The two-day short squeeze faded but the major indexes did not decline. This was a consolidation day after strong gains. The markets were lackluster on low volume as the indexes tried to navigate through their respective resistance levels.
The Dow stopped exactly at the upper resistance level at 17,925. At this point, we may need another catalyst to power us higher. Citigroup reports earnings at the open on Friday and that could be a determining factor for market direction.
The Dow jumped completely over the resistance zone because of the short covering but moving higher from here could be a challenge. The next resistance zone runs from 18,125 to 18,165 and then the historic high at 18,351 from last May. We are very close and a failure at that historic high as we approach May this year would produce a monster double top formation ahead of the summer doldrums.
Friday could be driven by oil prices as well since the Sunday production freeze meeting in Doha is already falling apart. The Russian energy minister said it would only be a "loose agreement" or a "gentlemen's agreement" without any formal rules or specific details. Since the OPEC countries are some of the least reliable countries in the world when it comes to oil production, a deal has no chance of being reliable. OPEC cannot even depend on each country to supply accurate production numbers. OPEC contracts with tanker trackers and pipeline operators to calculate production info. There could be a sell the news event in crude oil on Friday. OR, gullible traders could buy it thinking there will be a miracle. WTI futures expire on Wednesday so that is another incentive for current holders to sell early next week.
Current Position Changes
LB - L Brands
The long put position remains unopened until LB trades at $78.85.
Check the graphic above for any profit stops in green.
We need to always be prepared for a profit exit at resistance.
Stop Loss Updates
Check the graphic above for any new stop losses in bright yellow.
We need to always be prepared for an unexpected decline.
BULLISH Play Updates
ADBE - Adobe Systems - Company Description
No specific news.
Original Trade Description: April 4th.
Adobe Systems Incorporated operates as a diversified software company worldwide. Its Digital Media segment provides tools and solutions that enable individuals, small and medium businesses, and enterprises to create, publish, promote, and monetize their digital content.
For years they sold their Photoshop software and assorted tools as boxed software on a CD with a license key. Once you bought it you own it and Adobe never received any further revenue unless you upgraded to a newer version at some later date.
All that has changed with the move to the cloud. The new product is called the Creative Cloud and is a subscription based product where you pay and pay and pay for as long as you continue to use it.
Moving to the cloud model has a lot of inherent problems. Once you quit selling your boxed software that big chunk of retail revenue goes away. In the case of Adobe their software sold for many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. That meant the one time revenue disappeared in exchange for a $19 to 49 a month subscription fee. Over the long term the revenue is stable and eliminates the volatility of the single sale model.
Earnings for the quarter reported in March were 66 cents that beat estimates for 61 cents. Revenue rose 25% to $1.38 billion also beating estimates for $1.34 billion. They signed up a whopping 798,000 new subscribers to the Creative Cloud suite service. They guided for earnings of 64-70 cents for the current quarter and above analyst estimates for 65 cents.
Earnings are June 21st.
Shares spiked to $98 on the news before pulling back to consolidate at $92 for over a week. Over the last several days they crept up to $96 and then sold off in the weak market on Monday. I believe this market weakness is a buying opportunity for Adobe.
I would like an entry point closer to $92 but there is no guarantee we are going to get it. The S&P futures are down hard tonight at -6.50 and the market is likely to open lower on Tuesday. I am suggesting we buy the option 5 min after the open. That will give the prices time to evaporate in a falling market. Hopefully ADBE will gap down a couple dollars.
Long May $95 call @ $2.48. See portfolio graphic for stop loss.
CSC Computer Sciences Corp - Company Description
No specific news. The play description incorrectly said May $24 call instead of $34 call. The option symbol in the portfolio graphic was correct and we entered the play at $33.40 so buying a $24 call for $1.50 would not have made sense. I apologize for the clerical error.
Original Trade Description: April 6th.
CSC is an information technology and profesional services Fortune 500 firm that provides solutions in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
On February 11th the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, approved the acquisition of WXC Limited for (AU)$427.6 million. CSC believes the acquisition of UXC will strengthen their global commercial business by adding the UXC platform to the CSC cloud, cyber and big data offerings. Back in August CSC acquired two other companies, Fruition Partners, a service-management technology provider and London-based Fixnetix, a provider of front-office managed trading software for capital markets.
They are also acquiring Xchanging, a UK company that provides software and outsourcing services for the insurance industry for $697 million. That deal is currently going through the regulatory approval process.
