Option Investor

Daily Newsletter, Wednesday, 2/27/2019

Table of Contents

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

Market Wrap

Busy Day On Capitol Hill

by Thomas Hughes

Click here to email Thomas Hughes


Not one but three important testimonies were given on Capitol Hill and the market took it in stride. Testimonies include day-two of Jerome Powell's visit to the House, comments, and remarks from Trade Representative Lighthizer to the Ways And Means Committee, and evidence from former-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Mr. Powell's testimony is perhaps the most important to the market although Mr. Lighthizer's work on the China trade deal comes in a close second. To start, Mr. Powell reiterated his positions from yesterday stating the U.S. economy is still healthy but risks are present. Regarding outlook for the economy and assuming a trade deal is reached, he expects economic activity will begin to pick back up, inflation will begin to rise once again and there will be a need for additional rate hikes sometime down the road.

More importantly, Mr. Powell made some interesting comments about the balance sheet. First, the market should not expect to see the balance sheet return to pre-crisis levels, it's just not possible. The balance sheet has quadrupled since before the crisis, allowing it to run off to pre-crisis levels would throw the economy into recession. That said, Mr. Powell indicated the 'decision the market has been waiting for' is close to hand. The only decision from the FOMC the market is waiting for is when they will end the balance sheet wind-down otherwise known as Quantitative Tightening.

Market Statistics

Mr. Lighthizer's comments were equally interesting if of a different nature. His testimony centered on trade-relations with China and progress on negotiations. He says talks are progressing well but one negotiation won't solve all the problems with China. Translated is; we're close to a deal but it doesn't cover everything. The problem for him, as it has always been, is not in the details of the deal but in its enforcement.

Michael Cohen's testimony was a joke. He may have brought in new evidence but they didn't talk about it much. The esteemed Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle used their times to attack Cohen, grandstand, and posture instead of examining new evidence. If his evidence is worth anything it will go to Mueller and be added to the pile.

Trump is in Vietnam today, meeting with Kim Jong Un. So far, based on the Tweets, the meeting is going well. Trump's new tactic is showing Kim how prosperous North Korea could be if it would only give up its nukes. We'll see how far he gets.

The bull market is about to turn ten years old so we are going to start seeing a lot about it in the news. At ten years old it is long in the tooth but for those who think it is close to ending let me say this. We are in a secular bull market, not just a regular old bull market. In my opinion, and I'm going out on a limb here, the fundamental make-up of American demographics is set up to drive the secular bull market for another ten years. We may see bear markets develop within the longer-term uptrend, those consolidations may take months or even years to unfold, but mark my words, they will provide fantastic buying opportunities for long-term capital gains.

Economic Calendar

The Economy

Mortgage applications jumped another 5.3% in the last week. The surge is attributed to lower interest rates and points to a solid home-buying season this spring.

Pending Home Sales jumped 4.6% in January. This is about 4.0% more than expected and another sign home-buying activity is rebounding in 2018. The rise is due to lower rates and aided by slowly increasing inventories. Despite the increase, sales are down -2.3% from last year making this the 13th month of year over year decline. If mortgage apps and sales continue to increase at it looks like they will the YOY comparison should turn positive in the next month or so.

Factory Orders rose a tepid 0.1% in December, a full half percent below expectations. The slowdown is not unexpected but weaker than forecast and a new drag on already weak GDP forecasts. Within the report shipments, unfilled orders, and inventories declined. New Orders for Durable Goods increased by 1.2%.

The Dollar Index

The Dollar Index fell in early trading but rebound midday to recover the losses. The index closed with a small gain creating a small green candle. The candle shows support at the $96 level but the indicators remain bearish so downward pressure is still dominant. Tomorrow's data, GDP, is likely to have an impact on the index direction but the more important data, PCE prices, comes out on Friday. If the DXY moves lower support is at the short-term EMA and then $95.50, if it moves higher I would expect to find resistance near$97.50.

