Schaeffer's Outside the Box Blog
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We've all heard the saying "Sell in May and go away" -- a concept Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White delved into in the latest installment of Monday Morning Outlook. However, while this adage has proven true for a slew of S&P 500 Index (SPX) components, May has been historically hot for a handful of stocks, according to data from Schaeffer's Quantitative Analyst Chris Prybal. Against this backdrop, we decided to take a look at chipmaker NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) and alternative energy provider First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), which have outperformed and underperformed in May, respectively.

The following chart outlines the 10 best-faring SPX components in May, sorted by average return. We eliminated stocks with only one or two monthly returns, since the data was skewed by such a small sample size. Making a cameo on the list was NVDA, which has averaged a May return of 8.1% over the past 15 years, and has been positive 60% of the time.

SPX-listed May outperformers

So far this year, NVDA has tacked on 15.6% to trade at $18.52, but has spent the past couple of months struggling to break north of $19. The shares have outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by nearly 12 percentage points during the past 60 sessions, yet Wall Street remains skeptical. Just nine analysts offer up "strong buy" opinions, compared to 13 tepid "holds" and three "sell" or worse ratings.

In similar fashion, short interest represents nearly a week's worth of pent-up buying demand, at NVDA's average pace of trading. Plus, on the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the equity's 10-day put/call volume ratio of 0.81 stands just 8 percentage points from an annual high. In other words, option buyers have picked up NVDA puts over calls at a faster-than-usual clip during the past two weeks, possibly to bet on an earnings miss when the firm reports next Thursday evening.

Should NVIDIA Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA) report stronger-than-expected earnings, or should the shares enjoy yet another solid May, an unwinding of skepticism could translate into added upside for the stock. Specifically, a wave of upgrades, a short-squeeze situation, or a mass exodus of option bears could help NVDA break north of recent resistance in the $19 region.

Flipping the switch, the following chart outlines the 10 worst-faring SPX components in May, sorted by average return. Again, we eliminated stocks with small sample sizes -- fewer than five monthly returns -- to get a clearer picture. At the top of the list was FSLR, which has averaged a May deficit of 5.9% over the past seven years, and has been positive less than half of the time.

SPX-listed May underperformers

While FSLR has tended to underperform in May, the stock has been a broad-market standout so far in 2014, advancing 21.8% to $66.54. Furthermore, the equity has outpaced the SPX by more than 27 percentage points during the past three months.

Ahead of the firm's first-quarter earnings release next Tuesday evening, analysts are in the bears' corner. Just four out of 14 brokerage firms consider FSLR worthy of a "strong buy," and the average 12-month price target of $63.67 represents a discount to the stock's current price.

Options traders, on the other hand, are picking up FSLR calls at an accelerated clip. The security's 10-day ISE/CBOE/PHLX call/put volume ratio of 2.92 stands higher than 73% of comparable readings from the past year. Likewise, the stock sports a Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.65 -- in the 21st percentile of its annual range, implying short-term options players are more call-heavy than usual right now. A weaker-than-expected earnings report, or a typically unimpressive May for First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR), could spook the option bulls into abandoning their positions.


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