Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Thursday, 1/19/2012

Table of Contents

  1. Market Wrap
  2. New Option Plays
  3. In Play Updates and Reviews

Market Wrap

Six Month Highs

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown
It appears investors have shifted to rick on mode as worries over Europe are easing and U.S. economic numbers continue to improve.

Market Statistics

Successful debt sales in various European countries and possible progress on the Greece haircut talks combined with positive U.S. economics and earnings to push equity markets to six month highs. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

For months there was always a daily stream of negative headlines from every direction that weighed on the markets. Volatility remained high and bearish analysts predicted years of muddle through economy ahead. Europe was going to sink below the ocean in a recession/depression that would send their economies back to WWII levels.

Suddenly the headlines have turned "less bad" and equity markets are starting to gain momentum. Studies are starting to appear that throw cold water on the European economic disaster scenario. A Reuters poll of 600 economists predicts global economic growth for 2012 will decline to +3.3% from an estimated +3.7% in 2011.

That is more optimistic than the World Bank estimates for +2.5% growth. Almost all analysts now believe China dodged the hard landing someone were worried about. Estimates for China's 2012 growth have declined to +8.4% but that is still more than enough to produce jobs for the fast growing population. India is expected to grow at +7.0% and slightly less than the last two years but still robust. Brazil is expected to grow by +3.3% in 2012 and +4.5% in 2013.

The U.S. is the laggard with an expected +2.2% growth rate for 2012 but there are signs we could be accelerating faster than analysts expected. Economic reports are beginning to post improvements that would have been unexpected just 90 days ago.

The weekly Jobless Claims fell -50,000 to 352,000 for last week. That was a real shock since that is the lowest level since April 2008 and the largest drop in more than six years. However, the Labor Department said it had to estimate claims for several states including California and Virginia because of delays in processing due to the holiday. This low number was even more surprising since it covers the week ended on Jan 14th and the second week of the year. Historically that week shows a high rate of claims as laggards who put off looking for a job over the holidays begin to start their search by filing for unemployment.

If the revisions from the estimated states don't spike the numbers and the current declining trend in claims continues this could be indicating a major change in the employment picture. Normally claims under 350,000 a week indicate a stronger pace of hiring.

Jobless Claims Chart

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for December came in at zero once again showing no increase in inflation for the third consecutive month. The core rate, which excludes food and energy, rose only +0.1%. Considering oil prices over $100 I am very surprised consumer inflation has gone dormant.

Year over year the headline inflation is just under +3.0% and the core rate is +2.2%. Those are very tame numbers and well within the Fed's inflation targets. This means there are no inflation reasons why the Fed can't implement a further expansion in monetary policy when it meets next week. I doubt they will do it but it won't be due to worries about inflation.

CPI Chart

New Residential Construction slowed slightly in December to a pace of 657,000 units compared to 685,000 in November. However, the declines were in the multifamily units and single family homes actually increased by 20,000. December is normally a slow month for starts and permits because of the weather and the holidays. The difference in the headline number of 28,000 units only represents a decline of slightly over 2,000 units a month. The headline number is an annualized number. The pace of building has been moving steadily higher since February and the minor decline in December is probably just seasonal noise.

Distressed homes are declining as the foreclosure cycle winds down. Record low mortgage rates are helping to keep a steady stream of buyers touring new home projects. The NAHB Housing Market Index on Wednesday rose by +4 points to 25 and is now at the highest level in four years. Traffic of potential buyers rose to 21 from a low of 11 in September. That is very encouraging for builders.

New Residential Construction Chart

NAHB Housing Index Chart

The Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey for January rose to 7.3 from a downwardly revised 6.8 in December. Any positive number represents an expansion in activity. The new orders component declined slightly from 10.7 to 6.9. Back orders fell to -4.1 from +5.1 for the biggest change in the manufacturing part of the survey. Employment was flat at 11.6. On the positive side capital expenditure plans spiked to 22.9 from 10.8. This indicates companies are positive about the future and they are spending money to increase capacity. The expectations component rose +9 to 49 and has nearly doubled since September.

Philly Fed Manufacturing Survey Chart

On Friday we get another look at the housing sector with existing home sales. The next pothole in the rally road could be the FOMC meeting which starts on Tuesday. It is a two day meeting. The Fed is not officially expected make any changes in policy but there is an optimistic whisper in the market suggesting investors are hoping for some new program. With economics improving and Europe pulling back from the abyss I would expect the Fed to keep any additional policy programs in reserve for future use only if needed.

Economic Calendar

This was super Thursday for tech earnings. Unfortunately it was not super for everyone. One of the winners was Microsoft ($MSFT). The company struggled to overcome weak PC sales with gains on things like Xbox and Office software. Microsoft posted profits of $6.62 billion, just slightly below the $6.63 billion in the comparison quarter. Considering the headwinds from the Thailand floods it was a good showing. Earnings were 78-cents compared to estimates of 76-cents. Earnings were helped by a strong share buyback program that reduced the number of outstanding shares. Shares of MSFT rose +2% in afterhours trading. The whisper numbers were for an earnings miss.

Microsoft is very excited about Windows 8 due out in beta next month. This version will operate on PCs and mobile devices and should be a big winner for Microsoft. CEO Ballmer said the Windows 8 launch should accelerate revenue in many of the key products and services.

Microsoft Chart

Intel rallied to a new four year high in after hours trading after posting earnings of 64-cents compared to estimates of 61-cents. Revenue rose an amazing +21% to $13.72 billion. Intel guided to revenue of $12.8 billion for the current quarter and in line with analyst estimates. Margins are expected to decline t 63% from 64.5% in Q4.

Intel had pre-warned that results would be weaker for Q4 due to the Thailand floods limiting hard drive availability and sales of new PCs. Intel said the impact would continue to be felt in Q1 and probably through the first half of 2012. Intel capex for 2012 will be in the range of $12.5 billion and in line with estimates. Intel is expecting strong sales of ultrabooks to boost processor sales. Those lightweight, high speed notebooks will feature Intel's new Ivy Bridge chips. At CES Intel announced that Lenovo and Motorola had selected its new mobile chip for their smart phones.

Intel Chart

IBM posted earnings of $4.71 per share and higher than analyst estimates of $4.62 per share. IBM guided analysts for a +10.5% earnings growth for the full year to $14.85 per share. IBM said strong growth in its software and services business helped it to overcome the global economic slowdown. Revenue rose to $29.5 billion, just missing estimates of $29.7 billion but nobody seemed to care thanks to the strong guidance.

IBM said it order backlog rose to a whopping $141 billion with $20.4 billion in contracts signed in Q4. The company said it was well on track for $15 per share in earnings by 2015. IBM shares rose +3% to $185 after the earnings release. Whisper numbers were lower than official estimates and there were fears the dollar/euro conversion would be a challenge as well as the slowdown in activity in Europe. IBM shares had declined from their $195 level in December.

IBM Chart

The loser in the group was Google. The company reported earnings of $9.50 per share and analysts were expecting $10.49. Revenue was also light at $8.13 billion compared to estimates of $8.41 billion. Google had exceeded revenue estimates for the last eight quarters so the miss was surprising.

Google said the number of pay per click adds increased sharply in Q4 but the amount of money Google received for those click declined -8%. Google expenses rose to 32% of revenue compared to 30% in the year ago quarter. Google said its Google+ project now had 90 million users. Google said more than 250 million devices powered by Android have been activated.

Some analysts are worried that Google's pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MMI) will hurt sales of Android because of competitive concerns from companies like Samsung and other companies that make Android compatible equipment. How will Google's ownership of Motorola change the way it markets Android? They could win the battle with a strong suite of Motorola phones but lose the war if the other phone makers start moving away from the Android platform. Google has yet to explain why it bought Motorola and how it expects to manage the company other than "it will be a separate company."

Google shares imploded on the earnings miss and several analysts were making negative comments about the rapid growth of Google expenses compared to slowing revenue growth. Maybe Google should invest in fewer wind and solar farms and races to the moon and more into its Internet products.

Google Chart

In the financial sector Bank America ($BAC) posted earnings of $2 billion or 15-cents per share. That was in line with analyst expectations. New credit card accounts rose by +53% and added $1 billion to profits. The real estate division lost $1.5 billion after a -74% decline in new home loans. BAC has ceased accepting new originations from other banks until it resolves existing problems with the Countrywide Financial portfolio it acquired several years ago. Overall revenue rose +11% to $25.1 billion and well over estimates of $23.7 billion. CEO Moynihan was fairly bullish about 2012 saying they were leaner and stronger after two years of restructuring.

I am bullish on BAC and once they get their mortgage problems resolved they are going to be a major force to be reckoned with in the banking sector. I believe $6 a share is a gift for long term investors. The rebound over long term resistance at the 50-day average is a buy signal.

BAC Chart

Morgan Stanley ($MS) posted a loss of $275 million and its first since early 2009. The loss was due to a charge over mortgage securities sold to MBIA. The settlement produced a 59 cent hit to MS earnings. Morgan Stanley reported a loss of 15 cents. Adding back in the 59 cent hit gives MS 45 cents in operating earnings and +2 cents over analyst estimates. The CEO said for the first time in two years their "do list was not their problem list" meaning they were going back to business as usual and getting out of the fire drill activity from the last three years.

Shares of Morgan Stanley rallied +5% on the news.

Morgan Stanley Chart

American Express ($AXP) posted earnings that rose +12% to $1.01 per share compared to estimates of 97 cents. AXP said U.S. based spending rose to $4,091 per cardholder in Q4 compared to $3,537 for card holders outside the USA. Defaults declined to 2.3% from 4.3% in Q4-2010. Those more than 30-days behind on payments fell to 1.5% from 2.1%. American Express said it bought back 3% of its shares for the quarter and that boosted the earnings per outstanding share. For the full year AXP posted earnings of $4.94 billion. The company maintained its long term revenue growth targets of +8% and earnings per share growth of 12% to 15%.

AXP shares declined to $49.80 after the report.

AXP Chart

Capita One ($COF) was the opposite of AXP. COF reported earnings of 88-cents compared to estimates of $1.55. That compares to $1.52 in Q4-2010. The sharp decline in earnings was due to a rise in expenses of $321 million. That included a big increase in marketing, $90 million in litigation expenses and $40 million in asset write downs from "acquired businesses." COF also increased expenditures in infrastructure in order to be ready for attractive acquisition opportunities.

COF Chart

There were too many earnings announcements to touch on all of them. So far in this cycle only 53% of those reporting have beaten estimates, 20% reported in line and 27% missed estimates. That is well below normal with those beating in the mid 60% range.

The markets don't seem to care and appear to be attributing the misses to the prior economic problems and looking at the guidance as a better indicator than prior results. That is exactly what we want to happen but we need to see a better pattern of positive guidance. Revenue guidance has been particularly weak but given the problems in Europe I guess that is to be expected from international companies.

You may have noticed there is a common thread in many of the earnings reports so far this cycle. Share buybacks have been strong and they have reduced the number of outstanding shares by a large enough percentage to increase the earnings pre remaining outstanding share. This is a technique IBM has used for decades thanks to their high cash flow. In this environment where companies are cash rich they are turning to that tactic to enable their earnings to appear stronger. In the long run it will equalize. Once earnings begin to accelerate the numbers will be even that much better thanks to the reduced number of shares. When the economy begins to accelerate the earnings will explode.

Earnings will not be exploding any time soon for natural gas producers. Natural gas futures hit a new 10-year low today and the outlook is not good. A warm winter, low demand and a glut of gas is killing gas prices and the shares of companies primarily producing dry gas. Gas closed today at $2.29 per Mcf and analysts are starting to talk about prices under $2.

Natural Gas Chart

The equity markets appear to be celebrating the improvement in economic outlook around the world. I should say the "less bad" outlook since estimates are simply improving from what was seen as bleak just a couple months ago. Compared to bleak any growth is an improvement.

The various indexes are all breaking out to new six month highs but there is no sense of urgency or conviction. Volume increased from two weeks of mid six billion share days to 7.1 billion on Wednesday and 7.5 billion today. Up volume was 5:2 over down volume and advancers 4:2 over decliners.

Those are decent numbers and I am sure the lack of conviction came from the worry over the four big tech reports due out after the bell. Had the results from all four of the tech giants been more like Google's results the outlook for Friday would be a lot different.

Because of the drop in Google the Nasdaq and S&P futures are slightly negative tonight but only by a couple of points. That alone is amazing given the -60 point drop in Google.

The positive results from the other after hours announcements appears to be providing support. Let's hope that continues.

The S&P has posted two consecutive days of decent gains and closed at 1,314 and well over the prior resistance at 1,300. That makes the new resistance target 1,350 and the high for the year according to estimates from quite a few analysts. A breakout there would be positively explosive but I suspect it will not be easily won. Current support should now be 1,300 and 1,295.

Friday is option expiration but I don't expect a lot of option related volatility. The headline that could torpedo the rally could come from Greece. The deadline to resolve the private sector haircut of 100 billion euros is rapidly approaching and some Greek officials are hoping they can get an agreement on Friday. Another failure of the talks would be market negative.

S&P Chart

The Dow is only 125 points from MAJOR resistance at 12,750. I can't emphasize enough how a breakout over that level would energize the market. A break through the high close at 12,810 from April would put the Dow at a new three year, post recession, high.

Dow components IBM, MSFT, AXP and GE, which reports earnings on Friday, should be major influences on tomorrow's market. AXP was the only one of tonight's Dow component earnings to see shares decline but IBM is much heavier weighted and made a $5 gain in late trading. That is worth more than 40 Dow points.

Resistance 12,750-12,800 and support 12,500.

Dow Chart

The Nasdag Composite broke out to a new six month high on Wednesday and then added to those gains today. This is a strongly bullish event when you consider the potential trouble that could have appeared after the close. Resistance 2,875 and support at 2,700.

However, the real market event was the ten year high on the Nasdaq 100.

Nasdaq Chart

The Nasdaq 100 closed at 2,441 and the highest close since 2001. Were it not for Google's drop tonight this would be a major market event. Now we will have to regroup and retake this level for it to count.

Breaking out to a new ten year high was a major event. Let's hope it was not a climax that signals the start of a new bout of profit taking.

Nasdaq 100 Chart

If we can avoid a breakdown in the overnight talks in Greece we have a decent chance of another gain on Friday. The Google loss is going to be painful but hopefully the positive gains in the other tech leaders will offset that negativity.

I hate to use the term "good news is breaking out all over" but that is what it feels like. I realize it is really "less bad news" but I will take anything that keeps the market moving higher in January. We are on track to overcome the seasonal late January weakness that produced declines in 12 of the last 15 Januarys. Hopefully I did not jinx it by mentioning it again.

This is not a three day weekend and the only lingering cloud is Greece. Keep your fingers crossed!

I remain cautious but long until proven wrong.

The EOY special is over but we have a few packets left. First come, first served. When they are gone they are gone. 2011 Special

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email

New Option Plays

New Highs for Fashion

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


PVH Corp. - PVH - close: 76.95 change: +0.94

Stop Loss: 73.90
Target(s): 83.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 4 to 6 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
PVH is an apparel maker that has continue to build on its bullish trend of higher lows. Now the stock is setting near all-time highs. Given the market's up trend we're expecting PVH to reach for $80 and beyond.

I am suggesting small bullish positions now but only if both PVH and the S&P 500 index open positive tomorrow morning. If opened we'll use a stop loss at $73.90. Our multi-week target is $83.50. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for PVH is bullish with a $92 target.

*See Entry Details Above*

- Suggested Positions - (Small Positions)

buy the Feb $77.50 call (PVH1218B77.5) current ask $2.50

- or -

buy the Mar $80 call (PVH1217C80) current ask $2.70

Annotated Chart:

Entry on January xx at $ xx.xx
Earnings Date 03/28/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 867 million
Listed on January 19, 2012

In Play Updates and Reviews

Stocks Extend Gains Toward Expiration

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:

Tomorrow is the last day of trading for January options. The market continues to extend its gains higher into this new year.

Our new play on NOC has been opened but our OPNT put play has been stopped out.

Current Portfolio:

CALL Play Updates

Boeing Co. - BA - close: 75.56 change: +0.50

Stop Loss: 73.65
Target(s): 76.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: -35.1%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: BA managed to outperform both the S&P 500 and the Dow Industrial average today with a +0.6% gain but it wasn't enough. Last night we lowered the exit target down to $76.00 but BA stalled at $75.92. It's time for us to exit at the open tomorrow. I'm worried BA will probably settle on the $75.00 level for option expiration.

- Suggested Positions -

Long 2012Jan $75 call (BA1221A75) entry $1.08

01/19/12 prepare to exit at the open tomorrow
01/18/12 adjust exit target to $76.00, only 2 days left
01/17/12 only three trading days left
01/12/12 new stop loss @ 73.65
01/07/12 new stop loss @ 72.65
01/05/12 new stop loss @ 72.25
12/31/11 new stop loss @ 71.75
12/28/11 new stop loss @ 71.40
12/22/11 new stop loss @ 69.85
12/13/11 trade opened
12/12/11 adjusted stop loss to $69.25
12/12/11 trade did not open, try again.

Entry on December 13 at $71.67
Earnings Date 02/01/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 6.2 million
Listed on December 10, 2011

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. - BRK.B - close: 79.59 change: +0.67

Stop Loss: 76.75
Target(s): 83.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: +28.8%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: BRK.B is still moving higher and outperformed the major indices with a +0.8% gain today. The $80.00 mark might be some short-term round-number resistance. Don't be surprised to see the stock pause or pull back there. Our multi-week target is $83.50. We do not want to hold over the late February earnings report.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $80 call (BRKB1218B80) entry $0.90

01/18/12 triggered at $78.75
01/14/12 adjusted entry point strategy to use a trigger @ 78.75
01/13/12 BRK.B gapped lower, negating our entry point. Trade did not open.

Entry on January 18 at $78.75
Earnings Date 02/27/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 4.4 million
Listed on January 12, 2012

Starwood Hotel & Resorts - HOT - close: 53.30 change: +1.33

Stop Loss: 49.75
Target(s): 55.75
Current Option Gain/Loss: +54.4%
Time Frame: exit prior to earnings
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: HOT was a strong performer today. Shares rallied +2.5% and broke out to new relative highs. Today's gain also puts HOT above one if its significant multi-month trend lines of lower highs (a.k.a. resistance). More conservative traders may want to start raising their stop loss.

Don't forget that we plan to exit prior to the Feb. 2nd earnings.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $52.50 call (HOT1218B52.5) entry: 1.67

01/18/12 new stop loss @ $49.75
01/13/12 Triggered on a dip at $51.00
01/10/12 initial entry point did not work. New strategy: buy a dip at $51.00.

Entry on January 13 at $51.00
Earnings Date 02/02/12 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.4 million
Listed on January 09, 2012

Humana Inc. - HUM - close: 94.94 change: +0.44

Stop Loss: 92.95
Target(s): 99.75
Current Option Gain/Loss: -30.7%
Time Frame: 2 to 3 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: HUM managed to hold support at the $94.00 level and bounced, gaining +0.4%. I would be tempted to buy calls here if both HUM and the S&P 500 open positive tomorrow.

Our target is $99.75 since the $100 level might be round-number, psychological resistance. We do not want to hold over the early February earnings report. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for HUM is bullish with a $109 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $100 call (HUM1218B100) entry $1.30

01/17/12 HUM gapped open higher at $95.75, above our trigger at $95.25

Entry on January 17 at $95.75
Earnings Date 02/06/12 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.2 million
Listed on January 14, 2012

InterOil Corp. - IOC - close: 62.21 change: -0.29

Stop Loss: 58.40
Target(s): 66.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 7.1%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: IOC hit a little bit of profit taking today but shares first spiked up to $64.46 before reversing lower. Look for support near $60.00 and its rising 10-dma.

Earlier Comments:
If IOC breaks out higher it could see a big move. That's because IOC could see a possible short squeeze. The most recent data listed short interest at more than 22% of the 33.4 million share float. Our target is $66.00. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for IOC is bullish with a long-term $91 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $65 call (IOC1218B65) Entry $5.60*

01/18/12 new stop loss @ 58.40
* entry price is an estimate based on when IOC hit our trigger.

Entry on January 18 at $61.00
Earnings Date 03/22/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 537 thousand
Listed on January 17, 2012

iShares Russell 2000 ETF - IWM - close: 78.20 change: +0.48

Stop Loss: 75.45
Target(s): 82.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 1.7%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: Small caps continued to rally. The IWM gapped open higher at $78.13 and then spent most of the day consolidating sideways on either side of the $78.00 level. I would still consider new positions now or you could wait for a dip closer to the $77.00 level.

You may want to consider a stop closer to the 10-dma instead (currently 75.95). Our multi-week target is $82.50. Keep in mind the $80.00 level might offer some overhead resistance. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for IWM is bullish with a $90 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $80 call (IWM1218B80) Entry $1.14

01/19/12 IWM gapped open higher at $78.13

Entry on January 19 at $78.13
Earnings Date --/--/--
Average Daily Volume = 40 million
Listed on January 18, 2012

iShares Transportation - IYT - close: 94.52 change: +1.53

Stop Loss: 89.45
Target(s): 94.75 or 98.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: Jan$95c: - 50% & Feb$95c: +31.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: I am somewhat surprised to see that the January $95 calls actually traded at 25 cents today (that's the ask). The calls currently have a bid/ask of $0.10/0.35. If they still have any value at the open tomorrow we want to exit immediately although I expect them to open with a bid of $0.00.

Our Feb. $95 calls look a lot healthier thanks to today's +1.6% rally in the IYT. The $95 level could be round-number resistance so readers might want to consider taking profits soon. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Don't forget that January options expire after Friday (tomorrow).

- Suggested Positions -

Long Jan $95 call (IYT1221A95) entry $0.20

- or -

Long Feb $95 call (IYT1218B95) entry $1.45
target 98.50

01/12/12 new stop loss @ 89.45
01/07/12 new stop loss @ 88.75
01/03/12 IYT gapped open higher at $91.20, above our trigger at $90.75

Entry on January 03 at $91.20
Earnings Date --/--/--
Average Daily Volume = 582 thousand
Listed on December 22, 2011

Laboratory Corp. - LH - close: 88.83 change: +0.36

Stop Loss: 85.95
Target(s): 94.75
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: Yes, see below

01/19 update: The sideways consolidation in LH is coiling more tightly, like a spring, the stock looks poised to leap higher if it can just break through resistance. The intraday high was $88.89. I suspect if the market is positive tomorrow we could see LH hit our entry point at $89.00.

Our target is the $94.75 mark. More aggressive traders could aim for the $97-100 zone instead. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for LH is bullish with a $105 target.

NOTE: We do not want to hold over the earnings report around Feb. 9th (still an unconfirmed date).

Trigger @ 89.00

- Suggested Positions -

buy the Feb $90 call (LH1218B90)

Entry on January xx at $ xx.xx
Earnings Date 02/09/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 564 thousand
Listed on January 10, 2012

Mohawk Industries - MHK - close: 65.18 change: -0.13

Stop Loss: 59.90
Target(s): 67.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 3.2%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: The rally in MHK took a day off. Shares drifted sideways and settled with a minor loss. I am not suggesting new positions at this time. I would not be surprised to see MHK settle near $65.00 for option expiration tomorrow. More conservative traders may want to start raising their stop loss.

Our target is $67.50 but we do not want to hold over the February earnings report. More aggressive traders could aim higher.

Investors will be interested to note that the most recent data listed short interest at 5% of the 57 million share float. That's not excessive but it's a bit high and could boost any new gains as bears cover their shorts. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for MHK is bullish with a $90 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $65 call (MHK1218B65) Entry $2.48

01/17/12 MHK gapped open higher at $63.99

Entry on January 17 at $63.99
Earnings Date 02/21/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 621 thousand
Listed on January 14, 2012

Northrop Gruman - NOC - close: 61.31 change: +1.14

Stop Loss: 57.90
Target(s): 64.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: +23.5%
Time Frame: up to NOC's early February earnings report.
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: Our new trade on NOC has been opened. The stock opened at $60.34 and outperformed the market with a +1.8% gain. I am already tempted to raise our stop closer to the $59.00 level.

