Investors passed up another selling opportunity with the indexes weak but in a very narrow range. There were also no buyers. There was almost no activity at all. Volume was only 5.7 billion shares.
The S&P broke below short-term support at 2,295 and then fought that level as resistance the rest of the day. The Dow was almost dormant with an unbelievable 31 point range after 10:AM. This was holiday trading with no holiday.
The biotech index gained 41 points and helped keep the Nasdaq positive with a 5 point gain and another record close.
The excitement definitely faded after the early week rally but nobody is selling.
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.
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
VIX - Volatility Index
The long call position was entered at the open.
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BULLISH Play Updates
PANW - Palo Alto Networks - Company Profile
No specific news. Minor consolidation of the recent gains. Big rebound off the opening dip.
Original Trade Description: Jan 23rd
Palo Alto Networks, Inc. provides security platform solutions to enterprises, service providers, and government entities worldwide. Its platform includes Next-Generation Firewall that delivers application, user, and content visibility and control, as well as protection against network-based cyber threats; Advanced Endpoint Protection, which prevents cyber attacks that exploit software vulnerabilities on various fixed and virtual endpoints and servers; and Threat Intelligence Cloud, which offers central intelligence capabilities, security for software as a service applications, and automated delivery of preventative measures against cyber attacks. The company provides firewall appliances; Panorama, a security management solution for the control of appliances deployed on an end-customer's network as a virtual or a physical appliance; and Virtual System Upgrades, which are available as an extensions to the virtual system capacity that ships with the physical appliances. It also offers subscription services covering the areas of threat prevention, uniform resource filtering, malware and persistent threat, laptop and mobile device, and firewall protection services, as well as cyber attack, threat intelligence, and content control services. In addition, the company provides support and maintenance services; and professional services, including application traffic management, solution design and planning, configuration, and firewall migration, as well as provides online and classroom-style education training services. Palo Alto Networks, Inc. primarily sells its products and services through its channel partners, as well as directly to medium to large enterprises, service providers, and government entities operating in various industries comprising education, energy, financial services, government entities, healthcare, Internet and media, manufacturing, public sector, and telecommunications. Company description from FinViz.com.
In November, PANW posted earnings that beat the street but revenue, which rose 34% missed estimates by a fraction. Revenue was $398.1 million and analysts were expecting $400.1 million. PANW had guided for revenue growth of 33% to 35% so they were right in the middle of their guidance range. Earnings of 55 cents beat estimates for 53 cents. Shares were crushed because the company said the market was "lumpy" and customers were taking longer to make purchase decisions.
In Q3 they added more than 1,500 new customers to hit 35,500 globally. Subscription revenue has risen to 60% of total revenue as they move to a cloud model.
In early January, noted short seller Andrew Left of Citron Research, put out a bullish note on PANW saying they had a fantastic moat, which would be a barrier to entry for other companies trying to duplicate their type of firewall. His price target is $170. Shares rallied $14 over the next three weeks on the call. At the same time Bernstein put out a very positive note on the company saying nobody serious about protecting their web environment should be without PANW as their security solution.
Shares have rebounded to their November gap down level of $144 and have found resistance. They are not giving back their gains but there was a slight retracement on Monday in a weak market. I believe they will overcome this resistance level and move higher, market permitting.
There is a persistent rumor in the market that Microsoft and Cisco Systems are both looking for a cybersecurity company to acquire. Given Palo Alto's position in the sector, they would be a good target.
Earnings February 20th.
Because of the price of the options I am forced to turn this into a spread. If you want to go with a naked call, I would probably use the $150 strike.
Long March $145 call @ $6.00, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Short March $155 call @ $3.15, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Net debit $2.85
RHT - Red Hat Inc - Company Profile
No specific news. Shares rebounded slightly to resume the uptrend.
Original Trade Description: Jan 21st
Red Hat, Inc. provides open source software solutions to develop and offer operating system, virtualization, management, middleware, cloud, mobile, and storage technologies to various enterprises worldwide. It offers infrastructure-related solutions, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, an operating system platform that runs on hardware for use in physical, virtual, container, and cloud environments; Red Hat Satellite, a system management offering that helps to deploy and manage Red Hat infrastructure across physical and virtual servers, and cloud environments; and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, a software solution that allows customers to utilize and manage a common hardware infrastructure to run multiple operating systems and applications. The company offers application development-related and other technology solutions, such as Red Hat JBoss Middleware, a solution for developing, deploying, and managing applications, as well as integrating applications, data, and devices along with business processes automation; Red Hat cloud offerings, a software solution that enables customers to build and manage various cloud computing environments; Red Hat Mobile, a software development platform that enables customers to develop, integrate, deploy, and manage mobile applications for enterprises; and Red Hat Storage, a software solution that enables customers to treat physical server storage as a scalable, shared, centrally-managed pool of virtual storage and to manage large, unstructured, or semi-structured data in physical, virtual, and cloud environments. It also provides consulting, support, and training services; and real-time operating system, distributed computing, directory services, and user authentication. Company description from FinViz.com.
