The next four weeks could be a roller coaster of activity.

The Fed rate decision may be behind us but that does not mean the market volatility is over. Over the next 7 trading days the market should have an upside bias but the Dow 20,000 event will be a cloud over the market. We saw today when the Dow spiked to 19,966 after the Fed decision there was immediate selling in increasing volume. I have written more than once recently that shorts were probably going to try and front run the Dow 20K event by selling stocks in the high 19,900s. That is exactly what happened today.

The index declines were not material given the size of the recent rally. The Dow did close back below 19,800 with a -118 loss. The Nasdaq lost -27 and the S&P -18. The Russell 2000, the biggest gainer since the election lost another 17 points to bring its four-day decline to -2.6%. Since it gained 20.1% post election that is a drop in the bucket.

However, the Russell is the market sentiment indicator. It has lost more than 1% twice in the last three days and could fall significantly from here.


Even if we do not get a sell the news decline on a touch of Dow 20,000, that does not mean we are out of the woods. The post election gains are simply too extreme for there not to be any profit taking soon.

The next seven days are likely to be choppy with a lot of head fakes in both directions. After Christmas week is normally positive but the closer to year-end the more likely we will see declines. The first week of January could be the killer. Anyone holding gains today in a taxable account will probably hold until January in the hopes the tax structure will change to a lower rate in 2017. Once into January, there could be some wholesale selling.

Funds are 100% invested today and putting every penny they get into the market to leverage up their gains for 2016. They cannot afford to close any positions until the calendar year closes or their peers could gain a few points on them. Come January they will be taking profits on all these overbought stocks.



I did not add any plays this week. There is simply too much potential volatility ahead and we do not need any more stops getting hit. Even though the market has been moving mostly higher, the Nasdaq crash at the open on the 12th knocked us out of two more positions for big losses. Given the potential for wide market swings over the next three weeks, I believe it would be wise to just nurse our current positions and not put any additional capital at risk.

The object of the game is to anticipate market direction and sell premium in the opposite direction. There is no way to anticipate direction over the next two weeks. Once we get into January, the outlook should be less cloudy.

I did build the list of potential plays and there are plenty if you want to take the risk with your capital. When I make a recommendation in the newsletter I am putting over people's capital at risk and I am not going to do it when I would not invest my own money this week. I hope everyone understands. It is better to wait for a better setup than continue throwing good money into the market vortex.

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email



Current Portfolio


The fourth column in the portfolio graphic is the earnings date. We will always exit a position before that date unless specifically mentioned otherwise in the play description.

Lines in blue were previously closed.

Current positions

Covered Calls

Monthly Cash Machine



Current Option Writer Position Changes


ANET - Arista Networks (Short Closed)

ANET also gapped lower on Monday when the Nasdaq gapped sharply lower at the open. Because we were stopped on the gap down open the option price was artificially high. As you can see by the chart the stock immediately rebounded. I was going to recommend we reload the position using the January $90 put but the bid ask spreads have widened to nearly $1 on a $1.35 option. That would be a big loss on another stop.

Closed Jan $85 short put, entry $1.22, exit $2.05, -.83 loss.



ACIA - Acacia Communications (Short Closed)

The ACIA rebound stalled and shares are nearing post election lows. We were stopped on the Nasdaq gap lower on Monday that pushed ACIA under $66.85. Because it was a gap down open the option premium spiked to the high for the day and a big loss on the exit. The long put has a good chance of increasing in value if that early November low is broken.

Closed Jan $60 short put, entry $1.58, exit $3.05, -1.47 loss.
Retain Jan $50 long put, entry .30, currently .35.



Monthly Cash Machine Play Updates


No changes


New Option Writer Recommendations


No New Recommendations


Other Potential Plays (Spreads, Covered Calls, Naked Puts)

These are not official plays but a good place to start if you are looking for something else to trade.

January expiration is the 20th.



New Covered Call Recommendations


No Covered Calls


New Monthly Cash Machine Recommendations


I am terminating the Cash Machine recommendations with the January option cycle. It is difficult to force a play on an index or sector ETF every week just because there is a scheduled newsletter. The market has broken out of its three month trading range and the odds are VERY good we are going to see a lot of volatility in 2017. I will still include spreads on indexes when they are available at an attractive price and the market is cooperating. Those ETF spreads will be presented in the regular Option Writer recommendations.


No New Recommendations


Existing Option Writer Positions (Alpha by Symbol)

THESE ARE NOT CURRENT RECOMMENDATIONS. These are prior recommendations that are still active in the portfolio. Do NOT act on the plays described in this section. This is the archive of prior recommendations in the current portfolio.


ACIA - Acacia Communications (December Put Spread)

ACIA has had a rough couple of months. Things are finally improving and the shares hit a 3 week high intraday on Wednesday.

Earnings Feb 9th.

