Editors Note:

Automakers posted six consecutive years of strong gains with sales in 2015 rising 6.9%. The U.S. posted record auto sales in 2015 of 17.4 million cars and trucks. Sales in 2016 are only expected to rise 2% to 17.7 million. Many analysts are claiming 2016 will be the peak in sales.


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DLPH - Delphi Automotive - Company Description

Delphi, a former division of General Motors, manufacturers vehicle components and provided electrical and electronic, powertrain, and safety technology solutions to the automotive and commercial vehicle markets worldwide.

When they reported Q1 earnings of $1.36 they beat the estimates for $1.34. Revenues increased 7% to $4.05 billion but missed estimates for $4.08 billion. They repurchased 5.6 million shares worth $370 million in the quarter and had $137 million left to spend. In April the board authorized a new $1.5 billion repurchase program. They currently has $463 million in cash and $4.35 billion in debt.

On the surface it would appear they are a very healthy company. However, they are very dependent on U.S. auto production. The Autonation CEO said on his earnings call that auto inventories were at record highs and there was no space left to store them. He said manufacturers would have to cut back on production for the rest of the year to bring inventory levels back into balance.

Vehicle sales have been helped by low gasoline prices and the abundance of subprime loans available to consumers. Some 44% of borrowers were taking out 61-72 month loans. However, all good things must end. Gasoline prices are rising and are not likely to return to the recent lows for a very long time, if ever.

Recently banks reported that as many as 31% of those subprime loans were in trouble. While not technically in default, there have been problems like late or missed payments. Also, as many as 35% of those borrowers are underwater because the value of recently new cars has fallen sharply with the resale market still crowded with the used cars everyone is trading in to buy new.

As a result of those statistics the subprime auto loan market is evaporating. It is becoming increasingly hard to obtain financing and larger down payments are required. This is slowing the sale of new cars. In the March sales report the run rate fell to 16.6 million and a two year low. That rebounded to 17.4 million in April and analysts blamed the dip on the weather. However, the last five months have been significantly lower than the last five months in 2015 when the sales rate rose to 18.2 million. Manufacturers are compensating by raising incentives nearly to the rate immediately after the recession. Also, manufacturers leased a lot of cars in order to move inventory immediately after the recession. Those cars are now coming off lease with 2.55 million expiring in 2015 and that number will rise by 500,000 per year through 2018.

This is where Delphi runs into trouble. As auto sales decline it will reduce revenue for Delphi. We are also heading into the summer months when auto factories shut down to retool for the new models that come out in the fall.

Investors have caught on to the "peak auto" worries and Delphi shares have been declining since their earnings in early May. If a company is going to miss on revenue in the good times they are likely to miss again as auto sales slow.

Earnings August 3rd.

Buy July $65 put, currently $2.40, initial stop loss $69.25.

There is no open interest on the July strikes because the series was just added today after the May expiration. It should not be a worry because the pricing is not out of line and open interest will rise quickly.