Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Tuesday, 1/10/2017

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Which Way Did They Go?

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

The market reminds me of an old Abbott and Costello routine, Which Way Did They Go.

Market Statistics

The Nasdaq continues to make new highs, thanks to the biotech sector today, but the Dow and S&P remain weak. The Dow opened lower, rallied intraday to 19,957 then gave it all back to close lower at 19,855. The S&P was similar with a surge to 2,279 intraday but it gave back -11 points to close flat for the day and barely avoided another decline.

The markets are confused. Traders are confused and anyone leaving their computer for a couple hours is likely to see a complete reversal when they return. The November rally that stalled in December has lost momentum and the clock is ticking on January's event calendar.

With the market closed next Monday, we should see a decline in volume over the next several days and there should be a tendency to take profits ahead of the 3-day weekend when the rest of the world is open for trading.

The economic news was positive this morning with the NFIB Small Business Survey Optimism Index soaring from 98.4 to 105.8 for December. This is the highest level since 2004. More than 50% of respondents said they expected the economy to improve. That is the strongest reading since 2002 and is up from 12% in November and a net of -7% in October.

Those planning on raising capital investments rose from 24% to 29%. Those expecting sales to improve rose from 11% to 31%. This was a very strong report and when coupled with multi year highs in the Consumer Sentiment Index and Consumer Confidence Index it suggests everyone is very excited about 2017. Not to get political here but we did not see similar post election bounces in 2008 and 2012.

Moody's Chart

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for November showed openings rose by 3.7% from 5.451 million to 5.522 million. That was a 6.2% increase over November 2015. Hires rose from 5.160 million to 5.219 million, a 3.6% increase. On the negative side, layoffs rose from 1.569 million to 1.637 million. Overall separations for any reason rose from 4.966 million to 5.028 million. Overall, the report was positive and showed available jobs rising. Quitters rose slightly from 3.023 million to 3.064 million and that suggests workers are becoming more confident about finding a better job so they are making changes. Because the report covered November, it was ignored. We have already seen two payroll reports since November.

The wholesale inventory numbers for November surged by 1.0% compared to a 0.05% average for the prior 6 months. Durable and nondurable goods were both up +1.0%. However, sales declined from 1.1% to only 0.4%. Durable goods sales fell from 0.8% to 0.4% and nondurable goods sales declined from 1.3% to 0.4%. If the build in inventories continues in December, it will provide a strong boost to Q4 GDP. The lagging report was ignored.

The calendar for the rest of the week is not exciting with the Producer Price Index on Friday the most important report. Coming on the day before a 3-day weekend it will be ignored.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) was back in the news today. The company said it sold three skin care brands to L'Oreal for $1.3 billion. The company also said it was selling its Dendreon cancer business to Sanpower for $820 million. CEO Joseph Papa said the company would use the proceeds to pay down debt and they were targeting a $5 billion reduction over the next 18 months. This would be accomplished through normal cash generation and potentially some additional asset sales. Shares rallied about 10% at the open but faded as the day progressed.

Yahoo (YHOO) said it was changing its name to Altaba once the deal with Verizon is complete. The remaining company will only have a ton of Alibaba shares and its interest in Yahoo Japan as its remaining non-operating assets. The Altaba is a play on "alternate Alibaba" for investors that want to invest in that company and get the Japanese assets as well. Essentially it will become an Alibaba tracking stock.

Barracuda Networks (CUDA) reported earnings of 22 cents compared to estimates for 8 cents. Revenue rose 11% to$88.8 million. Recurring subscription revenues rose 17% to $68.3 million and 77% of its total revenue. Gross billings rose 13% to $100.4 million. Total active subscribers rose 15% to 309,000 with a renewal rate of 90%. RW Baird said CUDA was well on its way to transitioning to a cloud subscription model and growth would be faster in the future compared to the legacy appliance model. Shares rallied sharply at the open but faded as the day progressed.