On December 21st, the company reported earnings of 61 cents that beat estimates by 3 cents. However, the beat came mostly from a lower tax rate. Revenue rose 17.5% to $615.3 million compared to estimates for $618.4 million so a slight miss there. Billings rose 8.7% to $679 million but misses estimates for $713 million. Subscription revenue rose 19% to $543 million and 88% of total revenue. That is recurring and will help smooth out future earnings.
The CEO explained that two large government deals worth $20 million slipped into Q4. Also, two large customers chose to be billed rather than pay up front and that took another $27 million out of billings. If those deals were included the billings would have been up +16% instead of 8.7%. The good news is that all of those deals are now in Q4 and that will give Q4 an earnings boost.
Earnings March 22nd.
Shares have rebounded to $74 and appear poised to break over that level and move back to the $80 range. I am using the March options, which expire 4 days before the earnings and they are half price the next cycle in June.
Long March $75 call @ $2.35, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
SLCA - U.S. Silica - Company Profile
No specific news. Only a minor decline from the new 52-week high on Thursday.
Original Trade Description: Jan 25th
U.S. Silica Holdings, Inc. produces and sells commercial silica in the United States. The company operates through two segments, Oil & Gas Proppants, and Industrial & Specialty Products. It offers whole grain commercial silica products to be used as fracturing sand in connection with oil and natural gas recovery; and resin coated proppants, as well as sells its whole grain silica products in various size distributions, grain shapes, and chemical purity levels for manufacturing glass products. The company also provides ground commercial silica products for use in plastics, rubber, polishes, cleansers, paints, glazes, textile fiberglass, and precision castings; and fine ground silica for use in premium paints, specialty coatings, sealants, silicone rubber, and epoxies. In addition, it offers other industrial mineral products, such as aplite, a mineral used to produce container glass and insulation fiberglass; and adsorbent made from a mixture of silica and magnesium for preparative and analytical chromatography applications. The company serves oil and gas recovery markets; and industrial end markets with customers involved in the production of glass, building products, foundry products, chemicals, and fillers and extenders. As of December 31, 2015, it had approximately 400 million tons of proven and probable recoverable mineral reserves. Company description from FinViz.com.
In the gold rush in the 1800's it was not the miners that got rich but it was the companies that sold them the picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. In the energy sector every shale well has to be fractured and that required mountains of sand. We are not talking regular beach sand. The primary frac sand is mined in Wisconsin and other northern states. There are various grades of sand depending on the geology of the well and what the drillers are trying to accomplish.
In 2014 it took an average of 4.2 million pounds of frac sand per well. However, in 2015 and 2016 there was a significant increase in fracking intensity that began to use much larger quantities per well. In late 2015 the amount of sand rose from 9% of the fracking fluid to 20%. In early 2016 Simmons & Co reported two wells in the Permian that used 60 million pounds of sand each while two in the Haynesville Basin used 35 million pounds each.
Houston based oilfield logistics company Twin Eagle reproted receiving "historic shipments" of frac sand at its facility outside the Eagle Ford. They reported receiving one 130-car train of sand a week. One car carries 100 tons so that is 13,000 tons per week. That is 26 million pounds of sand per week. If wells are now using 20 to 25 million pounds per well that is one train per well.
Last week the active rig count rose by 29 oil wells to 551 active oil wells. Each rig drills a minimum of two wells per month. If each well used 25 million pounds that would be more than 1,100 trains of sand per month.
There are rumors making the rounds that because of the increased intensity of sand in fracking there could be a sand shortage as the number of active rigs increase and producers began to rapidly complete the 3,000 or so wells that have been drilled over the last 18 months but never completed because of low oil prices. There is going to be a surge in the demand for sand.
U.S. Silica is one of the major sand suppliers with multiple facilities. They have used the downturn in the drilling industry to buy multiple competitors in order to bulk up for the future demand.
Earnings Feb 2nd.
