Archive for March, 2008

The Earnings Trap

Monday, March 31st, 2008

I’ve mentioned before that holding a stock over its earnings can be very risky. If you’re a long term investor, then perhaps you don’t have to pay attention to earnings dates, but by not doing so can be detrimental to your portfolio, at least in the short term. Witness the chart of Ameron (AMN).

Ameron reported earnings on Feb. 26th. You would think by the 25% one day price drop that earnings were ugly. Had they badly missed estimates? Were there accounting problems? Had the CEO and CFO absconded with corporate profits? The answer is: none of the above. In fact the company reported a healthy 24% gain in sales over last year’s quarter and a 14% jump in earnings to $1.07. So what was the problem? The problem is a combination of two things. Although sales beat Wall Street estimates, earnings fell short of the $1.30 estimate. Strike number one. This fact was exacerbated by the recent run-up in share price which reflected investors anticipation of good earnings news. However, their hopes were quickly deflated by the actual numbers thus contributing to the stocks quick and dramatic decline.

If you want another stock that is pooping out on good earnings news, look at the action in Cal-Maine Foods (CALM).

They reported before the market opened this morning. For the fiscal third quarter, they reported higher sales compared with a year ago and their earnings per share tripled, from $0.74 to $2.41. Wow! (As a note, they did not offer any negative guidance and in fact said that they’re going to start paying dividends.) In pre-market hours, the stock was trading up. Now, at the close, the stock not only gave up its pre-market gains, but is down over 17% from its intra-day high. This is the stock’s biggest one-day loss in a long time.

These two examples aren’t unusual in the least. As I’ve mentioned previously, the stocks that stand the most to lose from a less than stellar earnings report are the ones who have the most expectation built into them. They’re the ones who have become market darlings, so if you own some of those, you may want to pay particular attention to their earnings release dates and perhaps lighten up on your holdings before then. (Another way to minimize your risk is to write covered calls or buy protective puts.)

I hope this brief tutorial has been instructive. I want you to be armed with the knowledge that it’s in your power to protect your portfolio against potentially large losses due to earnings releases.

Catch a Falling Star

Friday, March 28th, 2008

In regards to yesterday’s recipe on Falling Star Stew, I’ve come up with some candidates that fit the criteria outlined in the recipe. To recap, the object is to find companies that have risen dramatically in a short period of time, have formed at least three peaks (four is mo’ bettah), and with the final peak height significantly above its 200dma (50-100+%).

I found three candidates that look like they’re starting to poop out and a slice through their 50dma’s could be imminent. They’re listed with their current price along with their peak percent above their 200dma.

BVN–Comp. Minas Buena.——–$71————-55%
MTL—–Mechel Oao————-$120————87%

Actually, BVN and MOS both recently sliced through their 50dmas on heavy volume and both are on a technical rebound. If they break back down below their 50dmas, that would be the time to put on one of the short strategies mentioned in the recipe. (Either short the stock or buy puts.)

The following is a list of candidates that have risen dramatically and are trading well above their 200dmas but have not begun to break down as yet. Keep these on a watch list. Note that all of the stocks below are optionable.

CF———-CF Ind—————$108————-56%
ANR——Alpha Nat.————–$43————-59%
SID——-Comp. Sid.————–$36————-71%
WLT—–Walter Ind.————–$63————-62%
OFG——Oriental Fin’l————$20————-53%
JRCC—James River Coal———-$17————-82%

That’s about it for today. I’ll keep these on a watch-list to see how they perform over the next few months. Maybe we can catch a few falling stars and put some profits in our pockets. That’ll brighten up any rainy day!

African Safari, Part II–A Brief Overview of Frontier Markets

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Yesterday I introduced the topic of investing in Africa and included a summary of a recent stock fact-finding trip to several small countries in western Africa. Now that you’re acquainted with the area, I’d like to focus today on the risks and rewards of investing in this region as well as tips on how to go about it.

What is a “Frontier” Market and why invest in them?