Dow component Goldman Sachs (GS) was downgraded by Citigroup from neutral to sell. The Citi analyst, Keith Horowitz said Goldman would need an additional $4 billion in revenue above current year forecasts in order to bridge the gap between current and expected return on tangible equity. Citi expects the bank to see "improved trading revenues the rest of 2017 but the path is uncertain and the bar is relatively high." Analysts expect Goldman to have revenues of $32.32 billion. Goldman will report Q4 earnings on Jan 18th and analysts expect $4.80 a share on $7.67 in revenue. Goldman shares were down sharply at the open to $239 but rebounded to close with only a fractional loss. The opening drop was a big drag on the Dow.

Alphabet (GOOGL) is in talks to sell its satellite business to San Francisco based Planet. Alphabet bought the business in 2014 for $500 million when it was known as Skybox Imaging. The division is now known as Terra Bella and Alphabet is reportedly willing to take an equity stake in Planet to get the deal done. Skybox raised $93 million in venture capital to produce small satellites that would take thousands of high-resolution images every day. The images would then be merged together to track changes over time. They launched their first satellite in 2013. Alphabet thought the acquisition would help improve Google Maps. Planet had 63 satellites in orbit at the end of 2016. Planet takes pictures of 50 million square kilometers of earth every day. Google has been scaling back on many of its "moonshot" projects that have been a black hole for cash and failed to generate significant revenue.

WD-40 Co. (WDFC) lost traction after reporting earnings of 82 cents that missed estimates for 87 cents. Revenue was $89.2 million and missing estimates by $7.1 million. They blamed the miss on the strong dollar. Shares slipped on the earnings and fell -$12 on the news.

Fast growing Parsley Energy (PE) said it would acquire 23,000 acres in the Permian for $607 million and fund it with a secondary stock offering. The acreage has existing production of 2,300 boepd. The company said it would offer 20 million shares of common stock with the offering underwritten by Morgan Stanley and BMO Capital. Shares closed at $36.67 but declined to $35 in afterhours because of the announcement. PE has been an active acquirer and has used secondary offerings in the past. The volatility on the top right side of the chart has been prior acquisitions.

The company also said its capex budget for 2017 would be in the range of $750-$900 million with 60% of that going to the Midland Basin. That is up from the $460-$510 million target for 2016. They projected production growth of 60% in 2017 to 57,000-63,000 boepd.

Crude prices collapsed this week with a $2.20 decline on Monday and $1.18 decline today. The problem is exactly what I expected. Field reports suggest some OPEC producers are actually cutting production but the amount of cuts is in doubt. Iraq said it was raising exports from the port of Basra to an all time high in February while exports over the first nine days of January have been near record highs.

Even reports that Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kazakhstan had reduced production failed to support prices. The market ran up on all the OPEC headlines and expectations and now prices are falling on the realization that the overall cuts may not be as large as expected and overshadowed by increases in Libya and Nigeria. Meanwhile rig counts in Canada rose 20% in December to 209 and U.S. rigs counts are expected to move sharply higher in the weeks ahead.

Inventories are very high and the combination of all the global factors do not point to a decline in the near future.

There is no shortage of analysts now calling for a market reversal. One of those was DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach. He said today that the post election gains will be reversed and investors should "peel off" their exposure to equities.

Sven Henrich from Northman Trader warned that the S&P was due to pull back to its 25-day moving average and that would represent a 4% or better decline.

Carolyn Boroden said there are eight different Fibonacci time cycles on the Dow and seven of them come due next week with the other coming due this week. She said this kind of setup normally leads to a market reversal 65-75% of the time. She also warned that a convergence of time cycles could also lead to a breakout and a new leg higher. I guess she can claim she was right regardless of what happens.

There is also the earnings cycle causing analysts to worry. Nearly every warning to date has mentioned the strong dollar. I reported above an earnings miss by WD-40 and they blamed it on the strong dollar. This is going to be a recurring theme throughout the cycle and could provide some disappointments for investors.


The S&P did something rare today. The index closed unchanged for the first time since Jan 3rd, 2008. Prior to that, it was 11 years before the last occurrence. Since 1980, the S&P has closed unchanged only 11 times. While that is interesting, it does not tell us where the market is going tomorrow.

