If you could really dodge a bullet, magicians from Harry Houdini to Penn and Teller would never have had to perfect the ability to catch them in their teeth.
Yet, we may have dodged a bullet this past week.
Forget about the fact that the stock market still seems to like the idea of higher oil prices. We’ve been dodging the impact of increasing oil prices through most of 2016. At some point, however, that will change. That bullet has been an incredibly slow moving one.
What we dodged was a second week of terrible retail earnings and continued over-reaction to the thought that a June 2016 interest rate hike was back on the table, as Federal Reserve Governors are sounding increasingly hawkish.
Not that there wasn’t a reaction to the sense that such an increase was becoming more likely, but some decent earnings data coupled with increased inflation projections could have really fueled an exit for the doors.
Normally, those bits of news could have been construed positively, as reflections of an early phase of an economic recovery. However, the market has spent much of the past year wavering back and forth trying to decide whether to interpret good news and bad news for what they really were, rather than exercising intermittent bouts of reverse psychology.
Instead, the market closed the week on a high note, even ending 3 consecutive weeks of declines and with a gain large enough to keep 2016 in positive territory.
But only by the skin of its teeth.
My guess, as a licensed professional, is that the skin of your teeth gets increasingly thin the more you catch those bullets, though.
There’s not too much economic news ahead in the coming week, although the week does end with the GDP release, preceded by a withering stream of corporate earnings.
For those who bet on the odds of a June 2016 FOMC interest rate increase announcement, the GDP may be an important bit of data, even as many retailers, arguably with a better finger on the pulse of the consumer, have only seen their own revenues and earnings wither.
What the FOMC sees may be entirely different from what the boots on the ground, those spending their paychecks and those happy to trade goods for cash, are seeing. That may have also been the case back at the end of 2015 when the FOMC did raise interest rates as those boots were marching nowhere fast.
It takes fast moves to dodge those bullets, but the pace of economic growth still seems so slow, even as there may be some signs of it quickening.
Perhaps, from the FOMC’s perspective, the interest rate hike of 2015 prevented the initiation of overheating and the current state calls for another dose of that kind of prevention. That mat be especially true if the goal is to continue to dodge the kind of uncontrolled inflation increases seen more than a generation ago.
That bullet has been particularly slow in moving, but maybe once it gets too close it may be hard to dodge, as a toothless FOMC has little other in the way of alternatives.
As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in the Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.
I haven’t had many assignments in 2016, even as I’m pleased with the year to date. I’d be much more pleased, though, if I had more cash coming from more assignments of positions.
This coming week, with no positions set to expire and only a couple of ex-dividend positions, I’d like to find a reason to spend some of what little cash I have to generate some additional income for the week.
The allure of dividends is higher for me when I don’t have other immediate prospects of sufficient weekly income and that is the case this week.
That brings Corning (GLW), Dunkin Brands (DNKN) and Sinclair Broadcasting (SBGI) to mind. All have now gotten earnings out of the way, so have at least one less complication whenever considering a new position and having a relatively short time frame in mind.
The latter two only have monthly options available, but as I look at my sales for much of the past year, there has been more and more emphasis on the use of monthly or even longer expiration dates. Of course, while not necessarily embracing the idea of facing another earnings report, the use of monthly options means that the potential need to roll the short call position over brings you closer and closer to the risk of earnings.
Both Dunkin Brands and Sinclair Broadcasting have similar 2016 charts. Both are approximately at the mid-points between their recent highs and recent lows, as they both have been heading lower
That’s often a point that I like to consider as an entry.
While for those that live in the Northeast and increasingly elsewhere think of Dunkin Brands as ubiquitous, Sinclair Broadcasting is very much the same, just much less obviously.
It’s terrestrial broadcast properties are everywhere and it is increasingly venturing into original content and cable properties, as it has a long history of acquisition and strategic media market shifting.
I just like owning it because it trades in a fairly predictable range, has a nice premium and a good dividend, although earnings do sometimes present a challenge, or an opportunity, depending on your perspective.
Dunkin Brands strategy hasn’t included acquisition of late, but it is definitely a strategy of expansion, both in the number of locations and in the number of offerings, seeking to rid its locations of excess capacity.
Like Sinclair Broadcasting, its range is fairly predictable and it has the nice combination of premium and dividend. That’s a non-caloric sweet combination.
Corning, unlike Dunkin Brands and Sinclair Broadcasting is now moving a bit higher after having sustained a more than 10% decline after its earnings were announced last month.
