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Archive for February, 2013

More Pre-Earnings-Announcement Plays

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Last week I gave you an option play on Tesla Motors (TSLA) to be placed just before they announced earnings.  Since there were no weekly options available, the March series was sold.  By the end of the week, a small gain had been made in the portfolio but the real gains will not come until the March options expire on the 16th. 


Today I would like to tell you about two other pre-earnings-announcement (PEA) plays that Terry’s Tips subscribers carried out last week. 


More Pre-Earnings-Announcement Plays 


Herbalife (HLF) PEA Play:  In the Terry’s Trades portfolio when HLF was trading about $40 we bought 6 Jun-13 – Feb4-13 call calendar spreads at the 39 strike, paying $2.25 per spread. We paid the same for 6 more calendars at the 41 strike.  In retrospect, these strikes were too close to the stock price and did not offer a wide break-even range.  Since most big moves are to the downside, a better strike would have been 38 or even 37 instead of the 39. 


Our total investment was $2700.  After the announcement the stock fell 7.5% to $37, putting it outside the range of our strike prices.   We bought back the Feb4-13 41 calls for $.05, paying no commission, and sold the Jun-13 41 calls for $2.25, losing a total of $30 on the spread before commissions.  On Friday we sold the 39 calendar spread for $2.80, gaining $55 x 6 = $330, or a net of $300 for the two spreads.  Commissions amounted to $52.50, so our net gain was $247.50, or 9.2% on our investment. 


We felt that this was not a bad gain considering that we didn’t make the ideal choices of strike prices and the stock fell by a relatively large amount.  If we had bought the 38 strike rather than the 39 strike, our gain would have been $150 greater, or almost 15% total for the week. 


Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) PEA Play: In the Earnings Eagle portfolio, on Thursday, the day before the pre-market announcement on Friday, with ANF trading about $49 we bought 15 Apr-13 – Feb4-13 call calendar spreads at the 48 strike, paying $1.28 per spread. We paid $1.30 for 15 more calendars (using puts) at the 44 strike and $1.35 for 15 diagonals, buying calls at the 52.5 strike (the 53 strike was not available in April) and selling Feb4-13 calls at the 53 strike.  


Our total investment was $5859.  After the announcement the stock fell over 7% to $45.50, but remaining within the range of our strike prices.   We bought back the Feb4-13 53 calls for $.03 and the Feb4-13 44 puts for $.05, paying no commission, and sold Apr-13 44 puts and 52.5 calls as a straddle, collecting $2.55, losing a total of $270 on the two spreads before commissions.  We sold the 48 call calendar spread for $1.97, gaining $69 x 15 = $1035, or a net of $765 for the three spreads.  Commissions amounted to $187.50, so our net gain was $577.50, or 9.8% on our investment.


We have developed a set of Trading Rules for PEA Plays for Terry’s Tips paying subscribers.  They might be worth many times what a subscription would cost.

Options Strategy for the Tesla Motors Earnings Announcement

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Last week I gave you an option play on Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) that ended up making a 63% gain.  This week I am offering another pre-earnings announcement, this time on Tesla Motors (TSLA).  If you want to try this strategy you will have to hurry because the announcement is due after the close on Wednesday, February 20. 

Options Strategy for the Tesla Motors Earnings Announcement 

In case you want to know the details of my thoughts on this company which makes electric cars, check out my Seeking Alpha article – How to Play the Tesla Motors Earnings Announcement.  

In a nutshell, I think the likelihood of the stock going up after the announcement is very low.  To my way of thinking, it is hopelessly overvalued and even the best of news shouldn’t push it much higher (it has already soared about 50% since August on no more than hope that their new Model S will be a big hit). 

On the other hand, there are a large number of issues (including earnings) that might very well depress the stock.  Here is what I would do: 

With the stock trading around $37, buy TSLA June 39 calls and sell March 37 calls.  This diagonal spread will cost about $1.05 ($105) to place (the natural price is $1.15 but a lower execution should be possible).  There will be a $200 maintenance requirement per spread.  If TSLA ends up at any price below $37 when the March options expire on the 15th, they will be worthless and I will end up owning June 39 calls which surely should be worth more than $1.05 (currently $3.00 – $3.40).  I hope to exit the positions shortly after the announcement is made. 

