Weekend Update – August 14, 2016

When the news came that Thursday’s close brought concurrent record closing highs in the three major stock indexes for the first time since 1999, it seemed pretty clear what the theme of the week’s article should be.

But as I thought about the idea of partying like it was 1999, what became clear to me was I had no idea of why anyone was in a partying kind of mood on Thursday as those records finally fell.

Ostensibly, the market was helped out by the 16% or so climbs experienced by the first of the major national retailers to report their most recent quarterly earnings.

Both Macy’s (M) and Kohls (KSS) surged higher, but there really wasn’t a shred of truly good news.

At least not the kind of news that would make anyone believe that a consumer led economy was beginning to finally wake up.

The market seemed to like the news that Macy’s was going to close 100 of its stores, while overlooking the 3.9% revenue decline in the comparable quarter of 2015.

In the case of Kohls the market completely ignored lowered full year guidance and focused on a better than expected quarter, also overlooking a 2% decline in comparable quarter revenue.

For those looking to some good retail news as validating the belief that the FOMC would have some basis to institute an interest rate increase in 2016, there should have been some disappointment.

That’s especially true when you consider that the last surge higher was in response to the stronger than expected Employment Situation Report in what could only be interpreted as an embrace of economic growth, even if leading to an increased interest rate environment.

With Friday’s Retail Sales Report showing no improvement in consumer participation, you do have to wonder about those signs pointing toward that rate hike.

Of course the official Retail Sales data are backward looking and it’s really only the future that matters, but for that matter, the early retail reports aren’t exactly painting an optimistic picture for whatever remains in 2016.

It can’t be clear to anyone what awaits. Other than repeating the usual refrains such as interest rates can’t get any lower, oil prices can’t get any lower and stocks can’t go any higher, the only thing that is clear is that whatever is anticipated is so often unrealized.

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

I’m not really sure why Dow Chemical (DOW) was punished as the past week came to its close. Of course, I understand that news of institutional buyers lightening their own load of shares can have a direct impact on the supply and demand equation and can also create a sense of needing to get out of the same position by investor lemmings.

I suppose that there may be others looking to escape over the next few days even as there is little to suggest a fundamental reason for heading for the exits.

While I already own 2 lots of its shares, I view the decline of last week as an opportunity to add shares, as the decline may have been simply nothing more than needing to digest some of its recent gains.

Dow Chemical probably has little downside with regard to its complex proposed deal with DuPont (DD) and probably has some upside potential when approval is at hand. In the meantime, however, simply continuing to trade in its recent range, along with its still generous option premiums and dividends, makes Dow Chemical an appealing potential position.

With earnings now out of the way and following a 10% decline, Gilead Sciences (GILD) is again looking attractive.

As with Dow Chemical, institutional investors have been reportedly been net sellers of shares and those shares are now at a 2 year low.

While it might be a serious mistake to believe that those shares couldn’t go any lower, there are some near term inducements to consider a position at this time and to do so without regard to what may be substantive issues for those with a longer term horizon on the company, its products and its shares.

In addition to a nice premium, particularly relative to an overall decreasing volatility environment, there is an upcoming dividend.

That dividend is still a few weeks away, so there could be some consideration to initially establishing a position through the sale of put options.

There is considerable liquidity in that market and if faced with assignment there could be ample opportunity to keep the short put position alive by rolling it over to the following week.

With that upcoming dividend, however some attention may need to be given to the possibility of taking assignment in an effort to then capture the dividend.

Finally, I’m not certain how many times in a lifetime I can consider buying shares of MetLife (MET). It is a stock that I am almost always on the fence about whether the timing is just right.

One of the things about it and some other stocks that really creates a timing problem for me is when earnings and an ex-dividend date are tightly entwined. Putting the two together, sometimes even their sequencing requires some additional thought.

Too much thought is often something that only serves to muddy things and in my case is often the reason that I end up not owning MetLife shares.

I’ve already done enough thinking in my lifetime, so there’s really not much reason to go and look for more opportunities requiring analysis of any kind.

Now, however, with both of those events in the back mirror and with nearly 3 months to go until they become issues again, it may be time to consider those shares once again.

The theory, which is getting really long in the tooth, is that interest rates have to be heading higher. As we all know, however, regardless of how true that may logically have to be, there’s nothing in our past to have prepared us for such a long and sustained period of ultra-low interest rates.

And so MetLife has not followed interest rates higher, because interest rates haven’t gone higher, much to everyone’s continuing surprise.

Not that this past week’s retail results would give anyone reason to believe that the economy really is heating up and that interest rates will follow, you still can’t escape the “sooner or later” school of logic.

I know that I can’t.

At its current level and with some decent downside support, I think that this may be a good point to get back on that rising interest rate bandwagon and use MetLife as the vehicle to prosper from systemically increased costs.

Traditional Stocks:  Dow Chemical, MetLife

Momentum Stocks:  Gilead Sciences

Double-Dip Dividend: none

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 – June 12, 2016

Sometimes you just have nowhere to go.

One thing that was fairly certain last week was that there wasn’t too much of a trend and there wasn’t any clear path to follow.

As markets began testing the 18000 level on the DJIA and 2100 on the S&P 500, the chorus was loud and clear.

There is no place to go but up.

The alternating chorus was that there was no place to go but down.

The market instead went sideways, but not very far as all roads seemed to be closed off.

After the previous week, which ended precisely unchanged, this past week managed to move 0.1%,

Granted, the first three days of the week did seem to benefit from Chairman Janet Yellen’s superb demonstration of how hedging your words works to allow people to hear whatever it is that they want to hear.

Following Monday afternoon’s talk, Dr. Yellen essentially said something to the effect of “It’s not good out there, but it’s all good. You know what I mean?”

Years ago I heard a fairly odd individual present a lecture on the pharmacological management of children requiring sedation. He referred to the well known age and weight based rules regarding dosages, but said they were inadequate. Not surprisingly, after listening to him for a brief while, it was only his eponymous rule that could determine the correct amount of sedative agents to administer to a child.

He referred to his rule by example and these were his precise words, that I still remember 30 years later.

“You take the kid’s weight and then you take a day like today. It’s hot, but it’s not hot. You know what I mean?”

Like Janet Yellen, he was from Brooklyn.

