A last-minute surge at the close of trading added 75 points to the Dow. I tried to find something to blame it on but after a day of mostly sideways, low volatility trading, it appears buyers finally decided to act. Boeing was up $9.50 for 65 Dow points but only 21 of those points were in the last few minutes of trading. After an 84-point drop at 10:AM the Dow was still trading around the flat line at 12:45. Buyers began appearing in larger numbers and that looks a lot like a short covering spike when that intraday resistance was broken at the close.


The Nasdaq rallied sharply in the morning but turned dormant around noon. The index is showing the same surge at the close.


After the bell Alphabet (GOOGL) reported earnings of $10.91 that narrowly beat estimates for $10.86. Revenue rose $7 billion to $38.9 billion and beat estimates for $38.93 billion. The CFO said the company had authorized a $12.5 billion stock buyback.

Shares fell more than 3% because they said spending was going to increase significantly in order to support future growth. Expenses in Q4 were $31.07 billion with capex up 64% to $7.08 billion. For all of 2018 capex was $25.46 billion. That is a lot of research and infrastructure.


Fortunately, the Google loss did not impact the futures. The Nasdaq futures are flat and S&P futures down only $1.50. The Russell futures are actually up $1.50 and that is very positive.

The buy program, short covering or whatever right at the close is more than likely lifting the futures because it caught everyone off guard.

The last minutes surge powered the Dow even higher above 25,000 and it has not closed above all three 100, 200, 300-day averages. That cluster of convergence could have been decent resistance, but the Dow is now on a roll. The next material target is 25,800.



The S&P is still below the moving average cluster and this index does react to averages where the Dow does not. The 200-day at 2,741 and the EOY analyst consensus target at 2,750 should both be decent resistance. The real target is 2,815 and that is likely to happen before the China trade meeting in two weeks.


Google falling $35 afterhours was muted by the $22 gain in the regular session. Netflix continues to be a winner and Microsoft, the highest weighted after Apple, gained $3. Now that Google is behind us the flow of tech earnings will slow. If the Nasdaq can struggle past 7,500 it should draw cautious investors off the sidelines.



The small caps continue posting gains, but the index stopped right on the 100-day at 1,517. The next 50 points are going to be a challenge. Small cap earnings begin to flow next week.


The State of the Union and Fed Chair Powell's speech are the two potential hurdles this week. You never know what each of those individuals are going to say. The ISM nonmanufacturing and wholesale trade are the most important reports.


The earnings calendar is lacking many high-profile names despite the large number of companies reporting. Dow component Disney will report on Tuesday.


The challenge for investors is the sharp drop in earnings forecasts. As of last two weeks ago the forecast for Q1 was 8% growth. As of noon today, it was 0.3% and just barely positive. When this turns negative it will be a drag on the market. Investors will be moving from growth stocks to dividend stocks and something that would be expected to weather an earnings recession.

One factor holding up the market is the expectations for a trade deal with China when Trump and Xi meet at the end of February. This could be the mother of all sell the news events when it happens.

I would continue to recommend caution in this market. A six-week streak of gains is just asking for a pause to reset. Look to buy any dip ahead of the China meeting but I would be careful about buying new highs.

Enter passively and exit aggressively!

Jim Brown

Send Jim an email



NEW DIRECTIONAL Call PLAY

ITW - Illinois Tool Works - Company Profile

Illinois Tool Works Inc. manufactures and sells industrial products and equipment worldwide. It operates through seven segments: Automotive OEM; Food Equipment; Test & Measurement and Electronics; Welding; Polymers & Fluids; Construction Products; and Specialty Products. The Automotive OEM segment offers plastic and metal components, fasteners, and assemblies for automobiles, light trucks, and other industrial uses. The Food Equipment segment produces warewashing, cooking, refrigeration, and food processing equipment; kitchen exhaust, ventilation, and pollution control systems; and food equipment, maintenance, and repair services. The Test & Measurement and Electronics segment produces equipment, consumables, and related software for testing and measuring of materials and structures, as well as equipment and consumables used in the production of electronic subassemblies and microelectronics. The Welding segment produces arc welding equipment; metal arc welding consumables and related accessories; and metal jacketing and other insulation products for various industrial and commercial applications. The Polymers & Fluids segment produces adhesives, sealants, lubrication and cutting fluids, and fluids and polymers for auto aftermarket maintenance and appearance. The Construction Products segment produces engineered fastening systems and solutions for the residential construction, renovation/remodel, and commercial construction markets. The Specialty Products segment offers beverage packaging equipment and consumables, product coding and marking equipment and consumables, and appliance components and fasteners. It serves the food and beverage, consumer durables, general industrial, printing and publishing, and industrial capital goods markets. The company distributes its products directly to industrial manufacturers, as well as through independent distributors. Illinois Tool Works Inc. was founded in 1912 and is headquartered in Glenview, Illinois. Company description from FinViz.com.

