Within Range

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Includes: BBY, FAST, JPM, MRO
by: George Acs

Summary

An unexpectedly strong Employment Situation Report gave investors reason to send the market within easy reach of its all time high.

Federal Reserve members will be appearing to speak on 13 occasions in the coming week and may give some insights into policy decisions to come.

Earnings season begins this week and "Brexit" related guidance could offer a headwind to attempts to breach market highs.

I still have a fascination with license plates and the bumper stickers put on their cars.

The license plate thing these days is more geared toward trying to decipher the message contained on someone's vanity plates.

That often takes a combination of having a very open mind as to the intended grouping of letters and numbers and to the message.

Of course, the exercise isn't complete until then driving past the car driver and either giving them a thumbs up or a shoulder shrug.

The bumper sticker thing is more just a question of reading and then trying to imagine what the person in the car will look like once going past them.

For example, in my experience, those with the "Choose Civility" bumper sticker tend to be very rude drivers, but they don't look rude.

What both fascinations have in common is that as I get older, the distance that I need to get within range to be able to read the plates and the bumper stickers is increasingly getting smaller and smaller.

That brings some danger, but sometimes it's really hard to resist.

When I say "sometimes," I mean that I can never resist and it is the reason that my wife won't let me drive when we're together.

I need to be within range.

But basically, when it comes to those fascinations, as my eyesight may be withering with age, I seem to be willing to take on more risk to be within range in satisfying those fascinations, even as there's little in the way of reward.

As we are getting closer and closer to the next FOMC meeting, this past Friday's unexpectedly strong Employment Situation Report brought us closer and closer to an all time high on the S&P 500.

The coming week has an unprecedented 13 appearances by members of the Federal Reserve and we could get some insights into what various positions will be at the FOMC's upcoming meeting.

When Monday's opening bell rings we will be within easy range of both the closing high and the intraday high and that may be when the danger begins.

The danger is either missing out on a market that catapults beyond its previous resistance or getting sucked in as an investor afraid of missing out on the catapulting that fails to materialize.

Getting within range, however, often also gets you closer to headwinds that conspire to ensure you keep your distance. As we are preparing to bound past the upper boundary established by the S&P 500, this week also brings the start of another earnings season.

What may make the headwinds a bit more strong than usual, despite being against a backdrop of an increased possibility of the FOMC deciding to go forward and raise interest rates, is the recent vote by Great Britain to leave the European Union.

Why that may matter is that many are expecting that companies will begin to factor the unknown that awaits them in their international businesses into the guidance and no one expects anything but dour guidance.

With JP Morgan (NYSE:JPM) announcing earnings this coming week and with major operations in London, the risk is clear.

While a strong showing from the financial sector during quarterly earnings reports doesn't necessarily translate into across the board strength in other sectors or in the market itself advancing, weakness in the financial sector rarely translates into an advancing market as earnings season unfolds.

We are within reach, but it's not so easy to see what is actually ahead.

As usual, the week's potential stock selections are classified as being in the Traditional, Double Dip Dividend, Momentum or "PEE" categories.

I tend to be repetitive, but sometimes there's some value in doing so.

As a teaching tool, repetition can reinforce a lesson.

As a social or business tool, repeating a person's name, such as to a telephone support member can create an affinity and familiarity and friends do help friends, after all.

One kind of repetition that I really, really like, is the ability to serially buy shares of a stock or to serially rollover the short calls or puts on the stock.

This week, it's Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) again.

I have nothing of substance to add about the company itself. My focus is entirely on the enhanced premiums it continues to offer as the price of oil bounces between $45 and $50 on a very regular basis.

While doing so, I've now owned Marathon Oil shares on 5 occasions in the past 100 days, for a cumulative 65 days of holding.

What that means is that in between holding periods, there is an opportunity to take recycled cash that is derived from assignments and invest in some other premium generating position.

What I've especially liked about Marathon Oil is that the premium is so enriched that it can even be worthwhile to roll the short call position over if faced with assignment.

With earnings in just a few weeks, I may consider entering a position this time through the sale of puts, however. In the event that the position is in jeopardy of being exercised, I would prefer to roll the puts over.

