Editors Note:

The Dow was the only index to post a gain and that was due to JNJ and XOM. Are foundational cracks forming? The Russell 2000 lost 15 points and the Dow Transports -85. The Nasdaq Composite lost 32 points and that was 18 points off the low. Market breadth was decidedly negative. The rally may be reaching the end of its run but there are still two more weeks of trading in 2016.

The sharp drop on the Nasdaq at the open plus a downgrade on Nvidia knocked us out of that stock and Western Digital. We are likely to see some more stops in the week ahead unless the dip buyers show up in volume. Today's dip buying was lackluster.



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


DIA - Dow ETF

Long 1/2 position on DIA puts. Enter second half with trade at $199.

UNH - UnitedHealth

The long call position remains unopened until a trade at $160.25.

ESNT - Essent Group

The long call position was entered at the open.



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

Credit spreads and naked puts = OptionWriter

Long term option investments = LEAPS Investor

3-6 month Option Trades = Ultimate Investor

Iron Condors = Couch Potato Trader

Long and short equity trades = Premier Investor



BULLISH Play Updates


ADP - Automatic Data Processing - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Only a minor decline. Holding at the new high.

Original Trade Description: December 5th.

Automatic Data Processing, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides business process outsourcing services worldwide. The company operates through two segments, Employer Services and Professional Employer Organization (PEO) Services. The Employer Services segment offers a range of business outsourcing and technology-enabled human capital management (HCM) solutions, including payroll services, benefits administration services, talent management, human resources management solutions, time and attendance management solutions, insurance services, retirement services, and tax and compliance solutions. This segment's integrated HCM solutions include RUN Powered by ADP, ADP Workforce Now, ADP Vantage HCM, and ADP GlobalView, which assist employers of all sizes in all stages of the employment cycle from recruitment to retirement; and ADP SmartCompliance and ADP Health Compliance. The PEO Services segment provides a human resources (HR) outsourcing solution through a co-employment model to small and mid-sized businesses. This segment offers ADP TotalSource that provides various HR management services and employee benefits functions, such as HR administration, employee benefits, and employer liability management into a single-source solution. Company description from FinViz.com.

ADP reported a 26.5% rise in earnings to 86 cents that beat estimates by 9 cents. Revenues rose 7.5% to $2.92 billion and beat estimates for $1.91 billion. The number of employees on client payrolls rose 2.7%. They ended the quarter with $2.82 billion in cash and long-term debt of $2 billion. The announced the sale of their CHSA and COBRA business to WageWorks for $235 million. The sale will be completed in Q2 2017.

The company guided for 2017 revenue growth of 7% to 8% and 15% to 17% earnings growth. The PEO Services segment revenues are expected to rise 14% to 16%.

The company just declared a 57-cent quarterly dividend to raise the annual dividend to $2.28.

Earnings Feb 1st.

ADP holds a dominant position in the payroll processing sector. With employment expected to rise again in 2017 this could be an attractive investment for funds that are tired of chasing industrials and bank stocks in the current rally.

Shares took profits last week from a very nice climb and could be ready to try for a new high.

There is resistance at $97 but given the time of year and the overbought conditions in the rest of the market, we could see a breakout. Options are relatively cheap.

Position 12/6/16:

Long Feb $97.50 call @ $2.10, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


ESNT - Essent Group Ltd - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Minor gain in a weak market.

Original Trade Description: December 10th.

Essent Group Ltd., through its subsidiaries, provides private mortgage insurance and reinsurance for mortgages secured by residential properties located in the United States. The company also provides information technology maintenance and development services; customer support-related services; and contract underwriting services. It serves originators of residential mortgage loans, such as regulated depository institutions, mortgage banks, credit unions, and other lenders. Company description from FinViz.com.

Essent reported earnings of 65 cents compared to estimates for 58 cents. Revenue was $121.3 million. For 2015 they saw earnings rise 65.1%. The current growth estimate for 2016 is 37.8%. While that is less than 2015 rate the relatively young company is still in a growth spurt. It is easy to show big percentages in the early years since there were little to no earnings when you started. The company began in 2008

Over the last month analyst consensus estimates have risen from 60 to 62 cents and full year estimates have risen from $2.27 to $2.34.

Shares have risen $5 over the last $3 weeks but not at the frantic pace of some other high visibility stocks. Essent is moving slowly higher a few cents a day. When the eventual profit taking appears in the broader market, Essent could be less impacted than some other stocks.