ITW reported Q4 earnings of $1.83 that beat estimates for $1.82. Revenue of $3.6 billion matched estimates. They guided for 2019 for earnings of $7.90-$8.20. For Q1 they expect $1.73-$1.83. Analysts were expecting $8.02 and $1.94.

However, the rest of the story is that ITW guidance included restructuring costs of 7 cents, forex headwinds of 7 cents and tax charge of 5 cents. That is 19 cents in addition to their estimate making the guidance above the street. Investors did not read through the news and shares fell sharply on Friday. After the news was disseminated shares rebounded $4 today and will probably continue rebounding.

ITW also has a $4 dividend giving them a 2.89% yield. With S&P earnings likely to decline in Q1, these big dividend stocks are going to be in favor.

Buy June $145 Call, currently $4.50, stop loss $131.25.

If you want to defray some of that premium you could sell the June $125 put, currently $2.40.



VXXB - Barclays VIX Futures ETN - ETN Description

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 Monday was 18.5 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.

Short VXXB shares, currently $34.00, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.




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


BOX - Box Inc
The long position was entered at the open on Tuesday.

VXX - Barclay's VIX Futures ETF
The long position was closed on Wednesday.


Original Play Recommendations (Alpha by Symbol)


BOX - Box Inc - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares moving up nicely.

Original Trade Description: Jan 21st

Box, Inc. provides 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 closed at a 4-month high on Monday in a bad market. The saucer base is complete and shares are rebounding.

Because of the potential earnings volatility in the market I am going to stay short term with cheaper options and less risk. I am recommending March but the June options are only slightly more expensive and twice the time.

Position 1/29/19:
Long March $21 Call @ $1.15, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.



CAT - Caterpillar - Company Profile

Comments:

CAT rallied for the week and moved within $3 of our strike price. Unfortunately, our time is rapidly expiring. I added a stop loss, but I am recommending we continue to hold it rather than sell for 93 cents. All we need is one good day and our option could double.

No specific news.

Original Trade Description: Jan 7th

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. Company description from FinViz.com.

For Q3, they reported a 47% increase in profits but that was not good enough. In Q1 earnings rose 99% and 120% in Q2. Expectations were high. Earnings per share were $2.86, up from $1.95 but just barely over estimates for $2.85. The company affirmed their full year guidance of $11-$12 saying nothing had changed since the last quarter. That should be good news. Any changes would have been expected to be negative. They said the China market remained healthy and produced a 40% rise in excavators in 2018. They previously guided for a $100-$200 million hit from tariffs and said with the year 75% over it looked like the impact would be at the lower end of the range.

In any normal period, a 47% increase in profits would be outstanding. Given the sharply declining market and the dumping of anything related to China and tariffs, CAT shares were crushed.

In late November CAT said the three-month rolling sales growth for the October quarter rose 18%. That was still good but down from the 21% in September. Total industry sales rose 46% after a 47% rise in September and 35% in August. Energy and transportation retail sales were up 7%, with oil and gas up 20%. The report showed some slight moderation, but it was still a good month despite the tariffs.

With the Chinese trade talks accelerating the odds of a deal are improving. The Chinese Vice Premier showed up unexpectedly at Monday's talks signifying China's interest in actually doing a deal.

Earnings are January 24th. ANY positive news on China will cause this stock to rocket. I am proposing a short term call and then decide ahead of earnings if we want to hold over.

Update 1/28: CAT reported earnings of $2.55 that missed estimates for $2.98. That was the biggest quarterly earnings miss in over a decade. However, it was still an improvement from the $2.16 in the year ago quarter. This was the first earnings miss in ten quarters. Revenue of $14.34 billion also missed estimates but was up from $12.90 in the year ago quarter. The guided for 2019 to earnings of $11.75-$12.75 and analysts were expecting $12.73.

They blamed a slowdown in China's economy and the trade tariffs for the earnings miss.

