Designer Shoe Warehouse Article for Seeking Alpha

My second article for Seeking Alpha is now available. DSW: A Solid Retailer Taking Ambitious Risks

This article lays out the bull case for DSW Inc. (NYSE: DSW), and why I am accumulating shares. DSW is growing while other retailers are closing stores. It’s a risky strategy, but check out the article to see why I’m on board. Thanks

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLIAMER. Do not take action in the market simply because of what you read here. I write about what I am doing and what I think, I am not advising anyone to do anything. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. Some of my ‘picks’ and strategies WILL lose money, that’s the way the market works. I am not a financial professional; do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,

Michael, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada

My First Seeking Alpha Article!

I recently became a contributor to seekingalpha.com, a user generated content site for the financial markets. There are a few advantages to working with Seeking Alpha. I can reach a MUCH larger crowd with my ideas, and they allow me to link here, to my blog. Ultimately, I expect my work for them to increase traffic here. Another plus is that they pay contributors for the articles that make it through their editorial process. A little extra cash is always nice. I plan on linking to all of my Seeking Alpha articles from here. I will still be updating this site weekly, posting portfolio updates, and probably some exclusive content once in a while.

My first article recently went up on Seeking Alpha: 8point3 Energy Partners: Waiting For Solar Sentiment To Change. The article is about my view on 8point3 Energy Partners (NASDAQ: CAFD), which I have owned for a while, and how I believe that solar sentiment will eventually become positive again, boosting the stock and its growth. Of course the stock tanked the next day because First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) announced that they wanted to sell their stake in the company. I’m still positive on CAFD long term.

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLAIMER. Do not take action in the market simply because of what you read here. I write about what I am doing and what I think, I am not advising anyone to do anything. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. Some of my ‘picks’ and strategies WILL lose money, that’s the way the market works. I am not a financial professional, do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,

Michael Rowland, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada

Am I Blown Away by Pattern Energy Group?

I seem to have a fascination with power, especially when it comes to the stock market. Oil, natural gas, solar power… it doesn’t matter. If it generates electricity, I’m there. Yet there are some segments of the energy market that I haven’t really looked at, but deserve my attention. Let’s talk about wind power. Around 4 to 5% of US energy is generated by wind, and that number is only slated to grow. As a percentage of total power, wind is the fastest growing source worldwide. Wind is clean, renewable, and powerful. I can testify to the powerful part. Last week I had some shingles blow off my house in a windstorm. Wind can also be a hassle, it seems.

I’d like to take a moment to talk about all the ‘green’ energy I seem to be particularly interested in. With my positions in First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) and 8point3 Energy Partners (NASDAQ: CAFD), and my newfound interest in wind power, it might be easy to view me as an ‘eco-friendly’ investor, primarily concerned with the planet, trees, and little furry animals. Now I’m all for the planet, trees, and little furry animals, but rest assured, when I’m investing, the only green I care about is money. Cigarettes? Coal? Handguns? Telemarketing? (Well, maybe not telemarketing) I don’t mix my politics with my investing. If I think there is money to be made, legally, then I’m in.

And here’s the thing; I believe there is a real future for renewable energy in this country, and the world. A lot of people think President Trump will be bad for renewable energy. Maybe, maybe not. But that perception, right or wrong, might well create a long-term opportunity for those prepared for it.

That brings us to Pattern Energy Group (NASDAQ: PEGI). Pattern Energy is a yieldco that owns partial interest in 17 wind farms in the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Chile, and has agreed to acquire an 18th from Pattern Development. PEGI owns 100% interest in 7 of the farms, the rest they own between 33 and 82% interest. Pattern Development actually builds the wind farms, and ‘drops’ them down to Pattern Energy through a ROFO pipeline (Right of First Offer). Pattern Development, which is not publicly traded, owns around 20% of PEGI, thereby aligning the 2 company’s interests. This is somewhat similar to First Solar’s relationship with 8point3 Energy Partners, though PEGI seems more open to acquiring projects from 3rd parties. PEGI turns around and sells wind energy from these projects to creditworthy counterparties, mainly energy companies, via long term power purchase agreements.

Pattern Development seems to be on the hunt for projects as well. Remember SunEdison? In 2016 Pattern Development acquired development rights to the proposed 600 megawatt King Pine Wind project in Maine, from SunEdison. PEGI will have ROFO if the project is developed and sold by PD. It seems PD has a opportunistic streak, which could be a very good thing for PEGI.