Most of the sub-Saharan African markets are termed “frontier” rather than “emerging.” To understand the difference, one has to first understand the concept of an emerging market. An emerging market, or EME, is a transitional economy, meaning they are in the process of moving from a closed to an open market economy while building accountability within the system. Examples include Russia and Eastern bloc countries as well as China and India. Emerging economies will implement economic reforms that lead to more efficiency and transparency in their capital markets. They usually receive aid from large donor countries and/or the World Bank or IMF (international money fund).

In contrast, a frontier market is even less developed. These countries have investable securities but are usually fraught with political and infrastructure problems. Most of the sub-Saharan countries fall into this category. Considering these risks, why would any sane investor want to put money in them? There are several compelling reasons why, among them being that there are frontier stocks that show stable growth, relatively low P/Es, low volatility, and offer stellar returns as well as portfolio diversification. The catch is that you have to be selective and if you can’t do that yourself, select a money manager who can. (More on that later). The reason that frontier markets are attracting investors is due in part to the rising price of commodities, improving infrastructure, increased emphasis on education (in some countries), and at least an attempt at political reform–all of which are contributing to economic growth and higher corporate profits. To be sure, political stability is yet a dream for some countries, but with the growth in education and the rise of the middle class, reforms are inevitable.

The opportunities for investing in frontier markets haven’t been lost on global investors. According to EPFR Global, a company that tracks fund flows and allocations globally, net inflows into African regional equity funds hit $650M in 2007, up about $100M from the year before. Since these markets are comparatively small, this influx of new capital has had an inflationary effect. According to Ryan Shen-Hoover (whom I mentioned yesterday), the P/E ratios of Zambia, Malawi, and Kenya have risen three to four fold in the past five years. Currently, they stand in the 15-20 range which still is quite reasonable. (In contrast, the P/E of the Vietnamese market is at 94; Bulgaria at 54; Slovenia at 42; and Romania at 36.)

Also, the US Government is getting into the act. Just last November, Treasury Secretary Paulson visited Africa and announced that rather than give aid directly, the US will supply up to $250M to jump-start three new African investment funds intended to boost development of its capital markets so that African businesses can more easily raise capital. The financing will be provided by the U.S.’s Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC). Millenium Global Investments, a private investment firm, was selected to manage the portfolios. (I couldn’t find out if these funds would be open to private investors, but if you’re interested, contact either OPIC or Millenium.)

How can I invest in these frontier markets?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to invest in these markets. You can invest in them directly but that can be costly and paper-work intensive as Ryan Shen-Hoover outlines in his recent newsletter ( The few funds and ETFs that are available to the small investor and that cover emerging markets include little to no frontier investments. (Some of these funds include the T. Rowe Price Africa & Middle East Fund (TRAMX), and the GAF which is the Africa and Middle East SPDR.) True frontier funds are found in the hedge fund world and are only open to high net-worth individuals. (As I mentioned yesterday, Ryan Shen-Hoover is opening his own African frontier fund and he’s allocated a limited number of spaces for the smaller investor.)

So what’s an interested investor to do? At the moment, there isn’t much one can do, alas! But there is a bright spot on the horizon–the ETN, or exchange-traded note. The ETN is a bond whose value is pegged to an index such as a stock, commodity, or currency index. Barclay’s is a major player in ETNs and so is Goldman Sachs. (Bear Stearns is too but who knows what lies in store for them?) Hope is that one of these major investment firms will create an ETN that is pegged to the African frontier market. Until then, it’s a good idea to at least be acquainted with the field so that when the appropriate investment vehicles arrive, you’ll be able to know if they make sense to you and pounce on them before everyone else does.

Tomorrow we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, but it’s nice to take an arm-chair vacation once in a while.