Options are cheap and we can buy well into the future for just a couple dollars.

Position 12/12/16:

Long April $35 call @ $1.82, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


FFIV - F5Networks - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. No material movement. Waiting for a breakout over $144.

Original Trade Description: November 21st.

F5 Networks, Inc. develops, markets, and sells application delivery networking products that optimize the security, performance, and availability of network applications, servers, and storage systems. It offers Local Traffic Manager, which provides intelligent load-balancing, traffic management, and application health checking; BIG-IP DNS that automatically directs users to the closest or best-performing physical, virtual, or cloud environment; Link Controller, which monitors the health and availability of each connection in organizations with more than one Internet service provider; Advanced Firewall Manager, a network firewall; and Application Security Manager, an Web application firewall that provides comprehensive, proactive, and application-layer protection against generalized and targeted attacks. The company also provides Access Policy Manager, which provides secure, granular, and context-aware access to networks and applications; Carrier-Grade Network Address Translation, which offers a set of tools that enables service providers to migrate to IPv6 while continuing to support and interoperate with existing IPv4 devices and content; and Policy Enforcement Manager that offers traffic classification capabilities to identify the specific applications and services to service providers. In addition, it offers cloud-based and other subscription services; BIG-IP appliances; VIPRION chassis-based systems; and Traffix Signaling Delivery Controller for diameter signaling and routing. Company description from FinViz.com.

The big attack on the Internet several weeks ago was driven by malware that had been placed on IoT devices including security cameras, cable boxes, burglar alarms and dozens of other device types. These devices are typically delivered without any material malware defenses. It is up to each manufacturer to overcome this in the future with some kind of defense.

However, FFIV provides software and hardware to prevent denial of service attacks from these devices as well as the more robust attacks from computers and servers. With more and more servers in the cloud it is harder to protect them from attack like you would dedicated physical servers in a dedicated data center. This is where FFIV excels.

The company's Silverline service places a sophisticated cloud based filter around critical infrastructure that stops attacks instantly. Aided by hardware based firewalls in dedicated data centers they protect data and equipment from all outside attacks.

For Q3 they reported earnings of $2.11 compared to estimates for $1.94. revenue ot $525 million beat estimates for $520 million.

Earnings Jan 21st.

FFIV shares spiked on earnings in late October and have been moving steadily higher. They are about to break over resistance at $144 and we could see another leg higher when that happens.

Position 12/8/16 with a FFIV trade at $142.25

Long Jan $145 call @ $3.80, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


FLOW - SPX Flow Inc - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Minor profit taking.

Original Trade Description: November 30th.

SPX FLOW, Inc. provides various engineered solutions worldwide. The company engineers, designs, manufactures, and markets products and solutions used to process, blend, filter, dry, meter, and transport fluids with a focus on original equipment installation, including turn-key systems, modular systems, and components, as well as aftermarket components and support services. It operates through three segments: Food and Beverage, Power and Energy, and Industrial. The Food and Beverage segment offers mixing, drying, evaporation, and separation systems and components, as well as heat exchangers, and reciprocating and centrifugal pump technologies primarily under the Anhydro, APV, Bran+Luebbe, Gerstenberg Schroeder, LIGHTNIN, Seital, and Waukesha Cherry-Burrell brands. The Power and Energy segment provides pumps, valves, and related accessories, principally for use in oil extraction, production, and transportation at wells, as well as for pipeline applications under the APV, Bran+Luebbe, ClydeUnion Pumps, Copes-Vulcan, Dollinger Filtration, LIGHTNIN, M&J Valve, Plenty, and Vokes brands. This segment primarily serves customers in the oil and gas industry, as well as in nuclear and other conventional power industries. The Industrial segment offers air dryers, filtration equipment, mixers, pumps, hydraulic technologies, and heat exchangers under the Airpel, APV, Bolting Systems, Delair, Deltech, Hankison, Jemaco, Johnson Pump, LIGHTNIN, Power Team, and Stone brands. This segment principally serves customers in the chemical, air treatment, mining, pharmaceutical, marine, shipbuilding, infrastructure construction, and general industrial and water treatment industries. Company description from FinViz.com.

SPX Flow was spun off from SPX Corp (SPXC) in September 2013. Shares sold off from the $40+ opening to $15 over the next six months. After a quick rebound to $31 in May the stock has moved sideways for the rest of the year.