Here are our options. This is a February call with three weeks until expiration. I do not expect it to return to $135 again. However, with the China trade talks later this week we could get some positive headlines that could lift the stock. Just bringing it back to $130 would inflate the option price. This may be wishful thinking but with a 73-cent premium, we either close now or hold a week and see if the situation improves. The risk is that the 73-cent premium becomes 43 cents. The reward is that maybe it rises to $2 or more on a trade deal. I am recommending we hold it until next week then decide.

Position 1/8/19:
Long Feb $135 Call @ $3.52, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.



COST - Costco - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Shares were volatile last week but support at $210 is holding.

Original Trade Description: Jan 14th

Costco Wholesale Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, operates membership warehouses. It offers branded and private-label products in a range of merchandise categories. The company provides dry and packaged foods, and groceries; snack foods, candies, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, and cleaning supplies; appliances, electronics, health and beauty aids, hardware, and garden and patio products; meat, bakery, deli, and produces; and apparel and small appliances. It also operates gas stations, pharmacies, optical dispensing centers, food courts, and hearing-aid centers; and engages in the travel business. In addition, the company provides gold star individual and business membership services. As of September 2, 2018, it operated 762 membership warehouses, including 527 warehouses in the United States, 100 in Canada, 39 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 26 in Japan, 15 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, 10 in Australia, 2 in Spain, 1 in Iceland, and 1 in France. Further, the company sells its products through online. The company was formerly known as Costco Companies, Inc. Costco Wholesale Corporation was founded in 1976 and is based in Issaquah, Washington. Company description from FinViz.com

Everyone should know by now that Amazon and Costco are not competitors. They do sell some of the same items, but Amazon is not a threat. Costco is Amazon proof. If anything, they are becoming more of a threat to Amazon because their online business is growing rapidly.

For December, Costco reported sales of $15.42 billion a 7.8% increase over the year ago quarter. For the quarter ended on January 6th sales rose 9.5% to $52.99. Same store sales rose 7.5% in the US and 6.1% globally. Ecommerce sales rose 13.6%. For the quarter US same store sales rose 10.0%, globally 7.9% and Ecommerce 27.9%. These are dynamite numbers and show no weakness when other retailers are floundering.

Earnings are March 6th.

Shares are recovering from a monster crash in December. I am going to recommend an April call because there are no March options at this time. We will exit before their earnings. Having the expiration after earnings will retain premium until after earnings. Decay should be minimal.

Update 1/28: Costco announced a quarterly dividend of 57 cents payable February 22nd to holders on February 8th.

Position 1/15/19:
Long April $220 call @ $5.35, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.



CRM - SalesForce.com - Company Profile

Comments:

No specific news. Monster move and now threatening to break out to a new high.

Original Trade Description: Dec 10th.

SalesForce.com, inc. develops enterprise cloud computing solutions with a focus on customer relationship management. The company offers Sales Cloud to store data, monitor leads and progress, forecast opportunities, and gain insights through analytics and relationship intelligence, as well as deliver quotes, contracts, and invoices. It also provides Service Cloud, which enables companies to deliver personalized customer service and support, as well as a field service solution that enables companies to connect agents, dispatchers, and mobile employees through a centralized platform, which helps to schedule and dispatch work, and track and manage jobs in real-time. In addition, the company offers Marketing Cloud to plan, personalize, and optimize one-to-one customer marketing interactions; Commerce Cloud, which enables companies to enhance engagement, conversion, revenue, and loyalty from their customers; and Community Cloud that enables companies to create and manage branded digital destinations for customers, partners, and employees. Further, it provides Quip collaboration platform, which combines documents, spreadsheets, apps, and chat with live CRM data; Salesforce Platform for building enterprise apps, as well as artificial intelligence (AI), no-code, low-code, and code development and integration services, including Trailhead, Einstein AI, Lightning, Internet of Things, Heroku, Analytics, and AppExchange; and solutions for financial services, healthcare, and government. Additionally, the company offers cloud services, such as consulting and implementation services; training services, including instructor-led and online courses; and support and adoption programs. It provides its services through direct sales; and consulting firms, systems integrators, and other partners. salesforce.com, inc. has a partnership with Apple Inc. to develop customer relationship management platform. The company was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in San Francisco, California. Company description from FinViz.com

When the market is weak, go with strength. CRM shares rallied on the strong earnings then pulled back only slightly during the latest Nasdaq crash. The Nasdaq was the strongest index on Monday and hopefully we are nearing an actual bottom. With CRM shares showing relative strength, this may be a safe port in a volatility storm.

