Tech Stocks Under Fire!

Despite a modest rebound on Friday tech stocks remain under fire. From Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) to Tesla (NasdaqGS: TSLA) and now even Amazon (NasdaqGS: AMZN) are all under pressure for a variety of reasons. This is spilling over into the overall tech sector (see chart below) and even into the overall marketplace. Facebook is facing significant scrutiny regarding user privacy while Tesla continues to trip up with deliveries and debt issues and now even Amazon is under pressure due to President Trump’s direct attack on the online retailer’s sales tax structure. This was enough to send the major averages down to close out the quarter at or in negative territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) finished Q1at 24103, the S&P 500 (chart) closed the quarter at 2640, the Nasdaq Composite (chart) closed at 7063 and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) finished the first quarter of the year at 1529.

What was also obvious in Q1 was how volatility came back to life. For years the market was in a lullaby state melting up and setting record after record. Well the first quarter has swiftly reminded us on how markets can and should behave. Investors that placed money into mutual funds or passive funds over the past several years made out like a bandit with not a worry in the world. Abnormal stock market gains were in vogue especially after the election. Now with rising interest rates, the Federal Reserve reducing its debt load and the daily drama out of Washington DC, I think it is safe to say the melt up mode and daily records being set are in the rear view mirror. That said, market corrections are very normal and healthy and so is volatility at least for traders that is 🙂

Looking ahead and with earnings reporting season right around the corner, let’s see how corporate America fared in the first quarter of the year. This could be the catalyst that calms things down a bit but in the same breath should there be any slippage in earnings growth, we could be in for more even more volatility. Good luck to all 🙂

~George

Nasdaq - george mahfouz jr

Tech Stocks Hit The Brakes!

After going up in a straight line for months, the technology sector (see chart below) has reversed its upward course. After hitting an all-time high of 6341.70 on June 9th, the Nasdaq (chart) has given back 190 points or three percent while approaching its 50-day moving average. Nowadays it’s pretty rare to see a one percent pullback in tech stocks let alone a three percent retracement in a week. The media is now all over how tech stocks today are beginning to resemble the internet bubble. The difference between today and yesteryear is that the top five tech stocks – Amazon (NasdaqGC: AMZN), Apple (NasdaqGC: AAPL), Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) Google’s parent company Alphabet (NasdaqGC: GOOGL) and Microsoft (NasdaqGC: MSFT) have been responsible for a big chunk of the Nasdaq and S&P 500 (chart) recent gains. The problem with comparing today’s market with the internet bubble is that the aforementioned tech leaders all have incredible balance sheets while continuing to grow at a pace that supports their relative stock prices. One may argue that Amazon remains overpriced especially with its lofty P/E ratio.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would be concerned about a three percent pullback in any stock or index, but because of how strong stocks have been since the election, anything other than a flat to up day will get noticed. That said, without question all eyes will be on whether or not the Nasdaq’s 50-day moving average will get tested. The last time the Nasdaq (chart) did not hold its 50-day support line was last October. Since then tech stocks have tested and moved off of its 50-day average multiple times. 6085 is the current the 50-day moving average of the Nasdaq which is about 65 points away. I am not suggesting it will go there, but if it does and according to the way tech stocks have reacted to that particular support line, a bounce could be in the cards. Good luck to all 🙂

~George

Nasdaq chart - George Mahfouz Jr

No Fear Here…

Despite North Korea launching its seventh missile test of the year on Sunday and the White House seemingly in an upheaval, stocks continue to demonstrate no fear and continue their record setting ways. Today the S&P 500 (chart) and the Nasdaq (chart) hit all time highs. Without question this bull market is now even catching wall street veterans off guard. Q1 earnings reporting season is close to wrapping up and other than retail, most companies have reported in-line or outright beats in their earnings results, especially the tech sector. Tech has been on fire lately and this is due in large part of mega-cap tech smashing analysts expectations. Earnings results from companies such as Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL), Amazon (NasdaqGS: AMZN), Alphabet (NasdaqGS: GOOGL) and Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) has propelled the Nasdaq (chart) and these particular issues to all-time highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) and the Russell 2000 (chart) remain in striking distance of setting new records as well. It is truly remarkable how the markets have been able to weather the current political environment here in the U.S. and the geopolitical risks abroad.

