RF's Financial News

RF's Financial News

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This Week in Barrons - 7-27-2014

This Week in Barrons – 7-27-2014


Under Our Very Noses

"It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life." — Mickey Mantle

For the past several weeks we've been talking about the global picture – from the mess in the Ukraine to missing airliners, and from the holocaust in Gaza to the BRICS bank – all focused around the U.S.’s impending loss of it’s world reserve currency status.  Let’s change our focus back to U.S. based news and events over the past 5 years, and see if there is a discernable pattern:
-       The NSA        Originally – they NEVER recorded individual phone conversations, and now they are logging EVERY single communication made in the world.
-       The IRS          Originally they NEVER targeted anyone, and now we find that they were instructed to target anyone that disagreed with King Obama.  Add to this ‘the miracle of improbability’ – when Lois Lerner’s hard drive (along with 6 others in the IRS) crashed (all at the same time) with ZERO data recoverability.  (FYI - the odds of this happening ‘by chance’ have been placed at 1 in 500 Trillion.)
-       “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."          Sorry Ms. Pelosi.  YOU passed the bill, (and because we’re still bickering about it in the courts) WE still don’t know what’s in it.
-       John Corzine           Remember John and MF Global absconding with $1.3 Billion dollars of investor’s capital.  When questioned about the money he said: “I simply don't know where the money is".  And nobody went to jail.
-       GAAP             Remember GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures) – Obama now allows banks to report their assets per a computer model’s estimated worth, rather than what the market would really pay for them.
-       GDP calculations    In an effort to make things ‘look better’, an entire host of new things have been added to the value of the new economy – such as TV re-runs.  And the U.S. GDP still lost 2.9% in the first quarter of 2014.
-       QE 1, 2, The Twist, and now QE3            We lived through the failure of QE1, QE2, and The Twist.  All of these escorted in a Zero Interest Rate Policy that has distorted our economy and our markets for years.
-       Labor Participation Rate  While Obama tells us that he has engineered the greatest and fastest recovery in history – we have LESS people actively in the job market than we did in 1973.
-       Food Stamps           An all-time high, 50 Million people are on food stamps or related programs.
-       EPA Waging War    Never before has a standing President been actively behind rules created by a ‘Non-Elected Body’ that will put an entire industry (Coal) out of business.
-       Velocity of Money   VOM reflects the health of an economy because it demonstrates how fast money is changing hands.  The higher the velocity – the better the economy.  Our VOM is at 70 year lows, not seen since World War II.
-       Gold and Silver manipulation       At least everyone admitted it, and it made the news.
-       LIBOR manipulation           In what might be the biggest fraud ever uncovered, we found that LIBOR rates were being manipulated.

The list goes on, but that’s one heck-of-a-lot of financial insanity for the past 5 years.  As an aside: I’m not sure that anyone noticed but the ‘spring planting season’ in the Ukraine has been fairly dramatically disrupted.  The Ukraine is called ‘the bread basket’ for a reason – and it is because they normally would supply not only Ukraine, but also a lot of Europe with wheat.  This fall, there is not only a serious possibility of food shortages, but also shortages in Russian natural gas pipeline in-flows as well.

All of this brings us to the FED.  I remember saying a full year ago: “If the FED does not change it’s stance on tapering (or begin a new program of injecting liquidity) before the summer of 2014, then something major has changed.”  Well, only 3 months remain from the end of QE3, and they have announced no new plans.  You can point to the repos and the foreign institutions that continue to buy our paper, but that’s not a long term fix and honestly it removes the façade of the FED being ‘transparent’.  If these elements were to continue, Congress would scream that the FED didn't stop the stimulus – they just hid it – and that would be an ugly scene.  The taper combined with no new programs could be a final, desperate attempt to show the world that: The U.S. is finished debasing its currency – and there’s no reason to run to the BRICs Bank.  Heck, Ms. Yellen has stated that QE is going to end, and that rates will be rising sooner rather than later.  Of course (in the following sentence) she said that it’s NOT the FED's job to pop bubbles, and keeping rates low has prevented troubles in repaying debt loads that would have hurt the economy.

Honestly, everyone that I know has predicted that the FED will print into eternity, bring on hyperinflation, and an end to our current financial systems.  However, as a way out of this dilemma, I can see Ms. Yellen addressing Congress with the following fable: “The economy had healed.  Our accommodative stance was actually hindering faster growth, so the Federal Reserve decided to get out of the way and let market forces take over the recovery.  That was going well until [FILL IN THE BLANK] happened.”   The [Fill in the Blank] could be: (a) a hot war with Russia, (b) a chain reaction of banking failures, (c) a mass exodus of nations from NATO into the willing arms of the BRICs, or (d) the ‘WEATHER’.

If Ms. Yellen halts the taper or even reverses it by announcing some new policy to take over – then things are back to normal.  If Mr. Draghi finds a way to pervert the EU constitution, and to begin printing money like a mad man – then things are back to normal.  But if the FED halts QE and rates start to rise, then I have to guess that we're going to see some form of major event taking place.  An event the FED can point to as the cause for any market crash or economic recession.  And all of it occurred – right under our very noses.