SLCA has earnings on Feb 2nd but almost every company trading today has earnings over the next three weeks so that is just something we have to deal with. I am recommending we buy a longer-term option to get past any potential volatility around earnings. Their guidance should be good.
Long June $65 call @ $4.10, no stop loss until after earnings.
SPY - S&P-500 ETF - ETF Profile
Only a fractional decline on the SPY with the S&P down -2 points. Everything but the Nasdaq was weak on Friday.
Original Trade Description: Jan 12th
The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust seeks to provide investment results that, before expenses, correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the S&P 500 Index.
The SPY dipped to $225 intraday before the dip buyers rushed into the market. Initial support is $223 and I believe we have a chance to test that level before the inauguration. There are only four trading days left. If the bank earnings disappoint on Friday we could see a decline in low volume. With the three-day weekend ahead we could see traders move to the sidelines to avoid weekend event risk while the U.S. markets are closed.
We could also see a pre inauguration decline as traders worry about event risk surrounding the event.
Whatever the reason we could see the ETF test that level over the next four days. Assuming there is no disaster surrounding the inauguration, we could see a real rally begin afterwards.
This is a short-term position using March options just in case any potential dip turns into a crash. The estimated option premium should be less than $3.
Position 1/25/17 with a SPY trade at $228.25
Long MAR $232 call @ $1.69, no initial stop loss.
$VIX - Volatility Index - Index Description
Another multiyear low on the VIX despite the decline in the markets. Investors just do not think the market is going lower.
Original Trade Description: Jan 26th
The VIX is a computed index, much like the S&P 500 itself, although it is not derived based on stock prices. Instead, it uses the price of options on the S&P 500, and then estimates how volatile those options will be between the current date and the option's expiration date. The CBOE combines the price of multiple options and derives an aggregate value of volatility, which the index tracks.
The VIX closed at 10.63 and very close to record lows. You have to go back to June of 2014 for a lower recent close at 10.28. Before that, you have to travel back in time to Feb-2007 for a close at 10.05. The next lowest close was 9.48 in Dec-1993.
The point here is that volatility is near record lows only reached four times in the last 23 years. That qualifies for an abnormal event. I believe it is time we bought some VIX calls. The odds of the VIX remaining this low for the next two months are about as close to zero as you can get.
There is a very old saying in the market. "When the VIX is high, it is time to buy. When the VIX is low, it is time to go." You cannot get much lower than this.
The VIX is telling us that everyone expects the market to continue moving higher. Nobody is worried that some unexpected headline or event is going to trigger a significant market decline. When nobody expects an event is when we should be the most concerned.
Long March $12 call @ $2.60, no stop loss because the VIX cannot go much lower from here.
BEARISH Play Updates (Alpha by Symbol)
DIA Dow ETF - ETF Profile
The Dow posted a minor 7-point loss. The Nasdaq was the only positive index, helped by the biotech sector. The key point here is that there is no selling. Investors are not excited about buying a market top but investors already long are reluctant to take profits.
Original Trade Description: December 7th
The SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF Trust seeks to provide investment results that, before expenses, correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Remember Dow 10,000? Traders talked about it for weeks. When it was finally hit, they were passing out Dow 10,000 hats on the floor of the NYSE for a week. That was December 11th 2003. It was a big milestone for the market.
Now 13 years later, we are about to double that with Dow 20,000. Given the place on the calendar, the massive post election rally and the potential for normal profit taking in January, the Dow 20,000 touch could be a massive sell on the news event.
However, we are only 386 points way and it could happen as soon as next week. The Fed rate announcement on Wednesday could either cripple that potential or accelerate it if the Fed maintains a dovish posture on future rate hikes. I believe we will hit Dow 20K before the end of December. When that happens I want to be short the DIA ETF and plan on holding it through January.
I am choosing the Dow because it is the most overbought and could produce the biggest percentage move. Just look at Goldman's chart and the profit that needs to be removed there.
Because there will be plenty of other traders thinking along the same lines I want to enter the put position at 19,900 or $199 on the DIA ETF. I know I am jumping in front of a speeding train to enter a short position on a runaway market but the potential is very high for a good trade.
12/12 - 1/2 position: Long Feb $195 put @ $3.40, no initial stop loss.
12/13 - 1/2 position: Long Feb $195 put @ $3.15, no initial stop loss.
FINL - Finish Line - Company Profile
Despite the positive news from yesterday on the JackRabbit sale, the stock was down again.
Original Trade Description: January 11th.
The Finish Line, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty retailer of athletic shoes, apparel, and accessories in the United States. It operates in two divisions, the Finish Line and JackRabbit. The company's Finish Line division engages in the in-store and online retail of athletic shoes for Macy's Retail Holdings, Inc.; Macy's Puerto Rico, Inc.; and Macys.com, Inc., as well as online at macys.com. This division offers men's, women's, and kids' athletic shoes, as well as an assortment of accessories of Nike, Skechers, Converse, Puma, New Balance, Adidas, and other brands. As of April 2, 2016, the company operated Finish Line shops in 392 Macy's department stores in 37 states in the United States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Its JackRabbit division retails lifestyle products, such as running shoes, apparel, and accessories of Brooks, Asics, Nike, Saucony, New Balance, and other brands. It also operates the e-commerce sites jackrabbit.com and boulderrunningcompany.com. The company operated 72 JackRabbit stores in 17 states in the United States and the District of Columbia.
Company description from FinViz.com.
In late December Finish Line reported a loss of 24 cents compared to estimates for a loss of 18 cents. Revenue was $371.7 million, down -2.7% from the year ago period. Analysts were expecting $412.4 million. They guided for Q4 earnings of 68-73 cents compared to analyst expectations for 96 cents. Shares fell from $23 to $19 on the news and have continued to decline.
Finish Line does not report earnings again until March 22nd. That means every other retailer will post their disappointing quarters and with each earnings miss the weight should increase on FINL shares.
Finish Line operates mall stores and stores inside Macy's stores. Macy's already reported declining traffic and missed on same store sales. This should also impact FINL since lower Macy's traffic means lower traffic in the shoe section.
Shares are currently $17.50 and could easily break below the June lows before the next earnings reports. I am reaching out to May so there will be some earnings expectation in the premium when we exit before the earnings. We can buy time but we do not have to use it.
Update 1/26/17: Finish Line said it was selling its unprofitable JackRabbit running shoe business to CriticalPoint Capital. The company said it expected to realize a cash tax benefit of $30 million from the sale. Shares declined -28 cents.
Long May $17 put @ $1.55, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
LB - L Brands - ETF Profile
No specific news. Big decline of -$2.25 that was probably related to some other retail event. Either that or a major investor decided they could no longer take the pain and hit the exit button.
Original Trade Description: January 14th
L Brands, Inc. operates as a specialty retailer of women's intimate and other apparel, beauty and personal care products, and accessories. The company operates in three segments: Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works International. Its products include loungewear, bras, panties, swimwear, athletic attire, fragrances, shower gels and lotions, aromatherapy, soaps and sanitizers, home fragrances, handbags, jewelry, and personal care accessories. The company offers its products under the Victoria's Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, La Senza, Henri Bendel, C.O. Bigelow, White Barn Candle Company, and other brand names. L Brands, Inc. sells its merchandise through company-owned specialty retail stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, which are primarily mall-based; through its Websites; and through franchises, licenses, and wholesale partners. As of January 31, 2016, the company operated 2,721 retail stores in the United States; 270 retail stores in Canada; and 14 retail stores in the United Kingdom. It also operated 221 La Senza stores in 29 countries; 125 Bath & Body Works stores in 30 countries; 19 Victoria's Secret stores in 7 Middle Eastern countries; and 373 Victoria's Secret Beauty and Accessories stores, and various small-format locations in approximately 75 countries. Company description from FinViz.com.
The holidays were not good for L Brands. The warned on January 5th that net sales rose 1% for the five week shopping period BUT same store sales fell -1% and sales for Victoria's Secret fell -4%. That was a major blow because the holiday shopping season is normally the best five weeks of the year for the lingerie business. They even tried to combat the falling sales by advertising some of their bras at only $10 and even the deep discount did not work.
L Brands is also suffering because they maintain a mall store format. With the malls dying in favor of online shopping, they are losing sales. More than 80% of L Brands sales come from mall traffic and that traffic is rapidly declining. Hermand-Waiche believes that online sales will be over 30% of the market in 2017 and that means Victoria's Secret is becoming obsolete to 30% of the market.
The company warned on the 5th that earnings would be at the low end of prior guidance or $1.85. Shares fell -6% on the earnings warning. With Macy's and Kohl's warning in the same week it was a bloodbath for retailers in the market. Of 11 stores reporting same store sales 8 saw sales decline.
Earnings are February 15th.
Shares are hugging the $60 level but ticking slightly lower every day. If we do get a market meltdown, they could be a target of sellers wanting to exit a nonperforming stock.
Long Feb $60 put @ $1.85, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
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