Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Saturday, 11/1/2014

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

No Tricks, Japan Treated

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Early Friday morning Japan announced another massive QE program and the markets surged to new highs.

Market Statistics

Thank you Japan for having such a bad economy that Haruhiko Kuroda, the head of the Bank of Japan, was forced to take extraordinary measures to keep Japan from falling back into deflation. The recent consumption tax hike to 8% and another hike to 10% planned for October 2015, caused the Japanese economy to decline -1.7% in Q2 with inflation falling back towards +1% again. The bank cut its 2015 expected growth rate from +1.0% to only +0.5%. The bank is going to buy an additional ¥30 trillion in Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) a year and will also purchase shares in ETFs and REITS. The bank said it would continue the purchases until the inflation rate reached 2%, currently 1.2% and falling. The new BOJ spending on QE will rise to ¥80 trillion annually ($712 billion), up from ¥50 trillion a year.

In addition the $1.26 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), the world's largest, will slash its holdings of government bonds from 60% to 35% and shift that money into equities. GPIF will allocate 25% of its assets to Japanese equities, 25% to foreign equities and 35% to domestic bonds. The remaining 15% will be for international bonds. GPIF Announcement PDF

Basically the BOJ and GPIF are going to be adding about $414 billion in bond and equity purchases with much of that in foreign equities. Since the U.S. market is the largest and most liquid that means we are going to be the beneficiary of the Japanese QE. Analysts believe this could be something in the range of $200 billion flowing into the U.S. equity markets.

The Japanese Nikkei was up +1,000 points intraday and closed with a gain of +755 at a 7-year high. The S&P futures exploded higher overnight when this QE surprise was announced. The futures exploded higher from 1,990 to 2,016 in the first few minutes after the announcement to setup a major short squeeze at the opening of the U.S. markets.

The Japanese Yen collapsed with a massive -2.76% drop in one day to close at a 7-year low. The dollar spiked nearly +1% in reaction to the Yen's decline.

Some analysts believe the new QE program is so big it could be a "Bear Stearns moment" for Japan. They believe this massive QE for a country the size of Japan, with a GDP less than one-third the size of the U.S. this is going to be a disaster. Japan is a bug in search of a windshield as John Mauldin is fond of saying. Their outstanding debt is more than one quadrillion yen or $10.5 trillion and more than twice their GDP as of December 31st. The BOJ typically buys around 70% of the government debt and the rest is bought by Japanese banks and pension funds. This is eventually going to result in a monumental financial crisis and every holder in Japan is going to be wiped out.

There is no mathematical way for Japan to pay off its debt and it is rising by trillions of yen every year as more debt is sold to pay the interest on the old debt. Eventually getting cash advances on your credit card to pay the credit card bill will leave you with enormous debt and no credit. When that happens to Japan the result is going to be earth shaking. The really bad part is that everyone knows it and they are just buying time by kicking the can down the road in hopes of a sudden economic explosion that extends their eventual fate by a few years.

Today that QE announcement is positive for U.S. markets. Eventually it will be very bearish because the more outlandish the Japanese QE becomes the more likely everyone will begin to see that the emperor has no clothes and the house of cards will collapse.

The Japanese news and the Virgin Atlantic SpaceShipTwo crash were filling the headlines and the economic news was largely ignored. The SpaceShipTwo exploded over the Mojave Desert after being launched from the mother ship WhiteKnightTwo. One pilot was killed and the other severely injured. This was the 55th flight for the SpaceShipTwo and the 173rd flight for the WhiteKnightTwo, which landed safely. The smaller SpaceShipTwo is carried up to 50,000 feet where it is dropped from the mother ship just before firing its rockets to take it up to 350,000 feet. Observers said the ship exploded just after the rocket motors were ignited.

SpaceShipTwo is the smaller vehicle suspended under the wing of WhiteNightTwo. The rocket is fired when the vehicle is dropped from the parent aircraft.

SpaceShipTwo was the vehicle that was planning to take paying passengers into space starting sometime in late 2015. More than 700 people have put down the required $250,000 deposit to reserve a launch position in the future. Richard Branson said the accident meant they would probably lose one or two flyers but others would take their place. He said the deposit was refundable and had not been used for design and construction. I suspect quite a few potential riders are having second thoughts today.

In economic news the Employment Cost Index (ECI) rose +0.7% in Q3 with wages rising +0.8%. Employee benefits rose only +0.6%. Headline growth over the trailing 12 months rose to 2.2% and the fastest pace since Q4-2008. This report was ignored by the market.

The separate Personal Income report for September showed wages rose only +0.2% and the slowest rate since last December. Wage income also rose +0.2% and the slowest since April.

More importantly the PCE and the Core PCE rose only +0.1% each. The trailing 12 months inflation represented by the PCE is now +1.4% and the lowest since March. The trailing Core PCE has been flat at 1.5% for the last five months after dipping to 1.2% in February. The PCE is the Fed's preferred inflation indicator and it is not rising. Their target is 2% and with energy prices in the tank it is only going lower in the short term.

Moody's PI Chart

The final revision of Consumer Sentiment for October rose slightly from 86.4 to 86.9 and the highest level since July 2007. The present conditions component declined from 98.9 to 98.3 but the expectations component rose sharply from 75.4 to 79.6. The impending elections, falling gasoline prices and improving job market were credited with the gains in expectations. Job growth has averaged 245,000 per month over the last six months and the best gains since August 2005.

Next week the calendar is headlined by payrolls. The ADP report on Wednesday is expected to show a gain of +7,000 jobs over September while the Nonfarm Payroll report on Friday is expected to show a decline of -15,000 jobs from the September pace.

The ADP report is from actual employer data that ADP collects when it processes the payrolls for tens of thousands of businesses. The Nonfarm data is a calculated guess by the BLS and can be revised continually over the next year. Far too much credibility is given to the Nonfarm report but that is what the market fixates on and so that is what matters. There are multiple investigations currently underway on bogus numbers in the BLS reports but you don't hear that on the evening news.