African Safari–Bagging Big Game in Small Countries

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

When I was a young girl, I was enthralled by a book called “African Hunter.” The book was an autobiography of a white African hunter and it opened with him tracking down a rogue elephant that destroyed a small African village. As I recall, he felled the marauder with an elephant gun while the beast was charging him. Wow! Now here was a real Indiana Jones! I whisked through the book like that marauding elephant and was saddened when the last page was turned. Each chapter detailed an exciting adventure where the hunter risked life and limb in dangerous pursuit of big, exotic game. Not remembering who wrote it, I did an Amazon search and found that it fits the description of a book written by Baron Bror Von Blixen-Finecke in 1938. The Baron was a Swedish dude who married his Danish cousin, Karen. You might know her from her pen name of Isak Dinesen. Anyway, the baron moved to Kenya and ran a firm of safari guides, often being the guide himself. So cool was he that adventuress and author Beryl Markham wrote, “Bror was the toughest, most durable white hunter ever to snicker at the fanfare of safari or to shoot a charging buffalo between the eyes while debating whether his sundown drink would be gin or whiskey.” You gotta love the guy.

I hadn’t thought of this book until recently when my friend Alice returned from a stock scouting trip to Ghana and the Cote d’Ivoire. The trip was organized by Securites Africa, an African trading and investment firm, and led by Larry Speidell of Frontier Markets Asset Management. Also on that trip was Ryan Shen-Hoover who has been investing in Africa for years and who puts out an excellent newsletter. (A free copy of his latest newsletter can be yours by signing up on his website: )

Why am I even mentioning the notion of investing in these small, highly volatile African countries when my focus is on stock strategies? For two reasons. One is that because of the baron’s exciting book, I’m especially curious to see if this continent is still as wild and woolly as I had pictured it; that is, do elephants still terrorize villages? And the other is more mundane: With all of this talk on emerging markets, is there gold to be mined in the African stock market?

This is a big subject and one that deserves more than a cursory glance. So I’ve decided to break it up over the next day or two and focus on different aspects of the African markets. Today I thought we’d address my curiousity: What is the “new” Africa all about? If you’ll take a look at Shen-Hoover’s excellently written and beautifully photographed trip account, you’ll see that Africa isn’t the grass-thatched huts inhabited by people with bones through their noses that I had imagined. Rather, it’s become very modernized (at least the countries that he visited) with large thoroughfares and gleaming skyscrapers. That isn’t to say that it’s not without many problems that plague much of the sub-Saharan countries, such as coups, economic sanctions, massacres, assassinations, and war. But Shen-Hoover is guardedly optimistic. He believes that if it wasn’t for the recent war in the Cote d’Ivoire, the country would be one of Africa’s hottest economies, and if by some miracle the highly controversial upcoming presidential election were to go off without a hitch, the country would enjoy a tremendous rebound. As for Ghana, Shen-Hoover is much more optimistic, citing political stability, infrastructure investments, and high commodity prices as being good for the overall economy despite a rather laissez-faire management attitude on the part of a few of the companies he visited. My friend Alice believes that the biggest strength of these two countries lies in the optimism and resiliency of the people themselves.

So, put on your safari hat, grab your elephant gun and let Ryan Shen-Hoover be your guide on an entertaining, informative, and eye-opening African safari:

Further Information:
Ryan and his partner, Rakesh Gadani, are forming a long-only hedge fund on listed African stocks called the Kivuno Africa Fund. Assuming the paper-work goes well, he expects to open it to investors sometime in May. So far, his fund is up 82% since March 2006 inception. Compare that with a gain of only 7% on the S&P. Interested investors can contact him for a prospectus at

Here are Ryan and Rakesh’s supplied bios, FYI.

Ryan Shen-Hoover. Ryan has a B.A. Sociology (magna cum laude) degree from Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. He worked as an advocate for communities affected by large dams in the southern African nation of Lesotho from 1997 to 2000. He continued this work upon returning to the United States as a member of International Rivers Network’s Africa Program. In 2006, he launched the Investing in Africa newsletter, a monthly guide for investors with an interest in African stock markets. He has traveled widely throughout southern Africa and is currently a Level I candidate in the CFA program.

Rakesh Gadani. Rakesh holds a B.Sc. Finance (summa cum laude) degree from Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois. He is currently a Level III candidate in the CFA program. He has been involved in the Kenya (Nairobi) stock exchange since 1990 when it was a small “club”. In 2002, he began to invest in other African stock exchanges. He is an avid reader and a keen follower of politics and economic trends. He has traveled widely within East Africa and currently resides in Nairobi.