However, the S&P closed -11 points off its intraday high and that is not bullish. The Dow closed exactly 100 points off its intraday high at 19,957. For both of those indexes to give back those intraday gains suggests the sellers are getting anxious.

We saw last week that resistance had moved up steadily from 19,950 to 19,990 but this week it appears to be moving lower. Sellers that were content to dole out their stock in measured increments as the Dow approached 20,000 are no longer sure that is going to happen so they are setting their sell stops lower and lower.

With three Dow components cut to a sell this week, GS, PG and KO, that is going to be an added drag to the Dow. As the index exhibits weakness it could induce other analysts to jump on the bandwagon and begin cutting ratings on other Dow stocks.

Nobody can predict the market direction from day to day but with a three-day weekend ahead and the terror risk from the inauguration the following Friday, there is little to incentivize investors to take new positions at a market top.

The S&P traded well over resistance intraday but then declined to close flat. The index is still within easy distance of a new high but the intraday decline after a drop on Monday as well suggests that resistance level is moving lower. It would not take a very big headline to cause investors still long from November to reconsider their positions.

The Nasdaq Composite closed at a new high thanks to the semiconductors and biotech stocks. The big cap tech stocks were nowhere to be found. The FANG stocks all posted declines and Apple only gained 12 cents. The JP Morgan healthcare conference will be over on Thursday and the biotech surge will fade, if not before then. The conference draws 450 public and private companies and more than 9,000 investors. It was started in 1983 and has consistently provided a sector boost but those daily headlines will disappear on Thursday.

The Nasdaq has posted five days of gains and the biotech sector has been up for 6 days. The Nasdaq rally may be nearing an end. The Nasdaq is over extended and the index is up +181 points from the Dec-30th low. That is a 3.5% gain in six days.

The Russell 2000 closed right on support on Monday and appeared ready to break that 1,355 level and trigger a market decline. Today those same chips and biotechs powered a 1% rebound and relieved that pressure. The Russell should be our market indicator but it remains to be seen which index is going to crack first.

The S&P futures are down -4 as I type this. Volume is going to slow for the rest of the week and the path of least resistance is down but there are no guarantee that is the path. There are a lot of events over the next 8 trading days that could move the market. There is no reason to be overly long at this point in the rally.

The advertising for the End of Year subscription special is over. However, I will leave the link open until midnight Sunday in case anyone else wants to take advantage of the savings.

Enter passively, exit aggressively!

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email


New Plays

Coin Toss

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown
Editor's Note

Market direction on Wednesday is a coin toss. With the indexes moving opposite each other there is no market direction. The Nasdaq and Russell were up on the move in biotechs and the Dow and S&P declined significantly from their intraday highs. The S&P futures are down -4 as I type this. Volume will decline the rest of the week ahead of the three-day weekend. There is no reason to add new positions without a market direction.


No New Bullish Plays


No New Bearish Plays

In Play Updates and Reviews

Biotech Surge

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The biotech sector rallied for the sixth consecutive day thanks to the JP Morgan conference. The rally helped lift the Russell and the Nasdaq but could not produce gains in the S&P and Dow. With the new highs on the Nasdaq and the random performance in the Russell, the markets seem to have entered a choppy phase where overall direction remains elusive.

With the Dow declining and Nasdaq rising, there will eventually be a reversal on one of those indexes. My bet would be a decline on the Nasdaq because the big caps are no longer contributing. Once the biotechs reach their overbought levels, the Nasdaq could lose momentum.

Current Portfolio

Stop Loss Updates

Check the graphic below for any new stop losses in bright yellow. We need to always be prepared for an unexpected decline.

Profit Targets

Check the graphic below for any profit stops in green. We need to always be prepared for a profit exit at resistance.

Current Position Changes

SHLD - Sears Holdings
The short position was entered at the open.

VXX - VIX Futures ETF
The short position remains unopened until a trade at $29.50.

