August 14, 2019

Global Market Comments
August 14, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(CRM), (FB), (M), (VIX)

How to Handle the Friday, August 16 Options Expiration

Followers of the Mad Hedge Technology Letter have the good fortune to own three deep in-the-money options position that expires on Friday, August 16, and I just want to explain to the newbies how to best maximize their profits.

This involves the:

the Salesforce (CRM) August 2019 $125-$130 in-the-money vertical BULL CALL spread at $4.50 which will expire at $5.00

the Macy’s (M) August 2019 $23-$25 in-the-money vertical BEAR PUT spread at $1.74 which will expire at $2.00

the Facebook (FB) August 2019 $167.50-$172.50 in-the-money vertical BULL CALL spread at $4.50 which will expire at $5.00

The total profit on all three positions will increase the value of our $100,000 model trading portfolio by 3.68%, or $3,680. This position only became possible due to the extreme volatility (VIX) seen in the market in recent weeks.

Provided that we don’t have a monster “RISK OFF” move in the market this week (more failure of the China trade talks? War with Iran? A massacre in Hong Kong?) which causes stocks to collapse and volatility to rocket, these positions should expire at its maximum profit points. So far, so good.

I’ll do the math for you on the Salesforce (CRM) position. Your profit can be calculated as follows:

Profit: $5.00 expiration value – $4.50 cost = $0.50 net profit

(22 contracts X 100 shares per option X $0.50 net profit)

= $1,100 or 11.11% in 7 trading days.

One of the reasons that I run these positions into expiration is that with volatility high, and therefore the implied volatility on the options, we get paid much more to run these into expiration than we have in the past.

Many of you have already emailed me asking what to do with these winning positions.

The answer is very simple. You take your left hand, grab your right wrist, pull it behind your neck, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

You don’t have to do anything.

Your broker (are they still called that?) will automatically use your long position to cover your short position, canceling out the total holdings.

The entire profit will be credited to your account on Monday morning August 19 and the margin freed up.

Some firms charge you a modest $10 or $15 fee for performing this service.

If you don’t see the cash show up in your account on Monday, get on the blower immediately and find it.

Although the expiration process is now supposed to be fully automated, mistakes occasionally do occur. Better to sort out any confusion before losses ensue.

If you want to wimp out and close the position before the expiration, it may be expensive to do so. You can probably unload them pennies below their maximum expiration value.

Keep in mind that the liquidity in the options market disappears, and the spreads substantially widen when a security has only hours or minutes until expiration on Friday. So, if you plan to exit, do so well before the final expiration at the Friday market close.

This is known in the trade as the “expiration risk.”

One way or the other, I’m sure you’ll do OK as long as I am looking over your shoulder, as I will be, always. Think of me as your trading guardian angel.

I am going to hang back and wait for good entry points before jumping back in. It’s all about keeping that “Buy low, sell high” thing going.

I’m looking to cherry-pick my new positions going into the next quarter end.

Take your winnings and go out and buy yourself a well-earned dinner. Or use it to put a down payment on a long cruise.

Well done, and on to the next trade.


Sometimes the Old Tricks Work the Best

July 24, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 24, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(AAPL), (CRM), (MSFT), (FB), (AMZN), (GOOGL)

Ciao Silicon Valley

Bridgewater Associates Founder Ray Dalio carefully articulates an economic landscape in which the unrelenting chase for short-term tech profits finally catches up meaningfully with the gyrations of tech shares.

All of this could come home to roost and the early manifestations can be found in the housing migratory trends.

The robust housing demand, lack of housing supply, mixed with the avalanche of inquisitive tech money will propel these housing markets to new heights and this phenomenon is happening as we speak.

Salesforce Founder and CEO Marc Benioff has lamented that San Francisco, where ironically he is from, is a diabolical “train wreck” and urged fellow tech CEOs to “walk down the street” and see it with their own eyes to observe the numerous homeless encampments dotted around the city limits.

The leader of Salesforce doesn’t mince his words when he talks and beelines to the heart of the issues.

