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Rick’s Picks Weekend Edition

by Rick Ackerman on September 5, 2009 12:01 am GMT

Ultimate Bottom Lies Far Below

Because we never shared investors’ wild enthusiasm for Cerberus, its near-collapse in recent days hardly came as a shock. The once-huge private-equity firm specialized in distressed assets at a time when even the bluest of blue-chip companies – the name Lehman Brothers springs to mind – have fallen into mortal peril literally overnight. Cerberus’s biggest gambles were in GMAC and Chrysler. The latter company’s future looked as bleak to us five years ago as it did in May, when the automaker went belly-up. What could…

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Treasury Default Not So Unthinkable

Although we can be certain Americans and their government owe far more than they will ever be able to repay, the question of how this debt eventually will be discharged is the economic conundrum of the day. Some think hyperinflation is the only way out, since it would allowing debtors to repay all that they owe with worthless bank notes that would be in copious supply. However, this is hardly a solution, since those on the receiving end – i.e. the lenders — would be ruined, as would the bond markets, banks and all other…

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Bank Scare a Ruse to Shake the Tree

A run on a major U.S. bank?  Who could have been spreading such scurrilous rumors? They surfaced yesterday in the Rick’s Picks chat room, and elsewhere, not long after we’d done some personal banking ourselves in an online account at the very same bank. We experienced no delays or problems with the transaction, notwithstanding reports of a “default situation” and “elevated” buying of put options on the shares of the bank.  We were able to confirm that there had indeed been a flurry of put-buying, but the action was not so frenetic as to suggest that the bank was in any serious trouble.

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Surfing the Trend in Silver Wheaton

We occasionally recommend option trades designed so that even the village idiot could hope to make money on them. These minutely detailed “Pick of the Day” selections are intended to make back one’s annual subscription cost at the very least, but also to help traders get over whatever trauma they may have suffered trying to profit with puts and calls. This is quite a feat, even for us — and we’ve been at it for more than 35 years. Truth to tell, it…

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With $1000 Looming, Gold Fever Is Back

We’re no fans of head-and-shoulder formations, since they are everywhere the amateur chartist might want to find them. But there is something to be said for the bullish reverse head-and-shoulders pattern that gold futures have been tracing out for the last year-and-a-half. The pattern is shown in the chart below, and it is predicting that December Gold, which settled yesterday at 997.70, its highest close since February, is about to run up to $1060. Trouble is, just about everyone we know thinks gold is about to pop to 1060, give or…

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TODAY'S ACTION for Friday

Too Sexy to Pass Up

by Rick Ackerman on September 4, 2009 3:06 am GMT

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Rick's Picks for Friday
$ = Actionable Advice + = Open Position
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All Picks By Issue:

SLW – Silver Wheaton (Last:13.04)

by Rick Ackerman on September 4, 2009 2:30 am GMT

All our ducks are in line now that we’ve successfully legged into the December 12.50-15.00 call spread eight times for a net CREDIT of 0.15 per.  The short sale of some December 15 calls for 0.45 yesterday morning clinched it, allowing us to capture premium in this series when the options were fat and juicy. Let’s put in a stink bid of 0.20 to cover the December 15s, good through Wednesday. It would be worth our while to get ’em in at that price if we can do so within the next few days. Our goal would then be to re-short them on  rally. _______ UPDATEWe weren’t able to cover the short December 15 calls, since they never traded below 0.35.  However, with the stock pushing toward $13 our position is looking better than ever.  We have a chance to make as much as $2120 with SLW trading $15 or higher at expiration, but even if SLW plummets we’ll still make at least $120.

