The Option Investor Newsletter Monday 05-08-2000 Copyright 2000, All rights reserved. Redistribution in any form strictly prohibited. Posted online for subscribers at http://www.OptionInvestor.com Also provided as a service to The Online Investor Advantage ****************************************************************** MARKET WRAP (view in courier font for table alignment) ****************************************************************** 5-08-2000 High Low Volume Advance Decline DOW 10603.60 + 25.70 10627.80 10522.10 786,188k 1,221 1,717 Nasdaq 3,669.38 - 147.44 3765.22 3669.11 1,142,396k 1,423 2,596 S&P-100 763.59 - 6.20 769.79 759.31 Totals 2,644 4,313 S&P-500 1424.17 - 8.46 1432.63 1417.05 38.0% 62.0% $RUT 500.08 - 12.76 512.84 499.60 $TRAN 2935.87 + 59.76 2937.89 2874.12 VIX 31.12 + 0.73 32.16 30.93 Put/Call Ratio .52 ****************************************************************** Buyers' Strike Continues Just how many different ways can we say, "Investors' fear of FOMC rate hike keeps volume low and prices range-bound"? Of course, there is slightly more to it than that. For instance Cisco, Barron's front-page sacrifice of the week, lost $4.88 to close at $62.88 and made a big contribution to today's 147-point loss on the NASDAQ. (The weekend publication penned a negative article noting CSCO's dependence on acquisitions to drive revenue growth, "questionable" accounting practices, and huge valuation.) The fact is volume, having put in its lowest day of the year at 1.14 bln shares on the NASDAQ and just 783 mln on the NYSE, is revealing a lack of liquidity in day-trading issues. Most of us are finding it tough to trade our way out of a wet paper bag in this environment of widening spreads and market makers unwilling to take more than 100 shares on the bid. What do we mean by that? A market maker will charge us more and pay us less to buy and sell a stock, requiring a greater move in the price just for us to break even on the trade. Not only that, where they were once willing to buy 500, 1000, or more shares at a posted bid price, they are now willing to take only 100 shares before adjusting the bid downward. Market makers need to eat too (and put their kids through Harvard, Yale or Stanford), thus they aren't going to buy something if they can't immediately resell it to another buyer. Sellers unwilling to sell + buyers unwilling to buy = low volume and low liquidity. That same market maker psychology applies to options too and makes profitable trading difficult. From a market maker's perspective, why buy it if you can't sell it higher? By definition, spreads widen in order to keep a liquid market. Hopefully, that helps you to understand what we mean when we say it's hard to make money in a sideways market. Anyway, without a trend established, pros have temporarily taken to the sidelines until some economic news hurdles are cleared - same ones we highlighted before. . .the PPI on Friday and FOMC meeting on Tuesday, May 16th. For the duration of the week, look for more of the same (sideways trading) in the overall market. Sadly for those of us with itchy trigger fingers, the market should remain in a tug of war with no clear-cut winner. While we don't suggest which side of the fence to trade on (bull or bear - heck, we won't know ourselves until next Tuesday), make a note of the following arguments for each case in order to clarify why the markets are likely remain range-bound and choppy. In the bear camp, rising interest rates, light volume, high valuations, weak breadth and the Dow still under its 200-dma (10,808) all point to the down side. In the bullpen, tech stocks have been resilient, sentiment is shifting as indicated by an increasing put/call ratio (contrarian indicator), uncertainty will lessen by May 16th, and this is an election year, all of which tend to support prices. Now, let's take a peek at today's action. The Dow looked like a cardiac patient with almost no pulse. While today's trading range spanned 105 points, the index spent most of the day in a 50-point range between 10,550 and 10,600, closing at 10,603 on a measly 786 mln shares, the lowest volume this year. The next mild resistance is at 10,700; support at 10,400 from which we appear to be rebounding ever so slightly, but we won't characterize this as a trend based on the low volume. What we have here is a 2-week neutral wedge formation with a technical convergence at about 10,550 to 10,600 on (surprise!) May 16th. It's not a prediction, just an observation. That's about as flat as it gets, and makes for tough trading. While 1700 decliners took it to 1223 advancers, surprisingly up volume outpaced down volume by 30%. 