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MONDAY:   With earnings over, it's time for events to take over, but markets never like unexpected events. Markets pointing toward staying with caution this morning.

TUESDAY:     Amazingly market shows pre-open complete rebound on words alone, not waiting for any confirmation on the baisis of actions. That's a formula for disappointment with anything less than the most reliable of parties.

WEDNESDAY:  All's quiet on Eastern front as Crimea retreats as story and ADP jobs takes center stage to no fanfare while awaiting the real thing on Friday

THURSDAY:    Three Federal Reserve Governors speak today, one day ahead of Employment Situation Report. Otherwise all is quiet here and around the world. Likely another quiet day.

FRIDAY:  This time around the Employment numbers are good and so is the initial reaction. Pattern seems to be on path to continue in upward direction, regardless of the number






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Daily Market Update - April 7, 2014 (9:00 AM)

Another weekend of nothing really happening to be of sufficient reason to move the markets to start the week. Nonetheless, the early impression is that there's some very mild follow through to Friday's very unexpected sell-off.

With the turnaround in fortunes on Friday I felt very fortunate to have seen most of the anticipated assignments occur and have more cash on hand than when the week started, especially after having to dip into reserves to buy anything last week following only one assignment the prior week.

It's far better to have the cash unencumbered by stock ownership when the market appears headed lower than having to go into reserves to put even more at risk. Recycling cash from assignments just doesn't seem to psychologically carry the same level of risk, although it certainly does in reality,  where it counts.

While happy to have the cash, on the other hand, I was disappointed that some of the rollovers I felt fairly certain might get done, perhaps even turn into assignments, instead expired, leaving more uncovered positions that need to be looked after.

Still, not a bad way to start a week that begins with some added uncertainty that may be compounded as earnings begin anew this week and we get to see whether the weather has already been fully discounted in reporting for the past quarter.

Deep down you know that for some companies the bad weather excuse was simply an excuse. Some will take the opportunity with the current earnings reports to guide higher coming off a lower quarter and see their stocks rise and others will have to admit that there is something fundamentally wrong and not the weather at all. They will see their stocks drop.

Good luck trying to figure out which company will take which route.

Earnings season always requires the added attention to when the reports will be delivered. For those having been buy and hold investors it was predominantly earnings that made you wonder why you didn't take profits sooner or made you wonder why you sold your shares so early. Rarely, if you were a long term holder, did earnings reports consistently move any individual stock in the same direction. One quarter's nice advance may have been followed by another, but rarely a third and with it evaporation of those unrealized profits.

I used to hate earnings season. Now, it just means a little more work and trying to either avoid some positions or position yourself for whatever news may come your way and hope that whatever that news will be, it will be within reason.

That may be a little more challenging if there is any erosion in the market itself.

With cash near 40% to start the week the temptation to go shopping is definitely there. With a decent number of positions already having contracts expiring this Friday I would like to see any new purchases look at the possibility of going more forward, but that's been easier to say lately than to do, as the premiums have been very low. I've been wanting to diversify in time for a few weeks now and haven't had much luck in doing so. Friday's drop did drive volatility a little higher so maybe there will be a better opportunity to do so this week.

What was interesting was that for some deep in the money strike levels for various stocks the premiums were in contango. That doesn't happen very often and suggests that the options market was pricing in price drops going forward. Conceivably, someone looking to rollover a position at the same strike level would only have been able to do so at a net debit.

That's not a very powerful motivator.

As with any market drop, especially after setting record highs, it's only natural to wonder whether the drop was simply a blip or the start of something more omenous.

For the Momentum stocks that get so much attention the "omenous" seems to have already started.

Just look at the charts of SolarCity, Netflix, Amazon and LinkedIn, all from about March 19-20, 2014.

This morning that's what I'll likely be doing. Looking.

I'd like to see a little bit more of a sell-off before adding new positions, although some have taken enough of a decline, with no really obvious reason that it may be difficult to resist the opportunities.

It's the age old battle of "Fear versus greed." Only the week is new.









