Why I?m Selling Short the Market

Let me give you my thinking here. I am a long-term bull, expecting the S&P 500 to be up 10% or more to over 2,000 by yearend, and possibly 20,000 by 2030. But yearend is a long time off (even though every year seems to go by faster). We have just had a massive 11 point pop in the (SPY) during my two week trip to Australia. So a period of digestion is called for.

My (BAC) $15-$16 bull call spread is now naked long, so a little bit of downside protection is justified. Keep in mind that this is only a partial hedge, not a full one. But the additional potential profit from this SPDR S&P 500 March, 2014 $189-$192 bear put spread does lower the breakeven price of the (BAC) position by a respectable 46 cents.

The present dynamics of the market favor this trade. All of the action is now in speculative, momentum driven names like Tesla (TSLA), Netflix (NFLX), Facebook (FB), Priceline (PCLN), and Yelp (YELP), which are not even in the (SPY) index. The big leadership names, like financials (XLF) and energy (XLE) are pretty much dead in the water. As long as this is the case, don?t expect any big moves in the (SPY).

And with a short dated March 21 expiration, we only have 15 trading days where we need to be right on this.

As a rule of thumb, don?t chase this spread trade if the price has already moved more than 2% by the time you get the Trade Alert. Just put in a limit order and if it gets done, great. If not, wait for the next Trade Alert. There will be plenty of fish in the sea.

The best execution can be had by placing your bid for the entire spread in the middle market and waiting for the trade to come to you. The middle market is the halfway point between the bid and the offered prices that you see on your screen with your online broker.

The difference between the bid and the offer on these deep in-the-money spread trades can be enormous. Don?t execute the legs individually or you will end up losing much of your profit. Keep in mind that these are ballpark prices only. Spread pricing can be very volatile especially on expiration months farther out.

SPY 2-27-14

TSLA 2-27-14

NFLX 2-27-14

FB 2-27

XLF 2-27-14

XLE 2-27-14


AT&T (T) is Dialing a Wrong Number

AT&T (T), or Telephone as we used to call it on the floor on the New York Stock Exchange when we hand traded its shares, enjoyed a nice little 50-cent pop yesterday, to $34, only the second day it managed to rise this year.

The move comes after a federal appeals court in Washington DC ruled that the FCC exceeded its authority when it told Verizon Communication (VZ) that it could not charge different prices to different content providers based on their bandwidth and numbers of users.

This is a reversal of the FCC's "net neutrality" rule and should allow both Verizon and AT&T to increase revenues and help protect their profits from customers who are costing them more money to service. ?Big users of broadband, like Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN), saw their shares suffer accordingly.

You would think it would be off to the races for (T). But it won?t, as not all is well with Ma Bell. One of my first jobs at Morgan Stanley some 32 years ago was to break this company up into the seven ?baby bells? at the direction of the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department (I carried the shareholder ballots from one floor of our building to another). The company traded off its local telephone exchanges for the right to go into the computer business. I have been following it ever since.

For a start, (T) is suffering from some major internal cash flow problems. Revenues have been stagnant for years. Its hard-wired infrastructure has been corroding away for years. The capital spending needed to fix this will be a drag on any future earnings, and is unlikely to generate any real payoff. Do you know anyone under the age of 30 who owns a landline? It?s a wireless world, baby. Did I mention that their service sucks beyond belief?

Every pension fund manager in the country already owns this stock for its generous 5.30% dividend yield. One has to ask how long the company can maintain this in the face of a stagnant business in a highly competitive industry. Now that we are in a world of rising long-term interest rates, this yield will provide much less support than it has in the past.

The hedge fund community has been aware of these difficulties for a while, and has been pounding every rally. This is why (T) completely missed out on last year?s ferocious, record setting bull market, posting a zero return for 2013, versus a 26% increase in the main indexes.

AT&T is the oldest stock to inhabit the Dow 30, being a successor to a company founded by Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. It has long been a pillar of the investment establishment (it took a brief vacation from the index after the breakup). Its history mirrors that of American capitalism.

With 100 million customers and a market capitalization of $179 billion, it certainly occupies a big footprint. Time to put this beast out of its misery and retire it to the dustbin of history.

T 1-15-14


VZ 1-15-14

AMZN 1-15-14

Lily TomlinLooks like AT&T is Dialing a Wrong Number

Cutting Back My Risk

By now, you have figured out that I executed a major ?derisking? of my model trading portfolio today, cutting my exposure by two thirds. Most of these positions only had a few basis points in maximum profit left, so bailing here was a no brainer, a case of ?Basic Risk Control 101.? Better to laugh about the market in a few days or weeks, than cry. My profits this year are so huge that they are well worth defending.

There is an eerie silence going on in the markets now. All real news has ceased. The government data releases that dictate the short-term direction of prices have come to a complete halt, thanks to the government shutdown. The rest of the news is all political, which is to say that it is useless. When markets are driven by opinions instead of facts and data, you want to run a mile.

I recently spoke to some Tea Party activists, and the extent to which they hate President Obama is frightening. They would happily subject the country to another Great Depression if it meant they could be rid of the community activist from Chicago for good.

The debt ceiling crisis gives them the means to do exactly that. Therefore, I believe that the current impasse in Washington will last longer than the market expects. What the Tea Party doesn?t understand is that once you shatter confidence, it is very hard to get it back.

As a result, my friends in the high frequency trading community tell me that the risk of a flash crash is rising. All you need is for the wrong comment at the wrong technical point in the charts on the wrong day and a deluge of cascading selling could result. That day could be October 17.

This is clearly a minority view, but it is not impossible. Take a look at how the momentum names, like Netflix (NFLX) and Herbalife (HLF) are getting hammered today and you?ll see what I mean. This was further confirmed by the volatility index (VIX) breaking through $20 today, up more than 50% from a month ago.

So I?ll let valor be the better part of judgment here and move from a serious ?RISK ON? trading book, to one that is more clearly market neutral. That demands I cash in my winnings in short positions in the Japanese yen (FXY), and my long in Apple (AAPL).

As for my long in the Japanese stock market (DXJ), I?ll have to settle for a stop out with a moderate loss. It?s not the first time that I have lost money in Japan, nor certainly the last. This was the ?Bridge Too Far? among my trades this year.

I still am sticking with my medium term bull case, which sees us moving to new highs by yearend. But we could see one big final flush before we turnaround. That?s when I want to jump in wit both hands and go fully invested once again. To best profit from such a scenario, you have to go into the next dump with the most cash possible. Today?s action gets us close to that point.

SPX 10-8-13

FXY 10-8-13

NFLX 10-8-13

HLF 10-8-13

Fed Govt Closed