70 new highs squeaked by 65 new lows. Transportation, major regional banks, oil & gas drilling, airlines, tobacco, HMOs, auto parts, and drugs led the advancing sectors, according to briefing.com. The NASDAQ fared worse shedding 147 points to close at 3669 and failing to break back above 3800, a critical level of resistance. Worse, support at 3700 failed, setting us up for yet another near-term test of 3600. After that, start looking for 3500, then (gulp!) 3350. We've noted before that we don't expect it to get that low only to hear the OOOGA-horn from Q-charts sound the alert. It's still possible. Yes, the lows are getting higher, but the highs are going lower too in (voila') another neutral wedge. Again, not to sound like a broken record, but we won't know the directional breakout until it happens. Unlike the lackluster Dow, the internals here stunk. Decliners smoked advancers in a 13 to 7 ratio, and down volume was over 2.5 times that of up volume. Tech stocks led by CSCO, who reports earnings tomorrow after the bell (-5.00, 62.754.75; see above), INTC (- 5.75, 117.63), SUNW (-5.13, 85.38), ORCL (-4.50, 72.31), and QCOM (-6.75, 103.00) dug today's NASDAQ crater. 73 new lows appeared today compared to just 36 new highs. The lowest volume of the year today (1.14 bln shares) probably kept the selloff from getting worse, as the index remained between 3700 and 3750 before the breakdown at the end of the day. One more time - tough to make money in that environment. Any good news out there that might provide an air pocket of trading opportunity? Yep.. Look no further than the Chase H&Q tech conference in San Francisco, where over 400 companies will be presenting to over 4000 investors this week. Though today's presenters didn't fare that well (DELL, EMC, GBLX, TXN, and ORCL to name a few), collectively tomorrow's presenters (LU, MOT, JDSU, RMBS, EXDS, GTW, EMLX, LSI to name a few) could lend some support to the market and to individual issues that present a compelling story. We still have earnings from some major companies too. WMT reports before the bell tomorrow. CSCO reports after the bell. (And it better be good. Otherwise, CSCO could lead another wave of tech selling and Barron's is going to gain a lot more credibility following last weekend's story.) AMAT reports Thursday and thankfully has Lehman Bros. pounding the table with a price target of $112. Dell rounds it out on Thursday. Just remember that the PPI is out Friday and could easily show signs of wholesale level inflation and that Greenspan and Co. will raise interest rates next week. At this point though, it won't be much of a surprise to see a 50 bp increase. Traders have come to expect it - its' almost a certainty - 80% priced in as of the end of last week. You can confirm this in the 28-bp hike of the 30-yr. bond rate to 6.25% today. So what's an option trader to do for the rest of the week? Go to the beach! Seriously, if there was ever a time to step away from your trading screen to concentrate for a few days on clearing your head of all the noise, this is it. Volume should remain low in a directionless, flat market with a greater probability of falling indexes than rising ones until traders become more certain of the future. If you are going to play it anyway, you'll want to remain vigilant to find those needle-in-a-haystack opportunities, while watching volume for big clues on specific issues. Otherwise, consider sticking to defensive positions like puts, covered calls, or spreads. If you are a buyer of time value in this market (as opposed to a seller of time value), lack of movement and time decay will cook your account into a meal for market-makers like a lobster slowly coming to a boil in a pot. Sell too soon; don't buy too soon, and don't be a lobster! Buzz Lynn Research Analyst ****************************Advertisement************************* Options Traders ! Mr. Stock's new online trading site has been designed for you. Trade spreads, straddles, covered writes, and stocks online. Get real-time market data throughout our site. Advanced options tools include volatility graphs, implied volatilities, and more. http://mojofarm.mediaplex.com/adserver/click_thru_request/565-58-1875-3 ****************************************************************** ************************ NEW SEMINAR ANNOUNCEMENT ************************ OptionInvestor.com's Regional Seminar Series 2 and 3 day Stock and Option Seminars coming to you! Who Should Attend? -Investors wanting to take control of their own investment accounts And want to discover the power and profit potential that online Stock and option trading can bring. -These seminars were created to provide investors of all experience levels the tools and knowledge needed to supercharge their investment returns. Seminar Format -Day 1 will focus on understanding the difference in types of Fundamental, Technical, Quantitative, & Predictive analysis, how and when to use each. The major indicators will be explained in detail with explicit examples of each. -Day 2 will consist of an indepth study of the different option strategies and when to use each. Cash flow, option pricing, choosing the right options, using stop losses and maximizing your returns. Chart patterns, entry