The index is caught in a mix of sentiment that may cause some volatility in the near to short-term. On one front there is the FOMC talking about patience and ending QT, bearish for the dollar, while on another there is the data. The data, from here and abroad, shows US economic dominance and suggest upward movement for the dollar. While there is still so much uncertainty I expect the DXY to remain within the range of $95.50 to $97.50 but which way it moves and when is hard to predict.

The Gold Index

Gold prices fell in today's session as traders seek clarity on the metal's longer-term direction. The spot-price shed about -0.80% to set a two-week low and it looks like it could fall a little further. Today's low is just above the short-term moving average but there is still some room for it to fall. The indicators are also bearish and suggest downward momentum is building. A break below the moving average would be bearish but additional support targets exist at $1,300 and along the uptrend line. A move below the uptrend line would be bad news for gold bears.

The Gold Miners ETF GDX fell -2.0% in today's trading and could go lower. The ETF is now below the $22.50 support target and indicated lower by both MACD and stochastic. The next target for support is the short-term moving average near $22.00 and may be easily broken if gold prices continue to fall as well. A move below $22.00 would be bearish and likely take the ETF down to the $21 level.

The Oil Index

Oil prices surged today extending the rebound from recently tested support levels. The move began in response to OPEC's response to Trump's Monday Tweet, they basically yawned and ignored him, and then later accelerated on bullish inventory data. The EIA says U.S. crude stockpiles fell 8.6 billion barrels which is far more than expected. The data was partially offset by a build in distillates but that was in turn wiped out by a larger than expected decline in gas storage. Bottom line, OPEC's plan to tighten the market is working, slowly but surely, and oil prices are rising. If we get a close above $57 I think $60 and $64 are right behind.

The Oil Index is gearing up to move higher and aided by rising oil prices. The index moved up in today's action but did not set a new high. The index is in consolidation with mixed indicators but supported by oil prices so a move up is more likely than not. When that happens the first target for resistance is near the long-term moving average, a break above that would be bullish and take the index up to 1,400 in the near to short-term.

In The News, Story Stocks and Earnings

Other analysts on Wall Street are chiming in following UBS stark downgrade of Caterpillar. The general consensus is that the move was extreme and investors shouldn't run away from this dividend aristocrat. Shares of the stock rebound 1.0% in today's action and look like they could begin a sustained move higher. The price is above both moving averages and the moving averages are set to form a bullish crossover so there is some momentum here. Resistance is present just above today's close, near the Monday high, and may keep prices from moving higher in the near-term. Once broken, however, I suspect this stock will move up into the $150 $160 range.

Home improvement retailer Lowe's reported before the opening bell. The company delivered some mixed results but one thing is clear, it is catching up with competitor Home Depot and taking market share. The company reports comps were up 1.7%, 2.4% in the U.S., margins declined 70 bps, and inventory is up 10.3%. The number of stores in operation fell 137 over the last year as the company cuts costs and overlap. Forward guidance is calling for a 2% revenue growth on a 3% increase in comp sales and helped drive the stock up more than 5.0%.

Discount retailer TJ Maxx also reported before the open. The company beat on the top line but EPS was only as expected, not bad but not great either. Comparable store sales rose 6.0% in the quarter to beat the consensus by 4%. Comp's were strong in all three brands but led by Marmaxx. Net margin was also better than expected and helped drive shares higher in early trading. The company also announced an 18% increase to the dividend and an additional $1.5 billion in buybacks which helped the stock extend its gains during the session.

Best Buy reported before the bell and beat on the top and bottom lines. The company says comp sales are nearly double the consensus estimate and led management to up guidance for the coming year. Guidance is now in a range around consensus with consensus estimates near the low end of that range. The company also replaced the existing buyback plan with a new one worth $3 billion and sent shares zooming higher.

Fitbit reported after the close of trading and did not offer a healthy outlook. The consumer-tech company report revenue for the quarter was flat from the year-ago period as lower selling costs offset an increase in sales. Gross margins fell slightly, active users grew 9%, and sales rose 3%. Looking forward the company expects sales in the first quarter to be light compared to past quarters, news that sent the stock down about -10% in after-hours trading.