They reported earnings of 34 cents that beat estimates for 33 cents. Revenue of $466.8 million narrowly missed estimates for $467.7 million. They guided for full year earnings of $1.27-$1.47 with revenue of $2.0 billion.

The CEO said the company had made good progress in its restructuring efforts post split. Revenue was light in Q3 because of a delay in shipping some orders in the energy sector. They are looking forward to a rebound in the energy sector and manufacturing in general.

Earnings Feb 1st.

Shares closed right at 52-week resistance at $31.50 and are poised for a breakout, market permitting. The stock gained $1 today in a weak market.

Position 12/1/16:

Long March $35 call @ $1.51, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


NVDA - Nvidia Corp - Company Profile

Comments:

Pacific Crest warned there could be some dark clouds on the horizon for Nvidia based on a survey of "first tier" graphics card manufacturers in Asia's supply chain. The firm said the survey suggested there was "excess inventory" but if that was the case why are the cards on sold out all over the USA? They said GeForce GTX 1080 prices had fallen about 10%. Pacific Crest said Nvidia's high prices would ease any earnings pain. Jefferies reiterated a buy rating saying the business was still on track and the GPU market was actually growing rapidly and faster than expected.

We were stopped out at a breakeven on the $4.50 downgrade drop at the open. I will look for a bottom to form in January and reenter the position. Nvidia is the new Intel for this decade. Prices will go higher.

Original Trade Description: December 3rd.

NVIDIA Corporation operates as a visual computing company worldwide. It operates in two segments, GPU and Tegra Processor. The GPU segment offers processors, which include GeForce for PC gaming; Quadro for design professionals working in computer-aided design, video editing, special effects, and other creative applications; Tesla for deep learning, accelerated computing, and general purpose computing; and GRID for cloud-based streaming on gaming devices. The Tegra Processor segment provides processors that integrate a computer onto a single chip under the Tegra brand name; DRIVE automotive computers, which offer supercomputing capabilities; and tablet and portable devices for mobile gaming under the SHIELD name. The company's products are used in gaming, professional visualization, datacenter, and automotive markets. It sells its products primarily to original equipment manufacturers, original design manufacturers, system builders, motherboard manufacturers, add-in board manufacturers, and retailers/distributors. Company description from FinViz.com.

Nvidia is taking market share from every chipmaker in the market. Their graphics cards are the hottest things going and every model sells out and are resold for higher prices in the secondary market. Their GPU products are the fastest processors available for extreme computing environments, monster applications, data mining, machine learning and artificial intelligence. One recent benchmark showed an Intel server would take over 2,000 hours to process one massive computation program. A Nvidia GPU server only took 30 hours. Amazon and other cloud providers are buying 1000s of GPU equipped servers to handle massive cloud applications.

They are also moving into a stronger position in the self driving vehicle sector with superfast visual and logic chipsets that can 1000s of inputs in a second to help the car navigate and avoid collisions.

Every time Nvidia announces a new product they are years ahead of the competition.

Earnings Feb 9th.

Shares are up +165% in 2016 alone but they are far from done. They spiked 10% after earnings in early November and held the highs for two weeks despite market volatility in tech stocks. On Thursday, Nvidia shares finally cracked when the Nasdaq fell -77 points for the second consecutive decline of more than 1%. On Friday, shares posted a gain and showed no signs of further weakness. Over the last two weeks, MKM Partners upgraded them to a $106 price target and Needham raised their target to $100. The problem is that most analysts do not understand the technological revolution underway at Nvidia.

Options are not cheap but you sometimes get what you pay for. You can spread it to reduce the cost but I am not going to recommend that today. As the stock moves higher we can spread later once the distant strikes become more valuable.

Position 12/5/16:

Closed 12/12/16: Long Feb $95 call @ $5.03, exit $5.15, +.12 gain.



SMG - Scotts Miracle Grow - Company Profile

Comments:

The company announced an offering of $250 million in senior notes at 5.2% due 2026. The proceeds will be used to reduce borrowings under its senior secured revolving credit facility. Shares spiked to a new high at the open but faded with the market back to $96 and breakeven for the day. Great relative strength.

Original Trade Description: November 12th.

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company manufactures, markets, and sells consumer lawn and garden products worldwide.