points, and exit points will be covered in great detail matching the right strategy to the chart pattern. -Day 3 of the extended seminars will focus on the more advanced strategies including naked puts, Straddles, Strangles, Butterflys, and tax advantaged index strategies. The advanced day will also focus on implied volatility, option pricing, spreads and selling time as a cash flow tool. What You Will Learn? -Learn the difference between investing & trading. Know when to do each. -The right investment tools to fit your investment needs. -Technical analysis secrets that the pros use. -The best times to buy & sell stocks, options or mutual funds -Powerful market screening and timing tools. -Winning strategies that you can put into action immediately. -Using options to hedge your stock portfolio. -Which options to buy and which ones to avoid. -Which options offer significant tax savings regardless of time held. -Insights to understanding charts. -Fundamental, Technical, Quantitative, Predictive analysis. -Understand Moving Averages, MACD, RSI, Stochastics, -Histograms, momentum, Support and Resistance, Regression -Channels, reversals, divergences, VIX. -Bollinger Bands -Principles of successful money management. -Basic option strategies and how to leverage your returns. -Entry points and exit points. What you will receive? -Quality instruction from experts that have taught thousands of students. The seminar team is led by Chris Verhaegh, Option 101 writer for OptionInvestor.com who has also taught over 50 option seminars. -Winning option strategies you can put into action immediately to supercharge your investment returns. -A thorough understanding of technical, fundamental, fundamental and quantitative analysis and how to apply this information to your stock and option investing. -A comprehensive seminar workbook complete with examples and work study pages. This workbook will double as a reference book which you can refer to over and over as you try new and more complicated strategies. -A cd containing all the on screen examples and presentations Along with extra features like definitions, examples and Reference material not in the seminar manual. -A hearty breakfast and lunch is provided as part of the package. These seminars are designed to be smaller and provide more personal interaction than is available in our recent 600 person Denver Expo. To achieve this personal attention the seating must be limited. Not everyone requesting admission will be able to attend but we feel the quality of the education for everyone will be much appreciated. Date City Event May 25-26 Denver 2 day Stock & Option June 1-2 Houston 2 day Stock & Option June 16-17 Las Vegas 2 day Stock & Option June 22-24 Los Angeles 3 day Stock & Expanded Option June 27-28 Washington DC 2 day Stock & Option July 3-6 England 3 day Stock & Expanded Option July 13-15 New York 3 day Stock & Expanded Option July 21-22 Nashville 2 day Stock & Option July 27-29 Atlanta 3 day Stock & Expanded Option Aug 11-12 Pittsburgh 2 day Stock & Option Aug 17-19 Orlando 3 day Stock & Expanded Option Aug 24-26 Dallas 3 day Stock & Expanded Option Aug 28-29 Detroit 2 day Stock & Option The price for the two day stock and option seminars is $1995 and the expanded three day seminars are only $2495. Less than you would lose on a bad trade. At this price can you afford not to attend? If you are ready to take the next step to improving your investment returns then don't wait any longer. Reserve your seat now. https://secure.sungrp.com/seminar/signup2.asp ********** STOCK NEWS ********** Purchase Versus Pooling-of-Interests By S.P. Brown Cisco Systems (CSCO) was sent reeling today courtesy of an article appearing in the latest issue of Barron's. The article, written by Thomas Donlan, questioned the Internet switching and routing king's acquisition accounting methodology and how this methodology gooses the company's reported earnings. Cisco, like most high-tech companies, uses pooling-of-interests accounting when it books acquisitions. Pooling has some distinct advantages over the more conservative purchase accounting method, the primary advantage being that assets, liabilities and equities of the companies are combined at their historic book values, meaning financial statements are reported as if the two companies had always been combined. In turn, the reported earnings-per-share (EPS) of the new combination are generally higher immediately after the acquisition because the target's original accounting costs, less accumulated depreciation, usually are significantly lower than the current fair market value of the target's assets. Additionally, for subsequent periods, pooling allows the purchaser to avoid depreciating, or reducing from reported income, the full value of the amount paid for the acquired company. In contrast, under the purchase method, the acquiring company must write off the goodwill premium (market value over book value) it pays to the acquired