from the desk of Dr. Terry F Allen

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No Garden Party

Darden Restaurants (DRI) reported earnings this week that beat on both revenue and profits. But the owner of such popular chains as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille was beset by higher food, beverage and labor costs even as customers are more comfortable eating out again.

Analysts weighed in with a plateful of target price decreases, although there were no rating downgrades. This has been common for most stocks, as analysts re-adjust their targets amid the 2022 swoon. Nevertheless, some targets are now barely above the current share price, which does not inspire confidence about DRI’s near-term price action.

The stock reacted with a small increase on Thursday and then popped 3.6% on Friday. But most stocks surged on Friday, so it doesn’t appear that earnings gave DRI a boost. Although the stock is up 8% off a 52-week low hit last week, it is bumping into its 20-day moving average at the 120 level (red line in chart). The 50-day moving average lies overhead at the 125 level (blue line). Although DRI has managed to overtake the 50-day at times, it ultimately retreats into a tailspin. Given this history, we’re using a bearish call credit spread with the short call strike (green line) sitting right on the 50-day.

If you agree that DRI will continue its overall downtrend, consider the following trade that relies on the stock staying below $125 through expiration in eight weeks.  

Buy to Open DRI 19Aug 130 call (DRI220819C130)
Sell to Open DRI 19Aug 125 call (DRI220819C125) for a credit of $1.50 (selling a vertical)

This credit is $0.05 less than the mid-point of the option spread when DRI was trading at $120. Unless the stock drops quickly from here, you should be able to get close to this amount.

Your commission on this trade should be no more than $1.30 per spread.  Each spread would then yield $148.70. This trade reduces your buying power by $500 and makes your net investment $351.30 ($500 – $148.70) for one spread.  If DRI closes below $125 on August 19, both options will expire worthless and your return on the spread would be 42% ($148.70/$351.30).

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I have been trading the equity markets with many different strategies for over 40 years. Terry Allen's strategies have been the most consistent money makers for me. I used them during the 2008 melt-down, to earn over 50% annualized return, while all my neighbors were crying about their losses.

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