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Carnival Sails into Stormy Seas

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Carnival (CCL - Get Report) shareholders are sending up flares and issuing SOS signals while desperately trying to abandon ship after the "all for fun, fun for all" cruise company reported not-so-fun third-quarter results.

Net profit dropped 30% to $1.20 a share on a decline of revenue of 7%. Obviously fewer people are having fun on Carnival. While greater than expected, what most sent investors running for the lifeboats is the poor forward guidance.

Wall Street was expecting fourth-quarter profits near 8 cents a share, and the company's best estimate for the period is from a loss of 3 cents, up to a profit of 3 cents.

Carnival is a prime example of why you want to pay attention to TheStreet's Jim Cramer. When Cramer called Carnival a sell it was trading near $34, and today is struggling for air near $32.90.

The former CEO of General Electric (GE), Jack Welch, only bought companies that were leaders in their space or he believed could become leaders. Welch stated that when a leader catches a cold, the others catch pneumonia.

New and costly regulations including low-sulfur diesel fuel requirements gave Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL), Norwegian Cruise (NCLH) and, to a limited extent, Walt Disney's (DIS) cruise business a headwind and cold.

Contrast with Carnival's apparent inability to stay out of the news and it doesn't take Captain Obvious to conclude shareholders should anticipate troubled waters.

But hope isn't totally lost for Carnival's shareholders.

Investors should expect more downgrades, but the bulk of analysts are already at "hold," and downgrades often arrive near bottoms. If you're already invested, even though most of the grim news should be priced in, expect continued weakness for another day or two of market adjustment.

Trader expectations are the same. Traders may want to wait until Thursday or Friday to swing-trade Carnival long for a bounce above $33. Disney, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are displaying remarkable strength in Carnival's wake. That's a healthy indication investors haven't lost faith in the industry and are simply reacting to Carnival's earnings report.

Value investors may wish to capitalize on higher volatility through sales of put options. November $32 strike puts can grab about 80 cents, although I would hold out for 90 cents. With only 51 days until the expiration, unless Carnival is below $32 at option expiration, the option seller makes about 3% in less than two months.

Carnival needs to fall below $31.10 for the trade to lose money, and if $31.10 is breached, the loss is less than if the shares were bought directly.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Robert Weinstein is an active trader focusing on the psychological importance of risk mitigation, emotion and financial behavior of market participants. Robert co-founded the investing blog StockSaints, where he writes a journal about his trading activity and experiences.

In addition to TheStreet, Robert also contributes to Real Money Pro, providing real-time trading ideas for stocks, options and futures.

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