company; these write-offs are a charge against earnings, which can amount to billions of dollars in mergers of large companies. As a result, the reported earnings of the combined companies will appear lower under purchase accounting. Another significant advantage to pooling is if the acquiring company uses stock instead of cash to finance the deal, which is how most pooling deals are done. The transaction is not a taxable event for the shareholders of the target company because it's just a swap of paper. The stock of the acquiring company is used as the currency, and those shares are traded for the shares of the target company. Furthermore, the cost basis for the new shares is the same as the cost basis for the old shares for investors in the acquired company. A purchase method acquisition, on the other hand, is generally a taxable event. Selling shareholders do recognize a gain or a loss on the sale of their shares, even if they receive securities of the acquiring company in exchange. In an era of lax fundamental analysis and EPS as king, the pooling method has proven so valuable that many acquisitions are not completed solely because the transaction does not meet pooling requirements. To qualify for a pooling combination, the merging companies must adhere to the Financial Accounting Standard Board's (FASB) rules, which state each of the combining companies must be independent, only voting common shares can be issued, no stock reacquisitions after the merger are allowed, there can be no planned transactions that benefit only some shareholders and there can be no disposition of a significant portion of the existing businesses of the combining companies. Another reason a company may not want to use pooling is that it's more cryptic from an analyst's perspective. The method provides the markets with less information than the purchase method. Furthermore, pooling ignores the true market values exchanged in a business combination, while the purchase method reflects them. What's more, most knowledgeable analysts know that the pooling method overstates the purchaser's profits after the acquisition of a profitable business. For example, if a company founded by an initial investment of $100,000 has grown so that it earns $1 million per year, and is acquired by a public company for $10 million in stock, pooling accounting allows the purchaser to continue to state $100,000 as the target's assets. Consequently, the purchaser appears to earn $1 million per year on an investment of only $100,000 instead of earning $1 million on the actual $10 million paid for the target, which translates into misleading higher returns on assets and equity. On top of that, companies that apply the pooling method generally pay much larger premiums over current market values. In one study conducted by the Davis Group, companies that use pooling accounting on average pay 200 percent more than do purchase-method buyers, as the lack of goodwill amortization and the rising value of their stock allows them to pay more for the marginally better reported EPS. Now, though, it looks as if this little piece of financial alchemy might be coming to an end. Last year, FASB unanimously voted to ban the pooling method, but the ban will not become effective until after the FASB issues a final statement on the issue, which is not expected to be before the end of 2000. The banning of the pooling method will most significantly impact technology and financial services companies, as goodwill traditionally encompasses a substantial percentage of the assets of these companies. Pooling is particularly well-suited to high-tech mergers because the relative asset value of many tech companies is small compared with that of industrial manufacturers, which have a large capital base of production facilities. Without pooling of interest, acquiring software companies would incur large goodwill asset categories, which, in many cases (including Cisco's) would cause an unacceptable loss of shareholder value. Proponents of the pooling argue that by eliminating this acquisition accounting method, FASB will retard merger & acquisition activity in the high-tech arena. So, as a compromise, FASB will continue to allow in-process purchased R&D write-offs under purchase accounting rules to continue. In-process purchased R&D is basically a slush account that much of the goodwill incurred can be tossed into and then expensed in the year of the acquisition. For more savvy investors, the argument between the pooling and purchase methods is moot. The fact is, economically, there is no difference between the two, for the cash flows are the same under both methods on a pre-tax basis. When it's all said and done, business combinations are acquisitions and should be accounted for as such based on the market value of what is given in the exchange, regardless of whether it's cash, other assets, debt or equity shares. Therefore, the purchase method should be mandated, if