Have We Hit Bottom Yet?

Monday, March 24th, 2008

I’m back from an extended (and much needed) Easter break and even though the hiatus only lasted for four days, I feel as though I’ve been absent for weeks. “Rusty” is the word that applies here. So, to ease myself back into the blogging mind-set, I’ve decided to do a brief market commentary today as opposed to my usual full-blown discourse on something that requires an inordinate amount of brain power.

When I don’t have an actual subject in mind, I usually am able to find one simply by perusing the stock charts. What really stood out today is not any one stock in particular, but rather the overall market action–the VIX in particular. You’ve probably heard the term bandied about by the CNBC talking heads, but do you know what it is and what it means? Chances are, most people don’t and I think they should.

So, what exactly is the VIX? The VIX is the CBOE market volatility index and is viewed as a measure of market uncertainty or market risk. The index is constructed from the implied volatilities of S&P 500 index options, both calls and puts. (The implied volatility is a result of the Black-Scholes options pricing formula and is beyond the scope of this discussion.) The VIX is viewed as a leading indicator reflecting investors’ expectations of future market uncertainty. Values greater than 30 correspond to highly uncertain markets (like now) while values below 20 correspond to less stressful or even complacent markets. For example, the VIX was range-bound between 10 and 20 during the recent bull market starting in 2003. The VIX finally shot above 20 last July which should have alerted investors that the market was running out of steam.

What is the VIX telling us now? Since last July, it’s been forming a triangle pattern, making a series of higher lows that bounce off the 200 day moving average (if viewed on a daily chart). VIX tops correspond to market lows and vice versa. During times of market instability, the VIX provides an inverse mirror to overall market movement. It has already made three bounces off its 200dma. Oddly (or not so oddly), these bounces have also occurred at its Fibonacci retracement levels. The next and last Fibonnaci level is at the 25.50 level which is where the VIX is hovering about today. If it breaks through this level to the downside and especially if it manages to break its 200dma at around 23, then I’d say the probability that the market will enter a bull phase is excellent. Just to be sure, I wouldn’t back up the truck until the VIX clears the 20 mark.

Enough about the VIX and Fibonacci voodoo. Is there anything else that the market is telling us? Yep. Today, the Dow Transports (DTX)–a leading market indicator–just cleared minor resistance at 482. If it can break through major resistance at the 492-500 level, then things will really be looking rosy. The other major market indices are also nearing resistance levels on heavier than average volume, so we’ll keep an eye on them, too.

Okay, if the market is indeed staging a turnaround, what should investors be putting on their shopping lists? In general, the leaders in previous markets tend to be laggards in the next. For example, commodities have enjoyed a huge run-up and although I do think they might have more upside, they’re beginning to look a little tired. Witness the 10% fall in gold in just the last week! The sectors that are starting to show signs of life are the following:

REITs — real-estate investment trusts which I featured last week
Retail stocks — Urban Outfitters (URBN), Nike (NKE), and Wal-Mart (WMT) are all posting new highs today
Railroad stocks— CSX and Genesse (GWR) are at new highs
Computer Architecture–the computer architecture ETF, the IAH, took a nice jump today almost clearing resistance; stocks in this sector that are looking particularly attractive are Ciena (CIEN), IBM, Cisco (CSCO), Apple (AAPL), and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

What about financials? Many of them have started to turn around, but I wouldn’t be a buyer yet. I think we’ve got more unwinding to do in the credit market first.

Well, that does it for today. Tomorrow I’m hoping to discuss the exciting and profitable field of emerging markets. Stay tuned!