The Market...

Small-caps tend to get lot of attention by traders and investors because of their tendency to outperform bigger companies over large markets cycles.  Many of these small-cap companies tend to trade with less dollar volume, are highly sensitive to domestic growth expectations, and can be seen as a good indicator of risk and investing sentiment.  I realize that everyone is focused on the S&P Index, but the reality is that many stocks in the U.S. have been struggling in 2014, with the small-cap Russell 2000 index being a key indicator of just how tough it's been.  The Russell 2000 has meaningfully underperformed the S&P 500 this year in a shocking way, even causing it to give back all of its 2013 gains.  The movement by the Russell 2000 is nothing short of being utterly brutal, and came out of nowhere.  Investors often equate a narrow rally to one that is close to the end.  The analogy of using a ‘staircase’ to invest upward, and using the ‘elevator’ to invest downward is not lost on me.  The complete collapse of the Russell 2000 is a humble reminder that advances can be given back in a moment's notice – when you least expect it – regardless of asset class, strategy, or market cap.

As if to add insult to injury, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday announced that it expects the U.S. economy to grow 1.7 percent in 2014.  This is a rate even SLOWER than it predicted a month ago.  U.S. GDP contracted at a 2.9 percent rate in the first three months of 2014 (the sharpest decline in 5 years) - dragged down by a weak housing market, a slower pace of restocking by businesses, and lower exports.  The IMF went on to say that these lower growth expectations will contribute to continued slack in the labor market for the next three to four years.  The IMF also warned that an aging U.S. population meant the economy would not be able to grow above 2 percent in the longer-term without significant reforms, including tax and immigration changes, more investment in infrastructure and job training, and the provision of childcare assistance, which could help lure more Americans back into the workforce.

Using the above as a backdrop, it feels like things are about to get interesting in ‘market land’.  This week we only had one up day, and the week ended quite red.  While in the big picture, one week’s decline is statistically insignificant, but some ‘internal’ market damage has been done.  Combining abysmal market volume with the performance of the Russell 2000, I’m seeing the market climbing higher on very low volume and fall ‘like a rock’ on high volume.  In fact, last Friday snapped a streak of 11 green Friday closes.  Was that just the market's way of not letting everyone make profits on a known pattern, or was it something more significant?    

We are (yet again) set up for a nice pull back.
-       Earnings season is winding down.
-       The Geopolitical scene is bad, and getting worse.
-       Our housing slump continues.
-       And currently, the only reason for this market to hold up is the upcoming mid-term elections.  

This week I’m looking for a bit more market weakness.  This market can fall quite a ways, and still be above some significant support levels.  So if you’re playing, please play carefully.


This week I would like to show you how to invest for income.  That is to say, make weekly income (cash in your pocket) – irrespective of how the market moves.  One of the best mechanisms to do this is via ‘Credit Spreads’.  The credit spread is flexible and can be used as a non-directional or a directional trade.  I use it as a consistent source of income.  Typically I look for stocks that don’t have a lot of price movement.  Credit spreads use the passage of time to generate profits.  Often you don’t have to do much with these trades, but put them on and let them work.  And (depending upon how you set the trades up), it’s one of the few trades where you can make money on at least 2, and often all 3 of the ways a stock can move (up, down, or sideways).  These trades can be set up to generate weekly, monthly or even multi-month income streams.

So what exactly is a Credit Spread?  It involves selling an option, and buying another option against it.  Now, before your eyes start glazing over, they are very simple to build.  Conceptually, if you SELL a ‘Call Credit Spread’ on a stock – you will always make money if the stock moves sideways, or down – and you could make money even if the stock moves up.  When you SELL a ‘Put Credit Spread’ on a stock – you will always make money if the stock moves sideways, or up – and you could make money even if the stock moves down.  So the odds are with you with Credit Spreads, and you’re SELLING them – so cash is hitting your account virtually immediately.  As the saying goes: “More homes in the Hamptons have been built on credit spreads than anything else.”

Below are 3 examples / recommendations of credit spreads for August.
-       The 1st example is a Put Credit Spread on Time Warner (TWX).  I would SELL the August $80 PUTS, and BUY the August $77.50 PUTS as protection.  The entire transaction would net me $0.35 per share – and would expire on the 3rd Friday in August.  Here we are saying that TWX will stay above $80 / share.  It’s currently trading @ $85, with an expected move of $4.50, and a buyout offer on the table.
-       The 2nd example is a Call Credit Spread on the Nasdaq itself.  I would SELL the $4,050 CALLS, and BUY the $4,075 CALLS as protection.  The entire transaction would net me $3.40 per share – and would expire in August.  Here we are saying that NDX would remain below $4,050 per share.  It’s currently trading for $3,965, with an expected move of $52, and a downward bias in place.
-       The 3rd example is a Put Credit Spread on Devon Energy.  I would SELL the August $73.50 PUTS, and BUY the August $71 PUTS as protection.  The entire transaction would net me $0.20 per share – and would expire in August.  Here we are saying that DVN will stay above $73.50 / share.  It’s currently trading @ $78, with an expected move of $3.70, and it’s in the ‘hot’ Energy Sector.