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

Short term Calls and Puts on equities = Option Investor Newsletter

Credit spreads and naked puts = OptionWriter

Long term option investments = LEAPS Investor

3-6 month Option Trades = Ultimate Investor

Iron Condors = Couch Potato Trader

BULLISH Play Updates

HZNP - Horizon Pharma - Company Profile


No specific news. Minor gain.

Original Trade Description: January 7th.

Horizon Pharma plc, a biopharmaceutical company, engages in identifying, developing, acquiring, and commercializing medicines for the treatment of arthritis, pain, inflammatory, and/or orphan diseases in the United States and internationally. The company's marketed medicine portfolio consists of ACTIMMUNE for the treatment of chronic granulomatous disease and osteopetrosis; RAVICTI and BUPHENYL/AMMONAPS to treat urea cycle disorders; DUEXIS and VIMOVO for the treatment of signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis; and PENNSAID for the treatment of pain of osteoarthritis of the knees. Its products also include MIGERGOT to treat vascular headache; RAYOS/LODOTRA for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatic, systemic lupus erythematosus and multiple other indications; and KRYSTEXXA to treat chronic refractory gout. The company has a collaboration agreement with Fox Chase Cancer Center to study ACTIMMUNE in combination with PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors for use in the treatment of various forms of cancer. Company description from FinViz.com.

Horizon recently received approval to sell the drug Quinsair in Canada. It was already approved in the EU. This is a drug for the management of chronic pulmonary infections in adults with cystic fibrosis. Only about 75,000 people around the world are candidates for the drug and 4,500 in Canada. They acquired the drug when they bought Raptor Pharmaceutical Corp in October.

The company also announced they had received a Notice of Allowance from the U.S. Patent office on the drug Ravicti. This will result in a patent being issued to Horizon that is good to 2030. Horizon has seven patented drugs and 11 drugs currently available for sale.

Shares of Horizon declined in early December after a late stage trial on another drug failed to achieve the desired result. Shares have been moving up steadily since that December drop. Friday's close was a 4-week high.

Horizon will present next week on the 10th at the JPM Healthcare Conference.

Earnings Feb 6th.

I am putting an entry trigger on the position just in case the market decides to roll over on Monday.

Position 1/9/17 with a HZNP trade at $17.75

Long HZNP shares @ $17.75, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

No options recommended because of wide spreads.

BEARISH Play Updates

AKS - AK Steel - Company Profile


No specific news. Keybanc warned the 124% gain in 2016 is probably overdone but they still believe there is upside for long-term holders. They were not positive today but long term. The drop over the prior two days was reversed on the headline but resistance held at $11. I had lowered the stop loss because we were running out of time on the optional put and we were stopped out at $10.95.

Original Trade Description: December 17th.

AK Steel Holding Corporation, through its subsidiary, AK Steel Corporation, produces flat-rolled carbon, stainless and electrical steel, and tubular products in the United States and internationally. It produces flat-rolled value-added carbon steels, including coated, cold-rolled, and hot-rolled carbon steel products; and specialty stainless and electrical steels in sheet and strip forms. The company also produces carbon and stainless steel that is finished into welded steel tubing, which is used in the automotive, large truck, industrial, and construction markets; buys and sells steel and steel products, and other materials; and produces metallurgical coal from reserves in Pennsylvania. It sells its flat-rolled carbon steel products primarily to automotive manufacturers and to customers in the infrastructure and manufacturing markets, including electrical transmission, heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, and appliances; and coated, cold-rolled, and hot-rolled carbon steel products to distributors, service centers, and converters. The company sells its stainless steel products to manufacturers and their suppliers in the automotive industry; manufacturers of food handling, chemical processing, pollution control, and medical and health equipment; and distributors and service centers. It also sells electrical steel products to manufacturers of power transmission and distribution transformers, as well as for use in the manufacture of electrical motors and generators. Company description from FinViz.com.

The steel sector rallied on expectations for Trump to place additional tariffs on imported steel and make American steel more competitive. While I am all for fair trade changes, that is likely to take many months if not a year or more to implement any changes what will help the U.S. steel companies. It will be months or quarters after that before the changes actually begin to show up in the earnings of these companies.

Earnings January 24th.

AKS rallied from $4.93 before the election to $11.39 for a +131% gain. Shares faded somewhat last week but still closed at $10.38 on Friday. When the post election balloon bursts, this stock could decline significantly. I would expect that to happen in the first week in January. I definitely do not expect the stock to be making higher highs.

Position 12/19/16:

Closed 1/10/17: Short AKS shares @ $10.17, exit $10.95, -.78 loss.


Closed 1/10/17: Long Jan $10 put @ .69 cents, exit .12, -.57 loss.

IWM - Russell 2000 ETF - ETF Profile


The Russell shook off the Monday blues and rebounded from support thanks to the surge in the biotech sector. The rebound was not as strong as the prior spike last week.

Original Trade Description: December 10th

The IWM ETF seeks to track the investment results of the Russell 2000 Small cap Index.

The Russell is up +232 points or 20.1% in the last 22 trading days. It is grossly over extended and many small cap Russell stocks are up 30% to 40%. I understand the bullish sentiment that believes the economy will be better in 2017 but it will not be because of President Trump. His proposals will take months to get through the House and Senate and there is likely to be some major battles. Obamacare will not go away until 2018 or longer because it takes a long time to plan and execute a change that big. Lower taxes will not happen until 2018 because it will take months for both houses to vote on an acceptable tax bill. I seriously doubt they will change rates in the middle of the year. Any change will not occur until 2018.

I could go on but you get the picture. Typically, there is a honeymoon phase after a new president is elected. This phase has run its course. There are 14 trading days left in 2016 and any new highs are likely to be made before Christmas. After Christmas, investors may begin to worry and once into January and a new tax year, the selling could be dramatic. Do you remember January 2016? The market was not nearly as overextended as it is today and the Dow fell -2,150 points in just two weeks. Entering into a new tax year allows traders to capture profits and invest that money for another year before paying taxes.

Dow - January 2016

We also have the potential for a really messy inauguration or even a terrorist attack at the event. That potential will give cautious investors another reason to take profits in January.

I am recommending a long put on the Russell ETF. There is no stock vehicle we can use other than the VXX to capitalize on a market sell off. The VXX is flawed and while it may go up, it may not go up enough to make it worthwhile and it is volatile from day to day. I chose the Russell ETF because the premiums are cheap and the volatility should work in our favor. If you cannot use options then I suggest you buy the VXX shares at the first sign of market weakness after Christmas.

There is also another trigger factor to consider. The Dow is approaching 20,000 and that could be a massive sell the news event given the big gains. Since the Dow could hit that level this week I am recommending we initiate our long put position in advance.

Because the market could still rise, I want to follow the IWM higher and enter the position only when the ETF rolls over.

The ETF has short-term support at 137.75 and again at $137.25. I am recommending we enter the position with a dip to $137. If the Russell continues higher, I will continue raising the entry point as needed.

Position 12/12/16 with an IWM trade at $137.00

Long Feb $134 put @ $3.38, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

SHLD - Sears Holdings - Company Profile


No specific news. Sears shares attempted to rally but the effort was lackluster.

Original Trade Description: January 9th

Sears Holdings Corporation operates as a retailer in the United States. It operates in two segments, Kmart and Sears Domestic. The Kmart segment operates retail stores that offer a range of products, including consumer electronics, seasonal merchandise, outdoor living, toys, lawn and garden equipment, food and consumables, and apparel; and in-store pharmacies. It provides merchandise under the Jaclyn Smith, Joe Boxer, and Alphaline labels; Sears brand products, such as Kenmore, Craftsman, and DieHard; and Kenmore-branded products. As of October 31, 2015, this segment operated approximately 952 Kmart stores. The Sears Domestic segment operates stores that provide appliances, consumer electronics/connected solutions, tools, sporting goods, outdoor living, lawn and garden equipment, apparel, footwear, jewelry, and accessories, as well as automotive services and products, such as tires, batteries, and home fashion products. It also offers appliances and services to commercial customers in the single-family residential construction/remodel, property management, multi-family new construction, and government/military sectors; appliance and plumbing fixtures to architects, designers, and new construction or remodeling customers; parts and repair services for appliances, lawn and garden equipment, consumer electronics, floor care products, and heating and cooling systems; and home improvement services, as well as protection agreements and product installation services. This segment provides merchandise under the Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, Covington, Canyon River Blues, Metaphor, Outdoor Life, Structure, and Apostrophe brands, as well as under the Roadhandler, Ty Pennington Style, and Alphaline brands. As of October 31, 2015, this segment operated 735 Sears stores. Company description from FinViz.com.

