by phil - April 15th, 2010 5:50 am
I am one reluctant bull!
I am still trying to be bullish, I am trying to get enthusiastic about this rally and it's been 3 weeks since I went to mainly cash rather than leave the majority of our Buy List on the table. The Dow was at 10,850 that day and I didn't think we'd see the top of 11,000 for more than a day but now we've been up here for 2 weeks and yesterday we had strong(ish) volume on a strong up day and I'm still having trouble believing it BUT – believe it we must as long as our upside levels hold.
Those levels are now: Dow 11,000, S&P 1,200, Nas 2,500, NYSE 7,700 and Russell 720.
We had a nice, relaxing holiday but now we have hard work ahead as I think the investing environment is littered with land mines – ready to blow up in our face if we take any mis-steps. This bull has horns and we were gored by daring to go bearish in our $100K Virtual Portfolio but our Buy List is all bull and, hopefully, no crap as we try to make safe plays out of the finest companies.
Ideally, our Buy List plays are about finding bargains. We may love AAPL, but they are not on sale. Earning season will hopefully be a great time to do some bargain hunting so this list will be a work in progress but for today we're just going to review our remaining open plays from the last list and also I would like Members to please use the comment section on this post to suggest companies we should be looking at. Who do you think is trading way too cheaply? We especially love dividend payers, of course and I'll be looking for companies that service the top 10%, not the bottom 90% – who still look pretty screwed to me and, from yesterday's news, it seems like the top 10% is down to the top 8% but it doesn't seem to bother the markets so we won't dwell on the implications until we're below 5% and, of course, our goal is to be in the top 5% when it all hits the fan…
After having really good timing on our Feb 8th entries, March 18th seemed like a good time to take the money and run and we shut down 2/3 of our Buy List postions. Let's do a…
by phil - March 18th, 2010 6:15 pm
Oh, I have tried!
I have tried to be bullish, I have tried to get enthusiastic about this rally but I have been reviewing these picks for a few days and looking at the market, the charts, the sentiment, reading the news and studying the fundamentals and I'm OUT! Oh, I'll be back, we'll set up a new, aggressive $100K Virtual Portfolio next week for some fun shorter-terrm plays (still keeping the conservative one for the full year) to take full advantage of this insanity but it's going to be mainly cash through the end of the month as I do not trust this rally one bit and it will be so nice to head into the easter holiday with lots of cash on the sidelines.
We hit a perfect entry on Feb 8th, in our last round, and the market is up almost 9% since that day and I'm not expecting another 9% in the next 6 weeks so it's a very good time to take a break. We were able to roll and enjoy these trades since Christmas and we will be revisiting some, maybe even keeping a few but, on the whole, I want to do what I often counsel members to do, which is follow our simple two-step process to maximizing your profits in a market rally:
- Step 1) Take Money
- Step 2) Run
There – isn't that simple? Keep in mind that we LOVE all of these stocks so we'll be back in them if they go on sale and, perhaps, even if they don't and the market looks stronger through April earnings. Meanwhile, keep in mind that these are 6-week profits so 20% is A LOT for generally conservative plays. Not much else to talk about – let's just see how many of these suckers are worth keeping (noted in green):
AET (12/21 – $34.04, 1/9 – $32.70, 1/31 – $29.97, 3/18 – $33.24) They could not have done better for us, staying right in range and giving us 4 excellent sales but health care is passing this weekend and that's too wild for us to stick with. Our last batch is right on target:
- Apr $33 calls sold for $2.40, now .40 – up 83%
- Apr $30 puts sold for $1.50, now .02 - up 99%
- 2012 $25/35 bull call
by phil - January 9th, 2010 7:26 am
Well we finally hit our levels!
Fundamentally, I still don't buy this rally but, technically, we could go up and up from here. We discussed in chat yesterday how we may be in a pattern similar to 2003-7 where we came out of the dot com crash and 9/11, which took the market lower than it should have and then government stimulus took us higher than we should have been. Sure it all ended badly but there was a really good ride up in between. HOWERVER, 2004, which is about where we would be now, was a choppy and downtrending year. That is not a problem for our buy/write strategy as long as we keep our heads and scale into our positions.