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When to Take Tax Losses

(A version of this article appeared in

Each year the ritual begins just days before New Years. Even in the best of years there are bound to be some losers. Fortunately, whatever faults there may be in the tax code, the ability to attenuate investment mistakes isn't one of them.

Fastenal is Fascinating

(A version of this article appeared in TheStreet)

Actually, that may be a little bit of an over-statement. Fastenal (FAST) is fairly staid, at least on a conceptual level.

In a previous life, one that included legitimate employment, I flew into a New England city on a weekly basis and would pass a Fastenal store on a lonely back road with equal frequency. On the occasional daytime landings I noticed that the parking lot and sidewalks would sometimes be packed, sometimes empty and never thought twice about it, otherwise.

During an economic period when businesses opened with great expectations and closed with great disappointment, that solitary Fastenal store was there for at least the 7 years that I drove past it. Nothing terribly fancy nor ostentatious about its appearance, just a utilitarian building, presumably delivering the literal and figurative goods.

A Bullish Case Going Forward


(A version of this article appeared on

The bullish case? I can't possibly make one, having been expecting a market correction similar to that seen in April 2012 since April of this year. Besides. I'm an inveterate covered option writer and by nature see the pitfalls of every single trade that I make or suggest.

After all, why would you need protection in the form of options if your stock thesis was sound?

After nearly 30 years of marriage my wife recently told me that only about 40% of what I say turns out to actually be correct. If it was only that good when it came to selecting stocks and getting the timing just right. I'd be in the pantheon of the world's greatest investors instead of world's greatest husbands.

Conveniently ignoring my track record of premature pessimism, the coming week holds lots of risk for portfolios.

Stocks Need Leadership

It's hard to be critical of a stock market that seems to hit new highs on a daily basis and that resists all logical reasons to do otherwise.

That's especially true if you've been convinced for the past 3 months that a correction was coming. If anything, the criticism should be directed a bit more internally.

What's really difficult is deciding which is less rational. Sticking to failed beliefs despite the facts or the facts themselves.

In hindsight, those who have called for a correction have instead stated that the market has been in a constant state of rotation so that correction has indeed come, but sector by sector, rather than in the market as a while.

Whatever. By which I don't mean in an adolescent "whatever" sense, but rather "whatever it takes to convince others that you haven't been wrong."

Sometimes you're just wrong or terribly out of synchrony with events. Even me.

Finish reading this article on Seeking Alpha

Love Fest and Victory Tour

This week may have marked the last time Ben Bernanke sits in front of far less accomplished inquisitors in fulfilling his part of the obligation to provide congressional testimony in accordance with law.

The Senate, which in general is a far more genteel and learned place, was absolutely fawning over the Federal Reserve Chairman who is as good at playing close to the vest as anyone, whether it's regarding divulging a time table for the feared "tapering" or an indication of whether he will be leaving his position.

If anything should convince Bernanke to sign up for another round, it would be to see how long the two-faced goodwill lasts and perhaps give himself the opportunity to remind his detractors just how laudatory they had been. But I can easily understand his taking leave and enjoying the ticker tape, or perhaps the "taper tick" parade that is due him.

But in a week when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Bernanke had opportunities to move the markets with their appearances, neither said anything of interest, nor anything that could be misinterpreted.

Instead, at the annual CNBC sponsored "Delivering Alpha Conference," the ability of individuals such as Jim Chanos and Nelson Peltz to move individual shares was evident. What is also evident is that based upon comparative performance thus far in 2013, there aren't likely to be many ticker tape parades honoring hedge fund managers and certainly no one is going to honor an index.

Finish reading this article on Seeking Alpha

Blame The Big Man

For some, "The Big Man" may refer to a personal deity. For others, the late saxophonist for The E Street Band.

While I have abiding faith in each of those, there's no doubt in my mind that Ben Bernanke is "The Big Man."

While the stock market soared to a new high just two months after its most recent high, it shouldn't be lost on too many people that the Chairman of the Federal Reserve was at the center of the move down from the highs as well as the move beyond the high.

Just take a quick look at the journey of the S&P 500 from its high on May 21, 2013, to its new high on July 11, 2013.

Finish reading this article on Seeking Alpha




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