During the course of this year, I have been sticking to trading options on companies with little overseas exposure, great balance sheets and cash rich companies. Shares of Altria (MO) and AT&T (T) have been my two favorite stocks that I have been bullish on since the beginning of the year, and despite breaking analysts' price targets and my own, these are companies that I still trade deep in the money/in the money calls on. Even with the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 13,000, these two stocks are still making money for investors and have been little affected by overseas concerns.
I tend to be more cautious about stocks with overseas exposure, since unfavorable global economic news can take a toll on stocks and can affect the ability of share prices to continue to rise. While I am bullish on the overall markets, two stocks that I am looking at taking short term bearish stance on are General Electric (GE) and Facebook (FB).
General Electric is a stock that I have been bullish on since the beginning of the year, and the stock was showing a strong bottom around $15 in late 2011, and then, as the markets gained steam, General Electric followed, and has met most analysts' expectations. Fundamentally, General Electric is a solid industrial conglomerate that last posted earnings of 0.38 per share, which represented a 14% from the same quarter last year. General Electric has consistently met or beat earnings since 2009, as General Electric is made up of multiple layers of business exposure. Whether it's industrial, technology, finance or medical (just to name a few), General Electric is still an industrial giant that continues to deliver solid earnings results. In General Electric's last earnings report, the company acknowledged that Europe is still tough for General Electric in aviation and healthcare, but with the many divisions within General Electric, the company has the abilities to offset one area with improvements in another (energy and transportation for example).
Currently, with a price to earnings ratio of around 16.5 times earnings, General Electric in my opinion, is fairly valued, and the company has many positive fundamentals that make General Electric a good candidate for buy and hold investors. On the other side of the equation are the technical factors, and when investors take a look at a two year chart of General Electric, investors will notice that General Electric has met some resistance in the 20/21 price levels. I own shares of General Electric, and enjoy the current 3.27% annual dividend yield. While I enjoy the positive fundamentals on General Electric, I would rather add more shares/be a buyer at a lower price. For investors that own shares and want cheap protection the September $20 puts are going for $38 per contract. From time to time, I enjoy taking advantage of cheap protection just in case the markets have a repeat of last August, where both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw big declines. If General Electric can't hold the mid to high 20's range, then it's possible for shares to drift toward the $19 level, where I would want to be a buyer of General Electric calls.
On June 1st, I decided to join the Facebook bandwagon, and did my best to persuade investors to stay away from the stock until at least the company reported earnings, and to understand to possible catalysts that have the potential to drive shares higher or lower. Since June 1st, I still remain bearish on Facebook in the short term, as the early stages of growth in a company that just went public can be difficult to evaluate. Facebook is mainly dependent on their users, and one way to figure out how to evaluate users is to calculate how much each user is worth to Facebook. Social media website nextweb described an easy solution, and that was to take market cap divided by active users. At the time the nextweb article was written, each Facebook user was worth around $121, and now this amount is much lower, as shares have since tumbled Facebook's last quarterly earnings.
Facebook currently receives over 80% of their total revenue from advertising, and is still considered to be overvalued by many analysts and investors. When taking a look at Facebook, the bulls always point to the amount of active users that comprise Facebook. Facebook has over 950 million monthly active users and 543 mobile active monthly users that currently use the free website daily. Having a website where people can use for free can be exciting, but the main goal is taking and monetizing those active monthly users to spend money and click on advertisements. While free can be viewed as good, this doesn't always translate into a share price going higher, as Facebook's first quarterly earnings as a publicly traded stock were not impressive. Facebook came in line with revenue and earnings per share of 0.12, but cash flow, operating margins and increased costs and expenses have sent shares lower.
Facebook also has their first share lockup expiration approaching, and this could potentially add more fuel for the bears. Zynga (ZNGA), Groupon (GRPN) and LinkedIn also had lockup expirations that sent shares falling. In the short term, I am going to remain bearish on Facebook until the company can take ordinary users and come up with strategies to get users to spend more, while improving cash flow and operating margins. For a bearish options play on Faceboo,k I recommended a vertical put spread. By using a vertical put spread, investors can bring down the amount they want to risk on shares of Facebook by defining their risk and limiting losses.
Trade: 18/21 vertical Put Spread
Buy (1) OCT 21 Put = 2.10 (2.10 x 100 = $210)
Sell (1) OCT 18 Put = 1.00 (1.00 z 100 = $100)
Total Cost= 210 - 100= $110
Max Profit= ($21.00 strike - $18.00 strike= 3.00) (3.00 - Total Cost $110 = $190)
Days Till Expiration= 81
Breakeven= Put Strike Bought $21 - Cost of Trade $1.10 = $19.90