The point here is that CSC is a leading provider of information technology and they are growing rapidly through acquisitions. They are moving towards a mix of cloud based higher margin products that will be beneficial over the long term. They are also buying back stock with a new authorization in January. They paid a special dividend of $10.50 when they spun off the public sector business in Q4. That accounts for the $10 drop in the stock price at the end of November.
Earnings for last quarter were 71 cents that beat estimates for 69 cents. However, revenue declined -10.2% to $1.75 billion missing estimates for $1.859 billion. Shares fell to $24 on the news. However, the reduced revenue came from a switch to cloud products, which have a long term subscription revenue rather than a short term one time sale. Adobe had the same problem when they went from software sales to software as a service. There is always a drop in revenue during the switch but long-term revenue rises and is more stable.
Total company bookings rose +21% to $2.7 billion. Operating income rose +9.2% to $190 million.
Earnings are May 17th.
Shares rebounded from that post earnings low in February to pass resistance at $33 last week. The market decline this week took some of the bloom off the stock and deflated the option premiums. Prior resistance became support and shares started to tick higher on Wednesday afternoon. This is a relatively slow mover but it has been steady since the rebound began.
I am recommending a June option but we will exit before earnings in May. Using a June option the premium will still have some earnings expectations premium when we exit.
Long June $34 call @ $1.50, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
HCA - HCA Holdings - Company Description
No specific news. Moving at a snail's pace but another six-month high.
Original Trade Description: March 29th.
HCA provides health care services in the USA. They offer general, acute care, intensive care, cardiac care, diagnostic, emergency and outpatient services. They operate 164 general and acute care hospitals with 43,275 licensed beds. They also operate 3 psychiatric hospitals and 116 freestanding surgery centers. They were founded in 1968.
In their Q4 earnings they reported $1.69 per share compared to estimates for $1.39. Revenue rose 6.4% to $10.25 billion also beating estimates for $10.14 billion. They guided for the full year to earnings of $6.00-$6.45 and revenue in the range of $42 billion.
In October, the company had warned on Q3 for the first time since 2013. The entire health care market was shaken by the warning because everyone assumed the revenue and profits would always continue to grow. This is the largest company in the healthcare space and is seen as a bellwether for the sector. HCA rectified the problems by Q4 and the CEO assured everyone on the call that all was well and HCA was "well-positioned for continued success."
One of the problems in Q3 was retaining qualified staff. There is an extreme shortage of nurses and the company has to pay premium wages to keep nurses from being lured away to other hospitals. The CEO said they have a plan in place and they view it as an opportunity for 2016.
Shares sank from the October warning through the market washout in January. After they reported earnings the shares rebounded but were hit again in the February decline. Since the February market lows the stock has risen steadily and has reached initial resistance at $78. Once through this level it could be clear sailing to $86-$88 depending on the market.
Earnings are April 28th.
I am recommending an inexpensive $80 strike for May that should still have some expectation premium left when we exit ahead of earnings. The risk is the resistance at $78.50.
Long May $80 call @ $2.50, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
SWHC - Smith & Wesson - Company Description
The $22.35 level has now been support for three days. No specific news.
Original Trade Description: April 5th.
I am reloading the prior play on Smith & Wesson. Shares failed to decline any further today after being crushed on Monday. The triple downgrade by Cowen, CL King and BB&T Capital markets after the March NCIS background check data declined slightly was unreasonable. March checks declined -3% from February but they were sill up 25% over March 2015. The 3% decline was just noise in the greater outlook.
S&W shares declined to exactly the 100-day average on Monday and that has been support for a long time. I believe we should take advantage of this decline and the shrinkage of the option premiums.
Prior play description: Smith & Wesson was founded in 1852 and manufacturers firearms in the U.S. and internationally under many different brands but primarily Smith & Wesson.
Gun sales are booming. Sportsman's Warehouse said gun sales rose +34% in Q4 alone. With every terrorist attack or mass shooting more consumers rush out to buy guns for self defense. With the potential for additional attacks in the U.S. this trend is not going to slow. However, sales are cyclical. They surge after attacks like San Bernardino or after speeches by politicians about gun control. President Obama has been the best gun salesman we have ever had. Every push by the administration to get more laws passed results in millions of new gun sales.
In their Q4 earnings where there was a surge in gun sales after San Bernardino, the company reported earnings of 59 cents that beat estimates for 41 cents. Revenue rose +61% to $210.8 million and easily beat estimates for $182.3 million. The company guided significantly higher for the current quarter to revenue of $210-$215 million compared to estimates for $196 million. Earnings are expected to be 51-53 cents. That is a 13.7% increase in revenue and 20% increase in earnings. For the full year they guided to earnings for $1.68-$1.70 and analysts were expecting $1.42. This was also higher than the company's prior forecasts for $1.36-$1.41 from January.