DIA – Diamonds (Last:94.46)

by Rick Ackerman on September 4, 2009 2:49 am GMT

I usually ignore hot tips, but a pen-pal of mine, Phil C., sent me a breathless note predicting that the Dow would rally 100-150 points this morning, forming a top from which it will collapse when traders return after Labor Day.  Putting aside the details, this sounds so absolutely right to me that I’m inclined to speculate modestly.  Mr Market loves to spring dirty, nasty surprises whenever possible, and what could be nastier — or more surprising — than a tsunami to greet us as we return from summer’s final fling?  To get short, we can use the midpoint resistance at 95.07 shown in the chart, buying two September 93 puts (DAVUO) if and when the Diamonds get there. _______ UPDATE (11:52 a.m.): Stocks are only modestly higher today after an other-then-depressing unemployment report, so a short-squeeze to the levels where we’d wanted to get short seems unlikely. We’ll do nothing officially, but personally I’m going to take a couple of puts home with me over the weekend. My hunch is that the best prices of the day will obtain near the close. (Note: I bought some September 93 puts — DAVUO — for 0.86.)

SIZ09 – Comex December Silver (Last:16.130)

by Rick Ackerman on September 4, 2009 3:13 am GMT

The futures pushed slightly above a 16.265 pivot that had served as a short-term, minimum upside objective. The overshoot hints of further upside progress, presumably to the next Hidden Pivot resistance worth noting, 16.640.

$+ESU14 – Sep E-Mini S&P (Last:1979.25)

by Rick Ackerman on July 25, 2014 12:02 am GMT

The futures have sold off moderately after making a marginal new high on Thursday.  Even though they could be carving out an important top here, I adhered to a tight stop-loss nonetheless because that’s the way I do things, always following my discipline.  However, if you held onto the short from 1982.50 and want me to establish a tracking position for your further guidance, please let me know in the chat room. It is already implied that you’ll need a pullback to at least 1973.50 before implementing a trailing stop, since  you’ve already weathered a 3.00-point swing against the position.

As GDXJ was working its way south from around $43, my bearish forecast called for a washout low at exactly 40.42, a Hidden Pivot support of great clarity. I’d suggested buying down there ‘aggressively’ and with an ‘absurdly’ tight stop-loss.  This advice would have paid off handsomely for anyone who followed it, since the stock trampolined 64 cents yesterday off an actual low of 40.43, a penny from my target. Since a subscriber reported doing the trade as advised, I’m establishing a tracking position for the further guidance of all who may have gotten long. (He reported having bought 1000 shares off a 40.44 bid, but I’ll assume a more conservative 400 shares.)  Accordingly, I’ll recommend exiting half the position on Friday’s opening if you haven’t done so already.  We’ll impute any profits thereof to the cost basis of the 200 shares that will remain.

$+PCLN – Priceline (Last:1238.98)

by Rick Ackerman on July 24, 2014 12:54 am GMT

A subscriber reported success yesterday legging into the 1340/50/60 August 16 call butterfly that I’d advised. He did so 32 times at no cost, as suggested, but it took a $10 move in the stock between legs to get filled so advantageously. His maximum profit would be $32,000  with the stock trading at 1350 come August 16.  Since he owns the position without cost, no loss is possible even if PCLN should all to zero or rally to $1000. We’ll do nothing further for now, but I’d suggest that those of you who were unable to buy the spread keep trying.  We’ll shoot for a partial profit if the stock rallies $40-$50 in the next few weeks but otherwise do nothing further. I’ve reproduced a chart that shows why our expectation of a $120 rally from current levels, to a 1358.18 Hidden Pivot target, is not exactly farfetched.  To that end, a pop above the 1270.59 midpoint pivot would be most encouraging.

$+TLT – Lehman Bond ETF (Last:114.32)

by Rick Ackerman on July 23, 2014 5:36 am GMT

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$EURUSD – Euro/USD (Last:1.34623)

