With word this week of the passing of a famed "end of the world" prophet, it may be logical to wonder "what now?"
Is there life after the destruction of the world?
As far as we know even after the most dire of events there is a future yet to come, but like anything in the future it can never be known, even if clues abound, but that won't stop the predictions.
The overwhelming opinion whenever thought of the end of Quantitative Easing was considered was negative, as it alone was thought to be propping up the stock market. As with those preparing for earthly catastrophe, investors of that belief took the opportunity to sell positions, because as we all know in the post-apocalyptic world, cash is king.
But the clarion call announcing the coming of the dreaded taper finally came and it turns out not to be the end of the world. However, as opposed to that now deceased self-anointed prophet, after two recent failed predictions of the earth's destruction, he decided to get out of the prophesy business. That's not likely to be the case for those who prophesied market doom in the event that the Federal Reserve punch bowl was depleted.
Those predictions will keep coming.
I don't know what challenges are on the near term horizon but I'm hopeful that there will be a sea of calm for a while, as the DJIA is again at an all-time high. Strictly speaking there is still time for a Santa Claus Rally this week, although Ben Bernanke may have provided the rally last week, helping the market recover from the depths of a less than 2% decline.
As usual, the week's potential stock selections are classified as being in Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum and "PEE" categories this week (see details).
I don't really know what the next catalyst will be to propel shares of Apple (AAPL) higher, even as there are renewed calls for $700. Ever since Carl Icahn entered into the equation shares have fared very nicely, despite having given up some of those gains over the past few days. What I do know is that for those that bought shares at their price peak the last day to have qualified for short term capital losses was nearly 3 months ago. At that time a sale would have resulted in a loss of about $225. However, another way to look at it is that the sale afforded as much as a nearly $90 tax credit for some investors on the Federal side alone. Adding that credit to the sale price brings shares above Friday's closing price. To a large degree selling pressure has been greatly relieved going forward. That's good enough for me to consider adding shares going into the final weeks of trading for the year, particularly since the last three quarters have predictably seen a rise in shares in the 6 weeks prior to its ex-dividend date.
Annaly (NLY) is one of the first companies I bought when starting to manage my own portfolio, but I haven't owned shares in more than 5 years. I don't think I ever really understood the strategy behind Annaly, as I've never really understood bonds, other than to know that bond traders are probably the smartest of all, even if performance doesn't always indicate that to be the case. For most, the appeal of Annaly has been its dividend, which was just reduced, as its stock price has fallen on hard times in the year since the passing of its co-founder and CEO.
Although I don't spend too much time looking at charts, for those that follow MACD as an indicator, Annaly's share price crossed over the signal line, providing a bullish signal. For me, the signal is this week's dividend, some share price stability and an option premium enhancing the dividend. Less leveraged and more hedged than in the past this may be a good time to begin interest in Annaly once again, despite a rising rate environment.
As long as I'm not going to spend too much time looking at charts, I may as well mention that Cree (CREE) did catch my attention, as it too crossed over the MACD signal line. Its price chart is also interesting as it demonstrates some significant and sudden moves up and down over the past few months. I think that the stock is poised for a sharp move higher and this may be one of those infrequent occasions that I don't immediately sell call options on shares, or may not cover all shares. Its lighting products are increasingly capturing aisle space and newspaper mention as incandescent bulbs fade away.
Despite still owning a much more expensive lot of Walter Energy (WLT), it has become a favorite stock of late as it has regularly bounced higher and then dropped lower, helping to create attractive option premiums at a time when those are rare finds. Of course, with those premiums comes significant risk. For those that have the tolerance, its shares can be rewarding, but I would temper some of the reward by greatly reducing the risk by using deeper in the money strike prices and short-term contracts, although expanded contracts may actually level out some of the day to day risk and still provide a meaningful premium.
Target (TGT) hasn't recovered quite as quickly from its recent earnings drop as many, including me, believed would be the case. A strong day Wednesday, undoubtedly buoyed by the post-FOMC buying hysteria, was quickly quelled the following day on news of Target customers having their credit card security breached. What I find encouraging is how quickly Target has responded and how they are using the incident as an excuse for an additional 10% discount in the days before Christmas, hoping to lure even more shoppers for price cuts that probably would have been offered even without the security breach.
YUM! Brands has continued to show great resilience to news, which invariably is greeted with negative reactions that prove to have been short sighted. Whatever the obstacle or whatever the China-centric thesis, YUM has shown that once people get a taste for fast food it's really difficult to break the addiction. Short of widespread public health outbreaks in China, there are few barriers to performance. YUM Brands, besides offering a nice option premium and going ex-dividend later in the month, has continued seeing its beta fall and may offer less risk than before if facing a general market decline.
Whole Foods which had been on a one way upward climb since its shares split has come down about 5% since its recent earnings report. It is embarking on a more mainstream expansion strategy while also reinforcing its perceived commitment to a higher standard, as it announced plans to remove a very popular yogurt brand from its stores. While the exit of Jim Chanos from a long position last month may be a signal to some, the performances of stocks he sold and bought since the filing date has been mixed, at best. I've grown somewhat tired of waiting for shares to retreat and now think that its recent earnings related drop may be all in store, especially in an otherwise flat or rising market. Like a number of other positions this week its MACD indicates a recent buy signal which may complement an otherwise weak option premium and dividend.
Campbell Soup may be an anachronism. Once ubiquitous in households, a panoply of alternatives, including those perceived to be more consistent with healthy lifestyles are available and come without cobwebs. On the positive side of the ledger, Campbell has an appealing dividend right after New Years, offers an attractive option premium, low beta and it too, has recently crossed the MACD signal line. Since you don't have to buy the product to qualify for share ownership
Finally, among the conversations these past weeks has been talk of the worst CEO of 2013. While Clarence Otis of Darden Restaurants was only a runner up he has fallen a long way in recent years. Shares moved up nicely several months ago when news of an activist investor's interest became known. Shares did less well after announcing disappointing earnings at its flagship Red Lobster and Olive Garden units. However, under activist pressure Darden plans to spin off its low growth properties. Their plan may not be enough to satisfy the activists and Darden may need to explore more measures, including exploiting its real estate holdings. The good news is that Darden goes ex-dividend during the January 2014 cycle and appears to be able to maintain that dividend.
Traditional Stocks: Apple, Campbell Soup, Darden Restaurants, Target, Whole Foods
Momentum Stocks: Cree, Walter Energy, Yum Brands
Double Dip Dividend: Annaly Mortgage (ex-div 12/27)
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.
Additional disclosure: I may buy, add shares or sell puts on AAPL, CPB, CREE, DRI, NLY, TGT, WFM, WLT and YUM