Obviously we can't rely on patterns to simply keep repeating themselves. We could have another terrorist attack, we could have more stimulus or maybe both in our future but, until we see the patten broken, we can play for a similar move. Our buy/write strategy is ideal for this as it's a conservative play that gives us 15-20% downside protection. Combine this with our usual strategy to scale into positons along with some sensible disaster hedges and we can build a nice, bullish virtual portfolio for 2010. Keep in mind we don't fear the upside with buy/writes as our "worst case" there is we get called away with a nice profit.
I put up our latest Watch List on Dec 22nd, following through from our bullish lists of September 6th, October 8th and Nov 24th. These are the bullish plays that form the bulk of our virtual portfolios and that sometimes gets lost in our weekly short-term trading. It was a lot like shooting fish in a barrel, picking winners since September (we had our last Buy List on July 11th our first since the bottom in March, which was followed by the more conservatively mixed $100K Virtual Portfolio that we used from April through July, when we were worried the market would be choppy (it was). As always, our active lists are found under the Virtual Portfolio Tab near the top of our pages - always check there for recent updates.
by phil - August 8th, 2009 8:23 am
Next week will be the last week for our very profitable virtual portfolio, that started with $100,000 on April 10th.
This virtual portfolio has already made 19% in 16 weeks and many members wanted to start a new one from scratch. So, by popular demand, we will be restarting a brand new virtual portfolio the week after options expiration, also with $100,000 and also a hedged virtual portfolio but this time with the goal of drawing a monthly income. I got this idea when I went down to Florida last week and spoke to many people who asked me about their investing accounts. Many of these "safe" accounts had been cut in half or worse and the returns they were producing were coming in at 5% year – if that and people were counting on this money for their monthly expenses. I spoke to many people with $1M in the bank who were living off $50,000 a year in interest and dividends!
Using options and good hedging strategies, we have been able to produce a return in our virtual portfolio of 19% in just 16 weeks (12% cash, 7% unrealized). I'm not advocating someone take a whole $1M and shift it to stocks and options but, if you can make 20% on $200,000 while your other $800,000 makes a "safe" 5%, your annual income goes from $50,000 to $80,000 – that's a lot of early-bird specials! I will, of course, be happy to answer any adjustment questions on this virtual portfolio anytime during chat but we will no longer be tracking it weekly or making new plays. The goals of the new virtual portfolio will be similar and the new trade ideas can be applied whether you are looking to draw an income or just start building long-term set of holdings for reinvestment.
In the last $112,007 Virtual Portfolio Update, from July 28th, we remained bullish and it really paid off with another $2,117 in unrealized gains ($6,690 not included in above total) as we made a very well-timed bottom call the week before and ran with it. We have haven't had to call an "audible" in two weeks, sticking to our plan as the market held up nicely.
by phil - July 19th, 2009 12:01 pm
Holy cow, what a week!
It is hard to believe that last weekend I wrote: "You can hardly find anyone who doesn’t think we’re going back to the March lows. I stand by my statement to Members in yesterday morning’s Alert where I said: "It’s ridiculous for the Dow to go back to 7,500 and ridiculous for the S&P to go back to 800. While it’s easy to make squiggly lines on a chart show 10% drops ahead (which seems like a normal 50% retrace of the gains overall) I just think it’s dead wrong from a valuation perspective so I’m not inclined to play it, especially when those valuations are about to slap you in the face over the next few weeks. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe earnings will suck and Q2 will be a miss and guidance will be lower but right now I say – Show me the misses."
Here we are, just 7 days later and I found myself writing an article about the ridiculous media cheerleading that went on last week. How did the MSM go from 100% bearish to 100% bullish at the stoke of Monday? Well, according to Cramer, it was Whitney, Whitney, Whitney and the logic seems to be that, since she called the problems in the financials early on, she MUST be right by calling an end to the problems now. Of course what Whitney actually said was the banks should have a good quarter as the government pushes for massive mortgage refinancing (all those 1% fees really add up!) and she also said she sees unemployment shooting up another 35% to 13% or higher but hey – at least she said something positive about the banks and that's all the media needed to hear to tear up the previous week's entire playbook and switch sides so completely, you have to review the tape just to be sure we didn't imagine the whole doomed, "head and shoulders" outlook of the week before.
What did I have to say about all this nonsense last weekend? I was emphatic, and I'm usually not, and I said for those who would listen: "So here we are, back at the bottom of the trading range I predicted back in March and even as far back…
by phil - July 3rd, 2009 8:14 am
Wheee, what a great way to end the week!
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we had gone into the day flipping our short firepower to BG $60 puts at $1.30 and TOT $55 puts at $1.20 as well as our remaining DIA $84 puts at .84. We went back to cash for the weekend but consider that the DIA $84 puts finished at $2.04 (up 142%), BG $60 puts finished at $2.10 (up 61%) and TOT $55 puts finished at $2.83 (135%) and you can see how even small allocations out of cash yield very nice one-day returns on put options. You do not have to take big risks to make big rewards, playing put options allows us to stay flexible and mainly in cash without "missing" too many market market moves.
We blew right through the upper targets I set in the morning and the Dow flew right down near enough our 8,250 (June lows) target that it looked bounceable, as the other indexes were holding up better than the Dow we felt we could play it for a small recovery over the weekend. We picked up some DIA $85 calls for .76 but elected not to DD at our scale-in target of .64 into the close as we already had bullish plays on ZION as well as Dow components AA, BA, GE and PFE, all longer-term plays that we are looking forward to adding to cheaper if they keep heading down. VLO and SNY were added in the afternoon as well as a UNG spread since they decided to just give it away at $13 again.
While we are just dipping our toes into some long posItions, it is the first time in a month we've been happy enough with the pricing to even take a chance. Of course we maintain our long put covers (just in case) but what's the point of having protection if you have nothing to protect? On the whole, the volume simply wasn't that impressive and we attribute much of this drop to people who were "shocked" that the economy isn't as good as they thought it was (cough, Cramer fans, cough, cough) but it's EXACTLY as weak as we thought it was and that means there are certain price points we are willing to hit long-term. Kudos to all who patiently waited with us for…
by phil - May 31st, 2009 8:29 am
What a wild week that was!
We got such a good sell-off last Friday that we went 1/2 covered into the weekend on our DIA puts (a little bearish) but we had already cleaned up on quick short plays on the Dow and USO and we were very much in cash but still making bullish plays at the time. I did a 3-part series on dividend-paying stocks over the weekend, elaborating on the 21 dividend payers we picked that Tuesday along with our $104,340 Virtual Portfolio (used to be $100,000) so we had no shortage of bullish ideas but it didn't take us long this week to turn pretty bearish.
Last Friday morning (22nd), ahead of the holiday weekend, with the Dow at 8,323, I sent out an early alert to members saying: "I’d go long on the Dow here but frankly I’m just not in the mood today. Still full covered on long DIA puts and still in the DDMs but just hanging out and watching today since you can’t take the action seriously anyway." Our plays that day ran the gamut: We sold BAC July $10 puts for $1 (now .66), took a TBT spread that has been a wild ride but right back where we started and an ICE bull call spread ($90/$100, selling $90 puts $2.33, now .57) that is right on track. All that came before 11:33 on Friday, where I rightly called a top at 8,342. We made nice profits on DIA puts and took an EXM and T hedges that are doing well. One of our best plays on Friday was the USO $32 puts at .80 we took into the weekend, those cashed out Monday morning at $1.05 (up 44%) – those USO trades were followed through in detail in our Members Only post: "Stupid Options Tricks - The Salvage Play."
As I mentioned, we have been mainly in cash for over 2 weeks now so mainly we're just taking small opportunities and having fun while we wait for the market to break one way or the other. One article I wrote over the holiday weekend was a timely update to "How To Vacation-Proof Your Virtual Portfolio," something anyone not in cash needs to take under strong advisement and DO NOT miss the very generous free video lesson from Sage's Market…
by phil - May 28th, 2009 8:27 am
Is this fun or what?!
I love it when a plan comes together and we have been nailing these crazy market moves. I have to admit Cramer had me worried on Tuesday night as we were short into the evening as the master said: "Let this be a lesson to all investors: Watch for these kinds of bull-market pullbacks, because they often precede a continued move higher… All they needed was a catalyst, any old excuse, and that’s where consumer confidence comes in." Fortunately, Jim's jubilation was short-lived (and this is a great flip-flop on last night's show) and we were able to press our shorts in the morning off my premise that the Consumer Confidence was BS that would be quickly reversed and we made enough in yesterday's decline to finish the day with some bullish speculation. I don't mean to pick on Cramer but, as David Fry wisely points out in his chart, it would be nice if he just admitted he has no clue and people should just be cautious.
While we are still mainly in cash and just having fun betting against Cramer's sheeple, we went a little bullish on the Dow for the overnights (covering our long DIA puts) on the assumption that Obama would probably not have touted economic progress yesterday if they weren't expecting some good data backing it up. As I said to members before we even got the speech at 2:18: "It’s not the kind of thing you’d want to say if you knew there was some bad data coming up so I have to assume that we’re going to get an upward revision to Q1 GDP on Friday or, in the very least, jobless claims should be below 600K tomorrow so I don’t want to be short overnight."
One thing we did short is oil and we loaded up on the USO puts as they climbed higher ahead of an OPEC meeting that we expected would yield nothing but sound bites. That went about as expected and we had great fun in member chat this morning already shorting the oil futures as they raced up to a failed test of $64. I am really happy with our short oil position as it turns out we can add OPEC to the list of nations that are counting on other nations to pull them out of a…
by phil - May 24th, 2009 7:46 am
Time to get a little more conservative…
In Part 1 of this post, we talked about the potential long-term value of taking a chance on companies that used to pay dividends but don't at the moment. In addition to the 7 selections we had last Tuesday, I would urge members to keep on the lookout for additional prospects we can discuss as the long-term benefits of catching these stocks at the lows can be amazing! This was the same logic that led me to pound the table back in March on C, BAC, WFC, JPM and even the hated GS – stocks that have tripled or better in just 3 months.
We had a very easy time selecting those stocks as we were able to hedge our entries and our long-term logic was that, at those low prices, we could be fairly sure of producing a good option income even if they never restored the dividends but the kicker was the possiblility of owning, for example, C at $1.50 down the road when they go back to paying $1 per year dividends. Imagine having a year's salary put away on stocks that pay you almost a year's salary every year in dividends alone!
Don't worry, you didn't miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we just have to work a little harder at the moment. As I noted with our LYG example, there are still beaten-down financials that are worth a look and today we'll look at 2 more of our 21 Tuesday selections (one now, one later) and go over the trading plans for those positions. Note that the LYG trade ties up just $1,035 in cash to make (hopefully) $1,465 in year 1 with a commitment of $3,535 if you end up owning all 1,000 shares on Jan 15th.
By making sure you are on top of these figures, a person making $30,000 a year who has $5,000 in an investment account count take a modest 6-month gamble like this. If this trade pays off, $5,000 becomes $6,465 and 500 LYG shares are secure (about $2,500 worth) or, at worst, you have 22% more cash for the next trade. The next trade secures another potential dividend payer and if every 6 months you can secure just another $2,500 worth of dividend paying stocks for under $2,000 then in just 10…
by phil - May 20th, 2009 7:11 am
Fed days are always great fun.
Although it's just the minutes and not a policy decision, often the minutes of the Fed meeting move the market more than the decision itself. Sure a cynic may say that the reason for this is that the minutes are less meaningful and they are just an excuse for manipulators to create whatever market reaction suits their needs but we are no cynics here are we? On the last Fed Minutes Day (April 8th) the market opened up 1%, then fell 1% on a poor oil report at 10:30, then rose 1.5% by 1pm, then dropped 1.5% through the minutes until 3pm when it amazingly recovered and we finished the day up about .75%. Isn't that exciting?!?
It sure was exciting for us as we had grabbed the DIA $78 puts at 1:10 as the market rallied for no particular reason and we caught the dead top of a 150-point drop for a huge win. We'll be looking for opportunities like that today but we're not going to force it – that opportunity came because the markets were up irrationally so it was easy to play. My quick notes (at 2:03) from the last Fed release were: "Credit not easing. Concern over assets they are buying under TALF. Serious downward GDP forecast to -1.3% for 2009 AND 2010 Continuing deflation risk. Economic activity fell sharply and should continue to contract. Uptick in housing starts was a glitch, not a trend. Energy and Ags now being affected by slowdown where they were not before." As I concluded at the time "Not exactly rally fuel."
Nonetheless, the next day we jumped 250 points to 8,083 as "green shoots" were seen in the Fed's language. That was April 9th and we spent the rest of the month struggling below the 8,100 mark but punched over at the end and here we are, up 10% from the last minutes and looking for even greener shoots to break us over our 40% lines. What gave us a boost on April 29th was the FOMC non-decision where the Fed said: "Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March indicates that the economy has continued to contract, though the pace of contraction appears to be…