The Indices

the indices opened lower and then moved lower but buyers eventually won the day. The indices are showing evidence of near-term support but I don't think we're clear of danger yet. Today's leader is the Dow Jones Transportation Average with a loss near -0.50%. The transports created a small red candle with visible lower shadow, set a new two-week low, and broke the 10,500 level in today's action. The move was met by buyers but the indicators remain bearish so I expect to see support tested again at least. A close below10,500 would likely lead the index down to 10,300, a move below that will likely retest 10,000.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was the second biggest loser in today's action with a loss near -0.25%. The blue-chips moved down to test for support at my uptrend line and so far support is present. The indicators remain consistent with a top so I expect to see support tested again. A move below the trend line, near 25,900, would be bearish but the move may not be very deep or sustained.

The S&P 500 opened lower but was able to move up to close with only a small loss and form a green candle. The bad news is that today's resistance is my long-term uptrend line so prices may have a hard time moving up over the next few days. The indicators are still rolling into bearish signals so downward pressure is present, a move lower would confirm resistance at this level and may lead the index down to 2,750 or lower.

The NASDAQ Composite was able to close with a small gain, about 0.05%. Today's action shows support at the 7,500 level but the candle is not strong and the indicators do not concur. The indicators are still consistent with a top at this level and suggest a move lower is on the way. A close below 7,500 would be bearish and may take the tech-heavy index down to 7,300 in the near-term.

Today's action was iffy. It looks like there is support in the market at current levels but it's questionable how strong it is. With earnings season coming to a close all that's left to support the market is outlook and that leaves something to be desired. The outlook for earnings isn't bad but it's not great either. There is growth in the forecast but there is at least one hurdle and a headwind for the market to overcome.

The hurdle is first-quarter earnings, the cycle is expected to produce negative earnings growth and to me that means negative market movement. The headwind is analysts estimates, analysts estimates for 2019 are still falling if otherwise bullish. Once we're in a position to look past the first quarter earnings cycle I'll feel more confident of a market rally. When the estimates begin to rise I'll be sure of it. For now, I remain firmly bullish for the long-term but neutral in the near-term.

Until then, remember the trend!

Thomas Hughes

New Plays

Indecision Growing

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown
Editor's Note

Investors are finding it harder to remain invested as momentum slows after nine weeks. Critical resistance held and the news headlines are not conducive to bullish gains. Earnings are fading and the Chinese trade agreement is slipping farther into the future as each day passes. With post earnings depression weighing on stocks and nothing positive to provide lift, we could see some further declines. I am recommending we pass on adding a position today.


New positions are only added on Wednesday and Saturday except in special circumstances.


No New Bullish Plays


No New Bearish Plays

In Play Updates and Reviews

Market Chop

by Jim Brown

Click here to email Jim Brown

Editors Note:

The indexes closed well off their lows but there were more losers than gainers. The weakness in the last half of February has come to pass and it looks like it could carry over into March. The Russell posted a minor gain of 3 points while the Dow lost 72. The S&P was flat at -1. There is no trend. The 9-week rally may have run its course as post earnings depression is in control.

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

INFN - Infinera
The long position was stopped at $5.20.

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

Full updates on all plays on Wednesday and Saturday. Only closed plays are updated on other days.

BULLISH Play Updates

BOX - Box Inc - Company Profile


Really bad news after the close. The stock closed at a 5-month high but fell to $19 on weak guidance. The company said it was expecting to post an adjusted loss of 5-6 cents for the quarter and 1-3 cents for the year. Analysts were looking for a loss of 1 cent for Q1 and earnings of 3 cents for the year. This will be a major loss at the open on Thursday.

Original Trade Description: Jan 19th.

