from the desk of Dr. Terry F Allen
September 25, 2023
Cold and Soggy
There were a few interesting earnings announcements this week, even though we’re in the quiet period for earnings reports (things start to ramp up again in three weeks). In fact, I had three bearish plays to choose from. That’s a good thing since we currently have three bullish and three bearish trades open, and I feel like the bears need a little more weight after the past week’s Fed-infected price action.
The trade this week is on prepared-food giant General Mills (GIS), which owns several iconic cereal brands along with such names as Betty Crocker, Blue Buffalo, Pillsbury, Progresso, Green Giant and Yoplait. GIS reported earnings numbers on Wednesday before the open that were filled with a lot of “buts.” Sales increased 4% due to higher prices, but volume was lower. Net income beat the consensus expectation but fell 18% from a year ago. GIS executives are bullish on their pet food segment but sales for the quarter were flat. Moreover, some analysts feel that consumers are reaching their limit on rising food costs. And GIS’s CFO said that the company’s operating profit margin will not improve this year.
All in all, it was not a great report, which is perhaps why the stock was hit with a few price target cuts. At least there were no ratings downgrades. Analysts on the whole are neutral toward the stock, while the average target price is in the $70-75 range compared to Friday’s close near $65.
Perhaps analysts would be a bit more skeptical if they took a quick glance at GIS’s chart, which shows the stock plunging 30% in the past four months. This descent has been expertly guided by the 20-day moving average, a trendline the stock has closed above just four times since mid-May. This resistance was evident the two days after earnings this week, when the shares failed to pierce the 20-day with early rallies. Note that the short call strike of our spread sits above this trendline.
If you agree that the stock will continue its downtrend after an uninspiring earnings report and remain below its 20-day moving average (blue line), consider the following credit spread trade that relies on GIS staying below $67.50 (red line) through expiration in 8 weeks:
Buy to Open the GIS 17 Nov 70 call (GIS231117C70)
Sell to Open the GIS 17 Nov 67.5 call (GIS231117C67.5) for a credit of $0.45 (selling a vertical)
This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $64.82 close. Unless GIS falls sharply at the open on Monday, you should be able to get close to that price.
The commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread. Each spread would then yield $43.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $200, making your net investment $156.30 per spread ($200 – $43.70). If GIS closes below $67.50 on Nov. 17, the options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 28% ($43.70/$156.30).
September 12, 2023
Health Bear … Sort Of
With no notable earnings reports this week, we’re turning to an ETF that’s done little of late. It’s the SPDR Health Care ETF (XLV), which holds such heavyweights as UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Eli Lilly (LLY), Merck (MRK), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Amgen (AMGN) among its top 10 holdings. This trade is a bearish credit spread, though I’m not particularly bearish on the sector. I’m not bullish, either. But that’s the beauty of credit spreads. You can be more neutral than directional and still collect a maximum profit so long as the short strike remains out of the money. It’s a forgiving strategy that caters to those who don’t have a strong directional bias.
I’m using a bearish call spread for this trade because the overhead 135 level has proven difficult for XLV to overcome throughout most of 2023. In fact, the ETF has closed above this mark only a handful of times since January. Recent attempts to take out 135 were rejected in April, August and July.
Although XLV currently sits below all its major moving averages, it hasn’t respected these trendlines for support or resistance for much of the year. So, even though the 20-day, 50-day and 200-day moving averages lie between the current XLV price and the 135 level, I’m not relying on their potential for resistance. This is more about the 135 level acting as a top in recent months.
Note that this trade extends into the start of the next earnings season. In fact, four of XLV’s top 10 holdings, including UNH and JNJ, report before the spread expires on Oct. 20. However, given XLV’s performance this year (down around 3%) and the fact that it’s gone nowhere for seven months, I’m not expecting earnings from a few XLV names to give the ETF a huge shot in the arm prior to expiration.
If you agree that XLV will continue its “meh” performance, consider the following credit spread trade that relies on XLV staying below $135 (blue line) through expiration in 6 weeks:
Buy to Open the XLV 20 Oct 137 call (XLV231020C137)
Sell to Open the XLV 20 Oct 135 call (XLV231020C135) for a credit of $0.40 (selling a vertical)
This credit is $0.04 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $132.06 close. Unless XLV sinks sharply at the open on Monday, you should be able to get close to that price.
The commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread. Each spread would then yield $38.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $200, making your net investment $161.30 per spread ($200 – $38.70). If XLV closes below $135 on Oct. 20, the options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 24% ($38.70/$161.30).
**We continue to beat the market in 2023. Don’t miss out on the profits … now you can save more than 50% on a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips. Just Click Here, select Sign Up Now and use Coupon Code D21M to start a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips for half off.**
September 5, 2023
With the market throwing off bullish vibes this week, we’re going with another bullish trade on one of the few notable names that reported earnings this week: athletic apparel maker Lululemon Athletica (LULU). The company reported solid numbers after the bell on Thursday, including an 18% revenue jump that surpassed the analyst estimate. Earnings also handily beat expectations. To complete the trifecta, full-year revenue and earnings guidance came in above the analyst estimate.
Analysts were seemingly thrilled with the numbers, as a slew of price target increases poured in. But many raised the price by only a few dollars, which is meaningless for a $400 stock. After the flurry, the new average target price stands only around 3% above Friday’s close. And there were no ratings changes, leaving the current consensus in the buy/outperform category.
So, while analysts appear bullish, nobody seems willing to bet the mortgage payment on LULU. I’m fine with that, however, as I hesitate to jump on a bandwagon that’s already full. I like to see some room for upgrades and target price increases.
Traders apparently thought differently, pushing LULU up 6% on Friday to an 18-month high. It also propelled the stock above a trading range that has captured most of the price moves of the past five months. Note in the chart how the 20-day and 50-day moving averages have combined forces near the 380 level. I expect these trendlines to rise above the top of the range around $385 within the next week or two. That should provide a multi-layered tier of support to keep the short put of our spread out of the money.
The other technical driver of this trade is the fact that LULU tends to stay flat for several weeks after earnings. That is, the stock doesn’t tend to stray too far from its initial post-earnings move. Given that we have around a 5% cushion combined with the trading range and potential trendline support, I like the odds of LULU staying above the key $385 mark through expiration.
If you agree that the stock will respect the top of its trading range, consider the following credit spread trade that relies on LULU staying above $385 (green line) through expiration in 6 weeks:
Buy to Open the LULU 13 Oct 380 put (LULU231013P380)
Sell to Open the LULU 13 Oct 385 put (LULU231013P385) for a credit of $1.05 (selling a vertical)
This credit is $0.02 less than the mid-point price of the spread at Friday’s $404.19 close. Unless LULU surges at the open on Tuesday, you should be able to get close to that price.
The commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread. Each spread would then yield $103.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $500, making your net investment $396.30 per spread ($500 – $103.70). If LULU closes above $385 on Oct. 13, the options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 26% ($103.70/$396.30).
**You can save more than 50% on a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips. Just Click Here, select Sign Up Now and use Coupon Code D21M to start a monthly subscription to Terry’s Tips for half off.**
Making 36% – A Duffer's Guide to Breaking Par in the Market Every Year in Good Years and Bad
This digital book may not improve your golf game, but it might change your financial situation so that you will have more time for the greens and fairways (and sometimes the woods).
Learn why Dr. Allen believes that the 10K Strategy is less risky than owning stocks or mutual funds, and why it is especially appropriate for your IRA.
Options are not suitable for all investors as the special risks inherent to options trading my expose investors to potentially rapid and substantial losses. Please read Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options before investing in options
© Copyright 2001-2022 Terry's Tips, Inc. dba Terry's Tips
235 Primrose Lane, Ferrisburgh, VT 05456