After relinquishing some of his CEO duties to newly anointed Co-CEO Keith Block, Benioff will have the operational time and a wealth of resources to get on top of the pulse of not only tech issues but bigger picture stuff and he now has a mouthpiece for it with Time Magazine which he and his wife recently bought.

In condemning large swaths of the beneficiaries of the Silicon Valley ethos, he has signaled that it won’t be smooth sailing forever.

In tech wonderland, and he urged companies to transform their business model if they are irresponsible with user data.

The tech lash could get messier this year because companies that go rogue with personal data will face a cringeworthy reckoning as the techlash fury seeps into government policy and the social stigma worsens.

I have walked around the streets of San Francisco myself.

Places around Powell Bart station close to the Tenderloin district are eyesores littered with used syringes that lay in the gutter.

South of Market Street isn’t a place I would want to barbecue on a terrace either.

Summing it up, the unlimited tech talent reservoir that Silicon Valley gorged on isn’t flowing anymore because people don’t want to live there now.

This tech talent, equipped with heart-tugging stories from siblings and anecdotes from classmates getting shafted by the San Francisco dream, has recently put the Bay Area in the rear-view mirror for many who would have stayed if it were 20 years ago.

This is exactly what Apple’s $1 billion investment into a new tech campus in Austin, Texas and Amazon adding 500 employees in Nashville, Tennessee are all about.

Apple also added numbers in San Diego, Atlanta, Culver City, and Boulder just to name a few.

Apple currently employs 90,000 people in 50 states and is in the works to create 20,000 more jobs in the US by 2023.

Most of these new jobs won’t be in Silicon Valley.

Since the tech talent isn’t giddy-upping into Silicon Valley anymore, tech firms must get off their saddle and go find them.

The tables have turned but that is what happens when the heart of western tech becomes unlivable to the average tech worker earning $150,000 per year.

Driving out young people who envision a long-term future elsewhere than the San Francisco Bay Area forces Silicon Valley to adapt to the new patterns revealing themselves.

Sacramento has experienced a dizzying rise of newcomers from the Bay Area itself.

Some are even commuting, making that 60-mile jaunt past Davis, but that will give way to entire tech operations moving to the state capitol.

Millennials are reaching that age of family formation and they are fleeing to places that are affordable and possible to become a new home buyer.

These are some of the practical issues that tech has failed to embrace and to maintain the furious pace of growth that investors’ capricious expectations harbor.

Silicon Valley will have to become more practical adding a dash of empathy as well instead of just going by the raw and heartless data.

We aren’t robots yet, and much of the world still augurs to emotional decisions and disregards the empirical data.

But, instead of physical offices being planted in the Bay Area, the tech industry will heed way to the “spirit” of Silicon Valley with offices in far-flung places.

And remember that all of these new tech talent strongholds will need housing, and housing that an IT worker making $150,000 per year desires.

No wonder why San Jose real estate has dropped in the past year, people and their paychecks are on the way out.



July 19, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 19, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(CLOUD 101)
(AMZN), (MSFT), (GOOGL), (DOCU), (CRM), (ZS)

July 12, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 12, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(OKTA), (ZS), (CRM), (AMZN)

Cloud Security on the March

Take a look at these beauties that I recommended at the beginning of December 2018.

At that time, Okta (OKTA) was trading at $62 and Zscaler (ZS) was at $40 on the button – fast forward to today and Okta is now over $136 and Zscaler victoriously sitting at $82.

Oh, how do times change!

That was my reaction watching their performance for the past 7 months giving belief to my assessment that second-tier cloud companies will have a field day this year.

Cloud companies aren’t going away anytime soon, please tattoo that on your forehead.  

There isn’t a hotter topic circulating the gossip winds these days than digital security pressured by geopolitics.

Okta is the best in show for identity management – a snazzy term for managing employees’ passwords.

Okta’s products are built on top of the Amazon Web Services cloud.

Coincidentally, Okta was erected in 2009 by a team of former Salesforce (CRM) executives. Salesforce is one of my favorite cloud-based software companies, offering a blueprint for success to other up-and-coming software companies.