The ISM Manufacturing on Monday is expected to be flat. The mixed results from the various Fed surveys suggest that manufacturing strength is spotty across the entire U.S. so no gains are expected.

Stock Split Calendar

Stock news was kind of sparse despite the strong market gains. The big announcements from Thursday after the close were the only major market movers. The two big energy stocks in the Dow helped to push it higher despite falling production and lower oil prices.

Exxon (XOM) shares rallied +$2.26 after reporting earnings of $1.89 ($8.07 billion) compared to estimates of $1.71. The gains came from +38% higher profits in their refining division as a result of lower oil prices rather than a surge in production. Revenue declined from $112.37 billion to $107.49 billion. Oil and gas production fell -4.7% but the oil giant said it was still on track to produce 4.0 million barrels of oil equivalent per day for the full year. The drop in oil prices knocked -4.4% off the profits in the exploration and production division.

The key statistic here is that Exxon spent $42.5 billion in 2013 on capex and they have cut that to $37 billion for each of the next 3 years and they still lost -4.7% of their production. New oil is harder to find and produce and new wells deplete faster than legacy wells. All the E&P companies are on a treadmill to keep drilling new wells faster to keep ahead of rising depletion. That treadmill just keeps increasing in speed every year.

Chevron (CVX) reported a 13% rise in profits to $2.95 ($5.59 billion) compared to estimates for $2.55 on revenue of $54.68 billion. Production fell -1% to 2.57 Mboed as new wells failed to offset declines at old wells. Their refining division posted profits of $1.39 billion and nearly four times the profit from the year ago quarter thanks to lower oil prices.

Chevron has some major production boosts coming in the next three years as several mega projects are completed. Capex for the first nine months was $29.0 billion and right in line with the same period in 2013. Upstream E&P projects accounted for 93% of capex spending.

GoPro rallied +13% after reporting a strong earnings beat on a 45% increase in sales. A new lower priced product for 2015 is expected to be a hit and provide an entry level buyer a platform to step up to a premium product once they get the hang of action photography.

Linkedin (LNKD) rallied +13% on earnings of 52 cents compared to estimates of 47 cents. Revenue rose +45% to $568.3 million and also a beat. The company is rapidly building out its content business now that publishing is available to all members. Membership rose +6.1% to 332 million users. More than 75% of new members came from outside the USA. Advertising revenue rose +45% to $109.2 million and premium subscriptions rose +43% to $114.5 million. Mobile accounted for 47% of its traffic.

A lesser known name, MercadoLibre Inc (MELI), rallied +21% after reporting earnings of 76 cents compared to estimates of 65 cents. Revenue was a blowout at $147.9 million compared to estimates for $131 million. Sales were up 20% year over year. Bank of America upgraded MELI from underperform to buy and the stock rocketed higher. Rarely do you see a rating jump from sell to buy in one upgrade. MELI hosts an ecommerce platform in Latin America. Think of it as a Latin America version of Ebay, Amazon and Craig's List combined.

Earnings for next week contain a lot of symbols most people won't recognize. However, there are some high profile companies. Herbalife on Monday, Tesla, Priceline, Alibaba and Michael Kors follow on Tuesday. Qualcomm, Nuskin, SolarCity and Whole Foods on Wednesday. Disney, First Solar, Monster and Nvidia on Thursday. Berkshire and Humana on Friday. Berkshire was listed in many of the earnings calendars as reporting on the 31st but they have now updated it for next Friday.

Probably the two most anticipated events are Alibaba and Tesla on Tuesday. The BABA earnings are either going to be a huge win or a huge disappointment. Option prices are out of sight so betting on the outcome would be expensive.

Guidance from companies actually issuing guidance in October was positive. Not all companies give guidance so this is a fraction of the total. Of the 720 companies that issued guidance in October 141 raised guidance. A total of 388 guided in line with estimates and 191 issued negative guidance. Despite the number of companies giving negative guidance that was still much better than the normal 2:1 negative to positive average. I can't put the graphic with the symbols in the newsletter because it grew to twice its prior size over the last week. If you want to see the list of 720 companies and their guidance just email me and I will send it to you.

Crude prices have been volatile but they are holding over the $80 support level. Production by OPEC rose +53,000 bpd to 30.974 mbpd in October. This was a 14-month high and was led by Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya. The prior month production was 30.921 mbpd. Iraq production rose +150,000 bpd to 3.3 mbpd. Saudi production rose +100,000 bpd to 9.75 mbpd. The increase was to feed their two new refineries, Yasref and Satorp. Libyan production rose +70,000 bpd to 850,000 bpd and the sixth monthly increase and the highest since June 2013. It is only about half what it was while Qaddafi was in power. Angolan production declined -170,000 bpd to 1.7 mbpd but they are preparing to produce 2.0 mbpd in 2015. OPEC is scheduled to meet on Nov 27th to discuss production quotas. They last cut quotas in 2008 during the financial crisis. U.S. production rose to a 31 year highs at 8.97 mbpd and the most since the EIA began keeping records in 1983.

U.S. drivers consumed 372,414,000 gallons of gasoline per day last week or 2.61 billion gallons for the week.

Gasoline prices nationwide are now under $3.00 with some cities as low as $2.64 as in Rockhill SD. AAA says the drop in the price of oil is saving Americans $187 million a day or $500 a year for the typical consumer. For every penny drop in gasoline prices U.S. consumers will save $1 billion a year according to AAA. With gasoline prices so low even store managers are topping off their tanks. Being unsure of when it will go back up they are taking advantage of the low prices to fill their underground tanks instead of just enough to make it to the next delivery. The low prices mean more money available for holiday shopping.

Wholesale gasoline prices declined to $2.15 at the close on Friday. If oil dips below $80 I would expect wholesale gasoline to go below $2. That would be the lowest level since 2010. That would put the price of retail gasoline around $2.80 nationwide.