Another positive is that there are several solar projects on their ROFO list, though they don’t own any as yet. Also interesting are the 4 ROFO properties located in Japan, at least 2 of which are solar. There is the opportunity to diversify by energy type as well as geographically.

As I write this, PEGI is at $20.79, and yields 7.85%. The dividend has a short history, but the company seems set on growing it over time. Take a look at their latest investor presentation HERE.

But as with any investment, there are risks. I get the impression that PEGI is not quite as conservative as 8point3 Energy Partners. I believe PEGI will be more aggressive in the future, but of course the risk is that they could overextend themselves. There’s no free lunch in this game. Also, being a smallish company that isn’t really covered very well, there isn’t a lot being written about it. If I buy in, I have to believe in the story and basically be patient. I’ll keep up on what’s out there, but there probably won’t be much. What IS coming up is the 2016 year end earnings and conference call, on March 1st.

Another thing to keep an eye on is a recent disclosure about a problem with an internal control involving financial accounting… whatever that means. It SOUNDS bad, but it seems like everything is on the up and up. Of course there are lawyers all over it. It’s something to monitor, but my totally unprofessional opinion is that not much will come of it.

I don’t like much in this all-time-high market, but I do like yield. The traditional thinking is that the coming higher interest rate environment will be bad for high yielding stocks, as investors seek the steady safety of bonds. I’m not overly concerned with traditional thinking on this point, although debt becoming more expensive could be an issue for a company like PEGI. But companies with high yield that I believe is sustainable? I am comfortable starting a position now, and buying more if/when it sells off. I believe PEGI is such a company.

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLAIMER. Do not take action in the market simply because of what you read here. I write about what I am doing and what I think, I am not advising anyone to do anything. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. Some of my ‘picks’ and strategies WILL lose money, that’s the way the market works. I am not a financial professional; do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,

Michael, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada

2016 in Review

I know we’re well over a week into the new year, so I may be a bit late for the traditional ‘year in review’ post, but as you might expect, the holidays are a hectic time in the casino bar biz. So after getting my butt kicked at work for a couple of weeks, I got a few extra days off. So here we are.

What was 2016 like for me, as an investor? It didn’t start off very well. February was my lowest point in this investing/blog project, down over $700. But overall the year was very good. Since that low, my profits more or less shot straight up for the rest of the year. I beat the market by a wide margin in 2016, which is even more impressive considering that I usually had more than 50% of my portfolio in cash. Toward the end of 2016 I got increasingly nervous about the market, selling many of my positions. I ended the year with about 75% cash, and even bought a few put options which I still own. Below I have a chart of all my current positions, and everything I sold in 2016. The charts are to the current date, so we can see if those sales were timed correctly or not. SPOILER: It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but I’m generally pretty happy. I’ve written a piece on most every company listed below, so I’m just hitting the highlights here.

 

CURRENT POSITIONS

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Here we have Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK), the first thing I bought, and I’m still holding. I may be down 18%, but that’s nothing. At one point I was down about 83% on this. I can do 18% standing on my head. When CHK hit $1.50, being down 18% would have seemed like a distant fantasy. But as you can see, Chesapeake is clawing its way back. The company is slowly taking care of its debt problems, and I think the future of natural gas is bright. I’m holding this one long term. It may well go back down some before heading higher, but I’m a believer.

 

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8point3 Energy Partners (NASDAQ: CAFD) is a company I’m really excited about. I’m excited because it’s kinda boring. It owns solar projects and collects money from long term contracts on those projects. It plans to slowly grow its already nice dividend over time. I like the solar industry, and I plan on holding this a long time as well. In fact, I’ll own a lot more if the price goes significantly below my lowest buy point. If it hit single digits maybe?

 

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First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) is another solar company I am really excited about. I made money on it in 2015 and got back in when the price plummeted after I sold out. Well, it kept plummeting. I hope it plummets some more! Everyone seems to think 2017 will be a tough year for the solar industry, and that may be true, but FSLR has a great balance sheet and a management team willing to make tough, long-term decisions. I’m down now, but not worried one bit. People say a Trump presidency will be bad for the solar industry. I say bring on the negativity.

 

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Skechers (NYSE: SKX) shares were hit a few months ago on fears of slowing domestic growth. I love the shoes, and the company seems great as well. So far the timing of my first buy point seems really good, though as with most things I own, I’m willing to buy more if the price goes lower. I believe Skechers will continue to be a force in the shoe industry, and not a fad stock. Time will tell.