Sell short Dec $60 put, currently $1.20, stop loss $64.85
Buy long Dec $50 put, currently .70, no stop loss.
Net credit .70

 


ACIA - Acacia Communications (January Put Spread)

The Nasdaq decline in late November pushed ACIA down to $64.50 where the stock came to a dead stop. That is slightly higher than the $62.65 low in early November. I believe that is going tobe strong support if we should get another bout of market weakness.

Earnings Feb 9th.

Sell short Jan $60 put, currently $1.75, stop loss $66.85
Buy long Jan $50 put, currently .55, no stop loss.
Net credit $1.20.


ANET - Arista Networks (January Naked Put)

Arista has blasted off after they solved their import problems. The stock exploded past $90 and should continue higher.

Earnings Jan 31st.

Sell short Jan $85 put, currently $1.10, stop loss $89.85


CLVS - Clovis Oncology (Covered Call)

Clovis has had some challenges over the last month but the worry over Clinton being elected was the power behind the decline over the last two weeks. Shares rallied 18% on Wednesday. They posted better than expected earnings (loss) last week.

Earnings Feb 2nd.

Buy-write Dec $30 call, currently $32.20-$4.10, stop loss $27.85


CYTR - CytRx Corp (Covered Call)

It is going to be very hard to lose money on this position. It is possible but not likely.

CytRx is a biopharmaceutical research and development company specializing in cancer drugs. They will be presenting three abstracts this weekend at the ASCO cancer conference. Shares have been jumping around between $2 and $3.50 since March. With the conference this weekend the options are high.

Buy-write CYTR July $3 call, currently $2.93-$1.00. No stop loss.

CytRx received some bad news on a drug trial and the stock gapped down to 65 cents. We are waiting for some positive news to inflate the stock and we will sell a new call.


INCY - Incyte Corp (January Call Spread)

Shares of INCY have been trending higher but they have a strongly repetitious pattern of peaks and valleys over the last year. The current spike has stalled and we should see another valley appear. Shares have hit a strong resistance range from $100-$118 and further gains could be difficult without some profit taking.

Earnings Jan 31st.

Sell short Jan $120 call, currently $2.00, stop loss $112.25
Buy long Jan $140 call, currently .90, no stop loss.
Net credit $1.10.


LLY - Eli Lilly & Co (December Put Spread)

Lilly spiked on the election results and has faded slightly as the sector cools. Because of the spike we can sell a put under the prior low and we should be relatively safe.

Earnings Jan 25th.

Sell short Dec $70 put, currently $1.40, stop loss $74.50
Buy long Dec $60 put, currently .40, no stop loss.
Net credit $1.00.


NFLX - Netflix (January Put Spread)

Netflix surged after getting an upgrade from Evercore ISI saying expected competition had not appeared and they now had a lead in original content that was insurmountable. Shares should retest resistance at $130.

Earnings Jan 16th.

Sell short Jan $110 put, currently $2.00, stop loss $115.85
Buy long Jan $100 put, currently .70, no stop loss.
Net credit $1.30.


PXD - Pioneer Natural Resources (December Put Spread)

Pioneer posted earnings of 13 cents that missed estimates for 17 cents. It was purely low oil prices in Q3 that caused the miss. Revenue fell -47% to $1.186 billion and beat estimates for $1.022 billion. They produced 239,000 Boepd, a 13.3% increase. They are the lowest cost producer in the Permian and my top pick in the energy space. Shares fell $13 on earnings but have nearly regained all of that loss.

Earnings Jan 31st.

Sell short Dec $165 put, currently $2.70, stop loss $168.85
Buy long Dec $145 put, currently $1.25, no stop loss.
Net credit $1.45.

Update 11/17/16: We were stopped out of the short side on this put spread when PXD crashed $13 from the Thursday high at $181.50 to the $168.79 low on Friday. That was a $13 drop caused by a sharp drop in oil prices to trade at $42.20 and a three-month low. The speed of the drop rapidly inflated the premiums and we lost $2 on the exit.

I am recommending we reload the Dec $165 short put, currently $2.55.

Closed Dec $165 short put, entry $2.92, exit $5.00, -2.08 loss

Sell short Dec $165 put, currently $2.55, stop loss $171.50.


SIG - Signet Jewelers (January Naked Put)

The fourth quarter is normally the best quarter of the year for jewelers and Signet is moving to a 7 month high. Support at $90 in early December was decent and the stock is accelerating higher.

Earnings Feb 21st.

Sell short Jan $85 put, currently $1.40, stop loss $90.45.


TSLA - Tesla Inc (January Put Spread)

Tesla has completed the acquisition of SolarCity and all that uncertainty is now behind them. Shares have been trending higher since the vote on the 17th. The $180-$185 level has been support in the past.

Earnings Jan 25th.

Sell short Jan $170 put, currently $2.70, stop loss $183.50
Buy long Jan $150 put, currently $.98, no stop loss.
Net credit $1.72.