Gold and silver prices fell to four year lows as the dollar exploded higher as a result of the FOMC ending QE and Japan increasing QE. Gold dropped -$60 in three days to close at $1,173 on Friday. This is just below critical support at $1,175. Some analysts are now predicting a 50% retracement from the $1,925 high, which would put gold at $962.50 if they are right. Central governments around the world are ramping up their purchases of gold at this already low number. Russia bought 37.2 metric tons in September to raise their total reserves to 1,149.8 tons. That was a $1.5 billion buy. Russian reserves have tripled since 2005.

India imported $3.75 billion in gold in September, up +450% from September 2013. China imported 1,500 tons in 2013 and reports claim they have already bought 2,200 tons in 2014. China does not disclose their purchases but they just opened a new gold vault in Shanghai that will hold 2,000 tons. It is rumored that China wants to hoard all the gold possible so they can control the pricing of this commodity. If they were to back the RMB with gold it would wipe out the dollar and most other currencies making China the dominant reserve currency. Chinese citizens currently own more than 6,000 tons.

The drop in silver prices has created a surge in silver coin sales. The U.S. Mint said sales of the Silver Eagle coin jumped +40% in October to the highest level in 21 months. Sales surged to 5.79 million ounces and the most since January 2013. That was the month that set an all time high at 7.5 million ounces. In September sales totaled 4.14 million ounces. Coin dealers said sales of silver coins of all types had more than tripled over the last month. Sales of Gold Eagle coins rose +16% to 67,500 ounces and the most since January.

Gold and silver miners have already begun shutting in high cost production and demand will exceed supply in 2015. This price decline is related to the spike in the dollar and weak European economy rather than a lack of demand for the metals.


Advancing issues on the NYSE totaled 2,363 compared to 717 decliners. That represents a 3.3:1 ratio. The Nasdaq had 1,921 advancers to 816 decliners for a 2.3:1 ratio. Considering the markets hit new highs neither of those numbers were particularly strong. Volume was 8.2 billion shares and the biggest day of the week.

Friday was the fiscal year end for many equity funds plus it was month end for everyone else. Given the recent dip there were probably funds holding more cash than they wanted to show on their year end statements and they were forced to throw it at the market so they could claim they were fully invested at the new market highs. This was a "hold your nose and buy" event brought on by the Japanese triggered short squeeze and the fiscal year end.

There was a $1.5 billion imbalance in buy orders at the close on the NYSE. This is a sure sign it was funds trying to get in before the fiscal year end closed. This was NOT retail investors.

Since the October 15th lows the Dow rebounded +9.6%, Nasdaq +12.4%, Russell 2000 +12.7% and the Dow Transports +13.7%. The Dow, S&P, Russell 1000, and Russell 3000 all closed at new highs. The Nasdaq closed at a 14 year high and the Dow Transports missed a new high close by -4 points.

While there was a significant outside influence by the Japanese news, Friday's rally was only one day out of the last 15 days that pushed us up to this level. We should not apply too much importance to the Friday news but we should not belittle it either.

November begins the best six months of the year for the market and quite a few investors plan on buying October dips for the end of year rally and the normal gains in Q1. For many the October dip was over too fast. Many investors were hoping for a little deeper decline and once the rebound began it was so fast that many investors were still waiting for an opportunity to get in. The S&P declined -9% from September 19th to the October 15th lows but the majority of that decline came in only 6 days starting on October 9th. The sharp drop ended with a capitulation event on the 15th and it has been straight up ever since for a +11% gain. The S&P had only gained +11% from February 11th to September 19th over a span of seven months. It lost those gains and then recovered them in a little more than three weeks. Bull market corrections are short, sharp and scary and investors were just recovering from the scary part when the rebound was already underway.

Rebounds from corrective drops typically stutter step with a couple days of gains and then a retest of the lows. This second dip is the one that is bought the strongest and we never got a second dip. That left many investors on the sidelines holding their cash and waiting. As the S&P moved over the 1965-1970 resistance levels it became a race to get invested before the market broke out to new highs.

Now, here is the hard part. Did the Japanese news trigger a buying climax that will fail or a breakout that suddenly has new life? Obviously nobody knows for sure and it will be a week or so before the answer appears.

The market is extremely overbought because there have not been any consolidation dips on the way up. This suggests there should be at least a temporary dip in our immediate future. However, the historical trends favor the bulls. After a midterm election the markets post average gains of 8% over the next three months and +14% over the next six months. November is the start of the best six months of the year, which covers every year, not just midterm years.

The Fed claims they ended QE but it is not really dead. They have $4.2 trillion in treasuries, bonds and mortgage backed securities in their portfolio that they have acquired over the last five years. A large portion of those mature every week and the Fed reinvests those proceeds every week. If $10 billion in securities mature they use those proceeds to purchase $10 billion in the same type of security. Last week their holdings rose +$4.87 billion as the last of initial QE purchases were made. They will now keep that portfolio steady until at least the end of 2015 or longer according to analysts. QE purchases will no longer rise but they will continue on a daily basis for at least another year. This will keep the stimulus flowing through the market despite new QE purchases being officially over.

The rebound has been so strong that more than 25% of the S&P stocks are at 52-week highs. That is a huge number given the strength of the October decline. A whopping 74.8% of the S&P are already back over their 50-day averages after falling to only 13.4% in mid October. This is an extreme example of volatility.

The cumulative advance/decline line on the S&P is breaking out to new highs after hitting two month lows in October. This is a very bullish sign.

Regardless of the reason the major averages all closed at new highs and new highs tend to produce more new highs. There is something about that new high candle that seems to pull money off the sidelines faster than flies to a picnic.

With the economy running at a 3.5% GDP growth rate, the Fed sitting on its dovish roost on the sidelines, earnings coming in better than expected, the midterms likely to configure the Senate to prevent additional regulation and taxes, the Ebola fears fading, ISIS headlines regulated to the old news category, employment rising, gasoline prices falling and the holidays ahead the markets have no reason to decline. Of course they don't actually need a reason but you get the idea.