However, if still short those puts heading into the week of earnings, I would probably look at rolling them over to an extended weekly expiration date to have a little more time for price recovery, while still enjoying some enhanced premium.

If still short those puts and approaching the ex-dividend date which will likely be later in August 2016, I would then prefer to take ownership of those shares, even as the dividend yield is only about 1.3%

While no one likes to hear grinding noises emanating from their computer's hard drive, Seagate Technology has been grinding higher after a brutal decline following lowered guidance that continued after earnings were released.

I took the occasion of the large guidance led decline to enter a position in the erroneous assumption that the shares would be relatively immune to the same bad news.

It turns out that double jeopardy is possible with stocks, even as our personal freedoms are not put to such risk.

While earnings are approaching, I think that the near term disappointment may be over and I'm ready to consider another Seagate Technology position, again through the sale of out of the money put options.

Unlike Marathon Oil, if still in a position to be short those puts as the week of earnings approaches, I would not try to roll them over using an extended option expiration date, as the ex-dividend date is expected to be the following week.

The real wild card is whether Seagate Technology can continue paying that very rich dividend if earnings come in disappointing again.

Currently, it can't afford to do so, but the question at hand may be just how much that had already been discounted and perhaps played a role in the price plunge of the previous quarter.

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) has neither an upcoming ex-dividend date, nor upcoming earnings.

What it has is some reasonable price stability, as it currently sits approximately mid-way between its 2016 high and low.

In doing so, it has been fairly impressive in that there hasn't been terribly much to drive consumers into stores for a "must have" product that hasn't materialized this year.

Best Buy reported better than expected earnings last quarter and I expect that it will do so again. But there are nearly 6 weeks to go until earnings and I like not being within range of those earnings at the moment, as the premiums are reflecting volatility, even as that volatility may have no real basis.

Among the nice things about Best Buy, if participating with call or put options is that there is some reasonable liquidity. That makes it much easier to be nimble and manage positions if faced with the need to rollover calls or puts.

Finally, I really like Fastenal (NASDAQ:FAST).

To me, it represents the American economy as well as anything. It is a place for individuals and other businesses to express their confidence in going forward with various infrastructure projects and the business is fairly immune to world events.

In fact, the strong US Dollar may give it particular cost benefit these days as its supply costs may decrease.

Fastenal stands to benefit as employment increases and as average wages increase.

As it is less likely than many to complain about the impact of "Brexit" on its upcoming sales and profits, it does report earnings this week.

Fastenal has been a notoriously volatile stock when earnings are at hand. Those shares are currently sitting at about the mid-way point between the 2016 low and high.

Fastenal only offers monthly options and this happens to be the final week of the July 2016 option cycle.

The options market is implying that the price move in the coming week may be approximately 4.4%. My expectation, however, is that the range could be as big as 9%, however, I have no idea in which direction those shares might go.

My expectation is that the direction may be higher and as opposed to typically selling an out of the money put contract, in this case I would either consider selling an at the money put or executing a buy/write with a July 2016 expiration on either of those strategies.

Part of the equation is that Fastenal will also be ex-dividend sometime early in the August 2016 cycle and if faced with assignment of shares in the event of having sold puts, I would rather accept the shares than attempt to rollover the puts.

In the event of a higher price move and having elected to execute the buy/write, I might consider the opportunity to rollover the calls, even if faced with assignment to the August 2016 option. That would simply constitute an effort to milk some additional premium from the position, in the anticipation of an early exercise by the option buyer in an effort to capture the dividend.

My current open lot of Fastenal is almost 18 months old.

Prior to 2015 I would have scoffed at its 14.7% ROI to date for such a long holding period, but compared to the 5.2% return of the S&P 500, not including dividends, I'm not scoffing.

My expectation is that an additional lot of Fastenal may again wind up being a longer term holding, but as long as those dividends and premiums accrue, even if shares are relatively stagnant, the return can be better than the alternatives.

Traditional Stocks: none

Momentum Stocks: Best Buy, Marathon Oil, Seagate Technology

Double-Dip Dividend: none

Premiums Enhanced by Earnings: Fastenal (7/12 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.

Disclosure: I am/we are long BBY, FAST, MRO, STX.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I may buy/add shares or sell puts in BBY, FAST, MRO and STX