Are REITs Right for Right Now?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

It seems as if I struck a nerve with Monday’s blog on REITs (Real-Estate Investment Trusts) because suddenly everyone is talking about them. Just a few minutes ago, CNBC reporter Matt Nesto did a piece on REITs saying that according to investment bank UBS, REITs deserve another look. The three reasons he gave are the following:

1. The unprecedented injection of liquidity by the Fed into the housing and mortgage markets. (The Fed just today injected $200 billion into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in an effort to ease the credit crunch in the housing market.)
2. In terms of pricing, there’s a difference in perception between the stock market and the private market.
3. REITs hold hard assets (buildings) so you can get a price on them.
He also gave the names of UBS’s favorite REITs: Boston Properties (BXP), Digital Realty (DLR), Essex Property Trust (ESS) (also in my covered call portfolio), Kimco (KIM), Macerich (MAC), Annaly Capital (NLY), Senior Housing Properties Trust (SNH), Simon Properties (SPG), and Taubman Centers (TCO) which is breaking out today. My two cents on the above: I’d stay away from NLY and DLR for the moment because of their recent volatility. I mean, with so many other good plays in the sector, why expose yourself to unnecessary risk?
And speaking of good plays, here’s a list of stocks that are either breaking out today or have recently broken out in order of dividend yield:

As I mentioned on Monday, REITs make a good addition to tax-sheltered accounts because of their generous dividend pay-outs and now is the time to buy them while the sector is in the beginning of its recovery stage. Of course, loading up on a bunch of REITs won’t help diversify your portfolio, but if you do select some, you can at least diversify among them. Each REIT has its own niche, spanning the sectors from healthcare, senior living, public storage, entertainment (movie theaters), shopping malls, industrial buildings, apartment rentals, student housing, and other various commercial and residential properties. Are REITs right for you? If you find they fit in with your investment philosophy, now would be the right time to add them to your portfolio.
Update on Monday’s REIT covered call portfolio:
On Monday I set up a covered call portfolio composed of six REITs that will all be paying dividends between now and April options expiration. I purchased 500 shares of each of the mentioned stocks at their closing prices and sold 5 ATM call contracts at the last bid prices. (Had I waited a day to write the calls I would have gotten much better prices.) Be that as it may, the total cost of the stocks was $174,930 and the money I received from the calls was $4,560, yielding a 2.6% return. (All prices include $9.95 commission/stock trade and $14.95/options trade.) If everything works out well at April expiration, my calculations show a total gain of about $11,900 giving me a monthly return of 6.8%–yay me! If I were to do this again I would weight the portfolio more equally in terms of dollar value instead of equal share value, FYI.

How are my picks doing? I’m so glad you asked. UDR broke out of its channel yesterday; Entertainment Properties (EPR), AvalonBay (AVB), and Essex (ESS) are breaking out today; and Mack-Cali (CLI) and Developers Realty (DDR) are nearing their breakout points. So far it looks like my covered call portfolio is going to work out quite well–yay me!

Quick Fed Straddle Strudel

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

I mentioned in my January 30th blog about the volatility following Fed interest rate decisions and how putting on a straddle before the rate decision can pay big bucks. This needs to be quick so here are my straddle picks:

On the SPY (S&P tracking stock):
More conservative but more expensive play:
Buy Apr 132 Call SFBDB @ 3.80
Buy Apr 132 Put SFBPB @ 4.25
Net debit = 8.05/contract

More risky but cheaper play (options expire this Friday):
Buy Mar 132 Call SFBCB @ 1.36
Buy Mar 132 Put SFBOB @ 2.02
Net debit = 3.38/contract

On the QQQQ (NASDAQ 100 tracking stock):
More conservative but more expensive play:
Buy Apr 43 Call QQQDQ @ 1.30
Buy Apr 43 Put QQQPQ @ 1.58
Net debit = 2.88/contract

More risky but cheaper play (options expire this Friday):
Buy Mar 43 Call QQQCQ @ 0.41
Buy Mar 43 Put QQQOQ @ 0.76
Net debit = 1.17/contract

If the Fed doesn’t lower by one basis point as expected, I think the market is really going to tank. Even if it does, it still might tank.

Place your orders and let’s see how this plays out. I think we’re in for a wild ride.

