After Friday’s nearly 300 point move higher, it’s absolutely inconceivable that anyone can have a clear idea of what comes next.
Even during the climbs higher over the past two years no one really had a clue of what the next day would bring, but there was an entirely different “gestalt” about the market than we have now.
During that earlier time the sum of its parts seemed somewhat irrelevant as the market as a whole was just greater than those parts and had a momentum that was impervious to the usual challenges and patterns.
The most obvious of those challenges that hadn’t come to a fruition was the obligatory periodic 10% correction. Instead, while we really didn’t know what was coming next, at least we had a clear idea of what was not coming next.
Can you say the same today?
After a month of the kind of daily moves that we really haven’t seen since the latter half of 2011, their alternating basis can only keep people off guard.
People generally fall into two categories on days when the market spikes as it did on Friday, particularly after a torrent of plunges. They either see that as evidence that we’ve turned the corner or that it’s just another trap to lure you in so that your money can wither away while feeding the beast.
For some, those optimists among us, they will have identified a capitulation as having occurred this week. They believe that kind of blow off selling marks the beginning of a return to a climb higher.
For the pessimists among us, they see that most every out-sized market one day gain has occurred during an overall downtrend.
While I remain confused about what the next week will bring, I’m not too confused about what my course of action is likely to be.
I don’t agree with the optimists that we’ve seen a capitulation. Those tend to be marked by a frenzy of selling. It’s not just a 400 point decline, it’s the rapid acceleration of the losses that shows no evidence of letting up that is usually the hallmark. The following day is also usually marked by selling during the open and then cautious buying that becomes a flood of bargain hunters.
So capitulation? Probably not, but the market very well still could have found a near term bottom this week as that 400 point loss did evaporate. That near bottom did bring us to about a 9% overall decline in the S&P 500 over the past 4 weeks, so perhaps you might hear the optimists asking “can a brother get some slack on 1%?” in the hopes that we can all move on and return to the carefree ways of 2012 and 2013.
On the other hand, those pessimists do have data on their side. You don’t need very fancy kinds of analysis to show that those 200, 300 and higher point moves over history have only served to suck money out of people’s pockets under false pretenses.
Over the past four weeks with the possible exception of the advances higher in the latter half of this past week, every strong advance led to disappointment. Every time it looked as if there was value to be had it was another value trap, as a whole.
My course of action last week was one that still has me in shock.
I didn’t execute a single new position trade last week, after having only added 2 new positions the previous week.
I’d better get used to that shock, because I don’t expect to add many, if any, new positions this week, unless there’s some reason to believe that a period, even if very short, of stability will step in.
Perhaps continuing good earnings news will be the catalyst for the market to take a breather from its recent mindless journeys to the depths and to the heights. Good news form the financial sector, some good indications from industrials and some good news from the technology companies that really matter could be a wonderful prelude to improved retail earnings.
Or maybe none of that will matter and we’ll again focus on things like moving averages, support levels, mixed messages from Federal Reserve Governors and news of continuing economic dysfunction in the European Union, all while watching the smartest guys in the room, the bond traders have their own gyrations as interest rates on 10 Year Treasury notes resemble a yo-yo, having had an enormous 10% spread in the past week.
Most of all, I want to focus on not being duped and trying to put uncovered positions to work. That means continuing to try and resist what appear to be screaming bargains, even after Friday’s march higher and higher.
But, we’re only human and can only resist for so long.
As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.
As I look at prices, even after some runs higher on Friday, what’s not to like? That still doesn’t mean, however, that you have to end up committing to anything.
What makes the temptation even stronger, despite a big drop in volatility on Friday, are the option premiums that can now be had when selling. The challenge, however, is finding the option buyer, as call volume is diminished, probably reflecting a paucity of belief that there will be sudden price jumps in underlying shares.
Part of the strategy accommodation that may be made if grappling with paper losses following the past four weeks is to now consider using out of the money strike prices that will still return the same ROI on the premium portion, but also potentially add some meaningful capital gains on the shares.
As with last week, I’m not terribly interested in the back story behind the week’s selections, but more in the recent price history, with particular attention to those that may have been overly and inappropriately punished.
MetLife (MET) is one of those among so many, that l have been waiting to repurchase. With the recent interest rate gyrations that actually brought the 10 Year rate below 2% there may be some rational to the price drop seen in MetLife, but with the 10% increase in rates some life was breathed back into floundering shares.
eBay (EBAY) is still a company that is always on my radar screen. Whether that will continue to be the case after the PayPal spin-off may be questionable, but for now, at its new low, low price, having taken a little bit of a beating from its just posted earnings, it really is beginning to feel irresistible.
Among sectors getting my attention this week is Healthcare. Following the drop in Merck (MRK), Baxter International (BAX) and the continued weakness of Walgreen (WAG).
With a 10% drop in shares of Merck in the past week, taking it to an 8 month low in the absence of any meaningful news one has to wonder when will the craziness end? Now in its own personal correction phase it wouldn’t be entirely an ill-conceived idea to believe that shares have either no reason to continue under-performing the market. With an attractive dividend and option premiums reflecting that downward spiral, Merck is one position that could warrant resisting the need to resist.
Baxter International is also in its own personal correction, although its time frame as been a month for that 10% decline. Despite having just released earnings and offering improved guidance shares continued to flail even as most everything else was showing some recovery. While there may be some logical explanation my interest in entertaining it may be subsumed by an interest in picking up shares.
Walgreen continues to be mired down at a price level to which it plunged after calling off any potential tax inversion plans. Being stuck in that trading range, however, has helped Walgreen to outperform the S&P 500 since it hit its highs last month. For it to continue trading in that range might be the kind of comfort that could provide some smiles even while everything else around is crumbling, particularly if the upcoming dividend is captured, as well.
Marathon Oil (MRO) is just another of those really hard hit energy stocks that has to cause some head shaking as it is in a personal correction and then some, even after 2 days of strength. The list need not end with Marathon Oil if considering adding energy sector positions, as there is no shortage of viable candidates. FOr me, Marathon Oil is one position that I’ve longed to return to my portfolio, but do understand that there may continue to be some downward pricing pressure in oil, before the inevitable bounce higher.
FInally, how can you not at least consider taking sides in the great Apple (AAPL) saga? Whether there will be a gold mine ahead as the new products hit the stores or deep disappointment, its earnings report this week is not likely to reflect anything other than great phone sales and lagging sales in most, if not all other product lines.
The option market, however, isn’t expecting too much action, with an implied price movement of only 4.4% next week. With barely a 1% premium at a strike level right at the lower edge defined by the implied move there isn’t really any enhancement in its premiums, especially as there is a general increase in volatility buoying most option premiums.
However, the sale of puts at the lower level strike may offer the opportunity to enter a position, particularly in front of the upcoming dividend at a better price than has been seen in over 2 months, or may simply offer a decent one week return.