It offers weekly options and I’m not terribly interested in doing much more than a week. However, while likely selling an in the money option in the hope of having some of the price decline from the dividend get offset by premium pricing, I would probably rollover the position if I believed that it was likely to get assigned early.
At the same time, at its current price, I might also consider rolling the position over, even if likely to be assigned upon expiration, in an effort to continue collecting a premium.
That brings me to retail and more retail.
Macy’s (M) started the sectors bad news off just 2 weeks ago and has been brutalized, even as Wal-Mart (WMT) finished the 2 weeks of major retailer earnings on a very positive note.
I already own 2 lots of Macy’s and am ready to add another, at what I believe is truly a bargain price among a sea of bargain priced appearing stocks.
While I normally do prefer weekly options, I may start off that way if making a purchase of shares, but would consider rolling over for a longer term, if only for the pursuit of its upcoming dividend.
With its very recent sharp decline, Macy’s call option premiums are more attractive than is usually the case. For those more interested in the sale of put options as a back door means toward ownership, that is a reasonable approach. I would, however, if faced with assignment roll those puts over until the point of ownership becomes more favorable as the week of the ex-dividend date approaches.
I may be the last guy to be seen wearing anything by Under Armour (UA) and don’t believe that I’ll be needing any of its wonderful wicking action, but I think that it is one of those true bargains amongst that sea of “posers.”
With weekly options and decent liquidity, I think that the generous premium offsets the near term risk.
Finally, where there may be more risk would be in the consideration of either Best Buy (GME) or GameStop (GME) as they both report earnings this week.
GameStop has had its epitaph written and re-written many times. It has both rewarded and punished short sellers over the years as it has had consistently large fluctuations in price, but has confounded those who have believed that its near term was extinction due to its inability to dodge the bullet of a changing landscape.
AS with most earnings related trades, my preference is to sell puts at a strike level outside of the range implied by the option market, as long as the weekly ROI is 1% or greater.
Based upon Friday’s closing price the lower boundary determined by the option market is the $26 strike level, while a 1.1% ROI could potentially be obtained at the $25.50 level.
That’s not too much of a cushion.
As an aside, the weekly open interest for GameStop is quite a bit heavier on the call side, which makes me think that the other side should at least be recognized. If you are a contrarian, that may speak to a decline at hand.
So while I do prefer selling puts into earnings when shares have already been in a declining mode, as they have been with GameStop, that small safety cushion has me more likely sitting on the sidelines, hoping to dodge a bullet, until earnings are announced at the close of trading on Thursday. At that point, I would pay attention to more than the price and where it might open and trade on Friday. I would also look for any dividend related news as it is expected to be ex-dividend as early as the following week.
Dividend news may be as significant as anything else, as GameStop has a very generous dividend and you always have to have some concern about its safety if cash flow is strangled. Heading into earnings, though, GameStop does seem to have a low enough payout ratio to at least withstand another quarter of dividend obligations.
If shares do decline after earnings and the dividend is left intact and an ex-dividend date for the following week is announced, I would strongly consider a buy and write approach. However, if the ex-dividend date will be the following week, I might instead consider the sale of puts.
Best Buy has also had its epitaph written and has somehow survived as more than just Amazon’s (AMZN) showroom.
Like GameStop there is a dividend in the near future.
However, the option market is giving a little bit bigger of a cushion if selling puts in advance of earnings.
Based upon Friday’s closing price, the option market is predicting a price range of about $29.50 – $35.50.
A 1% ROI may be potentially achieved even with a 13.4% decline in share price. I find that cushion far more appealing than for GameStop and would consider the sale of puts before earnings.
As with GameStop I would use the news of the upcoming ex-dividend date to determine what to do, but this time with regard as to what to do if faced with assignment. With good liquidity, I’d try to rollover those puts, but if faced with considering another rollover heading into the ex-dividend week, I would much rather own the shares and collect the dividend rather than partially subsidizing that dividend for the put buyer.
Traditional Stocks: Macy’s
Momentum Stocks: Under Armour
Double-Dip Dividend: Dunkin Brands (5/25 $0.30), Corning (5/26 $0.13), SBGI (5/27 $0.18)
Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Best Buy (5/24 AM), GameStop (5/26 PM)
Remember, these are just guidelines for the coming week. The above selections may become actionable – most often coupling a share purchase with call option sales or the sale of covered put contracts – in adjustment to and consideration of market movements. The overriding objective is to create a healthy income stream for the week, with reduction of trading risk.