Current Okta CEO and founder Todd McKinnon previously served as the Senior Vice President of Engineering at Salesforce.

Other founders include Okta COO Freddy Kerrest who also meandered through the corridors of Salesforce.

I can tell you that you could do much worse than starting a new software company with a collection of Salesforce upper echelon talent.

This all-star team is behind the insatiable growth of Okta whose revenue has grown over 600% since establishing itself.

Okta’s first-quarter results didn’t disappoint with revenues of $125 million—a rise of 50% year-over-year beating the consensus of $117 million.

Subscription revenues comprised 94% of sales and the company expects sales of $130 million amounting to a rise of 37% year-over-year.

Okta’s subscriber base has risen over 500% in the past 5 years and annual contract value of over $100,000 has expanded 60% annually.

The company still loses money but hopes to make some headway on this issue with projected EPS estimated to grow 25% annually in the next five years.

This year spawned a massive divergence between tech who has legs and tech who will be dragged down to the depths of the ocean floor by the heavy weight of regulation, overwhelming competition, or just flat out poor management or inferior product development.

Zscaler echoed similar positive sentiment of Okta by recording a quarter to remember growing revenue by 61% year-over-year while calculated billings grew 55% year-over-year.

In addition to the top line growth, operating margins improved 14% points year-over-year to 8%.

The quarterly results demonstrate the leverage in cloud security business models and the ability to drive growth and profitability.

String together a third consecutive quarter of profitability is just part of the battle, Zscaler will continue to aggressively invest for significant market opportunity that lie ahead.

Cloud security potential means going after a $20.3 billion Total Addressable Market in calendar 2019.

Let me divulge a tad bit about the competitive landscape and why Zscaler is brilliantly positioned for success.

As organizations increasingly make the shift to the cloud, traditional firewall and VPN vendors are finally acknowledging that the legacy security appliances can secure the new digital enterprise and are attempting to build a security cloud using single tenant software designed for on-premise appliances just like you can’t create a Netflix service by stacking thousands of DVD players in the cloud.

You can’t offer an inline high-performance security cloud by spinning up a bunch of virtual machines in a public cloud. This is a defensive strategy of cloud imitators which, in our view, serves the self-preservation of the vendor, not the needs of the customers.

Zscaler has a significant competitive advantage as a result of the technology, architecture and maturity of cloud security platform including one, Zscaler was born in the cloud, for the cloud just like Salesforce and Workday.

Two, Zscaler has a purpose built globally distributed multi-tenant cloud for fast user experience, unlike imitation cloud, Zscaler requires no back hauling from front doors to a central computing data center of a public cloud.

Three, Zscaler performs SSL inspection at scale as a purpose-built proxy for better security.

Lastly, Zscaler continues to deliver zero trust network access that provides application access without network access reducing business risk unlike firewalls and VPNs.

The duo of Okta and Zscaler are the bright lights of the cloud generation and leading the digital economy in digital security.


July 1, 2019

Mad Hedge Technology Letter
July 1, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:


The Death of Hardware

Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, the British industrial designer who made Apple (AAPL) products beautiful, is on his way out.

What else could the man do?

Jonathan Paul Ive was born in Chingford, London in 2967 to a silversmith who lectured at Middlesex Polytechnic.

He pursed automotive design at Newcastle Polytechnic, now named University of Northumbria at Newcastle, and graduated with a BA in industrial design in 1989.

His student successes harvested him the RSA Student Design Award which gifted him a stipend for an exploratory trip to the United States.

Palo Alto, California was his ultimate destination where he befriended various design experts including Robert Brunner—a designer who ran a small consultancy firm that would later join Apple Computers.

Ive signed onto product design agency Roberts Weaver Group following his studies demonstrating his typical attention to detail that he became renowned for.

London startup design agency called Tangerine came calling and Ive used his talents to design microwave ovens, toilets, drills and toothbrushes.

Ive slammed into confict with management at Tangerine who believed his ideas were too modern and exorbitant.