I would like to believe the markets will continue higher but next week is going to be a battle ground between those that believe this was a climax top and those that believe we are going higher. I have read the arguments for both sides and I am not closing any bullish plays. I am tightening the stop losses but I believe the trend is our friend until it changes.

Lastly, I would be a buyer on any pullback for the reasons I stated above. We are due for some profit taking and it could happen at any moment. The Nasdaq and Russell have some very bearish candles.

Those funds that window dressed their portfolios going into fiscal year end can just as easily undress next week to put cash back into account to capitalize on future buying opportunities. Equity funds hate to buy tops. They would rather wait until the next dip to put that money to work. I doubt anyone would deny that Friday was a top but the only question is it "THE" top.

I expect profit taking and dip buying in the week ahead.

The sprint was so fast that real support is well back at 1,985 but the round number at 2,000 would probably be a speed bump to the downside. Following that would be the 50-day at 1,968.

The Dow was dragged higher on Thursday when Visa (V) gained +$21 on earnings and added about +147 points to the Dow. That caused a massive short squeeze in the Dow ETFs while the rest of the indexes struggled along with modest gains. When the Japanese news broke on Friday another short squeeze was born. Add in further gains by Visa and decent gains by Exxon and Chevron and we were off to the races again.

The Dow closed at 17,390 and a new record high. Also closing at a record high was the Dow utilities and the Dow Transports missed it by only -4 points after setting a new high on Tuesday. This triplicate of new highs on the Dow indexes is another Dow Theory buy signal. In theory this means we should move higher. New highs on all three indexes at the same time are fairly rare and should be noticed.

Dow resistance is now 17,500 followed by 17,750. Support should be the convergence of the 50/100 day averages at 16,913.

The Nasdaq exploded through prior resistance highs to gap open to 4,639 and the high of the day. The index held its gains to close at 4,630 and gain 64 points BUT the candle for Friday is very bearish. This is a bearish "hanging man" candle. Ideally the tail should be twice the length of the body but this one is close enough. Basically it means the market gapped open and eventually held its gains but there was some intraday volatility. This is a typical candle for a market gain that was driven by a short squeeze. Everybody was forced to buy at the open and there was no follow on buying during the day to push it higher. Coming after several days of strong gains makes it even more bearish.

In theory this suggests the Nasdaq will retrace some of its gains this week. I went all the way back to 2000 on the Nasdaq and these were the closest comparisons to Friday's candle. The first one is from September 1st, 2000 and the second from January 6th, 2009. Neither was as bearish as the one from Friday on the far right.

Consider that these are the only two similar patterns dating back 14 years and this current one is the most extreme. The odds are very good the Nasdaq is going lower before it goes higher.

Initial support is well below at 4,525 with resistance at 4,700. That is a huge range but we moved from 4,400 to 4,600 in just the last week so anything is possible.

The Russell 2000 gained +4.9% for the week to come to rest at 1,173 and just under strong resistance at 1,175. The Russell candle is identical to the Nasdaq and suggests we will see some profit taking next week.

Fundamentally the market could be poised for a strong rally into December. Technically we are very overbought and the candles on the Nasdaq and Russell are begging to be shorted. I expect some profit taking now that we are in a new fiscal year for mutual funds and they may want to remove their yearend window dressing and raise some cash.

Just when the Fed was taking away the punchbowl the Bank of Japan provided another one to keep the party going. However, we all know what happens when there is a never ending supply of free booze. The party eventually gets sloppy and everyone ends up with a really bad hangover.

Random Thoughts

It is daylight savings time again. Fall back an hour on Saturday night.

President Obama has scheduled a photo op with Janet Yellen for Monday and the day before the midterm elections. Reportedly they are going to talk about the long term outlook for the U.S. economy but cynics believe this is just a last ditch effort for an unpopular president to be seen doing something important before the election in hopes of boosting the democratic candidates currently running away from him.

Very good link of important charts from some of the brightest minds in the business. Most Important Charts in the World

Goldman Sachs analyst David Kostin said the S&P will hit 2,050 by the end of the year and 2,150 over the next 12 months. The 2,050 target is a repeat of his revision up from 1,900 a couple months ago. He is expecting $116 in earnings for 2014 and $125 for 2016. The consensus earnings predictions for 2015 have already been cut by -2% but they are still healthy. He does not believe the U.S. economy will be dragged lower by the weakness in Europe, China and Brazil.

Historically November is the third best month of the year for the Dow and S&P since 1950. Since 1971 it is the third best for the Nasdaq and since 1979 the third best for the Russell 2000. The Dow and S&P have gained in 12 of the last 16 midterm Novembers with an average gain of +2.5% for the Dow and a +2.7% gain for the S&P. The Russell 2000 gained in 6 of the last 8 midterm Novembers with an average gain of +3.9%.

Japan has had to scramble fighter aircraft 533 times in the first six months of 2014 to repel Russian aircraft intruding on Japanese airspace. This compares to 308 in the first half of 2013 and this year ranks as the most intrusions since 2003. Japan claims it does not know why Russia continues to provoke Japan and Russia will not admit to the incursions. A Japanese official said the incursions were meant to send a message not only to Japan but to the U.S. as Japan's closest ally. What an exciting world we live in when Russia can cause problems the world over and just deny they exist.

Russia is also flying nuclear bomber drills around Europe and the North Sea and not using their onboard transponders. Since Oct 28th NATO air defenses have detected and monitored four groups of TU-95 Bear bombers and fighters practicing nuclear launch routes around Europe. Russia Sending Nuclear Messages

Russia and the Ukraine signed a deal last week to supply gas to the Ukraine through March of 2015. Russia will get $4.6 billion for the gas in installment payments. This deal is critical because it keeps the Ukraine from running out of gas for heating and prevents them from siphoning off gas that is destined for the rest of Europe. In 2013 Poland received 10 Bcm (billion cubic meters) from Russia, Germany 40 Bcm, Italy 25 Bcm, Turkey 27 Bcm and the United Kingdom 12 Bcm. In the past when Russia cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine the pipelines across the Ukraine to Europe remained open. Ukraine would siphon off needed gas leaving the rest of Europe with shortages.