From a technical perspective, the aforementioned key indices are in pretty good shape. The Nasdaq (chart) is the only one of the four that remains in overbought territory according to the relative strength index. All of these averages also remain above their respective 50-day and 200-day moving averages, yet another bullish sign. Volatility also remains at historic lows. So one may ask what about the “sell in May and go away” adage? From a technical standpoint, I do not see any reason why these markets won’t continue to melt up from here. Of course there is always the risk of a geopolitical event or the actual seasonal risk of assets taking a pause or retracing a bit. That said and whatever the case may be, it is undeniable that the markets have been the most resilient in years, if ever.

Good luck to all 🙂

~George

Is It Time For A Breather?

Stocks have been on a tear since the end of June with the key averages gaining close to 10% or more since coming off of their late June lows. That’s right double digit gains in a little over a month lead by the Nasdaq (chart) which is almost up 13%, followed by the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) up 12.35% and both the S&P 500 (see chart below) and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (see chart below) closing up nearly 10% in that same time period. Part of the reason why the tech focused Nasdaq has led the charge is the stronger than expected and recently announced quarterly earnings results out of Amazon (NasdaqGS: AMZN) Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL), Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) and Google aka Alphabet (NasdaqGS: GOOGL).

So the question now is after such dramatic double digit gains in the aforementioned indices and in such a short period of time, is it time for a pause and/or a retracement? As you all know by now, the first thing that I look at when it comes to accelerated gains in any stock or index is the relative strength index also known as the RSI. The relative strength index is a technical indicator to determine overbought or oversold conditions, click here  for the complete definition. The RSI is also one of the favorite technical indicators used by market technicians, certain money managers and even select algorithms have the RSI programmed into their model. That said, the Nasdaq has now hit the 70 value level of the RSI which is an overbought level according to the RSI while the other key indices are not too far behind. Please note that indexes and stocks can remain overbought for extended periods of time.

So what does all of this mean? Well I think the set-up now is a little spooky. Not only are we at or approaching overbought conditions according to the relative strength index, but we now find ourselves in the month of August. August historically tends to be one of weakest month of the year for equities. In fact, over the past seven years the key indexes have fallen each year during this time period. History doesn’t always have to repeat itself, but the current set-up bodes well for a softer month ahead. We will see. Good luck to all 🙂

~George

S&P 500 George Mahfouz Jr

Dow Jones Chart George Mahfouz Jr

Q1 Earnings Reporting Season Saves The Day, So Far…

Last week the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart), the Nasdaq (chart), the S&P 500 (chart) and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) all went into a tailspin closing lower by 2.4%, 3.1%, 2.6% and 3.6% respectively. Fast forward to this week as earnings reporting season shifted in to high gear and we have a different story. For this holiday shortened week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) finished up 2.38%, the Nasdaq (chart) closed up 2.395%, the S&P 500 (chart) gained 2.7% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed the week up 2.38%.

So why the reversal? Simply put and for the most part, corporate earnings are coming in better than expected. At the beginning of the week Citigroup (NYSE: C) posted better than expected results on net income of $3.94 billion up from $3.81 billion in Q1 2013. This was after Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) posted a sharp rise in its net income in comparison to last year’s quarterly results. Also this week, Johnson and Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) reported a net income of $4.4 billion an almost 8% increase over the same period last year. The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) reported their Q1 earnings booking 44 cents share which is what the street expected as global sales volume rose 2%. Furthermore, Intel (NasdaqGS: INTC) reported 38 cents a share in earnings which came in 1 cent above what analysts expected, this was enough to send Intel to fresh 52-week highs.  Yet another impressive earnings report came out of flash based data storage firm SanDisk (NasdaqGS: SNDK) which surprised the street and reported record Q1 results of $1.44 per share leapfrogging street estimates of $1.25 per share. This was enough to send the shares of the company up over 7% in today’s trading session.

