Weekend Update – May 8, 2016

Depending upon how concrete you are in interpreting the meaning of the concept of “the circle of life,” the beginning and the end of that circle must be identical events as their points in space are coincident.

Various religions and philosophies believe that through a certain life path, another life awaits, but the rigorous requirements of geometry may be put aside in the process.

It’s also not clear that there had been any data dependency in the formulation of the philosophical concept.

Life, death and re-birth almost reads like a stock chart, except that the stock chart is plotted over time.

While new life generally brings joy, a geometric centric definition of “the circle of life” would both begin and end with that kind of joy.

On the other hand, a more philosophical interpretation of the concept has some diametrically different events, death and life, coinciding as the circle is closed.

Philosophy aside, markets have their own circle of life.

Start where you like in defining that circle, but among the components are low interest rates; increasing business investment for growth; increasing productivity; increasing corporate profits; increasing employment; increasing consumer spending; higher prices; higher interest rates; decreasing business investment; decreasing productivity;  decreasing employment; decreasing consumer spending and on and on.

That’s more or less a traditional look at the way things usually go, but at the moment it’s hard to know where in that circle we are or if we even have a circle.

If the top of the circle represents the highest point of an economy, I think that I would have to agree with Stanley Druckenmiller, who at this week’s Sohn Conference expressed the belief that the bull market was exhausted.

That would lead one to believe that perhaps revenues and more importantly corporate profits had now peaked and that the eventual tonic to return to a virtuous cycle of increases across the board would be to lower interest rates.

Lower? But the FOMC, claiming to be data dependent, has clearly been ready to increase them.

One has to question where the data was when rates were increased late in 2015, but Druckenmiller also quipped that “quite ironically, this is the least ‘data dependent’ Fed we have had in history.”

The circle of life tries to put a positive spin on what we all will inevitably face, but if late 2008 and early 2009 represented the inevitable bottoming out of the economy and stock markets, with the exception of stock prices since that time, it is still difficult to see real evidence of a re-birth having had taken place.

Increasing employment? Yes, but where is the spending? Where is the upward pressure on prices? Where are the corporate profits?

Where is the reason to increase interest rates?

This past week was an interesting one, with investors not really knowing what to believe or where on the circle we were standing.

With both the ADP Report and the Employment Situation Report coming with disappointingly low numbers, investors are left with wondering what to do about bad news.

You can’t blame them for being undecided as to whether bad news is good news for stocks or truly bad news for everyone.

With this earnings season having been fairly lackluster to date, we’re now faced with retail earnings and there is already reason to believe that they will be less than robust.

If that turns out to be the reality, it’s difficult to see the sunny side of the circle or how we can get there.

If we keep counting on the stock market following oil higher, there may be some real disappointment ahead, as the underside of the circle is more likely to reduce demand for energy.

Of course, simply following oil higher, as has been the case for the past two months in the absence of real demand increases, is also a sure path to disappointment when reality finally checks in.

On a positive note, if you’re the kind that prefers to live in the ascendancy of a civilization, there is some comfort in the belief that the bottom of the circle may be nearing.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in the Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.

With its earnings now out of the way, Icahn Enterprises (IEP), not to be confused with Icahn Capital Management, goes ex-dividend this week.

Given Icahn Enterprise’s share price trajectory, it wouldn’t be too surprising if its major share holder, Icahn Capital Management took on an activist role and perhaps tried to unseat management and board members, replacing them with their own, in a true circle of life exercise.

That scenario is pretty unlikely, but one does have to wonder whether Icahn Capital Management, now armed with lots of cash from its sale of its Apple (AAPL) position might not consider Icahn Enterprises to be bargain priced.

Given a nearly 11% dividend that may be reason enough for Icahn’s hedge fund to add shares and keep it far the single largest holding of Icahn Capital Management.

On the downside, if considering a purchase, I would look at this more of a long term commitment, particularly as only monthly options are available and there are $5 strike units instead of the $0.50 ones that I prefer in the weekly variety of expirations.

Following the much larger than expected loss reported by Icahn Enterprises, which included both shortfalls on the top and bottom lines, there’s probably some consternation going on, particularly as Icahn might like to have a cleaner balance sheet before being nominated as Treasury Secretary.

I’ve never visited a Shake Shack (SHAK), but have been tempted the few times I’ve been in the vicinity of one. Fortunately, my better half reminds me that I may be just one clot away from the dark side of the circle of life.