Russia needs to sell all the gas it can because it is losing a ton of money on cheap oil. Russia needs Brent crude to be over $100 in order to pay the country's bills. Iran needs $135, Saudi Arabia $95, Nigeria $118 and Venezuela $120.

Hedge-fund assets under management, as of the end of the third quarter, total more than $2.82 trillion dollars.

The number of billionaires in the world has doubled to 1,646 since the financial crisis ended in 2009.

The Bank of Japan's quantitative easing program, relative to size of the economy, is three times bigger than the Federal Reserve's QE.

The most common name in the world is Mohammed.

Americans spend more than $2.08 billion on Halloween candy each year and $2.5 billion on costumes. More than $300 million is spent on costumes for pets. Add in just under $2 billion for decorations and roughly $7 billion will be spent on this holiday. 49% of retailers have Halloween programs. 158 million people will participate in Halloween activities. More than 86% said they would spend less on Halloween this year with 32.7% buying less candy and 18.1% making a costume rather than buying one. More than 25% said the weak economy was impacting their Halloween plans. The average consumer will spend $75.03 on decor, costumes, candy and supplies. More than 78% are planning on buying discounted candy after Halloween and 57% are planning on buying discounted decor for use next year.

Did you notice that retailers switched from Halloween candy and costumes to Christmas themes almost overnight. Walmart and others had Christmas ads up and running Saturday morning.

Only 23 shopping days until Thanksgiving and 53 shopping days until Christmas.

Enter passively and exit aggressively!

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email

"The fat you eat is the fat you wear."

Dr John McDougall Change your life here!


New Plays

Potential Short Squeeze

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown


Land's End, Inc. - LE - close: 47.47 change: -0.19

Stop Loss: 45.95
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: Unopened
Entry on November -- at $---.--
Listed on November 01, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 468 thousand
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Why We Like It:
LE is in the services sector. The company was recently spun off from Sears Holding (SHLD) in April 2014. LE is probably best known for its catalog sales. They've grown into more than just a catalog. According to a company press release, "Lands' End, Inc. is a leading multi-channel retailer of casual clothing, accessories, footwear and home products. We offer products through catalogs, online at www.landsend.com and affiliated specialty and international websites, and through retail locations, primarily at Lands' End Shops at Sears and standalone Lands' End Inlet Stores. We are a classic American lifestyle brand with a passion for quality, legendary service and real value, and seek to deliver timeless style for men, women, kids and the home."

Now that LE has been unshackled from the Sears behemoth the company can shine on its own. Their most recent quarterly report was back on September 10th. LE reported a profit of 37 cents a share. That's up from 35 cents a year ago and significantly above Wall Street's estimates that were down in the 17-to-24 cent range. The direct sales business, which accounts for 83% of the company's revenues, said sales were up +7.1%. Gross margins rose 310 basis points to 48.5%. Their operating income was up +37.6%.

It has been a volatile year for shares of LE. That might be due to all the short interest. The bears have been getting killed. LE has bounced back toward its highs but the short interest is still at 4.3 million shares versus the float of 13.6 million. That's more than 31% of the float and definitely a receipt for another short squeeze. Right now LE is hovering just below resistance in the $48.00-48.25 level and if shares can breakout it could definitely spark some short covering.

Christmas is less than 54 days away. This year consumer spending is supposed to be above average. Online shopping should do exceptionally well this year. All of this bodes well for LE.

Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $48.50. We are not setting an exit target tonight but I will note that the point & figure chart is bullish and forecasting a long-term target at $67.00.

Trigger @ $48.50

- Suggested Positions -

Buy LE stock @ (trigger)

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Buy the DEC $50 call (LE141220c50) current ask $3.90

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Annotated Chart:

In Play Updates and Reviews

The Bullish Stampede Continues

by James Brown

Click here to email James Brown

Editor's Note:
The last few days of October are normally very bullish and this year did not disappoint.

The BABY trade was triggered. We have updated several stop losses tonight.

Current Portfolio:

BULLISH Play Updates

Natus Medical Inc. - BABY - close: 34.00 change: +0.13

Stop Loss: 32.45
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: -2.8%
Entry on October 31 at $34.97
Listed on October 30, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 282 thousand
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: The U.S. market gapped open higher on Friday as investors reacted to massive new stimulus from the central bank of Japan. Shares of BABY reacted with a gap open at $34.97. That was above our suggested entry point at $34.35. Not to worry, BABY retreated back toward $34.00 and gave us another chance to buy the stock near its prior highs. At this point I would wait for a new rally past $34.30 before initiating new positions.

Earlier Comments: October 30, 2014:
BABY is in the healthcare sector. The company makes medical equipment to treat newborns. The company's online profile describes NATUS as "a leading manufacturer of medical devices and software and a service provider for the Newborn Care, Neurology, Sleep, Hearing and Balance markets. Natus products are used in hospitals, clinics and laboratories worldwide. Our mission is to improve outcomes and patient care in target markets through innovative screening, diagnostic and treatment solutions."

If you like companies with consistent growth then BABY might work for you. The company has beaten Wall Street's top and bottom line estimates for the last five quarters in a row!

BABY's most recent earnings report was October 22nd. Wall Street was looking for a profit of $0.31 a share on revenues of $87.7 million. BABY delivered $0.33 with revenues rising more than 5% to $89.9 million.

Management then raised their guidance. They expect EPS in-line with analysts' estimates but they offered slightly bullish guidance on Q4 revenues, which should come in above consensus estimates.

Jim Hawkins is BABY's President and CEO. Mr. Hawkins commented on his company's third quarter results saying:

"I am very pleased with our third quarter results as we achieved record revenues and earnings. Both revenue and earnings exceeded the top end of guidance. I am most satisfied with our 63% gross profit margin as well as recording over 5% organic revenue growth. Consistent organic revenue growth and improving margins have been major goals for Natus in 2014 and our results demonstrate significant progress to the achievement of these goals.