TREE - Lending Tree (December Put Spread)

TREE posted good earnings but the revenue was just under the estimates. The stock sold off hard but has rebounded for the last four days in a weak market. Banks and mortgage companies should do well heading into December with the Fed pointing to a potential December rate hike.

Earnings Dec 27th.

Sell short Dec $70 put, currently $1.40, stop loss $74.85
Buy long Dec $60 put, currently .60, no stop loss.
Net credit $.80.


WDC - Western Digital (January Naked Put)

WDC finally found some traction in the last couple of weeks and analysts continue to upgrade their estimates. Now that the SanDisk acquisition is well behind them and new products are hitting the market, they are the number one disk drive maker in the market.

Earnings Jan 26th.

sell short Jan $55 put, currently $1.06, stop loss $58.65.


Existing Monthly Cash Machine Positions

THESE ARE NOT CURRENT RECOMMENDATIONS. These are prior recommendations that are still active in the portfolio. Do NOT act on the plays described in this section. This is the archive of prior recommendations in the current portfolio.


IWM - Russell 2000 ETF (January Put Spread)

The Russell has lost touch with reality and posted 15 consecutive days of gains. Monday was a 1% loss to break that streak. However, the economic situation has changed and expectations for a business friendly administration should keep the trend positive over the next several weeks even if there are some temporary dips. I am playing this as far out of the money as possible and still have the targeted 30 cent credit.

Sell short Jan $117 put, currently 52 cents, stop loss $125.65
Buy long Jan $110 put, currently 22 cents, no stop loss.
Net credit 30 cents.


QQQ - Nasdaq 100 ETF (December Put Spread)

The Nasdaq 100 has been the weakest index for the prior week as portfolio managers dumped big cap tech stocks to raise money for banks and industrial stocks. The NDX is starting to rise again and had the biggest gain of all the indexes today. I expect the NDX to continue to outperform as the other indexes face some profit taking.

Sell short Dec $110 put, currently .56, stop loss $113.85
Buy long Dec $103 put, currently .16, no stop loss.
Net credit 40 cents.


QQQ - Nasdaq 100 ETF (January Put Spread)

The Nasdaq corrected almost 4% the prior week. The Nasdaq 100 has been the lagging index and it appeared to catch fire today with a better than 1% gain. The QQQ has dipped several times over the last two months and the decline halted in the $114-$115 range. I am going to try and sell well under that level in hopes the next several weeks will see the Nasdaq break out to a new high with the rest of the market.

Sell Jan $110 put, currently .50, stop loss $114.85
Buy Jan $104 put, currently .19, no stop loss.
Net credit 31 cents.


SPY - S&P-500 ETF (December Put Spread)

Despite being stopped out of the November spread, I am going to try and take advantage of the current market volatility to launch a new one. The SPY spiked to $216 on Wednesday and the market direction should still be up although we could continue to see some significant volatility. The low last Thursday was $208.38 and I am recommending a $204/$196 spread. Even if we do get more volatility I think the dips will be bought.

I am only adding one position because of that potential for additional volatility.

Sell short Dec $204 put, currently $1.02, stop loss $210.85
Buy long Dec $196 put, currently .50, no stop loss.
Net credit 52 cents.

 


XBI - Biotech ETF (December Call Spread)

Clinton is leading and is now assumed to be the winner despite recent gains by Trump. The biotech sector is in serious decline in anticipation of drug price controls if she is elected. With two weeks to go until the election we should see a continued decline in the sector. If she is elected the decline should continue. If Trump pulls out a win the sector should rebound but we can stop out if that happens.

Sell short Dec $67 call, currently .48, stop loss $62.25
Buy long Dec $72 call, currently .14, no stop loss.
Net credit 34 cents.


Margin Requirements:

There are several different formulas for determining margin requirements for naked put writing. These are normally broker specific and some can require larger margin requirements than others.

Here is the most common margin calculation for naked puts.

100% of the option premium + ((20% of the Underlying Market Value) - (OTM Value))

For simplicity of calculation simply use 20% of the underlying stock price and you will always be safe. ($25 stock * 20% = $5 margin)


Prices Quoted in Newsletter

At Option Investor we have a long-standing policy prohibiting the editors and staff from actually trading the individual recommendations in order to conform to SEC rules concerning trades.

The prices quoted in the newsletter are the end of day prices in most cases.

When discussing fills or stops the prices quoted are the bid/ask at the time the entry trigger or exit stop is hit. This is NOT a price that someone on staff actually got using a live order.

For entry/exit points at the market open the prices quoted will be the opening print. The majority of the time the readers are able to get a better fill than the opening print because of market maker bias at the open.

For trades with an opening qualification the prices quoted will be the bid/ask at the time the qualification was met.

All of these rules normally produce worse prices than an active trader would normally get. Because they are standardized there may be some cases where a price quoted was better than an actual fill. If you received a price that was dramatically different than what was quoted please let us know.