom line earnings estimates the last four quarters in a row. Back in May they guided higher but since then their guidance has only been in-line with consensus estimates.

The recent strength in the stock is encouraging. Shares are now challenging resistance in the $32-33 area. Should SFM breakout it could see some short covering. The most recent data listed short interest at 12.9% of the 124 million share float.

Tonight we are listing a trigger to launch bullish positions at $33.05.

- Suggested Positions -

Long SFM stock @ $33.05

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long MAR $35 CALL (SFM150320C35) entry $1.10

12/29/14 triggered @ 33.05
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart:


Sierra Wireless Inc. - SWIR - close: 47.95 change: +0.56

Stop Loss: 45.45
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: +11.9%
Entry on December 22 at $42.85
Listed on December 20, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 861 thousand
New Positions: see below

Comments:
01/03/15: The market did see some volatility on Friday and SWIR was no exception. A downgrade before the opening bell did not help. Shares dipped to and briefly traded below the 10-dma before bouncing back. SWIR eventually closed with a +1.1% gain to outperform the broader market.

Tonight we are raising the stop loss to $45.45. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Earlier Comments: December 20, 2014:
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to be huge. Depending on who is making the forecast the size of just how huge it can become is staggering. Last year (2013) there were an estimated 300 million embedded connected devices in the IoT. IDC is estimating that could reach 15 billion connected devices by 2015. Cisco Systems (CSCO) is forecasting 25 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. Intel is forecasting up to 200 billion connected devices by 2020.

The backbone of the IoT is M2M communication. That's machine-to-machine communication. SWIR is the market leader with 34% of the market for cellular M2M embedded module market. According to the company marketing material, " Sierra Wireless is the global leader in machine-to-machine (M2M) devices and cloud services, delivering intelligent wireless solutions that simplify the connected world. We offer the industry's most comprehensive portfolio of 2G, 3G and 4G embedded modules and gateways, seamlessly integrated with our secure M2M cloud services. Customers worldwide, including OEMs, enterprises, and mobile network operators, trust our innovative solutions to get their connected products and services to market faster. Sierra Wireless has more than 900 employees globally and has R&D centers in North America, Europe and Asia." They make products for a wide array of industries including: automotive, transportation, industrial and infrastructure, security, field service, healthcare, consumer, energy, sales and payments, and networking.

Earnings have been improving. Back in July they reported their Q2 results that beat Wall Street's estimates on both the top and bottom line and management guided higher. SWIR announced their Q3 results on November 5th. Even after guiding higher the prior quarter they still beat estimates. Analysts were expecting a profit of $0.13 per share on revenues of $138.7 million. SWIR delivered $0.24 with revenues up +27.6% from a year ago to $143.3 million. That's a record quarter for revenue and up +6% from the prior quarter. Organic revenue growth was up +18.8%. Looking at the details of the quarter SWIR said their non-GAAP earnings were up +249% from a year ago.

SWIR raised their guidance again for the fourth quarter of 2014. They now expect EPS in the $0.25-0.28 range with revenues in the $145-148 million area. That's about +23% growth from a year ago. Analysts were only forecasting $0.17 per share on revenues of $142 million.

With this big surge in earnings and revenue growth it's not a surprise to see the stock outperforming. SWIR is up +74.5% in 2014 versus the NASDAQ's +14% gain. The point & figure chart for SWIR is forecasting a target near $53.

With a market cap around $1 billion I wouldn't be surprised if someone acquires SWIR, but that's pure speculation on my part. They have about $200 million in cash and no debt.

This past week saw shares of SWIR rally past resistance near $42.00 and close at multi-year highs. Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $42.85.

- Suggested Positions -

Long SWIR stock @ $42.85

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long MAR $45 CALL (SWIR150320C45) entry $3.60

01/03/15 new stop @ 45.45
12/27/14 new stop @ 43.90
12/22/14 new stop @ 41.35
12/22/14 triggered on gap higher at $42.85, trigger was $42.85
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart:




BEARISH Play Updates

Zulily, Inc. - ZU - close: 23.61 change: +0.38

Stop Loss: 24.10
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: + 8.8%
Entry on December 08 at $25.90
Listed on December 06, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 1.3 million
New Positions: see below

Comments:
01/03/15: The oversold bounce in shares of ZU continued on Friday. Shares traded up toward short-term resistance near $24.00 and its simple 10-dma before paring its gains. The stock should roll over soon. However, just in case it doesn't roll over, we will lower the stop loss down to $24.10 tonight.