UPDATE at 12:45pm PDT
About 20 minutes before the Fed decision, I placed a limit order for the April 43 straddle on the Qs at 2.90 which was at the asking price. I had to cancel it at 11:13am, two minutes before the decision, because it hadn’t been executed! Good thing, too, because I wouldn’t have been able to sell the puts at the 11:35am market low, even though today’s put option volume is over 2600 contracts. However, had I played the March straddle, I most likely could have bought the spread and dumped the puts at the market low. I know this because my charting program shows me when these trades are executed. So, why did the March straddle work? Well, probably because today’s option volume on the March puts is over 68,000 contracts, more than 25 times the April volume.

I guess the lesson here is that you need a tremendous amount of liquidity to be able to execute your trades in a timely manner. Generally, I trade options with a longer time horizon–on the order of hours, days, or weeks instead of in minutes and seconds.

Had I been able to perfectly trade the March straddle, I would have bought the put at 0.75 and sold it at 1.00, and the call at 0.45 and sold near the close for 0.65. The net profit would be 0.45/contract for a 37.5% gain (0.45/1.20 x 100).

Unfortunately, woulda-shoulda-coulda’s don’t count, but there’s always a next time…and next time I’m trading the front-month contracts!

Covered Calls for Your Pot ‘O Gold

Monday, March 17th, 2008
In regards to last Friday’s recipe for covered calls, today I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and research some prospective covered call candidates for your retirement account. Well, if there’s one golden rule about research it’s this: It takes twice as long and is half as easy as you think it’s going to be. Blarney! I was hoping to be done by market close so I chug green beer and dance a few jigs at my local Irish pub, but I guess that will have to be put on hold–aargh! On the bright side, I did find some gold at the end of my research rainbow which will hopefully give you some ideas for your retirement nest egg.

Here’s the criteria that took me so long to research:
1. Find optionable stocks with dividend yields > 3%.
2. Make sure those stocks are not in a downward price spiral–that is, their charts don’t suck.
3. Make sure these stocks have liquid options. (Looking for open interest > 100 or so.)
4. Make sure these stocks pay a dividend between now and April options expiration (4/18).

Dividend stocks were selected for two reasons: you can write covered calls to gain income in your tax-sheltered account with the dual benefit of deferring taxes on both your capital gains and dividends. I like that concept.

I found six stocks that fulfill the above criteria. The bad news is that they’re all REITs. Warning: I have eyes in the back of my head and I know what you’re doing–you’re holding your nose and thinking I’ve just taken a dive off the deep end with cement-reinforced boots, but give me a second and hear me out. Sure, real estate has been in the toilet but the REITs have been holding up pretty darn well considering the current rotten market environment. If you look at their charts, the bad news has already been priced in. Lately, they’ve all been trading sideways with an upward bias–just the type of price action you want for covered calls. The major caveat here is that if you do buy all of these, Jim Cramer will slap you on the wrist for not being properly diversified.

For simplicity and space considerations, I’ve summarized the stocks on two charts. The first one summarizes dividend information giving current yields, dividend price, the ex-dividend date (the date on or before which you’d need to buy the stock to receive the dividend), and the date the dividend will be payed.

The second chart gives the expected returns on covered calls. Expected returns are derived from today’s stock closing prices using the option’s last bid. You could increase your return by placing limit orders someplace between the bid and the ask price and praying that it gets executed. (Options are sold at the bid and bought at the ask.) Note that commission costs are not included, and if you’re only trading one or two contracts, these costs will make a dent in your return figures. The way around this is to obviously trade more contracts.

That’s it for today. We’ll be checking in with this portfolio in the next few weeks to see how it’s progressing. May the luck of the Irish be with all your trades!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Sovereign Bank- An Inverse Head & Shoulders Pattern in the Making?

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Last week we discussed the powerful head and shoulders chart pattern along with a few recent examples. This bearish pattern is a sign of impending breakdown following an extended run-up in price. The formation is relatively rare and one that is much coveted by traders since it has a high probability of working. Even more rare is finding its opposite, but I believe I found one today. It’s pretty easy to spot this pattern after it’s already happened and what excites about this chart is that it’s still in process of setting up. This will give us time to see if it completes the formation and to profit from it if it does.

What is my discovery? It’s a chart of Sovereign Bancorp (SOV) which I found while persuing stocks in the beaten up financial sector.