I also plan to buy half as many June-13 – March-13 33 put calendar spreads (cost about $1.90) to protect me against a possible 10% drop in the stock after the announcement.  If you bought 10 of the above diagonals and 5 of these calendar spreads, your total outlay would be about $4000 (mostly the non-cash $2000 maintenance requirement on the 10 diagonal spreads). 

One disadvantage with these spreads is that it might be necessary to wait as long as 3 ½ weeks to get the maximum possible return, but I expect an earlier exit will be possible at a slightly less than the maximum gain.  I am aiming for a 25% gain on these spreads. 

We will be placing these spreads in one of our Terry’s Tips portfolios on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Terry’s Tips Subscribers Score Big Win With NTAP Earnings Play

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Terry’s Tips Subscribers Score Big Win With NTAP Earnings Play

In anticipation of Network Appliance’s (NTAP) earnings announcement after the close on Wednesday, February 13, on Monday the following trades were made when the stock was trading about $35.50:

BTO 15 NTAP Jun-13 38 calls (NTAP130622C38)
STO 15 NTAP Feb-13 36 calls (NTAP130216C36) for a debit limit of $.77 (buying a diagonal)

BTO 12 NTAP Jun-13 33 puts (NTAP130622P33)
STO 12 NTAP Feb-13 35 puts (NTAP130216P35) for a debit limit of $.82  (buying a diagonal)

These trades cost $2139 to place plus $68 in commissions for a total of $2207.  In addition, the broker imposed a $3000 maintenance requirement on the account (15 contracts at $200 each – the 12 put spreads did not require a charge because we couldn’t lose on both put and call spreads – it was essentially a short iron condor).

On Thursday, the morning after the announcement, the following trades were executed while NTAP fluctuated between $35 and $36:

BTC 15 NTAP Feb-13 36 calls (NTAP130216C36)
STC 15 NTAP Jun-13 38 calls (NTAP130622C38) for a credit limit of $1.28  (selling a diagonal)

BTC 6 NTAP Feb-13 35 puts (NTAP130216P35)
STC 6 NTAP Jun-13 33 puts (NTAP130622P33) for a credit limit of $1.39  (selling a diagonal)

BTC 6 NTAP Feb-13 35 puts (NTAP130216P35)
STC 6 NTAP Jun-13 33 puts (NTAP130622P33) for a credit limit of $1.50  (selling a diagonal)

The total collected from these sales was $3654 less $68 commissions, or $3586.  The profit was $1379, or 62% of the cash outlay for the spreads.

There is a question as to how much of the $3000 maintenance requirement was actually at risk since the long sides had 4 months of remaining life and would have a value no matter where the stock price ended up.  If we assume that half this amount was truly at risk, the return for the trades would be reduced to 37%.

Whether the actual return after commissions was 62% or 37%, it was a nice Valentine’s Day for the Terry’s Tips subscribers who participated in these trades.


Closing Out the Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) Spreads

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Closing Out the Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) Spreads

If you recall, on Monday I recommended buying the following two spreads while BWLD was trading about $77 in advance of Tuesday’s earnings announcement after the close:

BTO (buy to open) 6 BWLD Jun-13 85 calls (BWLD130622C85)
STO (sell to open) 6 BWLD Feb-13 80 calls (BWLD130216C80) for a debit of $1.40  (buying a diagonal)

BTO (buy to open) 4 BWLD Jun-13 70 puts (BWLD130622P70)
STO (sell to open) 4 BWLD Feb-13 75 puts (BWLD130216P75) for a debit of $.90  (buying a diagonal)

In my personal account, after sending out this recommendation, just to make sure these prices were still available, I bought the above spreads.  I paid $1.39 for the call spread and $1.35 for the put spread.

These two spreads cost $1374 plus $25 in commissions for a total cost of $1399.  There was a $3000 maintenance requirement charged by the broker, although I figured that the actual amount at risk was no more than half that amount because the long puts and calls both had five months of remaining life and would have value (the broker assumes that you don’t sell them as soon as you can and just let them expire worthless). 

So to my way of thinking, I risked about $2900 on these spreads although I had to leave an additional $1500 in my account alone for what worked out to be a single day.

On Wednesday after the announcement the stock had hardly changed from what it was at the open on Monday, $77, although it had move about $4 higher late Tuesday and opened about $4 lower on Wednesday.