Box, Inc. provides a cloud content management platform that enables organizations of various sizes to manage and share their enterprise content from anywhere or any device. The company's Software-as-a-Service platform enables users to collaborate on content internally and with external parties, automate content-driven business processes, develop custom applications, and implement data protection, security, and compliance features. Box, Inc. offers its solution in 23 languages. It serves healthcare and life sciences, financial services, legal services, media and entertainment, retail, education, and energy industries, as well as government sector primarily in the United States. The company was formerly known as Box.net, Inc. and changed its name to Box, Inc. in November 2011. Box, Inc. was founded in 2005 and is headquartered in Redwood City, California. Company description from FinViz.com.

Earnings February 27th.

Box is a provider of cloud content management services to enterprise customers. Procter & Gamble and GE are two of its largest customers. Over the last several weeks there has been a persistent rumor they will be acquired. Google has been a rumored acquirer but it is more likely Microsoft or even Hewlett Packard could be interested.

Entering a position on acquisition rumors is rarely a good move. More than 90% of the time nothing happens. In this case revenue is growing in excess of 25% for 2018 and they guided for 20%+ for 2019. They also guided for their first quarterly profit in Q4 since they went public in 2015.

Their customer retention rate is close to 100% and they had more than 90,000 customers at the end of Q3. Box has enough scale that it makes sense to be acquired rather than a large company trying to replicate their product and service and spend years stealing market share. Buying Box now would be an instant add on to profits.

Shares broke over three-month resistance on Friday and the next material level is $24.

Position 1/22/19:
Long BOX Shares @ $19.74, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Optional: Long March $21 Call @ $1.00, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

EGHT - 8X8 Inc - Company Profile


No specific news. Still fighting resistance at $20.50.

Original Trade Description: Feb 9th.

8x8, Inc. provides enterprise cloud communications and customer engagement solutions for small and mid-size businesses, mid-market, and distributed enterprises worldwide. It offers unified communications, team collaboration, conferencing, contact center, analytics, and other services to various business customers on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. The company provides 8x8 Virtual Office, a self-contained and end-to-end solution that delivers high quality voice and unified communications-as-a-service; 8x8 Virtual Contact Center, a multi-channel cloud-based contact center solution; and 8x8 Virtual Office Meetings, a cloud-based video conferencing and collaboration solution that enables secure and continuous collaboration with borderless high definition (HD) video and audio communications from mobile and desktop devices. It also offers 8x8 Sameroom, an interoperability platform, which enables cross-team messaging and collaboration within a large organization and between organizations; and Script8, a communications flow and routing engine that offers a scripting environment for routing communications data for specific workflows, as well as allows end-users to create simple, personalized, and customizable communications experiences, such as communications control, external data source integration, and intelligent routing. The company integrates its services with third-party applications and platforms, including enterprise resource planning, customer relations management, human capital management, and other proprietary application suites. It markets its services to end users through direct sales organization, Website, and channel partners. As of March 31, 2018, the company serves approximately 53,800 business customers. 8x8, Inc. was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in San Jose, California. Company description from FinViz.com.

8X8 was punished severely for earnings that missed only fractionally. The company reported a loss of 6 cents on revenue of $89.9 million. Analysts were expecting a loss of 6 cents on revenue of $88.6 million. No problems there except that matching on earnings normally produces a decline in the stock.

They lowered guidance for 2019 from $334-$338 million to $334-$335 million. Still not a major decline but the stock was hammered.

Service revenue rose 20% with a 61% increase in customers billing more than $10,000 in monthly recurring charges. Average monthly service revenue per business customer rose to $5,211.

The CEO said, "we are disrupting a $50 billion addressable market that is shifting toward cloud solutions with a preference for a single technology platform."

Shares fell from $19.50 to $16.50 on the earnings. They have recovered to $18.79 and continue to move higher.

Earnings April 30th.

Update 2/13: 8x8 announced the offering of $200 million in convertible senior notes. Over the next 40 days the company will enter into agreements with option counterparties to create "capped calls." This process is an attempt to limit the impact of any future conversion of the notes on the number of shares outstanding.