An inverse head and shoulders formation is a bullish pattern which occurs after a steep decline in price. A steep decline is crucial to the setup and clearly we’ve got that. The left shoulder was formed on Nov. 27th on volume of about 10.6 million shares, the head formed on January 22nd on 9.7 million shares, and the right shoulder was recently formed on March 7th on volume of 6.2 million. Each successive formation must occur on decreasing volume, and that’s the case here. So far, so good.

As you can see, the formation is fairly symmetrical. The shoulder peaks occur right at the $10 level. The neckline is the line drawn between the shoulder crests, around $13.30. Today the stock is bouncing off its $10 shoulder support. If you’re short the stock, now would be a good time to cover.

So, when should we look to jump in with our long positions? Assuming the pattern doesn’t breakdown, we’ll look to go long just after the stock rises back to the neckline level and breaks through it. I’m estimating this will occur sometime near the end of this month or the beginning of the next. If it does, our entry point will be just above $13.30 with a price target in the $17-$18 range. (The target price is the neckline price (13.30) plus the difference between the top of the head and the neckline (about 4.6).) A weekly chart of SOV shows that it has a major resistance level near $17.25, so it needs to clear that first before it can head higher.

If this pattern plays out and you buy the stock just above the neckline, you can expect at least a $4 gain which translates into a 30% return on your investment. Fortunately for all you options players, SOV offers a liquid options playing field meaning there’s a lot of open interest in near the money strikes. Buying call options increases your leverage thus magnifying your return. Okay, so what options should you buy? Since it might take a month or so for the stock to reach its price target, buying the July 12.5 or 15 call options will offer the best bang for your buck. If you’re feeling extra bullish, you can also sell a bull-put credit spread (say the April or May 15/12.5) to offset the price of the calls.

Add this stock to your watchlist, set an alert for 13.30, and let’s see how this puppy plays out!

Update on Yesterday’s Heavy Metal Stocks:
JOYG broke its $70 resistance level today. Yesterday I got an email from my girlfriend who’s a VP at the company and she says business is going gangbusters and they’re in the middle of a hiring frenzy. Thought you’d like the heads-up.

Heavy Metal – Stocks that Rock

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

My analyst Dimitri works with fingers planted on the keyboard and his head plugged into his iPod with Guns ‘N Roses and Kiss blasting into his brain. He claims that the “music” helps him concentrate but I think he does it partly to tune me out. Ah, well…I can’t really blame his preference to heavy metal versus my rantings. I asked him if perhaps some soft jazz or classical wouldn’t be more conducive to concentration, but he just shook his head and gave me the same smirk that the teenage bag-boys in the grocery store give me. So what if I am a bit of a fuddy-duddy?

But it got me thinking that heavy metal might be a timely subject for today’s blog especially when I read this morning that heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar (CAT) projected $60 billion in revenues by 2010 compared with previous estimates of $45 billion. That’s a 33% increase in guidance! And it’s not just CAT–all of the stocks in the heavy machinery group have been performing well. Wall Street analysts have given the industry an enthusiastic thumbs up for the next several years at least, citing an increasingly voracious appetite for mining, infrastructure, and agricultural products on a global scale. Since the dollar is expected to decline at least until the credit crunch is resolved, companies with international exposure in these areas will likely fare better than their domestic counterparts, especially in a recessionary market.

So what companies can be expected to do well? Here’s my list of prospective candidates.

Agricultural Machinery
Deere (DE):
Deere manufactures a long list of agricultural equipment, from tractors and tillers to irrigation equipment. It recently purchased 50% of a Chinese equipment maker thus expanding its presence in that country. According to a UBS report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture expects 2008 farm income to be up 4% from 2007 levels and up 51% from the prior 10-year average. Jim Cramer praised the company’s CEO saying that Deere is well-positioned to profit from the continuing worldwide upgrades in farm equipment. The stock has been trading in a tight range since the end of January. If it breaks its $90 range high, that would be a signal to start buying up shares. If it breaks its previous all-time high of $95, then I’d look to jump in with both feet. The company’s next earnings release is May 14th and it does pay a modest dividend.