At about 10:30 a.m. I sold the call spread for $2.51 and the put spread for $2.42, collecting $3274 less $25 commissions, or $3249.  That gave me a cash profit of $1850 on my adjusted $2900 at risk.  That works out to a 63% gain for the trades.

I would have made just about the same gain if the stock ended up at any price between $75 and $80.  If I had waited until Friday to close out the spreads, I would have made more if it fell in that range, but I will take a 63% profit for a couple of days any time.

This is the third similar trade I have made with pre-earnings announcement companies in the last three weeks, and all three trades have had similar profitable results.

Apple’s Fundamental Great Value May Soon Get a Gigantic PR Boost

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Apple’s Fundamental Great Value May Soon Get a Gigantic PR Boost

Apple (AAPL) has become one of the least expensive stocks in the entire market based on a fundamental value.  Subtracting out its $128 per-share cash value ($121.3 billion/939 million shares outstanding), its trailing P/E is a ridiculously-low 7.9.  Even if you do not adjust for cash, the trailing P/E is 10.88 and forward P/E is 9.43 according to Yahoo Finance.

The company pays a 2.2% forward dividend rate and the pay-out ratio is only 12% so there is an excellent chance that this will increase in the future or some other cash-distribution method such as the preferred stock proposal advanced by hedge fund manager David Einhorn is instituted.

The only way that such a low valuation could be justified would be if the growth rate slowed dramatically.  Surely, it will fall significantly from the nearly 50% growth numbers  that it has sported for the last five years, but the culture of this company is to continually come up with new products which will appeal to its growing base of satisfied customers, and it has barely scratched the potential in China (where Tim Cook said would be their largest market).  This year Apple will probably seal a deal with China Telecom (CHA), the largest mobile carrier by far in the world.

Here are the YOY growth rates over the past five years:

aapl graph YOY quarterly growth

aapl graph YOY quarterly growth


 Admittedly, the current growth rate is the absolute lowest that it has been for the past five years, but look what happened in November 2009 when it was at a similarly low level. The growth rate really took place from that point. Will history repeat itself? According to Zacks Investment Research, analysts expect the Apple’s growth rate in 2014 tooo be 15.30%.

When a company’s future growth rate is less than its cash-adjusted P/E, it should be considered to be a fundamental bargain. That is precisely where AAPL is right now.

There is also a potential technical indicator justification for buying the stock at this time: 

AAPL 50 Day Moving Average

AAPL 50 Day Moving Average 

One of the smartest investing decisions you could have made over the past year was to buy AAPL when it rose above the 50-day moving average and sell it when it fell below that moving average.  This strategy would have picked up the big upward move from late June to October and also picked up the huge drop since that time. 

If you check out the slope of the most recent stock price move as well as the 50-day average, you can see that they are on a collision course to cross over one another in the next two weeks.  This might be the perfect time to get in ahead of this important technical indicator before it actually kicks in.  Even if you don’t believe in technical analysis, there are so many people out there who do believe in it that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy once it is triggered. 

In addition to both fundamental and possible technical reasons the AAPL is undervalued at its current price, there is the possibility that a public relations coup of epic proportions might be on its way on this very day. 

On December 6, 2012, Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook announced that his company would shift manufacturing of one computer line from Asia to the United States. “Next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac,” Cook told Bloomberg Businessweek. “We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013. We’re really proud of it. We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it’s broader because we wanted to do something more substantial.” 

The announcement was generally discounted as a symbolic effort to improve its public image which has been tarnished in recent years by reports of labor issues at Foxconn, its major contract supplier in China. 

At the time of his announcement, AAPL was trading at $534, or about 10% lower than it closed today Monday, February 11th ($480). Over this same time period, the S&P 500 has gained almost 7%.   Clearly, a more positive public image doesn’t necessarily result in a higher stock price, at least all by itself. 

Analysts expected the amount of production that would be shifted to the United States to be negligible.  Cook stated that they would invest $100 million to ramp up to make Mac computers, a pittance compared to the $121 billion in cash they are sitting on (and which has been the source of multiple suggestions lately on how they can best use this stash). 

But symbolically, if a huge company like Apple shifts some manufacturing jobs to the U.S., joining recent moves by Caterpillar (CAT) and General Electric (GE), and other large companies (according to a Boston Consulting Group survey ), maybe more others might join the party and collectively reduce our unemployment rate that unhappily hovers around 8% these days. 