I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Earlier Comments: December 6, 2014:
ZU is in the services sector. They're considered part of the discount variety store industry. Yet the company doesn't have any retail locations. Instead they operate online. ZU focuses on the "flash sales" model with 72 hour sales (and occasionally 24 hour sales).

The website describes the company as follows, "zulily (http://www.zulily.com) is a retailer obsessed with bringing moms special finds every day—all at incredible prices. We feature an always-fresh curated collection for the whole family, including clothing, home decor, toys, gifts and more. Unique products from up-and-coming brands are featured alongside favorites from top brands, giving customers something new to discover each morning. zulily was launched in 2010 and is headquartered in Seattle with offices in Reno, Columbus and London."

If you do any research on ZU you'll hear a lot about the business model. It makes sense. The company doesn't suffering from all the hassles and expenses of normal retail locations. The constantly rotating nature of their flash sales model generates a sense of urgency for the buyer. It seems like a great idea. The last couple of earnings reports have been better than Wall Street expected. Yet the stock is getting crushed.

ZU's most recent report was their Q3 results on November 4th. Wall Street was expecting ZU to lose between 3 to 4 cents per share on revenues of $285.4 million. ZU reported a profit of $0.02, which is up from $0.00 a year ago. Revenues soared +71.5% to $285.8 million.

Management said it was a good quarter for ZU. Darrell Cavens, CEO of zulily, said, "This was a strong quarter where we hit several key milestones— the business reached a billion dollars in revenue on a trailing 12 month basis and the majority of our North American orders now come from mobile." They also saw their active customers surge +72% from a year ago to 4.5 million. Their average purchase was up +4%. In spite of all the good news the stock plunged -20% the next day.

The reason appears to be guidance and valuations. ZU issued Q4 guidance, the critical holiday shopping season, that was below analysts' estimates. Another major issue is valuation. At current prices ZU is still valued at $2 billion for a company with a net income of only $11.5 million. Their current P/E is about 202. They do seem to be growing rapidly but evidently not enough to justify current valuations.

Eventually shares will get cheap enough that the selling stops. Where that bottom is no one knows yet. The point & figure chart is bearish and forecasting at $14.00 target. There are a lot of investors betting on new lows. The latest data listed short interest at 31% of the 41.7 million share float.

We think ZU heads lower but I consider this a more aggressive, higher-risk trade. The big short interest could make ZU volatile. Tonight we're suggesting small bearish positions if ZU can trade at $25.90. You may want to use the put options to limit your risk.

NOTE: ZU's IPO priced at $22.00. It's possible that $22 could be potential support.

*small positions to limit risk* - Suggested Positions -

Short ZU stock @ $25.90

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long Jan $25 PUT (ZU150117P25) entry $1.15

01/03/15 new stop @ 24.10
12/29/14 new stop @ 24.45
12/27/14 new stop @ 25.15
12/18/14 new stop @ 26.05
12/10/14 Caution! The recent action in shares of ZU could spell trouble.
12/08/14 triggered @ 25.90
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart:



CLOSED BULLISH PLAYS

Market Vectors Semiconductor ETF - SMH - close: 54.49 change: -0.13

Stop Loss: 54.45
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 2.3%
Entry on December 23 at $55.75
Listed on December 22, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 2.9 million
New Positions: see below

Comments:
01/03/15: The action in shares of the SMH last week had us turning more defensive. The weakness continued on Friday and shares of this semiconductor ETF hit our stop loss at $54.45.

- Suggested Positions -

Long SMH stock (ETF) @ $55.75 exit $54.45 (-2.3%)

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

MAR $57 CALL (SMH150320C57) entry $1.60 exit $0.95 (-40.6%)

01/02/15 stopped out
12/30/14 new stop @ 54.45
12/23/14 triggered @ 55.75
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

chart: