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A Covered Call Trade on Microsoft

Investor sentiment turned strongly bearish recently as emerging markets were hit by both country-specific problems and the realization that the Fed’s trimmed bond-buying program reduces the liquidity that has boosted higher-yielding emerging market assets and put a floor under U.S. stock prices.

The broad selloff in emerging markets over the recent weeks translated into the worst week for global stocks in seven months. The S&P 500 slid 2.6 percent, its largest weekly decline since June 2012.  Still, the S&P 500 is just 3.1 percent below its record closing high.  If the bears stay put, then the market could pull back over the coming months.

Due to the selling on Wall Street, investors were willing to pay more for spot protection against a drop in the S&P 500.  At this time, investors are concerned a market pullback may be overdue.

Investors should consider looking at blue chip stocks with low betas, nice dividend yields and sell some calls for downside protection and additional income.  A good choice is Microsoft (MSFT) with a current dividend yield of 2.77 percent and a beta of only 0.78.  In addition, the Company just beat earnings estimate and year over year earnings.

For the fiscal second quarter ended Dec. 31, revenue rose 14% to $24.52 billion, partly reflecting the release in November of a new Xbox videogame console and a fresh version of Microsoft’s

Surface tablet computer ahead of the holidays.

Overall, net income climbed to $6.56 billion, or 78 cents a share, compared with $6.38 billion, or 76 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter.  Analysts, on average, estimated Microsoft would post earnings of 68 cents a share on revenue of $23.7 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

The company said its devices and consumer revenue grew 13% to $11.91 billion, while commercial revenue increased 10% to $12.67 billion.

On November 19, 2013 the board of directors at Microsoft had approved a dividend of $0.28 per share. The dividend is payable on March 13, 2014 to shareholders of record on February 20, 2014.

The stock has landed on the “Jefferies Highest Conviction Franchise Picks for Big Upside in 2014.”  Jeffries had this to say about Microsoft in this report, “With the Xbox One poised to be one of the fastest selling gaming consoles ever, the fourth-quarter sales for the company were outstanding. Investors are paid a very solid 3.1% dividend. The Jefferies price target for the software giant is $42.”

Last week, analysts at Deutsche Bank have upgraded their coverage of Microsoft to a Buy rating from a Hold, while raising their price target on the stock to $40 from $32 a share.

Also, Microsoft has an equity summary score of 9.4 out of 10 for a very bullish outlook according to a consensus of analysts.

Investors can look at selling a call option to get some downside protection and additional premium for income.  The basics of a covered call is that an investor can sell one call for every 100 shares of stock owned.

One potential covered call trade is to sell the March or April 2014 38 call option.  Under this scenario, your Microsoft shares will be called away if the stock price is above the strike price of 38 on March 22. So the investor is giving away the stock price upside as long as they are short the call.

However, investors will receive a call premium for each call sold.  This gives the investor downside protection to around the $36 price level.  Investors will also get the $0.28 dividend.  In total, this covered call trade with the cash dividend can potentially create a 5% return over the next 2 months.

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