Editors Note:

After three weeks in decline, I vote for a three-week rally. Unfortunately, my vote rarely counts. While I would love to see the earnings cycle power a rally that lasts until May there are quite a few factors that will be working against that outcome.

Earnings this week from Apple, Amazon, Ebay, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Amgen and others will probably move the market but the odds of them all moving it in the same direction are slim. Apple will be the first hurdle after the close on Tuesday and there are a lot of negative expectations built in that have knocked 25% of the stock price. There is the potential for a better than expected result because the bar is now very low.

Amazon could help out a lot on Thursday because all indications are for a record quarter.

Economics could be a headwind. Offsetting that would be the FOMC meeting and the historical tendency for gains the day before the announcement.

Keep your fingers crossed that the rally continues but be prepared if it does not.


Current Portfolio


We are changing the format slightly this week. The entry date, earnings date, current price, change for the day and stop loss are all in the portfolio graphic. They will no longer be listed in the individual play descriptions. Everything you need is now available in a single location.




Current Position Changes


Stop Loss Updates

Check the graphic above for any new stop losses in bright yellow. We need to always be prepared for an unexpected decline.


KRE - Banking ETF

I raised the stop loss to $34.65 after a weak performance in Friday's rally.



BULLISH Play Updates

KRE - SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF

Comments:

KRE shares posted a weak 44-cent gain on Friday in a strong market. Just in case the financials do not continue the rebound I raised the stop loss on the stock position.

The current stop loss on the stock position is now $34.65.

There is no stop loss on the option position. Our entry was 63 cents and any stop would give us nothing back. That means we can hold the option side until expiration without any additional risk.

Original Trade Description: January 13, 2016:

Many people thought banks would be winners after the Federal Reserve hiked rates in December. While the Fed did raise rates (barely) the financial stocks didn't see much progress.

The Fed is still talking about raising rates multiple times in 2016. There is a growing camp of market watchers who believe the Fed will be forced to back track. Deteriorating economic conditions both in the U.S. and abroad may force the Fed to pause their rate hike plans or even cut rates again.

Even if the Fed does try to raise rates the yield curve, where many banks make their money, could struggle. If the stock market remains sour throughout 2016 it will drive money into the perceived safety of U.S. bonds and that will keep yields on the 10-year low. So now that I have painted a rather unappetizing picture for the banks I'm adding a new bullish play.

All of the issues above are long-term troubles that could plague financials throughout 2016. On a short-term basis the banks are oversold and due for a bounce. Tonight's trade is a short-term technical one. The KRE is nearing major support and should rebound.

If you are not familiar with the KRE it is an ETF that tracks the S&P regional banks select industry index. The top ten holdings in this ETF are: PNC, BBT, KEY, STI, HBAN, CIWV, RF, FITB, MTB, ZION,

Tonight I am listing a buy-the-dip trigger at $35.50. We will start this trade, if triggered, with a stop loss at $34.40. Remember, this is a short-term trade. We want to get in, catch a bounce, and get out.

Position 1/20/16:
Long KRE shares @ $35.50, initial stop loss $34.25

Optional:

Long March $38 call @ 63 cents, no stop loss.



SWHC - Smith & Wesson

Company Description

Comments:

The play remains untriggered. S&W posted a minor gain to $20.81 and the entry trigger is $21.35. We want to see it move over that resistance at $21 before we buy the stock.

Original Trade Description: January 21st.

Smith & Wesson is a gun manufacturer. Business has been very good but they announced this week they are looking for some acquisitions in other outdoor areas so their business is not so tied to the cycles in gun sales. Whenever an administration begins talking about more gun control measures their sales soar. When there are no politicians trying to ban guns we see sales decline.

The current administration has been the best for gun sales since the Clinton assault weapons ban. The FBI said the increase in the number of background checks for gun purchases has been so strong that their system is overloaded and they have had to halt appeals for denials until they can add some more personnel.

December saw a record of 3.3 million background checks, which was more than 500,000 above the prior record for December in 2012. On Black Friday alone there was a record 185,345 checks and a new single day record.

While this surge in gun sales has powered Smith & Wesson to record profits the company realizes that the election of a pro gun administration will slow those sales. For this reason S&W announced this week they were looking into getting into the $60 billion outdoor sporting goods market. They will likely be trying to acquire brands that they can add to their lineup that are not directly related to guns.