Apple later decided to partner with Tangerine on the basis of some of Ive’s former Silicon Valley friends like Robert Brunner delivering Ive to the forefront of Apple design products where he started hatching his plan to be the ultimate designer at Apple.

The rest is history as Ive went on to produce memorable consumer product designs such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

His last burst of creativity was applied to produce the Apple Watch which was an overwhelming success.

He will now take his show independent but still collaborate with Apple as his main client.

The new design firm will be called LoveFrom.

This announcement isn’t a shocker and certainly, he really had one foot out of the door ever since the passing of Former Co-Founder Steve Jobs in 2011 put him on less solid footing.

If you remember, Apple had a secret corridor constructed between Jobs’ and Ive’s office epitomizing how closely they collaborated on product development as well as how good of friends they were.

Current CEO of Apple Tim Cook is the exact opposite of what Steve Jobs represented and part of the reason why Apple has lacked that game-changing new product resulting in a reduced share price.

Steve Jobs was a visionary and the person to transform his ideas into physical form was Jony Ive.

You could argue that part of Jony Ive succumbed with Steve Jobs as well as his parabolic career trajectory.

That’s what all those lines of people camping overnight in front of Apple stores was about.

The cult of Apple was at its peak around 2012 where Apple sold the most iPhones and was miles ahead of competition.

Fast forward 7 years and Tim Cook has allowed the relative competition to catch up and even overtake Apple in numerous metrics.

I would argue that Tim Cook was a dependent stop gap to Steve Jobs but the lack of vision in a position where visionaries are rewarded has been Apple’s Achilles heel.

Surely, Apple could have hired an Elon Musk after Tim Cook steadied the rutter.

The results have been monetary success, milking the famed iPhone business for what it’s worth plus more, but missing the boat on premium content.

They could have bought Netflix (NFLX) while it was less potent with the glut of cash in reserve, or they could have penetrated the enterprise business with acquiring Salesforce (CRM) at an earlier stage.

And during this period, Chinese phone makers caught up big time with Huawei now offering a better and cheaper iPhone alternative.

What Jony Ive was leaving the headquarters of Apple represents is the death of hardware.

Out with the old and in the new, and the new is software and the direction Apple is doubling down on.

Apple’s services of iTunes, the App Store, the Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay, and AppleCare, has become Apple’s “new” business.

Apple’s services segment did sales of $11.5 billion in revenue, up from the $9.9 billion services earned in the second quarter of 2018.

A new all-time record was set for services revenue this quarter.

Apple Pay is available in 30 markets and expect to go live in 40 markets by the end of 2019.

Apple now boasts 390 million paid subscriptions across all of its services, an increase of 30 million sequentially and by 2020, Apple will pass half a million paid subscriptions.

Apple hopes to penetrate further into the magazine business with Apple News+, a $9.99 per month service that offers unlimited access to more than 200 magazines.

Apple plans to surpass $14 billion in services revenue per quarter by 2020.

This is what Apple is doing now and the sad fact is that Ive and his special skills do not fit seamlessly into the main growth drivers of the company anymore.

Software engineers are being cherrypicked left, right, and center as Apple avoids making any big capital investments aside from leasing new buildings to install an army of fresh programmers.

Apple reported $11.45 billion in services revenue topped analysts’ expectations of $11.37 billion.

Apple also reported services margins of 63.8% for the quarter.

Services now accounts for about 20% of Apple’s revenue, up from 16% a year earlier and 13% in the first quarter.

I will give Tim Cook credit for recovering from the 20% drop in Apple’s shares, better late than never.

Now Apple is in the process of shifting up to 30% of their supply chain from China to South East Asia to de-risk from the Middle Kingdom.


June 14, 2019

Global Market Comments
June 14, 2019
Fiat Lux

Featured Trade:

(TSLA), (BYND), (AMZN), (GOOG), (AAPL), (CRM), (UT), (RTN), (DIS), (TLT), (HAL), (BABA), (BIDU), (SLV), (EEM)