only because it makes the financial statements more accurately reflect true economic values. ********************** PLAY OF THE DAY - CALL ********************** SEPR - Sepracor Inc. $104.44 +1.19 (+1.19 this week) Sepracor develops and commercializes new, patented forms of existing pharmaceuticals by purging them of nonessential molecules. The company's products can reduce side effects, provide new uses, and improve safety, performance, and dosage. Sepracor focuses its efforts on gastroenterology, neurology, psychiatry, respiratory care, and urology. The company is also developing its own new drugs to treat infectious diseases and conditions of the central nervous system. Most Recent Write-Up Feeling ill from the recent ups and downs in the market? Perhaps a dose of SEPR is just what the market ordered. SEPR improves existing, widely prescribed drugs, increasing efficacy and reducing side effects. SEPR works with the biggest names in the industry such as Schering-Plough, Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson. SEPR has been instrumental in improving some of the most popular medications on the market right now. Allegra, Claritin, and Prozac are all beneficiaries of SEPR's technology. SEPR is also developing and marketing its own line of drugs through an internal development program. The program is expected to add to SEPR's earnings stream, taking the company to profitability. Since falling from its high of $126 in early March, SEPR bounced and regained nearly 75% of its lost value. We're looking for the renewed momentum to carry SEPR higher, especially since the stock just crossed the psychologically important $100 level. SEPR edged above resistance of $103 on Friday. From here, the stock won't face heavy congestion until $114. Watch for a bounce off support at $100 or wait for a strong move above current levels as a confirmation that momentum is alive and well for SEPR. A rally on above-average volume would provide an additional verifier. Comments On what was an all-round bad day for the NASDAQ, SEPR managed to hang on to a portion of its gains. Right out of the gates SEPR went for its intraday highs at $109.75, continuing its uptrend. Yet, with such light volume on the NASDAQ, SEPR slipped later in the session as the broader market sold off. The chart looks strong with support around the current level of $105 and below at $100. Look for SEPR to move higher, especially with the return of volume to the market. Target shoot on intraday dips based on personal risk levels. ***May contracts expire in 2 weeks*** BUY CALL MAY-100 ERU-ET OI=425 at $ 9.50 SL= 7.00 BUY CALL MAY-105*ERU-EA OI=377 at $ 6.88 SL= 5.00 BUY CALL MAY-110 ERU-EB OI=151 at $ 4.75 SL= 3.00 BUY CALL JUN-105 ERU-FA OI= 37 at $13.25 SL=10.00 SELL PUT MAY- 95 ERU-QS OI= 13 at $ 2.75 SL= 4.75 (See risks of selling puts in play legend) Picked on May 7th at $103.25 P/E = N/A Change since picked +1.19 52-week high=$126.81 Analysts Ratings 5-4-2-0-0 52-week low =$ 27.50 Last earnings 03/00 est=-0.96 actual=-0.76 Next earnings 07-24 est=-0.55 versus=-0.56 Average Daily Volume = 1.09 mln /charts/charts.asp?symbol=SEPR ************** TRADERS CORNER ************** Money Management - Part two By Austin Passamonte I was intrigued with this money-growth multiplier from the first time I learned of it 15 years ago. Since then I have run countless scenarios on trading models across the board. Start with using only 25% of an account balance and then test 50%, 75% and 100% of each pending balance and see where they take you. For curious types who can't bear to wait for the answer, surprisingly enough it is the 75% multiplier that vastly outperforms all others. 75%, 50%, 25% and 100% is the order in which they finish profitably and the differences are dramatic. Again, run these equations on the year-to-date historical data for Skybox and draw your own conclusions. Just pretend that each was a directional trade, and straddles were never part of the program to verify which percentage works best. Keep in mind you cannot use a multiplier greater than 50% when actually trading the Skybox due to the need for strangles at times. The only reason I suggest their data is to test-run the strategies on actual trading scenarios. We can use the 75% multiplier when trading the OEX in a directional manner as briefly described in Friday's OIN. For example, let's say you were poised for a bounce near Friday's market open if Fed reports didn't tank the markets all day, in which case you'd remain bearish. We'd like to buy May 770 calls or 730 puts if either the above or below triggers were hit in the only direction we're interested in trading - in harmony with the market's flow. If one trigger we decide to trade is passed over by 3 points and market signals look strong for continuation, we buy as many selected options we can afford using 75% of our allotted trading balance. A stop is immediately placed 2 ½ points below entry and the play is set. If