The old Brooklyn. Not modern day Brooklyn. In fact, both were from the same Bay Ridge Brooklyn neighborhood.

While I still remember those words 30 years later, they had no influence on me other than to believe that sometimes a monkey can have more credibility than someone with a degree.

The strength of Dr. Yellen’s words, however, starting already growing dim as the latter half of the week approached and traders were left wondering what was going to be the driver for anything between now and the July 2016 FOMC meeting.

Of course, even though most everyone discounts any action at next week’s FOMC meeting, there’s always the chance of a reaction to any change in the wording of the statement as it’s released.

In that event the subsequent press conference may carry even more weight than usual, although you would have to wonder what Yellen could say that would be substantively different from the non-committal tone she struck this week.

With earnings season nearly at its end the catalysts appear to be few between now and that July 2016 FOMC Statement release. Some upcoming and compelling GDP and Employment Situation Report numbers, particularly if there are strong upward revisions, could be all the catalysts necessary, but after this past Friday’s performance, oil prices may be relevant once again.

That’s after a couple of weeks of the stock market not tethering itself too tightly to oil prices. But with interest rates possibly taking a back seat for a short while, there may be a void to fill and oil seems the logical driver.

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 traded much in the past few weeks, nor for 2016, for that matter, but oil has gotten more of my attention than anything else.

Although Marathon Oil (MRO) has gone significantly higher in the past 10 weeks, following Friday’s decline, I wouldn’t mind owning shares for a third time during that time period.

Following oil’s run higher and seeing it break the $50 level, that level may be under assault and those oil company shares that had moved nicely higher in 2016 may also be under assault.

Friday was an example of the risk that may lie ahead of some oil companies, but the option premiums are reflective of those risks, just as they were when I first added Marathon Oil and Holly Frontier (HFC) in the past 2 months, to keep company with my uncovered lots of shares in those companies.

Even with Marathon Oil’s decline on Friday, those shares are still somewhat higher than I would like if considering re-establishing a position. However, with any further weakness on Monday, despite the near term risk, this is probably my most likely trade for the week.

While I’m anxious to open some new positions, that doesn’t include the need to be reckless. Despite the downside risk to opening a new position in Marathon Oil, the liquidity in the options market is fairly good in the event of a need to rollover the position following a large adverse price move.

With the availability of extended weekly options if there is such an adverse price move, there would be opportunity to extend the time frame of the expiration and collect some premium while waiting for the inevitable volatility to take the price higher and then lower and then higher again.

Both Gilead Sciences (GILD) and Tiffany & Company (TIF) are ex-dividend this week.

I have some subscribers for whom Gilead has been a long time favorite and I often wished that I had followed their path. There were certainly no signs preventing me from doing so.

At almost all price points over the past 2 years, a position in Gilead, if either buying shares and selling calls or simply selling puts, would have been a good place to be, if rolling over calls or puts and having some patience.

That is the case even at most of the various high points thanks to the option premiums and the dividends and the ease of rolling over positions owing to the options liquidity offered.

With eyes only on the dividend and a short term holding, I don’t think very much about its drug pipeline or pricing pressures or opportunities that may come following the Presidential election. Having a short term horizon makes all of those sentinel events new opportunities and the latter uncertainty is still very far off.

With Tiffany shares just barely above their 2 year lows, it has been more than 3 years since I’ve owned shares.

Perhaps coincidentally, that last time was at the current price.

Back then, when only monthly options were available, my preference was to consider a purchase of shares during the final week of the monthly option cycle or when an ex-dividend date was upcoming.

This week happens to offer both, but Tiffany now offers extended weekly options.

With a much higher dividend per share than when I last owned it and a yield that is enhanced by its current price, Tiffany is back on my radar screen.

As challenged as retail has been since Macy’s (M) started off a string of disappointing earnings reports and as flat as the world’s economies have been, particularly those important for Tiffany’s sales, I think that this is both a good time and a good opportunity to consider a new position, but as with Gilead, it may require some patience.

If while exercising that patience there is opportunity to continue collecting option premiums, patience is well rewarded. With earnings more than 2 months away, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to serially roll over calls, but also wouldn’t mind being able to exit the position prior to earnings.

Finally, I haven’t had much reason to think about buying shares of Oracle (ORCL) lately. The last time I owned shares was nearly 3 years ago and at that time I owned them on 3 separate occasions over the course of a few months.

In my ideal world, that would be the case with most stocks when opening a new position, but that hasn’t been the case for me of late. Maybe Marathon Oil will change that this week, but I think that Oracle could now be positioned to do the same.

Oracle reports earnings this week and its current price is somewhat above the mid-way point between its recent high and recent low.

I generally like to consider a purchase when a stock is at or slightly below that mid-way point. However, even with the risk of earnings approaching and without a really compelling premium despite the added risk of upcoming earnings, I’m considering a position.

However, with the chart in mind and seeing the climb that Oracle shares had taken since February, as well as the precipitous declines it has been known to take, I have no interest in establishing a position prior to earnings.

I would, however, very strongly consider opening a position if shares decline by anything approaching the 5% implied move that the options market is predicting. In that event, I would likely sell puts to open a position, but would be mindful of an upcoming ex-dividend date either late in the July 2016 option cycle or early in the August cycle.

Things have been quiet at Oracle for a while as Larry Ellison has stepped back and replaced a form of autocratic rule with muddled lines of leadership. In the past when Oracle disappointed on earnings, Ellison was always quick to point fingers.

Since I don’t currently own shares and have nothing to lose, I welcome a sharp decline in Oracle, only in the hope that it might re-animate Ellison and perhaps re-create a leadership structure that will move forward even if all signs say there is nowhere to go.



Traditional Stocks: none

Momentum Stocks: Marathon Oil

Double-Dip Dividend: Gilead Sciences (6/14 $0.47), Tiffany & Co (6/16 $0.45)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Oracle (6/16 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 – September 6, 2015

Stop and take a break.

I’ve been doing just that, taking a break, for about the past 5 years, but sometimes I think that I’m working harder than ever.

Lately, however, I don’t feel as if I’m on a forward path so it may be time to do exactly what the Chinese stock markets did last week and what the US stock markets are doing this coming week.

They both took some time off and perhaps it was timed to perfection. After a 42% decline in Shanghai in less than 10 weeks and a 10% drop in the S&P 500 in 6 weeks, it was definitely time to take a breather and smell the dying flowers.

China took a couple of days off for celebrations ostensibly commemorating the end of World War II. While doing so they may also have wanted to show the nation and the world just how together they have things and just how much in control they really are at a time when the image is becoming otherwise.

After all, if the Faustian Bargain in place can no longer deliver on the promise of a higher standard of living, the message of an all powerful government has to be reinforced, lest people think they can opt out of the deal and choose democracy instead.

Equally ostensibly, guided by environmental concerns and the health of its citizens, the Chinese government decided to have factories in and around Beijing closed for the days preceding the festivities in order to help clear the air a bit, but only in a non-metaphorical kind of way. The literal and figurative haze is far too thick for cosmetic actions to change anything.

Unfortunately, what we may be coming to realize is that the Chinese economic miracle we’ve come to admire may be the actual culprit for all of that pollution, through its extensive use of smoke and mirrors.

While taking some time off it’s not entirely clear whether any other “malicious short sellers” are disappearing from view and being prevented from polluting trading markets or whether arrests and detentions are also taking a much needed holiday.

Here in the United States we celebrate Labor Day by not working, rather than working extra hard and we rarely send anyone to prison for accelerating the process that leads to a financial slide.

As long as people are beginning to make comparisons between the current market correction that seems to be related to China’s market meltdown and our own financial meltdown of the past decade, it only seems appropriate to note that the key difference between our nations in that regard is that Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo could never have gotten a natural suntan in Beijing.

He also wouldn’t have ever seen the light of day, even it such a thing was possible through all of that haze, again after suddenly disappearing on a less than voluntary basis.

In the United States Labor Day comes every year, but a 70th anniversary celebration of the end of World War II comes but once and it may not have come as a better time, as the world is wondering just what is going on in China.

Putting the brakes on the ever-present haze and lung clogging air for a couple of days won’t make much difference and so far, neither have efforts to control market forces. Both have lots of momentum behind them and are likely to remain recalcitrant in the near term, even to the most totalitarian of governments.

When it comes to managing the economy we may be at the tip of the iceberg in terms of realizing that no one really knows what’s going on and just how accurately the modern miracle has been portrayed. But that’s the usual situation when smoke and mirrors are in place and the stakes so high.

While the Chinese markets were closed a little bit of calm overtook US markets, as there was some evidence with the release of the ADP Employment Report that bad news was again being interpreted as being good, insofar as it could delay interest rate hikes from the FOMC.

The subsequent fading of any meaningful rally to offset large losses earlier in the week was disappointing, but it was the good news and bad news nature of the Employment Situation Report that sent markets tumbling without any help from China.

The good news that was interpreted as being bad and, therefore, making a rate hike more likely at the next FOMC meeting was that the unemployment rate fell to 5.1% even in the face of mildly disappointing growth in employment and wage stagnation.

Even dusting off twice removed Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to appropriately comment that there’s no logical reason to fear a small rate increase did nothing to re-introduce rational thought into those engaged in indiscriminate selling.

Ending the week with a large loss was bad enough. But doing so and being left behind the eight ball more than usual this week as the Shanghai market re-opens for business on Sunday makes this weekend more uncertain than usual. With Labor Day serving as an additional day to be handcuffed as passive observers we stand to have China once again put us in a position of reaction, rather than leading the world with its most vibrant and sustainable economy.

So, while I really welcome, want and need the day off on Monday for more reasons than usual, I can’t wait for Tuesday.

That makes about as much sense as everything else these days.

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

“Buying on the dip” hasn’t been as prevalent as in the past during what turned out to be a series of mini-corrections, as we’ve watched the market head into correction, then out of correction, back in and out again. For some reason, though, I’ve been a little more active in adding new positions than I would have expected at the beginning of each of the past few weeks, in the belief some price levels truly represented opportunities.

Most of that interest in buying has been dividend driven and this week is definitely one that is likely to continue that trend if I can justify the faith necessary to add any new positions.

With the exception of Best Buy (BBY) which had a very nice week as the S&P 500 fell by over 3% and Altria (MO), which matched the index for its poor performance, the remaining selections going ex-dividend this week all badly trailed the S&P 500 last week.

That’s not exactly the basis for a strong recommendation, but with the exception of BHP Billiton (BHP), it may be difficult to find a really good reason for such under-performance.

Not that it’s much consolation, however, all but BHP Billiton have actually out-performed the S&P 500 since its top, although Best Buy is the only one to have actually appreciated in share value.

Some of the potential selections, such as Altria (MO) and Merck (MRK) haven’t been very attractive “Double Dip Dividend” selections for quite a while. In a low volatility environment in the context of a relatively large premium essentially spanning the distance from one $0.50 strike level to the next, there has been very little subsidy of the dividend by the option premium and those stocks were much more likely to be assigned early if in the money.

However, the volatility induced increase in premiums is beginning to make even these high yielders that also have large dividends in absolute terms more and more worthy of consideration.

In a week that pharmaceutical companies struggled to keep up with the S&P 500 I do like the potential trades, specifically to attempt to capture dividends and option premiums in Merck and Gilead (GILD). In both cases, that’s being considered without regard to issues of pipeline.

Due to the increased market volatility their premiums make them both especially attractive considerations this week. in addition as they have also lagged the S&P 500 over the past week and month.

Merck is ex-dividend on Friday and I would consider selling a weekly in the money strike, but being prepared to roll the position over to the following week if assignment seems likely. With a dividend of $0.45, that generally means that the closing price on Thursday would have to be at least $0.45 in the money for a logical investor to exercise their options, although Merck is frequently subject to dividend arbitrage and is more likely than most to be exercised even if there is just a very small margin above that threshold price, especially if there is very little time remaining on the contract.

Gilead, on the other hand is ex-dividend on Monday of the following week. For that reason I would consider selling an in the money option contract expiring at the end of the September 2015 option cycle and wouldn’t be disappointed if the contract was exercised early. In essence the additional premium received for the week of time value atones for the early assignment.

Pfizer (PFE), on the other hand, is not ex-dividend this week, but has finally returned to a price level that I wouldn’t mind once again owning shares.

During the period of its share price climb, as is so often the case, the option premiums became less and less enticing. However, now that it has had a 13% decline in the past month, that premium is finally at a point that it offers adequate reward for the risk of further decline.

As with Merck and Gilead, the consideration of Pfizer isn’t based on pipeline nor on fundamental considerations, but purely on price and premium.

While healthcare stocks generally out-performed the S&P 500 over the past week, one notable exception was UnitedHealth Group (UNH), which is also ex-dividend this week.

In my home state of Maryland the regulatory agency approved a 26% increase in rates for Anthem (ANTM), but small premium declines for UnitedHealth policies on Friday. The relative weakness in UnitedHealth shares, however, was week long and not likely influenced by that news, as Anthem is by far the major insurance carrier in that state.

However, as is so increasingly the case, the combination of an uncertainty induced higher option premium, a dividend and the potential for some bounce back in short term share price is very appealing.

Especially when logic would dictate that China poses no threat to UnitedHealth Group’s performance, as long as logic is permitted free expression for a change.

American International Group (AIG) also goes ex-dividend this week.

I haven’t owned shares in a while and certainly haven’t done so since the passing of Robert Ben Mosche, who I considered an essentially unsung hero. His calm and steady guidance of AIG, having returned from retirement on the beaches of Croatia, was an antithesis to the reckless actions of Angelo Mozilo.

However, with its return to respectability as a company and as a stock came a decrease in option premiums and even with the re-institution of a dividend, it wasn’t a magnet for investment.

This week, the situation is different.

With a significantly increased dividend, a nearly 10% decline in the past month, an enhanced option premium and the likelihood of interest rates moving higher, AIG may be ready to hit on all cylinders.

After so much discussion about healthcare and insurance related stocks, it only seems fair to give Altria some attention. Prior to spinning off Philip Morris (PM), which was the real engine of its growth from its international activities, this was a true triple threat stock. It had great option premiums, a generous dividend and room for share appreciation, as long as you were willing to let other people participate in their own Faustian deal.

However, with the loss of Philip Morris’ growth and with declining option premiums, it has lost its luster for me, just as it has the ability to take the sheen off from health pulmonary tissue.

However, a recent 6% decline, a growing option premium and a great dividend are reasons to consider welcoming it back into the fold, even if not permitting its use in your home.

I already own two lots of Best Buy shares and rolled both over early in order to have a better chance of capturing the dividend. As with Merck, those shares go ex-dividend on Friday.

However, as opposed to Merck and so many others that are near some near term price lows, Best Buy gained in price the past week and has been doing so since reporting its earnings recently.

I would consider purchasing another lot of Best Buy shares but would be willing to cede the dividend to early assignment, based on the generous option premiums. To do so, that might be accomplished by purchasing shares and selling in the money weekly calls or even deeper in the money calls expiring the following week.

Palo Alto Networks (PANW) reports earnings this week and as with even relatively “safe” stocks of late, it may not be for the faint hearted, as it can and has made some fairly significant price moves in the past when earnings have been released.

As it is, shares of this enterprise security company are already 14% lower in the past month and meaningful price support is still about another 10% lower.

The option market is implying a 7.8% price move next week. However, a 1% weekly ROI may be potentially obtained through the sale of a weekly put contract at a strike price 10.2% below Friday’s closing price.

While the options market is beginning to do a better job of estimating price performance after a period of under-estimating downside risk, I think that there may still be some additional risk, so I would probably defer those put sales until after earnings and only in the event that there is a sharp decline in shares that could bring it closer to that support level.

For those willing to play in the land of risk, BHP Billiton is ex-dividend this week and offers a semi-annual dividend that appears to be safe, despite a nearly 8% yield. While it has decreased its dividend minimally in the past, nearly 14 years ago, it has never suspended it, despite some significant decreases in commodity prices over the years and in contrast to others, such as Freeport-McMoRan (FCX).

BHP Billiton offers only monthly option contracts and doesn’t have strike levels gradated in single or half dollar units. With its current price almost perfectly between the $32.50 and $35 strike levels and its ex-dividend date occurring early in the week, the potential short term strategies are to either sell an in the money option with a high likelihood of early assignment, or an out of the money option in the hopes of getting it all.

Finally, I missed the last strong move higher by LuLuLemon Athletica (LULU) and had shares assigned after that climb that left me in the dust. I was still happy to be out of those shares after a 13 month holding period. While it had an ROI of 10.3% that was only 0.6% better than the S&P 500 for the same period of time, so not a very worthwhile way to park money, all in all.

LuLuLemon reports earnings this week and it’s no stranger to large price moves.

Prior to this very recent increase in market volatility the options market has been under-estimating the price range that a number of stocks might move upon earnings release and I was more inclined to consider a trade, such as the sale of puts, only after earnings were released and shares plummeted beyond the lower boundary implied by the options market.

However, as volatility has made a return, the price ranges implied by the options market is beginning to increase and it is getting easier to find strike levels outside of the range that can return my threshold 1% ROI on the sale of a weekly put contract. 

The option market has implied a price move of 9.6% and a 1% ROI could potentially be achieved through the sale of a put option if shares fall less than 11.5% following earnings.

Unlike Palo Alto Networks and unlike so many other stocks in the investor’s universe, LuLuLemon is within reach of its 52 week high, which certainly makes it stand out in a crowd, even if not bent over sufficiently to bring any defectively sheer garments to their limits.

While on a different recent path from Palo Alto Networks, LuLuLemon is also a trade that I would consider only in the event of a sharp price decline and would seek to take advantage of any selling done in panic mode.

Unless of course that turns out to be the theme for the week, in which case I would rather wait for some calmer heads to prevail before loosening the grip on cash.

Traditional Stock: Pfizer

Momentum Stock: none

Double-Dip Dividend:  Altria (9/11), American International Group (9/10), Best Buy (9/11), BHP Billiton (9/9), Gilead (9/14), Merck (9/11), UnitedHealth Group (9/9)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: LuLuLemon Athletica (9/10 AM), Palo Alto Networks (9/9 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 – January 11, 2015

Somewhere buried deep in my basement is a 40 year old copy of the medical school textbook “Rapid Interpretation of EKG’s.”

After a recent bout wearing a Holter Monitor that picked up 3000 “premature ventricular contractions” I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in finding and dusting off that copy to refresh my memory, not having had any interest nearly 40 years ago, either.

All I really cared about was what the clinical consequence of those premature depolarizations of the heart’s ventricle meant for me and any dreams I still harbored of climbing Mount Everest.

Somewhere in the abscesses of my mind I actually did recall the circumstances in which they could be significant and also recalled that I never aspired to climb Mount Everest.

But it doesn’t take too much to identify a premature ventricular contraction, even if the closest you ever got to medical school was taking a class on Chaucer in junior college.

Most people can recognize simple patterns and symmetry. Our mind is actually finally attuned to seeing breaks in patterns and assessing even subtle asymmetries, even while we may not be aware. So often when looking askance at something that just seems to be “funny looking,” but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is that bothers you, it turns out to be that lack of symmetry and the lack of something appearing where you expect it to appear.

So it’s probably not too difficult to identify where this (non-life threatening) premature ventricular contraction (PVC) is occurring.

While stock charts don’t necessarily have the same kind of patterns and predictability of an EKG, patterns aren’t that unheard of and there has certainly been a pattern seen over the past two years as so many have waited for the classic 10% correction.

 

What they have instead seen is a kind of periodicity that has brought about a “mini-correction,” on the order of 5%, every two months or so.

The quick 5% decline seen in mid-December was right on schedule after having had the same in mid-October, although the latter one almost reached that 10% level on an intra-day basis.

But earlier this week we experienced something unusual. There seemed to be a Premature Market Contraction (NYSE:PMC), occurring well before the next scheduled mini-correction.

You may have noticed it earlier this week.

The question that may abound, especially following Friday’s return to the sharp market declines seen earlier in the week is just how clinically important those declines, coming so soon and in such magnitude, are in the near term.

In situations that impact upon the heart’s rhythm, there may be any number of management approaches, including medication, implantation of pacemakers and lifestyle changes.

The market’s sudden deviation from its recently normal rhythm may lend itself to similar management alternatives.

With earnings season beginning once again this week it may certainly serve to jump start the market’s continuing climb higher. That may especially be the case if we begin to see some tangible evidence that decreasing energy prices have already begun trickling down into the consumer sector. While better than expected earnings could provide the stimulus to move higher, rosy guidance, also related to a continuing benefit from decreased energy costs could be the real boost looking forward.

Of course, in a nervous market, that kind of good news could also have a paradoxical effect as too much of a good thing may be just the kind of data that the FOMC is looking for before deciding to finally increase interest rates.

By the same token, sometimes it may be a good thing to avoid some other stimulants, such as hyper-caffeinated momentum stocks that may be particularly at risk when the framework supporting them may be suspect.

This week, having seen 5 successive days of triple digit moves, particularly given the context of outsized higher moves tending to occur in bear market environments, and having witnessed two recent “V-Shaped” corrections in close proximity, I’d say that it may be time to re-assess risk exposure and take it easier on your heart.

Or at least on my heart.

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

Dividends may be just the medication that’s needed to help get through a period of uncertainty and the coming week offers many of those opportunities, although even within the week’s upcoming dividend stocks there may be some heightened uncertainty.

Those ex-dividend stocks that I’m considering this week are AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV), Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), Freeport McMoRan (NYSE:FCX), Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) and YUM Brands (NYSE:YUM).

AbbVie is one of those stocks that has been in the news more recently than may have been envisioned when it was spun off from its parent, Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT), both of which are ex-dividend this week.

AbbVie has been most notably in the news for having offered an alternative to Gilead’s (NASDAQ:GILD) product for the treatment of Hepatitis C. Regardless of the relative merits of one product over another, the endorsement of AbbVie’s product, due to its lower cost caused some short term consternation among Gilead shareholders.

AbbVie is now trading off from its recent highs, offers attractive option premiums and a nice dividend. That combination, despite its upward trajectory over the past 3 months, makes it worth some consideration, especially if your portfolio is sensitized to the whims of commodities.

Caterpillar is finally moving in the direction that Jim Chanos very publicly pronounced it would, some 18 months ago. There isn’t too much question that its core health is adversely impacted as economic expansion and infrastructure projects slow, as it approaches a 20% decline in the past 2 months.

That decline takes us just a little bit above the level at which I last owned shares and its upcoming dividend this week may provide the impetus to open a position. I suppose that if one’s time frame has no limitation any thesis may find itself playing out, for Chanos‘ sake, but for a short time frame trade the combination of premium and dividend at a price that hasn’t been seen in about a year seems compelling.

It has now been precisely a year since the last time I purchased shares of YUM Brands and it is right where I last left it. Too bad, because one of the hallmarks of an ideal stock for a covered option position is no net movement but still traveling over a wide price range.

YUM Brands fits that to a tee, as it is continually the recipient of investor jitteriness over the slowing Chinese economy and food safety scares that take its stock on some regular roller coaster rides.

I’m often drawn to YUM Brands in advance of its ex-dividend date and this week is no different, It combines a nice premium, competitive dividend and plenty of excitement. While I could sometimes do without the excitement, I think my heart and, certainly the option premiums, thrive on the various inputs that create that excitement, but at the end of the day seem to have no lasting impact.

Whole Foods also goes ex-dividend this week and while its dividend isn’t exactly the kind that’s worthy of being chased, shares seem to be comfortable at the new level reached after the most recent earnings. That level, though, simply represents a level from which shares plummeted after a succession of disappointing earnings that coincided with the height of the company’s national expansion and the polar vortex of 2014.

I think that shares will continue to climb heading back to the level to which they were before dropping to the current level more than a year ago.

For that reason, while I usually like using near the money or in the money weekly options when trying to capture the dividend, I’m considering an out of the money February 2015 monthly option in consideration of Whole Foods’ February 11th earnings announcement date.

I don’t usually follow interest rates or 10 Year Treasury notes very carefully, other than to be aware that concerns about interest rate hikes have occupied many for the entirety of Janet Yellen’s tenure as the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

With the 10 Year Treasury now sitting below 2%, that has recently served as a signal for the stock market to begin a climb higher. Beyond that, however, declining interest rates have also taken shares of MetLife (NYSE:MET) temporarily lower, as it can thrive relatively more in an elevated interest rate environment.

When that environment will be upon us is certainly a topic of great discussion, but with continuing jobs growth, as evidenced by this past week’s Employment Situation Report and prospects of increased consumer spending made possible by their energy dividend, I think MetLife stock has a bright future. 

Also faring relatively poorly in a decreasing rate environment has been AIG (NYSE:AIG) and it too, along with MetLife, is poised to move higher along with interest rates.

Once a very frequent holding, I’ve not owned shares since the departure of Robert ben Mosche, whom I believe deserves considerable respect for his role in steering AIG in the years after the financial meltdown.

In the meantime, I look at AIG, in an increasing rate environment as easily being able to surpass its 52 week high and would consider covering only a portion of any holding in an effort to also benefit from share price advances.

Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST) isn’t a very exciting company, but it is one that I really like owning, especially at its current price. Like so many others that I like, it trades in a relatively narrow range but often has paroxysms of movement when earnings are announced, or during the occasional “earnings warnings” announcement.

It announces earnings this week and could easily see some decline, although it does have a habit of warning of such disappointing numbers a few weeks before earnings.

Having only monthly options available, but with this being the final week of the January 2015 option cycle, one could effectively sell a weekly option or sell a weekly put rather than executing a buy/write.

However, with an upcoming dividend early in the February 2015 cycle I would be inclined to consider a purchase of shares and sale of the February calls and then buckle up for the possible ride, which is made easier knowing that Fastenal can supply you with the buckles and any other tools, supplies or gadgets you may need to contribute to national economic growth, as Fastenal is a good reflection on all kinds of construction activity.

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) also reports earnings this week and I unexpectedly found myself in ownership of shares last week, being unable to resist the purchase in the face of what seemed to be an unwarranted period of weakness in the financial sector and specifically among large banks.

Just as unexpectedly was the decline it took in Friday’s trading that caused me to rollover shares that i thought had been destined for assignment, as my preference would have been for that assignment and the possibility of selling puts in advance of earnings.

Now, with shares back at the same price that I liked it just last week, its premiums are enhanced this week due to earnings. In this case, if considering adding to the position I would likely do so by selling puts. However, unlike many other situations where I would prefer not to take assignment and would seek to avoid doing so by rolling over the puts, I wouldn’t mind taking assignment and then turning around to sell calls on a long position.

Finally, while it may make some sense to stay away from momentum kind of stocks, Freeport McMoRan, which goes ex-dividend this week may fall into the category of being paradoxically just the thing for what may be ailing a portfolio.

Just as stimulants can sometimes have such paradoxical effects, such as in the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a stock that has interests in both besieged metals, such as copper and gold, in addition to energy exploration may be just the thing at a time when weakness in both of those areas has occurred simultaneously and has now become well established.

Freeport McMoRan will actually report earnings the week after next and that will present its own additional risk going forward, but I think that the news will not be quite as bad as many may expect, particularly as there is some good news associated with declining energy prices, as they represent the greatest costs associated with mining efforts.

I’ve suffered through some much more expensive lots of Freeport McMoRan for the past 2 years and have almost always owned shares over the past 10 years, even during that brief period of time in which the dividend was suspended.

As surely as commodity prices are known to be cyclical in nature at some point Freeport will be on the right end of climbs in the price of its underlying resources. If both energy and metals can turn higher as concurrently as they turned lower these shares should perform exceptionally well.

After all, they’ve already shown that they can perform exceptionally poorly and sometimes its just an issue of a simple point of inflection to go from one extreme to the next.

Traditional Stocks: AIG, MetLife

Momentum Stocks: none

Double Dip Dividend: AbbVie (1/13), Caterpillar (1/15), Freeport McMoRan (1/13), Whole Foods !/14), YUM Brands (1/14)

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Bank of America (1/15 AM), Fastenal (1/15 AM)

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 – November 23, 2014

About a month ago we got a much needed gift from Federal Reserve Governor James Bullard, who at the depths of a nearly 10% market decline gave some reason to believe that the Federal Reserve may not have been done with its tapering policy.

Since then, he’s back-peddled just a bit, appropriately, in light of the fact that tapering has now come to its planned end.

The market, however, never looked back and took full advantage of that market propelling gift.

Subsequently, a few weeks ago we got another little gift, this time from far away, as the Bank of Japan announced its own version of Quantitative Easing just in time to battle a 20 year period of economic stagnation.

Since then there haven’t been too many others coming to our shores bearing market moving gifts, as for now, it appears as if our own Federal Reserve won’t be acting as a primary catalyst for the stock market’s expansion. Once you get a taste for gifts it can be hard to go on without them continuing to stream in on a regular basis.

What Bullard and the Bank of Japan offered was probably what was in mind when the concept of “a little help from my friends” found its way to a sheet of music.

But what has anyone done for us lately?

This week was one of an almost comatose nature where not even an FOMC Statement release could jar the market. Having already matched a 45 year record of 5 consecutive days without a greater than 0.1% move, it seemed as if we were poised for some kind of an over the top reaction, but none was to be found.

That is, until our friends from China and the European Union decided to show their friendship and gave indications that central bank money was not a problem and would be there to support lagging economies, although the trickle down benefit of supporting equity markets seems like a welcome idea on this side of a couple of oceans.

The Bank of China’s announcement of a reduction in interest rates came as quite a surprise and at some point will get cynics wondering what is really going on in China that might require that kind of a boost from the central bank.

But that’s next week’s problem.

For today, that was a wonderful gift from the country that invented the term “capitalist roader,” perhaps as a sign of affection for what the United States represented. Amazingly, the manipulation of interest rates has seemingly replaced re-education as a means of effecting change.

While economic data from China has long been suspect, what should really be suspect is when Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank starts making comments about the lengths to which the ECB will go in order to achieve its mandate.

He has had a great record of hyperbole and has had an equally great ability for being able to move markets on the basis of what was consistently interpreted as a pledge to introduce a form of Quantitative Easing.

He has also been great at not following through with the unbridled support that he has consistently offered.

Was he being serious this time around? After a number of false starts and promises Draghi should have given some overt sign that this time was going to be different. I know that I can trust a man dressed for casual Friday more than I do one in a beautifully tailored Armani suit, so that could have been a good place to begin demonstrating how this time will be different.

For the U.S. stock market, it probably doesn’t really matter, as long as we can keep coming up with gifts from our other friends on a very regular basis. If not the EU, perhaps Russia will be next to grease our market climb through its central banking policies.

After that it gets a little fuzzy, but that’s a problem for 2015.

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

The most recent earnings season has had mixed news for retailers. The upper end continues to do well and there are signs of life in the middle range as well, however specialty retailers continue to struggle.

The Gap (NYSE:GPS) is one of those struggling as it awaits its new CEO after having released earnings this past week. However, in the past 2 years the Gap has been very much of a yo-yo, as it alternates regularly between disappointing sales news and optimistic forecasts. It does so monthly, so those ups and downs come more often than for many other retailers that have abandoned the practice of reporting monthly same store sales.

After this most recent decline, having just recently recovered from the loss encountered upon the announcement of the departure of its current CEO, along with some weak monthly sales reports, it looks as if is ready for yet another cycle of ups and downs. Because of its continuing to offer monthly reports, the Gap offers enhanced option premiums on a monthly basis, as well, in addition to respectable premiums the remainder of the time.

Companies that are part of the DJIA don’t usually offering a very compelling reason to try and capture an upcoming dividend along with the concurrent sale of a call option. Most often the option is appropriately priced and there is very little opportunity to try to exploit some inefficiency in that pricing, particularly when using an in the money strike.

This week, however, there may be some opportunity in both Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), which appropriately enough, tend to already go together.

While McDonald’s is recovering a bit from a recent share drop after some news of activist involvement in the company, it may finally make the run for the $100 level and stay there for more than just a couple of months. It’s dividend is attractive and as long as there is continuing activist interest its option premiums may continue to also be attractive, even in weeks when the dividend is offered.

Coca-Cola, on the other hand, is trading just slightly below its one year high, which isn’t generally a place that I like to enter a position. That however, can be said for many stocks as the market continually makes its own new highs.

With Warren Buffett lending his support, it’s not terribly easy for any activist activity to try and move this behemoth, which along with McDonald’s may be on the wrong side of food trends. Still those businesses are not going to unravel from one minute to the next. With a short term time frame in mind, Coca-Cola, even at these levels may offer a respectable award for the risk, particularly with the dividend in mind this week.

While Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) doesn’t go ex-dividend this week, it has quite a bit in common with Lorillard (NYSE:LO), which does.

Both are subjects of takeover bids and both are trading substantially lower than the current value of those bids, which are both comprised of cash and stock offers. It’s a little difficult to fully understand the relatively large gaps between their closing prices and the offer values, although regulatory and anti-trust obstacles may be playing roles.

Reportedly the Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) bid for Lorillard is progressing and is expected to be completed sometime in the first half of 2015. Meanwhile, Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) has essentially said “tell us what assets to sell and we’ll do it” to the Department of Justice. Unfortunately, as a current Halliburton shareholder, it also has a large anti-trust termination fee as part of the proposed deal.

As a result of the activity and uncertainty revolving around the proposed buy-out the option premiums in Baker Hughes are higher than they have been in many years, reflecting also some of the risk that a deal will not be completed. However, as with the businesses at Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, that doesn’t appear to be likely in the very near time frame, as there will likely be considerable time before the Department of Justice gets involved in a meaningful and overt fashion.

Lorillard, on the other hand, has not had any enhancements of its option premiums as a result of the planned buy-out by Reynolds American. That would indicate a degree of certainty that the deal will be completed, yet there is still a considerable gap between its current price and the value implied in the offer.

My shares of Lorillard were assigned this week, despite about three days attempting to roll the shares over in order to secure the very generous dividend, which is expected to continue after the takeover. The inability to rollover the shares is further reflection of the frustrations created by the extremely low volatility and larger than normal spreads between bid and ask prices, as option volume continues to be very light.

With still about a $5 gap between those prices, Lorillard has upside potential, but also carries the risk of unexpected regulatory action. If purchasing shares of Lorillard to capture the dividend and I likely try to use near or in the money options, in an attempt to serially collect small weekly premiums, while waiting for something definitive.

Lexmark (NYSE:LXK) also goes ex-dividend this week. The last time I purchased shares was on November 25, 2013, so it seems like it may be a good way to celebrate that anniversary. Perhaps not to coincidentally, the last purchase was also dividend related.

Lexmark, once the printer division for International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), took a page out of IBM’s strategy and completely re-invented itself. In a realization that printers were nothing more than a commodity, it has become a service and solutions oriented provider and its stock price hasn’t regretted that decision.

It does trade with some volatility, though, and it offers a good option premium in reflection of that opportunity. While earnings are still two months away, it frequently has large earnings related moves that can be managed through the use of monthly option contracts, sometimes one cycle beyond the earnings date.

If looking for volatility, you may not need to look any further than Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:GDX). While gold has been on an essentially uni-directional downward path for much of the past 6 months and it has been difficult to find any credible proponents of its ownership, it appears as if there may be a battle brewing for where it is headed next. That battle creates significantly improved option premiums, which had been in the doldrums for much of the past 6 months.

As with the underlying metal, the miners can have significant volatility and risk and should be considered for use only as part of the speculative portion of a portfolio and in proportion to the risk it may entail.

As with some fortunate companies in the bio-technology group, sometimes speculative ventures lead to tangible products. That is certainly the case for Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD).

After a brief uproar about the yearly cost of treatment with its extremely effective Hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, it has rebounded with ease. Congressional hearings that sought to get some spotlight for protecting the public’s interests resulted in a sharp and quick decline, but the reality has been that the costs of treatment pale in comparison to the costs of traditional treatment. Subsequently, Gilead keeps refining the protocols and adding to the profit margins, while achieving better patient outcomes for an incredibly prevalent chronic disease.

As expected, because of the continuing concerns about price and the manner in which Gilead’s price increase has been so closely associated with its Hepatitis C efforts, it is at risk for being overly reliant on a single drug or class of drugs., However, as with many suggested trades, the outlook tends to be very short term and hopefully avoids some of the risks associated with longer term cycles of ownership.

GameStop (NYSE:GME) did what it so often does after earnings. It made a large move, this time sharply lower this past Friday. With each earnings cycle and frequently in-between, questions arise regarding the business model and how GameStop can continue to survive in the current environment. That question has been asked for about a decade and GameStop has been one of the most heavily shorted stocks throughout that time.

GameStop tends to do well in the final month of the year, although it may simply be carried along for the ride, as the broad market tends to perform well at that time. Following its sharp decline, a reasonable way to consider participation would be through the sale of out of the money puts. If taking that route, this is a stock that I wouldn’t be adverse to owning if faced with possible assignment, although there is usually sufficient activity and volume to be able to roll over those puts in an attempt to avoid assignment and wait out a bounce higher in shares, while continuing to collect premiums.

Finally, this is yet another week in which to consider the sale of Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) put contracts. While it wasn’t really in the news very much this week, other than announcing some less than spectacular enhancements to its messaging options, it has been developing some support in the $39 area and offers an excellent premium in recognition of the risk involved.

The risk is the unwanted assignment and then ownership of its shares. However, what makes Twitter an appealing put option sale trade is that in the event of the prospects of assignment, it may be relatively easy to rollover to a forward week and collect additional premium without taking ownership of shares.

At a time when for many stocks the bid and ask spreads are widening and volume is shrinking, Twitter isn’t really suffering those fates, which makes the possibility of avoiding assignment higher.

For the past 3 weeks I have been rolling over Twitter puts even when not facing assignment, occasionally adjusting the strike prices in an effort to achieve an additional 1% weekly ROI on the position. Doing so may be tempting fate, but in Twitter’s brief history as a publicly traded company it has shown the ability to both come well off its highs as well as to bounce well beyond its lows. All that’s necessary is the ability to put elation or frustration into suspended animation and play the numbers, without regard to the rumors and dysfunction that may be swirling.

Traditional Stocks: The Gap

Momentum: Baker Hughes, GameStop, Gilead, Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF, Twitter

Double Dip Dividend: Coca-Cola (11/26), Lexmark (11/26), Lorillard (11/26), McDonald’s (11/26)

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.

Rolling the Dice with Earnings

With earnings season ready to begin its second full week there are again some opportunities to identify stocks whose earnings may represent risk that is over-estimated by the options market, yet may still offer attractive premiums outside of the presumed risk area.

While in a perfect world good earnings would see increased share prices and bad earnings would result in price drops, the actual responses may be very unpredictable and as a result earnings reports are often periods of great consternation and frustration.

For the buy and hold investor, while earnings may send shares higher, this is also a time when paper profits may vanish and the cycle of share appreciation has to begin anew. Other than supplementing existing positions with strategic option positions, such as the purchase of out of the money puts, the investor must sit and await the fate of existing shares.

Occasionally, a covered option strategy, either through the sale of puts or buy/write transactions, may offer opportunity to achieve an acceptable return on investment while limiting the apparent risk of exposure to the large moves that may accompany good, bad or downright ugly news. Although a roll of the dice has definable probabilities, when it comes to stocks sometimes you want something that seems less predicated on chance and less on human emotion or herd mentality.

As always, whenever I consider whether an earnings related trade is worth pursuing I let the “implied volatility” serve as a guide in determining whether there is a satisfactory risk-reward proposition to consider action. That simple calculation provides an upper and lower price range in which price movement is anticipated and can then be compared to corresponding premiums collected for assuming risk. It is, to a degree based on herd mentality in the option market and has varying degrees of emotion already built into values. The greater the emotion, as expressed by the relative size of the premiums for strike levels outside of the range defined by the implied volatility the more interested I am in considering a position.

My preference in addressing earnings related trades is to do so through the sale of put contracts, always utilizing the weekly contract and a strike price that is below the lower range defined by the implied volatility calculation. Since I’m very satisfied with a weekly 1% ROI, I then look to find the strike level that corresponds to at least a 1% return.

While individuals can and should set their own risk-reward parameters, a weekly 1% ROI seems to be one that finds a good balance between risk and reward, as long as the associated strike level is also outside of the implied volatility range. If the strike level is within the range I don’t assess it as meeting my criteria. I sometimes may be less stringent, accepting a strike level slightly inside the lower boundary of the range if shares have already had some decline in the immediate days preceding earnings. Conversely, if shares have moved higher in advance of earnings I’m either less likely to execute the trade or much more stringent in strike level selection or expecting an ROI in excess of 1%.

While conventional wisdom is to not sell puts on positions that you wouldn’t mind owning at a specified price, I very often do not want to own the shares of the companies that I am considering. For the period of the trade, I remain completely agnostic to everything about the company other than its price and the ability to sell contracts and if necessary, purchase and then re-sell contracts repeatedly, until the position may be closed.

However, for those having limited or no experience with the sale of put contracts, you should assume a likelihood of being assigned shares and the potential downside of having a price drop well in excess of your projections. For that reason you may want to re-consider the agnostic part and be at peace with the potential of owning shares at your strike price and helping to reduce the burden through the sale of calls, where possible.

Since my further preference is to not be assigned shares, I favor those positions that have expanded weekly options available, so that there is opportunity to roll contracts over in the event that assignment appears likely using a time frame that offers a balance between return and brevity.

This week there are a number of stocks that will release quarterly earnings that may warrant consideration as the reward may be well suited to the risk taken for those with a little bit of adventurousness.

A number of the companies highlighted are volatile on a daily basis, but more so when event driven, such as with the report of earnings. While implied volatilities may occasionally appear to be high, they are frequently borne out by past history and it would be injudicious to simply believe that such implied moves are outside the realm of probability. Stocks can and do move 10, 15 or 20% on news.

The coming week presents companies that I usually already follow. Among them are Amazon (AMZN), Cliffs Natural Resources (CLF), Cree (CREE), Deckers (DECK), Facebook (FB), Gilead (GILD), Microsoft (MSFT) and Netflix (NFLX).

The table above may be used as a guide for determining which of these stocks meets personal risk-reward parameters, understanding that re-calculations must be made as share prices, their associated premiums and subsequently even strike level targets may change.

While I most often use the list of stocks on a prospective basis in anticipation of an earnings related move, sometimes the sale of puts following earnings is a favorable trade, especially in instances in which shares have reacted in a decidedly negative fashion to earnings or to guidance.

Regardless of the timing of the sale of puts, before or after earnings are released, being more pessimistic regarding the potential for price drops may be an enticing trade for the generation of income.