Selling Psychemedics At a 24% Profit After a Month

It’s official: tech stocks aren’t hotter than a lit firecracker any more. In fact, they’re as cold as the ice cubes in your favorite holiday beverage.

What happened? Rotation. Human nature. The desire to sell high and buy low. Technology (the green bar below) was the worst-performing S&P 500 sector in June, left in the dust by financials and health care.

Here’s what hasn’t changed: the leading tech companies continue to pile up free cash flow, money that will soon be deployed into share buybacks as well as dividends.

Also, the selling has been half-hearted and reflexive, lacking the follow through one would expect at genuine turning points. All this leads me to believe this bout of profit-taking will hits its own sell-by date in the not-too-distant future.

One stock that should rebound strongly when that happens is Teradyne (TER), the supplier of semiconductor testing equipment continuing to benefit from the chip industry’s durable upswing.

The stock is down 16% since June 8, but large traders have continued to build big out-of-the-money call option positions targeting a fall payoff. I’m now prepared to climb aboard that bandwagon, now that tickets have been discounted further.

But I prefer in-the-money calls that will require a lot less appreciation to pay out. They don’t look  expensive. The October 20 $27 calls I’m adding to the portfolio today were recently offered at $4.20. That means TER would have to regain a little more than 4% over the next three-and-a-half months for this trade to turn a profit. Not bad for a stock down 16% in less than a month.

And if you don’t like risking a 100% loss in options, buying more Teradyne stock here would be smart.

Meanwhile, I’m ready to declare victory and pocket a windfall from Psychemedics (PMD), the small-cap hair drug-testing stock that’s gained 24% since I recommended it on May 30. There’s been no fundamental news to account for the gain, or for this sell recommendation. It’s just that, as I noted at the time, this remains a risky and volatile proposition, and one that’s worked out quickly.

If you came along for this short, strange, profitable trip, let’s hear all about it in the comments.


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