Nine states had legalization of marijuana on the ballot in some form and eight approved the measures. California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada approved it for recreational use. Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota approved it for medical use, which is a first step towards eventual recreational use. Montana approved a measure for commercial growing and distribution. Arizona was the only state where a recreational use measure failed.

Scotts has already said the legalization of pot was good for their business since growers want to grow it fast and grow it indoors. Over the last two years, Scotts has acquired two hydroponic acquisitions. One of them was a marijuana nutrient and growing products maker. They are branching out into the equipment and lighting required for indoor plant cultivation with the acquisition of Gavita, a grow light and hardware producer. They recognize pot as an "emerging high-growth opportunity" under their Hawthorne Gardening Company brand. They want to invest $500 million in the marijuana industry.

Scotts recently spun off its Scotts LawnService yard fertilizer business into a partnership with TruGreen so that low margin business is gone. The partnership pays distributions back to Scotts.

In the last quarter, sales rose 7% with consumer purchases rising 10%. This compares to the full year revenue growth of 2%. This shows how fast the business is growing with the new focus. They are projecting 6% to 7% revenue growth in 2017 and adjusted earnings of $4.10-$4.30. They called those numbers conservative.

Update 12/8/16: Shares were upgraded by BAML from underperform to buy and raised the price target from $80 to $105 saying the stock has more room to run. Shares spiked $4 on the upgrade.

Earnings Feb 2nd.

Position 11/14/16:

Long March $90 call @ $3.90, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.


UNH - UnitedHealth - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares dipped slightly but rebounded to close just under resistance.

This position remains unopened until a trade at $160.25.

Original Trade Description: December 7th

UnitedHealth Group Incorporated operates as a diversified health and well-being company in the United States. The company's UnitedHealthcare segment offers consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services for national employers, public sector employers, mid-sized employers, small businesses, individuals, and military service members; and health care coverage, and health and well-being services to individuals aged 50 and older addressing their needs for preventive and acute health care services. It also provides services dealing with chronic disease and other specialized issues for older individuals; Medicaid plans, Children's Health Insurance Program, and health care programs; and health services, including commercial health and dental benefits. This segment serves through a network of 1 million physicians and other health care professionals, as well as approximately 6,000 hospitals and other facilities. Its OptumHealth segment offers health management services, including care delivery and management, wellness and consumer engagement, distribution, and health financial services. This segment serves individuals through programs offered by employers, payers, government entities, and directly with the care delivery systems. The company's OptumInsight segment provides software and information products, advisory consulting services, and business process outsourcing and support services to hospitals, physicians, commercial health plans, government agencies, life sciences companies, and other organizations. Its OptumRx segment offers pharmacy care services and programs, including retail pharmacy network management, home delivery and specialty pharmacy, manufacturer rebate contracting and administration, benefit plan design and consultation, claims processing, and clinical program services, such as formulary management and compliance, drug utilization review, and disease and drug therapy management. Company description from FinViz.com.

UNH will have about $184 billion in revenue in 2016 to put it at number six on the Fortune 500 list. With its broadening of scope using its various Optum programs it is maximizing profits by widening the service component of its business. Here is an excellent article on why UNH will be the most profitable. Amazon of Healthcare

I am not going to go into an in depth explanation of UNH. That article I referenced has plenty of information why UNH should be a long term holding of any investor.

Earnings January 17th.

I wanted to play UNH last week when it was at $152 but it had resistance at $153 and I decided to wait another day to see if that resistance was broken. Shares gapped up to $158 at the open the next day and ran to $162.50 over the next four days. Now that big gain has been digested and shares pulled back to $156 before adding a couple dollars on Wednesday. I believe the UNH rally will continue for the reasons listed in that article above. I am willing to take a shot here that the market rally also continues even if Wednesday's futures related spike fades in the days ahead. We have 16 trading days until 2017 and we should close the year at higher levels.

With a UNH trade at $160.25

Buy Jan $165 call, currently $2.45, initial stop loss $155.85.


WDC - Western Digital - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares dropped $2.60 at the open and stopped us out for a nice gain. It the stock returns to uptrend support ($62) we will reenter.

Original Trade Description: November 12th

Western Digital Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the development, manufacture, sale, and provision of data storage solutions that enable consumers, businesses, governments, and other organizations to create, manage, experience, and preserve digital content worldwide. The company's product portfolio includes hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs), direct attached storage solutions, personal cloud network attached storage solutions, and public and private cloud data center storage solutions. It provides HDDs and solid-state drives for performance enterprise and capacity enterprise markets desktop, and notebook personal computers (PCs).