SalesForce.com reported earnings of 61 cents that beat estimates for 50 cents and the year ago quarter of 39 cents. Revenue rose 26% to $3.39 billion and beat estimates for $3.37 billion. The company guided for revenue as much as $3.56 billion in Q4 and analysts were expecting $3.53 billion. They said they were on path for $16 billion in revenue in 2020 and $22 billion by 2022.

Billings, metric of future performance, rose 27% to $2.89 billion and beat estimates for $2.68 billion. Revenues rose 25% in the Americas, 26% in APAC and 31% in EMEA using constant currency. Sales cloud revenues rose 11%, service cloud rose 24% and marketing and commerce cloud rose 37%. Platform and "other" cloud revenues rose 51% or 30% if you exclude the acquisition of Mulesoft. The number of deals for more than $1 million rose 46%.

Adjusted gross profit of $2.6 billion came from gross margin of 76.9%. They ended the quarter with $3.45 billion in cash.

This company can seemingly do no wrong. When the tech sector eventually recovers SalesForce will be a leader.

Position 1/8/19:
Long Feb $150 call @ $4.50, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.

Position 12/11/18:
Previously closed 12/20: Long Feb $150 call @ $4.40, exit $1.54, -2.86 loss.



TITN - Titan Machinery - Company Profile

Comments:

Titan closed at a 7-month high on Friday and declined only slightly today. Shares are struggling to break free of resistance but there is no selling.

No specific news.

Original Trade Description: Jan 21st

Titan Machinery Inc. owns and operates a network of full-service agricultural and construction equipment stores. It operates through three segments: Agriculture, Construction, and International. The company sells new and used equipment, including agricultural and construction equipment manufactured under the CNH family of brands, as well as equipment from various other manufacturers. Its agricultural equipment comprise tractors, combines and attachments, application equipment and sprayers, planting and seeding equipment, tillage equipment, hay and forage equipment, and precision farming technology and related equipment for use in the production of food, fiber, feed grain, and renewable energy; and home and garden applications, as well as maintenance of commercial, residential, and government properties. The company's construction equipment includes compact track loaders, compaction equipment, cranes, crawler dozers, excavators, forklifts, loader/backhoes, loader/tool carriers, motor graders, skid steer loaders, telehandlers, and wheel loaders for commercial and residential construction, road and highway construction machinery, and mining operations equipment. It also sells maintenance and replacement parts. In addition, the company offers repair and maintenance services that include warranty repairs, on-site and off-site repair services, and scheduling off-season maintenance services, as well as notifies customers of periodic service requirements; provides training programs to customers; and sells extended warranty services. Further, it rents equipment; and provides ancillary equipment support services. The company operates in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, the United States; and Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Ukraine, Europe. Titan Machinery Inc. was founded in 1980 and is headquartered in West Fargo, North Dakota. Company description from FinViz.com

Think of Titan equipment as the poor man's Caterpillar. They are a fraction of the size of Caterpillar but their prices are reasonable compared to the yellow metal giant.

They reported Q3 earnings of 49 cents compared to analyst estimates for 36 cents. Earnings rose 400% over the year ago quarter. Revenue of $363.6 million rose 10% and edged out estimates at $360 million.

They guided for similar sales in Q4 but raised their margin guidance from 8.7%-9.2% to 9.1%-9.4%. They guided for earnings of 65-75 cents. Consensus estimates are well below that level.

Shares have rebounded sharply from the December market crash and are right on the verge of breaking out to an 8-month high. Given their recent gain I would normally not recommend them but with the outlook on China improving and the market in rally mode, I am going to buy the breakout. Options are cheap.

Earnings February 28th.

Position 1/22/19:
Long March $20 call @ 55 cents, see portfolio graphic for stop loss.



BEARISH Play Updates

VXX - Volatility Index Futures - ETF Description

Comments:

The VXX expired on Wednesday. This caught me off guard. This was a 10-year, fixed time ETN from Barclays. The ten years were up on Wednesday. Holders were paid cash at the closing price of $38.69 so we ended with a decent gain. They replaced it with an identical 30-year product symbol VXXB, so I will not be around so see that one expire. I am adding it as a new play today.

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 history 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 ShortSqueeze.com 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:
Closed 1/30: Short VXX shares @ $49.16, exit $38.69, +$10.47 gain.



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.