market movement favors us and the trade meets your profit target, close out and remain 100% in cash until the next opportunity. Your balance has grown considerably and you can take the next OEX trade using 75% of the new bankroll. Losses are handled the same way. If you get stopped out, recalculate 75% of the remaining balance and take the next trade using that. If you test-run this trading model, I think you might suffer greatly from numbers dancing through your head for awhile When deciding how many options you can afford to buy with 75% of your chosen balance, always round the number down to the point at or below 75%. As testing will prove, the sweet spot in our bell curve here lies between 50% and 75% of the money in play. Therefore, it is better to use 70% rather than 80% to maximize results over long periods of trading. Remember one very important thing: the money management system allows you to win huge and gives staying power, but YOU MUST execute the win/loss percentage or it's all for naught. No matter how good theory and projection looks, if you can't trade the system to at least similar results, what of it? When I began trading the OEX I used the 75% multiplier in a modest-size account and ran it up 500% in six weeks working the directional system described in Friday's edition. Then I got smart. That swollen account gave me an attitude and I had this OEX all figured out. No need for protective stops... I know where the market is going. The index moves 20 -40 points against me and my high-dollar options shrink to squat? That's fine, I'll just wait for the market to return. No sense selling out now when it's on the verge of turning around. Have you ever waited for any market to return? If you're incredibly lucky it may come back close enough to let you out for a small loss. It did that for me the first time, I guess it had mercy on a new guy. Not so fortunate the second and third time. That's right, I did say third time. I bought 20 QQQs for 2 and didn't sell for 2 15/16 two hours later because I knew they were about to close out at 3. Rally time. I was so sure the market would turn around just for me I held them long enough to sell sixteen at 1/2 while the other four couldn't ever find a home. You read it right, that is 1/2 with no whole number in front of it. How much is 20 x $293.50? Is there a difference between that and sixteen x $50? Does that help you understand why I'm fanatical about discipline & stops? The story ends on a happy note. Once humbled properly and soundly by the markets, they have allowed me to run up the aggressive account to new heights using strict discipline and "trading scared". This success has much less to do with skill than using proper money-play usage and strict discipline to keep losses small. These strategies work just the opposite on a string of small gains and big losses - they bankrupt your account! All of the money-management strategies in the world couldn't save me from my own ineptitude. Don't think for one moment anyone can out-trade stupidity, I proved that. Ignorance defines without knowledge of, stupidity means in spite of knowing better. Good trading coupled with these strategies can make you rich. Bad trading will shoot you down several times faster. Remember, putting 50% or 75% of your chosen balance in play with tight stops in place only jeopardizes the amount of those stops. Trade naked, and you risk losing 50% to 75% of your account to severe market reversals. No question about what to do every time a trade is filled - set those stops! Again, let me finish by asking you not to believe anything I have written here on its face. Get out your calculator or spreadsheet program and investigate these yourself before committing your money to the methods. I know for a fact you'll believe your own math a whole lot better than you'll believe mine. One thing is for sure, math is an exact science that cannot lie, and I believe you're going to really enjoy the truth it has to tell! Trade the right direction in the right amounts. ************************Advertisement************************* Tired of waiting on trades to execute? Does your broker offer Stop Losses on Options? Trade instantly with Stop Losses at Preferred Capital Markets Stop Losses based on the option price or the stock price. Move your trading into the next millennium with Preferred Capital Anything else is too slow! http://www.PreferredTrade.com/CF/Home.CFM?ID=OIN ************************************************************** ******************* FREE TRIAL READERS ******************* If you like the results you have been receiving we would welcome you as a permanent subscriber. The monthly subscription price is 39.95. The quarterly price is 99.95 which is $20 off the monthly rate. We would like to have you as a subscriber. You may subscribe at any time but your subscription will not start until your free trial is over. 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