There seems to be a nationwide movement to “buy local.”  While this usually refers to locally-grown fruits, vegetables and meat products, “buy American” has been a long-standing slogan in our country.  Maybe Apple will figure out that the extra cost of hiring U.S. workers for some manufacturing jobs adds to the bottom line because certain segments of the population will reward them by buying their products rather than Samsung’s. 

It seemed unusual to me that an oft-repeated tag line scrolling across the TV screen on CNN today was that Apple’s Tim Cook would be at President Obama’s State of the Union Address.  There undoubtedly will be dozens of other more important “real” celebrities in attendance, but why did Tim Cook get all the publicity? 

Could it be possible that Mr. Obama will publicly recognize Tim Cook’s promise to return manufacturing jobs to the United States, and give some specifics of how many people might be employed or where the new factories might be located?  Maybe Mr. Cook will be appointed to head up a commission of other large domestic company CEOs to encourage other companies to join the movement to bring back jobs to America. 

Maybe the President will announce that Apple will be making the iWatch using Corning Glass in New York rather than Zhengzhou, or some other positive news which might reflect well on Apple as well as our nation. 

Will such publicity goose up the stock?  It didn’t when the initial announcement was made in December.  But maybe this time it will be different.  An interview on Bloomberg Businessweek is a fairly commonplace event, but a company being recognized in a State of the Union Address is something serious and potentially beneficial to a company whose luster has faded as the stock has plummeted from a high over $700 a few months ago to $480 today.


Options Strategy for the Buffalo Wild Wings Earnings Announcement

Monday, February 11th, 2013


Last week I wrote an article explaining why I thought that Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) would move higher after its earnings announcement.  I was totally wrong.  The stock fell by nearly $5. 

In one of my Terry’s Tips portfolios, I placed a diagonal spread which would do best if GMCR moved higher (as I expected it would at the time).  In spite of its moving lower, I closed out the spread the day after earnings for a 30% gain after commissions.  Not a bad return when you are totally wrong. 

Today I would like to propose a similar diagonal spread to be used on another company which will announce earnings next week (on Wednesday, after the close).

Options Strategy for the Buffalo Wild Wings Earnings Announcement 


I really don’t know much about Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD).  I have never visited one of their restaurants and don’t think I have ever seen one in New England.  But options on the stock are extremely interesting to me.  The Feb-13 options that expire on Friday, February 15th carry an implied volatility (IV) of 80 while longer-term options such as the Jun-13 series has an IV of only 36.  That means the February options are more than twice as expensive as the June options. 


I would like to buy June options and sell February options before Wednesday’s announcement. 


I learned everything I could about the company, and wrote an article for Seeking Alpha on it – How To Play The Buffalo Wild Wings Earnings Announcement Next Week.  The most important thing I learned was that some big options players were betting that the stock would tank after earnings (and Jim Cramer suggested selling it as well).  I thought the P/E was too high considering its growth rate which put me in the bearish camp as well.  All these ideas suggested to me that the stock was more likely to fall next week than it is to move higher. 


With that scenario in mind, here is the spread that I will be buying (for a $5000 portfolio) with the stock trading about $77: 


BTO (buy to open) 6 BWLD Jun-13 85 calls (BWLD130622C85)


STO (sell to open) 6 BWLD Feb-13 80 calls (BWLD130216C80) for a debit of $1.40  (buying a diagonal)  


If the stock stays flat or goes down by any amount by Friday’s close, the Feb-13 80 calls will expire worthless and I will end up holding Jun-13 85 calls which should have a value well in excess of $1.40 (they are worth $3.60 right now).  The greatest gain for this spread would be if the stock edged up to $80 and the February calls expired worthless while the June calls might be worth more than they are right now.  You can see how this spread can make money even if you aren’t right about how you think about the stock. 


The above diagonal spread would require a maintenance requirement of $500 per spread in addition to the $140 cost to buy the spread.  This is not a loan like a margin purchase would involve, but the broker puts a hold on $500 in your account that can’t be used for other purposes.  The reason for this maintenance requirement is that theoretically you could lose that much if the stock rose sharply and you had to buy back the Feb-80 calls, and then you did nothing for five months and let the June options expire worthless.  Of course, since the June options have five additional months of life, they would have a good value if you sold them next week instead of waiting.  This means that from a practical standpoint, the $500 potential loss is not really totally at risk because you plan to sell the June options next week while they still have a good value.  