I remain excited about our Peloton Hearing Screening Service business as we added 17 hospitals during the quarter and we ended the quarter with 39 hospitals under contact. Including contracts already signed during October, we have exceeded our 2014 goal of 40 hospitals under contract by the end of the year."

Technically shares have been showing relative strength and held up very well during the market's correction between mid-September through mid-October. The stock's recent performance has pushed shares to new all-time highs. Today's intraday high was $34.24. I am suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $34.35.

- Suggested Positions -

Long BABY stock @ $34.97

10/31/14 trade opened on gap higher at $34.97, suggested trigger was $34.35


Burlington Stores, Inc. - BURL - close: 41.94 chang6: +0.37

Stop Loss: 39.85
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: + 2.2%
Entry on October 30 at $41.05
Listed on October 27, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 663 thousand
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: BURL ended the week at a record high. If you are looking for an entry point I suggest waiting for a dip near $41.00.

Tonight we are adjusting the stop loss to $39.85.

Earlier Comments: October 27, 2014:
Christmas is less than 60 days away. This year retail spending is expected to surge. The National Retail Federation is forecasting sales during the holiday shopping season to rise +4.1%. Analyst firm Deloitte LLP is expecting a +4.5% improvement. Last year we only saw +2.8% growth and the 10-year average is +2.9%.

If we take into account the positive impact low gasoline prices will have then the estimates above might be too low. Fuel prices are down nearly 20% from their early 2014 highs. That is a huge boost for consumer spending. Oil looks like it will continue to sink so the trend should continue.

The off-price retailers have been outperforming their regular price peers. BURL is part of the off-price group. According to their company website, "Burlington is a national off price retailer offering style for less for the entire family and the home with up to 65 percent off department store prices every day. Departments include ladies' dresses, suits and sportswear, juniors, accessories, menswear, family footwear, children's clothing, furniture and accessories for baby at Baby Depot, home décor and gifts, along with the largest selection of coats in the nation for the entire family. Burlington has 520 stores in 44 States and Puerto Rico."

Credit Suisse recently noted that BURL has delivered three years in a row of strong same-store sales growth. They did it again when the company reported earnings in early September. BURL said their same-store sales grew +4.7% in their second quarter, compared to estimates for +2-3% growth. Management also noted that their gross margins improved by 50 basis points to 38.2%.

Wall Street was expecting a loss of 8 cents per share on revenues of $1.03 billion. BURL delivered a loss of only one cent and revenues were up +8.2% to $1.05 billion. It was a big improvement from a loss of 19 cents a year ago. More importantly management raised their 2015 guidance for both their earnings and revenue estimates.

The bears will argue that BURL is expensive. It's hard to argue with them since BURL currently sports a P/E near 58. However, investors continue to buy the stock and now shares are poised for another bullish breakout. New highs could spark some short covering. The most recent data listed short interest at 13% of the very small 29.3 million share float.

Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $41.05.

- Suggested Positions -

Long BURL stock @ $41.05

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long DEC $40 call (BURL141220c40) entry $3.10

11/01/14 new stop @ 39.85
10/30/14 triggered @ 41.05
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike


INSYS Therapeutics, Inc. - INSY - close: 40.68 change: -1.32

Stop Loss: 37.75
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: +1.1%
Entry on October 21 at $40.25
Listed on October 20, 2014
Time Frame: Probably exit prior to earnings on Nov. 11th
Average Daily Volume = 540 thousand
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: Uh-oh! INSY saw some profit taking on Friday with a -3.1% decline. More importantly this looks like a potential failed rally near its early October highs. INSY could be forming a bearish double top pattern.

Traders may want to raise their stop loss. I am not suggesting new positions.

FYI: Earnings are coming up on November 11th.

Earlier Comments: October 20, 2014
INSY is a short squeeze candidate. The company is part of the healthcare sector, more specifically biotechnology. They currently market two drugs. One is their Subsys, which is a sublingual fentanyl spray to quickly treat pain for cancer patients. Thus far the product seems to be off to a strong start. INSY also markets a generic Dronabinol product to help treat chemotherapy induced nausea as well as anorexia related to patients with AIDS.

INSY is also developing treatments with cannabidiol, which has made headlines in the past. Cannabidiol is a component of marijuana that does not provide patients with a high. INSY has been working with cannabidiol to develop a treatment for Dravet Syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy.

INSYS was recently granted orphan drug designation for its cannabidiol treatment for glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most aggressive version of malignant brain tumors in humans. Yet this good news has been offset by bad news that the FDA rejected the company's application for a new Dronabinol oral solution. The feds claim INSY submitted an incomplete study plan on the treatment's safety.

There is also the spectre of a federal investigation. Shares of INSY collapsed back in May after it was unveiled that one doctor in Michigan was fraudulently prescribing hundreds of INSY's Subsys painkiller treatment. This has sparked an investigation into INSY' marketing practices.

Technically shares of INSYS have been trending higher with a pattern of higher highs and higher lows. The most recent low happened to be on the day investors reacted to the FDA rejection on its dronabinol oral treatment. INSY was down about -10% intraday and then rebounded to a huge gain (Oct. 15th).

If this rally continues INSY could see a short squeeze. The most recent data listed short interest at 68.6% of the extremely small 10.19 million share float.

Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $40.25. More aggressive traders might want to consider a trigger just above $39.50 instead.

Please note that I am labeling this a higher-risk, more aggressive trade. Biotechs are already dangerous do to headline risk. INSY could be volatile with all the short interest.