In late November I bought my first option for my investing/blog project. I bet against CSX (NASDAQ: CSX), a railroad company. The puts haven’t done much, but they are good until January, 2018.

 

POSITIONS CLOSED IN 2016

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PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL) was a decent holding for me. I could have sold it for a bit more had I waited, but overall it hasn’t really done much since I sold it. I got out because I believed the market was overheated, though of course the market has risen quite a bit since I sold. I like the company, but obviously not at these levels.

 

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I’ve had several successes in 2016, more so than failures, but Energy Transfer Equity (NSYE: ETE) is what ensured that I beat the pants off the market even while usually maintaining over 50% of my portfolio in cash. When I sold at $18.25 and it went down to around $14 over the next couple of months, I was feeling pretty good. If I had stuck with it I’d have been even better off. I can’t complain.

 

7-amba-1-9-17

Ambarella (NASDAQ: AMBA) is perhaps my ‘best’ trade from a technical standpoint. My entry points were great, my exit was very timely, and the stock has been weak ever since. I certainly believe in the long term viability of this company, and am considering buying in again soon on any further weakness. This is another well managed company with a great balance sheet, and I think it’s worth owning long term.

 

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I’m going to give the ‘missed opportunity of the year’ award to Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI). I never felt I understood this company in quite the way I understood my other investments. I think it’s because they didn’t have webcasted conference calls for awhile because of the proposed buyout from Halliburton (NYSE: HAL). Conference calls are so important to my understanding of a company. I liked the business they were in, I liked the money they were going to get from HAL if they didn’t get bought out, and I liked all of the negativity. I made a profit, but at the end of the day I simply didn’t understand things well enough to stay in, and got out too soon. Oh well, as far as mistakes go, I’ll take it.

 

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Speaking of mistakes, here’s one I’d rather have not made, although it wasn’t really that bad. Daktronics (NASDAQ: DAKT) makes large digital signs, stadium scoreboards, that sort of thing. This was an early pick of mine, but it slowly bled away after I bought it. The problem here was that this was such a small company that there really wasn’t much to keep track of. I go to several financial websites to keep track of articles about each of my positions, and all of the companies that I’m following. DAKT was such a small company that aside from a few dry newswire type reports, there was hardly ever anything being discussed or written about the company. I kept watching the price go down, and didn’t have a good understanding of why. So I sold for a loss, while I should have had faith in my original plan and bought more. It would have turned out very well. I want to invest more in small companies, so I have to work on a system to do that. Live and learn.

 

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Mattel (NASDAQ: MAT) is another position that looks pretty awesome from a technical standpoint. Mattel was struggling from revenue problems, especially in its Barbie line, and negativity had gotten overblown. I believed in the turnaround story and bought in. Pretty soon everyone and their brother seemed to believe in it as well, so I got out. It didn’t really do a lot for awhile after I sold, but it’s been in a slight downtrend for months. If it returns to the lows, I’d buy more. But I believe that at the current price, it’s overvalued. If it got much higher than where I sold it, I’d consider buying puts.

So that covers it for my 2016. The year gives me some confidence that how I do things works, but what about 2017? I’ll be honest, I’m nervous about this year. I don’t think things are as good as the market makes them out to be. People have asked me if the election changes my views on the market, and I’d have to say no, not really. I felt this way before the election, and I don’t think either possible outcome would have made me feel any different. The market seems to like the Trump win, and that’s fine. And while I know that there is a definite possibility that the market goes up from here, perhaps significantly over Dow 20,000 (as of this writing it’s ALMOST made it), I believe there is a significant correction coming sometime soon. When? Well, if I knew that I’d be dating a supermodel, probably several.

So how do I handle 2017? Simply sit on my cash like I seem to be doing now? Buy put options on everything and hope for a crash? That might turn out to be exactly right, who knows? My general plan is to be extremely cautious and only go long on stocks that are DEEP values, and buy a few long-term put options here and there on things I feel would be worst hit in a market downturn. Sounds simple right? I found myself in some pretty sweet deals in 2016, and it would be easy to look back and oversimplify them, or feel that I have the ‘golden touch’. Buy ETE at $6.75 and $4.85, then sell a few months later at $18.25, all while collecting a few dividend payments? Cake.

