As you get older you realize certain truths and realities and they aren't always warm and fuzzy.
One of those realities is that often many years of marriage come to an end once the children have left the household. Without the diversion of children always in need comes the realization that there is nothing of substance to hold together a failing foundation. Sometimes the realization is there, but swept under the rug as other events take precedence, but you always know that someday reality can no longer be delayed.
With my youngest child having graduated college, that appears to be the story that we've heard on multiple occasions from like-aged acquaintances and friends. Like most everything else in life there are parallels to the stock market.
We now find ourselves in a market faced with certain realities but without the diversions offered by European monetary crises, sequestration, fiscal cliffs, government shutdowns, quantitative easing, credit downgrades and budgetary deadlines. Those diversions conveniently removed focus from the very foundation upon which stocks find their fair price and to which markets have traditionally responded.
All that is now left behind is earnings and it's not a pretty prospect.
Perhaps in a manner similar to those in long-standing unions who suddenly suffer from improved judgment following a youth blinded by the superficial, the market went through a period of not being terribly discerning and always finding reason to go higher. Interpreting economic news to be something other than what it is has its counterpart in idealizing the idea more than the hard facts.
The reality that is being faced is that of earnings and the failing of earnings to support an ongoing rise in the stock market.
Early suggestions that this earnings season would result in a 6% increase could only be the result of optics as publicly held shares have diminished through massive stock buybacks. However, it doesn't take much insight to realize that the abysmal state of retail earnings has to have some meaning with regard to the ability of individuals to find discretionary spending within their reality.
As with the past two quarters with the big money financial centers reporting positive earnings, there is little reason to believe that will extend to the other members of the S&P 500 as they begin their reporting in earnest this week.
I'm prepared for the reality, but I still like the fantasy, so I expect to continue playing along this week, just a little more mindful of the obstacles that have a lot of catching up to do.
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).
Among those reporting earnings this week is Coach (COH), which had fallen 6.2% last week in preparation for what has become a near regular occurrence in the past 18 months upon earnings. While its most recent past has been to shed significant value when all is bared, the option market is expecting an implied move of nearly 10%, in addition to the recent weakness. While Coach has had its competitive challenges it has somehow been able to find a fairly well defined trading range, punctuated with some significant moves and periods of recovery or occasionally, decline. In 2013, I traded Coach for all earnings reports, three of which were through the sale of puts. Despite the dramatic moves following all of last year's earnings reports, predominantly lower, Coach has been and may continue to be an erratic position that offers acceptable reward for defined risk.
Cypress Semiconductor (CY) also reports earnings this week. Just a few months ago, prior to its last report, it did what many have been doing of late and offered some earnings warnings and saw shares plummet more than 20%, leaving virtually nothing more to fall. Like Coach, Cypress Semiconductor has a habit of seeing its share price gravitate back toward a set level with some regularity. Having already fallen approximately 4% in the past two weeks. While the option market is implying a 9% move this week as earnings are announced, I think that it will be much less pronounced and more likely to have some upside potential. After having shares assigned this past Friday, rather than selling puts, as I often do when earnings are at hand, I am considering the purchase of shares and sale of calls on only a portion of shares or at both the $10 and $11 levels to potentially capitalize on share appreciation.
Anadarko (APC) had a brief spike in price this past week, nearly three weeks after plummeting upon news that it might be facing a $14 billion judgment in a case involving a company that it had purchased several years ago. The spike came as Anadarko stated that it believed the judge in the case set damages that were punitive, rather than remedial and believed that the appropriate amount was more in the $2 billion range. It will likely take a long time to come to some resolution, but even at $14 billion there is certainty and the ability to move forward. As shares seem to be creating a new base I think this is a good entry point, as well as a good point to add shares to start the process of offsetting the paper losses from older shares.
Chesapeake Energy (CHK), while trading in a range of late, has also been trading with relatively large daily and intra-day moves. As a result shares enjoy generous option premiums that reflect the volatility, despite having traded in a very stable range for the past 5 months. Offering expanded weekly options I would consider selecting an expiration prior to the scheduled February 20, 2014 earnings report date.
Having already announced earnings UnitedHealth Group (UNH) added to its recent losses and is now down approximately 5% since its recent high. It appears to have some price support a dollar lower than its current price, which may be a good thing considering the unknowns that await as more news trickles in regarding registration demographics and utilization among newly enrolled health care policy holders. While I never move into a position with the idea that it will be a long term holding, I don't hold too much concern for that unwanted possibility as it's as likely to recover from any price drops as most anything else and could easily be justified as being a core holding.
The potential dividend choices this week share a "household theme" covering aspects of the kitchen, laundry room and bathroom, but represent different ends of the consumer spectrum when defensive investing is foremost.
While Clorox (CLX) and Colgate-Palmolive (CL) may be best known for consumer staples and nothing terribly ostentatious, Williams-Sonoma (WSM) offers products that are every bit as critical to some. Those who would sacrifice anything to ensure that they can purchase an oversized block of Mediterranean pink salt have money every bit as valuable as those that like bright white shirt collars and bright white teeth.
More importantly, at least for me, they have all recently under-performed the S&P 500 and all trade with a low beta at a time that I want to balance risk and still generate a reasonable income stream from premiums and dividends. While both Clorox and Colgate Palmolive have earnings reports due in the February option cycle, WIlliams-Sonoma, which tends to trade with more volatility upon earnings, does not report until the end of the March 2014 cycle.
Finally, for those who really seek reckless adventure, perhaps only frolicking in a landfill brimming with its products offers more excitement than considering shares of LED light bulb maker Cree (CREE) in advance of earnings. The last time I considered an earnings related trade in Cree I didn't recommend the purchase or sale of puts to my subscribers, but did make the put sale for my personal account. However, I did so only after earnings, believing that the 16% drop offered sufficient protection to make an out of the money put sale with relative impunity.
Like some other stocks this past week that continued to fall even days after earnings plunges, that's what Cree did. Rolling over the puts on a few occasions, eventually taking assignment and then selling calls until its final assignment at a strike level 5% higher than the original put strike price made it worthwhile, but more thrilling than necessary.
So unnecessary that I may be ready to do so again.
Traditional Stocks: Anadarko, UnitedHealth Group
Momentum Stocks: Chesapeake Energy
Double Dip Dividend: Colgate-Palmolive (ex div 1/22), Clorox (ex-div 1/27), Williams-Sonoma (ex-div 1/22)
Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Cree (1/21 PM), Coach (1/22 AM), Cypress Semiconductor (1/22 AM)
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 in APC, CHK, CL, CLX, COH, CREE, CY, UNH, and WSM