*Small positions to limit risk* - Suggested Positions -

Long INSY stock @ $40.25

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long NOV $45 call (INSY141122c45) entry $1.60*

11/01/14 Caution: INSY might be forming a double top
10/29/14 New analyst upgrade and price target send INSY higher
10/28/14 new stop @ 37.75, Investors will want to consider an early exit now!
10/23/14 new stop @ 37.45
10/23/14 INSY is not cooperating. Investors may want to exit early now.
10/21/14 triggered @ 40.25
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike


Lowe's Companies - LOW - close: 57.20 change: +0.93

Stop Loss: 55.35
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: +3.9%
Entry on October 23 at $55.05
Listed on October 21, 2014
Time Frame: Exit PRIOR to earnings on November 19th
Average Daily Volume = 5.5 million
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: LOW continues to show relative strength. The stock gapped open higher on Friday morning and closed with a +1.65% gain. This is a new all-time high. It's also the 10th gain in the last 12 sessions. LOW is looking short-term overbought here. We are raising our stop loss to $55.35. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Earlier Comments: October 21, 2014:
LOW is in the services sector. They run the second biggest chain of home improvement stores in the country. Their 1,837 stores offer more than 200 million square feet of retail space through the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

The company's most recent earnings report was back in August. LOW beat Wall Street's top and bottom line estimates. Revenues were up +18.2% from a year ago. Gross margins saw some improvement. Same-store sales were up +4.4%, which was impressive. Management provided a small reduction in their full year revenue guidance but this failed to have much impact on the stock. Shares of LOW gapped down on its earnings news and investors bought the dip at support near $50.00.

Since this August earnings report we've seen homebuilder confidence hit nine-year highs while shares of LOW were hitting all-time highs in the $54-55 zone. Investors keep track of the housing market because LOW's business seems to rise and fall with real estate.

The stock market's recent volatility drug LOW back to support near $50.00 and once again traders bought the dip. There was a recent analyst note that was cautious on LOW and its rival Home Depot. The analyst noted that a slow down in sales for building materials would suggest the slowdown should hit retailers too. We may have to wait for LOW's earnings report to see if the analyst is right. In the mean time shares of LOW just ended at an all-time closing high.

If you believe the U.S. economy will continue to improve and the labor market will continue to see job growth then home improvement retailers like LOW and HD should see steady improvement as well.

We are not setting an exit target tonight but I will point out that the point & figure chart is bullish and forecasting a long-term $75.00 target for LOW.

Use a trigger at $55.05 to open bullish positions. We will most likely exit ahead of LOW's earnings report on November 19th.

- Suggested Positions -

Long LOW stock @ $55.05

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long NOV $55 call (LOW141122c55) entry $1.45*

11/01/14 new stop @ 55.35
10/23/14 triggered @ 55.05
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike


The Pantry, Inc. - PTRY - close: 25.77 change: +0.41

Stop Loss: 24.85
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: +5.2%
Entry on October 17 at $24.50
Listed on October 15, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 190 thousand
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: PTRY hit new multi-year highs near $26.50 on Friday morning. After a strong weekly move higher the stock did see some profit taking ahead of the weekend. PTRY did manage to post its fifth weekly gain in a row.

Tonight we are moving the stop loss up to $24.85. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Earlier Comments: October 16, 2014:
This is a simple relative strength trade. PTRY has been almost bullet proof against the market's recent weakness. Instead of following the major indices lower PTRY has soared to new four-year highs.

The company website says, "Headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, The Pantry, Inc. is a leading independently operated convenience store chain in the southeastern United States and one of the largest independently operated convenience store chains in the country. As of September 25, 2014, the Company operated 1,518 stores in thirteen states under select banners, including Kangaroo Express, its primary operating banner. The Pantry's stores offer a broad selection of merchandise, as well as fuel and other ancillary services designed to appeal to the convenience needs of its customers."

PTRY is a small cap stock that has been dead money for years. That seemed to change with their last earnings report. When PTRY delivered earnings on July 30th they beat estimates on both the top and bottom line. The stock soared and broke out past key resistance. Several analysts have raised their earnings estimates on PTRY since that report.

Shares are currently hovering just under short-term resistance at $24.40. We are suggesting a trigger to launch small bullish positions at $24.50. I am suggesting small positions to limit our risk. Looking at a long-term weekly chart of PTRY you could argue that the $25.00 level might be resistance. We will try and limit our risk with a stop loss at $22.90, just under today's low.

*small positions to limit risk* Suggested Positions -

Long PTRY stock @ $24.50

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long DEC $25 call (PTRY141220c25) entry $1.60*

11/01/14 new stop @ 24.85
10/30/14 new stop @ 23.80
10/23/14 new stop @ 23.30
10/17/14 triggered @ $24.50
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike


Sonic Corp. - SONC - close: 25.21 change: +0.32

Stop Loss: 24.45
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: +0.2%
Entry on October 29 at $25.15
Listed on October 25, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 738 thousand
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: SONC erased Thursday's decline with a +1.28% bounce on Friday. Shares seem to be struggling to escape the gravitational pull of the $25.00 level. Investors might want to wait for a rally past $25.50 before initiating new positions.

Tonight we are moving the stop loss to $24.45.

Earlier Comments: October 25, 2014:
"Service at the speed of sound." That was SONIC's original slogan after the company was rebranded from a chain of Top Hat root beer stands decades ago. Today the company has over 3,500 locations in 44 states. That makes SONIC the largest chain of drive-in restaurants in the United States.

Shares of SONC saw big gains in 2013. The rally continues in 2014 but it has been a much more volatile year for the share price. Yet in spite of all the ups and downs SONC is still respecting the long-term bullish trend of higher lows. Now with strong earnings numbers the stock it hitting multi-year highs.

SONC recently reported its Q4 results on October 21st. Same-store sales in the quarter were up +4.6% and margins improved 150 basis points. Net profits came in at 34 cents a share, which is a 62% improvement from the same period a year ago. Revenues were up +3.1%, which beat Wall Street's estimates.

Management guided in-line and SONC expects profit growth of 18-20% in 2015. Multiple analyst firms raised their price target on SONC stock follow these results. The stock's rally has produced a buy signal on the point & figure chart that is forecasting a long-term target near $35.00.