But I have to remember the hard work I put into understanding what I was getting into, and the sweat dripping off my brow as I bought things that were falling like rocks. I have to keep my perspective. If it were really that simple, then I have a fool’s luck to thank for my success in 2016. Rely on that, and it’s sure to run out.

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLAIMER. Do not take action in the market simply because of what you read here. I write about what I am doing and what I think, I am not advising anyone to do anything. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. Some of my ‘picks’ and strategies WILL lose money, that’s the way the market works. I am not a financial professional; do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,

Michael, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada

Betting Against CSX?

CSX Corp. (NASDAQ: CSX) is a relatively easy business to understand. Ever play Monopoly and buy up all the railroads? CSX is in the business of transporting goods via train on its vast network of track in the eastern United States. Around 21,000 route miles of track in 23 states, and extending into parts of Canada. Not too difficult to understand what’s going on here, but why am I looking at CSX?

A few of my latest posts have been about looking for something to short (via put options). The problem is, while the market jumped to all-time highs (or near all-time highs depending on what index you favor) after Trump’s victory, the things I’ve considered betting against haven’t done that well. Which would be fine if I HAD bet against them, but I haven’t yet. I was, and still am, waiting for higher stock prices to buy my puts against. So I got to thinking, what WAS making new 52-week highs lately. To my surprise, CSX was on the list. I’ve never seriously looked at the railroads before, but I’m always reading about what’s going on in the market. For the longest time I’d heard about how the rails were hurting because of the decline in coal shipments. Coal is some pretty nasty stuff, and apparently we aren’t going to be using as much of it going forward. So why is CSX on the new high list?

On November 9th, CSX presented at Baird’s 2016 Industrial Conference, laying out its long-term strategy and updating its fourth quarter 2016 guidance. Now, keep in mind that as I write this, the stock is at a 52-week high of about $34.60, and the highest it’s EVER been was $37.99 in late 2014. Here’s one piece of what was said during the presentation. (It’s available via webcast online, and is highly recommended)

In the fourth quarter, they expect an 8 cent EPS impact from costs associated with refinancing near term debt. The company expects earnings to reflect prior guidance of flat to slightly down, if you EXCLUDE the 8 cent hit. So here’s how I see this. It’s going to cost them 8 cents a share to refinance their debt, which will obviously mean that their EPS isn’t going to be as good. But if that hadn’t happened, their earnings would be consistent with prior guidance. (Similar or perhaps down a little from last year) Does that sound like a company that should be on the 52-week high list? ‘Oh yeah, it’s gonna cost us to repackage this near-term debt, but if we didn’t have to do that, we’d make the same or a little less than this time last year.’ Hummmm…

They also talked about transitioning away from coal, toward more service-sensitive and international markets. There was talk of the CSX of Tomorrow, but not a lot of detail on it. They did estimate that over the past 5 years they’ve lost $2 billion in revenue due to the decline in coal, and they weren’t too hopeful about a near term recovery.

They did, however, talk about cost cutting and efficiencies. Train length has grown 20% since 2014. They talked about reduced labor, fuel efficiency, technology, predicitive analytics, etc… Over the past few years revenue has stalled, as well as earnings, but cost cutting and efficiency improvements are going to lead the way? Does that sound like a company that should be on the 52-week high list? Ok, so I’m a little skeptical.

I listened to their Q3 earnings call, held in October, and wow. Revenue declines (8% vs prior year!), earnings declines, volume declines, coal declines… Just like the Baird Industrial Conference, there was a lot of talk about efficiency. Here are a few snippets from the call. I would encourage anyone interested to listen to the call to get the full picture of what’s going on.

“…we continue to see a soft but stabilizing industrial economy with volume down year-over-year…”

“…Chemicals will be down with continued weakness in drilling related products, especially crude oil due to low crude oil prices and unfavorable spreads…”

“…Domestic coal will again be down, however, in the fourth quarter we will cycle the start of the pronounced market weakness, which took hold in the fourth quarter last year…”

There were a few points where they talked about upcoming easier comps for specific business metrics, which I took to mean that in the past things looked so bad that their current mediocre forecasts look almost good.

Ok, I’m obviously focusing on the negative here. They talked about positive things as well. But most of the ‘good’ were cost and operational efficiency improvements, things that any company should be focused on all the time. It seems to me that the market has priced in a strong near term recovery in CSX, a recovery that I just don’t see evidence of. I believe if the company falters, or if the overall market does, this stock will be hit hard. Very hard.