As previously mentioned, earnings reporting season kicked into high gear this week and next week we go into overdrive. At the beginning of this upcoming week, we will here from Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), Wynn Resorts (NasdaqGS: WYNN), AK Steel (NYSE: AKS), Amgen (NasdaqGS: AMGN), Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE: BK), Cree Inc. (NasdaqGS: CREE), Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS), Gilead Sciences (NYSE: GILD), Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR), Intuitive Surgical (NasdaqGS: ISRG) and United Technologies Corp (NYSE: UTX). Mid-week earnings will come out of tech behemoth Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL), Biogen Idec (NasdaqGS: BIIB), Delta Airlines (NYSE: DAL), Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW), F5 Networks (NasdaqGS: FFIV), Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) and Qualcomm (NasdaqGS: QCOM). Closing out the week we will hear from 3M Company (NYSE: MMM), Amazon (NasdaqGS: AMZN), American Airlines (NYSE: AAL), Chinese search engine Baudi (NasdaqGS: BIDU), Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG), Celgene Corp (NasdaqGS: CELG), Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY), General Motors (NYSE: GM), KLA-Tencor (NasdaqGS: KLAC), Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT), United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS) and Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F). Of course there are hundreds of others reporting their earnings next week so we will see if the market continues to rebound from its mini sell-off earlier in the month. Good luck to all.

The markets will be closed tomorrow in recognition of Good Friday and both Paula and I wish everyone a very safe and healthy holiday weekend 🙂

~George

 

What Correction?

I think it’s safe to say that the bulls took back control of the stock market, at least for now. After what seemingly was the beginning of a meaningful market correction in late January, stocks closed the month of February at or near record levels. For the month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) finished up 3.96%, the tech focused Nasdaq (chart) closed up almost 5%, the broad based S&P 500 (chart) closed at a new record high of 1859.45 and was up 4.3% in February, and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) finished the month in the green by 4.6%.

So what changed from the apparent sell-off in late January to today? In my view, absolutely nothing. We still have a very accommodative Fed, interest rates remain near zero and a new Fed chairwomen that essentially emulates the former head of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke, and his policies. Hence, markets remain flush with cash with no where else to go but into higher yielding assets. This in my humble opinion is why equities snapped back from their January declines and why new highs are occurring. The bears are wondering how much longer can this go on without sparking a potential problematic inflationary environment. The bears are also growling about the bubbly type market we find ourselves in with valuations beginning to get stretched a bit and the apparent stratospheric $19 billion price tag that Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) recently paid for the 55 employee app company WhatsApp. Then you have electric car maker Tesla this week receiving a price target boost from Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) to $320 dollars, which is more than double what Morgan’s previous target price was. Other data supporting the bear thesis is margin interest remains at all time highs and the retail individual investor is coming back to life according to online trading discount brokers TD Ameritrade (NYSE: AMTD) and Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW) which are seeing a surge in trading activity. Some pundits argue that this is the type of market behavior that is conducive with market tops. All valid points. My take is both the bulls and bears have valid points, but personally I cannot bet against the power of the central bank and their incessant support of the markets. When and only when the asset purchase program concludes and when interest rates begin to rise, we can then have a different type of discussion.

That said, we can easily see pullbacks and corrective type actions in the marketplace like we witnessed in late January. When volatility does come back, I would expect a similar pattern of market participants coming in looking for potential bargains, and thus placing yet another floor under these markets. On the technical front, it appears that all systems a go with none of the key indices in overbought territory yet according to the Relative Strength Index (RSI) however, yesterday we did see a “quasi-reversal” of sorts in where we closed well below the sessions highs after the S&P 500 (chart) hit an all time intraday high. This reversal was apparently due in large part to the increasing tensions in the Ukraine late Friday afternoon, which is something I will pay close attention to next week.  In closing, whether you are bullish or bearish, make sure to always consider having protective stops in place with your positions which is designed to protect your portfolio against unexpected losses.

Have a great weekend 🙂

~George

Stocks and Indexes Continue to Set Records!

The month of October proved to be yet another record setter with a number of stocks from a variety of sectors hitting all time highs and the S&P 500 (chart) setting a new record high of 1775.22 on Wednesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart), the Nasdaq (chart) and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) all hit 52 week highs as well on Wednesday. This seemingly unstoppable bull run is unprecedented with gains of over 20% on most of the key indices year to date. I think it is fair to say a pause is overdue and would most likely be very healthy for the overall market.

In last month’s opening blog, I discussed how selling options premium can be beneficial in times of increased volatility, and in particular the “covered call” strategy. Today I would like to cover “selling puts” as a way to create options premium income. Unlike the “covered call” strategy where you must own the underlying security in order to “write or sell” a covered call, selling a put does not require you to own the security. However, by selling a put, you are potentially obligated to purchase the security should it close below the strike price you chose on its expiration day.

Let’s look at an example of selling a put on a given stock and like last month I will use Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) as the example. Facebook is currently trading around $50 dollars a share. In looking at the options chain on Facebook and its current pricing, the December $48 puts are bidding around $2.00 dollars per contract. If an investor were to sell 10 December $48 dollar puts on Facebook for $2.00 per contract, that investor would bring in $2,000 dollars in premium less transactions costs. If Facebook closes above $48.00 dollars a share on expiration Friday in December, the investor would keep the entire premium he collected. However, by selling the 10 put option contracts, the investor has the obligation to purchase 1000 shares of Facebook should Facebook close below $48.00 per share on expiration Friday in December. It’s important to note that before considering and implementing a “selling put” strategy you must be willing to own the stock at the strike price you sold the puts on and in this Facebook example, that would be $48.00. However, your cost basis would not be $48.00 because you received $2.00 in premium when you sold the puts, therefore, your cost basis would be $46.00 per share less transactions costs.

Please also note this is not a recommendation to sell puts on Facebook or any other asset or index. This is merely another example of how an investor can capitalize on selling options premium. In closing and as I always suggest, please consult with a certified financial planner(s) before making any investment decisions.

Have a great weekend 🙂

~George

Despite a Partial Government Shutdown, Stocks Rally…

No matter what has been thrown at this bull market over the past few years, nothing seemingly can slow it down. After the key indices finished the month of September with unlikely gains, stocks continued their upward trajectory today even though Congress couldn’t agree on a short term budget deal to keep our government fully operating.

For the first day of October, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) finished up 62.03 points, the Nasdaq (chart) +46.50 points, the S&P 500 (chart) +13.45 points and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) closed the day up 13.64 points. Pundits are speculating that with the government in a partial shutdown, Congress will now have to address the debt ceiling and budget at the same time which a likely compromise will come forward on both issues, hence, bullish for stocks. Not sure if I fully agree with that thesis. Furthermore, the bulls make yet another case that by having this budget and possible debt ceiling impasse, this will keep the Federal Reserve in full accommodative policy mode. Now this in my opinion would be a more bullish thesis. However, lets not forget we have now entered into the fourth and final quarter of the year and third quarter earnings reporting season is on its way.

Needless to say, the markets have a ton to digest over the coming weeks including Q3 earnings reporting season and I am expecting volatility to continue to increase. From a technical standpoint, the Nasdaq (chart) and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) stunningly hit new 52-week highs today and continue to outperform the Dow Jones Industrials (chart) and the S&P 500 (chart). The Dow and S&P did bounce off of key support levels yesterday and have resumed their uptrends, at least for now. In addition, both the tech-heavy Nasdaq (chart) and small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) are once again approaching overbought territory heading right into earnings reporting season, which could be of interest to the bear camp.

As volatility increases, one strategy that can potentially bode well is to sell option premium on select indexes or stocks in order to capitalize on the increased vol. This strategy is not for the novice and one should consult with a certified financial consultant before implementing any strategy, especially options strategies. But for the more advanced investor or trader, this type of environment is almost perfect to participate in a “selling option premium” program. Option premium is essentially income generated by an investor who sells premium to another party and hopes to keep the entire premium without having the option exercised. Let’s look at one example of a “selling premium, covered call strategy”. Let’s assume you own 1000 shares of Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB) at $50 per share. You can choose to “sell” a.k.a.”write” a covered call option on the Facebook shares you own. If you take the monthly October $52.50 calls that are currently trading for $1.20 and sell/write them against your position, you would take in $1,200.00 less transactions costs. This is the premium you would receive for writing/selling this covered call. If Facebook closes below $52.50 on expiration day you keep the entire premium as well as your 1000 shares. If Facebook closes above $52.50 on expiration day you still keep the entire premium earned, however, your 1000 shares of Facebook would be called away at $52.50 because you sold your rights to the stock you own to another party for $52.50. If this is the case, you would be a not only be benefiting from the options premium income, but also a stock appreciation outcome for in this example the initial cost basis for the Facebook position is $50.00 per share. So you would gain an additional $2.50 per share in profit. Please note that a covered call strategy is typically a bullish strategy and again this is just one example of how “selling options premium” can work. In closing, this is not a recommendation just an illustration on how an investor or trader can potentially benefit with option premiums. Please remember it’s always best to consult with a certified financial planner(s) before implementing any investment strategy.

Good luck to all 🙂

~George

 

It’s parabolic!

Stocks remain on fire in January as most of the major averages are hitting multi-year highs, and in some instances all time highs! For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) closed up 1.8%, the Nasdaq (chart) +0.48%, the S&P 500 (chart) +1.14% and the small-cap Russell 2000 (chart) finished the week higher by 1.39% and closing at an all time high. Once the S&P 500 was able to breakout and remain above the 1475 level, which had been a major resistance level, the money that had been sitting on the sidelines seemingly went to work. Also there has been a slow rotation out of bond funds and into stocks.

One would thing that a pullback of some sort is in the cards for equities. However, with earnings reporting season coming in better than expected so far, and the debt ceiling issue being pushed out, we may very well continue to see this upward trajectory for stocks at least in the short term. There could be one catalyst that may give the market a pause and that is next weeks jobs report. If the employment picture continues to remain weak, I would think that this could be a reason for stocks to take a breather.

In addition to the January jobs report released next week, we will also get earnings reports out of Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), Yahoo (NasdaqGS: YHOO), Ford (NYSE: F), Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN), Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB), Mastercard (NYSE: MA) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) just to name a few. Good luck to all.

Have a great weekend 🙂

~George

 

Nothing too spectacular, so far…

Earnings reporting season went into overdrive last week and quite honestly the markets were a lot quieter than I expected. For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (chart) gained a modest 0.36%, the Nasdaq (chart) +0.58%, the S&P 500 (chart) +0.43% and the Russell 2000 (chart) actually pulled back 1.18%. So far earnings have come in rather tepid with a few exceptions. Also, volumes on the key indices have been relatively low which is playing a role in the lack of volatility. Technically speaking, nothing is standing out either. The major averages remain above their 50-day moving averages and also remain locked in their multi-week trading ranges.

Next week the financial world will be looking at Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL) to see how their quarter fared. Apple has the ability to move the entire tech sector and the overall market for that matter, so I will certainly be keying into what the company reports financially, and what the tone is in their earnings conference call. Another highly anticipated earnings report next week will come from Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB). After a disastrous IPO, the street will be looking to see if the company has found its footing or if there is more downside to come. Let’s not forget about the other 750 companies that are reporting next week as we enter into the height of the Q2 earnings reporting season. Good luck to all.

Have a great weekend 🙂

~George