Western Digital bought flash memory maker SanDisk in October 2015 and this is going to supercharge their product offerings. They have already raised guidance after a couple quarters of integration. Revenue in Q3 rose 38% to $4.7 billion.

Last week WDC announced a 50-cent quarterly dividend payable Jan 17th to holders on Dec 30th.

The consensus rating of 27 analysts is a buy with a price target of $69.64. Shares closed at $58.89 on Friday.

They reported earnings on Oct 27th and spiked to $62. Post earnings depression saw them fade back to $55 and now they are moving up again. I believe they will exceed that $62 earnings high. They traded at $115 in 2015.

Earnings Jan 25th.

Update 12/7/16: Shares spiked $5 higher after the company raised guidance at Tuesday's analyst meeting. The company said Q4 earnings would be in the range of $2.10-$2.15 compared to prior guidance of $1.85-$1.95.

Position 11/14/16:

Closed 12/12/16: Long Jan $62.50 call @ $2.20, exit $4.75, +2.55 gain.



BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)

DIA Dow ETF - ETF Profile

Comments:

Minor gains today thanks to JNJ, XOM, CVX and TRV. The Dow was the only index that posted a gain and the market is starting to show some weakness. We entered a half position on the puts at the open. We will enter the second half with a trade at $199.

Original Trade Description: December 7th

The SPDR® Dow Jones® Industrial Average ETF Trust seeks to provide investment results that, before expenses, correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Remember Dow 10,000? Traders talked about it for weeks. When it was finally hit, they were passing out Dow 10,000 hats on the floor of the NYSE for a week. That was December 11th 2003. It was a big milestone for the market.

Now 13 years later we are about to double that with Dow 20,000. Given the place on the calendar, the massive post election rally and the potential for normal profit taking in January, the Dow 20,000 touch could be a massive sell on the news event.

However, we are only 386 points way and it could happen as soon as next week. The Fed rate announcement on Wednesday could either cripple that potential or accelerate it if the Fed maintains a dovish posture on future rate hikes. I believe we will hit Dow 20K before the end of December. When that happens I want to be short the DIA ETF and plan on holding it through January.

I am choosing the Dow because it is the most overbought and could produce the biggest percentage move. Just look at Goldman's chart and the profit that needs to be removed there.

Because there will be plenty of other traders thinking along the same lines I want to enter the put position at 19,900 or $199 on the DIA ETF. I know I am jumping in front of a speeding train to enter a short position on a runaway market but the potential is very high for a good trade.

Position 12/12/16:

1/2 position: Long Feb $195 put @ $3.30, no initial stop loss.

With a DIA trade at $199.00 buy the second half.


VXX - VIX Futures ETF - Company Profile

Comments:

I am recommending we close the position. The chances for a market decline over the next five weeks are increasing and it could be severe once we are in January. When that decline appears, I will reinstate the position at the VXX highs.

Original Trade Description: September 21st.

The VXX is a short-term volatility product based on the VIX futures. As a futures product it has the rollover curse. Every time they roll to a new futures contract they have to pay a premium and that lowers the price of the ETF. It is a flawed product with a perpetual decline built in from the monthly roll over in the futures contracts.

As evidence of this flaw, they have now down four 1:4 reverse stock splits. The last four reverse splits occurred at $13.11 (11/2010), $8.77 (10/2012), $12.84 (11/2013), $9.52 (8/8/16). The prospectus says it can reverse split anytime it trades under $25 for a prolonged period and the splits will always be 1:4.

After the August split the ETF moved sideways for four weeks at $36. The volatility event on Sept 9th with the Dow falling -2.5% spiked the VXX from $33 to $42 in three days. That bounce has faded and it is almost back at $33. You are probably thinking, the $40 level would have been a good entry point and you are right in hindsight. However, with the market in danger of breaking down if the Fed had hiked rates, it was better to wait. Now there is nothing on the horizon to cause a spike other than normal market movement.

This is going to be a long-term position. I am not putting a stop loss on the position because long term the VXX always goes down. If we get another volatility spike we will buy another position at a higher level and then ride them both back down.

Position 12/6/16:

Long March $24 put @ $2.36, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.




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