by Rick Ackerman on July 23, 2014 12:01 am GMT

I haven’t tracked currencies that closely, but because they tend to move very precisely to Hidden Pivot targets, traders should consider exploiting them whenever possible. Notice how EUR/USD has broken beneath a midpoint Hidden Pivot at 1.34841 after noodling around near that pivot for a few hours on Thursday. This suggests that it is bound for D=1.34197, at least.  You can bottom-fish there with a stop-loss as tight as 3-4 ticks.  Notice as well that there are two slightly higher possibilities for point ‘A’.  The correction targets they yield lie, respectively, at 1.34114 and, worst case, 1.33992.  I expect these numbers to work very precisely, so use them in whatever way suits you best.  Note as well that a last-gasp rally to p=1.34738 after EUR/USD has fallen a bit would be short-able. _______ UPDATE (July 24, 5:35 p.m. EDT):  Yesterday’s short-squeeze feint topped precisely at a midpoint Hidden Pivot (see inset, a new chart) that was originally support but which is now resistance. This price action confirms the pattern we’ve chosen as well as its ‘D’ target at 1.34197. At least one subscriber has confirmed getting short in the chat room.

$GCQ14 – August Gold (Last:1311.60)

by Rick Ackerman on July 22, 2014 1:29 am GMT

The futures looked like they could go either way as Monday’s session drew to a close. However, the stall within 0.70 of the 1318.30 midpoint resistance I’d flagged implies that a decisive move past it would reach its D-target sibling at 1331.60. Alternatively, my worst-case target for the near term would be the 1278.20 Hidden Pivot support in the lower-right quadrant of the chart — or possibly even 1271.70 if any lower.  The accuracy of this target would be affirmed by a bounce, possibly tradable, from within two or three ticks of the 1302.00 midpoint support. ________ UPDATE (9:57 a.m. EDT):  Gold has bounced $14 this morning from a low just two ticks (0.20) from the 1302.00 midpoint pivot flagged above. Now, if the futures breach the support, we’ll know EXACTLY where they are headed. _______ UPDATE (July 23, 12:01 a.m.): Someone in the chat room said that because everyone seems to be bearish on gold right now, perhaps we should take the other side of the bet.  I’m a bit bearish myself, and thus this response: “Rather than take chances and let gold disappoint us for the zillionth time, we should simply stipulate that the August contract close above 1318.90 before we get excited. That’s the midpoint resistance, on the 180-minute chart, of a=1292.60 on 7/15; b= 1325.90 on 7/27; and c=13-02.20 on 7/22. At that point, I’d lay even odds of a move to at least 1335.50; above 1337.00, the futures would be a good bet to hit 1381.40.  Whatever happens, bulls will have to prove their case. _______ UPDATE (July 24, 1:20 a.m.):  Sellers paused for a relatively blissful nine hours yesterday just inches above the 1302.00 ‘hidden’ support I’d flagged, presumably to sniff the flowers before going back on the attack.

$SLW – Silver Wheaton (Last:26.43)

by Rick Ackerman on July 17, 2014 12:05 am GMT

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September E-Mini Nasdaq (Last:3965.00

by Rick Ackerman on July 15, 2014 4:21 am GMT

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$NFLX – Netflix (Last:452.00)