Position 2/11:
Long EGHT shares @ $18.88, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Optional: Long May $20 call @ $1.05, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

INFN - Infinera - Company Profile


Infinera reports earnings Thursday after the close. However, we were stopped on an opening dip to $5.20 so we have no earnings risk.

Original Trade Description: Jan 5th.

Infinera Corporation provides optical transport networking solutions, equipment, and software and services worldwide. The company's product portfolio consists of Infinera DTN-X Family of terabit-class transport network platforms, including the XTC Series, XTS Series, and XT Series; Infinera DTN-X XTC series multi-terabit packet optical transport platforms that integrate digital OTN switching and optical WDM transmission; and Infinera DTN-X XT series for terrestrial applications and XTS series for subsea applications. It also provides Infinera XTM Series packet-optical transport platform that enables high-performance metro networks with service-aware, application-specific capabilities; and Infinera Cloud Xpress Family designed to meet the varying needs of ICPs, communication service providers, Internet exchange service providers, enterprises, and other large-scale data center operators. In addition, the company offers Infinera FlexILS open line system platform that connects various Infinera and third-party terminal equipment platforms over long-distance fiber optic cable providing switching, multiplexing, amplification, and management channels. Further, it provides software solutions, including Xceed Software Suite that address long-haul, subsea, and metro networks, as well as a range of support services for all hardware and software products. The company also serves telecommunications service providers, Internet content providers, cable providers, wholesale and enterprise carriers, research and education institutions, enterprise customers, and government entities. It markets and sells its products and related support services primarily through its direct sales force. The company was formerly known as Zepton Networks. Infinera Corporation was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. Company description from FinViz.com.

Earnings Feb 5th.

Infinera is a global supplier of terabyte speed network equipment. They are in nearly every country. Their products handle long haul data transmission even in undersea links.

Shares collapsed back in early November when they reported earnings. The CEO said the company had seen a pause in sales as buyers evaluated the combined company. They had just purchased Coriant. The CEO said revenue in Q4 would increase by 50% because of the acquisition but they would post a bigger loss on acquisition expenses.

For Q3 they lost 4 cents and analysts were expecting a 5-cent loss. The guidance for Q4 was a loss of 26-30 cents because of the acquisition.

Shares fell to $3.50 post earnings. Over the last week they have recovered to $4.25 and appear to be accelerating higher. Resistance is $5.

This is not a fast mover, but all the bad news is now priced into the stock.

Readers have been requesting more low dollar stock recommendations and this would fit that scenario.

Update 1/10: The Australia to Japan undersea cable completed a major upgrade of the 12,700 kilometer cable system using Infinera ICE4 devices allowing multi terabit capacity.

Update 2/13: Infinera was selected to provide a long-distance telecommunication network in Mexico for GTAC on a nationwide basis. The selected Infinera because of its capability to deliver up to 200 gigabits per second and error free transmission of 80 channels of 100 gigabits per channel without regeneration over a 400-kilometer distance.

Position 1/7/19:
Closed 2/7: Long INFN shares @ $4.22, exit $4.75, +.53 gain (12%).

Closed 2/27: Long April $5 Call @ 31 cents, exit .50, +.19 gain.

RDUS - Radius Health - Company Profile


The company reports earnings after the close on Thursday and after the hit we saw on BOX, I am recommending we close this position at the open.

Original Trade Description: Feb 2nd.

Radius Health, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, develops and commercializes endocrine therapeutics in the areas of osteoporosis and oncology. The company markets TYMLOS for the treatment of postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. It is also developing abaloparatide transdermal patch, a short-wear-time patch formulation of abaloparatide that is in Phase III clinical trial to treat postmenopausal women with osteoporosis; RAD1901, a selective estrogen receptor down-regulator/degrader, which is in Phase I clinical trial for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer; and RAD140, a non-steroidal selective androgen receptor modulator that is in Phase I clinical trial to treat breast cancer. The company has collaborations and license agreements with 3M; Ipsen Pharma SAS; Eisai Co. Ltd.; Duke University; and Teijin Limited, as well as research and development agreements with Nordic Bioscience Clinical Development VII A/S. Radius Health, Inc. was founded in 2003 and is headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. Company description from FinViz.com.

A week ago, Radius took advantage of the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference to raise guidance for the full year 2018. Sales of their lead drug, Tymlos, surpassed the upper range of $95-$98 million. This is for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. This is the only anabolic drug in the US market that is increasing its market share. Share rose from 20% at the beginning of 2018 to 27% at the end of the year. In December, market share of new anabolic patients was 40%.

They announced an accelerated late stage clinical pipeline for two drugs with blockbuster potential ($1 billion a year). These are elacestrant (breast cancer) and abaloparatide-patch (osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.)

For the full year 2019 they expect revenue of $155-$175 million and year-end cash of more than $100 million.

Earnings February 28th.

Since the JP Morgan conference three weeks ago, Radius has moved steadily higher. If shares can move over $20 the rally should accelerate.

Position 2/4/19:

Optional: Long March $20 call @ $.90, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

Previously closed 2/7: Long RDUS shares @ $18.70, exit $17.95, -.75 loss.

XRX - Xerox - Company Profile


Xerox gains have slowed after the EU said they were drawing up tariffs on Caterpillar, Xerox and others in case President Trump put tariffs on European cars. I tightened the stop loss to just under today's lows, just in case.

Original Trade Description: Feb 16th.

Xerox Corporation designs, develops, and sells document management systems and solutions worldwide. It offers managed document services, including managed print services and multi-channel communication services, as well as a range of digital solutions, such as workflow automation services, content management, and digitization services. The company also provides desktop monochrome and color printers, and multifunction printers; copiers, digital printing presses and light production devices, and solutions; graphic communications and commercial printers; inkjet presses; and FreeFlow portfolio of software solutions for the automation and integration of print jobs processing. In addition, it sells paper products, wide-format systems, and global imaging systems network integration solutions. The company sells its products and services directly to its customers through sales force, as well as through independent agents, dealers, value-added resellers, systems integrators, and the Web. Xerox Corporation was founded in 1906 and is headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut. Company description from FinViz.com.

Unlike other stocks with post earnings depression the strong guidance has powered XRX higher. Friday's close was a 10-month high.

Earnings April 30th.

Position 2/19:
Long XRX shares @ $30.47, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Optional: Long July $32 call @ $1.60, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

BEARISH Play Updates

VXXB - Barclays VIX Futures ETN - ETN Description


Choppy market is preventing a decline in the VXXB. We just need to be patient.

Original Trade Description: Nov 17th.

The investment seeks return linked to the performance of the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index TR. The ETN offers exposure to futures contracts of specified maturities on the VIX index and not direct exposure to the VIX index or its spot level. The index is designed to provide investors with exposure to one or more maturities of futures contracts on the CBOE Volatility Index. Company description from FinViz.com.

The VXXB is a short-term volatility ETN 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 ETN. 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, the prior VXX ETN had done five 1:4 reverse stock splits. The last five reverse splits occurred at $13.11 (11/2010), $8.77 (10/2012), $12.84 (11/2013), $9.52 (8/8/16), $12.77 (8/22/17). The prospectus says it can reverse split anytime it trades under $25 for a prolonged period and the splits will always be 1:4.

We know from experience that the VXXB and its predecessor the VXX always decline long term.

Unfortunately, put options are expensive with a volatility instrument at this price level. The only recommendation is to short the ETN 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. Once we are in the position and profitable, I may put a trailing stop loss on it. 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.

The VXXB will be hard to short. The shares are out there and being traded because the volume on Thursday was 22.1 million. You have to tell your broker you really want to short it and make them find the shares. Sometimes it takes days or even a week before your broker will find you the shares. Trust me, be persistent and it will be worth the effort.

Position 2/1/19:
Short VXXB shares @ $35.33, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.