We played Sears as a short several times before. We were stopped out on Dec-30th when the CEO arranged a bridge loan to get them out of trouble temporarily. Now that the holiday numbers are starting to come in, the results are very dismal. Sears is eventually expected to file bankruptcy.

In November, they posted a GAAP loss of $748 million and an adjusted loss of $333 million. Gross margins fell to 19.2% compared to JC Penny at 37.2%. Sears is forced to severely discount items to attract what few shoppers they have. Same store sales at Kmart fell -4.4% and -10% at Sears. Revenue fell -12.5% to $5.0 billion.

Earnings March 9th.

Fitch warned Sears will burn through $1.5-$1.8 billion in cash this year and even selling off the Craftsman brand will only gain them an additional 12 months of life.

Sears closed at a new 14-year low on Dec-28th and the outlook is growing increasingly dim. Suppliers fear a bankruptcy in 2017 once the holiday shopping is over. Several suppliers have halted shipments to Sears on fears they will not be paid.

In early January, they announced they were closing 150 stores. There are 109 Kmarts and 41 Sears stores. Last week they announced the sale of the Craftsman brand to Stanley Black & Decker for $900 million but they get less than half of that in cash. The rest is paid out over the next 3-5 years. That shows how desperate they are for cash since they originally expected to raise $1.5 to $2.0 billion on the sale. Now they are looking to sell the Kenmore and Diehard brands.

With the Craftsman sale and the loan from the CEO and a new $500 million loan secured by real estate, they have developed about $1.5 billion in Liquidity. Fitch warned Sears will burn through $1.5-$1.8 billion in cash this year and even selling off the Craftsman brand will only gain them an additional 12 months of life.

When they announced the Craftsman sale at less than expected terms, the stock fell back from the early January gains. The outlook is grim despite the short-term cash inflows.

Position 1/10/17:

Short SHLD shares @ $8.97, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

No options recommended because of price.

VXX - Volatility Index Futures - ETF Description


The VXX has found solid support ay 21.65 for the last three days thanks to the weakness in the Dow and S&P. It would not take much in the way of a real market decline to spike the VXX.

Original Trade Description: December 28th

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

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

After the August split the ETF moved sideways for four weeks at $36. I think everyone was waiting for the typical August volatility. When it did not show up and the market rallied on Friday that support broke. And the decline began.

We exited the last short at $26.65 for a $7 gain back on December 13th. I am expecting the January volatility to lift the VXX back to $30. That will give us a great entry for the expected market rally in Feb/Jan where the VXX will crash again.

Unfortunately, put options are expensive with a volatility instrument at this price level. The only recommendation is to short the ETF and forget it. This will be a long-term position. This is not a 2-3 week play. I can guarantee you, if history holds, we can play this until it splits 1:4 again at $10. We may have to rotate in and out a couple times but it will eventually go to $10. Once we are in the position and profitable I will put a trailing stop loss on it. If the stop is hit we will take profits and then look for a bounce to get back in. We could keep this play in the portfolio on a trading basis permanently.

I am putting an entry trigger on the position at $29.50, a level we saw on December 1st. I would expect this to be hit in early January. The VXX could rise well over $30 if the market really corrects so I am not putting a stop loss on the position until the correction is over.

With a VXX trade at $29.50

Short VXX shares, currently $24.62, no initial stop loss.

No options recommended because of price.

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