We plan to exit prior to NOC's earnings report in early February. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for NOC is bullish with a $71 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $60 call (NOC1218B60) Entry $1.70

Entry on January 19 at $60.34
Earnings Date 02/01/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.5 million
Listed on January 18, 2012

Omnicom Group - OMC - close: 47.69 change: +0.60

Stop Loss: 45.45
Target(s): 49.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: +66.6%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: OMC continues to surge and added another +1.2% today. Readers may want to start thinking about taking profits already. The simple 10-dma is at $45.65. I am raising our stop loss to $45.45. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Our target is $49.00. We do not want to hold over the mid February earnings report. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for OMC is bullish with a $64 target.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $45 call (OMC1218B45) entry $1.80

01/19/12 new stop loss @ 45.45, readers may want to take profits now (+66%)
01/18/12 new stop loss @ 44.75

Entry on January 12 at $45.75
Earnings Date 02/14/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 1.6 million
Listed on January 11, 2012

Teva Pharmaceuticals - TEVA - close: 45.79 change: +0.39

Stop Loss: 43.75
Target(s): 49.50
Current Option Gain/Loss: +12.0%
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: TEVA was consistently drifting higher almost all day long. If you're looking for a new entry point consider waiting for a dip or a new bounce near $45.00.

Our target is $49.50 but we'll plan to exit prior to the earnings report in early February. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for TEVA is bullish with a $57 target.

(Small Positions)- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $45 call (TEVA1218B45) entry $1.50

01/18/12 TEVA has rebounded. Use it as a new entry point.
01/17/12 Be careful. TEVA hit our trigger and reversed to close back under $45.00

Entry on January 17 at $45.25
Earnings Date 02/08/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 5.9 million
Listed on January 14, 2012

TJX Companies - TJX - close: 66.92 change: +0.07

Stop Loss: 64.75
Target(s): 68.50
Current Option Gain/Loss:(Jan$65c: +85.0%) & Feb$65c: +51.4%
Time Frame: 3 to 6 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: TJX has stalled at short-term resistance near $67.00. I would not be surprised to see the stock pull back toward the $66-65 zone and settle near $65 thanks to options expiration. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Readers may want to exit our February calls now with a +50% move.

Earlier Comments:
On January 5th, management announced a 2-for-1 stock split payable on February 2nd, 2012.

- Suggested Positions -

Long Feb $65 call (TJX1218B65) Entry $1.75

01/18/12 adjusted exit target to $68.50
01/18/12 closed Jan $65 calls @ $1.85 (+85.0%)
01/17/12 prepare to exit January calls at close tomorrow
01/17/12 new stop loss @ 64.75
01/12/12 new stop loss @ 63.75
01/07/12 readers may want to take profits now (Jan$65call +90%, Feb$65call +57%)
01/05/12 new stop loss @ 63.25, TJX announced strong same-store sales and a 2:1 split.
12/31/11 new stop loss @ 62.75

Entry on December 22 at $64.10
Earnings Date 02/23/12 (unconfirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 2.7 million
Listed on December 21, 2011

PUT Play Updates

Currently we do not have any active put trades.


OPNET Technologies - OPNT - close: 34.93 change: +2.03

Stop Loss: 33.85
Target(s): 30.00
Current Option Gain/Loss: -40.9% (wide spreads)
Time Frame: 3 to 4 weeks
New Positions: see below

01/19 update: Bearish trades are not panning out in this market. Even though OPNT slipped to new relative lows yesterday the stock exploded higher today. I couldn't find any news or catalyst to explain today's +6.1% gain. It just looks like a little short squeeze. OPNT hit our stop loss at $33.85.

Earlier Comments:
We want to keep our position size small because OPNT has above average short interest at 11.7% of the 14.8 million share float. That raises the risk of a short squeeze should the stock reverse higher. FYI: The Point & Figure chart for OPNT is bearish with a $20 target. The spreads are a little wide as well, which is another reason to keep our position size small.

(small positions) - Suggested Positions -

Feb $30 PUT (OPNT1218B30) Entry $1.10, exit $0.65*(-40.9%)

01/19/12 stopped out at $33.85
* exit price is an estimate. option did not trade very much on Thursday.


Entry on January 18 at $32.70
Earnings Date 02/07/12 (confirmed)
Average Daily Volume = 252 thousand
Listed on January 17, 2012