What are the risks? Well, it sounds like CSX is working hard on these efficiency improvements. What if the economy takes off? What if they get a lot of business? They could earn a ton of money if they generate more revenue. It could happen. I have an order in betting it doesn’t.

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLAIMER. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. I am not a financial professional; do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,
Michael, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada

Does Cal-Maine Foods Fit in My Portfolio?

 

So I decided to skip the obvious egg puns that I could have used in the title. I just didn’t have it in me. So what’s this about eggs? Cal-Main Foods (NASDAQ: CALM) is the largest producer of shell eggs in the United States. They have somewhere around 23% of the U.S. egg market, and are located mainly in the southeast.

So the first thing you might notice about this company is that it isn’t very sexy. I’d say that it’s downright boring. They don’t produce the latest silicon chips, or promise day-trips to the Moon, or even (to my knowledge) create entertaining YouTube videos. They produce eggs, lots and lots of eggs. They are a fully integrated egg producer. They own feed mills, hatcheries, processing and packing plants, distribution centers, pullet growing facilities, breeder flocks… etc. Soup to nuts, if it’s involved in producing eggs, this company has it, and for the most part OWNS it. I like that. Very little of their production is contracted out, only 4% according to their website. Still not too interesting?

So what’s been happening in the sleepy little egg industry lately? How about the government mandated slaughter of tens of millions (of chickens) to stop the spread of a disease threatening to wipe out entire populations (of chickens)? This happened a little over a year ago and sent wholesale prices of eggs soaring! How’s that for interesting? It may not be the latest episode of The Walking Dead, but it got my attention. Cal-Maine chickens were unaffected by the Avian flu, so guess who had a steady supply of fresh eggs to sell into the demand? Record profits! This more or less sent the stock from the mid $30’s to over $60 about a year ago.

Big deal, right? That was in the past, how does this help me now? Well, the laying population has recovered. The supply/demand imbalance has tipped the other way. Egg prices are near 10 year lows. GASP! When they reported Q4 results this July, they LOST a penny a share. Not bad considering they were expected to lose 19 cents a share. Yesterday, the 26th of September, they reported a loss of 64 cents a share, totally missing the expected loss of 33 cents. Revenues were down 60% from the same period last year. The share price hit a low of $40, which seems to be a strong level of support. But if it breaks below the support, there could be a major selloff. Expectations for near-term earnings are not good due to the low egg price environment. You know what happens to companies with shrinking earnings? Look out below… or so I’m hoping.

Cal-Maine Foods has a variable dividend policy. Basically it pays dividends only after profitable quarters, at a rate of one third of the income. Their dividend is all over the place, but it’s almost always THERE. But of course there is now a two quarter gap in dividends. But I think there’s something here.

Eggs are a cheap source of protein. For that and a zillion other reasons I won’t go into, it seems pretty obvious to me that demand for eggs isn’t a thing of the past. They industry isn’t going anywhere. I think Cal-Maine Foods is simply going to get bigger and bigger. They have a history of acquiring smaller egg companies. In one of their investor presentations, in a slide titled ‘ACQUISITION OPPORTUNITIES’, they list about 60 competitors by name. (How ballsy is that?) In fact, on August 2nd they announced their intent to acquire Foodonics International, Inc. and its entities doing business as Dixie Egg Company. The timing seems good, and Cal-Main’s balance sheet is great. It would only take about half of their cash and short term investments to pay off all of their liabilities. Why not buy up some smaller competitors while egg prices are low and the industry is at a discount?

Let’s talk specialty eggs. Nutritionally enhanced eggs! Organic Eggs! Cage Free Eggs! Anything ‘organic’ is hot, but look at the cage free egg phenomenon. Here’s a
Motley Fool article about all the companies that are demanding cage free eggs, and how CALM can benefit from it. Specialty eggs represents between a quarter to half of revenue for Cal-Main Foods, (depending on regular egg prices it seems) and the business is pivotal in the company’s growth strategy. Specialty eggs are less subject to price declines in the current environment, and tend to have higher margins.

So what eggxactly is the plan here? (sorry, I had to put one in somewhere). I’m going to take a wait and see approach to this. That seems to be a common theme for me. I’m hoping continued weakness in egg prices, the lack of a dividend for a few quarters, and some good old fashion general market weakness bring this down a considerable bit. Will it happen? Who knows, but I’m thinking that about $32 might be a good place to start a position. If I’m feeling brave I could start buying around $36.50. I could see myself holding this long term if things work out in my favor. Egg based dividends spend as well as silicon ones.