S&W said they were on the hunt for candidates but did not have any announcements at the current time.

This is a good move for S&W for obvious reasons. By branching out into other products, it will also help widen the S&W brand even if those new products have their own brand names.

Shares spiked to record highs over $26 when they reported earnings in early January. The post earnings depression appears to be over and shares dropped back to support at the 100-day average. This is a good spot for people to launch new long positions and once the current market weakness is over the small cap stocks like S&W with strong growth will be in demand.

Earnings March 8th.

With a SWHC trade at $21.35:

Buy SWHC shares, initial stop loss $18.85

Optional:

Buy June $23 call, currently $1.80, initial stop loss $18.85.



UFPI - Universal Forest Products

Company Description

Comments:

UFPI posted a decent gain and moved to a three-week high close. Earnings are three weeks away and we will close the position before the report.

Original Trade Description: January 16th

UFPI recently experienced a -20% pullback from its December 2015 highs but shares are still trading at levels not seen for almost ten years. More importantly it appears that the correction is over.

UFPI is in the industrial goods sector. According to the company, "Universal Forest Products, Inc. is a holding company with subsidiaries throughout North America and in Australia that supply wood, wood composite and other products to three robust markets: retail, construction and industrial. The Company is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is celebrating its 60th year in business."

The big surge in the stock in mid October was a reaction to the company's Q3 earnings report. It was a record-breaking quarter for UFPI in spite of a -17% drop in the lumber market. Here is an excerpt from the company's earnings press release:

"UFPI announced record-breaking 2015 third-quarter results. The Company posted the best third-quarter earnings in its history with net earnings attributable to controlling interests of $25.6 million, an increase of 32.9 percent over the same period of 2014. It also posted the highest year-to-date net earnings in its history, at $61.7 million. Earnings per diluted share were $1.26 in the third quarter of 2015, up from $0.96 in the third quarter of 2014. Net sales of $762.3 million for the third quarter were up 6.8 percent over the same period of 2014."
The stock has been trading very technically with investors keying in on support and resistance levels. Shares of UFPI did see a rough December after a downgrade on December 8th. However, after a -20% pullback investors started buying UFPI last week. That is noteworthy since the broader market was crashing lower last week. You'll notice on the daily chart that UFPI found support at its simple 200-dma and delivered a pretty good gain for the week.

We think this bounce continues and want to hop on board. There is very short-term resistance at $67.00. Tonight we are listing a trigger to launch bullish positions at $67.15. Investors may want to limit their position size to reduce risk since UFPI has proven itself to be somewhat volatile.

FYI: UFPI does have options but the spreads are too wide to trade them.

Position 1/19/16:

Long UFPI stock @ 67.37, stop loss 61.90




BEARISH Play Updates

OIH - Oil service Index

ETF Description

Comments:

The OIH rebounded again on the continued short squeeze in WTI. However, it closed well off the highs for the day that were set at the open. Fundamentals have not changed for crude oil. The glut is increasing daily. This was simply a short squeeze on the change in futures contracts to March. However, the rebound in the market also lifted some energy stocks and caused a short squeeze there as well. This will pass.

Original Trade Description: January 20th

The OIH ETF represents 25 oil service stocks including Schlumberger, Halliburton and Baker Hughes. Once you get past those three largest holdings the rest of the pack has little balance sheet strength and we could easily see multiple bankruptcies or credit defaults. The bottom of the list contains Tidewater (TDW), Carbo Ceramics (CRR), Seadrill (SDRL), etc. The risk of default is high for the bottom half of the list. View Full List

The "perceived" bounce in oil prices by shifting to a new contract at $28.81 instead of the $26.55 close may cause some investors to buy energy stocks in a knee jerk reaction. Do not be fooled. The bottom in oil prices is still ahead.

The API Inventory report tonight after the close showed a larger than expected gain of 4.6 million barrels of oil and 4.7 million barrels of gasoline. The more accurate EIA inventory report comes out at 10:30 on Thursday.

The inventory build season runs from January 6th to the end of April. Last year inventories rose a whopping +106 million barrels to record levels during that period. There is not likely to be another rise like that because there is very little available storage capacity in the USA. Canadian oil is now selling for $15 below WTI because all the Midwest storage locations are virtually full. Bakken oil is selling for $8-$10 below WTI prices for the same reason plus transportation is expensive to other locations.

I believe we will see WTI at $25 or below over the next two months and possibly even $20 because of the price pressure from the Iranian oil sales. They have about 50 million barrels stored on tankers and that oil is now available for sale. Prices are going lower.

This will probably drag the equity market lower as well but eventually there will be a disconnect between equities and oil prices at some level. The constant headlines about lower oil prices will eventually become old news. Of course, key levels like $25, $22, $20 could cause some additional market weakness.

Energy stocks will continue to react to the low oil prices because every dollar of decline is very painful and impacts their ability to service debt and keep the doors open. Analysts claim as many as 50% of the U.S. producers could default or worse if prices remain low for very long.

I am recommending we short the OIH and expect to hold the position until April. The plan will be to close it about the time inventories top out in early April. We could see a minor uptick at the open on Thursday because of the new front month contract. When inventories are announced at 10:30 we should see a decline in WTI if they are high as expected.

Position 1/21/16:

Short OIH shares @ $21.26, stop loss $24.25

Optional:

Long July $20 put @ $1.92, no initial stop loss.



VXX - VIX Futures ETF

Comments:

Nice decline in the VXX thanks to the rising market. We do not need a 200 point rally every day for the VXX to decline. We just need more days positive than negative. Be patient. The volatility will eventually die.

Original Trade Description: August 24, 2015

The U.S. stock market's sell-off has been extreme. Most of the major indices have collapsed into correction territory (-10% from their highs). The volatile moves in the market have investors panicking for protection. This drives up demand for put options and this fuels a rally in the CBOE volatility index (the VIX).

You can see on a long-term weekly chart that the VIX spiked up to levels not seen since the 2008 bear market during the financial crisis. Moves like this do not happen very often. The VIX rarely stays this high very long.

How do we trade the VIX? One way is the VXX, which is an ETN but trades like a stock.

Here is an explanation from the product website:

The iPath® S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures® ETNs (the "ETNs") are designed to provide exposure to the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term FuturesTM Index Total Return (the "Index"). The ETNs are riskier than ordinary unsecured debt securities and have no principal protection. The ETNs are unsecured debt obligations of the issuer, Barclays Bank PLC, and are not, either directly or indirectly, an obligation of or guaranteed by any third party. Any payment to be made on the ETNs, including any payment at maturity or upon redemption, depends on the ability of Barclays Bank PLC to satisfy its obligations as they come due. An investment in the ETNs involves significant risks, including possible loss of principal and may not be suitable for all investors.

The Index is designed to provide access to equity market volatility through CBOE Volatility Index® (the "VIX Index") futures. The Index offers exposure to a daily rolling long position in the first and second month VIX futures contracts and reflects market participants' views of the future direction of the VIX index at the time of expiration of the VIX futures contracts comprising the Index. Owning the ETNs is not the same as owning interests in the index components included in the Index or a security directly linked to the performance of the Index.

I encourage readers to check out a long-term chart of the VXX. This thing has been a consistent loser. One market pundit said the VXX is where money goes to die - if you're buying it. We do not want to buy it. We want to short it. Shorting rallies seems to be a winning strategy on the VXX with a constant trend of lower highs.

Today the VXX spiked up to four-month highs near $28.00 before fading. We are suggesting bearish positions at the opening bell tomorrow. The market volatility is probably not done yet so we are not listing a stop loss yet.

Position 8/25/15:
Short VXX @ $21.82, no stop loss.

Second Position 9/2/15:

Short VXX @ $29.01, no stop loss.

Trade History
11/07/15 adjust exit target to $16.65
11/02/15 adjust exit target to $16.50
10/19/15 add an exit target at $16.25
10/15/15 planned exit for the October puts
10/14/15 if you own the options, prepare to exit tomorrow at the close
09/02/15 2nd position begins. VXX gapped down at $29.01
09/01/15 Double down on this trade with the VXX's spike to 6-month highs
08/25/15 trade begins. VXX gaps down at $21.82





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