The company said inventories were depleted because of the high demand and they were focused on increasing production rates to keep up with demand.
Earnings are June 16th.
Shares rocketed higher after the earnings in early March and they were already up strongly since December. I hesitated to buy the top since it was making new highs every week.
I am recommending a June call because it expires after earnings and should retain some expectation premium when we exit before earnings. Buying a May option would be subject to accelerated premium decay.
Long June $24 call @ $1.80, no initial stop loss.
XBI - SPDR Biotech ETF - ETF Description
Minor gain in a weak market.
Original Trade Description: April 2nd.
The S&P Biotech ETF attempts to match the performance of the Biotech Select Industry Index. The ETF holds 90 stocks in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
The biotech sector has been in free fall since its high last July at 4,400 on the $BTK Index. The index hit 2,575 in early February and rebounded to trade in a narrow range between 2700-3000 for the last two months. On Friday, the index closed at 3,037 and a two month high. The rebound over 3,000 could be the beginning of a major breakout.
Biotech and pharma stocks have beenunder pressure because of attacks by political candidates claiming they would lower the prices on drugs if they are elected. This caused the sector to collapse most notably in January from 3,900 to that 2,575 level.
If a candidate is elected and did choose to follow through on a promise to lower drug prices it would take a long time, assuming they had the votes in the House and Senate to get a bill passed. I believe the selloff in the biotech sector has been overdone and I have been waiting for a sign there may be a rally in our future. The close over 3,000 on the $BTK could be that sign. The $BTK gained 5.7% last week suggesting buyers are returning.
The XBI gained 2.9% on Friday to cap off a week of gains. The ETF has resistance at $54 and again at $56.50. However, short interest in biotech stocks is so high that any further move higher in the $BTK could cause significant short covering.
I am recommending we buy the June $55 call, currently $3.40. If we get a breakout over $56, it could easily run to $70, which is significant resistance. Obviously that assumes a positive market as well.
A rebound in the biotech sector would lift the Russell 2000 and the S&P and that would help support a positive market.
Long June $55 call @ $3.50, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)
BBBY - Bed, Bath & Beyond - Company Description
No specific news. Rebound began to fade.
Original Trade Description: April 11th.
BBBY operates a chain of retail stores selling a range of domestics merchandise for bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and home furnishings. They also offer health and beauty aids, giftware and infant and toddler merchandise. The currently operate 1,530 stores.
In the age of Amazon can a retail store still exist and be expected to grow their profits? The company posted earnings of $1.91 compared to estimates for $1.80. Revenue of $3.42 billion also beat estimates for $3.38 billion. For the full year they reported earnings of $5.10 and revenue of $12.1 billion.
On the surface that would appear to be a great operation. Revenue increased 2.4%. In the year ago quarter they reported earnings of $1.80. However, same store sales at 1.7% were below the 3.7% increase in the comparison quarter. Online sales increased 25%. They repurchased $1.1 billion in stock in 2015 and declared their first ever dividend of 12.5 cents along with the earnings report. This would seem like a recipe for a rising stock price.
Unfortunately, the post earnings spike of 6% lasted about 2 hours and shares closed negative. BBBY has been in a long-term decline and the February rebound was already fading when the earnings were announced. Analysts believe Amazon will eventually spell the end of profits for large retail chains like BBBY.
Earnings are July 6th.
Shares closed at a six-week low on Monday, only two days after the earnings beat. The chart suggests the stock is going back to the January lows at $41 with today's close at $46.
With the retail sales report on Wednesday likely to disappoint we could see an acceleration in the downward trend.
Long May $45 put @ $.98, no initial stop loss.
ENDP - Endo Intl Plc - Company Description
No specific news. No material move in the stock. The trend is still down.
Original Trade Description: March 28th.
Endo develops, manufactures and distributes pharmaceutical products and devices worldwide. The market well known brands including Percocet, Lidoderm, Voltaren and a wide range of pain medications and testosterone replacement therapies.
Shares have declined from $96 last April to $28 today. The acceleration of the decline over the last several weeks has been in reaction to some generic competitors expected to receive approvals from the FDA soon.
The company also lowered guidance at the Barclay's Healthcare Conference on March 15th. The company lowered guidance to revenue of $928-$972 million for Q1 and analysts were expecting $1.03 billion. Earnings guidance was $1.02 to $1.08 and analysts were expecting $1.19.
Endo is also under pressure as a result of the Valeant Pharmaceutical disaster and the overall decline in the biotech sector.
Earnings are May 9th.
Shares have flat lined at the $28.50 level for more than a week and I believe we are about to see another leg lower. Today was the lowest close since January 2013.
Long May $25 put @ $2.10. See portfolio graphic for stop loss.
LB - L Brands - Company Description
No specific news. LB rallied to resistance at $81 and now the real test begins.
This position remains unopened until LB trades at $78.85.
Original Trade Description: April 13th.
L Brands operates as a specialty retailer of women's intimate and other apparel, beauty and personal care products, and accessories. Everybody knows of Victoria Secret. They are the premier lingerie retailer in the country. They offer products under the Victoria's Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza, Henri Bendel, CO Bigelow, White Barn Candle Company and many other brand names. They have 2,721 stores in the USA, 270 in Canada and more than 700 international stores in 70 countries.
Last week the company said it was cutting 200 jobs and restructuring into three divisions. Those will be lingerie, beauty and the teen brand PINK. The company said it was getting rid of multiple merchandise categories but they did not say which ones. The online business will be revamped and integrated into the main business rather than operating as a separate entity. They plan on reducing promotions and eliminating the catalog. Citigroup said eliminating the catalog could be a nightmare that could have serious repercussions. JC Penny's revived its catalog last year after seeing sales decline after it was discontinued. There is a rumor they are eliminating swimwear, a $500 million a year category. They plan on utilizing the retail space for sports clothing.
The company reported March sales growth of 5% to $1.027 billion. Same store sales rose +3%.
Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock from buy to neutral saying the restructuring and elimination of multiple merchandise lines would impact sales in the short term. Two weeks earlier Credit Suisse cut them from buy to neutral and JP Morgan made the same downgrade last quarter.
Earnings May 18th.
Shares fell off rather steeply ahead of the sales reporting and Goldman downgrade and then hit a seven-month low on the downgrade. Many traders thought it was a buying opportunity and shares rebounded promptly in Tuesday's short squeeze. However, on Wednesday the rebound fizzled to gain only 74 cents. This suggests the rebound may have run its course.
I am recommending we buy a put on a trade under today's low of $79.04. If the stock rolls over it will trigger the position, otherwise we are just watching. If shares fall below that $76 print from Tuesday there is a lot of air before the next support at $65.
With a LB trade at $78.85
Buy May $78 put, currently $1.95. Initial stop loss $81.35.
SPY - S&P 500 ETF - ETF Description
Dead stop at resistance. The short squeeze appears to be fading.
I am recommending we add to this position when/if the SPY trades up to $210.
Original Trade Description: March 16th.
All good things must come to an end. The market appears poised to rally and produce a new leg higher. However, there is serious resistance starting at 2,075 on the S&P and continuing through 2,100. The odds are very slim that a rally will make it through that resistance ahead of the earnings cycle and assuming earnings for Q1 are as bad as the guidance we have been getting then it is even more likely the market rolls over into the "Sell in May" cycle.
Nobody can accurately pick turning points in the market on a routine basis. There are far too many things that can push and pull the indexes but at critical resistance levels we can normally anticipate at least a little reaction to those levels.
The S&P has strong resistance beginning at 2,078, which equates to $208 on the SPY. That resistance runs from 2,078 to 2,105 or roughly $211 on the SPY. I am proposing we buy puts on the SPY starting at $207 with a stop loss at $213.
The S&P may never hit those levels or it could hit them next week. The close after the Fed decision was 2,027, which means it would still have to rally 50 points to hit our initial entry point. Once it reaches that level it will have rebounded for +268 points and would be extremely overbought when it reached that 2,078 level. That makes it even more likely it will fail when it gets there.
I am going to recommend the June $200 puts. They should cost about $4 when the SPY reaches the $207 level. I want to use June because we may not reach that resistance for a couple weeks, if at all, and once we do hit that level I want to be able to profit from any sell in May decline.
This position could go for several weeks without being triggered and there is a good chance we will not get to play it with numerous analysts calling for a failure at 2,040 and 2,050 along the way. There are analysts calling for a retest of the 1,900 level this summer with some projecting significantly lower levels. If you look hard enough you can probably find someone projecting targets a couple hundred points higher or lower than the ones discussed.
Morgan Stanley's Adam Parker slashed his price target for the S&P from 2,175 to 2,050 yesterday. Most of the major banks are in the 2,050 to 2,100 range so the expectations for a major rally from here are pretty slim.
Position 3/23/16 with SPY trade at $204.11
3/23/16: Long June $200 put @ $4.77 with SPY trade at $204.11
4/01/16: Long June $200 put @ $3.26 when SPY traded at $207.
