Archive for December, 2010

*** Merry Christmas! ***

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Best wishes for a most joyous holiday from everyone at the Stock Market Cook Book. Our regularly scheduled programming will return on Monday.

Last day to max-out on MAXY

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

This just came to my attention this morning and since this play must be executed today, I’m dashing it off right now.

On November 22nd, biotech firm Maxygen (NASDAQ: MAXY) announced two special dividends. The first dividend involves the stock of its subsidiary Codexis (NASDAQ: CDXS) whereby for every share of MAXY stock, the shareholder will receive 0.19 shares of CDXS. The other dividend is a one time cash distribution of $1.00 per share.

I’m not entirely sure what the cost basis for the stock dividend will be, but from what I inferred from the press release (which you should read if you’re considering this trade) is that the transaction date was December 3rd and at the close of that day, CDXS was trading at $10.00. Using that as a benchmark and given that the current price of MAXY stock is $6.85, your return on this investment would be [($10.00 x 0.19) + $1.00]/$6.85 = 42%. That’s fantastic! Using these numbers, your breakeven point would be $6.85 – $2.90 = $3.95. The stock hasn’t been that low in over two years. (The weekly chart shows strong support at $5.40.)

The ex-dividend date for both of these dividends is tomorrow, December 15th which means that the last day you can get into this trade is today. The pay date for the stock dividend is today (December 14th) and the pay date for the cash dividend is December 28th.

Here’s to an early stocking stuffer!

Special dividends unwrapped

Monday, December 6th, 2010

One thing about the market is how it never fails to continue to humble Dr. Kris, especially when she starts to think she’s pretty smart. Take the recently declared $4.50 special dividend by OptionsXpress.*

[Special dividends are fairly rare events but companies sitting on a lot of cash have been declaring them this year so that their shareholders won’t be saddled with the tax burden of an increased ordinary dividend next year (now a moot point as just today Congress has agreed to keep the Bush tax cuts for at least the next two years).]

On 11/29, the day of the announcement, the stock jumped from $17 to $18.67 before settling back down to the $17.30 area which is where I bought it. Along with the stock, I purchased the January 15 put for 20 cents that (I thought) would more than amply protect the position. Doing the math, I was guaranteed at least a $2 per share return (11%)— that’s incredible!

There seemed to be no downside to this trade, so why wasn’t everyone and his uncle piling into it?  Was I missing something?

I finally found the answer today on the CBOE website where they state in a memorandum that because of the special dividend, all of the listed options strike prices will be lowered by the dividend amount.** Oh-oh. That means in a blink of an eye my fifteen dollar strike shrunk down to a size ten-fifty, a fact my broker neglected to mention when I placed the trade. The real kicker is that my broker is OptionsXpress!  Thanks a lot.

Essentially I’m flying without a safety net but I’m not too worried. I don’t think the situation is all that dire. The stock will have to drop to $13 before I start losing money which means busting through several areas of support including a major level at $14. The risk picture will become clearer as the pay date (12/27) approaches.

Well, I’m still looking for that free lunch, but on Wall Street the only way to get it is still the old-fashioned way–illegally.

* This dividend will be paid on December 27th to those on record as of December 13th. The stock goes ex-dividend on December 28th.

** The options strike reductions are also in effect for the following companies that have recently declared a special dividend: IBKR, RLI, STV.