by Rick Ackerman on July 9, 2014 3:25 am GMT

Netflix’s so-far $37 selloff has followed a peak last week at 475.87 that slightly overshot a Hidden Pivot at 474.50 I’d characterized as ‘a big-picture target where an important top is even more likely.’ A chat-roomer who evidently took this prediction to heart reported buying puts last Thursday for 1.24 that he cashed out for 8.90 yesterday. This could be just the start of NFLX’s comeuppance for all those who inflated this gas-bag to undeserved heights. If you took a position and are still holding it, please let me know in the chat room and I will update guidance. For now, though, let me suggest that you take profits on half of any short position entered near the recent top. _______ UPDATE (July 10, 10:23 p.m.): Bears failed to achieve a Hidden Pivot target yesterday, presumably because DaBoyz shook the stock down so hard on the opening bar that it exhausted sellers prematurely. The missed target suggests that traders will enjoy decent odds bottom-fishing the midpoint pivot shown at 433.62 (see inset, a new chart) with a stop-loss as tight as 8 cents. If it’s hit, expect the selling to continue down to at least 423.05, a Hidden Pivot that can be bottom-fished with as tight a stop-loss as you can abide. _______ UPDATE (July 14, 11:07 p.m. EDT): A turn from 428.20, precisely between the two pivots flagged above, left our bid high and  dry.  The bull leg that has followed could be the start of a rally cycle with the potential to reach 486.86. First, though, let’s see whether buyers can tackle a midpoint pivot at 457.53 that is associated with the target. _______ UPDATE (July 16 at 6:47 p.m.): Let’s not overlook the downside — specifically, the 433.69 midpoint pivot and its D sibling at 411.67.  Bears can short the break for a move to either, and both can be bottom-fished with the tight stop-loss you can abide. ______ UPDATE (July 22, 12:15 a.m.): The stock turned higher from $2 above the midpoint support, implying that bulls are about to dominate once again.  Call prices are on the moon, however — way too expensive for a straight directional bet. Instead, I’ll suggest buying the August 2 – July 25 calendar spread eight times for 1.50, day order, contingent on the stock trading 451.00 or higher. Please report any fills in the chat room. _______ UPDATE (July 22, 12:05 p.m.):  With today’s huge air pocket, the stock obviously remains in the grip of DaBoyz. My assumption will always be that steep declines in NFLX are brazen shakeouts, engineered by strong hands to steal stock at fire-sale prices from weak hands. In this instance, the downdraft appears likely to hit 413.00 before DaBoyz run it up again. If and when that number is hit, you can bottom-fish there with the tightest stop-loss imaginable. (Note: I’ve revised the target downward by 0.96 since the original update. Also 435.25 is the midpoint pivot and therefore worth a tightly stopped short on a rally to it.)


This Just In... for Friday

About My Option Strategies…

by Rick Ackerman on September 4, 2009 12:01 am GMT

The following questions about my option strategies came up in the forum, but I am republishing them here because they may be of interest to a wider audience:

What is the advantage of going long one call, and then locking in a given spread via shorting another call, versus “locking-in” the spread by going long on puts instead?

My answer below is more generalized, but to address your specific point, we should prefer to “lock in” a profit by shorting a wasting asset rather than buying one ourselves.  For most option traders most of the time, shorting calls is MUCH more profitable than buying puts.  Indeed, in the several decades I have been trading options,  I cannot recall a instance when put buyers were happy for more than three consecutive days.  Even those who owned puts ahead of the 1987 crash had just two days of sheer bliss to get rid of them.

Is it that in the latter scenario, one is long twice, and can thus get screwed twice by the pros? I always thought the latter scenario would be a good one in cases of low implied volatility, where the loss on one is mitigated, and the gain in the other is increased when implied volatility rises during larger underlying moves. (That may just be retail-customer theory, which the pros have long beaten. But what do I know? I’m still waiting for someone to start offering straight options on the VIX. Thanks!

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The spreads I prefer are intended to provide a highly leveraged shot at big profits, but without the usual, horrendous time decay. This tactic is especially useful if we expect a stock to rise (or fall) over a period of several months. We also seek to take advantage of fleeting spikes that goose option volatilities to the moon. If, for instance, SLW opens on a gap this morning (it did), we may have a chance to short Dec 15 calls when they are hugely overvalued — sell them, perhaps, for even more than the 0.45 we’d intended. (They topped at 0.50 before receding with the tide.). And, of course, we do so with the expectation that Silver Wheaton will be strong in the coming months, but not so strong that the December 15 calls will go in-the-money. We may ultimately decide to exercise our December 12.50s, a step in building a long-term position. RA

The Real Unemployment Rate

by Rick Ackerman on September 4, 2009 4:38 am GMT

Were you aware that the Bureau of Labor calculates unemployment in various and sundry ways that are not shared with the press?  Neither were we — until we heard about ‘U-6,” which reckoned U.S. joblessness at 14.8 percent back in February.  We would assume it’s much higher now, but unfortunately February was the last month given.  Incidentally, if 1933’s rate of 24.7 percent had been calculated using today’s dubious metrics, it supposedly would have been lower by at least five to ten percentage points. Click here  for the link.


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