NEW DIRECTIONAL PUT PLAYS

Jack in the Box, Inc. - JACK - close: 95.31 change: -0.61

Stop Loss: 95.05
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Average Daily Volume = 564 thousand
Entry on April -- at $---.--
Listed on April 16, 2015
Time Frame: 2 to 4 weeks, exit PRIOR to earnings in mid May
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
It's a burger-eat-burger world out there in the fast-food business. Jack in the Box is small fries compared to its larger rivals like McDonalds (36,258 locations) and Wendy's (6,515 locations). Let's not forget heavy weights like Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Dairy Queen, and a handful of pizza chains. JACK only has about 2,200 restaurants but it also has a secret weapon and that is the Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurant with about 600 locations. Chipotle Mexican Grill has almost 1,800 locations.

Some of that intense competition being felt by McDonalds and Chipotle Mexican Grill is coming from Jack in the Box and its Qdoba brand, which is growing sharply. A majority of their Qdoba franchisees own multiple stores with 10, 20 even 40 stores common. Enterprising business owners don't open additional stores if the original stores are not working. To have so many owners with high numbers of stores suggests the franchise is consistently profitable.

To be profitable they need solid customer traffic, good food and decent margins. Shares of JACK have been one of the best performers on the S&P over the last couple of years because the company has been posting solid earnings and growth.

With analysts cutting earnings estimates for McDonalds and Chipotle because of competition in the sector it makes sense to look at what has happened at JACK. Over the last quarter and the last year not a single analyst has lowered their earnings estimates for JACK. According to Zacks there has been a noticeable trend of raising estimates. JACK is expected to grow +16% to +20% this year and in 2016. JACK has beaten earnings by an average of 6% over the last four quarters.

Because of the drop in gasoline prices consumers have more money in their pocket. Some of that money is going to end up in the cash registers at these fast food outlets. Customers are also trending towards healthier foods and away from the mass produced burgers and fries at McDonalds. Did you know there are 19 ingredients in McDonalds fries? Surely you didn't think they were just potatoes and grease? Restaurants like JACK and Chipotle are capitalizing on the healthy food craze. JACK store sales rose an average of 5.7% over the last three quarters but Qdoba sales rose +13% for the year and +7.7% in Q4. Zacks rates JACK as a strong buy.

The company plans to open 15 new Jack in the Box stores in 2015. They're also cashing in on Qdoba's success and planning to open 50 to 60 new Qdoba locations. That compares to just 12 new Jacks and 38 new Qdobas in 2014.

It's also worth noting that JACK has an active share buyback program and they reduced the share count by 10% over the last four quarters. Earnings growth rose +20% in Q3 after three years of consecutive earnings growth of more than 30%.

JACK's most recent earnings report was February 17th, when they reported their 2015 Q1 results. Analysts were expecting a profit of $0.87 a share on revenues of $461.2 million. JACK delivered earnings of $0.93 a share. That's a +24% improvement from a year ago. Revenues were up +4.1% to $468.6 million, above estimates. Their operating margins improved 1% to 19.3%.

Management expects same-store sales at Jack in the Box to surge from +0.9% a year ago to +5% to +7% in Q2. Qdoba same-store sales are forecasted to be in the +7% to +9% range. The company raised full-year 2015 guidance to $2.85-2.97 a share compared to Wall Street estimates of $2.84.

Everything I just wrote about JACK is bullish. The company is growing. They're profitable and seem to be stealing market share from its rivals. Yet right now the market doesn't care. Shares of JACK have been underperforming the major indices since they peaked on March 25th at round-number resistance near the $100.00 level. There was a technical bounce off its 50-dma several days ago but that has faded.

Traders seem to be selling the rallies in JACK now. Today's display of relative weakness (-0.6%) also left JACK below technical support at its 50-dma for the first time since August 2014.

I'm longer-term bullish on JACK. Bloomberg just published an article this week on how consumer spending at restaurants and bars was more than spending on groceries for the first time ever in March 2015. The data suggests that younger, millennial consumers are more willing to spend on eating out. There is a bug in this data. The Commerce Department is not counting companies like Wal-mart, Target, or Costco as grocery stores even though they all have significant grocery businesses.

On a short-term basis JACK looks weak. The point & figure chart just turned bearish this month. We are suggesting a trigger to buy puts at $91.90.

Trigger @ $91.90

- Suggested Positions -

Buy the MAY $90 PUT (JACK150515P90) current ask $2.35
option price is a current quote and not a suggested entry price.

Entry disclaimer: To avoid an unfavorable entry point, we will not launch a new play if the stock gaps open more than $1.00 past our suggested entry point.

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

Daily Chart: