Monday was about as close as we have come recently to a capitulation event.

Decliners beat advancers by a 6:1 margin and volume was nearly 8 billion shares. The Dow was down -759 intraday and the Nasdaq fell -258 before closing down -193 or -2.7%. The biotech index fell -4.9% and the chip sector dropped -4%. This was a classic washout.

The new tariffs by China on 128 U.S. products got the ball rolling late Sunday and then another tweetstorm attacking Amazon helped to crash the tech sector. Amazon declined -75 points.

Multiple analysts were out over the weekend preaching doom and gloom while others were suggesting a big rally was approaching. Uncertainty is rampant and investors do not like uncertainty. They want a stable, directional market and that disappeared at the end of January.

The initial rebound from the first correction was bought aggressively but once the markets began to near the old highs, the selling began again.

After two weeks of choppy declines, the new tariff headlines pushed the indexes off the cliff. The Dow retested the February low of 23,360 with an intraday low of 23,344 on Monday. That is about as close as you can get with a 23,000-point index.

The Dow narrowly avoided closing with a lower low but I am not sure it matters given the bearish outlook on the chart. There is solid resistance around 24,100 and devent support at 23,423 and 23,350. We simply need several consecutive days without any negative headlines.

The S&P crashed well below the 10% correction level at 2,586 and hit 2,553 at the intraday low. The afternoon rebound lifted it back to within 5 points of that level again and exactly where you would expect a retest to stop. The S&P futures have been up as much as 13 tonight so anything is possible on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the chart is still bearish.

The Nasdaq was the destructive force in the market on Monday led by a 75 point drop in Amazon in response to a new tweetstorm. Amazon is down 15% since the attacks started two weeks ago and that is a major anchor for the Nasdaq. The Nasdaq is nearing the original 10% correction level at 6,755 and the 200-day average at 6,745. This should be strong support.

The Russell 2000 also collapsed but remains well above the 10% correction territory at 1,449.

This is payroll week with the ADP employment on Wednesday and Nonfarm payrolls on Friday. Unless there is a major downside miss of expectations, they are not likely to move the market. Investors are much more worried about tariffs than jobs.

The market appears poised to rebound on Tuesday but I would remain cautious. Every recent rebound was sold hard the following day. Be patient and wait for a positive trend to develop. The charts are technically bearish until we get several consecutive days of decent rebounds.

Enter passively, exit aggressively!

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email


MCD - McDonalds - Company Profile

McDonald's Corporation operates and franchises McDonald's restaurants in the United States, Europe, the Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Canada, Latin America, and internationally. The company's restaurants offer various food products, soft drinks, coffee, and other beverages. As of December 31, 2016, it operated 36,899 restaurants, including 31,230 franchised restaurants comprising 21,559 franchised to conventional franchisees, 6,300 licensed to developmental licensees, and 3,371 licensed to foreign affiliates; and 5,669 company-operated restaurants. Company description from

McDonalds has revitalized their menu and now offers fresh burgers rather than frozen, all day breakfasts, inexpensive drinks, healthier sides and reasonable prices. This is not your father's McDonalds.

Same store sales in the last quarter rose 5.5%, which is unheard of for a fast food chain the size of McDonalds. The CEO said, "We're building a better McDonald's and more customers are noticing. Our relentless commitment to running great restaurants and keeping the customer at the center of everything we do is generating broad-based strength and momentum across our entire business."

Their latest surprising innovation is food delivery. They have partnered with multiple mobile delivery services and business is booming. McDonalds said delivery orders were significantly larger than dine in or take out because people now realize they can order for parties, football games, family dinners, etc. They order multiples of everything and the average check is significantly higher than a dine in order.

They are also implementing mobile ordering and payment with the order. You just show up and pick up your meal and it is ready to go. No lines to pay, no waiting for your food. They will have mobile order/pay in more than 20,000 stores by the end of 2017. The CEO said they were also seeing higher check sizes of 1.2x to 2.0x when mobile ordering is used.

McDonalds said it was selling some of the McCafe beverages in supermarkets in 2018 through a partnership with Coca Cola. The company also announced three new espresso drinks for its own stores. They are Carmel Macchiato, Cappuccino and Americano. They are going to rebrand the McCafe offerings with a new logo and packaging. They are rolling out new coffee makers to nearly all of their 14,000 stores.

A consumer research company said sales at McDonalds were soaring in states that had legalized marijuana. They said 43% of users were eating at McDonalds, 18% Taco Bell, 17.8% Wendy's and 17.6% Burger King in order to satisfy their munchies after smoking pot. A side effect of marijuana is increased appetite.

Jefferies upgraded McDonalds (MCD) saying the partnership with Uber Eats will continue to push sales higher. McDonalds has said their delivery orders have a higher average ticket than traditional on site orders. Jefferies raised the price target from $150 to $200. The company restarted its dollar menu in January and there are $1, $2 and $3 items on the menu. An example would be any size drink or cheeseburger for $1, McDoubles and small McCafe drinks for $2 and Happy Meals and triple cheeseburgers for $3.

In their Q4 earnings, sales for all stores rose 8%, up from 7% in Q3. Same store sales rose from 2.7% to 5.5%. That was down slightly from Q3 at 6.0% but still very respectable. Starbucks only posted 2% same store sales and Wendy's 3.4%. Earnings per share rose 19%. Capex spending in 2018 will be $2.4 billion with the majority going to update 4,000 restaurants and update marketing signage. They plan to open 1,000 new stores in 2018.

Earnings April 29th.

MCD shares crashed with the market in January and then fell again in late February after JP Morgan said the company did not have a "hero" item on the menu to draw people into the stores. Shares rebounded quickly and then ran into the second market correction. Shares were flat over the last two weeks despite the Dow trending lower in a high volatility market.

The burger joint was actually positive in Monday's market crash.

Buy May $165 call, currently $2.37, stop loss $153.85.

Current Portfolio

Open Positions

Check the graphic below for any new stop losses in bright yellow. We need to always be prepared for an unexpected decline. Any items shaded in blue were previously closed.

Current Position Changes

QQQ - Nasdaq 100 ETF
The long call position was entered on Tuesday.

The short side was stopped on Wednesday.

FB - Facebook
The long call positions were stopped at the open on Tuesday.

INGR - Ingredion
The long call position was stopped on Monday.

Original Play Recommendations (Alpha by Symbol)

ABBV - AbbVie - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares traded sideways last week but declined sharply today.

After the headline related stock drop, the odds of ABBV shares returning to $115 before the May expiration are very slim. I am recommending we drop this position. I would not close it for 25 cents because miracles do happen. Just keep it in your portfolio until expiration.

Original Trade Description: February 6th.

AbbVie Inc. discovers, develops, manufactures, and sells pharmaceutical products worldwide. The company offers HUMIRA, a biologic therapy administered as a subcutaneous injection to treat autoimmune diseases; IMBRUVICA, an oral therapy for the treatment of patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia; and VIEKIRA PAK, an interferon-free therapy, with or without ribavirin, for the treatment of adults with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C. It also provides Kaletra, an anti- human immunodeficiency virus(HIV)-1 medicine used with other anti-HIV-1 medications as a treatment that maintains viral suppression in HIV-1 patients; Norvir, a protease inhibitor indicated in combination with other antiretroviral agents to treat HIV-1; and Synagis to prevent RSV infection at-risk infants. In addition, the company offers AndroGel, a testosterone replacement therapy for males diagnosed with symptomatic low testosterone; Creon, a pancreatic enzyme therapy for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency; Synthroid to treat hypothyroidism; and Lupron, a product for the palliative treatment of prostate cancer, endometriosis, and central precocious puberty, as well as for the treatment of patients with anemia. Further, it provides Duopa and Duodopa, a levodopa-carbidopa intestinal gel to treat Parkinson's disease; Sevoflurane, an anesthesia product for human use; and ZINBRYTA, a subcutaneous treatment for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis. The company sells its products to wholesalers, distributors, government agencies, health care facilities, specialty pharmacies, and independent retailers from its distribution centers and public warehouses. AbbVie Inc. has collaboration agreements with C2N Diagnostics; Calico Life Sciences LLC; Infinity Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; M2Gen; and Principia Biopharma Inc. Company description from

Next expected earnings April 27th.

A lot of companies have 1-2 real drugs in the pipeline that may be approved. Several companies have one drug that could be a blockbuster and reach $1 billion in sales annually. AbbVie has multiple blockbusters in the pipeline and dozens of other drugs already in the market.

Analysts claim AbbVie's pipeline is the strongest in the industry. The post earnings market drop is a buying opportunity. The company's other drugs are going to be cash cows. Imbruvica generated $1.8 billion in sales in 2016 and could reach $7 billion annually over the next couple of years. Venclexta was approved in 2016 for leukemia and sales could peak at $3.5 billion a year. An experimental cancer drug called Rova-T could hit $5 billion a year when approved. A psoriasis drug called risankizumab could produce $4 billion a year and arthritis drug upadacitinib could peak at $3.5 billion.

AbbVie was a spinoff from Abbott Laboratories in 2012 and they are doing great.

ABBV reported Q4 earnings of $1.48 that beat estimates for $1.45. Revenue of $7.74 billion beat estimates for $7.51 billion. The company guided for 2018 adjusted earnings of $7.33-$7.43, up from $6.37-$6.57 and analysts were expecting $6.66.

The blowout guidance spiked the shares to $125 from $108. We had closed our prior ABBV position the day before the earnings. With the market crash, shares have now declined to $109 and giving us a chance to reenter the position.

Update 2/10/18: AbbVie raised its dividend by 35% to 96 cents and announced a $10 billion stock buyback program.

Update 3/26//18: AbbVie has had a tough week. They announced a disappointing drug trial and was told to pay $3 million to a man who had taken Andro-Gel and had a heart attack. Shares fell $19 on the multiple headlines. The court threw out a $150 million jury verdict on Andro-Gel but awarded the $3 million because the company had "acted negligently." Multiple companies are being sued over similar products. Eli Lilly, Endo Pharma and GlaxoSmithKline have tentatively agreed to settle hundreds of suits. AbbVie has more than 4,000 cases still pending. The negligence verdict could be a problem because it gives the other 4,000 cases a precedent to use in their cases.

Position 2/6/18:
Dropping 4/2: Long May $115 call @ $3.70, exit .26, -3.44 loss.

BOTZ - Robotics & AI ETF - ETF Profile


BOTZ fell back to support as the chip sector declined -4% today alone. Support is holding.

Original Trade Description: February 26th

The Global X Robotics & Artificial Intelligence ETF seeks to invest in companies that potentially stand to benefit from increased adoption and utilization of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), including those involved with industrial robotics and automation, non-industrial robots, and autonomous vehicles. The ETF seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance, before fees and expenses, of the Indxx Global Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Thematic Index.

The ETF has 28 stocks including NVDA, ISRG, TRMB, BRKS, IRBT, MZOR, Toshiba and Cyberdyne.

The ETF is somewhat slow moving since it just began trading in September. Volume has increased significantly to average 2.55 million shares.

The key to this ETF and this position is that the stock rarely goes down and the options are cheap. There have only been 3 periods of decline in 2017 and each drop was only about 60 cents. The ETF rose steadily since April and hit a new high in January just before the market correction. If this continues, even allowing for some declines, that would equate to a nice gain by the end of the Q1 earnings cycle and that would be our exit target. This is not going to set the world on fire like a Facebook or Netflix but it should be dependable, stable gains. Obviously, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Position 2/27/18:
Long June $26 call @ $.90, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

CAT - Caterpillar - Company Profile


No specific news but the threat of tariffs from China knocked off another $3.50 today to clos eright on support.

Original Trade Description: February 26th

Caterpillar Inc. manufactures and sells construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives for heavy and general construction, rental, quarry, aggregate, mining, waste, material handling, oil and gas, power generation, marine, rail, and industrial markets. Its Construction Industries segment offers backhoe, compact, track-type, small and medium wheel, knuckleboom, and skid steer loaders; small and medium track-type, and site prep tractors; mini, wheel, forestry, small, medium, and large track excavators; and motorgraders, pipelayers, telehandlers, cold planers, asphalt pavers, compactors, road reclaimers, and wheel and track skidders and feller bunchers. The company's Resource Industries segment provides electric rope and hydraulic shovel, landfill and soil compactor, dragline, large wheel loader, machinery component, track and rotary drill, electronics and control system, work tool, hard rock vehicle and continuous mining system, scoop and hauler, wheel tractor scraper, large track-type tractor, and wheel dozer products; longwall, highwall, and continuous miners; and mining, off-highway, and articulated trucks. Its Energy & Transportation segment offers reciprocating engine powered generator set and engine, integrated system, turbine, centrifugal gas compressor, diesel-electric locomotive and component, and other rail-related products and services. The company's Financial Products segment offers finance for Caterpillar equipment, machinery, and engines, as well as dealers; property, casualty, life, accident, and health insurance; and insurance brokerage services, as well as purchases short-term trade receivables. Its All Other operating segments provides parts distribution and digital investments services. The company was formerly known as Caterpillar Tractor Co. and changed its name to Caterpillar Inc. in 1986. The company was founded in 1925 and is headquartered in Peoria, Illinois. Company description from

CAT reported their rolling 3-month sales rose 34% globally. There was a 23% rise in North America. Resource segment sales rose 49%, construction sales +30%, rnergy and transportation rose 16%, power generation +8%, industrial sales +13% and oil and gas sales +27%. This company is in the sweet spot of the global economic boom. They report the rolling 3-month average to smooth out the big ticket sales spikes from month to month.

I have had several people email me lately asking why I do not recommend short puts to offset the cost of long calls on stocks with good relative strength. I believe that is a great strategy but got away from recommending it over the last couple years because a lot of readers have smaller accounts and do not have the margin availability. I am going to start recommending it again as an option. Those who want to use it can but it is not a requirement for the position.

Position 2/27/18:
Long June $160 call @ $6.25, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

CVX - Chevron - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares down with the Dow and falling oil prices.

Original Trade Description: March 5th

Chevron Corporation, through its subsidiaries, engages in integrated energy, chemicals, and petroleum operations worldwide. The company operates in two segments, Upstream and Downstream. The Upstream segment is involved in the exploration, development, and production of crude oil and natural gas; processing, liquefaction, transportation, and regasification associated with liquefied natural gas; transportation of crude oil through pipelines; and transportation, storage, and marketing of natural gas, as well as operates a gas-to-liquids plant. The Downstream segment engages in refining crude oil into petroleum products; marketing crude oil and refined products; transporting crude oil and refined products through pipeline, marine vessel, motor equipment, and rail car; and manufacturing and marketing commodity petrochemicals, and fuel and lubricant additives, as well as plastics for industrial uses. It is also involved in the cash management and debt financing activities; insurance operations; real estate activities; and technology businesses. The company was formerly known as ChevronTexaco Corporation and changed its name to Chevron Corporation in 2005. Chevron Corporation was founded in 1879 and is headquartered in San Ramon, California. Company description from

Chevron probably has more new production in the pipeline than any other U.S. company. Most of that production is gas with two monster projects in Australia. The Gorgon project is a $54 billion LNG facility with the export capability of 15.6 million tons per annum (MTPA)(2.184 Bcf/d) of LNG to Asian markets. Demand for gas to Asia is expected to double by 2025. The fields feeding this LNG plant have more than 40 Tcf of gas with new discoveries every month.

The $29 billion Wheatstone project consists of two LNG trains with a combined capacity of 8.9 MTPA (1.25 Bcf/d) with the option to expand to 25 MTPA (3.5 Bcf/d). The first LNG output was in 2016. More than 80% of the gas supplied to Wheatstone will come from Chevron fields. Another 20% will come from an Apache find in the same region. Chevron has made 21 major discoveries of gas in the region since 2009. The initial discovery was 9 Tcf of gas but more is being added every month.

They have been planning/building these facilities for the last 10 years and all the capex expenses are behind them. Now that production is well underway they are producing cash flow rather than burning cash flow.

In the last ten years Chevron has added 13 billion barrels of oil reserves. Chevron said it replaced 161% of what it produced in 2017. They added four barrels of oil for every barrel produced and 6 cubic feet of gas for every one produced. They touted their 1.7 million acres in the Permian as their future production capability. They drilled 310 Permian wells in 2017 compared to 201 in 2016. They have been in the Permian for so long that they pay very little or even zero royalties for their acreage.

Chevron reported Q4 earnings of 73 cents that missed estimates for $1.27. Revenue of $37.62 billion just barely beat estimates for $37.55 billion. They did report a new discovery in the Gulf of Mexico that should be a gusher 7-9 years from now. That is a very long lead time project.

Chevron currently pays a $1.12 quarterly dividend. With the rising cash flows from the LNG facilities, shale reserves in the Permian and offshore production, their dividend is secure.

The monster drop in January is a buying opportunity. Bank of America upgraded them last week from neutral to buy.

Crude prices are normally weak in March/April but rebound sharply in May as the summer driving season begins. Prices typically peak in August. I am recommending we buy the September call and ride it into that August peak.

Update 3/26/18: The Chevron CEO said deepwater oil is coming back thanks to new technologies that pump the oil for miles underwater to existing topside platforms rather than building new platforms for each new discovery. Chevron is currently bringing online the 170,000 bpd Jack/St Malo with a distributed well system. Transocean's CEO saif all but a handful of the current 29 deepwater projects have breakeven costs in the low $40 a barrel range. This is great because Chevron has a lot of reserves they have not even started to develop.

Position 3/6/18:
Long Sept $120 call @ $4.46, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

FB - Facebook - Company Profile


Ground hog day, chapter 7. The bad news just keeps repeating for Facebook and fortunately, we were stopped out at the open last Tuesday. Unfortunately, it was for a loss regardless of whish position you opted to play.

I believe Facebook will recover. Recent surveys show that users are not leaving the website. In fact they are actually reading more news to try and understand what happened.

I considered adding it back in as a new position but the call options are out of sight on price.

Original Trade Description: March 19th

Facebook, Inc. provides various products to connect and share through mobile devices, personal computers, and other surfaces worldwide. Its products include Facebook Website and mobile application that enables people to connect, share, discover, and communicate with each other on mobile devices and personal computers; Instagram, a community for sharing visual stories through photos, videos, and direct messages; Messenger, a messaging application to communicate with other people, groups, and businesses across various platforms and devices; and WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application. The company also offers Oculus virtual reality technology and content platform, which allows people to enter an immersive and an interactive environment to train, learn, play games, consume content, and connect with others. As of December 31, 2017, it had approximately 1.40 billion daily active users. Facebook, Inc. was founded in 2004 and is headquartered in Menlo Park, California. Company description from

Facebook shares fell $12.53 on Monday on news a research firm had skillfully extracted the personal information from 51.3 million accounts. The firm designed an app that could develop a psychological profile from users Facebook accounts. Some 270,000 people downloaded the app to analyze their profiles. However, users had to give the app permissions to access their friends and their friend's friends. From those 270,000 users the company garnered the information on 51.3 million accounts.

This happened before 2015 when Facebook discovered the method being used and they changed their privacy policies and the capabilities allowed in third party apps. In 2015 the third party told Facebook the data had been deleted. However, recently a whistle blower said it still existed on their servers.

The idea that Facebook let a third party steal private data from 51 million people crashed the stock. There is a law on the books that has a $40,000 penalty per occurrence of data theft. Obviously $40K times 51 million is a lot of money but there is zero chance it would ever happen. Facebook discovered the problem and took steps to insure the data was deleted, only they were lied to and it did not happen.

Here is the key point. Nothing that happened will prevent any current users from continuing to use Facebook. Revenue will continue to grow. There will be some court cases that will take years to reach a conclusion and Facebook will earn tens of billions of dollars between now and then. Any eventual fine or reward will be painful but well within Facebook's ability to pay.

The biggest challenge could be regulatory with laws passed to impose limits on data sharing and financial penalties when the law is broken. That will also take a long time because committees will have to study what is available across all the various websites including Bing, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, Etsy, Ebay, Paypal, Visa, MasterCard, etc. If they are going to pass a law they will want to make it comprehensive.

I wrote in Option Investor today that I would not recommend FB because of the high option prices for a short term position. However, in this newsletter we have the ability to reach out for a longer term and offset the cost of the options by either using a spread or selling acash secured put against the position.

Facebook shares fell to the 200-day average and stopped at $172.50. There is strong support at $169. I believe the sell off was an overreaction and shares will rebound. It may not happen tomorrow or even this week but these headlines will pass.

Expected earnings May 2nd.

There are two ways to enter this position. Pick whichever works for you but not both. You can sell a call spread like the June $180-$200 for a net debit of $5.55 and a maximum gain of $14.45 at expiration. The second way would be to buy the June $180 call and sell a June $150 put. Lightning would have to strike Facebook shares for the stock to decline to $150. This is a company that is growing revenue at a 47% rate and has many years ahead at that rate as they monetize other products.

Update 3/26: Will this nightmare ever end? We definitely jumped the gun on buying the Facebook dip. Shares were $185 before the scandal broke and they plunged a low as $149 intraday today after the FTC confirmed they were opening an investigation. Under a 2011 consent decree a $40,000 fine was established for every privacy violation. With 51.3 million accounts stolen in the 2014 event, that could be over $1 trillion. You can bet the government watchdogs are going to be hyperventilating over the prospect of the biggest fine in history. Obviously, it will not be $1 trillion but it could be a lot. Possibly in the tens of billions if they are found guilty. It will be years before any case ever comes to trial but the damage is being done to the stock today.

The $36 drop to the intraday lows today, would have killed the position had it lasted. However, shares rebounded $11 to close over $160. At that level there is still a chance we could see a bigger recovery. Robert Baird reiterated an outperform but lowered the price target from $225 to $210. Stifel reiterated a hold and lowred their price target from $195 to $168. Bank of America reiterated a buy but lowered their price target from $265 to $230.

I considered closing the position. The option with the short put moved into risk territory intraday but recovered when the stock rebounded back over $160. I am going to put a stop loss on the entire position to avoid future risk.

Position 3/20/18:

Option 1:
Closed 3/27: Long June $180 call @ $6.00, exit 3.05, -2.95 loss.
Closed 3/27: Short June $200 call @ $1.48, exit .65, +.83 gain
Net loss $2.12

Option 2:
Closed 3/27: Long June $180 call @ $6.00, exit $3.05, -2.95 loss
Closed 3/27: Short June $150 put @ $3.80, exit $7.30, -3.50 loss
Net loss $6.45

HD - Home Depot - Company Profile


No specific news. After the recent support break there is no hope for this position. I am recommending we drop it from weekly coverage.

Original Trade Description: February 12th.

The Home Depot, Inc. operates as a home improvement retailer. It operates The Home Depot stores that sell various building materials, home improvement products, and lawn and garden products, as well as provide installation, home maintenance, and professional service programs to do-it-yourself, do-it-for-me (DIFM), and professional customers. The company offers installation programs that include flooring, cabinets, countertops, water heaters, and sheds; and professional installation in various categories sold through its in-home sales programs, such as roofing, siding, windows, cabinet refacing, furnaces, and central air systems, as well as acts as a contractor to provide installation services to its DIFM customers through third-party installers. It primarily serves homeowners; and professional renovators/remodelers, general contractors, handymen, property managers, building service contractors, and specialty tradesmen, such as installers. The company also sells its products through online. It operates through approximately 2,278 stores, including 1,977 in the United States, including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the territories of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam; 182 in Canada; and 119 in Mexico.

The company reported Q3 earnings of $1.84 that rose 15% and beat estimates for $1.81. Revenue rose 8.1% to $25.026 billion, up from $23.154 billion. This beat estimates for $24.523 billion. Same store sales rose 7.9%. HD said the hurricanes added about $282 million in sales but also cost them about $51 million in store damages and inventory shifting costs. The company guided for Q4 revenue growth of 6.3% and same store sales of 6.5%. Those numbers were up from 5.3% and 5.6% in prior guidance. Earnings are expected to grow 14% to $7.36 for the full year, up from prior guidance of $7.29. Full year 2017 sales are expected to be $100.6 billion. They had $8 billion unspent on a $15 billion share repurchase program.

In early December, Home Depot (HD) announced a new $15 billion buyback and raised guidance for annual sales between $114.6-$119.8 billion by the end of 2020. The new repurchase program replaced the existing $15 billion program. The company expects to buy back $8 billion in shares total in 2017 with $2.1 billion in Q4. Since 2002, Home Depot has bought back 1.3 billion shares worth $73 billion.

Home Depot had an effective tax rate of 37% in Q3. Under the new tax plan that would drop to about 23%. Analysts believe this could boost HD's 2018 earnings by as much as 25%. That means their earnings could rise as much as $1.81. They currently have a PE of 25 and that would equate to about a $45 rise in the stock price. However, I would expect that PE to decline somewhat in the conversion.

Shares are already up after their November earnings guidance but I believe they can still go higher. Options are not cheap. In order to get the benefit of the rise in expectations I would like to reach out to May but the options are too expensive but not enough to make a spread worthwhile. I am recommending a March position and hopefully analyst projections will do the work for us.

Earnings are Feb 20th and I would plan to hold over that report because they will give tax guidance at that time.

HD is reportedly talking to XPO Logistics about an acquisition of the $9 billion company. HD uses them to deliver large items like refrigerators and other appliances. There could be a battle with Amazon since that large item shipping is a problem for Amazon.

Option premiums are high because of the correction and rebound. Shares were trading at $210 two weeks ago and now they are trading at $185. With earnings next week, they could be back at $200 or higher very quickly.

Update 2/26/18: HD reported earnings of $1.69 that beat estimates for $1.61. Revenue rose 7.5% to $23.88 billion and beat estimates for $23.66 billion. Same store sales rose 7.5% and beat estimates for 6.5%. Customer transactions rose 2% with the average check rising 5.5%. Business is good! They guided for the full year for earnings of $9.31 but below estimates for $9.73. Earnings will be impacted by a 19 cent hit from the tax reform. The company is planning on investing a lot in new infrastructure and store remodeling and that will weigh on the full year numbers. Analysts will adjust and investors will return. There was a post earnings decline but shares are starting to recover.

Position 2/13/18:
Dropping 4/2: Long April $190 call @ $5.30, expiring, -5.30 loss.

IBM - International Business Machines - Company Profile


IBM actually had a decent week but gave back the gains on Monday. No specific news.

Original Trade Description: March 13th

International Business Machines Corporation operates as an integrated technology and services company worldwide. Its Cognitive Solutions segment offers Watson, a cognitive computing platform that interacts in natural language, processes big data, and learns from interactions with people and computers. This segment also offers data and analytics solutions, including analytics and data management platforms, cloud data services, enterprise social software, talent management solutions, and solutions tailored by industry; and transaction processing software that runs mission-critical systems in banking, airlines, and retail industries. The company's Global Business Services segment offers business consulting services; delivers system integration, application management, maintenance, and support services for packaged software applications; and finance, procurement, talent and engagement, and industry-specific business process outsourcing services. Its Technology Services & Cloud Platforms segment provides cloud, project-based, outsourcing, and other managed services for enterprise IT infrastructure environments. This segment also offers technical support, and software and solution support; and integration software solutions. The company's Systems segment offers servers for businesses, cloud service providers, and scientific computing organizations; data storage products and solutions; and z/OS, an enterprise operating system. Its Global Financing segment provides lease, installment payment plans, and loan financing services; short-term working capital financing to suppliers, distributors, and resellers; and remanufacturing and remarketing services. The company was formerly known as Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. and changed its name to International Business Machines Corporation in 1924. International Business Machines Corporation was founded in 1911 and is headquartered in Armonk, New York. Company description from

Earnings April 19th.

This is going to be a simple play. IBM posted its first revenue gain in 14 quarters for Q4. They have a ton of new products and services. Their cloud business is growing and they have a new mainframe server that is in high demand. They are investing in blockchain technologies and they are selling noncore assets and reducing staff in legacy businesses. They are making all the right moves and the stock is showing some good relative strength. Shares were up on Monday when the Dow was down -157 points.

I believe investors are coming back to IBM as a undervalued growth play. The stock has not been able to maintain a positive trend for years but it is rebounding from the market correction .Shares fell from $170 to $145 post earnings when the correction bit and it has rebounded to $160.

With earnings on April 19th, I am recommending we buy a May call and exit on the 17th.

Position 3/13/18:
Long May $165 call @ $3.70, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

INGR - Ingredion Inc - Company Profile


Ingredion dropped just enough in the Nasdaq crash to stop us out exactly at the low of the day at $125.75 on an intraday support break.

Original Trade Description: February 12th.

Ingredion Incorporated, together with its subsidiaries, produces and sells starches and sweeteners for various industries. The company operates through four segments: North America, South America, Asia Pacific and Europe, and Middle East and Africa. It offers sweetener products comprising glucose syrups, high maltose syrups, high fructose corn syrups, caramel colors, dextrose, polyols, maltodextrins and glucose, and syrup solids, as well as food-grade and industrial starches, and biomaterials. The company also provides animal feed products; edible corn oil; refined corn oil to packers of cooking oil and to producers of margarine, salad dressings, shortening, mayonnaise, and other foods; and corn gluten feed used as protein feed for chickens, pet food, and aquaculture. Its products are derived primarily from processing corn and other starch-based materials, such as tapioca, potato, and rice. The company serves food, beverage, paper and corrugating products, brewing, pharmaceutical, textile, and personal care industries, as well as animal feed and corn oil markets. The company was formerly known as Corn Products International, Inc. and changed its name to Ingredion Incorporated in June 2012. Ingredion Incorporated was founded in 1906 and is headquartered in Westchester, Illinois.

NTGR - Netgear - Company Profile


No specific news. Shares faded with the market but remain close to support.

Original Trade Description: January 8th

NETGEAR, Inc. designs, develops, and markets innovative networking solutions and smart connected products for consumers, businesses, and service providers. The company operates in three segments: Retail, Commercial, and Service Provider. The Retail segment offers home WiFi networking solutions and smart connected products. The Commercial segment provides business networking, storage, and security solutions. The Service Provider segment offers made-to-order home networking hardware and software solutions, including 4G LTE hotspots sold to service providers for sale to their subscribers. The company also offers commercial business networking products, such as Ethernet switches, wireless controllers and access points, Internet security appliances, and unified storage products; broadband access products, including broadband modems, WiFi gateways, and WiFi hotspots; and smart home/Internet-of-Things connectivity and products comprising WiFi routers and home WiFi system, WiFi range extenders, powerline adapters and bridges, remote video security systems, and WiFi network adapters. It markets and sells its products through traditional retailers, online retailers, wholesale distributors, direct market resellers, value-added resellers, and broadband service providers worldwide. Company description from

Expected earnings May 8th.

Several weeks ago Amazon bought Blink. You may not have heard about Blink but they launched in 2016 with an inexpensive wireless camera and video doorbell. This is the hot new sector for video surveillance. You have probably heard about Ring video doorbells, which is a different company.

The point to this commentary is that Netgear is making the very popular Arlo security camera and sales are booming. Netgear also has 48% of the market for home routers.

With Amazon likely to go big in this category after the acquisition of Blink, that means Netgear is suddenly a target. Global Equities said Facebook, Google or even Apple could acquire Netgear because that gives them a top position in the space. Google would be the prime candidate because they could link the Arlo system to Google Home. It would also allow Google access to trillions of terabytes of data related to the home routers and networking equipment. Monitoring those devices would be like keeping their finger on the pulse of technology. They would know how many people are watching Netflix, how much data was being consumed by what subset of users, etc. This could be very important in their planning for the future.

Apple is not likely to make a play for Netgear because they do not do big acquisitions and Netgear has too many "common" products for Apple to manage. They would be more likely to buy Tesla or Netflix if they were going to make a big splash.

Arlo is an entirely new category for Netgear and a category that is exploding in sales. In their Q4 earnings they said the Arlo cameras posted record sales that exceeded their already optimistic expectations.

Since I wrote that in the initial play description Netgear has announced a spinoff of the Arlo security cameras. They will spin less than 20% and retain the rest. The cameras are so popular the IPO should be a big success and a good way for Netgear to monetize their investment. This will provide them a significant amount of capital to expand on their other product lines.

In reality, nobody has to buy Netgear for them to succeed. Netgear demonstrated new products at the CES show and the crowd loved them. Apparently, so did investors. They announced the Nighthawk Pro Gaming system of network gear that will cut lag time and enhance multiplayer game play for serious gamers. They also demonstrated the Orbi Wi-Fi system, which has also been very successful. With the rapid ramp of the Arlo video cameras for security, they have completed an entire cloud support system that allows storage of video, multiviewer capability for home monitoring, etc.

They reported Q4 earnings of 71 cents on revenue of $397.1 million,, up 7.9%. They guided for the current quarter for revenue of $330-$345 million. Analysts were expecting $348.2 million. However, Netgear has beaten estimates for six consecutive quarters so they may have been guiding lower so they can beat again.

The combination of the light guidance and the market declined knocked $15 off the stock in February. Shares appear to have bottomed at $56 and have risen for the past two days. This is proving a buying opportunity on a previously strong stock.

Position 2/13/18:
Long June $65 call @ $3.26, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

QQQ - Powershares QQQ - ETF Profile


The Nasdaq imploded on Monday with a -250 point drop intraday and -193 at the close. The short put position had already been stopped out on Wednesday. I seriously doubt the Nasdaq is going much lower and I am recommending we reload that position using the June $140 put. That will help erase some of the loss we took on that stop.

Sell short June $140 put, currently $2.59, stop loss $148.

Original Trade Description: March 26th

PowerShares QQQ, formerly known as "QQQ" or the "NASDAQ-100 Index Tracking Stock", is an exchange-traded fund based on the Nasdaq-100 Index. The Fund will, under most circumstances, consist of all of stocks in the Index. The Index includes 100 of the largest domestic and international nonfinancial companies listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market based on market capitalization. The Fund and the Index are rebalanced quarterly and reconstituted annually.

The Nasdaq crashed along with the Dow but did not retest the February lows. The Nasdaq actually set a new high two weeks ago before the second drop arrived. The tech stocks led out of th einitial correction and I believe they will lead through the Q1 earnings cycle. Even though the Nasdaq gained 3% on Monday, there could be a lot more to go and the index should make another new high before the Q1 earnings cycle is over.

I am going to offset the call with an optional short put to reduce our cost significantly just in case the expected rally does not appear.

Position 3/27/18:
Long June $170 call @ $4.31, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.
Closed 3/28: Short June $150 put @ $1.47, exit $4.49, -3.02 loss.

VXX - Volatility Index Futures - ETF Description


Volatility spiked again with the Dow's nearly 800-point intraday decline. After a successful retest of the February lows, we should be nearing the end of this temper tantrum.

It normally takes 4-5 weeks for volatility to return to normal after a high volatility event and we are now a couple weeks past normal. The VXX always moves lower eventually.

Original Trade Description: September 18th.

The VXX is a short-term volatility ETF 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 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 VXX always declines.

Unfortunately, put options are expensive with a volatility instrument at this price level. The only recommendation is to short the ETF and forget it. If we do get a new rally into the Q1 earnings cycle we could see a sharp decline in the VXX over the next 2-3 months. 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 will put a trailing stop loss on it. We will take profits and then look for a bounce to get back in.

The VXX is hard to short. There are 34.2 million shares outstanding and says 44.5 million are short. The shares are out there and being traded because the volume on Monday was 46.5 million. More than 221 million traded on Feb 5th. This ETF is a favorite vehicle for the computer traders so the volume is always high. 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.

Previously: On Feb-5th a reader emailed me saying a friend was short 1,000 shares. When the VXX spiked $21 in afterhours, Ameritrade closed that position for a $35,000 loss. They did not have a protective stop loss.

We are not using a profit stop in this position because it could be hard to re-short the shares after a volatility event. That is just trade management for a profitable position.

In ANY SHORT POSITION, you should have a catastrophe stop loss to avoid the position turning into a major loss. Had this person had a stop loss at their entry point, they would have been closed for a breakeven and they would be sleeping a lot better today.

Readers should always assume the potential for the worst possible outcome of a short position. Trade smart!

Position 2/13/18:
Short VXX shares @ $49.16, no initial stop loss.

Prices Quoted in Newsletter

At Option Investor, we have a long-standing policy prohibiting the editors and staff from actually trading the individual recommendations in order to conform to SEC rules concerning trades.

The prices quoted in the newsletter are the end of day prices in most cases.

When discussing fills or stops the prices quoted are the bid/ask at the time the entry trigger or exit stop is hit. This is NOT a price that someone on staff actually got using a live order.

For entry/exit points at the market open the prices quoted will be the opening print. The majority of the time readers are able to get a better fill than the opening print because of market maker bias at the open.

For trades with an opening qualification the prices quoted will be the bid/ask at the time the qualification was met.

All of these rules normally produce worse prices than an active trader would normally get. Because they are standardized there may be some cases where a price quoted was better than an actual fill. If you received a price that was dramatically different than what was quoted please let us know.