If the market continues higher add to that position again at $210.
See portfolio graphic for stop loss.
TWTR - Twitter - Company Description
Minor gain in a lackluster market. We do not care which way it moves, just as long as it moves a lot.
Original Trade Description: April 9th.
Twitter operates as a global platform for public self expression and conversation in real time. I am pretty sure everyone knows what Twitter is so I am not going into depth in this explanation.
Twitter has become the bet of the year. Analysts either think it is going to single digits or going to the moon. The highest price target is $36 and the lowest is $11 with the average at $20.86 across a total of 27 brokers.
Twitter has trouble keeping users because the learning curve is steep and Twitter spam is increasing daily. Twitter bots can be programmed to spread tweets and make it appear there is a huge volume of interest in a specific subject. Andres Sepulveda, a Latin American political operative used custom software to direct 30,000 Twitter bots to create false enthusiasm for candidates and spread rumors about the opposition. Sepulveda said the tactics gave him "the power to make people believe almost everything." The man responsible for his operations said two American presidential candidates had contact him and one of those was Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, Twitter has been having trouble monetizing all the traffic regardless of whether it is real or fake. Their monthly active users include a lot of churn and barely any growth. While nobody expects Twitter to go out of business they are losing faith in the business model.
CEO Jack Dorsey is also CEO of Square and that carries mixed emotions. Some want him replaced and others want him full time. Almost nobody wants him to continue the dual role.
There are constant rumors that Twitter will be bought by someone like Google or Apple. If that were to occur it would carry a huge premium to the current $16 stock price.
Twitter has been earnings challenged for a long time and the stock has declined from $55 to the current $16 level on a lack of confidence they will turn the company around.
Earnings April 26th.
The stock is either going to single digits or it will be back well over $20 soon. It is not likely to continue moving sideways at $16.
I am recommending we do a strangle on Twitter using the June options. Regardless of the stock or market direction we should be able to profit. Because Twitter is $16 and stagnant the options are relatively cheap. I want to buy them now and hold over earnings because that is likely to be a volatility event. We could also get some market moving news with the earnings release.
You could use the $18 call and $15 put for a net debit of $2.22 if you want a cheaper option.
Long June $17 call @ $2.07, no stop loss.
Long June $16 put @ $1.45, no stop loss.
Net debit $3.52.
USO - US Oil Fund - Company Description
Waiting patiently for the Doha disaster on Sunday. Next week will be the big move up or down. The russian energy minister said today that it will be only a "loose agreement" without any specific details on production levels. Rather than a hard set of rules it will be a "gentlemen's agreement" and a guideline. As I have said for more than a month, it will not be worth the paper it is written on. Now we learn it may not even be in writing. The market should react badly next week.
Original Trade Description: April 12th.
The U.S. Oil Fund is designed to track the daily price movement of WTI crude oil. This is the simplest method to speculate on the direction of crude oil on a short-term basis.
The USO, or any futures ETF, should not be held long-term because it bleeds value when the futures roll over once a month. On a short term basis it works great for speculation.
Crude oil has spiked 15% over the last several days with a 4% rise today alone. This is speculation over a production freeze agreement in Doha, Qatar on Sunday between OPEC and major crude producing countries. On Tuesday Russia's Interfax news service quoted some diplomat in Qatar saying Russia and Saudi Arabia had agreed to freeze production even if Iran decided not to participate.
This is contrary to what the Saudi deputy crown prince has said over the last couple weeks. The prince said Saudi would not participate unless Iran and the other major producers all agreed to freeze production. Obviously, he could change his mind but after making those statements more than once a change of heart could make him look weak.
There is significant potential for a Doha disaster where the meeting deteriorates into a brawl and nothing is accomplished. Even if they do agree to a freeze that would still maintain 1.45 mbpd of excess production at current levels. Iran, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria and the UAE all have plans to increase production so it would be a major change of plans to agree to a freeze. Most have said they would not support a freeze but when it comes down to the meeting, anything is possible.
Lastly, OPEC members are notorious about saying one thing and doing another. They could all agree to the freeze, wink wink, in order to lift prices and then continue on doing what they are already doing and pumping every barrel they can produce.
I believe there is a good probability we will see oil prices significantly lower in the days/weeks following the meeting. I am recommending we buy an inexpensive put on the USO and see what happens. If you are aggressive you could also buy a call just in case a miracle does occur and prices spike higher. I view that as nearly impossible since Saudi Arabia has said they do not want to see prices much over $40 because that would allow U.S. shale drillers to increase production.
Long May $10.50 put @ 58 cents. No stop loss.
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