Lindsay Corp. (LNN): This company services both the agricultural sector with its irrigation equipment and the infrastructure sector with its traffic management and safety devices. It has wholly owned subsidiaries in Europe, Africa, and South America. Net revenues and income have been increasing dramatically on a year-over-year basis. The stock is trading 9% off of its recent high and right now it’s hard to tell exactly where it’s headed. If it breaks its high of $80, then I’d be tempted to step in. The company reports earnings on March 19th and it pays a small dividend.

Caterpillar (CAT): CAT is also a multi-sector play, providing heavy equipment and equipment rentals to all of the above mentioned sectors with emphasis mostly in infrastructure and mining. The stock gapped up this morning when the company upped its sales forecast. It also expects earnings per share to grow between 15% and 20% through 2012 due to “significant new infrastructure growth opportunities in the world’s emerging markets and a need for infrastructure reinvestment in North America and Europe,” according to the company’s CEO. CAT is expanding its presence in China as well as its service parts distribution network in the US. The stock has been in a decline since last August until this January when it staged a turnaround. Today it broke short-term resistance, but I wouldn’t jump in yet–wait until it surpasses the next resistance level of $77.50. The company reports earnings sometime in mid-April and it too pays a dividend.

Manitowoc (MTW): This company has three separate divisions, one of them being cranes, cranes, and more cranes. The revenues generated from worldwide crane sales account for 84% of company revenues with orders backlogged for over a year. Just yesterday it announced a joint venture with a Chinese crane manufacturer and expects its emerging market crane sales to hit the $1 billion mark in 2008 with total annual sales topping $4.1 billion. Despite a slowdown in US construction, domestic crane sales should remain strong since only 6% are related to commercial construction and a mere 1% to residental construction. The stock has been steadily rising since January but it needs to make a new high (above $44) before I’d be a buyer. Earnings are scheduled for April 28th and the company pays a small dividend.

Bucyrus (BUCY): Bucyrus designs and manufactures equipment for both surface and underground mining to mining centers on virtually every continent. It also provides replacement parts and servicing for its equipment. Just today Zack’s, the independent advisory firm, added it to its buy list citing an average earnings surprise of more than 15% for the last four quarters and an increase in this quarter’s earnings estimates. The stock has been steam-rolling straight up the chart, gaining 620% since inception in late 2004–zowie! (Too bad Zack’s didn’t rate it a buy back then.) Chart volume suggests that institutions may be lightening up on their positions as evidenced by strong selling on down days. The stock is currently trying to push past its recent all-time high of $112 and if it can manage that, then I’d become a buyer.

Joy Global (JOYG): One of my childhood girlfriends joined JOYG when the company was then called Harnischfeger. She’s now a vice president and the company is now Joy Global–both good things, particularly the latter since not only was the previous name a mouthful to pronounce but even tougher to spell. (It’s a word that might even stump the national spelling bee champion.) The company’s focus is similar to Bucyrus’s (mining equipment with worldwide sales), and both are located in Milwaukee (and Manitowoc is close by, too–go Badgers and Packers!). Sorry. Yesterday, the company not only reported stellar earnings but an order backlog extending into 2010. Had you bought the stock at its low five years ago, you would have enjoyed a nice 1600% gain on your investment. (Hm, next time I see my girlfriend she’s picking up the lunch tab.) The stock has been trying to punch through major resistance set by its all-time high of $70 back in 2006, and any breakthrough on decent volume would be a strong buy signal.

I guess I have to be grateful (dead) for Dimitri’s choice of music because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have thought of investigating these stocks. I hope Wall Street is correct in assuming that these companies will outperform the market over the next several years for I would like to see them all do well, especially the Wisconsin-based ones. As a native-born cheesehead, I’d like the state to be known for something more than beer, brats, tacky foam hats, and the Packers, not that there’s anything wrong with that (except for the foam hats–they’re just plain embarrassing).

“I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night…and party everyday… ” Dimitri’s music is starting to get to me–help!