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Early Edge: AOL, Cisco Systems, Apple Inc., and First Solar

The online media company fell short of first-quarter expectations

by 4/28/2010 9:27:07 AM
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Today's column includes the latest quarterly results from AOL, Inc. (AOL), a bullish note for Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO), acquisition speculation for Apple Inc. (AAPL), and a pre-earnings purchase for First Solar, Inc. (FSLR). Each day, Early Edge focuses on the hot stocks in the news and gives you a unique insight into each stock's sentiment backdrop. Our time-tested contrarian approach centers on options, and gives you the trading tools to approach the day with a much-needed edge over the investing herd.

AOL, Inc.

AOL, Inc. (AOL) reported this morning that its first-quarter net income fell to $34.7 million, or 32 cents per share, down from its year-ago profit of $82.7 million, or 78 cents per share. Revenue for the quarter slipped 23% to $664.3 million, due to lower advertising sales and a decline in AOL's subscriber base -- ad revenue fell 19%, while subscription revenue dropped 28%.

AOL price chartThe results fell short of Wall Street's expectations, with analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters looking for a profit of 70 cents per share on $679 million in revenue. However, Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong said that the company achieved its goal of "significantly [reducing] AOL's cost structure" following its spin-off from Time Warner (TWX).

AOL is down 2.6% ahead of the open, but the shares could find a floor near the $27 level. This chart region has acted as a backstop for AOL since early April, and it's also home to short-term support from the stock's rising 32-day moving average.

Calls were a popular choice in the weeks leading up to AOL's earnings report, with speculators on the International Securities Exchange (ISE) buying to open 5.59 times more calls than puts during the past 10 days. However, with short interest rising by more than 17% during the past month, some of these bullishly oriented options may have been purchased only to hedge bearish stock positions.

Cisco Systems, Inc.

Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) scored an upbeat brokerage note this morning, as RBC raised its rating on the stock from "outperform" to "top pick." However, CSCO is no stranger to bullish analyst notes; Zacks reports that no fewer than 30 brokers maintain a "buy" or better rating on the shares, compared to just five "holds" and zero "sells."

CSCO has added 0.8% in pre-market trading, extending its year-to-date gain of 12.8%. The equity is rebounding from support at its 20-day moving average, which provided a floor for CSCO amid Tuesday's widespread sell-off.

Although CSCO has outperformed the broader Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) in 2010, options players have rarely been more skeptically aligned. The security's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio (SOIR) of 0.95 ranks higher than 97% of other such readings taken during the past year, indicating that short-term speculators have been more bearish only 3% of the time.

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