After a flurry of buying and more buying after its IPO, lasting for about 2 months, I’m finally ready to consider a position, as Shake Shack reports earnings this week.

I generally like to wait at least 6 months before considering a new position in a new public company and we are now into the early part of the second year of shares trading.

Since Shake Shack has no dividend to factor into the equation, any consideration of opening a position before or after earnings is fairly straightforward for me.

I would only consider the sale of puts.

With an implied price move of about 8.7%, a 1% ROI on the sale of a weekly out of the money put could be achieved at a strike price approximately 9.7% below Friday’s closing price.

ANything outside of the range predicted by the option market that returns 1% of more is fair game for consideration.

However, the trend for Shake Shack over the past few quarters has been to move lower after earnings have been announced and to surpass the levels predicted by the option market.

For that reason, if considering a position, I would be most inclined to do so after earnings. In the event that shares take a large drop lower, I would entertain the thought of selling puts, but might wait a bit to let some of the dust settle.

It was a tough week or two for some energy stocks, but I’m ready to re-visit a position that I had assigned just a few weeks ago.

I can’t necessarily say that there is anything inherently better about considering a position in Marathon Oil (MRO) over Exxon Mobil (XOM), but I have been burdened by a much more highly prices position in the former and I do like the idea of whittling down some of those paper losses with some high priced premiums from the purchase of new shares and sale of calls.

AS an example of the potential return, based on Friday’s $12.03 close, the sale of a weekly $12 call option at a premium of $0.44, would result in an ROI of 3.4% if assigned.

That could be a big “if,” however, there is sufficient liquidity in those options to likely be able to find a reasonable marginal ROI for subsequent weeks, if continuing to roll over that position, perhaps taking advantage of the availability of extended weekly options to buy some time if awaiting a price rebound.

Finally, in a week where my considerations are more toward taking on risk, there’s some comfort in a company like Pfizer (PFE), which is ex-dividend this week.

There is a general consensus that Pfizer is dead money unless it does something very substantive. There was a time when that meant coming up with a new blockbuster drug.

Now, that means buying some other company that can come up with or has a blockbuster drug, as if Pfizer has no ability to do that on their own. That’s despite having a good number of promising drugs in Phase 3 and that have decent sized target risk 

Pfizer is now trading near the level to which it climbed when rumors of a deal with Allergan (AGN) broke. Even as news of that deal breaking apart became known, Pfizer shares had already given up the market’s premium.

As the Allergan deal is now dead and not likely to be subject to re-birth, the sector is alive with activity and Pfizer isn’t likely to sit on the sidelines.

Unless it engages in a bidding war, the market is likely to look at any initiatives as being good for the company and I would expect share price to rise.

In the meantime, there’s the dividend and the option premium.

I wouldn’t mind if Pfizer just traded in a range for a while and would be happy to see a different virtuous cycle of life.

One that sees the opening of a short call position, then its expiration, only to be followed by the sale of yet another.

 

Traditional Stocks: none

Momentum Stocks: Marathon Oil

Double-Dip Dividend: Icahn Enterprises (5/10 $1.50), Pfizer (5/11 $0.30)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Shake Shack (5/12 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.

 

Weekend Update – March 6, 2016

Depending upon what kind of outlook you have in life, the word “limbo” can conjure up two very different pictures.

For some it can represent a theologically defined place of temporary internment for those sinners for whom redemption was still possible. 

In simple terms it may be thought of as a place between the punishing heat and torment of hell below and the divineness and comfort of heaven above.

Others may just see an image reminding them of a fun filled Caribbean night watching a limber individual dancing underneath and maybe dangerously close to a flaming bar that just keeps getting set lower and lower.

Both definitions of “limbo” require some significant balancing to get it just right.

For example, you don’t get entrance into the theologically defined “Limbo” if the preponderance of your sins are so grievous that you can’t find yourself having died in “the friendship of God.” Instead of hanging around and waiting for redemption, you get a one way ticket straight to the bottom floor.

It may take a certain balance of the quantity and quality of both the good and the bad acts that one has committed during their mortal period to determine whether they can ever have a chance to move forward and upward to approach the pearly gates of heaven.

If you’ve ever watched a limbo dancer, you know that it’s more than just the ability to flex a spinal cord. There’s also the balance that has to be maintained while somehow still moving forward and downward.

One limbo makes you strive to move you to a higher plane and the other strives to make you move to a lower plane.