Just in case I am wrong in my assessment of this company, I will also place the following diagonal spread:


BTO (buy to open) 4 BWLD Jun-13 70 puts (BWLD130622P70)


STO (sell to open) 4 BWLD Feb-13 75 puts (BWLD130216P75) for a debit of $.90  (buying a diagonal)  


There will not be a maintenance requirement on this spread because you can’t lose $500 on both this spread and the call spread placed above.  This put spread will do best if the stock falls to $75 and expires worthless while the June 70 puts should increase in value (currently $3.80).  If the stock moves higher, above $75, the February 75 puts expire worthless and the June 70 puts will retain some value because they have five more months of remaining life. 


If the stock ends up between $75 and $80, both spreads should make excellent gains.  Losses should come about only if the stock moves over 8% on the upside or over 10% on the downside.  That is quite a large range of possible prices for the two days the options will be held.  


If you are totally bearish on the stock you would only place the diagonal call spread.  If you are strongly bullish on the stock you would only place the diagonal put spread. It seems a little ironic that the best spread to buy if you think the stock is headed down uses calls while the best spread to buy if you think the stock is headed higher uses puts. But that’s the way it is in the crazy world of options. 

I expect these spreads will yield at least the 30% I made last week while being wrong about GMCR.  Just imagine how much you could make if you were right.

Options Strategy for the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Earnings

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013



After the market close tomorrow, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) will announce quarterly and year-end earnings.  I am quite bullish on the stock, and have written a Seeking Alpha article explaining why – Why Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Will Soar This Week 

(I apologize for its being so long, but as Abraham Lincoln once said in a letter he wrote to a friend, I didn’t have enough time to make it shorter.)

Options Strategy for the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Earnings

If you I have a strong feeling for a particular stock prior to their making an earnings announcement, there are a couple of strategies I like to employ.  I would like to tell you about one of them today.  It involves a little hedge just in case I am wrong (with this hedge, I won’t lose all my money). 


An aggressive strategy if you were very bullish on a stock would be to sell an at-the-money put in the shortest-term option series available (for GMCR, (that would be the Feb2-13 options expiring on Friday February 8, two days after the Wednesday after-close announcement).  Option prices in this series tend to escalate to about double or triple their usual implied volatility, making them very “expensive”.  Since you don’t want to sell any option all by itself (they call that naked selling because that’s how you feel whenever you do it, totally exposed), you must buy some other  put to cover yourself (and avoid a horrendous margin requirement from your broker).  If you bought lower-strike Feb2-13 puts, you would collect a credit on your spread sale (called a vertical put spread), and there would be a maintenance requirement of $100 for each dollar of difference  between the strike prices. 


For example, with GMCR selling about $48, you could buy a Feb2-13 43 put and sell a Feb2-13 48 put and collect about $2.  There would be a maintenance requirement of $500 less the $200 you collected from the vertical spread sale.  Your maximum loss is $300 and this would come about if the stock fell to below $43 from the $48 where it was before the announcement. 


With this spread, you are hoping that the stock closes on Friday at any price above $48.  If it does, both your long and short puts will expire worthless and you save paying commissions on closing out the positions.  You just end up with $200 (per spread, less commissions) in your account and the maintenance requirement goes away.  You would have made about 65% after commissions on your $300 at risk. 


What I do (the hedge) is a little different.  Instead of buying the lower-strike put in the same series, I go out to a longer period series.  I might buy a Feb-13 43 put (which expires February 15, a week later) instead of the Feb2-13 43 put.  It would only cost me about $.30 more (i.e., I would collect about $1.75 instead of $2.00 at the beginning), but if I wrong about GMCR and the stock falls instead of moving higher, this put might have a decent value when the Feb2-13 45 put expires in the money.  If the stock is below $48 at expiration, I will buy it back on Friday and sell my Feb-13 43 put at the same time.   


If the stock falls over $3, I will probably lose money on the original spread, but I will gain some of the loss back from selling the Feb-13 43 put.  It is not a perfect hedge, but it reduces the maximum loss from $300. 


I have placed this exact spread in my personal account – it is called buying a diagonal put spread.  I received $1.75 and hope to collect that much per spread on Friday (plus whatever I can collect from selling the Feb-13 43 put that that has a week of remaining life.



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