            TWX                August           -80 / +77.5                 Put Credit Spread (PCS)    $0.35,
            NDX                August           -4050 / + 4075          Call Credit Spread (CCS)  $3.40,  
            DVN                August           -73.5 / +71                 Put Credit Spread (PCS)    $0.20

Last week, other than the exercise in stock price manipulation brought on by Tourbillion Capital Partners’ Jason Karp against Mannkind Pharmaceuticals, and the earnings miss exhibited by Coca-Cola – the week went fairly well for us.  A lot of our old guard (FEYE, LNG, AAPL, NUGT) performed nicely, all the while the vast majority of the earnings plays also did well – including: CMG, BIDU, BIIB, DECK, FB, FFIV, GILD, ISRG, SBUX, and V.  We exited our position in DRTX this week.  Ever since we exited our positions in small-cap stocks (about 2 to 3 weeks ago), I continue to like bonds (TLT) and am beginning to warm up to oil (USO) and the precious metals – potentially in a flight to quality. 

My current short-term holds are:
-       AAPL (Tech) – in @ $92.86 – (currently $97.67),          5% increase / 0.75 mo.
o   (Options Spread Premiums not calculated into results)
-       ADSK (Tech) – in @ 55.25 – (currently $55.23),            0% increase / 0.5 mo.       
-       COST (Retail) – in @ $115.12 – (currently $117.55)    2% increase / 0.75 mo.
-       FEYE (Tech) – in @ $28.05 – (currently $37.15),          32% increase / 2.75 mo.
o   (Put Credit and Call Credit Spread Premiums not calculated into results)
-       FET (Energy) – in @ $30.53 (currently $35.41),            17% increase / 2.25 mo.
-       GME (Tech) – in @ 42.12 – (currently $45.68),              8% increase / 0.25 mo.
o   (Option Premiums not calculated into results)
-       KO (Beverage) – in @ $41.17 – (currently $41.00),      0% increase / 0.5 mo.
-       LNG (Energy) – in @ $57.40 – (currently $75.45),        31% increase / 2.25 mo.
o   (Put Credit and Call Credit Spread Premiums not calculated into results)
-       MNKD (Drug) – in @ $6.35 – (currently $8.78),                         38% increase / 3 mo.
o   (Put Credit and Call Credit Spread Premiums not calculated into results)
-       NUGT (Gold) – in @ $46.10 – (currently $47.16),         4% increase / 0.75 mo.
o   (Put Credit and Call Credit Spread Premiums not calculated into results)
-       TLT (Bonds) – in @ 112.32 – (currently $115.67),        2% increase / 0.5 mo.
-       TTWO (Tech) – in @ 21.10 – (currently $23.51),           6% increase / 0.5 mo.       
-       SLV (Silver) – in @ $20.17 – (currently $19.87),            -1% increase / 1 mo.
-       SIL (Silver) – in at 24.51 - (currently 14.13) – no stop,
-       GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 125.79) – no stop ($1,308 per physical ounce), AND
-       SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 19.87) – no stop ($20.76 per physical ounce).

To follow me on Twitter and get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm. 

Please be safe out there!

Expressed thoughts proffered within the BARRONS REPORT, a Private and free weekly economic newsletter, are those of noted entrepreneur, professor and author, R.F. Culbertson, contributing sources and those he interviews.  You can learn more and get your free subscription by visiting: <http://rfcfinancialnews.blogspot.com> .

Please write to Mr. Culbertson at: <rfc@culbertsons.com> to inform him of any reproductions, including when and where copy will be reproduced. You may use in complete form or, if quoting in brief, reference <rfcfinancialnews.blogspot.com>.

If you'd like to view RF's actual stock trades - and see more of his thoughts - please feel free to sign up as a Twitter follower -  "taylorpamm" is the handle.

If you'd like to see RF in action - teaching people about investing - please feel free to view the TED talk that he gave on Fearless Investing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2Z9I_6ciH0

To unsubscribe please refer to the bottom of the email.

Views expressed are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed in any way as an offer, an endorsement, or inducement to invest and is not in any way a testimony of, or associated with Mr. Culbertson's other firms or associations.  Mr. Culbertson and related parties are not registered and licensed brokers.  This message may contain information that is confidential or privileged and is intended only for the individual or entity named above and does not constitute an offer for or advice about any alternative investment product. Such advice can only be made when accompanied by a prospectus or similar offering document.  Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Please make sure to review important disclosures at the end of each article.

Note: Joining BARRONS REPORT is not an offering for any investment. It represents only the opinions of RF Culbertson and Associates.


Alternative investment performance can be volatile. An investor could lose all or a substantial amount of his or her investment. Often, alternative investment fund and account managers have total trading authority over their funds or accounts; the use of a single advisor applying generally similar trading programs could mean lack of diversification and, consequently, higher risk. There is often no secondary market for an investor's interest in alternative investments, and none is expected to develop.

All material presented herein is believed to be reliable but we cannot attest to its accuracy. Opinions expressed in these reports may change without prior notice. Culbertson and/or the staff may or may not have investments in any funds cited above.

Remember the Blog: <http://
Until next week – be safe.

R.F. Culbertson