Why they’re called the same thing confuses me.

After this week’s surprisingly high Employment Situation Report that was coupled with an unexpected lower average wage, the data that the FOMC finds itself analyzing seems itself to be getting more and more confusing to mere mortals.

At the same time more and more people are craving for some pronouncement of clarity.

Along with that confusion comes a need for the FOMC to balance the relative importance and meanings of the individual bits of data coming in and trying to understand what it all means going forward, if you accept that their decisions are data driven.

And, of course, there can’t be a reason to suspect that the decisions made will be anything but data driven. It’s just that there’s no data that assesses the interpretation of those economic data points and to explain why there may be widely differing opinions among the FOMC’s highly capable analysts.

Of course, there will be no shortage of critics ready to excoriate the decision makers for whatever decision they reach. However, if the FOMC members ever feel the heat they certainly do a good job of hiding that fact.

For now, markets continue to follow oil, including during its intra-day reversals and as long as oil continues to move higher, that’s a good thing.

With a nearly 10% increase this past week in oil, stocks had another great week, especially if you were holding any number of a long beleaguered series of stocks.

But as the week is set to begin, with very little of economic news scheduled and no fundamental change in anything, we’re left in limbo as we await the FOMC’s decision the following week.

Whether to continue the 3 week rally or to take profits is going to be anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that oil will some day be redeemed.

Not as certain is whether the stock market will come to realize that it is the reason behind prevailing oil prices and not the prices themselves that should determine whether the stock market is worthy of redemption, as well.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in the Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.

Unlike Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF), many of the week’s extraordinarily performing stocks didn’t take the death of a founder or hedge fund activist to propel them forward, although it did seem as if the market placed a high multiple on death.

Having long suffered through the ownership of far too many commodity related stocks I was happy to see death and non-death related companies move higher, but still have no reason to believe that they are anywhere but remaining in limbo, with their own redemptions still being but a dream.

General Motors (GM) emerged from limbo during the throes of the financial crisis and under new leadership has weathered some difficult issues that could have been far more ruinous in an earlier time.

Like so many stocks over the past few weeks its shares have shown recovery and I believe that there is more ahead being propelled by fundamental factors. With shares being ex-dividend this week it looks like a good time to consider adding shares and selling either a weekly near the money contract or considering adding an additional week if the strike price is in the money.

In the latter case, using the slightly longer term contract would offset the loss of the dividend in the event shares are assigned early.

In a perfect example of how the herd is wrong, while we were all awaiting a rise in interest rates since the FOMC raised rates more than 3 months ago, all of those recommendations based on a rising interest rate environment were ill advised.

You know that if you owned shares of most anything in the financial sector.

I know that I know that to be the case, but I think we now may be in store for some sustained interest rate increases in the 10 Year Treasury and should see more strength being reflected in the financial sector.

One of my favorites in the event that those rates do finally resist making everyone look foolish again is MetLife (MET).

Even after having made up some lost ground over the past 3 weeks it still has more upside following a gap lower after its most recent earnings report.

While it has an admirable dividend as well, it tends to be associated with its earnings report date, which is still 2 months away. I would consider a purchase of shares and the sale of short term call contracts, further considering rolling over those contracts if assignment is likely at a price near the strike level.

It wasn’t so long ago that Seagate Technology (STX) may as well have given up. When storage was being talked about as being a commodity, most had written it off as irrelevant for anyone’s portfolio.

When a product becomes a mere commodity the conventional wisdom is that the stock becomes dead money, but it has been hard to characterize Seagate Technology as having anything but life.

Sometimes that existence has been fairly erratic as it is prone to sharp moves higher and lower, often both in narrow time frames.

That gives options an attractive premium, reflecting the enhanced volatility.

Seagate Technology is a stock that I prefer to consider through the sale of out of the money puts and am often happy rolling those puts over in an attempt to avoid being assigned shares.

With its ex-dividend date is still 2 months away, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to do so on a serial basis and accumulating those premiums in the process. If still faced with assignment in the week leading up to that ex-dividend date I would take assignment in an effort to then grab the dividend.

The caveat is that Seagate Technology’s dividend is unsustainably high. Seagate, during its existence as a publicly traded company did briefly reduce and then suspend its dividend for nearly 2 years, beginning at the depth of the market’s 2009 meltdown. but has been consistently raising it since the resumption.

It may be time for either a respite or some killer earnings. If selling puts I would prefer the latter.

I also like the idea of selling puts into price weakness. In the event that Dow Chemical (DOW) shows some weakness as the week gets ready to begin, I may consider the sale of put options.

What may put some pressure on Dow Chemical is the news that broke after the closing bell on Friday that DuPont (DD), well along the way toward its complex merger with Dow Chemical, may have another suitor with very, very deep pockets.

That suitor is reported to be BASF SE (BASFY) the Germany based chemical company, who may have to dig extra deep due to the Euro insisting that it make its way toward parity with the US Dollar.

For its part, Dow Chemical may be forced to dig deeper to complete the deal, but the after hours trading actually saw some increase in Dow Chemical’s share price, as well, perhaps reflecting the perceived value of the Dow Chemical and DuPont merger, which may be too afar along to be disrupted by something other than regulators.

Finally, while commodities led the week higher, the advance was broad. However, in the “No Stock Left Behind” march higher during the late half of February and beginning of March are some pharmaceutical names.

Pfizer (PFE), while not the poorest of a cohort of under-performers over the past 3 weeks while the market has been working hard to erase 2016’s losses, was at the bottom of the heap this past week.

While it still has a big unresolved issue ahead of it with regard to its strategy to escape significant US tax liability by merging with Ireland based Allergan (AGN), it has long ceded the premium that investors had given it when the news of the proposal first broke.

While there is no assurance that Pfizer and Allergan will receive regulatory approval, while the proposal itself is in limbo, there continues to be opportunity to utilize Pfizer as a vehicle to generate option premiums.

With its healthy dividend, a long sojourn in limbo could be propitious for option writers, particularly if there is little downside risk associated with the merger being blocked.

 
Traditional Stocks: Dow Chemical, MetLife, Pfizer

Momentum Stocks: Seagate Technology

Double-Dip Dividend: General Motors (3/9 $0.38)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

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.

 

Weekend Update – December 13, 2015

Sometimes if you take a step back and look at the big picture it’s much easer to see what’s going on as you distance yourself from the source.

No one, for example, falls off a cliff while watching the evening news from the safety of their media room, although being in the last car of a train doesn’t necessarily protect you when the lead car is getting ready to take a dive.

I’m not certain that anyone, whether knee deep in stocks or just casually looking at things from a dispassionate distance could have foreseen the events of the past week.

For starters, there really were no events to foresee. Certainly none to account for the nearly 4% decline in the S&P 500, with about half of that loss coming on the final trading day of the week.

What appears to have happened is that last week’s strong Employment Situation Report was the sharp bend in the track that obscured what was awaiting.

Why the rest of the track beyond that bend disappeared is anyone’s guess, as is the distance to the ground below.

With Friday’s collapse that added on to the losses earlier in the week, the market is now about 6% below its August highs and 2.3% lower on the year, with barely 3 weeks left in 2015.

Not too long ago we saw that the market was again capable of sustaining a loss of greater than 10%, although it had been a long time since we had last seen that occur. The recovery from those depths was fairly quick, also hastened by an Employment Situation report, just 2 months ago.

I don’t generally have very good prescience, but I did have a feeling of unease all week, as this was only about the 6th time in the past 5 years that I didn’t open any new positions on the week. All previous such weeks have also occurred in 2015.

The past week had little to be pleased about. Although there was a single day of gains, even those were whittled away, as all of the earlier attempts during the week to pare losses withered on the vine.

Most every sell-off this year, particularly coming at the very beginning of the week has seemed to be a good point to wade in, in pursuit of some bargains. Somehow, however, I never got that feeling last week, although I did briefly believe that the brakes were put on just in time before the tracks ran out up ahead early during Thursday’s trading.

For that brief time I thought that I had missed the opportunity to add some bargains, but instead used the strength to roll over positions a day earlier than I more normally would consider doing.

That turned out to be good luck, as there again was really no reason to expect that the brakes would give out, although that nice rally on Thursday did become less impressive as the day wore on.

Maybe that should have been the sign, but when you’re moving at high speed and have momentum behind you, it’s not easy to stop, much less know that there’s a reason to stop.

Now, as a new and potentially big week is upon us with the FOMC Statement release and Janet Yellen’s press conference to follow, the real challenge may be in knowing when to get going again.

I plan on being circumspect, but wouldn’t mind some further declines to start the coming week. At some point, you can hand over the edge and realize that firm footing isn’t that far below. Getting just a little bit closer to the ground makes the prospect of taking the leap so much easier.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in the Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.

It’s not entirely accurate to say that there were no events during the past week.

There was one big, really big event that hit early in the week and was confirmed a few days later.

That was the merger of DJIA component DuPont (DD) and its market capitalization equivalent and kissing cousin, Dow Chemical (DOW).

After both surged on the initial rumor, they gave back a substantial portion of those gains just two days later.

I currently own shares of Dow Chemical and stand to lose it to assignment at $52.50 next week, although it does go ex-dividend right before the end of the year and that may give some incentive to roll the position over to either delay assignment or to squeeze out some additional premium.

While it would be understandable to think that such a proposed merger would warrant regulatory scrutiny, the announced plans to break up the proposed newly merged company into 3 components may ease the way for the merger.

A with the earlier mega-merger between Pfizer (PFE) and Allergan (AGN) for some more questionable reasons related to tax liability, even if higher scrutiny is warranted, it’s hard to imagine action taken so quickly as to suppress share price. Because of that unlikely situation, the large premium available for selling Dow Chemical calls makes the buy/write seem especially inviting, particularly as the dividend is factored into the equation.

General Motors (GM) is ex-dividend this coming week and like many others, the quick spike in volatility has made its option premiums more and more appealing, even during a week that it is ex-dividend.

I almost always buy General Motors in advance of its dividend and as I look back over the experience wonder why I hadn’t done so more often. 

Its current price is below the mean price for the previous 6 holdings over the past 18 months and so this seems to be a good time to add shares to the ones that I already own.

The company has been incredibly resilient during that time, given some of its legal battles. That resilience has been both in share price and car sales and am improving economy should only help in both regards.

After a month of rolling over Seagate Technology (STX) short puts, they finally expired this past Friday. The underlying shares didn’t succumb to quite the same selling pressure as did the rest of the market.

As with Dow Chemical, I did give some thought to keeping the position alive even as I want to add to my cash position and the expiration of a short put contract would certainly help in that regard.

With the Seagate Technolgy cash back in hand after the expiration of those puts, I would like to do it over again, especially if Seagate shows any weakness to start the week. 

Those shares are still along way away from recovering the large loss from just 2 months ago, but they have traded well at the $34.50 range.

By my definition that means a stock that has periodic spasms of movement in both directions, but returns to some kind of a trading range in between. Unfortunately, sometimes those spasms can be larger than expected and can take longer than expected to recover.

As long as the put market has some liquidity and the options are too deeply in the money, rolling over the short puts to keep assignment at bay is a possibility and the option premiums can be very rewarding

Finally, it was a rough week for most all stocks, but the financials were hit especially hard as the interest rate on a 10 Year Treasury Note fell 6%.

That hard hit included Morgan Stanley (MS), which fell 9% on the week and MetLife (MET), which fared better, dropping by only 8%.

The decline on the former brought it back down to the lows it experienced after its most recent earnings report. At those levels I bought and was subsequently assigned out of shares on 4 occasions during a 5 week period.

In my world that’s considered to be as close to heaven as you can hope to get.

With the large moves seen in Morgan Stanley over the past 2 months it has been offering increasingly attractive option premiums and can reasonably be expected to begin to show some strength as an interest rate increase becomes reality.

MetLife, following the precipitous decline of this past week is now within easy striking distance of its 52 week low. However, shares do appear to have some reasonably good price support just $1 below Friday’s close and as with Morgan Stanley, the option premiums are indicating increased uncertainty that’s been created because of the recent strong moves lower.

In a raising rate environment those premiums can offset any near term bumpiness in the anticipated path higher, as these financial sector stocks tend to follow interest rates quite closely.

The only lesson to be learned is that sometimes it pays to not follow too closely if there’s a cliff awaiting you both.

Traditional Stocks: Dow Chemical, MetLife, Morgan Stanley

Momentum Stocks: Seagate Technology

Double-Dip Dividend: General Motors (12/16 $0.36)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: none

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.

Weekend Update – December 6, 2015

 I don’t know if little kids still pick the petals off from daisies to the alternating refrain “She loves me, she loves me not.”

There was really no way to game that exercise, as there was with the other old refrain “Eenie meenie miney moe,” as you never knew whether there was an even or odd number of petals.

As much as one daisy looked like the next and as much as they shared the same pedigree, you really couldn’t stake much on what you saw.

Forget about trying to analyze the situation. If your romantic fortunes were tied to that daisy, that itself seemed to be a product of such intricate organization and detail, you could have arrived at your destination much more quickly by flipping a coin.

As much as you may have thought that the particular daisy you hadpicked out from among others in the field was talking directly to you, it was a mistake to believe that what you thought it was saying was really what was being said.

But most of us want to be optimistic and most of us want to believe in what we see on the surface.

Somewhat predictably, disappointment was as likely as elation as the last petal was about to hit the ground. That disappointment, though, was often preceded by a sense of hope as the petals were dwindling down to their final numbers. Everytime you heard “she loves me” and saw that you were getting closer to that very last petal, you felt a sense of confidence only to find that the odds of that confidence being rewarded were illusory.

On the other hand, it was easy to be on the winning side of “Eenie, meenie, miney, moe,” especially if the people you were with didn’t recognize the constancy of the refrain and didn’t understand the application of basic division or modular arithmetic. You also had to be adaptable and willing to subtly change your position, but the process was conquerable.

“Eenie meenie miney moe,” if played to your advantage, was a good example of a data driven action. You could stake it all on what you saw if you analyzed and then processed the changing information around you.

Most of all, you could believe the information.

For much of the past few months we’ve been lead to believe that action from the FOMC would be data driven. However, increasingly during that time, as data often seemed conflicting and not supportive of action, members of the Federal Reserve spoke in concrete terms that had to make reasonable people wonder whether data really was going to have a major role.

What we were hearing, particularly the shift toward more hawkish tones, wasn’t what we were seeing. If the data wasn’t there, why the change in tone? How do you prepare when those who are dispassionately analytical begin to sound less so?

What that has created over the past year has been an environment in which “Eenie meenies” have been replaced by daisies. What Federal Reserve Governors and FOMC members often said were at odds with what was observed and then subsequently with what they did.

Or in the case of interest rates, didn’t do.

The ability to reasonably assess and position oneself has been deteriorating as the disconnect between words and actions and words and intentions have become more commonplace.

Understandably, perhaps, this has also been a year in which the market has gone back and forth in paroxysms of buying and selling.

Those paroxysms have simply been efforts to get better positioning as the two faces of those charged with making the decision that we’ve been awaiting ever since Janet Yellen assumed the reigns of the Federal Reserve, have continually confounded everyone. 

Meanwhile, while traders may have believed that an “Eenie meenie” strategy was indicated, it really has been a case of a coin flip as may have been best demonstrated by this past week. Positioning yourself is worthless when the currency is a petal.

With lots of gyrations and lots of interesting comments this past week from Janet Yellen, numerous Federal Reserve Governors and Mario Draghi, of the ECB, the messages alternated between creating big disappointment and enormous hope.

With all of that, the market was virtually unchanged for the week, as has been the tale for all of 2015.

Friday’s strong Employment Situation Report may have finally put an end to the disconnect between words and actions. The market seemed to have embraced what it viewed as the last petal that could now lead to a period of more fundamental analysis ahead, rather than guessing what the FOMC will or won’t do. 

Hopefully, when the FOMC meets in about 10 days, words and actions will finally be aligned and two faces will become one.

As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in the Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.

It’s always difficult to look at a coming week with an eye on trying to identify bargains for a potential short term trade when the market closed the previous week with a large gain.

Friday’s nearly 400 DJIA point gain and that seen in the S&P 500 bringing that index within about 2% of its all time high, makes you wonder just what was wrong with those companies that lagged behind.

WIth the FOMC meeting still a week away there may still be some opportunity this coming week, as the buying on the rumor kind of activity seen this past Friday could still have some time to run, as the news is still a bit away.

Of course, I’m not certain if I would want to be around if the expected news doesn’t materialize, but it seems almost impossible to imagine that being the case. By the same token, I’m not certain that I want to be around when the expected news does materialize if that leads to the typical “sell on the news” kind of activity.

With that in mind, I don’t expect to be very active this week, as I will be reluctant to add positions after Friday’s surge that could then be at risk for a typical profit taking binge when expectations for an interest rate hike become realized.

Best Buy (BBY) was one of those companies that lagged on Friday and is well below its recent highs, which of course finds it in the company of so many others, despite the market being within easy striking distance of creating more new highs.

I thought about adding shares of Best Buy last week, but as it is ex-dividend this week, the rationale for finally relinquishing some cash in return for its option premium and dividend feels stronger as the potential return is very appealing, even if shares just tread water this week.

Historically, Best Buy has lagged during the final month of the year, even as other retailers have fared well. I don’t have much interest in adding to my existing Best Buy position with a longer term holding in mind, but I think a short term venture could be justified.

Macy’s (M) is another that lagged last week and had a 5 day performance similar to that of Best Buy. More importantly, it still hasn’t recovered from its earnings plunge last month and is an astonishing 46% lower in the past 5 months.

I purchased shares shortly after the earnings decline and am ready to add some more this week as those shares will also be ex-dividend. While my existing shares have calls written against them with a December 24th expiration, any additional shares purchased will most likely use a weekly expiration and may also be more likely to look at an out of the money strike, rather than the typical “Double Dip Dividend” approach that I prefer to use, in anticipation of some short term price appreciation.

Additionally, since the ex-dividend date is on a Friday, if the shares are likely to be assigned because their closing price on Thursday exceeds the strike price plus the amount of the dividend, I would consider rolling those shares over to the following week or beyond, in an effort to wring some additional premium out of the position in the event that there will then be an early assignment of the newly sold call options.

I was thinking about re-purchasing shares of Pfizer (PFE) last week in the hopes of an early week decline.

That decline came mid-week instead and I wasn’t very interested in adding any additional new positions for the week. Ultimately, Pfizer did as the market did for the week and ended unchanged.

My thinking hasn’t changed, though.

I would very strongly consider a re-purchase of recently assigned Pfizer shares on any weakness, particularly at the beginning of the week, as its premiums are still enhanced over the uncertainty surrounding the proposed tax inversion motivated merger with Ireland’s Allergan (AGN).

That process may be one that takes a while to play out and I don’t believe that there’s very much downside for Pfizer in the event that the deal can’t get done due to government rulings.

I wouldn’t mind collecting those premiums on a serial basis and would even consider rolling over positions that might otherwise be assigned if I was satisfied with my cash reserve position.

I’m not a huge fan of T-Mobile’s (TMUS) CEO, but you do have to admire someone who advocates for his company, even as he may be presiding over a company that he desperately wants to become part of a larger family, preferably one with very deep pockets or the right kind of assets.

Thanks to not paying a dividend, T-Mobile has been able to aggressively fund its activities to lure customers from others, while still leavingsufficent net earnings per share that are the envy of its competitors.

When your competitors have deeper pockets, though, that makes it hard to compete for very long, so I do wonder what additional surprises John Legere may have planned before those earnings begin to feel some pressure.

Shares have fallen about 17% in the past 10 weeks. While T-Mobile actually out-performed the market this past Friday, it did trail for the full week.

I’d be very interested in considering the sale of put options on shares if it gives up a meaningful portion of last Friday’s gain and actually wouldn’t mind the prospects of having to actively maintain that position by having to roll it over in sequential weeks in an effort to avoid assignment, while collecting premiums that are reflective of the risk.

Occasionally that can be a rewarding approach, although you sometimes have to be prepared for a longer term adverse price move.

Finally, that has exactly been the case with my favorite put sale of 2014, Twitter (TWTR), which has instead become a pariah in 2015.

With the experience of 2015 still needing to bring itself to a conclusion, I think that I am finally ready to add to the existing short put position.

At least with Twitter, the product, there isn’t enough space to speak out of both sides of your mouth, but there may be some hope that the companies executives, with a little more shell shocked experience under their belts may be better prepared to deal with investor expectations and won’t do so much to unnecessarily challenge those expectations as it gets prepared for earnings in January.

With those earnings being reported on January 26t, 2016, but the last extended weekly option expiration date on January 22, 2016, I would take an uncharacteristic position by going longer term and drawing a line in the sand at selling the $24 put. That premium is very attractive as many believe that the next stop for Twitter is $20.

With earnings the week after expiration of that contract, if selling that contract, you do have to be prepared to rollover before earnings and attempting to then take advantage of the earnings enhanced premiums in the hope that the brakes are finally applied and more carefully chosen words and messages are delivered during the ensuing conference call.

Hopefully, CEO Jack Dorsey will speak clearly and paint a vision that is more confident, but based on some kind of reality that we can all believe.



Traditional Stocks:  Pfizer

Momentum Stocks: T-Mobile, Twitter

Double-Dip Dividend:  Best Buy (12/8 $0.23), Macy’s (12/11 $0.36)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: None

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.