Friday's high was $25.07. Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $25.15. We will start with a stop loss at $23.75. I will point out that the 2007 highs in the $25.30-26.20 area is potential resistance so this might be considered a more aggressive entry point.

- Suggested Positions -

Long SONC stock @ $25.15

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long DEC $25 call (SONC141220C25) entry $0.95

11/01/14 new stop @ 24.45
10/29/14 triggered @ 25.15
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike


Zumiez Inc. - ZUMZ - close: $33.38 change: -0.49

Stop Loss: 32.45
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 2.3%
Entry on October 29 at $34.15
Listed on October 28, 2014
Time Frame: Exit prior to earnings in early December
Average Daily Volume = 296 thousand
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: The stock market's widespread rally on Friday morning pushed ZUMZ to new two-year highs. Unfortunately the rally didn't last. The stock experienced some profit taking and closed with a -1.4% decline. I am not suggesting new positions at this time.

Tonight we are moving the stop loss up to $32.45.

Earlier Comments: October 28, 2014:
ZUMZ is in the services sector. The company is considered a specialty retailer. The website describes the company as "a leading multi-channel specialty retailer of action sports related apparel, footwear, equipment and accessories, focusing on skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing, motocross and BMX for young men and women. As of October 4, 2014 we operated 594 stores, included 545 in the United States, 34 in Canada, and 15 in Europe. We operate under the name Zumiez and Blue Tomato. Additionally, we operate ecommerce web sites at www.zumiez.com and www.blue-tomato.com."

Apparel retailers as a group have been pretty hit or miss this year. Yet the sports-related names have been doing okay. ZUMZ's focus on sports-related clothing and equipment might insulate it from the normally finicky teen crowd.

ZUMZ's latest earnings report was back in September. You can see the gap down on the daily chart. ZUMZ beat EPS estimates by 4 cents as earnings grew +35%. Yet revenues only rose +11.9% and missed analysts' estimates. More importantly management issued somewhat soft EPS guidance. The good news for investors is that the post-earnings sell-off did not see any follow through. Instead ZUMZ continues to build on its multi-month trend of higher lows.

I suspect investors might be willing to over look guidance that was a couple of cents below Wall Street's estimates in favor of a company that continues to grow same-store sales. ZUMZ has a pretty good track record with the retailer reporting same-store sales growth that beat analysts' estimates several months in a row. Their latest sales data was very impressive. On October 8th ZUMZ said their net sales in September rose +12.5% while their comparable store sales soared +6.6% compared to estimates for only +2.7% growth.

The current rally has lifted ZUMZ stock to new 2014 highs and the point & figure chart is bullish and forecasting a long-term target of $46.00. Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bullish positions at $34.15. We will plan on exiting prior to ZUMZ's next earnings report in early December.

- Suggested Positions -

Long ZUMZ stock @ $34.15

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long DEC $35 call (ZUMZ141220C35) entry $1.60

11/01/14 new stop @ 32.45
10/29/14 triggered @ 34.15
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike


BEARISH Play Updates

Pandora Media, Inc. - P - close: 19.28 change: +0.54

Stop Loss: 20.55
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Option Gain/Loss: - 1.3%
Entry on October 30 at $19.04
Listed on October 29, 2014
Time Frame: 8 to 12 weeks
Average Daily Volume = 7.1 million
New Positions: see below

11/01/14: The stock market produced a very widespread rally on Friday so it's not too surprising to see Pandora with an oversold bounce. Shares gained +2.8%. Traders may want to wait for a failed rally near resistance at the $20.00 level before considering new bearish positions.

Earlier Comments: October 29, 2014:
Pandora is in the services sector. The company provides streaming music over the Internet and through your mobile device. They have over 200 million registered users and over 76 million active users.

It has been a really rough year for shares of Pandora. The stock is down over 50% from its all-time high of $40.44 set in March this year. Traders have been selling the rallies for months. If you only looked at the profit numbers you might be surprised by Pandora's performance.

Pandora's most recent earnings report was October 23rd. They beat analysts' estimates with a profit of 9 cents per share. That's a +50% improvement from a year ago. Revenues were up +41.5% from a year ago to $239.6 million, which also surpassed analysts' estimates. Pandora said listener hours soared +25% to almost 5 billion hours in the third quarter versus a year ago. The company's guidance was actually somewhat bullish with Pandora guiding slightly above consensus estimates on both the top and bottom line.

Given this impressive growth from 2013 you might think the stock would be soaring. Unfortunately for Pandora shareholders the company is seeing growth actually slow down and that's due to significant competition.

The 4.99 billion listener hours last quarter may have been up from a year ago but it's down -1% from the second quarter. The company's active users came in at 76.5 million users in the third quarter. That's up +5.2% from a year ago but it's virtually flat versus the 76.4 million from the prior quarter.

The slowdown is likely a result of too much competition. There are a ton of streaming music services like Rdio, Deezer, Grooveshark, Xbox Music, Sony Music Unlimited, and Songza. Yet the major competitors for Pandora are probably Spotify, Amazon.com's Prime Music, Apple's iTunes radio, which will soon merge with Beats Music, and finally Google has their Google Play Music All Access service. If all the competition wasn't enough Pandora also has to contend with music labels constantly fighting to raise the royalties that Pandora has to pay.

There are plenty of bears in this name. The most recent data listed short interest at 13.2% of the 197.2 million share float. Given the stock's recent performance, the slowing growth, and rising competition, the bears should have the upper hand. The stock's performance has produced a bearish signal on the point & figure chart, which is forecasting a long-term target of $11.00.

Tonight we are suggesting bearish positions at the opening bell tomorrow morning. More conservative traders could wait for a new relative low under $18.90 instead. The next support level might be the $15.00 area.

- Suggested Positions -

Short P stock @ $19.04

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Long 2015 Jan $19 PUT (P150117p19) entry $1.71

10/30/14 trade begins. P opens @ $19.04
Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike