For those that remember 2011 it was really an incredible year, one that I still miss and was certainly sad to see go.
Although it doesn’t have a very snappy ring to it, this past week was one to party like it was 2011 or at least revel in the thought that 2011 was about to make a return.
What I’m hoping is that this past week has lots of party left in it and will serve as a model for what lies ahead, despite the market having ended the week 1.1% lower.
For those who don’t remember 2011 simply looking at the net change for the year may leave you a little curious why I would think that it was a great year.
That’s because what you would see is that the S&P 500 was unchanged for the year, which is, at the very least, a statistical oddity. For those requiring some precision, the index actually changed 0.04 points for the year or 0.003%.
However, for those that love volatility and what it does for option premiums, despite the superficial appearance of nothing having happened for the year, the volatility increased by 31.8% for that year, ending at 23.4, which is still 57.6% higher than where it closed this past Friday.
How could that be?
That’s because that year the DJIA, which ended the year at 12217, far below the current level, had no fewer than 96 triple digit closing days. That was back in the days when 100 points actually meant something.
What was fascinating was that 46 of those moved lower and 50 moved higher. Lots and lots of exertion, but basically not too much different from running in place.
Now that’s not only volatility, but the ideal kind for an option seller. Lots of ado, but accomplishing absolutely nothing, other than the generation of lots of enriched option premiums because those alternating currents of moves generate uncertainty and anxiety.
For the option seller the nice thing about running in place is that it becomes very difficult to get lost and less necessary to give into the feelings of anxiety that accompany the uncertainty of an unknown path.
Even if you weren’t paying too much attention you may have noticed that this past week had 5 triple digit days. The absolute value of those moves was 810 points, while the net movement was only a loss of 166 points.
This was a week that moved on a wide range of factors and in a wide range.
You could point to the loose cannon words from outgoing Federal reserve Governor Richard Fisher, who, despite being chastised by then FOMC Chairman Greenspan for speaking his mind, never really stopped doing so. Ironically, his first market moving comments back in 2005 for which he was taken to the woodshed was related to suggesting that the Federal Reserve’s series of rate increases would be coming to an end sooner than most expected. This time around he created something of a panic by suggesting that this Federal Reserve, under Janet Yellen, would begin raising interest rates before most people had expected. Those words came barely a week after we found comfort in the belief that a “considerable time” would still pass before those rates would see increases.
The fact that Fisher is fairly dogmatic and has been on the wrong side of history in the past, in addition to no longer having a vote within the next few months, was lost on those who for some reason believe that he has some great insight and sway.
Or you could point to the widespread belief that the Alibaba (BABA) IPO was another in a line of “biggest” IPOs that marked market tops that simply accepted the contention without realizing how precisely cherry picked the data had been and how it had conveniently excluded some significant data points that would have lead to refuting the “obvious” conclusions.
Or you could point to the widespread fascination with the non-validated “death cross” that has adherents and believers, despite its inconsistency as a predictive tool of the market heading into a correction.
Or you could point to the market dipping below its 50 day moving average as a bullish indicator that would coerce some into initiating buying programs.
Clearly, the market had little basis to do much of anything this week, but when it was all said and done, despite the three large downward moves, there wasn’t too much damage done, leaving the S&P 500 only 1.5% off of its all time high point but having raised volatility 21.8% at the same time.
Just like 2011 when all was still good with the world as long as you retain a faulty sense of memory.
As usual, the week’s potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or “PEE” categories.
With Friday’s week ending rally that for a brief while looked as if it was getting poised to erase the previous day’s loss of 264 points some of the apparent price bargains that had developed during that loss were lessened. However, those bargains are always relative to whatever time frame you elect to utilize and whatever direction you believe awaits.
After the past week its exceptionally difficult to have a sense of what kind of market awaits, but the past two years gives reason to believe that we are in store for another of the periodic mini-corrections that have prefaced every climb higher. That periodicity suggests that the current 1.5% decline is but a beginning.
I would gladly trade off additional climbs higher for the type of volatility we’ve seen in the past week. While I’m not anxious to necessarily start a shopping spree, the real challenge is knowing when to get on the party train. Although I don’t place too much emphasis on charts I would be inclined to watch a decided move below the 50 day moving average for a week or so before feeling a sense of confidence.
British Petroleum (BP) fulfills that criteria as does Conoco Phillips (COP), both in the beleaguered energy sector. British Petroleum’s descent below the 5o day moving average has been more prolonged and marked than has Conoco’s, so may have some greater appeal for me, particularly if I plan to be very discerning about spending money on new positions. Part of British Petroleum’s additional burden, beyond what the energy sector is experiencing, continues to be related to its liability in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 and it suffered a quantum drop just a few weeks ago when the company was found to be grossly negligent in US District Court for its role in the spill.
Conoco Phillips, on the other hand is just caught up with the rest as energy prices are under pressure. It has, however, traded in a relatively stable range for nearly two months, perhaps making it a reasonable covered option trade, particularly as its ex-dividend date approaches.
Caterpillar (CAT) after having embarrassed the legions of those lambasting it and its CEO, is a stock that has demonstrated the ability to bounce back from having dipped below its 50 day moving average over the past 2 months and following some recent weakness ostensibly related to weakness in China, may also now be ready for a climb higher. Like Conoco, its upcoming dividend late in the October 2014 cycle or early in the November cycle can make the decision to purchase shares somewhat easier.
Eventually even the phrase “considerable time,” as found in the FOMC statements must give way to something a little less imprecise and some of the uncertainty regarding the timing of interest rate increases will be lost. While I’ve recently had shares of both MetLife and Citigroup assigned, I would like to add them back to the portfolio, despite their current price levels. While both are similarly lower from their very recent highs those levels may represent resting points for what may be deserved climbs even higher.
The Gap (GPS) is one of those stocks that I tend to buy too early during a period of descending price and frequently end up owning longer than I would have liked. However, it has now fallen nearly 10% in the last 3 weeks following a negative response to its most recently monthly same store sales report.
Those reports are a major part of the surprises during previous bouts of ownership, as they, just like this week’s triple digit moves, frequently alternated between well and poorly received results.,
With same store sales again expected the week after next, as well as going ex-dividend in that week, I may consider bypassing the use of a weekly or expanded weekly option and instead considering the monthly expiration in order to create some time cushion in the event of a second consecutive adverse response.
Intel (INTC) and Cisco (CSCO) both regained some lost ground on Friday as technology stocks rebounded from some of their strong losses earlier in the week. In a week that I would like to add some technology exposure both are appealing, although both also have different considerations.
While Intel will be among those companies reporting earnings early in the upcoming cycle, Cisco will not do so for another month, but will be ex-dividend in the coming week. Both are also approaching their 50 day moving averages but from opposite directions.
Making a decision regarding either of these two would likely be predicated on their next decisive price moves around their respective 50 day moving averages. I might be more inclined to purchase either if they stay above the line. However, if moving below, I would defer the purchase, although the Cisco dividend may offer a more compelling reason to decide between these two stocks, particularly as Intel has a tough act to follow after its most recent earnings report.
Finally, Walgreen (WAG) reports earnings this week just as the rest of the world is getting ready to begin the next cycle of quarterly reports the following week.
Walgreen, after having announced that it was not going to pursue a tax inversion, nearly two months ago, is still seeing its shares trading at a significantly depressed level.
While I usually like to consider earnings related trades on the basis of a calculation of the implied price move relative to the potential for achieving a threshold return on investment and would prefer not to own shares, in this case I wouldn’t mind taking ownership at the right price.
With option premiums enhanced somewhat due to the upcoming earnings release I would consider the sale of out of the money weekly puts and if facing the possibility of assignment would consider taking that assignment if the price of shares was near the strike price so that I could initiate a short call position upon taking ownership of shares. However, in the event that shares plunge beyond that price level I would likely prefer to attempt to rollover the puts in an effort to prevent that assignment.
Hopefully, regardless of the outcome there will still be a party going on.
Traditional Stocks: British Petroleum, Caterpillar, Conoco, Intel, MetLife, The Gap
Double Dip Dividend: Cisco
Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Walgreen
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.