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLAIMER. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. I am not a financial professional; do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,
Michael, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada

All Options are on the Table

All options are on the table! WOOOT!!!! But what do I mean by that? As those of you who’ve been following my adventures in the stock market know, I’m currently very cautious when it comes to the market overall. To be clear, I actually think it will make new highs from here, so I’m not calling ‘the top’ or anything. I don’t claim to be that good.

Within the last several weeks I’ve sold most of my stock (for some very good profit), and I’m about 75% in cash. But here’s the thing, there are companies out there that I like, that are close to levels where I’d like to start a position. But what if it turns out that I’m right, and the market has a large correction sometime in the next 12 months? Well then, I’ll just buy MORE as they go down. It’s been working for me so far. But what about an additional strategy?

Via put options on stocks that I believe are overvalued, I can profit from their decline. (Here’s an Investopedia article about the basics of options.)  I can buy significantly out of the money put options that are good for ‘long’ periods, even over 12 months. If I’m right, I can make a significant amount of money by only investing a small amount upfront.

If the market tanks, these options could potentially act as a hedge against going long in the stocks I’m considering buying. If the market moves sideways, it’ll just be good old-fashion stockpicking: what am I ‘long’ versus what am I ‘short’? If the market keeps going up… well, I don’t plan on spending a ton on options, but I’ll likely lose most, if not all, of the option investments.

The GOOD: Options are relatively cheap versus the number of shares they can ‘control’. Some big money is possible using only a small investment. Shorting stocks directly is dangerous and I don’t ever plan to try it, while options only risk the amount of money invested.

The BAD: You have to be right with your timing to make money in options, even long term ones. Options lose money over time, all else being equal. Why invest in something like that? Am I THAT good?

The UGLY: What if I’m just getting cocky because of my market trouncing performance so far? What if I’m getting too fancy, too big for my britches? Options, hedges… etc. I’m just an amateur, what am I doing playing with options? I could lose my shirt. Shouldn’t I simply stick with what I’ve been good at so far? I could blow 10% of my portfolio on options that expire worthless, and still be beating the heck out of the market… but should I take the risk?

I’ll admit that when I use terms like ‘hedging’, I start to think I’ve read too many investment books. (It’s a favorite pastime of mine) So I’m aware of the vast potential for hubris here. I plan on fighting these propensities by remaining small in the options game, and not be in a hurry. I don’t think the market is going to crash tomorrow, so I can take my time. I am fully aware that options are high risk, and most people who buy out of the money options tend to regret it. I could very well end up being one of those people, but I’m planning on giving it a try with a small amount of money.

What companies do I feel have the potential to become overvalued if the market pulls them significantly higher? I’m thinking about some of the companies I’ve made money on in the past.

Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE: ETE) was good to me on the long side, with a 222% gain over 7 months. I sold it last month, and am happy I did. If it shot up to the mid $20’s I might buy some puts. It’s had a GREAT run, but the dividend is far from assured.

Ambarella Inc. (NASDAQ: AMBA) was a good investment as well, up 70% over about the same time period as ETE. I still like the company long term, but if it shot way up from here I’d consider some puts. But then, if it tanked from here I’d be a buyer.

I haven’t talked about Mattel Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT) in awhile. It was good for a 43% gain when I sold it in February after holding it about 6 months. It hasn’t done much since, but the valuation seems high, in my opinion. The dividend is far from assured, and any stumble in the turnaround story could send the stock down. A rally on little news might be a good opportunity to take the other side.

Simply because I’ve sold these companies doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped following them. At some point I hope to buy them again at lower levels, but now I’m considering expanding the tools at my disposal. At this point these are just some ideas I’m kicking around, not hard plans, but you can see my thinking. As I stated above, I believe the market is headed higher in the very near term, despite the negativity of the past several trading days. If I’m right, that might be the perfect time to try my hand at puts.

As always, feel free to look at my portfolio and see how I’m doing. Usually I own or plan to own stock in many of the companies I write about. Specific numbers I reference may not be completely accurate; different online financial sources often have somewhat conflicting information. Verify information via multiple sources you trust. Please READ MY DISCLAIMER. Make your own decisions, do your own research, and never rely on any single source for information. I am not a financial professional; do not rely on me as such.

Thank you,
Michael, the Stock Picking Bartender,

Reno, Nevada